Yellen: Rate hike probably appropriate in the coming months

Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said Friday an interest rate hike is “probably” appropriate in the coming months if economic data improve.

“It’s appropriate, and I’ve said this in the past, I think for the Fed to gradually and cautiously increase our overnight interest rate over time and probably in the coming months, such a move would be appropriate,” she said in response to a question at Harvard’s Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study.

Her remarks comes as colleagues on the Fed’s policymaking committee have pointed to an increase in the federal funds rate target sooner rather than later. Yellen has expressed caution this year on rates, as inflation lags below the Fed’s 2 percent target and global risks persist.

Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen speaks at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Studies at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S. May 27, 2016.
“The economy is continuing to improve,” Yellen said, adding that she sees growth picking up after a sluggish first quarter. Yellen added that oil prices and the dollar are “roughly stabilizing,” which would help to push inflation toward the Fed’s goal.

The Fed’s policymaking committee meets on June 14 and 15. Markets priced in a roughly 28 percent chance of a hike in June and 57 percent in July before Yellen spoke, according to the CME Group. Those chances rose to 34 and 62 percent for June and July, respectively, after her comments.
The Federal Open Market Committee’s April meeting minutes released this month showed most policymakers would support a hike in June if economic data improved as expected.

Supreme Court Concern is Just Tip of the Iceberg for Conservatives

The biggest impact any president can have on the nation is the ability to shape the Supreme Court. Conservative voters are especially concerned about this because they believe the Court has become too liberal in recent years. With the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, conservative concerns about the Court have reached panic levels. Given the age of current Justices, the next president could shape the Court for a generation.

The importance of this issue was highlighted by Donald Trump releasing names of his potential nominees. It was a good strategic move giving conservatives a reason to unify behind his campaign. For most potential Republican voters, Trump’s choices were far preferable to those Hillary Clinton would nominate.

But, the issue of Supreme Court nominations is just the tip of the iceberg. When you look beneath the surface, conservatives face a far greater challenge with courts and the legal system.

Research by Northwestern University Law Professor James Lindgren shows that the legal system feeding cases to the Supreme Court over-represents Democrats and under-represents Christians. While 41% of the working population are Democrats, 61% of lawyers claim that affiliation. At the same time, 68% of lawyers are Christians compared to 78% of working Americans. That’s a bit problematic, but not overwhelming.

When you go a little deeper and look at who’s teaching the next generation of lawyers, the differences become truly astounding. Nationally, there are a few more Democratic voters than Republicans and Independents, but the overall numbers are fairly even. However, among law school faculty, 82% are Democrats, 11% Republican, and 6% Independent. Fewer than half are Christian.

If we want our legal system to look like America, the nation’s law schools are not even close.

This matters tremendously because we are in the midst of a great national and cultural debate about the proper relationship between a free people and their government.

On the one side are the founding ideals expressed in the Declaration of Independence—the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It’s a belief in freedom and self-governance. It’s the idea that we can do whatever we want with our lives so long as we don’t interfere with the right of others to do the same.

The other side is a progressive tradition that has been on a collision course with America’s founding ideals for more than a century. Theodore Roosevelt, the first progressive president, complained that we needed to stop talking about the rights of the people and start talking about their duty to government. Though Roosevelt was a Republican, his views are now more welcome among Democratic party leaders.

Lindgren’s research suggests that the rising generation of lawyers is unlikely to receive a balanced perspective on this clash. That could push our system of laws and governance even further out of touch with the nation it is supposed to serve.

There are no easy answers to this dilemma, but it is important to recognize that the problems with our judicial system run much deeper than the Supreme Court.

Paul Ryan is in another fight he doesn’t want, this time over LGBT rights

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan finds himself in the middle of yet another Republican civil war as the battle over LGBT rights has come to Congress, threatening to divide an already fractured GOP.

It is a fight the speaker does not want to have — especially in a competitive election year in which presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump’s candidacy is already tearing the party apart.

The fight escalated on Thursday when shortly before an expected vote over an energy and water spending bill, House Republicans held a private meeting in which many vented their frustrations over language passed late Wednesday to bar discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees of federal contractors, according to several people in the room.

The spending bill failed in a 305-to-112 vote — along with the LGBT language introduced by Rep. Sean Maloney, an openly gay New York Democrat.

Several GOP members were deeply upset after Rep. Rick Allen (R-Ga.) offered a prayer at their Thursday meeting implying that those who supported LGBT rights “on the floor last night” went against the teachings of the Bible, according to several people in the room. At least one member walked out after Allen’s comments, the people said.

“I thought the comments were wildly out of bounds and especially inappropriate given that this was supposed to be a prayer,” said Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.).

Dent voted for the Maloney amendment both times and has been cited by Democrats as a key GOP ally in passing the measure.

A spokeswoman for Allen acknowledged that he led the prayer at the GOP meeting but said he “made no mention of the amendment or the bill.”

“It’s unfortunate because it’s a very good bill. . . . But what we learned today is that the Democrats were not looking to advance an issue but to sabotage the appropriations process,” Ryan (R-Wis.) said after the vote. “The mere fact that they passed their amendment and then voted against the bill containing their amendment proves this point.”

People in Thursday morning’s GOP conference meeting said Republican lawmakers expressed concerns about Maloney’s amendment, though some said that it would not be their reason for opposing the spending bill.

Ryan, those people said, emphasized that as part of his speakership, he was asked to follow regular order, which means allowing a free-flowing amendment process on the House floor. Now, Ryan faces a key test of his leadership as the entire budget process — passing multiple spending bills to fund the government — could be in jeopardy if Republicans balk at allowing an open process.

Republican opposition was not the only thing to sink the spending bill. Democrats are also upset about language attached Wednesday night regarding Iran’s nuclear capability and other proposals introduced by Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Ala.) regarding LGBT students and Rep. Robert Pittenger (R-N.C.) to block the federal government from punishing North Carolina for its new law preventing transgender people from using bathrooms corresponding to their gender identity.

Democrats won an opening salvo late Wednesday when the House approved on a vote of 223 to 195 Maloney’s measure denying payment to federal contractors who discriminate against LGBT employees. Maloney had proposed such language before, but it was defeated last week on the House floor, with Democrats accusing Republican leaders of pressing their members to switch votes at the last minute.

“Equality wins! We have a long way to go, but achieved big victory. Will keep fighting until every #LGBT American is safe, can pursue dreams,” Maloney tweeted.

But after Maloney’s defeat Thursday morning, it is clear conservatives will continue to wage their fight.

Conservatives are mainly taking aim at a pair of directives by President Obama to ensure protections for LGBT employees of federal contractors and to ensure public schools provide access to locker rooms and bathrooms that correspond with students’ gender identity. Also on Wednesday, Byrne’s measure passed to exempt religious groups from complying with the directives.

TSF 05/27/2016

  • Rick Wiley is “leaving” the Trump campaign, after a stint as the Walker Campaign Manager and RNC Political Director.
  • Ted Cruz’s post campaign video “No Regrets” goes viral. Watch here…
  • “Unbound” by RNC Member Curly Haugland and attorney Sean Parnell. They make a solid case for what will prove to be an interesting argument that ALL delegates to the National Convention are “unbound” once the gavel comes down if no rules are changed.
  • There are two leading candidates running to be the next Chairman of the Republican National Committee – former Oklahoma Chairman & RNC Staffer Matt Pinnell and Arizona Chairman Robert Graham.

US Secret Service agents disciplined over congressman

Washington (AFP) – The US authorities have disciplined 41 Secret Service personnel for improperly accessing and leaking the personal information of a congressman who had scrutinized the agency, the Department of Homeland Security said.

The announcement comes after a report in September by the Department of Homeland Security Inspector General accused the Secret Service employees of accessing the personal files of Republican congressman Jason Chaffetz of Utah, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, who has led several inquiries into alleged misconduct at the agency.

They were punished with measures ranging from a letter of reprimand to suspensions without pay for up to 45 days, Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson said in a statement on Thursday.

One person found to have given information about Chaffetz to the Washington Post resigned from the service, he said.

“Like many others I was appalled by the episode reflected in the Inspector General’s report, which brought real discredit to the Secret Service,” Johnson said.

Federal privacy laws prevented the disclosure of more details, he added.

Secret Service employees had accessed Chaffetz’s job application more than 60 times — even though they had “no official need to query Chairman Chaffetz’ name,” the report in September said.

Soon after Chaffetz held a hearing on the agency in March, he was reported to have been rejected for a Secret Service job in 2003.

The incident is the latest embarrassment for the Secret Service as it tries to recover from a string of scandals.