Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Daily Strike-2/12/09-Today, However, Not So Great

Good Thursday evening and welcome to the Daily Strike. Today wasn't quite the day Obama had in mind.

GREGG: The big news of the day was that Commerce Secretary nominee and Republican Senator Judd Gregg removed his name from consideration, because he says he couldn't reconcile his own views with the administration. He mentioned the stimulus package and the 2010 census as areas of disagreement. There had been some chatter that the administration would not let the conservative Gregg have control over the census process in 2010, as Commerce sectretaries typically do, but this still comes as a pretty big surprise.

It seems like the administration is not happy. In a statement, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs seemed to indicate that Gregg had approached Obama about the post. Obama himself told a local TV Station in Peoria, IL that Gregg's decision was somewhat of a surprise.

So what are the repercussions? Firstly, we need a commerce secretary. This is the second one to back out, after New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson. This makes two key cabinet vacancies three weeks into the administration. I suspect the vacancy at Health and Human Services will be announced in the next week or so, but they'll be back at square one for commerce secretary.

Politically, this is not great news for Democrats. Gregg returns to the Senate where he'll vote like a conservative Republican. I'm wondering whether he'll abstain from the vote on the stimulus compromise. His designated replacement, Bonnie Newman, will not get sworn in as Senator. Apparently, she would have been rather moderate and could have provided a critical vote to clear procedural hurdles on many items of the Obama agenda. Gregg announced this afternoon that he will not run for reelection in 2010, so the seat remains a good potential pick up for the Democrats, and their expected nominee Rep. Paul Hodes.

What about Obama? I expect the media to pen story after story on Obama's cabinet troubles in recent weeks, but ultimately, this story will die pretty fast, especially since the details aren't that juicy: Gregg backed out because he doesn't support the administration's policy. I'm still not entirely clear why he accepted the position in the first place.

STIMULUS: No vote on the economic stimulus conference report (final package) today. There were a few final hang-ups on the bill worked out in the morning, and I'm still not sure the bill has been released to the public. The House is expected to vote on the report tomorrow. The first vote will likely be on a special rule governing debate on the package. This should be a strict party line vote. Then, the Republicans will have one chance to recommit the bill to the conference committee (basically, a way to kill the bill). This should fail on another party line vote. Finally, there will be a vote on final passage.

The Republicans have already lost one representative in their quest for unity in opposition. Rep. Joseph Cao of Louisiana, a Republican who upset Rep. William Jefferson (indicted on bribery charges) in a heavily Democratic district in New Orleans, has announced that he will support the final bill. I expect there to be maybe 3 or 4 more defections. I also suspect, as with the original House version, a few conservative Democrats break ranks. My bet for final passage: 246-188 (give or take a few votes).

The bill will then move to the Senate, where things get tricky. To overcome a Republican filibuster, Democrats must get 60 votes; they currently hold 58 seats. With the support of the moderate trio of Snowe, Collins and Specter, they have 61 votes. Senator Ted Kennedy had come back to vote on the Senate bill earlier this week, but he is still suffering from brain cancer, and apparently has returned to Florida and won't be able to make the vote. That brings the vote total down to 60. Also, Ohio Democrat Sherrod Brown's mother died, and her memorial service is tomorrow. Most likely, the vote will be postponed until Saturday, when Brown can return. But what if something unexpected happens to another Democrat? Will a moderate Republican (say Dick Lugar of Indiana?) cross over and support the final package? They'll figure out some way to do it. It would be pretty low to filibuster the bill knowing that the Democrats would have the votes to overcome it if they were all present and voting?

THE PRESIDENT: Today, Obama continued his road tour with a speech in Peoria, IL at the Catepillar Factory. The company has claimed that if the stimulus package passes, they'll be able to rescue some jobs. With a deal already in place, the trip was mostly about symbolism. He also spoke on Capital Hill at a ceremoney honoring the 200th birthday of his favorite President Abraham Lincoln. He has another Lincoln tribute gig tonight in Springfield, IL.

PORKING US: The Republican strategy to fight the stimulus, as I have mentioned earlier, has been focused on:

-using small weird-sounding spending items to characterize the whole bill
-arguing philisophically against government spending in recession, partially denying the success for the New Deal.
-newfound concern over the federal deficit.

Today, the Republican party's shenanigans went on overdrive. Rep. Jack Kingston of Georgia (one of the Strike's least favorite Reps.) went on the House floor to talk about a supposed provision in the bill that would fun "mouse research" in Speaker Pelosi's home district in San Francisco. Apparently, some Republican staffer sent over this item to the Washington Times, and it ended up on the Drudge Report (the Republican mecca website). Of course there is no such provision. There is funding for various marshing and farming activities, some of which, probably, would apply to research projects in San Francisco (the Strike's wonderful home town!). Kingston took it a step further by trashing San Francisco ad hominem. He was saying how the mice "probably walk around like San Franciscans, with sunglasses and flip flops and they go out to dinner in Sausilito." What the h@!! is he talking about?

The other curious criticism levied today was for a train track to be built from California to Las Vegas. They were calling this wasteful! How could you possibly say that is wasteful? It is infrastructure spending, which you claim to support! They're just using the term "Las Vegas" to associate a legitimate project with something "sinful." I won't waste everyone's time on these clowns, but I wanted to give you an example of what the Republican party has become.

Well, it's time for the Strike to go pack for a weekend with Lady Strike up in Syracuse, where Lady Strike is from. Posting will be light this weekend, but I'll make sure I keep you updated as the House and Senate votes on the final version of the stimulus package. Meanwhile, if there's something I miss while I'm gone, I hope our other bloggers can chip in! Thanks and have a great weekend!


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