Monday, June 1, 2009

The Weekly Strike-6/1-6/7

Good morning and welcome to the Weekly Strike, where we preview the week in politics. Congress is back in session, and President Obama gets ready to travel abroad, so let's get to it.

THE WHITE HOUSE: President Obama is forced to make a painful announcement this morning that General Motors has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. As I said last night, the move isn't unexpected, but it's a painful blow to the President in the country. For a century now, the fate of GM has been notoriously linked to the fate of the U.S. economy. As part of the bankruptcy agreement, the government will give GM an additional $30 billion to help in restructuring. That will make the United States officially the majority owner in GM. The Canadian government, the UAW, and current bondholders will have the remaining stake in the company. The agreement calls for the closing over 12 to 20 factories, and will result in at least 21,000 people losing their jobs. The situation is lose-lose for Obama. He certainly does not want to be in the business of running an auto company. He is assuming all of the risk associated with GM, and will reap no rewards in the unlikely event that GM ends up turning a profit anytime soon. He'll also be chastised by Republicans, who have already called the bankruptcy deal, "government motors." If Republicans had their way, GM would have filed for bankruptcy in December, thousands of people would have already lost their jobs, and the ripple effect would be deeply felt across the economy. At least in this agreement, there is a structure in place to minimize losses and ensure at least minimal solvency for the next few months.

After today's announcement, the President packs his bag and heads to the Middle East for a crucial week-long trip. Tomorrow, the President travels to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia to meet with King Abdullah. I expect they'll talk about oil and other common security interests. The big event comes on Thursday, when President Obama delivers an address in Cairo, the capital of Egypt. This speech will fulfill the President's campaign promise to give a speech in a Muslim capital during his first six months in office. Quite honestly, this was one of the reasons I was so supportive of Obama during the primary season and general election campaign. He, more than anyone else, has the credibility to speak honestly and candidly to the Muslim world about what has gone on over the past 8 years, and what the U.S. and the Muslim world have to do to ensure lasting peace. There is a 100 percent chance that Obama will say something mildly critical of past U.S. behavior, and that Republicans will attack his patriotism. The Republican party is just so predictable. The President then travels to Dresden, Germany, to visit the Buchenwald Concentration Camp. I believe that is the camp that his uncle, Charles Payne, helped liberate as a member of Patton's army. On Saturday, the President goes to France to commemorate the 65th anniversary of D-Day.

CONGRESS: Congress is back in session for about a month. The big battles are mostly at the committee level right now. Senator Kennedy (D-MA) plans to bring up a comprehensive health care proposal to the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee in the next week. Senator Baucus (D-MT), chairman of the Finance committee, is working on his portion of the bill. I'll be interested to see whether the two can reconcile their ideological differences and come up with a cohesive product in the next week or so. The stars are really aligning for health reform right now, and the push will begin this month. The goal is for the Senate to pass its version of the bill before the August 7th recess.

The House returns to work tomorrow and will consider a bunch of suspension bills. On Wednesday and Thursday, the House will consider a slew of relatively minor bills. The first would recognize the Lumbee tribe of North Carolina as a federally-protected Indian tribe, and would prohibit them from participating in gaming activities. The next bill does the same thing for a bunch of tribes in Virginia, including the Chickahominy Indian Tribe, the Chickahominy Indian Tribe-Eastern Division, the Upper Mattaponi Tribe, the Rappahannock Tribe, Inc., the Monacan Indian Nation, and the Nansemond Indian Tribe. Third, the House takes up a bill authorizing spending for the Transportation Security Administration. They were supposed to take up the bill before this last recess, but never got to it. The bill includes policy changes, like the expansion of a program for bomb-sniffing dogs. Sweet. Finally, the House will take up a bill that will give federal employees four weeks of paid parental leave upon the birth or adoption of a new child. This is one of those bills that is so fundamental to protecting workers and their children. I wish we could extend it to ALL employees, even those in the private sector. I expect the usual stupid objections from Republicans saying that the plan will cost too much.

The Senate this week will take up a bill dealing with anti-trust issues in the railroad industry. They will also vote tomorrow on the nomination of Regina McCarthy to be an administrator at the Environmental Protection Agency.

Both chambers could possibly take up a conference report on the bill to fund wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, should House and Senate leaders agree to a final version by the end of the week.

Stay tuned as we cover all of the exciting news this week from Washington!

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