Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Daily Strike-4/20/10-Back to the Table?

Good evening and welcome to the Daily Strike. There were lots of little movements on pieces of legislation today, so let's get to it.

FINANCIAL REFORM: It looks like Republicans are back at the negotiating table. As we talked about yesterday, Democrats still need the support of one Republican in order to just debate the financial regulatory measure. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), peddler of the falsehood that the bill institutionalizes taxpayer bailouts, said today that Republicans are confident that a deal could be within reach. It seems like one major sticking point is the proposed $50 billion fund, paid by financial institutions who make risky investments, that would help wind down firms that are too big to fail. Republicans have barked about this provision, and Democrats, from the White House especially, don't seem particularly attached to it. I would caution against Congressional Democrats who think that one concession will create bipartisan support. If Democrats drop this provision though, in my view, Republicans will keep moving the goalposts. They'll find something else in the bill to demagogue. I think Democrats should keep that provision in there as a bargaining chip, if not for anything else.

Majority Leader Reid said that a vote to proceed to the bill would happen as soon as Thursday and as late as early next week. The White House and Democratic leaders will continue to reach out to Republicans until they secure that one vote.

THE SENATE: Meanwhile, the Senate was busy dealing with a couple of other items. On the floor, Democrats are actually engaging in a successful push to get some of President Obama's nominees confirmed. The Senate today voted 78-19 to confirm Lael Brainerd to be Undersecretary of Treasury for International Affairs. They also confirmed Marisa Dameo to be an associate judge on the D.C. Superior Court for a term of 15 years (I had no idea they had terms!). The vote on the nomination was 66-32. In each case, all of the opposition came from Republicans.

Senator Claire McCaskill (MO) was the street fighter for Senate Democrats to move past Republican obstructionism. She asked unanimous consent to vote on up to 80 Obama nominees, which forced Republicans to actively object on the floor. Every single one of these nominees was approved unanimously in committee, and McCaskill was trying to expose the fact that individual GOP Senators are putting holds on nominees to gain leverage on non-related issues. McCaskill's efforts, supported wholeheartedly by the Democratic leadership, succeeding in getting votes for a few nominees in the next couple of days, including two nominees for key posts on the U.S. Court of Appeals. Way to go, Claire!

Off the floor, Senate Democrats, led by Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, are preparing to release a Budget Resolution for Fiscal Year 2011. Democrats in both the House and Senate have been reluctant to release a budget blueprint because it will project large deficits for the next several years. If Democrats want to pursuit any legislation through the filibuster-proof reconciliation progress (and believe me, there's a lot they could do through reconciliation) they will need to pass a budget resolution. Reconciliation instructions could be used for jobs legislation, tax policy (like an extension of the Bush tax cuts for the middle class), and possibly for energy policy. The Budget Resolution is expected to include the President's proposal to cap non-defense discretionary spending (which if you can recall, I think is an awful proposal). We'll have more on the proposal when it is released.

It's interesting that the Senate is going first in crafting a Budget Resolution. House Democrats feel that they've done a lot of the legislative heavy lifting over the last year, and they want their Senate counterparts to take the plunge.

THE HOUSE: The big news from the House today is that, unfortunately, there will be no consideration of a bill to give voting rights to the District of Columbia in this Congress. Democrats couldn't figure out a way to pass the bill without a rider that invalidated D.C's strict gun laws. Apparently this was a trade stakeholders were not willing to make. This is awful news, because this Congress was the best chance DC was gonna get to have voting representation. If as expected, Democrats lose seats this November in both Houses, that will not bode well for DC voting rights.

Otherwise today, the House just dealt with some suspension bills.

That's it for now, see you tomorrow!

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