Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Daily Strike-5/13/09-Torture Photos/Green Public Schools/Credit Cards Etc.

Good evening and welcome to the Daily Strike on this busy Wednesday. Lot's of action from the White House and on the hill, so let's get to it.

THE WHITE HOUSE: The big news today from President Obama was his decision not to release Pentagon photos showing U.S. soldiers torturing (apparently) detainees. Obama said that releasing the photos could be propaganda for America's enemies overseas, and could thus endanger our troops. The photos were ordered to be released by a Federal court, so Obama was forced to have his government lawyers file an objection. On the surface, this seems like a Bush-ian cover-up. I have to say I'm pretty conflicted. On the one hand, I think our government should be fully transparent about what went on during the past 8 years. The public should be aware of the full extent to which the Bush administration went to in the name of protecting the country. On the other hand, I find myself agreeing with Obama that this may be fodder for our enemies. It's not like they are withholding the information about what happened, they are just not showing the sensational pictures. What value would the country REALLY get from seeing those photos? I'm not sure. As Bill O'Reilly would say, "you make the call." At least President Obama finally did something for which Republicans like John Boehner and Mitch McConnell were supportive.

President Obama also received the first report from Vice President Biden on the progress of the stimulus package. So far, only 6% of the $787 billion has been spent. There have been some administrative hang ups, especially in getting money to the states. If I was Obama, I would tell Biden to get the money out there more quickly. With state governments continuing to slash jobs, and unemployment still steadily rising, we have no time to waste.

The President travels tonight to Arizona State to give a commencement speech in front of an expected crowd of 70,000. We'll have full coverage of that tomorrow.

THE SENATE: The Senate had a busy day today. First, Senate Republicans succesfully filibustered the nomination of David Hayes to be Deputy Secretary of the Interior. The objection, led by Senators Bennett (R-UT) and Murkowski (R-AK) had nothing to do with Hayes' qualifications, but instead to protest the Interior Department's decision to closs off public lands for oil drilling in the West. It's unfortunate that Republicans are holding a qualified nominee hostage for something that he had nothing to do with. The motion to invoke cloture on his nomination failed to get the requisite 60 votes. The final tally was 57-39. Doing the math here, it would seem like with the support they got from Republican Olympia Snowe (ME), the Democrats SHOULD have been able to block the filibuster. The problem was that 3 Democrats, Senators Kennedy and Kerry (MA) and Mikulski (MD) were inexplicably absent, meaning Democrats were stuck on 57 votes. Inexplicably, arch conservative Jon Kyl actually voted FOR the nomination (maybe because he had sympathy for the ailing Kennedy?). Harry Reid voted no for procedural reasons (a Senator can not call up another cloture vote unless they voted against it the first time).

The Senate also took some votes on amendments to the Credit Card Bill of Rights . The first amendment voted on today was from Senator Clown. This was your standard anti-immigrant amendment we've come to expect from the clown. The amendment would have required certain types of identification to apply for a credit card. The vote failed 28-65. No Democrats voted with the clown.

The next amendment from Senator Sanders (Socialist-VT), sought to cap interest rates on credit cards. This would have put actual teeth into this bill by putting serious restrictions on usury rates. I guess it was too mean to the credit card industry for the 60 Senators who voted no. 33 voted in the affirmative. As you would expect, only Democrats voted for the bill.

The final amendment was offered by Senator Gregg (R-NH). The purpose of the amendment would be to increase public knowledge about the national debt (Senator Gregg's pet cause). It would have required the publication of facts about the debts on IRS forms, federal websites, and federal legislation. Because Gregg's amendment violated Senate budget rules, it required 60 votes to pass. It failed by a single vote. The final tally was 59-35. I don't have many problems with this amendment in principle, but it was clearly a political ploy by Gregg to highlight the national debt. Democrats Bayh (IN), Bennet (CO), Boxer (CA), Cardin (MD), Conrad (ND), Dorgan (ND), Feingold (WI), Feinstein (CA), Gillibrand (NY), Hagan (NC), Klobuchar (MN), Kohl (WI), Lincoln (AR), McCaskill (MO), Nelson (NE), Pryor (AR), Shaheen (NH), Specter (PA) and Udall (CO) couldn't resist.

The Senate will vote on a few more amendments tomorrow, before a possible final vote in the afternoon. If the bill passes as expected, I expect the House and Senate to reconcile the bills in a conference committee.

THE HOUSE: The House today began consideration of a bill to authorize money to be spent on making public schools energy efficient. The House voted on a few amendments today, and will vote on more amendments and final passage tomorrow. A few other amendments were approved by unanimous consent. Here's a quick summary of amendment votes:

1. The first vote was on an amendment offered by Rep. Titus (D-NV) would require the Department of Education to establish a advisory council to the secretary on green high-performing schools. The amendment was agreed to 270-160. 19 Republicans joined all but two Democrats in voting yes.

2. Next was an amendment by Rep. Phil Roe (R-TN) would have established an advisory commission to see what impact the legislation was having on student achievement. This seems pretty stupid to me, since obviously the purpose of the bill is NOT necessarily to improve student achievement, but to improve energy efficiency in places were 20% of the United States population spends its weekdays. Maybe I'm missing something, because the amendment was agreed to by a vote of 432-2. I guess Democrats are fine picking their battles. Reps. Honda (D-CA) and Walden (R-OR) voted no.

3. Finally, the House voted on an amendment by Rep. Ellsworth (D-IN). The amendment sought to ensure that nothing in the bill would restrict schools from using hardwood lumber for school reconstruction. I guess that's a big thing in Indiana, maybe? The final vote was 425-7. All no votes were from Republicans.

The House also unanimously passed its version of a bill that reforms military contracting policy. The House and Senate will be going to conference sometime in the next week to produce a final product for the President, who has pledged to sign it into law.

The House, after it's done with the green public schools bill, will move onto the war funding measure.

That's it for quite a long day. I could really use some comments.

1 comment:

  1. Interior's Deputy Secretary nomination: First of all, Interior does many things besides dealing with oil drilling policies. For those who held up the process (simply due to making a political statement) are better not to jump out later and complain why things not getting done.

    BTW, anyone knows whereabout Kerry and Mikulski?