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Morning commuters walk on Wall Street in New York's financial district

Wall Street still has its champions on Capitol Hill

01/15/15 09:02AM

Congressional Republicans are many things. Subtle isn't one of them.
Late last year, when putting together a compromise spending package, GOP lawmakers prioritized a provision that undermined Wall Street safeguards included in the Dodd/Frank law. Last week, on the second day of the new Congress, Republicans again went after financial industry safeguards.
Earlier this week, when Congress reauthorized the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act (TRIA), it included a measure that also chipped away at Dodd/Frank. All of which led to yesterday, which once again featured Republicans targeting rules for the finance industry. 
The House on Wednesday easily passed legislation to ease some of the banking regulations adopted after the financial crisis, with 29 Democrats shrugging off President Obama's veto threat to join united House Republicans. [...]
It would delay by two years a Dodd-Frank mandate that financial firms sell off bundled debt, known as collateralized loan obligations; exempt some private equity firms from registering with the Securities and Exchange Commission; loosen regulations on derivatives; and allow some small, publicly traded companies to omit historical financial data from their financial filings.
The final roll call is online here. Note, because congressional Republicans have an extraordinary sense of humor, the legislation is called the "Promoting Job Creation and Reducing Small Business Burdens Act."
No, seriously.

Jobless claims climb, reach four-month high

01/15/15 08:37AM

With the caveat that initial unemployment claims tend to get a little erratic shortly after the holidays, today's new data from the Labor Department isn't great.
The number of people who applied for U.S. unemployment benefits in the first full week of January shot up to the highest level in four months and topped the 300,000 mark for the first time since Thanksgiving. Initial jobless claims climbed 19,000 to 316,000 in the seven days ended Jan 9, the Labor Department said Thursday. That's only the second time claims have risen above 300,000 since September. Economists polled by MarketWatch had expected claims to total a seasonally adjusted 295,000. [...]
The average of new claims over the past month, meanwhile, rose by 6,750 to 298,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. The four-week average smoothens out seasonal volatility in the weekly report and is seen as a more accurate predictor of labor-market trends.
To reiterate the point I make every Thursday morning, it’s worth remembering that week-to-week results can vary widely, and it’s best not to read too much significance into any one report.
In terms of metrics, when jobless claims fall below the 400,000 threshold, it’s considered evidence of an improving jobs landscape, and when the number drops below 370,000, it suggests jobs are being created rather quickly. At this point, we’ve been below 300,000 in 16 of the last 18 weeks.
Demonstrators protest during an immigration reform rally in front of the U.S. Capitol on Capitol Hill in Washington in this October 13, 2009 file photo.

House GOP intensifies immigration standoff

01/15/15 08:01AM

In theory, the task before Congress is quite simple: fund the Department of Homeland Security. Everyone involved in the process -- Democrats and Republicans, lawmakers and the White House -- already agree on how much money is going to be allocated. Easy peasy, right?
Wrong. Thanks to a gambit House Republicans threw together in December, Republican lawmakers are using the DHS funding bill as the basis for an ugly showdown: either President Obama accepts GOP demands to effectively dismantle his entire approach to immigration policy or Congress will gut Homeland Security funding when it expires at the end of February.
Despite broad concerns that this plan is doomed to fail, the House majority just kept pushing yesterday.
In a final 236-191 vote, lawmakers agreed to keep the department running through September in legislation that includes a set of amendments designed to unravel and block funding to the president's executive measures.
Far-right elements of the party tacked the toxic amendments to dismantle not just the latest immigration actions brought by President Obama, but also a similar initiative from 2012. In sum, the amendments work to prevent millions of undocumented immigrants the right to apply for work permits and seek temporary relief from deportation.
Republicans at least claimed to be outraged by the White House's executive actions in December, but when crafting their approach to Homeland Security funding, GOP leaders effectively said, "Well, as long we're here, let's go ahead and push for mass deportations." Yesterday's package even sought to roll back Obama's 2012 actions protecting Dream Act kids.
This almost certainly isn't the path House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) wanted to follow, but as is often the case, his ostensible followers didn't give him much of a choice. The Republican leader was left to make obviously foolish arguments such as, "We are dealing with a president who has ignored the people, ignored the Constitution, and even his own past statements," and, "The president's overreach is an affront to the rule of law and the Constitution itself."
Nonsensical rhetoric notwithstanding, the real question is what happens now.

OK to resume executions and other headlines

01/15/15 08:00AM

Oklahoma inmate who was supposed to die right after a "botched" execution last Spring is due to die today. (Tulsa World)

CIA clears CIA officials accused of spying on Senate committee probing torture. (Yahoo News)

Pres. Obama to meet privately with Senate Democrats on strategy. (AP)

Pres. Obama to propose seven days paid sick leave for workers. (Washington Post)

U.S. moves five Yemenis from Guantanamo. (New York Times)

Satellite images show devastation after reported attack by Boko Haram in Nigeria. (BBC)

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Citations for the January 15, 2015 TRMS

01/15/15 12:43AM

Tonight's guests:

  • Nancy Youseff, Daily Beast senior national security correspondent
  • Daniel Benjamin, former State Department counterterrorism coordinator
  • Robert Costa, national political reporter for the Washington Post
  • Former Congressman Barney Frank

Tonight's links are listed after the jump...

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Republicans eager to erode Wall Street reform

Republicans eager to erode Wall Street reform

01/14/15 09:45PM

Former Congressman Barney Frank talks with Steve Kornacki about the Republican effort to water down Dodd-Frank by sneaking measures into must-pass bills, and whether Democrats have the will to preserve Wall Street regulations. watch

Terror plot foiled by FBI arrest of Ohio man

US terror plot foiled by FBI arrest of Ohio man

01/14/15 09:00PM

Steve Kornacki reports breaking news that the FBI has arrested an Ohio man, Christopher Lee Cornell, for plotting to set off explosives at the U.S. Capitol building. Cornell expressed his support for ISIS online under the name Raheel Mahrus Ubaydah. watch

Wednesday's Mini-Report, 1.14.15

01/14/15 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
* Claiming responsibility: "Al Qaeda's branch in Yemen formally claimed responsibility on Wednesday for the deadly assault a week ago at the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo that killed 12 people, saying that the target was chosen by the Qaeda leadership and referring to attackers as 'two heroes of Islam.'"
* Probably not what the terrorists had in mind: "In some places, vendors reported that their allotment of the [new issue of Charlie Hebdo] had sold out before daybreak, and demand was so intense that copies of the newspaper were being offered on eBay for hundreds of dollars. Some vendors drew up waiting lists of customers in anticipation of new supplies for a print run that could reach five million, compared with 60,000 before the attacks."
* Scary, but there was never any real danger: "Federal authorities have filed charges against an Ohio man who they say wanted to attack the U.S. Capitol. But they told NBC News that the man, identified as Christopher Cornell, was dealing with an undercover agent the entire time and was never in a position to carry out his plan."
* Boehner: "House Speaker John Boehner's office on Tuesday thanked police for their efforts after a report that a bartender who had served the Ohio congressman has been indicted after threatening to poison him."
* More on this tomorrow: "A GOP plan to gut President Obama's unilateral actions on immigration passed through the Republican-led House Wednesday in a largely symbolic vote tied to crucial funding for the Department of Homeland Security."
* More on this tomorrow, too: "The House on Wednesday easily passed legislation to ease back some of the banking regulations adopted after the financial crisis, with 29 Democrats shrugging off President Obama's veto threat to join united House Republicans."
* Holder's latest move: "In a bid to shore up his legacy on press freedom issues as he prepares to leave office, Attorney General Eric Holder announced Wednesday that he's making some changes news media organizations had requested to Justice Department policies on investigations involving reporters."