Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Daily Strike-10/8/09-Getting Stuff Done

Good evening and welcome to the Daily Strike. Today was a true rarity in politics. The White House made little news, and Congress got a lot done. Let's get to it.

THE HOUSE: Today, social progressives won a hidden victory of sorts. Buried inside the Defense Authorization bill conference report is the Mathew Shepard Act, a bill that defines crimes based on sexual orientation as hate crimes. I would guess that this is the first gay-rights piece of legislation that will be enacted into law in almost a decade. I hope this positive step will soon be followed by a bill banning employment discrimination based on sexual orientation.

As for the actual "defense authorization" part of the Defense Authorization bill, there will be increases in pay for soldiers, authorization for 30,000 more troops in the armed forces, revised rules for military commissions, and other policies related to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is a pretty comprehensive bill.

Today, the House passed the conference report by a vote of 281-146. 237 Democrats and 44 Republicans voted yes. 131 Republicans and 15 Democrats voted no. Republicans objected to the inclusion of the Shepard provision, while some Democrats did not approve of additional war funding authorization. The bill now goes to the Senate, where it should be approved sometime in the next week and sent to the President's desk.

THE SENATE: The Senate is slowly but surely catching up to the House in its appropriations work. The Senate agreed today to the conference report on the Agriculture appropriations bill. This will be just the 2nd of 12 bills to be officially sent to the President for his signature. I would expect the Senate to vote on the Energy and Water development conference report in the next few days. The final vote was 76-22, with 21 Republicans and Democrat Bayh (IN) voting no. Everyone loves those farm subsidies!!

The Senate also continued their work on the Commerce, Justice and Science appropriations bill. This is the 8th of 12 appropriation bills. Today, the Senate voted on two amendments. The first, from Senator McCain (R-AZ) would eliminate funding for Public Telecommunications Facilities, Planning and Construction. I have no idea why we would want to do that. Neither did the majority of the United States Senate. The amendment failed by a vote of 33-64. 32 Republicans and Senator Bayh (IN) voted yes. The Senate also voted on an Ensign (R-NV) amendment that would return funding across the board to 2009 levels. I don't know of Senator Ensign knows about the concept of inflation. His amendment would have the effect of decreasing funding in the bill, which would not be prudent when a lot of these departments have been underfunded for years. The Ensign amendment failed 33-65. The only Democrats to vote yes were Bayh (IN) and McCaskill (MO). The Senate is expected to consider more amendments either tomorrow or Tuesday (it better be tomorrow, the Senate needs to get it's grunt work done!!!).

HEALTH CARE: Not a lot of news on the health care front. The Senate Finance committee will vote at 10am Tuesday on its version of legislation, which was scored favorably yesterday by the Congressional Budget Office.

In the House, Majority Leader Hoyer (MD) said that the earliest the bill could come to the floor at this point would be towards the end of the week of Oct. 19-23rd. The House first has to agree on a final product, then send the bill to be scored by the Congressional Budget Office, and then post it online for 72 hours to shut up the "read the bill" crowd.

THE WHITE HOUSE: It was not a very busy day for the President. This afternoon, he had lunch with business executives at the White House to talk about the economy. I wish he'd spend more time with American workers who are struggling in this recession, but that's just me. Tonight, the President plays basketball with cabinet secretaries and members of Congress. I would pay a lot of money to watch that game.

That's it for tonight, see you tomorrow!!

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