Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Daily Strike-10/7/09-They Score

Good evening and welcome to the Daily Strike. Only in Washington would the release of a CBO score cause pandemonium. I love this town.

CBO SCORE: Chairman Max Baucus received his much coveted cost estimate from the Congressional Budget Office, and the news is quite good. The Senate Finance Committee bill, according to a preliminary estimate costs about $829 billion and would reduce the deficit by $81 billion over 10 years. It would extend coverage to about 29 million people who do not currently have coverage. That would mean 94% of American citizens would have health insurance. That's not as high as the House bill or the Senate HELP bill, but it would be a lot better than what we have now.

Perhaps most importantly, the score means that the bill will probably clear the Senate Finance committee, which is the only thing that will move this process along. Moderates like Senator Lincoln (D-AR) and Snowe (R-ME) on the committee probably have found something they can support. In terms of the policy shortfalls in the bill, hopefully these can be addressed when the Finance bill is merged with the HELP bill, and when the Senate bill is merged with the House bill.

Chairman Baucus promised members of his committee that they'd get 72 hours to read the CBO estimate before the committee votes. Therefore, the vote will probably come early next week. Of course, this is just a way for Republicans to kick the can down the road a little bit. As soon as Baucus agreed to this, they started making more demands about having more time to read the bill. I say, no more giving in to these ridiculous demands. According to polls, the political climate has shifted slightly over the past month and half or so towards health reform, and we need to keep the process moving forward.

Speaking of health care, the House looks like it may be on the verge of settling on a bill to send to the floor. Since three House committees passed legislation in July, Democratic leaders have struggled with trying to figure out how to bring the 256 member caucus together around a single proposal. According to the chairman of the Education and Labor committee, Rep. George Miller (D-CA), we may be hearing about a breakthrough very soon. Stay tuned.

THE SENATE: Besides the CBO score of the Baucus bill, it was a pretty quiet day in the Senate. Senators voted on one amendment to the Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations Bill. Not exactly a productive day for the upper chamber, which still has two appropriation bill conference reports to vote on. Senators voted to kill an amendment by Senator Vitter (R-LA) to do prohibit government funding to sanctuary cities, cities that do not prosecute illegal immigration cases (like San Francisco!). Luckily, the amendment was killed by a vote of 61-38. Republicans Murkowski (AK), Snowe (ME) and Voinovich (OH) voted yes. Democrat Landrieu, from Vitter's home state of Louisiana voted yes. There will be votes on additional amendments tomorrow.

Also, we neglected to report yesterday that the Senate confirmed Thomas Perez to be head of the Civil Rights Department at the Department of Justice. Perez was confirmed by a vote of 72-22, with all no votes coming from Republicans. Republicans had held up the nomination because of concern that Perez wasn't tough enough on immigration. Go figure.

THE HOUSE: The House today voted to approve the conference report for the Agriculture Appropriations bill. The bill now heads to the Senate, where it will presumably be voted upon and sent to the President in the next week or so. The bill is only the 3rd of 12 appropriations bills that have emerged from House-Senate conferences. The conference report passed by a vote of 263-162, with 23 Republicans voting yes (the ones with earmarks in the bill!) and 11 Blue Dog Democrats voting no.

The House also voted on several bills under suspension of the rules.

The most exciting part of the House's legislative day was a vote to kill a Republican "privileged resolution" that sought to remove Charles Rangel as chairman of the House Ways and Means committee. Rangel (D-NY) is incredibly corrupt, having used his position to seal all sorts of shady property deals (I won't go into detail). But Democrats have insisted that Rangel be investigated by the House Ethics committee. Only two Democrats, Reps. Childers and Taylor (both of MS) voted against their embattled leader. 6 Republicans broke party lines and supported Rangel. 6 Democrats and 13 Republicans voted "present." Democrats have succeeded in killing this issue for another day.

THE WHITE HOUSE: Not a lot of news from the White House today. This morning, the President held a meeting with House Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Reid to discuss possible measure to spur additional job growth. The still dismal job numbers have reignited discussion about a new jobs-only stimulus package, which I think is desperately needed. Democrats have floated some ideas that would theoretically win bipartisan support, like a payroll tax holiday on the first $20,000 of income. Of course, Republicans know that their path out of the political wilderness is high unemployment, so you may not see them rushing to support any job-creating measures in the near future.

Obama met this afternoon with his national security team to discuss Afghanistan and Pakistan. Once again, nothing new to report on the President's new strategy.

That's it for today, see you tomorrow! Leave comments!

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