Saturday, February 7, 2009

The Early Morning Strike-The Lay of the Land

Good morning from Washington. I got tired and didn't watch the end of the Senate debate last night on the stimulus, but now I'm all caught up, so I can report to you. The big news after I last wrote was that the vote has been postponed on the Nelson-Collins alternative until next week to accomodate an objection by Louisiana Senator David Vitter (maybe he needs to mull it over with the DC Madam). Therefore, Harry Reid has filed a motion to cut off debate on the Nelson-Collins substitute. The vote for this motion will occur Monday evening at 5:30, and of course, will require 60 votes. Presumably, with the compromise in place, the 60 vote threshold will be met with support from three moderate Republicans.

Following this vote, it is expected that Republicans will raise a point of order (parliamentary lingo for objection) to the alternative because it violates rules of the Congressional Budget Act. The vote on this point of order will take place Tuesday at 12 noon. If no point of order is raised, the 12pm vote on Tuesday will be on final passage of the substitute subject to a 60 vote threshold. Should that pass, the bill will be voted on (my guess is by voice vote since Republicans will already know by exactly how many votes they will lose at this point). Then, the bill will go into conference with the House. If an agreement is reached between the two chambers, each chamber will vote on the compromise package, called the "Conference Report." The earliest I would guess to see a vote on final passage would be Friday, and that seems questionable at this point. All of this schedule stuff was agreed to last night by the two party leaders.

Bottom line: this thing is gonna pass, we just have to wait a little longer. If you're upset about this, call David Vitter's office.

Just because the Senate came to this agreement doesn't mean they didn't continue voting on a myriad of amendments. Let's run them down for you: (the ones after the last posting).

-The first amendment was offered by Senators Conrad of North Dakota, a Democrat, and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a Republican. This amendment would have cut "questionable" spending items, like STD prevention and the like, and use it to prevent foreclosures. Many Democrats objected to the amendment because there is already money authorized in the bailout bill that should be used for foreclosure prevention. The amendment was rejected 57-39. All Republicans voted Aye except for Olympia Snowe. Democrats voting Aye included the sponsor, Conrad, his North Dakota colleague Byron Dorgan and Russ Feingold of Wisconsin (can't surpress that reform streak).

-The next amendment was offered by Senator Dodd. It was identical to the previous amendments, but did not cut any spending from the current bill. It was agreed to by voice vote.

-The next amendment was offered by Senator Grassley (R-IA), and it would have increased funding for FMAP, the federal program designed to allocate spending on public health programs, and it would have allowed states to choose the period in which they would accept federal money for health care programs. The amendment failed on a close vote of 49-47. Democrats voting "Aye:" Conrad, Dorgan, Kohl (WI), Lincoln (AR), Nelson (NE), Pryor (AR), Shaheen (NH), and Udall of New Mexico. Judging from these votes, I'm guessing the allocation benefitted smaller states. Republicans voting "No:" Ensign (NV), Martinez (FL) and Specter.

-Next up was a motion to waive the budget act on an amendment offered by Senator Cantwell, Democrat of Washington. This amendment increases tax incentives for the production of alternative energy. The motion was approved 80-16 (it required 60 votes). All no votes were from conservative Republicans. The amendment itself was then agreed to by voice vote.

-Next amendment was a ridiculous one offered by Senator Vitter that would have prohibited any money in the bill from going to the community activist group ACORN. This group has become a target of the right because of its alleged involvement in voter registration fraud. It also does such horrible things as increasing minority voter registration, hurricane relief effort assistance, and counseling. Thankfully, the amendment failed 51-45. All Republicans vote Aye, as did Democrats Baucus (MT), Bayh (IN), Byrd (WV), Hagan (NC) (I expect better from this freshman), Nelson (NE) and Tester.

-Allright, almost done here. Next was an amendment offered by Senator Bunning of Kentucky which would have increased business tax credits. The amendment was defeated 55-41. All Republicans voted for it, except for Olympia Snowe, as did Democrats Landrieu, Udall of Colorado, and Webb.

-Next to last was an amendment offered by Democrat Ron Wyden of Oregon which would require companies receiving TARP money to pay a 35% tax on excess bonuses, or to redeem an amount equal to the bonuses in U.S. government preferred stock. The amendment was agreed to by voice vote.

-Finally, and not a moment too soon, was a motion to waive budget rules on the Thune amendment. I was asleep at this point, and the Senate website does not have a name for this amendment on file. Let's assume it cuts some taxes or spending somewhere. Either way, it failed to get 60 votes, or even 36 votes. It lost 61-35. All Democrats voted against it, as did Republicans Collins, Ensign, Snowe and Voinovich (OH).

Allright, hopefully that does it for amendments, although Alabama Republican Jeff Sessions was whining that his amendment was excluded from consideration. If he grows up though, we'll update you on Monday when the big cloture vote happens. Have a great weekend!

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