Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Daily Strike-6/29/10-What Can Brown Do To You?

Good evening and welcome to the Daily Strike. Once again, not a proud day in Congress. But that's not really news anymore, is it.

FINANCIAL REGULATIONS: The Wall Street reform bill had to go back to a House-Senate conference committee, because Democrats didn't have enough votes to break a GOP filibuster on the previously agreed-to conference report. Massachusetts Republican Scott Brown, who got all sorts of carve outs in the bill to buy off his vote, pulled his support because he didn't approve of a $19 billion fee on big banks. Brown, of course, campaigned against these sort of political shenanigans and backroom deals, but I guess protecting his frich friends on Wall Street comes first and foremost.

If Democrats Russ Feingold (WI) and Maria Cantwell (WA) didn't decide to oppose the bill from the left, the Democrats could tell Brown to you know what. But evidently Cantwell and Feingold are being so stubborn that they're willing to see the bill get made worse. That's exactly what happened today. The House-Senate conference just approved a revised version of the conference report that removes the bank tax, and instead uses leftover money from the TARP bailout program, as well as various FDIC fees. Inexplicably, they seemed to have made this deal without getting the firm support of any of the Republicans they need to get 60 votes. But if all goes well, it is still possible that the bill could pass both chambers by the end of the week. In fact, late word is that the House will take up the conference report tomorrow.

KAGAN: Today Senators asked their first set of questions to Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan. There wasn't much news out of today's questioning, mostly because Kagan is so polished and isn't going to say anything too controversial. She did admit that her political leanings are progressive/Democratic, and that she still does have moral problems with the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy.

On Stare Decisis, she said that she almost always is deferential to precedence, but there are some circumstances where settled law should be changed. None of these answers will make the front pages of any newspapers, I can guarantee you that.

One thing I didn't realize about Kagan is that she is extremely funny. Republican Senator Graham (R-SC) asked Kagan where she was this past Christmas, during the failed terrorist plot on the Detroit-bound airliner. Kagan quipped that since she is Jewish, she was probably at a Chinese restaurant. When Senator Specter pressed her on allowing cameras in the courtroom, she said that she would have to do her hair more often. Awesome.

CLIMATE CHANGE: The President held a bipartisan meeting at the White House today to discuss his push for a comprehensive energy bill. The meeting offered no surprises. Republicans insisted that Obama take any price on carbon off the table. Obama, and his Democratic allies, countered that pricing carbon is the whole point! Nothing from this meeting gives me any optimism about a climate bill passing the United States Senate this year, especially since zero Republicans seem willing to play ball.

THE SENATE: The Senate voted 66-33 to move to a bill that will spur lending to small businesses. Majority Leader Reid (D-NV) has filled the amendment tree, meaning he is trying to prevent Republicans from delaying the bill with endless amendments. Hopefully, Reid can finish the bill by tomorrow evening so that the Senate can take up the Financial Regulation conference report Thursday and Friday.

All Democrats voted yes on the procedural vote, as did Republicans Bond (MO), Brown (MA), Collins (ME), Grassley (IA), LeMieux (FL), Lugar (IN), Snowe (ME) and Voinovich (OH).

THE HOUSE: The House voted on some suspension bills today. Speaker Pelosi tried to pass a standalone extension of unemployment benefits as a suspension bill, but it failed to received the necessary 2/3rds vote. Democrats will have to bring up the extension under regular order. Democrats in both chambers, having failed to pass a larger package of unemployment insurance and tax extenders, want to get moving on unemployment by the end of the week. 15 Democrats in the House voted against extending benefits, while 30 Republicans voted yes (more than I would have thought).

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

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