Washington Daybook: Fiscal Focus

Photograph by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Virgilio Marquina and other protesters rally together outside the office of U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio on Dec. 10, 2012 in Doral, Florida.

Lawmakers return today to focus on the U.S. government’s fiscal policy dispute, as President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner attempt to prevent looming spending cuts and tax increases.

Lines are being drawn. Democratic congressmen Sen. Tom Harkin, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, Sen. Al Franken, Rep. Henry Waxman and Rep. Chris Van Hollen hold a news conference this morning on protecting Medicaid funding in fiscal cliff talks. Meanwhile, the House will consider a motion to go to conference on the fiscal 2013 defense authorization bill, setting up the appointment of conferees. Look for lobbying to intensify before affected groups run out of time to make their cases.

The Senate plans to vote today on cutting off debate on motion to proceed to a measure that would extend Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation’s Transaction Account Guarantee program. The vote was postponed yesterday when bad weather led to missed flight connections.

The Federal Open Market Committee meets today to decide on U.S. interest rates. Forty-eight of 49 economists surveyed by Bloomberg predict the panel will buy more Treasuries to bolster its $40 billion/month mortgage bond purchasing program.

American International Group Inc.’s rescue is coming to an end more than four years after U.S. took over company to save global economy in bailout that fueled resentment against Wall Street. The U.S. Treasury Dept. is selling its last 234.2 million shares of AIG in its sixth offering of the insurer’s stock.

Also today, the American Benefits Council releases a survey of employers on possible changes in tax treatment of 401(k) plans. The Council for Affordable Health Coverage and the National Association of Manufacturers hold a conference call briefing to discuss a proposal to impose Medicaid-style rebates on the Part D Medicare prescription drug benefit. The ITC issues a final ruling on whether to uphold penalties on imports of washing machines from Korea and Mexico. And the National Transportation Safety Board holds a hearing on ways to reducing instances of wrong-way driving.

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