Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Daily Strike-2/24/10-Baby Steps

Good evening and welcome to the Daily Strike. There haven't been many good legislative days for Democrats recently, but today was one of then.

JOBS: Today, the United States Senate passed a modest jobs bill by a vote of 70-28. The bill won't create very many jobs because it's not very big, but it is a symbolic victory for Democrats that they could get anything passed in the Senate that will remotely help people in the short-run. Also amazing, is that the bill passed with strong bipartisan support. Every Democrat besides the increasingly idiotic Ben Nelson (NE) voted for the bill, as did Republicans Bond (MO), Brown (MA), Burr (NC), Cochran (MS), Collins (ME), Hatch (UT), Inhofe (OK), LeMieux (FL), Murkowski (AK), Snowe (ME) and Wicker (MS). That list includes some very conservative Republicans. What is absolutely baffling to me is that Burr, Cochran, Hatch, Inhofe, LeMieux, Murkowski and Wicker voted the other day to filibuster the bill, but then ended up voting for it. This is example number 23534235982305 of why the Senate is horrible. These Senators are verifiably supportive of the bill, yet they still wanted to torpedo it for some reason.

Prior to a vote on final passage, the Senate voted 62-34 to subvert Senate rules that require new spending to be offset. Bond, Brown, Collins, Inhofe and Snowe voted with Democrats to subvert the rules. Ben Nelson, once again, voted against his own party.

The bill includes a payroll tax holiday for small business, an extension of highway funding, and infrastructure bonds for states. It's possible that the House will approve this Senate bill in the next week or so, and send it along to President Obama. Even though the bill is a sorry excuse for a jobs measure, the House should vote for it just to give Obama a much-needed political victory.

Late in the day, Majority Leader Reid tried to get a an extension of unemployment and COBRA benefits passed by unanimous consent. Retiring Republican Senator Jim Bunning (KY) objected to the request, meaning that the bill will have to be put through the arduous cloture process. Maybe it will pass by next Wednesday?

Reid did succeed in passing a one-year extension to the USA PATRIOT Act. I don't think anybody wants to alter a piece of legislation like that during an election year.

THE HOUSE: Not to be outdone by their friends in the other body, the House also got some work done today. By an overwhelming margin of 406-19, the House voted to remove the anti-trust exemption enjoyed by health insurance companies. All no votes came from Republicans. The exemption was granted in the 1950's to make it easier for state health insurance commissioners to make their own regulatory decisions, but it has allowed insurance companies to have a virtual monopoly in many regions of the country. Policy wonks don't think that removing this exemption will do much to bring down the price of insurance. I frankly don't know too much about this particular issue. But Democrats were smart to take a potshot at the insurance industry as they try to complete a comprehensive health reform bill. The insurance industry is especially vulnerable after it was discovered that Anthem raised insurance rates by 30% in California.

It was also politically smart to force Republicans to either support a piece of Democratic legislation, or risk being accused of being pawns for the insurance industry. Let's just say, it was the perfect occasion for a speech like this.

HEALTH CARE SUMMIT: The President, as you know, will host a bipartisan health care summit. The President plans to attend all 6 hours of the meeting, which will be nationally televised. We will have complete coverage of the summit tomorrow. I'll be interested to see if there are any made-for-TV moments that make one or the other side look bad. Because of course, it's not important all whether or not 30 million Americans get health insurance. It just matters who wins a 6 hour dog and pony show!

That's it for tonight. We'll see you tomorrow!

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