Monday, March 16, 2009

The Weekly Strike-3/16-3/22

Good Monday morning and welcome to the Weekly Strike. Be sure to read The Big Picture's great entry below on immigration, and please offer some comments. Also, congratulations to all of our loyal readers. The Big Picture's post was the 100th for this blog since it began in January! Now, on to the Weekly Strike, where we preview the upcoming week in politics.

THE WHITE HOUSE: President Obama turns back to the economy this week, starting today with an important announcement on a new provision to make it easier for small businesses to obtain federal loans. First, though, we must understand the context underlying the President's actions this week. First, the President is still trying to build massive political capital to enact his sweeping budget into law. He has enlisted the help of his former campaign manager, the incomparable David Plouffe, to mobilize the grassroots in favor of the budget. This effort will be done under the jurisdiction of the Democratic National Committee. Using the President's extensive email list, Plouffe will try to go over the heads of Congress and take the President's budget directly the people. He will encourage supporters to hold meetings in their communities, and to call their members of Congress to ask for support. This effort is critically important for an initiative as controversial and extensive as the budget proposal. Members of Congress, long entrenched in the ways of Washington, will be tempted to water down the budget, to put their own stamp on it, to make compromises just to seem "moderate" and to give the President a huge headache. Already we've seen Senators of the President's own party, like Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-ND), express doubts about the size and scope of the President's budget. The only way we can counteract the often self-indulgent members of Congress is to mobilize the public. Nothing will freak out a member of Congress more than their office being flooded with calls and letters in support of legislation, and poll numbers that show the legislation being popular.

Not only do we need to counteract members of Congress, but we also have to deal with demagogues in the talk-radio circuit, deficit-obsessed mainstream media types, and an electorate that may be hesitant to enact rapid change. Organizing support for this budget would truly be democracy at its finest!

The other important sub-text to the President's week is growing populist outrage, especially at this weekend's discovery that AIG has used federal bailout money to pay large bonuses to its executives. Obama will have to harness this energy to promote his policy goals of transferring power away from the wealth elite, and towards the middle-class. If he doesn't effectively co-opt this anger, he risks the sort of backlash that The Big Picture talked about in his previous post.

In terms of actual policy on the President's agenda, he starts today with the aforementioned proposal on Small Business loans. The President is expected to announce that he will use $730 million in stimulus money to cut small business lending fees. The move is designed to temper Republican criticism that there was not enough in the stimulus bill to help out small business.

Tomorrow, the President holds two St. Patrick's Day events, one in the office of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Hopefully he doesn't have too much fun. Wednesday, Obama travels to Southern California to hold a town meeting on the economy (presumably) in Santa Ana. He has two more events scheduled for Thursday in Los Angeles.

THE SENATE: The Senate will take a second stab at the "Omnibus Public Lands Act of 2009" this week. The bill packages together proposals previously blocked by Republican Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma. The Senate passed a version of the bill back in January. The House tried to take up the bill under suspension of the rules to avoid having to vote on poison-pill amendments, but the Democrats couldn't muster the necessary 2/3rds majority. The Senate will take up a revised version of the bill that seeks to convince a few more House members for their support. The first vote will be today at 5:30pm on a motion to invoke cloture on the motion to proceed. This type of vote is a test vote. You're basically voting on whether to proceed with the bill, subject to a 60 vote threshold. Senate leaders often call for these votes to test whether they have 60 votes on the underlying bill. If cloture is invoked (if the motion passes, in other words), the Senate will debate the bill and vote on a final version in the next couple of days. I'm not quite sure what's on the schedule for the remainder of the week.

THE HOUSE: The House starts the week, as usual, with some votes today and tomorrow on non-controversial bills under suspension of the rules. On Wednesday and Thursday, the House will consider a very interesting bill, the Generations Invigorating Volunteerism and Education Act (GIVE Act). This bill, sponsored in the Senate by the bipartisan duo of Kennedy (D-MA) and Hatch (R-UT) would provide funding for 250,000 jobs in public service. E.J. Dionne wrote a great summary of the bill in today's Washington Post. (

The bill is particularly important during a recession. More public service jobs would allow college graduates, who otherwise would be subject to a poor labor market, the chance to work productively in their communities, truly a win-win situation. Also, the bill might be appealing to some Republicans because it invests money in faith-based initiatives and also provides money for implementation at the state level. I expect the bill to pass the House with a large bipartisan majority (my guess would be in the 300-320 range). President Obama would certainly sign the bill into law; he mentioned it during his recent address to Congress.

Stay tuned for tonight's Daily Strike!

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