The energy bill ran into a snag on Friday, when Senate democrats failed to get the votes needed to proceed with the legislation. Republicans oppose the $21 billion tax package in the House-passed bill, including $13.5 billion in oil industry taxes as well as a requirement that utilities generate 15 percent of their power from renewable sources like wind and solar energy.
Earlier in the week, the Senate overwhelmingly approved a bilateral trade agreement with Peru.
Though U.S. trade with Peru only amounts to about $9 billion per year, proponents claim the deal has significant political benefits.
The deal eliminates duties on 80 percent of U.S. consumer and industrial product sales to Peru and most agricultural goods. That bodes well for rural America, but a report from Creighton University this week revealed troublesome economic waters ahead for much of the Heartland.
After five years of growth, Creighton's Business Conditions Index predicts a recession is in the offing. According to number crunchers at the Omaha, Nebraska-based University, economic indicators across a 9-state region of the Midwest point to a downturn in the economy.
Using a scale of 0 to 100 to show economic trends, the newly released figure is below 50. When the index drops below the halfway point a recession has more than a 50 percent chance of occurring.
The states in the survey include Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and North and South Dakota.
Among the reasons cited for the lower number were inflationary pressures at the wholesale level, increased oil prices, and a downturn in the national housing sector. The professors pointed out that even record farm income in the region was unable to buoy the index.
With the new data in hand, the academics believe the Federal Reserve Board will cut interest rates by a half-point during next week's meeting. Since September, the Fed has already cut interest rates three-quarters of a point. The current prime rate, an amount charged on money loaned to banks, is 7.5 percent, down from last year at this time when the rate was 8.25 percent.