Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Daily Strike-5/20/09-Action is the Best Disinfectant

Good evening and welcome to the Daily Strike. I have just enough time today to give you everything you need to know about the going-ons in Washington. In the past week or so, Washington has been consumed with a scandal drummed up by partisans and cable news chatter, fear mongering about relocating prisoners into the United States, and a lot of other jibber jabber. Even today, the Senate spent the morning debating a politically-charged amendment preventing Guantanamo prisoners from coming into the United States. What's the best way for Democrats to move beyond these partially self-inflicted wounds? Get stuff done. Today, they did just that.

THE WHITE HOUSE: The President had a somewhat low key day in preparation for his major speech tomorrow on torture and detainee policy. The President, though, this afternoon signed two important bills dealing with housing regulations. The first, the "Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act," will help protect consumers against mortgage fraud. The second, the "Helping Families Save Their Homes Act," allows the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development to support various loan modification programs. Neither bill is sufficient to fix the housing crisis. The bill notably lacks the "cramdown" provision, which would have allowed bankruptcy judges to modify existing loan agreements. However, the two pieces of legislation are good starts in reigning in the lending industry.

Earlier in the day, the President held his quarterly meeting with the economic advisory commission he set up, headed by former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker. It's pretty unclear what exactly this group does except get a bunch of old people around a table. The President said that the group talked about various proposed steps in financial regulation and job creation. We'll see if this group comes up with any substantive recommendations.

The President also announced today that he will hold a White House Summit next month on immigration reform. He has been facing pressure on this issue from Hispanic groups, who provided key support for him in last year's election.

THE HOUSE: The President will have to schedule another signing ceremony for later this week. The House today concurred in the Senate amendments on the Credit Card Bill of Rights, which will, among other things, prohibit arbitrary rate increases on customers who are less than 60 days late on paying their bills. President Obama pushed hard for passage of this legislation, and rightfully so. It makes very substantive changes in the rules under which credit card companies operate. The House had to take two separate votes on the bill. The Senate, led by Republican Tom Coburn, included an unrelated amendment allowing people to bring guns into national parks. House leaders decided that they didn't want to hold up the credit card bill because of this provision. Therefore, they took separate votes on the bill itself, and the gun amendment. If one of the amendments had failed, the entire bill would not have been agreed to.

The good news? The credit card portion of the bill passed by a vote of 361-64. All no votes were from Republicans, except for Rep. Herseth-Sandlin of the credit-card loving state of South Dakota. The bad news? The gun portion of the bill passed by a vote of 279-147. All but 2 Republicans voted for this part of the bill, while a majority of Democrats voted against it.

The House then moved to consideration of a bill to assist veterans and the disabled in establishing small businesses. The House considered various amendments, all of which were accepted on voice vote, with the exception of one amendment offered by Rep. Kratovil (D-MD). The Kratovil amendment was approved by a unanimous vote of 427-0.

The House then voted on a Republican motion to recommit that would provide monetary assistance to small business to compensate for any "carbon emissions" tax. This was basically a political statement against cap-and-trade hidden in a Congressional motion. But Democrats had no real reason to oppose it. The motion was agreed to by a vote of 385-41. All no votes were from Democrats.

The underlying bill was approved by an overwhelming 406-15 margin, with all opposition coming from Republicans.

The House will move on tomorrow to the FAA authorization bill.

THE SENATE: The Senate is slowly ploughing through amendments to the war funding bill. This morning, Senators voted 90-6 to prohibit Guantanamo detainees from being put in the United States. The Democrats clearly lost the PR battle on this issue. It's not like anyone was planning on releasing suspected terrorists in our neighborhoods and letting them chill out in our public schools. They would be put in maximum security prisons, like every other dangerous criminal. Republicans, trying to regain their national security bona fides, somehow convinced the public that relocating prisoners in the United States would constitute having "terrorists threatening your communities." As MSNBC's Chuck Todd pointed out, are we supposed to believe that living near a prison with CONVICTED rapists or murderers safer than living next to a prison with SUSPECTED terrorists?

The only Democrats who were not overcome by political pressure on this vote were Durbin (IL), Harkin (IA), Leahy (VT), Levin (MI), Reed (RI) and Whitehouse (RI).

The Senate then took a break from the war funding bill to vote on the conference report accompanying the military procurement reform bill. The report was agreed to by a unanimous vote of 95-0. The House will vote on it tomorrow, and President Obama will sign it by the end of the week. Chalk up another legislative victory.

The Senate went back to dispose of a few amendments on the war funding bill. The first amendment, from Republican leader Mitch McConnell, would limit the release of detainees into the United States pending a report on the detention center at Guantanamo Bay. . The amendment was agreed to 92-3. The "no" votes were from Democrats Burris (IL), Durbin (IL) and Leahy (VT).

The Senate also unanimously approved a Brownback (R-KS) amendment requiring the federal government to consult state governments before relocating prisoners to their states. How much more political hay can they get out of this issue? I guess we'll soon find out, though it sure wastes a lot of time on the Senate floor.

The Senate will vote on cloture tomorrow, before dealing with the remaining amendments to the bill. I expect that cloture should be invoked relatively easily. Republicans have gotten their amendments approved, so they'll probably vote for the bill en masse. I suspect that 10 or so Democrats will vote against the bill.

That's it for a busy, "end of session"-type day. We'll be back for more tomorrow and Friday!

1 comment:

  1. Just a short one - I'm just getting sick of Republicans who could hijack any bills to insert any gun-related provisions/amendments.