Thursday, May 7, 2009

The Daily Strike-5/7/09-Another Budget Day

Good evening and welcome to the Daily Strike. The full 2010 budget proposal was released today. It's like Christmas for nerds! We'll give you a full rundown. Also, this weekend, we return to Lady Strike's native Syracuse for mother's day. Posting will be relatively light. Hopefully Feline Strike can make it on his own for a couple of days. Also, I'm repeating a lot of points that I made in the previous entry, so bare with me.

BUDGET: The President introduced his full Fiscal Year 2010 budget today. This 1400 page document details spending in federal programs line-by-line. In his announcement, the President did not focus on what the budget will do for health care, education or the environment. He instead focused on $17 billion worth of cuts, which account for about half of one percent of the total budget. I get that highlighting the cuts is largely symbolic, and that it's supposed to show Obama's fiscal responsibility. But as I mentioned in a dialogue with The Big Picture, you should be emphasizing the strengths in the budget, not inadvertently drawing attention to its weaknesses. Furthermore, when your biggest political battle in the coming months is to convince people to spend a lot of money right now on important priorities, is it really worth it to talk about the usefulness of cutting spending?

Also, it annoys me when the Obama administration uses the same misleading logic and rhetoric as the previous administration. Both Bush and Obama criticized the "Washington elite" who don't realize that $17 billion is a lot of money. "Just go ask every family if that's a lot of money," they tell us. Well, the fact is that it ISN'T a lot of money, and we need to be honest about that. Obama then pulled a Bush-McCain move by mentioning one specific egregious spending item, money for a "cultural atache" to France. You could eliminate millions of programs like that and you wouldn't make a dent in the federal deficit.

The Big Picture wisely reminds me that this is Barack Obama. We should always have faith that he knows what he's doing. I'll just say that I wasn't happy with the way this was rolled out.

THE PRESIDENT: Earlier in the day, the President held an education meeting with an eclectic cast of characters: New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (I), civil rights activist Al Sharpton, and former Speaker Newt Gingrich. After all the trash Newt has talked recently, I'm surprised Obama let him into the White House. The former Speaker praised Obama for bravely defending charter schools, which are not popular among some of his biggest constituents.

Gingrich also must have been happy that Obama opposed Congressional Democrats' effort to end the DC School Vouchers program. The pilot program, enacted a few years ago by Republicans, gives scholarships to inner city students so they can attend private schools. The Washington Post writes about this in their editorial pages almost every day. Yes, it would be bad to cut funding to these students while they're still attending these private schools. But the Washington Post misses the point. It may be GREAT for the lucky students who get these scholarships, but what does it do to improve education as a whole?

THE SENATE: Today was an uncharacteristically quick day in the United States Senate. Senators spent the morning debating a military procurement reform bill, cosponsored by Senators Levin (MI) and McCain (AZ) that would change Pentagon organization and procedures for the acquisition of major weapons system, to protect against waste, fraud and abuse. A few amendments were accepted by voice vote, and the bill passed 93-0. Pretty rare that everyone, even ideologues like Coburn (OK) and DeMint (SC) would vote unanimously for a substantive bill. The Senate also approved the nomination of Gil Kerlikowske to be Director of National Drug Control Policy by a vote of 93-1. Obama's good friend Mr. Coburn was the only Senator voting no. The upper chamber will consider the House-passed Credit Card Bill of Rights next week.

THE HOUSE: The House today approved a bill to reform consumer mortgage practices and provide accountability for such practices, and to provide certain minimum standards for consumer mortgage loans. This is the third housing bill Congress has considered in the past few weeks. Congress has already sent President Obama bill designed to cut down on mortgage fraud. Both houses have also passed different versions of the "Helping Families Save Their Homes Act." Today's bill passed by a vote of 300-114. All no votes were from Republicans, except for Reps. Bright (AL), Kirkpatrick (AZ) and Schrader (OR). (all Freshman!). Prior to final passage, the House accepted by voice vote a Republican motion to recommit which set some guidelines for grant-seekers.

The House voted on a series of amendments as well. Here's a brief rundown.

1. The first amendment was the best by far. Anticipating that Republicans would try and use this bill to attack ACORN, Democrat Barney Frank preempted them by proposing to prohibit funding to any organization under federal indictment. The amendment passed 245-176. And all opposition was from Republicans, except for Reps. Bright (AL), Giffords (AZ), Minnick (ID) and Mitchell (AZ).

2. The next amendment from Rep. Hensarling (R-TX) sought to " to strike the assignee and securitizer liability provisions from the bill." It failed 171-252.

3. Third was an amendment from Republican Study Committee Chairman and partisan extraordinaire Tom Price who sought "to delay the enactment of titles I, II, and III of the bill until the Federal Reserve certifies that they will not reduce the availability or increase the price of credit for qualified mortgages. " It failed 167-259.

4. Finally, the House voted down an amendment by Rep. McHenry (R-NC) which would have striked portions of the bill relating to high-cost mortgages. The amendment failed 171-255.

The House also adopted several amendments by voice vote.

That's it for us today, I'll make sure to write quick entries this weekend, include our "Comment of the Week" and our new feature "Wouldn't Go As Far As THAT!" Have a great weekend!

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