Monday, January 25, 2010

The Weekly Strike-1/25-1/31

Good morning and welcome to the Weekly Strike. I'm sure many of you are thinking, "do we have to pay attention to politics again? Can't we just pretend it doesn't exist and focus on football?" I wish.

STATE OF THE UNION: President Obama will deliver his first official State of the Union address on Wednesday, and it will be the most crucial speech of his presidency thus far. After a horrid political month, the President needs to reset the debate in Washington. The President will have the attention of the American people, and he will need to use that attention to explain specifically what he's doing, why he's doing it, and why his approach will work. His address also needs to inspire rank-and-file Congressional Democrats to get off their you-know-what's and legislate on behalf of the American people. The speech will also be a great way for him to debut his new hard-core populist rhetoric. He needs to show the American people that he is on their side against the big banks and insurance companies. Otherwise, the American people will not trust him to help solve their problems. I think he should call out the GOP in his speech as well, and tell them that while knee-jerk opposition makes for good politics, it is dangerously bad for the country. Finally, and most importantly, the President needs to recapture the rhetorical magic he had on the campaign trail. Since he became President, Obama hasn't been able to inspire people and lift their spirits. He hasn't been able to make people hopeful about the future of the country. Wednesday night is his chance to reignite the American people. We'll have comprehensive coverage of the speech as it happens this week.

Governor Bob McDonnell (VA) will be giving the Republican response. As I said last week, this is a very good choice for the GOP. He is a fresh-faced, moderate-seeming guy from a swing state. And he has the easiest job in politics: following up last year's performance by Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal.

One major focus of the State of the Union will be jobs and the middle-class. The President and Vice President today will preempt the address by rolling out a solid package of middle-class initiatives. The initiatives include:

1. Doubling the child and dependent tax credit.
2. Limiting a student's federal loan payments to 10 percent of his/her income.
3. Creating a system of automatic IRA's.
4. Expanding tax credits to match employee's retirement savings.
5. Expanding financial support for families that are taking care of elderly relatives.

Congressional Democrats would be utter fools not to pass these reforms immediately.

HEALTH CARE: What to do about health care? Democrats have been scrambling since Scott Brown's win last week to find a way to pass health reform. The easiest path would be for the House to accept the Senate's health bill, and then for both chambers to make changes through the reconciliation process. There are early indications that when the dust settles, Democrats will take this correct course of action. Some politically endangered Democrats just want the health care issue to go away, and therefore will have a tough time supporting a final bill. But they should remember that they have already voted for a reform bill, and that vote looks an awful lot worse if the whole process ends in failure. At least if the bill passes, people will begin to see the immediate effects of the legislation (like the immediate banning of preexisting conditions-based coverage denials for children). Plus there's that whole insuring 30 million people thing. Nobody ever really talks about that anymore.

Health care reform, though, is still certainly in flux, and it's prospects could change by the hour. I'll be interested to see what President Obama says about health reform in his State of the Union.

THE HOUSE: The House has a pretty light schedule this week. They will work on suspension bills tomorrow and Wednesday, and then will do a couple more inconsequential land management bills on Thursday. Can somebody tell the House to start writing some bills? They've been stuck in a major holding pattern since the New Year began.

THE SENATE: The Senate has a much busier week. This evening, the Senate will vote on the nomination of Rosana Peterson to be a District Judge in Eastern Washington. She should be confirmed easily. The Senate will then move back to a bill raising the U.S. debt limit. Senators will vote on several amendments that will offer different versions of task forces designed to reduce U.S. debt. We'll see whether any of these amendments are adopted. Without the assurance that the administration will address the deficit, Republicans and centrist Democrats will not vote for an increase in the debt limit, and would thus allow the United States to default on its loans.

The Senate will also presumably vote on the nomination of Ben Bernanke to serve a second term at the Federal Reserve. Bernanke's nomination seemed in peril last week when several Democrats expressed opposition. Over the weekend, though, the administration and Senate leaders expressed confidence that Bernanke will be confirmed with bipartisan support.

RANKINGS: If you glance over to the right side of your screen, you will see our updated Senate rankings and our newly created Governor rankings for this upcoming election. The Senate landscape is looking even worse for Democrats than it did last week. News is out this morning that Joe Biden's son Beau Biden will not run for the Senate in Delaware, which pretty much hands the seat to Republican Mike Castle. We are changing this race from lean GOP to likely GOP. In Indiana, a Rasmussen poll out this morning shows that potential challenger Rep. Mike Pence (R) would beat incumbent Democrat Evan Bayh. Pence has not committed to the race yet, and Rasmussen has a bit of a Republican lean, so Bayh is still considered the favorite. But we are downgrading his seat from Safe Democrat to Lean Democrat. This is going to be a very, very tough cycle for the Democrats in the Senate.

That's it for now. See you tonight!

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