Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Daily Strike-1/28/10-Post-SOTU

Good evening and welcome to the Daily Strike. We're coming to you tonight from New Haven, CT, home of Yale University and birthplace of Ricci v. DeStefano. Now to the day in politics...

STATE OF THE UNION: I was overall pleased with the President's State of the Union last night. I was especially impressed by how he narrowed in on the factors inhibiting our nation's progress, like hyper-partisanship, the United States Senate, and corporate influence in Congress. He also showed something that has been sorely lacking over the last several months: passion. He struck a very good chord last night by saying that he won't quit, and the nation won't quit, despite his recent political setbacks. I also liked his courage in calling some people out, like the Supreme Court for their horrible decision last week in the Citizens United case, Congressional Democrats for being weak willies, and Congressional Republicans for being obstructionist. In that sense, his speech was very bold.

My major issues with his speech is that he didn't fundamentally change the economic narrative that threatens his legislative agenda. In fact, he added to it. I cringed when he said that Congress should be tightening its belts during a recession. No, Mr. President, it shouldn't, and you know that! As we've talked about numerous times before, the President is feeding the narrative that somehow cutting government spending will help us make it out of the recession. This unfortunate view is represented by his ill-advised freeze of discretionary spending, which will take effect in 2011.

Also, some of the President's policy proposals, especially relating to jobs, were not very ambitious. It might be politically wise for the President to seek the low-hanging fruit, like capital gains tax cuts on small businesses, but he will need to do a lot more to ignite the kind of job creation that we all want. The Senate seems to be following the President's lead, and will vote on a small jobs bill that won't be nearly large enough to make a big impact. He also gave Congress little guidance in how to proceed on health care. I appreciate how he implored them to "get it done," but I thought he could have give more concrete instructions to Congressional Democrats.

Overall, the speech was good in that it allowed the President to regain the trust and respect of people who were doubting him the most, like soft Democrats and independents. He was strong and reassuring, and hopefully his performance will give him so political capital so that he can get some legislative accomplishments. The way Congress is right now, that's not looking promising.

THE PRESIDENT: The President and Vice President were in Tampa Bay, Florida today to unveil a $1 billion grant to build a high-speed rail line. I'm a huge fan of high speed rail, and one of the best things Obama has done thus far is use stimulus money to spur this important investment in our infrastructure. The event in Tampa Bay doubled as a bit of a political rally. The President, surrounded by enthusiastic supporters, said that he has "no apologies" for his work thus far.

The President will hold an event in Baltimore tomorrow to officially announce a new plan to give tax credits to small businesses that hire new workers.

THE SENATE: It was a very busy day in the United States Senate. Senators finished up a bill that was raise the debt ceiling by $1.9 trillion. Republicans wanted Democrats to own this unpopular measure, so they voted en masse to let the United States default on its loans. The bill only passed with the support of all 60 Democrats. And yes, Republican Scott Brown, who won last week's Senate race in Massachusetts, did not want to be seated in time to take this difficult vote, so he let Massachusetts' interim Senator Paul Kirk (D) do the dirty work. The House will take up the bill next week, and will send it to the President by next Friday. When the President signs the bill, our debt ceiling will be high enough to last us through the November elections.

Prior to a vote on final passage, the Senate voted on a few amendments. The first amendment, offered by Senator Brownback (R-KS) would establish a commission to review Congressional spending and federal agencies. The amendment failed to get the 60 votes needed for passage, despite the support of Democrats Bayh (IN), Bennet (CO), Hagan (NC), Lieberman (CT), Lincoln (AR), McCaskill (MO), Merkley (OR), Nelson (NE), Nelson (FL), Shaheen (NH), Tester (MT), Warner (VA) and Webb (VA). Republicans Cochran (MS), Gregg (NH) and Snowe (ME) voted no.

The second amendment, offered by Senator Sessions (AL) would have established a five year cap on discretionary spending. You don't need me to remind you why this is a horrible idea. It's a shame that it got 56 votes, though it was short of the 60 votes needed for passage. Democrats Bayh (IN), Begich (AK), Bennet (CO), Carper (DE), Hagan (NC), Klobuchar (MN), Lieberman (CT), Lincoln (AR), McCaskill (MO), Nelson (NE), Nelson (FL), Pryor (AR), Shaheen (NH), Tester (MT), Udall (CO), Warner (VA) and Webb (VA).

Finally, the Senate voted to re-institute pay-as-you-go budgeting rules. These rules require all new spending to be offset with tax increases or spending reductions. It was abandoned by Congress in the early years of the Bush administration. The amendment passed 60-40 on a pure party line vote. Republicans objected to these rules because it might result in tax increases. Of course, taxes have NOTHING to do with cutting the deficit. Absolutely nothing!

The Senate then turned to the nomination of Ben Bernanke for another term at the Federal Reserve. Bernanke faced opposition from both parties due to his performance ahead of the 2008 financial meltdown, but he ended up being confirmed relatively easily by a vote of 70-30. The "no" votes were pretty much split between the two parties. Bernanke will now serve at the Fed until at least 2014. Prior to a vote on the nomination itself, the Senate voted to cut off debate on the nomination by a vote of 77-23. See, people? You can oppose something but choose not to filibuster it!

The House was out of session today as the Republicans began their annual retreat. Both chambers will come back into session next Monday.

That's it for tonight! Our next entry will be Monday morning. See you then, and leave comments!

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