Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Daily Strike-3/18/09-The Marathon Part I

Good evening and welcome to the Daily Strike. A lot happened today in the world of politics, so let's get to it. This was such a busy day in politics, that we need two entries to cover it all. This is Part I.

AIG OUTRAGE: The new CEO of AIG Edward Liddy, the man appointed by former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson to run the troubled company, had the unenviable task of going in front of a subcommittee of the House Banking and Financial Services Committee. In his opening statement, Liddy claimed that while some of the bonuses were " distasteful," they were still necessary because of "certain legal obligations" and the "cold realities of business." The outrage parade then arrived, with harsh questions from both sides of the aisle.

I don't really have sympathy at all for Liddy, and I think it's absurd that he's defending some of these bonuses, but I would not have wanted to be in his shoes today. Even though he came on to lead AIG after it's collapse, he was the perfect punching bag for members of Congress who want to show their constituents how angry they are. Rep. Paul Hodes (D-NH) said that AIG stood for " Arrogance, incompetence and greed."

The anger even made its way onto the House floor. The House was supposed to be debating a popular bill expanding national service programs. But the Republicans decided that they wanted to score some "gotcha" points, so they employed some clever parliamentary maneuvering. Let our resident parliamentarian explain:

-In order to proceed to consideration of a special rule governing debate of a particular bill, the House must order the "previous question." A vote for the previous question is basically a vote to move straight to consideration of the rule without amendment. A vote against the previous question means that you want to amend the rule. Usually the previous question is adopted by unanimous consent. Even if you're opposed to the bill, there's no point in holding it up, right? Wrong! If the previous question is defeated, the member who led the opposition(usually a member of the minority) can offer an amendment to the underlying resolution. In this case, the Republicans wanted to offer an amendment to the rule that would have required the House to consider a proposal to have the Treasury Secretary recoup money from AIG. The idea is to put the House Democrats in a bind. If they vote against the previous question, they've turned debate on a non-controversial bill into a circus. If they vote for the previous question, the Republicans will argue, they're voting NOT to recoup money from AIG. It's one of the parliamentary tricks in the minority's bag!

Before the vote, we saw quite a display of outrage on the Republican side. Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, who voted for the Bush tax cuts, looked like he was about to scream and cry when he said that he's tired of the government bailing out "millionaires so they can become billionaires." The ultimate chutzpah award goes to Rep. Virginia Foxx, one of the Strike's least favorite members of Congress, who went as far as comparing the public service bill to the AIG bailouts.

"In both cases, we're sending money out the door with no standards for effectiveness." Wow.

Luckily, the Democrats understood what was going on. They're going to offer their own plan to tax the bonuses of AIG and other companies receiving bailout money tomorrow, so they had a good excuse to move the previous question. It wasn't easy though; 8 Democrats couldn't take the plunge: Barrow (GA), Childers (MS), Kosmas (FL), McNerney (CA), Mitchell (AZ), Nye (VA), Perriello (VA), and Taylor (MS). These members are from vulnerable/conservative districts, and probably didn't want to get bombarded with phone calls asking them why they voted against getting taxpayer money back from AIG!

So the House did consider the public service bill. More on that later.

The President also weighed in the AIG fiasco with an impromptu speech before he boarded Marine One on his way to California. The President not only criticized AIG for its recklessness, but also took a shot at some critics, presumably Republicans, who are feigning outrage right now, but have enabled this culture in the past. The President also proposed the idea of a resolution authority over financial firms like AIG, which would perform a similar function as the FDIC. My guess is that Congress instead passes something that better captures the public outrage.

GEITHNER/DODD ISSUES: The President also reiterated his support of Treasury Secretary Geithner in his speech today. Any way you look at it, Geithner is having a tough time. But his troubles may pale in comparison to Senator Christopher Dodd. I wrote yesterday about Senator Dodd's political troubles at home, but little did I know. Today we learned that Senator Dodd tried to include a provision in the stimulus bill that would exempt companies who received bailout money prior to February 11th from restrictions on bonus money. He first denied inserting the provision, but today admitted to CNN that he took the provision at the advice of a member of the Obama Treasury department. Ouch.

I think Obama needs to figure out who in the Treasury Department made the request, and he needs to take responsibility for what happened. As for Senator Dodd, he may need to start making some retirement plans.

THE HOUSE: Let's get to the less sexy, but equally important, story of the day: legislative business in Congress. The House passed a bill today to authorize increased funding for various public service programs. The bill is expected to expand the public service job corps by 250,000. In the House, the bill was co-sponsored by the chair of the Education and Labor Committee, George Miller (D-CA) and ranking Republican Buck McKeon (CA).

After ordering the previous question, the House passed a rule governing debate on the bill. Republicans mostly voted against the rule in protest of there not being a vote on their bill to recoup money from AIG. The only Republican who voted for the rule was Rep. Todd Platts of Pennsylvania, who was one of the bill's lead advocates. Two Democrats, Reps. Mitchell (AZ) and Taylor (MS) voted against the rule.

The rule allowed for 11 amendments, most of which were not too controversial. Several of them were adopted by unanimous consent:

-The first was an amendment from Rep. Duncan Hunter Jr. (R-CA) that "would remove veteran's educational benefits from being taken into account when calculating the maximum award an individual could receive for participating in one of the national service programs." Sounds reasonable enough.

-Next an amendment by Rep. Roskam (R-IL) that would "
require all authorized programs to be reviewed by the OMB's Program Assessment Rating Tool; require GAO to do a study on the National Civilian Community Corps program; and, amend the underlying legislation to continue the annual evaluation requirement for the National Civilian Community Corps, not a single evaluation by 2014. " Seems like a reasonable oversight provision.

-Next, an amendment by Rep. Hill (D-IN) that seems hard to oppose:
"to denote that sending care packages to soldiers deployed in combat zones overseas is included as an eligible service program."

-Finally an amendment by Rep. Teague
to aid veterans in their pursuit of education and professional opportunities, help veterans with the claims process, and assist rural, disabled, and unemployed veterans with transportation needs.

The amendments that were voted on are as follows:

-An amendment by Rep. Chellie Pingrie (D-ME)"
to add to the list of approved Clean Energy Corps activities the development of clean energy programs designed to meet the needs of rural communities." Passed 388-36. All no votes were from Republicans.

-An amendment by Rep. David Loebsack (D-IA)
"to authorize a new grant program, the Volunteer Generation Fund, to be administered by the Corporation for National and Community Service. Passed 261-168. 11 Republicans voted yes, and 5 Democrats voted no."

-An amendment by freshman Rep. Phil Roe of Tennessee "
to set an authorization for AmeriCorps, the Trust, Innovative programs, audits and evaluations at the FY 2008 level for FY 2010, and as such sums as may be necessary for fiscal years 2011 through 2014. In other words, freeze the spending levels for these programs at 2008 funding levels. Would sort of defeat the purpose of the bill, no? It failed 175-256. 4 Democrats voted yes, 3 Republicans voted no. Pretty close party line vote."

-An amendment by freshman Rep. Kilroy (D-OH) "
to provide volunteers to supervise physical education classes at elementary and secondary schools, provide nutrition education to students, and supervise, organize, and manage after school physical activity/education programs. The amendment would also provide services to these elderly people through food deliveries, legal and medical services provided in the home, and transportation. " It passed overwhelmingly 372-57. The only Democrat to vote against it Rep. Berry of Arkansas.

-An amendment by freshman Rep. Markey (D-CO) "to
increase the operational support given to organizations for full-time individuals enrolled in an approved national service position. The amendment proposes increasing the support from $600 to $800 and from $800 to $1000 if program supports at least 50 percent disadvantaged youth. " Passed 283-147. 30 Republicans voted for it, 2 Democrats voted against it, including Rep. Berry again (what's up with him?).

-Finally (phew!!) an amendment by another freshman, Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV)
"to create a National Service Reserve Corps and requires an annual service requirement of at least 10 hours and/or annual training. A member of the National Service Reserve Corps is one who has completed a term of national service, fulfilled training, and will respond to national disasters and other emergencies. These individuals will be listed in a national database for the ease of immediate deployment in case of emergency. " Passed 339-93. The only Democrat voting no was, you guessed it, Mr. Berry!

done with amendments! Oh wait, the Republicans get their chance to change the bill through a motion to recommit. Usually these motions are defeated because they always are proposed by the minority party. However, the House adopted the motion, meaning it included a Republican amendment that forbid money from going to their list of boogie man groups like ACORN and Planned Parenthood. Democrats felt ok voting for it after the liberal chairman of the committee, George Miller, said he didn't object to it. The motion passed 318-105. All no votes were from Democrats.

The bill itself was passed 321-105. Guess who the one Democrat voting no was? I guess Rep. Berry doesn't believe in national service.

Alright, I'm running out of breath, be back for Part II in a bit.


  1. National Service as a government supported enterprise is antithetical to a free society. If something should be done for the good of society, then volunteers should do it. "Paying" volunteers through taxes is subsidizing behavior that normally would not get done. Thus moving people that could be productive in other means in society and perhaps using them in a less efficient manner.

  2. It's a two year degree program, usually divided into five semesters. ll understand what you have to do in order to solve your basic problems. The school or university should have what is called the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE).
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