Monday, April 5, 2010

The Weekly Strike-4/5-4/11

Good morning and welcome to the Weekly Strike. Congress is out of session for another weeks, so things will remain relatively quiet around. But there is still SOME stuff to talk about. Let's get to it.

THE WHITE HOUSE: The week starts out on a very light note for President Obama. This morning, the President hosts the traditional White House Easter Egg hunt. Following that, the President travels to Nationals Park to throw out the first pitch on Opening Day. I think the fans at Nationals Park are likely to give the President a warm welcome. He remains very popular around here, even if his popularity has waned elsewhere.

The President hasn't released his schedule for the rest of the week, but you can be sure he'll start turning his attention to a couple of looming battles. Obama has told Congressional leaders that he wants a financial reform package on his desk by Memorial Day. Democrats would be very smart to get this done as soon as possible. The politics of the issue is very favorable if it can be framed correctly: you're either on the side of the consumers or the banks.

Key to this bill will be the scope of the newly formed Consumer Protection Agency. The House-passed bill contains an independent CPA, while the Senate proposal would house the CPA within the Federal Reserve. President Obama should campaign hard to make the agency independent, so it can conduct proper oversight of the financial sector and prevent a collapse similar to the one that happened in late 2008.

The Big Picture and I have talked about this extensively, and we've agreed that President Obama should translate his momentum from the health care victory into a full on campaign for financial regulation reform. Not only is the policy badly needed, but it would set up a perfect narrative for the midterm elections. The problem, of course, will be facing united Republican opposition, combined with many Democrats who are fully owned subsidiaries of the industry.

The other looming battle is the possibility of another Supreme Court vacancy. Justice John Paul Stevens, a Gerald Ford appointee who has become a stalwart liberal, is contemplating whether to retire. If I were a betting man, I would guess that he'll leave this year. He has said openly that he wants President Obama to choose his successor. It would make sense to let Obama nominate a successor while he still has 59 seats in the Senate. Such a battle might be a distraction from other legislative endeavors, but it will still be critically important. President Obama must appoint a strong liberal to protect Stevens' legacy and maintain a delicate balance in a closely-divided court. We'll cross this bridge when we get there, but my early choice would be Appellate Judge Diane Wood of Illinois. She is a friend of Obama's, and a liberal intellectual heavyweight.

UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS: If you have been collecting unemployment benefits during this painful recession, you may be losing your benefits today, thanks to a Republican filibuster led by Senator Tom Coburn (OK). Coburn insisted that an extension in benefits be paid for, and refused to allow a vote before the Spring recess. Majority Leader Reid (NV) plans to bring up and pass an extension next Monday when the Senate resumes its work, but for now, millions of people will suffer because Republicans have chosen to make an ideological point. Yet another opportunity for Democrats to ask voters "which side are the Republicans on?"

That's it for now. Because it's a slow week, and it's baseball's opening day, and Mother Strike is in town, we'll be skipping tonight's entry. We'll see you tomorrow.

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