Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Daily Strike-5/5/09-Cinco de Mayo

Good evening and welcome to the Daily Strike. The President celebrated Cinco de Mayo last night because had some important business to tend to today. Let's get to it.

THE WHITE HOUSE: Today, once again, was a very busy day on the west side of Pennsylvania Avenue. The President, after receiving his morning briefings, met with key House lawmakers to discuss a climate change bill. The chairman of the House Energy and Commerce committee, Henry Waxman joined Select Committee on Climate Change Chairman Edward Markey, and other Democrats in hashing out a legislative strategy with President Obama. The President reiterated that a Cap-and-Trade energy bill is one of his main legislative priorities for this year. The chances of such a bill passing have seemed more and more unlikely recently. For one, a bad economy makes it harder to undertake a massive reordering of the private sector towards cleaner energy (although it would be phased in slowly). Also, Democrats from manufacturing states have expressed opposition because laws restricting carbon outputs might hurt their states' businesses. Republicans are almost unanimous in opposition, saying the cap-and-trade proposals amount to a "national energy tax." They also complain, oddly, that cap-and-trade picks winners and losers in the economy. GOOD! Don't we want to encourage companies to produce clean, renewable energy, and discourage them from making fossil fuels? Obama apparently urged lawmakers to try and seek compromise so they can get something done. My guess is that the only clean energy bill coming this year will be one significantly watered down, which is too bad for our planet and our long-term prosperity.

The President then went to lunch with the Vice President at an independently-owned burger joint in Arlington. Biden ordered a swiss cheeseburger with jalapenos, and the President stuck with your standard cheddar cheeseburger. How do I know this? The press pool has a little too much time on their hands. Maybe one of these days he'll go to lunch at the food court where I eat. Yeah, I'm pretty swept up.

The President met this afternoon with Israeli President Shimon Peres. Peres is the head of state, and not the head of government, meaning he is more of the ceremonial head of the state of Israel. Still, Peres is the former Prime Minister, and still carries a lot of clout. Peres said that Israel is still committed to a two-state solution, the cornerstone of any peace effort with the Palestinians. Peres said that he and Obama agreed on the importance of the unique friendship between Israel and the United States, and that the two countries' partnership is as strong as ever. The most interesting news from the event was Peres' apparent acceptance of Obama's intentions to talk directly with leaders in Iran. Peres says that if the President wants to try engagement, Israel will be "loyal partners." Something tells me that current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu probably doesn't agree with that.

The President sits down with the Presidents of Afghanistan and Pakistan tomorrow. We will bring you full coverage. These meetings become crucial as the security situation in Pakistan gets ever more perilous.

THE SENATE: The Senate spent today working on the "Helping Families Save Their Homes" Act, which would direct the Department of Housing and Urban Development to encourage loan modifications for delinquent homeowners. The bill, unlike the House version, does not contain the "cramdown" provision, which would allow bankruptcy judges to renegotiate the terms of mortgages. The Senate took roll call votes in relation to 4 amendments today.A vote on final passage is scheduled for tomorrow afternoon, after about 10 more votes on amendments. Following consideration of this bill, the Senate will move on to a bipartisan Defense Department procurement reform bill co-sponsored by Senators Levin (D-MI) and McCain (R-AZ).

Let's go through today's amendments quickly:

1. The first amendment today was offered by Senator Corker (R-TN). It addressed "safe harbor for certain services." I'm no housing expert, so if you want to figure out what this is, be my guest. The amendment was defeated by a vote of 31-63. All yes votes were from Republicans. The GOP crossovers were Chambliss (GA) (really?) Collins (ME), Isakson (GA), Martinez (GA), Snowe (ME) and Voinovich (OH).

2. The next amendment was a really politically tough one proposed by Senator Thune (R-SD). It would have deauthorized the Secretary of the Treasury from using TARP funds that have been paid back to the federal government. In other words, once we get bailout money back, we can't spend it again. This is one of those amendments that gives party leaders cold sweats. TARP is politically very unpopular, but this amendment would be bad policy. Why would we give up potential TARP money if we could use it to capitalize struggling banks? I'm pretty sure Thune's intention is to score a political point or two by making President Obama come back to Congress and beg for more bailout money, instead of just using money he already would have. Luckily, the Democrats did a good job whipping the amendment, and it failed by a narrow 47-48 vote. The Demos who couldn't resist the political pressure (aka they voted aye) were Cantwell (WA), Dorgan (ND), Feingold (WI), Feinstein (CA), Lincoln (AR), Nelson (NE), Pryor (AR) and Tester (MT). The only Republican voting no was Lugar (IN). And Specter, whatever he is, voted no. He's starting to act more like a Democrat!

3. The third vote was in relation to a second degree amendment offered by Senator Ensign (R-NV) to an amendment offered by Senator Boxer (D-CA). The Boxer amendment would provide for a written warning to be given out to homeowners of financial scams. The Ensign amendment, as I understand it, simply set some oversight guidelines for this program. The amendment passed unanimously, by a vote of 96-0.

4. The last vote of the day came on an amendment offered by Senator DeMint (R-SC), which would prohibit the government from owning any stock in companies that received TARP money. This was basically an anti-nationalization amendment, from what I can gather. Anyway, it failed on a vote of 36-59. The only Republicans not voting yes were Bennett (UT) and Corker (TN). All Democrats voted no (yay Specter!).

The other major Congressional action today was a meeting of the Senate Finance Committee discussing health care reform. This was supposed to be a collegial meeting, with testimony from various stakeholders. Then, of course, a bunch of pro-single payer activists came in and started screaming and protesting, disrupting the hearing. Do they not realize that what they're doing is COMPLETELY counter-productive? We need America to think that OPPONENTS of health reform are the crazy ones!

Nothing much going on the House today, but they'll take up another housing bill tomorrow. We will let you know all about it. Have a good night! Leave some comments!

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