Monday, April 19, 2010

The Weekly Strike-4/19-4/25

Good morning and welcome to the Weekly Strike. I'm still recovering from a brutal hockey game last night, but being the hero blogger that I am, I couldn't possibly forget about you. On to the week in politics...

FINANCIAL REGULATIONS: The next major legislative battle is in full gear. We talked last week about how Obama hasn't really pushed very hard on enacting sweeping Wall Street reform. That seemingly has changed significantly. In the last week, President Obama personally called out Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell for first meeting secretly with Wall Street bankers, and then lying about the contents of the bill to the American public. He also issued a veto threat if the bill did not contain strong enough regulation of derivatives. Boosted by government charges against Goldman Sachs on Friday, the President and his allies believe they are positioned well to win this fight.

First things first, though. In order for the Senate to even consider the bill, it needs 60 votes. Though a few Democrats have problems with parts of the bill, I don't think any of them would object to at least considering the measure. That leaves Democrats in need of one Republican vote. Minority Leader McConnell tried to get every Republican to sign on to a letter saying they would filibuster the bill if the Democrats didn't come to the negotiating table. After Senator Collins (ME) refused to sign on, he changed the letter to make the threat not quite as strong. Today, Collins meets with Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, who hopes to persuade her that this bill is necessary to avoid a repeat of the 2008 economic collapse.

If indeed Democrats do not have the votes to proceed, they'll be forced to make some concessions. It seems like the White House is already willing to drop some key provisions. Included in the Dodd bill is a provision that creates a $50 billion fund, paid for by Wall Street firms, to help wind down companies that are "too big to fail." Republicans falsely contend that this constitutes a taxpayer bailout. Obama has asked Senate leaders to take the provision out of the bill. I'm not sure how I feel about this policy-wise. But again, it is not politically smart to make any concessions until you have secured votes. I thought we learned that lesson with health care.

Democratic leaders hope to bring a motion to proceed to the bill to the floor as soon as Wednesday, and as late as Friday. We'll keep you posted. It's also possible that President Obama goes on the road to pitch the plan. I think he desperately needs to connect the dots as to how these regulations will protect the American people from losing their hard-earned money.

THE WHITE HOUSE: The President has a somewhat quiet start to his week. He will hold a meeting this morning with General Scott Gration, the administration's envoy to Sudan. The genocide in Darfur certainly has gotten a disproportionately small amount of attention since Obama took office, don't you think?

The President then flies to California where he will hold a fundraiser for Senator Barbara Boxer, who is in a tough reelection fight this year. No word yet on the rest of the week's schedule.

THE SENATE: Before the Senate gets to financial reform, they will vote on a series of previously stalled executive nominations. Majority Leader Reid has filed cloture on on 5 Presidential nominations, including two Appeals Court judges. The first vote will be a vote to end debate on the nomination of Lael Brainerd to be the Under Secretary of the Treasury. It is pretty pathetic that during a financial crisis, key positions at the Treasury remain unfilled.

THE HOUSE: The House will come into session tomorrow, and they will spend a couple of days dealing with suspension bills. The House will also vote on a motion to go to conference on a bill to impose sanctions on Iran. On Thursday, the House will take up a long-stalled bill that would give voting rights to the District of Columbia. The bill also would temporarily give a House seat to Utah, so that an obvious Democratic seat would be offset by a safe Republican seat. The bill passed both the House and Senate last year. However, the Senate included a provision that would strike down most of D.C's restrictive gun laws. Democrats did not want to swallow this compromise, but it appears as if DC interests are willing to sacrifice their gun laws for official representation in Congress.

I'm not entirely sure whether the House will take up the Senate-passed bill verbatim, or whether they will be voting on a brand new version of the measure. We'll keep you posted.

That's it for now. See you tonight, and leave some comments!

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