Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Daily Strike-12/2/09-Frustration and Obstruction

Good evening and welcome to the Daily Strike. That has to be one of the more depressing titles we've had since we started the blog. And rightly so. Make sure you read The Big Picture's entry below on Afghanistan. We'll organize this entry in the 3 issue paradigm we talked about the other night. We can do that because there weren't any votes in the Senate (more on that below) and very little happened in the House.

AFGHANISTAN: The day after the President's speech was full of mostly negative reactions from Washington politicians and commentators. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Admiral Mike Mullen testified in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee and the House Foreign Affairs committee. Democratic members mostly expressed deep skepticism about the troop increase. Republicans, led in the Senate by John McCain, are upset that Obama set an "arbitrary" date to withdraw American troops. Democrat Eliot Engel (D-NY) in the House expressed concern that we are getting "bogged down in an endless war." Republican Rep. Mike Pence (IN) said that it never makes sense to tell an enemy when you will stop fighting. These quotes sum up the dialogue today pretty well I think.

These two arguments certainly aren't equivalent on the merits, but they do underscore one key point in addition to the points The Big Picture made earlier today. It's hard to sustain a war effort when neither the Congress nor the American public is very supportive. In October 2001, pretty much everyone (except of few of us noble ones!) supported the invasion of Afghanistan. Now, polls are indicating that the American people are skeptical about this effort, and lawmakers in both parties have deep worries about how this is strategy will turn out.

HEALTH CARE: Guess what the Senate did today? If you said "nothing," congratulations, you've won a chance for me to consider a chance to praise you, if I can get 60 votes to do so. Republicans have not agreed to any unanimous consent requests to vote on amendments, so the Senate has been unable to make any progress on health care legislation. Republicans revealed their true strategy today in a memo written by Senator Judd Gregg (NH). Gregg outlined several ways the GOP can delay and obstruct the health care bill through legislative procedure. As many others have noted, this obstruction memo is longer than the Republican health care plan. Democrats seem to be calling the Republicans' bluff by using parliamentary maneuvers of their own. Democrats will call for votes to "table" or kill Republican amendments if Republicans don't agree to vote on the amendments themselves. This way, Democrats can dispose of all Republican amendments with hardly any debate. Two can play at this game, GOP! Democrats are also threatening to keep the Senate in session during the holidays, including Christmas itself, if Republicans continue their delay tactics. None of this will matter too much if Democrats can cobble together 60 votes in the next couple of weeks. News has started to leak out that Senator Tom Carper (D-DE) will introduce a compromise amendment making the public option into the "triggered" plan proposed by Olympia Snowe (R-ME). We'll talk more about that amendment when it comes up. And, of course, we will inform you if the Senate actually ever votes on anything.

As Ezra Klein notes, the Senate is absolutely dysfunctional right now. This is not how democracy should work. Republican are no longer even delaying the bill. They're delaying consideration of their own amendments!

JOBS: There are actually several small pieces of good news in economic policy today. First, the House Financial Services committee approved by a vote of 31-27 a sweeping financial regulation package that come come to the House floor some time in the next month. Members of the Congressional Black Caucus boycotted the vote, justifiably, to express their concern that this legislation (nor any other piece of current legislation) does enough to address soaring unemployment among minorities and the poor. Nevertheless, I don't think their abstention in committee means that they will oppose this good bill on the House floor.

Over in the Senate, Vermont Senator Bernard Sanders of Vermont has placed an official hold on Ben Bernanke's renomination as chairman of the Federal Reserve. Sanders' hold can be overcome with 60 votes, and it probably will, but Sanders is using this opportunity to express his objections to some of the corrupt policies at the Federal Reserve in the wake of last year's bailout legislation. You should read his full letter here, he makes a very strong case as to why Bernanke should not be renominated.

Finally, with the White House set to hold a "jobs summit" tomorrow, House Democrats have started to outline a plan to boost job creation. Before the end of the year, Congress will have to pass an omnibus budget bill that funds the federal government through next September. House Democrats are looking to attach job creation measures to this bill, such as increased infrastructure spending, the extension of safety net programs like COBRA and unemployment benefits, and tax breaks for small businesses who create jobs. Democrats would make these measures deficit neutral by using the remaining TARP money from last year's bailout. I think this is a fantastic idea. Democrats can do something about jobs immediately, without having to go through the full legislative process (which could take months.) Also, they can give cover to Blue Dog Democrats who supposedly are concerned about the deficit. Finally, they can appeal to populist anger with a measure that transfers money from Wall Street to Main Street.

That's it for tonight. Late breaking news is that we'll get some Senate amendment votes tomorrow. See you then!!


  1. So much for your liar peace president.. Bwahahahahah

  2. Because this travesty must be stopped, period. Thank you Senator Gregg. We appreciate the fact that you care. You are an angel from heaven, especially for those of us with elderly parents who could be denied hospitalization and an IV for having nothing more wrong than simple dehydration.

    As in the UK, Canada, and some Asian countries, they would be LEFT TO DIE because of their age.

    The nutjobs in the White House must NOT be allowed to tell us who can get medical treatment and when.

    Those of you who 'admire' these overt Communists and their violent and deceptive tactic of jamming huge bills through without giving the legislature time to know what's in them are pathetic and your behavior and support for these criminals against life is abhorrent.

    If you want to talk about blocking, look in the mirror. This Congress and their head nutjobs like Pelosi and Reid ought to start with the investigations of their own tax evaders, ACORN, and now climategate scoundrels. Al Gore should be in jail... along with the rest of the IPCC.