Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Daily Strike-12/8/09-400

Good evening and welcome to the Daily Strike. This is our 400th entry, and I wanted to take a quick moment to thank our loyal readers. Please let us know any ways we can improve the blog to make it a more useful source of political happenings. On to the day in politics...

HEALTH CARE: The Senate had another eventful day in its health care debate, and it could get more eventful still if a group of 10 Democratic Congressmen can come up with a compromise by the end of the evening (a deadline imposed by Senator Reid). Even if they reach an agreement on the public option (the outline of which we discussed last night), they'll still have to figure out how to get that 60th vote. Senator Lieberman (ID-CT) seems open to the compromise being discussed. He's obviously a self-obsessed wild card, but I don't see him being the major obstacle getting to 60 at this point. We basically need the support of either Senator Snowe (R-ME) or Senator Nelson (D-NE) to move this forward. Senator Snowe is open to parts of the public option compromise (the FEHB program) but she has problems with proposals to further expand Medicaid and allow people 55-65 to buy into Medicare. Since these programs are the sweeteners for liberal Democrast in the public option compromise, they are unlikely to be jettisoned. Therefore, Snowe's support is iffy at best.

As for Senator Nelson, he seems to be hung up on the abortion issue. By a vote of 54-45, the Senate killed Nelson's amendment that would place restrictions on funding for abortions, restrictions similar to those imposed by the Stupak amendment in the House. Senators Collins and Snowe (ME) voted with the Democrats to kill the amendment, while Democrats Bayh (IN), Casey (PA), Conrad (ND), Dorgan (ND), Kaufman (DE) joined Nelson in voting to keep the amendment alive. The defeat is great news for progressives, who argue (correctly) that these abortion restrictions go way beyond current law and would basically prohibit women receiving federal subsidies from paying for abortions, even with their own money. The problem with the amendment's failure is that Nelson may now support a Republican filibuster.

The bottom line, therefore, is that we'll have to make one final (most likely awful) concession to win the support of either Nelson or Snowe. I hate the Senate so much.

JOBS: President Obama today gave a speech at the Brookings Institution addressing proposals to spur job creation. The President, as expected, expressed support for using unused bailout funds to support home weatherization, infrastructure investment, and small business tax relief. He also promised to extend safety net measures like COBRA and unemployment benefits. I am very supportive of these efforts, and I especially appreciate the President emphasizing that we can't cut the deficit if so many people are out of work. Tax revenues will continue to dry up, thus putting us further in the red. However, I agree with this Robert Reich post, which argues that Obama's plan does not confront the broader problems adequately. He is still not addressing how to close massive state budget shortfalls, how to address long-term job growth, and how to fundamentally change the structure of the economy to make sure this never happens again. The President is certainly conscious of his conservative critics, who will harp to no end about increased "government spending" and "deficits." But nothing is more critical to his Presidency than offering a truly ambitious solution to our long-term economic problems. The Big Picture chimes in:

THE HOUSE: Finally, the House today dealt with more suspension bills. Two important data security measures passed, thanks largely to the hard work of The Insider and his Energy and Commerce subcommittee on Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection. Learn more about these important bills here and here. The House will move on to a bill of tax break extensions tomorrow, before addressing a key financial regulation package on Thursday.

Majority Leader Hoyer (D-MD) said that it's not absolutely necessary for Democrats to pass a jobs package before the Christmas break. He says it's more likely the House will act early next year, when the President becomes more clear on what he's proposing. I would hope that knowing the Senate's propensity to debate even non-controversial bills for several months, the House will vote on a jobs package as soon as possible. I would still support attaching a jobs bill to a must-pass omnibus appropriations bill which will come up in both chambers before the end of the year.

That's it for now. See you tomorrow!

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