On the Money — Senate blocks rail strike, rejects sick leave

The Senate voted to implement a contract between rail workers and railroads, putting an end to the strike threat for good. We’ll also look at why regulators couldn’t stop FTX and falling mortgage rates.

🎥 But first, some light-hearted news at the intersection of Pennsylvania Avenue and Sesame Street.

Welcome to On The Money, your nightly guide to everything affecting your bills, bank account and bottom line. For The Hill, we’re Sylvan Lane, Aris Folley and Karl Evers-Hillstrom.

Senate votes to avert costly rail strike

The Senate voted Thursday to avert a costly nationwide rail strike next week that lawmakers in both parties worried would shut down much of the economy and further add to inflation.

Senators voted 80-15 for a House-passed bill to implement the labor agreement between freight rail carriers and unionized workers brokered by the Biden administration.

  • By intervening, Congress will avert the threat of a national rail shutdown that would have ravaged supply chains and brought significant portions of the economy to a halt in the middle of the holidays. 

  • Roughly one-third of U.S. cargo is transported by rail and truckers would not be able to take on more capacity.  

  • Disruptions were set to take place this weekend as railroads prepared for the Dec. 9 strike deadline.

Karl has the story here.

On the other hand: The Senate failed to garner 60 votes for a House-passed measure to provide workers with seven days of sick days. All but six Republicans and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) voted against the proposal. That will outrage rail workers and labor leaders.

Read more:


Top regulator says agency had no way to prevent FTX collapse

A top financial regulator told lawmakers Thursday his agency lacked the proper legal authority to oversee collapsed cryptocurrency firm FTX and step in before the company imploded, setting off a crisis within the digital asset industry.

  • Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) Chairman Rostin Benham told a Senate panel Thursday that his agency had insight only into a small segment of the FTX empire and did not have the ability to spot broader issues with the Bahamas-based crypto firm.  

  • Benham also called for new rules that would give the CFTC and other regulators clear authority and more power to oversee crypto firms, which do not fit neatly into the domain of any one federal financial market watchdog.

“I need to do my job and I need to fulfill the mandate that you provide to me,” Benham, a Biden appointee, told the Senate Agriculture Committee.

“So, if you provide me authority to oversee cash market commodity digital tokens, I will be very transparent with you about what I need to fulfill that responsibility,” he continued.

Sylvan explains here.


Mortgage rates fall again after Fed chair signals slower interest rate hikes

Mortgage rates fell for the third straight week as markets prepare for the Federal Reserve to slow interest rate hikes.

“Despite some promising developments, we have a long way to go in restoring price stability,” Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said in a speech hosted by the Brookings Institution.

  • Mortgage rates had previously soared in recent months as the Federal Reserve has consistently raised interest rates to slow inflation. The 30-year rate recently peaked above 7 percent, marking a nearly 3 percentage point increase from March when the Fed issued its first in a series of rate increases. 

  • But the average 30-year fixed mortgage rate dropped to 6.49 percent this week, down from 6.58 percent last week, according to data released Thursday by loan servicer Freddie Mac.

The Hill’s Adam Barnes has more here.


Treasury watchdog finds no Trump retribution evidence in Comey, McCabe audits

Audits of two top former FBI officials who became political foes of former President Trump were not the result of any misconduct on the part of the IRS, according to a report released this week by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA).

The TIGTA report found that the audit selection process in 2017 and 2019, which were the years that former FBI chief James Comey and his deputy Andrew McCabe received especially intense National Research Program (NRP) audits from the IRS, was random and carried out correctly.

  • TIGTA’s report found no foul play had taken place at the IRS in the selection process for NRP audits. But it did not completely exonerate the agency and called attention to ways the IRS could have improved its sampling methods. 

  • Democratic lawmakers who had suspected that the audits received by Comey and McCabe were political retribution for not backing off the investigation into former President Trump’s political ties with Russia expressed satisfaction with the inspector general’s report.

The Hill’s Tobias Burns digs into this here.

Good to Know

Consumer prices rose at slightly slower rates in October even as Americans boosted their spending, according to data released Thursday by the Commerce Department.

The personal consumption expenditures (PCE) price index, a closely watched inflation gauge, rose 0.3 percent in October and 6 percent since the same month a year ago. While the monthly inflation rate stayed even with September’s 0.3 percent increase in prices, the annual inflation rate dropped from 6.3 percent in September.

Here’s what else we have our eye on:

  • FTX founder Samuel Bankman-Fried’s interview at a financial conference here Wednesday drew a crowd of protesters, some of whom had lost sizable portions of their life savings in the collapse of his crypto platform FTX earlier in November.

  • A federal appeals court declined to shelve a lower court’s ruling blocking President Biden’s student debt relief plan as the administration’s full appeal proceeds.

That’s it for today. Thanks for reading and check out The Hill’s Finance page for the latest news and coverage. We’ll see you tomorrow.

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