Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Daily Strike-4/23/09-On All Fronts

The President and Congress were both extremely busy today dealing with problems and political controversies on all fronts. Welcome to the Daily Strike and good Thursday afternoon. This is your last chance to leave comments if you want them included in tomorrow's entry! Also, please read a GREAT entry below from Small Town Roots. So happy to have him writing!

THE WHITE HOUSE: The President spent his day in a variety of interesting venues. After receiving his daily briefings, he left for a commemoration ceremony at the Capitol of the Holocaust. The President gave a nice talk, building on the "never again" theme so frequently used in commemoration of the Holocaust. He said that we have to make sure that this is not just a slogan, but a call to action. The first step, he said, is bearing witness. The President's remarks were preceded by a slew of speakers who gave implicit warnings to Obama about the dangers of Iran. Israeli ambassador Sallai Meridor alluded to the Iranian regime by saying “When a regime is again ... terrorizing its neighbors, threatening to destroy the Jewish people, how will we meet this challenge before it’s too late?” Joel Geiderman, the vice chairman of the Holocaust Memorial Museum, directly compared the Nazis to the current regime in Iran. The great Elie Wiesel, holocaust survivor and nobel laureate, praised Obama's decision to boycott the UN conference on racism, during which Iranian President Ahmadenijad made disparaging comments toward Israel. I certainly agree that Iran is a threat, but I hope these warnings don't in any way sway the Obama administration away from using strong diplomacy. There's a difference between appeasing an enemy (like Chamberlain did by giving the Nazi's half of Czechoslovakia) and talking to them. Too bad some people just can't see that.

Then Obama came back to the White House to hold a meeting with credit card executives. He got his populism groove on big time. According to White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, the company executives told Obama that current Federal Reserve regulatory policies are sufficient. Obama disagreed, and said that new restrictions need to be put in place to help consumers. I expect some sort of credit card bill of rights to be part of the regulatory measures considered by Congress in the coming weeks. Apparently, the meeting wasn't interesting to all of those who attended.

Gibbs also announced that the President will give a prime time press conference next week to commemorate his first 100 days in office. We'll evaluate these 100 days more this weekend, but a Pew poll released to today shows that after 100 days, Americans still approve of the President's performance by over a two-to-one margin. His favorability ratings are even higher. Perhaps more encouraging for the President was an AP poll out today that showed America's feeling more positive about the direction of the country than they have since 2004. That, to me, is pretty amazing given the dire economic conditions.

THE HOUSE: The House dealt today with a bill to, among other things, direct the President to implement a National Water Research and Development initiative to "improve the federal government's role in designing and implementing federal water research, development, demonstration, data collection and dissemination, education, and technology transfer activities to address changes in U.S. water use, supply, and demand; and (2) establish or designate an interagency committee to implement the Initiative. " Water use and distribution is one of those incredibly important issues that's never talked about. It is certainly a finite resource that we should be concerned about as much, if not moreso, than oil. The bill passed overwhelmingly by a vote of 413-10. The no votes were from Republicans Broun (GA), Culberson (TX), Flake (AZ), Foxx (NC), Franks (AZ), Garrett (NJ), Hensarling (TX), Miller (MI), Poe (TX) and Shaddegg (AZ). Besides Miller, this is a very good list of the most extreme fiscal conservatives in Congress. Ron Paul surely would have been on that list had he not been absent today.

Prior to a vote on final passage, the House voted on five amendments and a Republican motion to recommit. The House also approved several amendments by voice vote. Here's a quick run-down on the ones that were voted on:

-The first amendment, offered by freshman Rep. Suzanne Kosmas (D-FL) would direct the appropriate agencies to assess the impact of natural disasters on water resources. It passed 424-0. I guess she can brag about it to her most likely hurricane-scarred constituents!

-Next was an amendment by Rep. Harry Teague of New Mexico that would require "that the plan's analysis of the energy required to provide reliable water supplies and the water required for the production of alternative and renewable energy resources. " Fair enough. It passed 423-1. Screw you Rep. McClintock (R-CA)!

-Third was an amendment by Rep. Roskam (R-IL) that would require the Government Accountabiliy Office to determine whether any program authorized by the bill is duplicative of other programs. The Democrats were opposed to the amendment because it could result in the elmination of some of the bill's important new programs. The amendment failed 194-236. 19 Democrats joined all Republicans in voting for it.

-Fourth was a simillar amendment offered by Rep. Shaddegg (R-AZ). The difference is that his amendment would direct the new interagency organization authorized under the bill (not the GAO) to identify duplicative programs. The amendment failed 271-160. 19 Republicans joined all but 6 Democrats in opposition.

The motion to recommit was offered by Rep. Nunes of California. It required the bill to include some funding related to the water shortage in the San Joaquin Valley in California (where Nunes is from). The motion passed 392-28, with almost all opposition from liberal Democrats (not sure why). Nunes must have been quite pleased. Motions to recommit are rarely agreed to, since they are almost always offered by the minority.

The House is done for the week. No word yet as to what's on tap for next week. My guess is that they'll vote on a conference report on the budget resolution.

THE SENATE: The Senate had another marathon day today. Is it just me or do they always procrastinate in the world's most deliberative body? The Senate was slated to vote on a slew of amendments to the Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act (a bill to increase liability for mortgage companies who commit fraud). The only amendment voted on during the day was offered by Senator Kyl (R-AZ) that would limit compensation for whistleblowers to $50,000,000 or 300 percent of their costs. This sounds like a lot of money to me, but I assume since they are assuming high risk by exposing fraud, they should get compensated well. There might be some other problem with this cap that I don't know about. The amendment failed 31-61. All yes votes were from Republicans.

The rest of the amendments had not been voted on at "press" time. I'll make sure to give you a full run-down tomorrow. I'm not sure whether the vote on final passage will be this evening or tomorrow morning.

That's it for us today. You know the drill: COMMENTS, BABY, COMMENTS!

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