Monday, June 28, 2010

The Daily Strike-6/28/10-Wall Street Reform Complications

Good evening and welcome to the Daily Strike. Make sure you catch up on the week in politics in the Weekly Strike, which is below. It's a super busy one, especially in the United States Senate.

THE SENATE: The death of Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV), combined with the late addition of an $18 billion bank tax has thrown the Wall Street reform compromise, struck last week in a conference committee, into some serious flux. The measure got 61 votes when it passed the Senate in May. 4 Republicans supported the bill, while two Democrats opposed it because it didn't go far enough. In the conference committee, House Banking Chair Barney Frank added a small bank tax at the last minute to offset some of the bill's implementation costs. Inexplicably, he did so without seeing how it would impact the bill's delicate Senate coalition. The Republicans who supported the bill, Senators Brown (MA), Collins (ME), Grassley (IA), and Snowe (ME) know that they have a lot of power, and they're not afraid to abuse. All of these Republicans have now said that this tax provision could cause them to oppose the bill. If any of these Senators defected, and the two Democrats opposed (Feingold and Cantwell) didn't change their minds, the Democrats would be a vote short.

There are a few ways to rectify this problem. West Viriginia Governor Joe Manchin has announced that Byrd's successor will be appointed for the rest of the term, and not just to this year's election. Democrats had been concerned about seating Byrd's replacement before the July 3rd cutoff, because they wanted to avoid protecting another vulnerable seat this year. Apparently, there was some sort of loophole in the West Virginia election law that gives some discretion to the Governor as to when to call the next election. Governor Manchin said that since no candidates would meet the state's filing deadline, no election can be held this year. Therefore, Manchin can appoint the Senator immediately. Presumably, this Senator will support the Wall Street reform measure.

If this Senator is appointed, Democrats would still be about 3 votes short. If the Republicans decide they will bring down the conference report because of the bank tax, Democrats would have to send the bill back to conference to remove that provision, which would be an arduous process. If they could get the support of just one Republican, even with the bank tax, then they could try to convince Senators Feingold and Cantwell to at least vote to invoke cloture on the conference report. Feingold seemed pretty adamantly opposed to that idea when it was presented to him this afternoon. Hopefully the Republican supporters of the bill are just causing some sort of temporary fuss. The issue will eventually work itself out, but it may not happen by the administration's self-imposed July deadline.

Meanwhile, the Senate took just one vote today, confirming the nomination of Gary Feinerman to be a District Judge in Illinois by a unanimous vote. The Senate also unanimously agreed to make Daniel Inouye, the longest tenured Senator in the wake of Byrd's death, the next President Pro Tempore, which puts him behind Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden in the line of Presidential succession. The Senate will begin work on a measure to boost loans to small businesses tomorrow.

KAGAN: The hearings for Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan began today, and it was a snooze-fest. Today was just for opening statements, for Senators on the committee, and at the end of the day, for Kagan herself. The most notable part of the hearing in my view was the GOP's sustained attacks on Thurgood Marshall, the Justice that Kagan worked for in the 1980's. They seemed to want to portray Marshall, a hero of the Civil Rights movement, as a judicial activist. Once again, the GOP is making quite a play for minority voters!

The nomination's importance was brought into full focus today after the Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, incorporated the 2nd Amendment as a fundamental right under the 14th amendment. Conservatives have been fighting substantive due process and incorporation for decades, but of course, that wouldn't apply to their precious guns. As a result of this ruling, local gun ordinances will likely be ruled unconstitutional. Great.

That's it for today, we'll see you again tomorrow!

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