Posts tagged with "Federal Reserve"

Mnuchin puts $455 billion in unspent COVID-19 relief funds beyond Yelin’s reach

November 26, 2020

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has moved $455 billion in unspent COVID-19 relief capital from the Federal Reserve back into the Treasury’s General Fund—making it much more difficult for his chosen successor, Janet Yellen, to access the emergency funding, The Hill reports.

Indeed, the political news outlet notes, it may require another act of Congress for Mnuchin’s designed successor to deploy COVID relief patyments.

Mnuchin said last week that he was shuttering a handful of the Fed’s emergency lending facilities, a move the central bank opposed in a rare critical statement. While those facilities were little-used during the pandemic, they were seen as confidence boosters for capital markets.

Mnuchin at the time requested the Fed return the funding, which Congress appropriated to cover potential pandemic-related losses, saying the CARES Act from March set a legal deadline for the facilities to expire by year’s end.

CARES Act watchdog, Bharat Ramamurti—appointed by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) last April to oversee the funds—told The Hill that Mnuchin’s move was unlawful. “This is Treasury’s latest ham-handed effort to undermine the Biden Administration,” he said on Twitter. The good news is that it’s illegal and can be reversed next year. For its part, the Fed should not go along with this attempted sabotage and should retain the CARES Act funds it already has.

Neither the Treasury Department nor the Biden transition team immediately responded to a request for comment.

Research contact: @thehill

Trump threatens to adjourn Congress in order to unilaterally confirm his nominees

April 17, 2020

“I’m the only one that matters, because when it comes to it, that’s what the policy is going to be,” President Donald Trump told Fox News in November 2017. And he continues to think that his choices are the only ones of value.

Thus, it should come as no surprise that the president threatened on April 15 to adjourn both chambers of Congress so he can appoint his nominees for key positions without confirmation by the Senate.

Indeed, The Wall Street Journal reports, during a news conference at the White House on Wednesday, Trump called on lawmakers to formally adjourn the House and Senate so he can make recess appointments for positions he said were important to the administration’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Senate, which confirms a president’s nominees, has been conducting what are called pro forma sessions while lawmakers are back in their states, sheltering in place.

No legislative business is conducted during these brief meetings, which sometimes last only a few minutes, but they technically prevent the president from making recess appointments.

If lawmakers don’t agree to adjourn and end the pro forma sessions, “I will exercise my constitutional authority to adjourn both chambers of Congress,” President Trump avowed. “The current practice of leaving town while conducting phony pro forma sessions is a dereliction of duty that the American people cannot afford during this crisis. It’s a scam, what they do.”

Among the appointments Trump said he wanted to make, the Journal reported, was his nominee to head the agency that oversees Voice of America, conservative filmmaker Michael Pack, who has been blocked by Democrats. The White House has accused the government-backed news organization of spreading foreign propaganda—a charge VOA strongly denies.

In addition to the VOA nominee, Trump pointed to his nominee to be the director of national intelligence, as well as nominees for positions on the Federal Reserve’s Board of Governors, and in the Treasury Department and the Agriculture Department.

The Constitution gives the president the power to adjourn Congress only in the rare circumstances of a disagreement between the two chambers over when to adjourn. No president has ever exercised the authority to adjourn it.

President Barack Obama challenged the Senate’s practice of holding pro forma sessions to try to block his constitutional power to make recess appointments. The Supreme Court unanimously ruled against  Obama’s end run around the Senate in 2014.

Trump said he was reluctant to make recess appointments but would do so if Congress doesn’t act on his nominees.

For Mr. Trump’s strategy to work he would need the cooperation of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R.-Kentucky), who would have to force a disagreement with the House over when to adjourn. Trump and McConnell discussed the idea in a phone call earlier Wednesday, the Journal reports.

The president acknowledged that the effort would likely result in a legal challenge. “We’ll see who wins,” he said.

Research contact: @WSJ

Rich man, poor man: Fed legislators are worth 10X more than voters

March 5, 2018

The median net worth of an adult American is $44,900 , based on findings of a Business Insider study released in June 2017. That’s less than one-tenth of median net worth of a federal legislator, according to a study by Roll Call released on February 27.

The people’s representatives just keep getting richer, and doing so faster than the people they represent. Indeed, according to Roll Call’s data, the median minimum net worth (meaning half are worth more; half less) of today’s Senators and House members was $511,000 at the start of this Congress, an upward push of 16% over just the past two years. The total wealth of all current members was at least $2.43 billion when the 115th Congress began.

The political news source noted, “The disparity becomes clear after examining the most recent financial disclosures of virtually every current lawmaker. The news is not likely to do them any good during a midterm campaign year when disapproval of Capitol Hill remains in record territory and sentiment remains strong that politicians in Washington are far too disconnected from the lives of their constituents.”

For every 13 members of the U.S. Congress, Roll Call found, one may fairly be dubbed a “1 percenter,” the term of derision imposed by liberal groups on the richest 1% of Americans. Data from the Federal Reserve pegged the net worth threshold for these people at $10.4 million in 2016, a mark exceeded by 26 Republicans and 17 Democrats during this session of Congress.

Specifically, more than half of the collective worth of Congress is held by 12 members, Roll Call documented. Among the 10 richest member of the current U.S. Congress are the following:

  1. Darrell Issa (R-California): $283M
  2. Greg Guianforte (R-Montana): $136M
  3. Jared Polis (D-Colorado): $123M
  4. Dave Trott (R-Michigan) $119M
  5. Michael McCaul (R-Rexas): $113M
  6. John Delaney (D-Maryland) $93M
  7. Mark Warner (D-Virginia): $93M
  8. Vern Buchanan (R-Florida) $74M
  9. Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut): $70M
  10. Dianne Feinstein (D-California) $58M
  11. Tom Rooney (R-Florida): $55M
  12. Trey Hollingsworth (R-Indiana): $50M

Below this rung of the phenomenally prosperous is a thicker belt of the merely flush— the 153 House members (13 more than in the previous Congress) and 50 senators who are millionaires, at least on paper. This stands in contrast to the 7.4% of U.S. households that had amassed a net worth above $1 million in 2016, their home values included, according to the Spectrum Group investment research firm.

By coincidence, 38% of the women in Congress are millionaires—identical to the share of millionaires in the total membership.

The congressional millionaire ranks skew old, “reinforcing how many people enter politics only after they’ve assured themselves of a solid financial footing.” Roll Call said. A little more than half of the five dozen lawmakers born before the end of World War II are worth more than $1 million, as are 43% of the Hill’s Baby Boomers (or the five out of eight members born between 1946 and 1964). But among the quarter of the membership from Generation X and the handful of Millennials, only 20% are millionaire.

At the other end of the spectrum are nearly one-quarter of the members (123),  whose financial disclosures reflect a negative net worth. For many this is true only on paper, because they owe plenty on their home mortgages, which must be reported while the value of their real estate is not. (Neither is their annual $174,000 government salary.)

And in the middle are the “typical” members, with senators boasting a significantly better median net worth ($1.4 million for Republicans, $946,000 for Democrats) than House members, where the median figure for both caucuses is just north of $400,000.

A very similar figure, $397,000, is the minimum net worth disclosed on the essentially identical form for 2016 filled out by Vice President Mike Pence, who spent a dozen years as a federal legislator from Indiana.

President Donald Trump’s most recent form, however, describes a chief executive far richer than anyone in the legislative branch-—worth at least $1.1 billion at the time of his election.

Research contact: davidhawkings@cqrollcall.com