Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Daily Strike-2/4/10-A Legislative Accomplishment?

Good evening and welcome to the Daily Strike. I'm happy to take a break from stocking up on milk and toilet paper in advance of the DC Snowpocolypse and fill you in on the day in politics.

THE HOUSE: On the day that the Democrats officially lost their 60-seat majority, Congress actually sent a reasonably important piece of legislation to President Obama's desk! It's been awhile. Unfortunately, this bill isn't quite anything to write home about. The House voted today to agree to the Senate-passed bill that both raises the debt ceiling and implements new pay-as-you-go budgeting rules. Because House leaders wanted their members to be able to vote for the PAYGO provision (popular!) and against raising the debt ceiling (unpopular) they voted on each part of the bill separately.

The debt ceiling portion, as expected, passed by an extremely narrow 217-212 vote. 37 Democrats joined every single Republican in opposition. It still amazes me how easily politicians can get away with votes like this. If we did not raise the debt ceiling, we would default on our loans and the economy would descend into chaos. The PAYGO provision, which requires Congress to offset all new spending increases with offsetting spending cuts or tax increases, passed by a larger vote of 233-187. This has long been a cause celebre of Blue Dog Democrats, which makes it all the more confusing that a few Blue Dog Democrats voted against it. Once again, Republicans all voted no, because they think that the provision will result in tax increases.

For those of you Congress nerds, here is a list of Democrats who voted against the debt ceiling and PAYGO. For the rest of you, skip down to the next section.

Debt Ceiling: Adler (NJ), Boccieri (OH), Bright (AL), Carney (PA), Childers (MS), Donnelly (IN), Drieuhaus (OH), Ellsworth (IN), Foster (IL), Giffords (AZ), Grayson (FL) (that one surprises me), Halvorson (IL), Hodes (NH), Kirkpatrick (AZ), Kissell (NC), Kosmas (FL), Kratovil (MD), Maffei (NY), Markey (CO), Massa (NY), McIntyre (NC), McNerney (CA), Melancon (LA), Minnick (ID), Mitchell (AZ), Murphy (NY), Murphy (PA), Nye (VA), Owens (NY), Perriello (VA), Peters (MI), Schauer (MI), Space (OH), Taylor (MS), Teague (NM), Titus (NV) and Wu (OR).

PAYGO: Bright (AL), Filner (CA), Kosmas (FL), Kucinich (OH), Maffei (NY), McIntyre (NC), McNerney (CA), Minnick (ID), Mitchell (AZ), Nye (VA), Pastor (AZ), Peters (MI), Taylor (MS), Waters (CA), and Weiner (NY). An interesting mixtures of liberals and moderates.

The House also passed a bill to enhance cybersecurity by a vote of 422-5, with all no votes coming from the GOP. The bill authorizes new spending for research and development for cybersecurity research. The House also voted on a bunch of amendments.

Next week, the House plans to vote on a bill to eliminate the health insurance industry's anti-trust exemption. This bill would have little policy implications, but it is perhaps a decent way to get Democrats momentum on health reform. We'll have more on this next week.

THE SENATE: The Senate today swore in its newest member, Scott Brown of Massachusetts. Brown was sworn in by Vice President Biden this evening, officially ending the Democrats' 60-vote majority. Before Brown was sworn in, the Democrats used their remaining super majority hours on some nominations. By a vote of 60-37, the Senate approved the nomination of Patricia Smith to be Solicitor for the Department of Labor. All yes votes were from Democrats. The Senate also confirmed Martha Johnson to be administrator of the General Services Administration by a unanimous 94-2 vote. Her nomination was delayed almost a year by Republican Senators, and then she is confirmed almost unanimously. What a perfect embodiment of what's wrong with the United States Senate. Now we get word that Republican Senator Shelby (AL) has announced that he will filibuster EVERY Obama nominee until the administration heeds his demands on some unrelated issues. I can't believe this is how the United States Senate functions. The American people need to understand how the Senate is crippling progress in this country.

Majority Leader Reid (NV) said that the Democrats will take a vote on a jobs-related bill on Monday. Reid did not release details of exactly what the bill is or how much it's going to cost. Reid will need the support of one Republican to advance the bill. Thus is the new reality for Democrats.

THE WHITE HOUSE: President Obama held a conference call with Democratic National Committee supporters this afternoon. He answered questions on jobs, health care, small business tax cuts and education. The most notable takeaway from the even was that President Obama wants a jobs bill passed before Congress goes back to health care. I disagree with that approach. Like sour milk, the longer the health care bill is out there, the nastier it gets. I'm very disappointed that President Obama hasn't shown more leadership in crossing the health care finish line.

That's it for now. Because of the snowpocolypse, we won't be writing until we've dug ourselves out on Monday morning. Have a great weekend!

1 comment:

  1. Strike: The message I'm gettin' from the Senate is "I'm gettin' mine before this whole dang thing blows up!" I wonder if the President plays the violin: can we all say Nerobama? Remember your history: what a difference a few centuries makes!?