Monday, April 12, 2010

The Weekly Strike-4/12-4/18

Good morning and welcome to the Weekly Strike. Congress is back and session, and pretty much every world leader is in town, so there is much to discuss.

THE WHITE HOUSE: It seems like everything has been nuclear lately for this White House. First, they release their new policy on nuclear weapons. Then, they sign the START treaty with Russia. Starting today, the President hosts a summit among world leaders to discuss how to prevent nuclear weapons getting into the hands of terrorists. This is an important topic, and it is arguably the biggest threat to our national security. I don't, however, see much coming out of this summit. The biggest news potentially could be how much the meeting snarls traffic around here.

With so much focus on international affairs over the past couple of weeks, and continuing through this week, the President has halted all of his momentum on the domestic agenda. After his victory on health care, we were looking to see a new, invigorated President ready to push hard on the next big items, like financial regulatory reform and jobs. He could have started a drum beat for a new post-health care narrative: it's us vs. Republicans and the powerful special interests. We delivered for you on health reform, now let's deliver for you again!

Instead, the President has been almost completely silent on these issues. He barely talked about jobs, and I don't think he said one word in support of financial regulation. As a result, his political momentum from health care has completely stalled. In fact, his numbers in the tracking polls reflect this blunted momentum. The President needs to remember that with the clock running out on strong Democratic majorities, any idle time is wasted time. I didn't admire President Bush for much, but he was able to act like pending items on his agenda (Iraq War, anyone?) were the most important thing in the world and had to get done immediately. Obama needs to get that drum beat going immediately. Yes, I understand his schedule is busy, but if he can't do it himself, he needs to get some of his surrogates out there, like Vice President Biden.

This White House has not been good at creating a narrative and pounding it home day after day. It is important to change this dynamic now, not just because of political necessity, but because of the magnitude of our country's problems.

THE SENATE: Speaking of our country's problems, the Senate has a chance to stop the bleeding on one of the biggest, unemployment. Before the last recess began, Republican Senators objected to passing an extension of unemployment and COBRA benefits. As a result, some of these benefits ran out last week. At 5:30pm today, the Senate will vote to cut off debate on this extension. Democrats need at least one Republican vote to advance the bill. So far, Republicans have seemed pretty united in their misguided view that any extension of these benefits must be accompanied by spending cuts elsewhere. Of course, the most stimulative thing we could do for our economy would be to give money to people (the unemployed) who would spend it immediately.

It's possible that when the Senate finishes the extenders bill, that it starts consideration of the financial reform measure.

THE HOUSE: The House comes back into session tomorrow, but it should have a pretty slow week. It will be all suspensions Tuesday and Wednesday. Thursday, the House takes up a bill dealing with clean estuaries. Hopefully, this will allow me to swim in the San Francisco Bay.

That's it for now, see you tonight!

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