Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Daily Strike-10/28/09-Ready to go?

Good evening and welcome to the Daily Strike. If you haven't already called Joe Lieberman's office and cursed him out, now would be a good time. Also, leave some comments!

HEALTH CARE: Speaker Nancy Pelosi is about ready to unveil the final version of the House health care bill. Tomorrow morning, Speaker Pelosi will present the bill to members of the Democratic caucus at 9am tomorrow, and then will hold a ceremony on the west front of the capital at 10am to unveil the bill to the general public. The bill is expected to include a public option based on negotiated rates. House leaders could not corral the vote for a public option based on Medicare rates. The bill will come with a preliminary cost estimate from the CBO, although a more formal estimate won't be available for several days. The leadership is expected to bring the bill to the floor late next week, with a vote possible early the following week.

The question now becomes whether progressive Democrats, who fought tooth and nail for a "robust" public option, can accept a watered down version. Early word is that they will suck it up and vote for it (according to sources at TPM). There was a time earlier this fall when it looked like there may not be any public option at all. So progressives can take some solace that it has made a comeback. They can also get whatever joy comes from losing a noble fight. The robust public option would have saved the government more money, and would have introduced more competition into the individual insurance market. Still, the watered down public option is no reason to oppose the bill. I suspect 20-25 Democrats will oppose the bill from the right, and almost certainly all 177 Republicans will oppose the bill. Therefore, the progressives have to stay on board for the bill to pass. Early indications are that they will.

Over in the Senate, the fallout continues over Senator Lieberman's declaration that he would support a filibuster for any bill that contains a public option. Democrats seem to be dismissing Lieberman, assuming that he is just trying to get attention (like always). Lieberman's nonsensical reasoning (that the public option is an entitlement program that will increase the deficit) will eventually be proven incorrect by the Congressional Budget Office. Maybe he'll change his mind then. In the meantime, the Senate is waiting for the CBO to officially score the bill. Since Senator Reid basically wrote the bill over the weekend, it will take CBO awhile to provide a cost estimate. Therefore, debate on the Senate floor could be put off for another week or two.

THE WHITE HOUSE: Today was a bit of a momentous day at the White House. For the first time ever, a President of the United States signed a piece of gay rights legislation. The Mathew Shepard Act, which was included in the Defense Authorization Bill, expands the definition of hate crimes to include those based on sexual orientation. The President proudly signed the bill in front of Shepard's family and members of Congress. The LGBT community will now turn its attention to other items on their agenda: a repeal of DADT, the Defense of Marriage Act, and the enactment of the Employer Non-Discrimination Act. Democrats should get all of these bills done in the next year, because they may never again have the political opportunity they have now with such large Democratic majorities in Congress.

The defense portion of the bill also contained some provisions worth celebrating, most notably the elimination of the F-22 fighter jet, an unnecessary weapon that was costing the government billions. Defense Secretary Robert Gates was present at the signing ceremony to tout the revised policies. He said that more cuts to unnecessary programs will come in next year's budget, which is superb.

THE SENATE: The Senate is at a standstill due to a ridiculous dispute over amendments to the unemployment compensation extension bill. Leaders could not agree on a list of amendments, so Republicans are letting 3o hours of mandatory debate time on the "motion to proceed" elapse before Senators can even consider the underlying bill. Republicans have insisted on voting on amendments dealing with ending the TARP program and ACORN (of course). I don't even care about the substance of these amendments, but they absolutely should not be used to hold unemployment compensation hostage. Democrats should be calling out this obstruction more forcefully.

By the same token, Democrats could solve this problem very easily. Let Republicans have votes on these amendments, and then BEAT the amendments.. We obviously have the votes to do so, but many Democratic Senators are scared of taking politically-risky votes that could be fodder for 30 second advertisements. And that, my friends, is why millions of struggling Americans face the threat of expiring unemployment insurance. Ugh, the United States Senate. Unless an agreement is reached tonight, Majority Leader Reid will force the Senate to vote on the motion to proceed after midnight tonight.

THE HOUSE: Not a lot of action today over in the House, just a few suspension bills. The House will work tomorrow on a small business tax credit measure (we'll bring you details tomorrow). Both chambers must pass a continuing resolution by the end of the week to prevent the government from shutting down. It looks like the House will pass its version either tomorrow or Friday. It's possibly that the continuing resolution will be packaged with the conference report for the Interior Appropriations bill.

That's it for tonight, see you tomorrow!

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