Lew Sees Congress Working on Immigration, Infrastructure in 2014

U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew said he’s growing confident Congress will overhaul the nation’s immigration system and invest in infrastructure this year after a December budget agreement showed lawmakers can work in a bipartisan fashion.

“We have policy differences and those policy differences are legitimate and you have to work your way through them,” Lew said today in an interview with Tom Keene on Bloomberg Television today in Davos, Switzerland. “I’m modestly optimistic that Congress will now want to get things done, whether it’s infrastructure or immigration reform, on the model of what they did on the budget.”

The budget pact for 2014 and 2015 helped remove some uncertainty from the U.S. economy and positioned it for higher growth this year, Lew said. The International Monetary Fund this week raised its forecast for the world’s largest economy to 2.8 percent in 2014, from 2.6 percent in its previous outlook, following the announcement of the deal.

“The U.S. economy is doing much better,” Lew said in the interview. “As opposed to last year, when we had real headwinds from budget cuts and other fiscal policies, we this year have tailwinds with kind of good fundamental economic core growth in a broad range of areas.”

The Federal Open Market Committee announced plans last month to reduce monthly asset purchases to $75 billion from $85 billion, citing improvement in the labor market. The jobless rate last month fell to 6.7 percent, a five-year low.

2014 Growth

Speaking at a World Economic Forum session earlier today, Lew said it’s not unreasonable to expect the U.S. will grow at 3 percent or more this year. The world’s largest economy expanded 1.9 percent last year, according to the IMF.

Lew also reiterated a call for congressional action on the debt limit, and said he would welcome a debate about getting rid of the borrowing ceiling altogether.

“The time is overdue for a discussion about debt limit as a mechanism,” Lew said. “There have been discussions over years about how to reform the debt limit. I would welcome a discussion on that.”

The Treasury estimates that so-called extraordinary measures used to stay within the limit will run out in late February. The last face-off on the issue ended Oct. 17, the day Lew had said the U.S. would exhaust its borrowing authority. President Barack Obama signed legislation to suspend the limit until Feb. 7 and end a 16-day partial government shutdown.

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