Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Daily Strike-4/1/09-Vote-a-Rama Part I

Good evening and welcome to the Daily Strike. The two most newsworthy stories of the day are the Republicans' alternative budget proposal and the President's excursions in Great Britain. The Big Picture covers the former in a great post below that you all should read. As for the latter, I don't really care what kind of iPod Obama got Queen Elizabeth, so instead I'll cover an unusually busy day in Congress.

Because I'm somewhat tired, and because the Senate website is not working very well, I will cover the myriad of Senate amendments to the budget bill tomorrow morning in Part II of the Daily Strike. Tonight's entry will focus on the House.

First, an update on that race in New York's 20th Congressional District. When we left you last night, Democrat Scott Murphy had a 65 vote lead (out of 125,000 votes cast) over Republican Jim Tedisco. Today, that margin is down to 25 due to an error at a Saratoga county precinct. They start counting absentee ballots next week. Stay tuned.

THE HOUSE: Where to start? Usually, the House of Representatives gets to maybe one or two substantive bills per week. Just today, it considered 3 incredibly important measures and voted on two of them. The House took 10 total record votes today, which is quite a few. I have to warn you that I'll be getting down in the weeds in this section, so either bear (EDIT-thanks to Mother Strike for the grammar correction on this one) with me or scroll down.

First, the House was, for the 7th time, forced to table a privileged resolution offered by Rep. Flake of Arizona on the relationship between earmarks and the lobbyist group PMA. He'll just keep bringing this up every couple of days, I can assure you. Amazingly, his strategy seems to be slowly working. Three more Democrats crossed over and voted against killing the resolution, bringing the total list of discerning Democrats to 27. The motion to table was agreed to 217-185 with 16 members voting "present."

Next, the House considered an important special rule governing debate on the budget resolution. This rule provides for four hours of debate (which will allow for most members to get a chance to speak). The rule did not specify which amendments will be considered. That will be decided by an additional special rule, which is to be considered tomorrow. Republicans would vote against anything remotely related to this bill, even procedural measures. It passed 234-179 with zero Republican votes (I expect the vote on the final budget resolution to be pretty similar). The five dissenting Democrats were conservatives Barrow (GA), Childers (MS), Minnick (ID) and Taylor (MS) plus liberal Rep. Dennis Kucinich (OH) who won't vote against anything that would potentially provide funding for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The House then moved onto a bill to limit executive compensation to executives working at companies receiving federal bailout money. This, of course, was conceived under the backdrop of the AIG scandal. The bill would prohibit "unreasonable and excessive compensation" and compensation not based on performance. The million dollar question is how we define "unreasonable and excessive." The bill calls for the Secretary of the Treasury to come up with the definition, with counsel from a Congressional panel.

Republicans, of course, accused Democrats of only introducing this bill to "cover-up" the fact that they stripped an executive bonus provision from the stimulus package. Of course, the bill was trying to solve the very issue the Republicans were complaining about. This led to a rather humorous exchange on the House floor, in which the always funny Barney Frank said that Republicans "don't want to undo the thing they hate." He was like, "there must be a disorder for this, but I can't diagnose it. Can anyone else diagnose this disorder? I'm grieving along with the Republicans that they'll no longer have this talking point."

The House accepted amendments on voice votes that sought to:

1."exempt financial institutions receiving TARP funds under a certain threshold,"

to clarify that an institution that is not a TARP recipient will not be subject to the requirements of the bill as a result of doing business with a TARP recipient"

They also rejected by voice votes an amendment to make the bill retroactive (which despicably was proposed by a Democrat) and to make shareholder votes on executive compensation binding upon the Board of Directors.

The House recorded votes on two amendments to the bill. The first, offered by moderate Democratic Rep. Melissa Bean (IL), would prohibit the bill from applying to situations in which the terms of compensation were previously negotiated with the Treasury Secretary. The amendment was agreed to, even though it was opposed by a majority of Democrats. Freshman Rep. Kathy Dahlkemper (D-PA) proposed an amendment that clarified that even bonuses paid to foregone employees could be regulated by this act. The amendment was approved 246-180, with support mostly coming from Democrats.

The final bill passed largely along party lines, by a vote of 247-171. Only 10 Republicans supported the bill, while 8 Democrats opposed it. Minority Whip Eric Cantor pulled an Obama and voted "present" for some reason. My guess is that this bill dies on arrival once it gets to the Senate cooling saucer. The upper chamber seems far less inclined than the lower to consider executive pay restrictions.

It wasn't all good news for anti-bonus crusaders. A separate bill, considered under suspension of the rules, would have allowed the Attorney General to recover "excessive compensation payments." The bill failed to get the 2/3rds vote necessary to proceed under fast-track rules.

The House, after voting on a few more suspension bills, moved on to consideration of a bill making it easier for the FDA to regulate tobacco products. The bill was written by Energy and Commerce committee chair Henry Waxman. A substitute amendment and the underlying bill will be voted on tomorrow.

As for the budget, the House just got underway with the scheduled four hours of debate on the budget. I assume that the House will use some of those hours tonight, and some tomorrow morning. The chamber will then consider four budget alternatives: the Republican alternative, an alternative from the ultra-conservative Republican Study Committee, an alternative from the Progressive Democratic Caucus and one from the Congressional Black Caucus. As a sign of the times, the Progressive Democratic Caucus and CBC alternatives only make minor changes to the President's proposal. I expect each alternative to fail. The final vote on the resolution should be tomorrow night.

Oh, lord. The Republicans are now complaining that they're debating the budget at night. Seriously. Wow. I need to go to bed so I don't break my TV.

Please come back tomorrow for Part II. Tomorrow is going to be even more eventful, because both the House and Senate will take several crucial votes on their budget resolutions. I'll probably do a Part I and Part II tomorrow night as well.

No comments:

Post a Comment