Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Daily Strike-4/22/09-Earth Day

Good evening and welcome to the Daily Strike. Happy Earth Day! A new feature today is that when we talk about a random parliamentary term, we will provide a link to the definition, so you are all up to speed!

THE WHITE HOUSE: The President today ventured to Des Moines, Iowa. It must have given him memories of January 3rd, 2008, when his meteoric rise to the Presidency. He toured a plant that makes wind turbines to highlight his administration's commitment to clean energy. The President emphasized the duel benefit of clean energy: it helps grow the economy and it helps save the planet. It's a mantra the President will have to repeat numerous times to counter conservative criticism of his cap-and-trade proposal. The President returned to Washington this afternoon.

The real action today was on Capitol Hill. There were two very important hearings on the House side today. The first was in the House Foreign Affairs committee, where Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave her first Congressional testimony. Clinton surely intended to talk about Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, war funding, Venezuela, human rights, North Korea, Israel etc...but instead she was asked questions about abortion and Dick Cheney. New Jersey Rep. Christopher Smith, a Republican, asked Clinton how she could have praised the head of NARAL when she has caused the death of millions of unborn children. Clinton dismissed the question by saying that they had a fundamental disagreement, and that Clinton had worked as First Lady to minimize abortion. The next absurd question was from California Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, who fulfills his role as Bush administration apologist. I'll let you watch their entertaining exchange here.

There was also an interesting hearing on climate change legislation in the House Energy and Commerce Committee. EPA administrator Lisa Jackson, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Energy Secretary Stephen Chu were the witnesses. The most interesting thing about this hearing was a bit of bickering between LaHood (a former Republican Congressman) and Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX). Barton asked LaHood if he intended to continue aiding auto companies, and the two of them went back and forth on the merits of the administration's bailout plans. LaHood was quite the Obama loyalist. It's amazing how LaHood can just transform himself into a liberal as soon as he joins the Obama cabinet. I wonder if the same thing would have happened to Judd Gregg. Barton also asked Secretary Chu why there is natural gas in Alaska. (Barton was trying to make the point that Alaska wasn't always a frozen tundra, meaning that somehow global warming doesn't exist). Chu talked about the shifting tectonic plates and the like. Barton responded by acting shocked that Alaska just "slid up there." Actually, Barton, that's exactly what happened.

THE HOUSE: A mostly low-key day in the House. Members mostly considered a slew of suspension bills. The one very important vote was on a non-binding motion to instruct the conferees that will help negotiate a final version of the recently-passed budget resolution. The motion "instructs" conferees not to use reconciliation instructions in the final version of the bill. Democrats want to include reconciliation language so that they can pass health care reform and education policy under expedited procedures that only require 51 votes in the Senate (instead of the usual 60). Even though a motion to instruct conferees is non-binding, the vote was a good bellwether to see if the House would support a final bill that had reconciliation instructions in it. The result was decidedly positive. The motion was defeated 227-196. All Republicans voted for it, as did 23 Democrats. These Democrats almost exactly match those who voted against the House version of the budget resolution. The good sign is that if a majority of the House of Representatives would want to use expedited procedures to get health care reform passed, you can bet that they would vote for a pretty ambitious bill.

THE SENATE: The Senate today resumed consideration of a bill to enacts new mortgage fraud regulations. The measure, among other things, increases liability for companies who make false or fraudulent claims. Senators voted on two amendments to the bill. The first, offered by Senator Kyl (R-AZ) modifies the definition of the word "obligation" under the False Claims Act. Your guess is as good as mine as to what that means. The amendment was approved 94-1, with the only dissenting vote coming from avowed socialist Bernie Sanders (VT). The second amendment, offered by Senator Isakson (R-GA) would establish a new advisory board on mortgage policy called the "Financial Markets Commission." The amendment was approved 92-4. The only no votes came from fiscal conservatives Bunning (KY), Grassley (IA), Kyl (AZ) and McCain (AZ). I guess these Republicans don't want to spend the money necessary to set up such a commission. More amendments (a lot of them) coming tomorrow.

That's it for today! Leave your comments and tell me what you think about including links to those definitions!

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