Friday, February 6, 2009

The Daily Strike-2/6/08-The Newest Deal

Welcome to the Daily Strike. The Senate is still in session, and it's still unclear when the vote on final passage of the stimulus will be, so we may need to update late tonight or tomorrow morning. Please see the below post for more information on the deal. Here's a list of some devastating cuts that were made as part of the deal, from our friends at the great blog, ThinkProgress:


Head Start, Education for the Disadvantaged, School improvement, Child Nutrition, Firefighters, Transportation Security Administration, Coast Guard, Prisons, COPS Hiring, Violence Against Women, NASA, NSF, Western Area Power Administration, CDC, Food Stamps



Public Transit $3.4 billion, School Construction $60 billion

STIMULUS: As I mentioned in the last post, the Senate has reached a deal that all but assures package of Obama's main legislative proposal. The compromise cuts the cost of the bill to $780 billion, short of the House's bill bill by about $40 billion. However, when you add in the cost of various amendments that have been passed with the help of both parties, the total price tag will actually be ABOVE the House bill. My guess is that a conference to reconcile the two bills will begin Tuesday of next week, and will center around the Senate bill. Pretty much anything that comes out of conference will get the necessary 218 votes in the House, so the conference will be about hashing out something that can get 60 votes (including at least 2 Republicans) in the Senate.

Before getting ahead of ourselves, there is the matter of the bill actually passing the Senate. The Democrats have 58 seats, and apparently Ted Kennedy will be there despite his sickness, ensuring that all Democrats will be present. That means they need 2 Republicans to get the 60 required votes to cut off debate. I have personally seen Senator Collins of Maine and Specter of Pennsylvania say that they support the compromise, and I suspect Senator Snowe will as well. The issue of when the vote takes place is complicated by Senate rules. Majority Leader Reid wanted to hold the vote tonight, but was denied by Senator Vitter, a Republican of Louisiana, who said he needs more time to "read the bill." (As if there's any idea whether the ideoligically rigid Vitter would vote for the bill, but I digress). Any member can object to a unanimous consent request to hold a vote on passage. Senate rules dictate that the only way to overrule an objection is to file cloture, which would postpone the vote until sometime this weekend. Unless Senator Vitter drops his objection, and no other Republican objects, it looks like the Senate will be working tomorrow and Sunday. The timing of the vote would only matter if something in the next couple of days were to upset the parameters of the fragile compromise, but I don't see that happening.

Before the agreement was reached in the early evening, a number of amendments were considered. Here's a list:

-The first amendment from avowed socialist Independent Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont was passed by voice vote. This amendment sought to ensure that all recipients of federal bailout money (from TARP, not the stimulus) met strict standards in ensuring that hires has proper H1B Visas.

-The next amendment was offered by good old Senator Coburn of Oklahoma. This was a "sense of the Senate" resolution, meaning that it had no actual authority, but it "suggested" that taxpayer money not be wasted on non-stimulative projects. The amendment was agreed to by a vote of 73-24, with all no votes coming from Democrats.

-Following was an amendment offered by freshman Senator Udall, a Democrat of New Mexico and one of two Udalls in the freshman class. His amendment increased funding for veterans unemployment insurance. It passed unanimously by voice vote.

-The final amendment was again offered by Coburn, which sought to ensure that all grants stipulated in the bill were given out through a competitive bidding process. Unlike any Coburn amendment I've ever seen, it passed unanimously 97-0.

The rest of the amendments were put on hold as the deal was being worked out, and could be voted on tonight.

So what's the bottom line? To be sure, some bad cuts were made, including cuts to Head Start early childhood education and school reconstruction. However, these concessions ensured passage of an otherwise monumental, ambitious stimulus package. Actions from the Republican Party in the last week or so have shown that their support was untenable, so the name of the game has been doing what's necessary to get the few Republican votes needed for passage. That is exactly what the Democrats have done tonight.

The childish behavior has not ended though. Senators are still coming to the floor complaining about the process under which the bill was considered, and arguing about when the final vote would occur. I hope that constituents will not tolerate Senators throwing tantrums and obstructing critical pieces of legislation when the economy continues to crumble.

THE WHITE HOUSE: Obama's biggest action of the day was appointing a new advisory board led by former Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker. He also pushed hard once again for package of the stimulus, warning that catastrophe would come if the Senate did not take action. The President will take the case to the American people on Monday by holding campaign-style events in Indiana and Florida, as well as a prime time press conference at the White House. This is a good test of whether Obama can succusfully go over the heads of Congress and appeal directly to the American people. Kids, expect this in textbooks about the rhetorical Presidency in your college classes.

HHS NOMINEE: No real news on the HHS vacancy prompted by the withdrawal by Tom Daschle. The names being mentioned are Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen, a moderate who is not popular with the liberal base because he has deep ties to HMO's. Other potential nominees I've heard about today are Oregon Senator Ron Wyden (can we please avoid another awkward Senate appointment?) and former Vermont Governor Howard Dean. My guess is that this pick is not announced until the stimulus bill is passed.

Now, I will go watch Cspan for all of my loyal readers and keep you posted on what happens with the recovery bill. Have a great weekend!

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