Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Daily Strike-3/24/10-Another Vote-a-Rama

Good evening and welcome to the Daily Strike. There are many reasons I wouldn't want to serve in the United States Senate. Tonight offers perhaps the best example: Senators are voting for nine hours on amendments to the health care reconciliation bill, and none of them have a remote chance of passing.

THE SENATE: The Senate spent the day debating the Health care and Education Affordability Reconciliation Act, which contains changes to the health care law, as well as a long-overdue overhaul of student loans. Reconciliation bills are only eligible for 20 hours of debate, unlike normal bills which can be debated indefinitely. At 5pm today, debate time expired. However, Republicans have had an opportunity to offer unlimited amendments, and they have been happy to use that opportunity. Republicans so far have proposed 23 amendments to the bill. The Senate has thus far voted on 3 of them, and they will presumably vote on the other 20 in the next several hours. As I said last night, Democrats are making a concerted effort to defeat every amendment so that the bill does not have to return to the House. Republicans are taking full advantage by proposing poison pill amendments (like bans on Viagra for sex offenders) that will force Democrats to take tough votes. I will not cover any of the Republican amendments, a) because they will all fail and b) I would be playing into their political gamesmanship.

It is entirely possible that the Senate can take an up-or-down vote on the bill by tomorrow evening. So far, only 2 of the 59 Senate Democrats have come out in opposition to the bill. Even nagging moderates like Lieberman (CT) and Bayh (IN) have agreed to back the measure. It's passage at this point is pretty much a formality. By Friday, two of the President's top domestic priorities will have been enacted into law.

HEALTH CARE: A couple of other quick notes on health care:

Things are getting scary out there. Several Democratic members of Congress have either been threatened or vandalized since Saturday's vote. Rep. Stupak (D-MI) has received death threats since agreeing to a compromise on abortion. Rep. Slaughter (NY), chairwoman of the Rules Committee, had a brick thrown through her window. Republicans and their conservative allies in the media bear full responsibility for this violence. They have egged on anxious tea-party crowds by portraying the bill as a totalitarian, socialist monstrosity that will kill grandma. Amazingly, Republican lawmakers have not fully denounced this behavior, thus making them complicit. I hope they realize the consequences of their overheated, hyperbolic rhetoric.

Also, the President signed an executive order today that re-establishes that no federal funding will pay for abortions. The order was part of an agreement with Rep. Stupak and other pro-life Democrats so that they would support the health care legislation. The order doesn't do much, but it allowed pro-life lawmakers to say that they stood up for their pro-life principals.

THE HOUSE: The House had a very productive day. Members passed two bills related to the President's jobs agenda. The first bill would exempt small businesses from paying capital gains taxes, enhance funding for "Build America Bonds" and provide other infrastructure tax incentives. The bill was fully paid for through a provision that closed a tax loophole for foreign companies.

The bill is essentially full of Republican ideas. It is a bill that provides tax breaks to small businesses that doesn't increase the deficit. The fact that all but 4 Republicans opposed the bill is more proof that they are only interested in seeing the Democrats fail. The bill passed by a vote of 246-178. Republicans supporting the bill were Cao (LA), Castle (DE), Kirk (IL) and Murphy (PA). Democrats opposing were Bright (AL), Minnick (ID), Mitchell (AZ), Owens (NY), Smith (WA) and Taylor (MS).

The Republicans tried to offer a motion to recommit that would repeal parts of the health care bill. Perhaps it was a sign of things to come. The motion failed by a vote of 184-239. All Republicans voted yes, as did 10 Democrats (disturbingly).

The next bill includes emergency funding for FEMA, as well as funding for youth summer employment. This bill passed by a vote of 239-176. The vote was almost entirely along party lines. 3 Democrats voted no: Minnick (ID), Nye (VA), and Taylor (MS).

The House will take up a Senate-passed bill that reauthorizes FAA programs. The House will then presumably adjourn for a two week recess, unless the Senate changes the reconciliation bill.

That's it for tonight. See you tomorrow!

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