House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio hold hands as they sing “We Shall Overcome” during a 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ceremony in the Capitol Rotunda on Capitol Hill in Washington in June 2014. (Susan Walsh/AP)

McCONNELL GETS BUDGET BILL STARTED. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) filed for cloture on the House-passed budget agreement Wednesday night, setting up a procedural vote Friday in the Senate. The deal is expected to easily pass in the Senate, and the final vote could come as early as Friday afternoon if leaders can reach a deal to speed up the vote.

Power Post has details on the last-minute scrambling to get the bill through the House.

House Republican leaders unveiled the proposal earlier this week and immediately faced challenges from conservatives upset over both the secretive negotiations that led to the agreement as well as the policies contained in the bill.

Some of this discontent was dealt with after a change was made to the bill late Tuesday night to ensure that the full cost of the $80 billion in new discretionary spending was offset by an equal amount of mandatory spending cuts and increased revenue.

Several Republicans raised concerns  that the bill fell about $4 billion short of this goal, but the Congressional Budget Office on Wednesday reported that the changes to the legislation had closed this gap.

REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES GET INTO TAX POLICY.  Candidates at Wednesday’s GOP presidential debate were asked several tax-related questions but the answers didn’t do much to clarify their positions, CNBC reports.

While the words “tax” and “spend” were spoken more than 100 times in Wednesday’s debate, there were few detailed proposals offered on how to prioritize federal spending or reform the tax code. The alternatives proposed were typically vague or simply didn’t add up.

Still, some of the ideas floated were extremely simple: Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina promised that she would reduce the sprawling U.S. tax code to just three pages …

… Simplicity was at the heart of several candidates’ proposals to flatten the tax code to a single bracket, a so-called “flat tax” that has been floated with several variations. Under the plan, every American would pay the same percentage of their income, and deductions and exemptions would be eliminated.

RESOLVING THE BUDGET DUST UP OVER CROP INSURANCE. Members of the House Agriculture Committee reached an agreement with congressional leaders Wednesday afternoon to resolve frustrations over a cut in crop insurance payments that was included in the budget agreement. But not everyone thinks the problem needs to be solved. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) told reporters Wednesday that the issue didn’t need to be resolved and that  economists at the conservative American Enterprise Institute seem to agree.

The crop insurance industry and many farm lobbies have made Chicken Little “The Sky is Falling” claims about a single element of the current budget bill under which, it is estimated, annual average revenues for private insurance companies selling heavily subsidized crop insurance would decline by an annual average of $300 million between 2017 – 2026…

… However, in fact there are no direct changes to the subsidies that farmers will receive when they buy federal crop insurance policies.  Taxpayers will continue to pay about 70 percent of the total costs of the program and on average over 60 percent  of all premiums paid into insurance pools to cover indemnity payments for losses crop and revenue losses incurred by farmers.