Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Weekly Strike-5/18-5/23

Good morning and welcome to the Weekly Strike. Thank you for your indulgence during my vacation. I am well-rested and eager to blog. And I missed a lot.

FINANCIAL REGULATION: The Senate is in the home stretch of its consideration of the Wall Street reform bill. Last night, Majority Leader Reid (D-NV) filed cloture on the bill, meaning a vote to cut off debate will come Wednesday. A vote on final passage could happen by the end of the week. It looks as though there will be more than enough votes to get this bill across the finish line. When all is said and done, I expect the bill to pass with about 65 votes.

Unlike every other major bill considered during the Obama Presidency, the amendment process seems to have made the bill stronger, not weaker. For example, last week, the Senate surprisingly approved an amendment from Senator Durbin (D-IL) to limit fees for ATM cards. The Senate will take up several more amendments before consideration of the bill wraps up. Among the key amendments left is one offered by Senator McCain (R-AZ) and Cantwell (D-WA) that would re-institute Glass-Stegall separation of banks and other financial institutions. I would be pleasantly shocked if that passed. We'll keep you posted on the amendments, but you can get a run down of what we missed last week by checking out the Senate website.

This bill would be a solid first step in reigning in the excesses of our financial system, though it does not do enough. It puts regulatory authority in the same hands of those who oversaw the crisis in 2008, and it does not fundamentally change the shape of our troubled financial sector.

Nevertheless, it's seeming more and more likely that President Obama will have another notch on his belt in the next few weeks.

THE HOUSE: The House has a relatively busy schedule this week as well. Starting yesterday, they began debate on a series of suspension bills. Tomorrow, the House will take up a key Senate-passed measure that extends expiring tax breaks, unemployment insurance, and COBRA coverage through the end of this year. The House is amending the package, but I'm not sure yet what they're changing. It's possible that they've found a way to pay for these extensions, though doing so would be ill-advised in my view.

The House will also complete consideration of the American Competes Reauthorization Act, a bill that provides research and development funding for Math and Science. The bill hit a snag last week when Democrats couldn't beat back a Republican poison-pill amendment dealing with pornography. I really wish rank-and-file Democrats would be more disciplined on these procedural votes.

ELECTION DAY: Today is Election Day in three states, and there are several key races to watch. The only Republican/Democrat contest of the day comes in Pennsylvania's 12th District, where Democrat Mark Critz and Republican Tim Burns are vying to replace the late John Murtha. Polls show the race to be dead even, so we could be in for a long election night. By all measures, Democrats have no business winning this seat in the current political environment. The district is the only one in the country that voted for John Kerry in 2004, and John McCain in 2008. But Critz has proven to be a relatively strong candidate.

There are also huge Senate primaries in three states. In Pennsylvania, incumbent party-switcher Arlen Specter is locked in a tight race with Congressman Joe Sestak for the Democratic Senate nomination. Polls show Sestak surging, but Specter could benefit from large turnout among unions and the ill-advised endorsement from President Obama. If I had to put money on it, I'd say that Sestak pulls it out. I really hope that Specter keeps up his liberal streak even if he loses his primary race.

In Arkansas, incumbent Blanche Lincoln is locked in a tight battle with Lt. Governor Bill Halter for the Democratic nomination. Lincoln is favored mostly due to the incumbency factor, but Halter has a shot if he can get high turnout among the few liberal voters that exist in Arkansas. Lincoln's primary challenge has pushed her to the left over the past few weeks. She authored very strong regulations of derivatives that have somehow made it through the Senate so far unscathed. The Republican nomination to face Lincoln (or Halter) features a large slew of candidates, and is most likely headed for a run-off.

In Kentucky, Democrats will choose between Lt. Governor Dan Mongiardo and State Attorney General Jack Conway. Conway seems like a better choice to me; he has more progressive policy views, but Mongiardo has taken a small lead in recent polls. On the Republican side, it looks like Ron Paul's son Rand will destroy his Republican establishment opponent, Secretary of State Trey Grayson.

We will keep you informed of what happens this evening! Leave us some comments.

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