Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Daily Strike-1/26/10-The Lost Argument

Good evening and welcome to the Daily Strike. I'll keep this entry short, because you need to read The Big Picture's entry below. It really sums things up nicely.

WORST DECISION REDUX: I'm still fuming about President Obama's apparent decision to freeze non-defense discretionary spending for the next three fiscal years. It is stupid both policy-wise and politically. I failed to fully articulate this yesterday, but the worst part about the decision is that it concedes the argument over economic policy to the Republican party. We've been trying to argue for the past year that we must invest money not to end the recession, which would create jobs and tax revenue. The Republicans argued that we should "tighten our belts" in Washington, which would somehow ensure economic growth. Our argument is right, there's is wrong. Yet, by proposing to freeze discretionary spending, we're tacitly admitting that we're wrong. The policy may not be the worst thing in the world if we cut unnecessary spending, like farm subsidies, instead of key social programs. But even if the policy isn't so bad, the optics are absolutely horrible.

HEALTH CARE: According to a New York Times article out tonight, Democrats are in "no rush" to pass health reform. Some lawmakers think that the earliest the bill could pass at this point would be the end of February. And we know how many deadlines we've already missed to this point! The obvious solution, which would be to have the House pass the Senate bill, and for both chambers to pass a "sidecar" reconciliation bill that would make changes to the measure. For this to work, Democrats need to cobble together 218 votes in the House, and 50 votes in the Senate. This should seemingly be easy, but many Democrats are so scared by last week's Senate election in Massachusetts that they may not be ready to support the bill. In the Senate, a few moderate Senators, like Nelson (NE) and Lincoln (AR), have already said they would oppose a reconciliation bill. As others have noted, both of these hypocritical Senators have supported numerous reconciliation bills in the past. Of course, we can lose 9 Senate Democrats and still get this done. The key is for 50 Senate Democrats to sign a letter saying they would support a reconciliation bill making corrections to the Senate legislation. This would, according to House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, give House Democrats confidence that there would definitely be changes to the bill.

There, unfortunately, is very political will to get this done. Democrats are too scared of their pending electoral prospects to pass a bill at this point. There is virtually no discussion among any lawmakers about the consequences of inaction: 30 million Americans not having health insurance. The only consequences they ever talk about are political consequences. It makes me sick.

SENATE: The Senate continued to work on a bill to raise the debt ceiling by $1.9 trillion. In order to pass the bill, many Senators wanted to include some sort of mechanism to control our spiraling debt. Today, the Senate voted on a series of amendments. The key vote was on a bipartisan amendment from Senators Conrad (D-ND) and Gregg (R-NH) that would set up a bipartisan commission that would propose cost-savings measures that would then be subject to an up-or-down vote in Congress. The amendment attracted support from a coalition of moderate Democrats and Republicans, but failed to get the 60 votes necessary to pass. Liberal Senators were too afraid that the commission would attack entitlement programs, and Republicans were worried that they would propose tax increases. (I don't want to resort to relativism here. Every Democrat just voted for the biggest deficit busting bill in years, health care reform, and every Republican voted against it). The vote failed 53-46. 35 Democrats and 18 Republicans voted yes, while 25 Democrats and 21 Republicans voted no. The Senate also voted on an amendment by Senator Baucus, which sought to assure that Social Security wouldn't be cut by any deficit commission. The amendment passed 97-0. No freedom-loving Republican was willing to vote to cut that socialist program!

The Senate is currently voting on a few more amendments, all of them from Senator Coburn. These amendments seek to rescind funding from various agencies. I expect all of these amendments to fail. The Senate will presumably move on to final passage of the bill tomorrow. On Thursday, the Senate will vote to cut off debate on the renomination of Fed Chair Ben Bernanke. At this point, I guess he will get the 60 votes needed to advance.

The House just worked on a few suspension bills today.

That's it for tonight. Tomorrow, of course, is the State of the Union. I will probably write an entry before the address, but you can get my thoughts on the speech LIVE on my Twitter account. See you then!

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