Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Daily Strike-6/16/10-Escrow

Good evening and welcome to the Daily Strike. I hope you caught the President's address last night. It has been pretty widely panned from both the left and the right in the last 24 hours, and I think rightly so. The President did not make a convincing case for energy reform. He did not go into specifics as to why we need to put a price on carbon. I had more thoughts on the speech in my Twitter feed, but for now, I'll get to the good news. Oh, and then I'll lay into the United States Senate for awhile.

ESCROW: The President won a pretty huge victory today when he got BP to agree to a $20 billion escrow fund to compensate victims of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill. The payments will be administered by Kenneth Feinberg, who was in charge of compensating victims of the September 11th attacks. BP, notably, will also suspend dividends to shareholders this year, and will throw down an additional $100 million to help oil workers hurt by the administration's 6 month moratorium on deep water drilling.

Besides actually stopping the spill, this is probably the best thing the President could have done. I bet he wishes he agreed to this deal yesterday. The only thing I'll say is that BP and the White House should have come to this agreement much sooner.

After announcing the agreement, the chairman of the BP board asserted that the company cares about "the small people." I probably would have phrased it just a bit differently. For his part, the President said that he asked shareholders to keep the victims in mind who have had their livelihoods completely destroyed.

It also seems like President Obama is finally starting outreach to key Senators as he tries to get momentum for some sort of climate bill. Today he met with Republican Senator Scott Brown of Massachusetts. I think the chances of actually getting a progressive climate bill this year, are unfortunately, very low.

THE SENATE: Oh, the United States Senate. I'm just not sure it could get much worse than this. Today, the Senate failed to cut off debate on the tax extenders bill, which includes unemployment benefits. This time, it wasn't even the filibuster that killed it. The bill only got 45 votes, with 52 voting no. 12 Democrats voted against giving people help during a deep recession, and it wasn't just moderates. Liberals such as Senators Feingold (WI), Kohl (WI) and Menendez (NJ) joined your usual cast of ConservaDems: Bayh (IN), Begich (AK), Landrieu (LA), Lieberman (CT), McCaskill (MO), Nelson (FL), Nelson (NE), Pryor (AR), and Webb (VA). In order for the bill to pass, Democratic leaders will be forced to allay misguided concerns about the deficit. This means cutting unemployment benefits and aid to state governments. It is unconscienable that our Senate has become deficit-obsessed when we read stories daily about schools closing and people unable to find work. Ezra KIein writes up a phenomenal summation of the policy implications of this vote, which you can read here. I'll just add that it doesn't complete shock me that so many Senators voted no today. None of them have felt the brunt of this recession. They're all making six figures, and raking in donations from the financial industry. Their friends too are well-connected, as are those they spend most of their day with (staffers, donors etc.). It's becoming crystal clear that most Senators just don't care about bringing down the 9.7% unemployment rate. If it were about the deficit, these same Senators would have voted to eliminate oil subsidies, or would have raised taxes in corporate dividends. What we're seeing is just a fundamental failure of democracy.

The Senate did have time to vote on a couple of amendments to the bill. One by Majority Leader Reid (D-NV) extends the homebuyer's tax credit through the end of this year. A companion amendment from Senator Isakson (R-GA) that would have used stimulus money to pay for this extension narrowly failed.

THE HOUSE: The House continued work on the 2nd part of its Small Business package, which they'll wrap up tomorrow. I'm still not sure whether they'll get to the DISCLOSE Act this week. The Act, as we mentioned, would set new rules on campaign donations in response to this year's Supreme Court decision in Citizens United.

I should also mention that House and Senate conferees continue to work out their differences on the Wall Street reform bill. It seems like things are moving along, and it still looks like we could get a vote in both chambers before the July 4th recess.

One complication, which absolutely amazes me, is that several New York Democrats are threatening to withhold their votes if reform becomes too stringent, especially on derivatives. As Rep. Joe Crowley said, " "Those of us in New York represent not only Main Street, but Wall Street, as well."

I guess that's today's Democratic Party. Fight tooth and nail to protect Wall Street, ignore the plight of the unemployed. Shoot me.

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