Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Daily Strike-3/24/09-Press Conference II

Good evening from the shores of Lake Erie in Cleveland, Cuyahoga County, Ohio. I remember this county as the one Democrats look for on election night for a huge turnout when trying to win a statewide race. For 2008, I say, thank you Cleveland!

PRESS CONFERENCE: The President gave his second prime time press conference tonight, this time to sell his $3.6 trillion budget. The President not only has to sell his budget to the American people, but also to members of his own party in Congress who are balking at increased discretionary spending. Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, who has become the biggest roadblock to the President's agenda thus far, said today that he plans to slash discretionary spending increases in the Obama budget by half. His "alternative" budget even eliminates the $400 "make work pay" tax credit. This is starting to look dangerously like the Carter and Clinton years, when the Democrats in Congress couldn't be team players because they were protecting their own interests and only looking out for themselves. I'm curious to see if Kent Conrad's prized farm subsidies are among the cuts in the budget.

Anyways, the press conference itself went reasonably well for the President. He stated that the budget and recovery are "inseparable" because it lays the foundation for secure and lasting prosperity. On the financial recovery, Obama sounded a bit more like the conciliatory candidate Obama than the fiery populist Obama some of us dream of. He stated that while he believes “The days of out sized rewards and reckless speculation that puts us all at risk have to be over," he also knows that "the rest of us can't afford to demonize every investor or entrepreneur who seeks to make a profit.” It looks like Obama has been more cautious lately in his Wall Street-bashing, which may make it more likely that investors will buy into the toxic asset plan, but not more likely that the underlying problems in our economy will be taken care of.

The President showed his shrewd political side when questioned by CNN's Ed Henry on why he didn't show outrage at the AIG bonuses earlier. He told Henry that he likes to "know what he's talking about before he speaks."

Clearly, the main point of the Press Conference was to drum up public support for the budget. I don't think he hurt himself tonight in this effort. But if he can't get Kent Conrad and others on Capital Hill to be team players on his most important policy initiative, the progressive dream for America may continue to be out of reach. My suggestion to all political activists out there is to call the Senate Budget Committee office and let them know that you support the President's plan.

EMPLOYEE FREE CHOICE ACT: Before you make that call, be sure to phone the office of Republican Senator Arlen Specter to voice your displeasure. Today, the Pennsylvania lawmaker announced on the Senate floor that he is withdrawing his support of the Employee Free Choice Act, a bill that makes it easier for workers to join a union. Specter was the only Republican who voted for EFCA in the previous Congress, and his vote was absolutely essential to break a Republican filibuster in the current Congress. Mr. Specter wants us to think that he changed his mind because of the changing conditions in the economy, but let's get real here. Pat Toomey, a former Congressman and arch conservative, is threatening to run against Specter in the Republican primary. If Specter supported this bill, he wouldn't have made it out of the primary.

This is really a huge blow to those who want to see organized labor revitalized and re-energized. Senator Specter's decision comes after intense lobbying from both labor and business, and it appears, for the moment, that business has one. As we've written about earlier, it's hardly a surprise that business is a formidable opponent. But if labor (and the rest of us progressives) don't get to work, it looks like the opportunity to pass EFCA may be slipping away.

Wow, this is turning into a depressing post.

THE SENATE: The Senate today held no roll call votes. It continues to debate amendments to the public service bill. Votes on amendments will occur throughout the day tomorrow. We'll have coverage of those tomorrow night. The Senate will also vote on the nomination of David Kris to be Assistant Attorney General. No word yet on when the Roll Call vote will come on Commerce Secretary nominee Gary Locke.

THE HOUSE: The House today dealt with non-controversial bills today under suspension of the rules. Tomorrow, the House will vote on the Senate amendments to the "Tomnibus" Public Lands bill (presumably sending it to the President's desk.) It will also begin consideration of the "FLAME" Act, a bill to authorize more money to fight wildfires.

Then, for the fifth time, the House will be forced to vote to dispose of a privileged resolution offered by Rep. Jeff Flake. The resolution calls for an investigation of members getting earmarks on behalf of embattled lobbying group PMA. When will Flake realize that he's wasting the country's time?

That's it for tonight, see you tomorrow!

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