Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Daily Strike-6/24/10-A Flaw in Our Democracy

Good evening and welcome to the Daily Strike. It was actually one of the busiest days in Congress for awhile, but certainly not the best.

THE SENATE: Majority Leader Reid (D-NV) tried one more time to pass a package of tax extenders, which included an extension of unemployment benefits. Once again, and perhaps for the final time, he has failed. The vote was 57-41, which in our perverse system of government these days means that the bill failed. Every Republican voted against the bill, and it shouldn't come as any surprise. As many others have pointed out today, Republicans have institutional power to make the majority fail. If they do so, the economy will get worse, and voters will get angry at the governing party. This will immensely benefit Republicans in this fall's elections.

Ben Nelson of Nebraska was the one Democrat complicit in this monstrosity. Despite Nelson's past votes to protect the estates of billionaires, and keep tax breaks to oil companies, he was apparently too concerned about the deficit to vote for emergency recession measures. Majority Leader Reid voted no so he could bring up the bill again, but for now, it's looking likely that Democrats will give up. They might try to pass the bill in separate parts, starting with an extension of unemployment benefits. The Senate will turn next week to the House-passed bill which encourages lending to small businesses (which was coincidentally a measure included in this bill).

There is something fundamentally wrong with a democracy when a minority of 41 can sabotage the agenda of a large majority without facing any recourse. In fact, they'll benefit from the economy's failure in November's elections. President Obama and the Democrats need to make very clear to the American people who is responsible for 1.2 million Americans losing unemployment insurance.

The Senate did find time today to pass the conference report for the Iran sanctions bill, which has enjoyed large bipartisan support. The vote today, in fact, was 99-0. The bill builds on sanctions passed in 1996 designed to stop Iran's development of nuclear weapons.

THE HOUSE: The House had a very productive day, far more so than their Senate counterparts. The House today finally passed a bill that helps undo the damage of the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision. The bill will put new requirements on corporate and labor campaign contributions. The bill passed by a narrow margin of 219-206. The only Republicans supporting the bill were Castle (DE) (the bill's co-sponsor) and Cao (LA).,

36 Democrats opposed the bill. The opposition was a mixture of Blue Dogs who were scared to vote against the interest of the power brokers at the Chamber of Commerce, and liberal members who were upset that the NRA got a special exemption in the bill. The list of dissenting Democrats is as follows (skip down a paragraph if you don't care!):

Barrow (GA), Bean (IL), Bishop (GA), Boren (OK), Boyd (FL), Bright (AL), Butterfield (NC), Childers (MS), Clarke (NY), Critz (PA), Dahlkemper (PA), Davis (IL), Davis (TN), Donnelly (IN), Edwards (MD), Fudge (OH), Hastings (FL), Herseth Sandlin (SD), Hill (IN), Holden (PA), Kilpatrick (MI), Kratovil (MD), Marshall (GA), McCarthy (NY), McIntyre (NC), Minnick (ID), Mitchell (AZ), Nye (VA), Owens (NY), Payne (NJ), Peterson (MN), Rush (IL), Taylor (MS), Thompson (MS), Waters (CA) and Watt (NC).

The House also put their stamp of approval on two bills headed directly to the President's desk. The Iran sanctions conference report passed the House 408-8, with opposition coming from Republicans Flake (AZ) and Paul (TX) and Democrats Baird (WA), Baldwin (WI), Blumenauer (OR), Conyers (MI), Kucinich (OH) and Stark (CA). President Obama will sign the bill into law this coming week.

The House also passed the so-called "Doc-Fix" bill that fixes reimbursement rates to Medicare providers through November. The Senate had passed a fix when it became clear that the broader extenders bill was headed downhill. The vote on this measure was 417-1, with only Democrat George Miller (CA) voting no (not sure why).

Next week, both chambers are expected to take up the final version of the Wall Street Reform bill, which while weakened significantly, will be a major legislative accomplishment.

Until then, enjoy your weekend!

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