Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Daily Strike-4/15/10-Tax Day

Good evening and welcome to the Daily Strike. Happy Tax Day! Today, I left my office during lunch to take pictures of the tea party event going on in Freedom Plaza. Check out my Facebook album for pictures. Let's just say there are some pretty "creative" signs.

UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS: Americans honestly owe a good deal of thanks to the Democratic Party on this tax day. For one, taxes have gone down for about 95% of them following the passage of last year's stimulus bill. Today, Congress further eased the crippling burden of the recession by passing an extension of unemployment and COBRA benefits through June 2nd. Members of Congress are still working on passing a more permanent extension.

The bill passed the Senate this afternoon by a vote of 59-38. Every Democrat voted to extend safety net benefits for average Americans, while all but three Republicans (Snowe/Collins of Maine and Voinovich of Ohio) voted no. Prior to a vote on final passage, the Senate rejected a few Republican amendments.

First, Democrats killed a Republican amendment that would have required Congress to pay for the bill by cutting other spending. The amendment failed by a vote of 48-50. Every Republican voted yes, as did Democrats Bayh (IN), Bennet (CO), Feingold (WI), Lincoln (AR), Nelson (NE), Pryor (AR) and Udall (CO). A twin amendment, which sought to take money from different federal programs, also failed, this time by a vote of 45-53.

The Senate then voted on a politically-motivated amendment from Senator McCain (AZ) that would declare the Senate officially opposed to a "Value Added Tax." Members of the Obama administration have talked about this form of taxation as a way to raise revenue, but it has not yet been formally proposed by anyone in Congress. Mr. Deficit Hawk McCain wanted to show that the Senate would completely rule out a pretty reasonable way of decreasing the deficit. Unfortunately, he amendment passed 85-13, with the following reasonable Senators casting a courageous no vote: Akaka (HI), Bingaman (NM), Brown (OH), Byrd (WV), Cardin (MD), Dorgan (ND), Kaufman (DE), Levin (MI), Reed (RI), Udall (NM), Voinovich (OH), Webb (VA) and Whitehouse (RI).

After the Senate approved the bill, it was sent back over the House for final ratification. This evening, the House passed the revised version by a vote of 289-112. All but one no vote came from the Republicans.

THE HOUSE: The House also approved a bill today to control water pollution in our country's estuaries. The bill passed easily by a vote of 278-128. It now goes to the Senate where it will languish indefinitely like every other half decent bill.

Also today in the House, Democrat Ted Deutch of Florida was sworn in as the new Representative from Florida's 21st District. He won a special election Tuesday to finish the term of former Democratic Rep. Robert Wexler, who is now at a Middle East Think Tank. Although his district is reliably Democratic, it was good to see a Democratic romp in the first federal election after the passage of health reform.

THE WHITE HOUSE: The President gave a speech today in Florida to a bunch of NASA workers. Many NASA heavyweights, including moonwalker Neil Armstrong, have criticized the President for cutting various space programs, including the planned "Constellation" program. Obama assured the skeptical audience that he would continue to invest in space programs, including a manned Mars mission in the distant future.

I find it ironic that many conservatives are attacking the President for basically privatizing a huge federal agency.

That's it for today. We'll be back on Monday, ahead of what looks like it could be an action packed legislative week. The Senate will begin consideration of the Financial Reform measure. It looks like the House will return to a bill that gives voting rights to good old Washington D.C.

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