Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Daily Strike-3/10/10-A Last Impassioned Appeal

Good evening and welcome to the Daily Strike. It was a busy Wednesday in politics, so let's get to it.

HEALTH CARE: The President continues to delve head first into the fight over health care reform. Today, he held a rally St. Louis, MO where he said boldly that "the time for talk is over. It's time to vote." That's a lot more unequivocal than he's been in the past. He called the Republicans out for not doing anything about health care for the last 10 years when they were in charge, and he said that for Republicans it's "never the right time." It seems that the President Obama is trying to energize his base, which is very smart. House Democrats are facing a lot of pressure right now, and it is very important that some of that pressure come from the left.

On the Hill, the big news today is that the CBO will release a cost estimate for the revised health care package. This estimate will include the Senate bill, and the reconciliation bill full of proposed fixes. We may start to hear some more firm positions from House Democrats once the CBO releases its cost estimate.

Meanwhile, the Senate GOP is trying to scare House Democrats into not supporting the Senate version of the health bill. They say that House Democrats should not trust the Senate to enact the package of fixes through reconciliation. Republicans insist that they will be able to strip the reconciliation bill of non-budget related provisions. Isn't it fascinating that suddenly Senate Republicans care about the political well-being of House Democrats?

The White House is still insisting on a March 18th deadline for the House to pass the bills. We'll get a better idea of whether that's doable tomorrow.

THE SENATE: The Senate today passed a bill that extends expiring tax provisions, as well as unemployment and COBRA benefits through the end of the year. The bill costs about $150 billion, but any economist will tell you that the costs of not extending these safety net programs during a recession would cost a lot more. The bill passed by a vote of 62-36. Every Democrat save for Ben Nelson (NE) voted for the bill, as did Republicans Bond (MO), Collins (ME), Murkowski (AK), Snowe (ME) and Voinovich (OH). Prior to a vote on final passage, the Senate voted 66-33 to end debate on the bill. Republicans Brown (MA), Cochran (MS), Chambliss (GA) and Isakson (GA) voted to cut off debate on the bill even though the opposed it. I wish we saw more of that in the United States Senate!

The Senate now moves on to consideration of a bill to authorize FAA programs. No word on when they'll take up that $15 billion jobs bill that the House sent back with amendments last week.

THE HOUSE: The House today voted on a bill that would require all troops to leave Afghanistan by the end of this year. House leaders promised anti-war liberals like Dennis Kucinich a chance to debate and vote on President Obama's troop escalation. I personally believe that the House leadership should not do any favors for Dennis Kucinich as long as he continues to stubbornly oppose health care.

The bill failed by a lopsided vote of 65-356. 60 of the "yes" votes were from liberal Democrats and 5 were from libertarian-leaning Republicans (including Ron Paul).

Off the floor, House Democrats unveiled a new policy that prohibits earmarks geared towards for-profit defense companies. I don't think this policy will do anything to reduce the deficit. Earmarks make up a tiny portion of federal spending. I do think this prohibition is a good for ethics. Hopefully it will stop the defense industry from buying access to Congress.

Republicans are expected to respond with a proposal to put a moratorium on earmarks altogether. It always amazes me that both parties make such hay about earmarks. They're not hurting anyone, and they're barely putting a dent in the deficit. It takes a lot of time away from focusing on actual problems.

That's it for today. We'll keep you up-to-date on health care tomorrow.

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