Monday, June 14, 2010

The Weekly Strike-6/14-6/20

Good morning and welcome to the Weekly Strike. It looks like this is the week President Obama will try to take full charge of the oil spill response. Let's get to the week in politics.

THE WHITE HOUSE: After facing complaints that he has been slow to react to the devastating oil spill in the gulf coast, the President this week will take matters into his own hands. Today and tomorrow, he will be traveling to the Gulf Coast states of Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana to again tour the devastation. When he returns, he will address the nation from the Oval Office, his first such address as President. There is no setting more Presidential than an Oval Office address, and it seems like President Obama wants to prove to the American people that he is ready to be a true leader in cleaning up this mess.

Along with the change of style, the administration is also pursuing a change in policy. The Obama administration will ask BP executives at a Wednesday meeting to set up an escrow account, worth up to $20 billion, to fully repay victims of the disaster. BP is publicly mum on whether they will accept this plan, but my guess is that they'll be publicly ho-hum, while fighting tooth-and-nail in private. I'm frankly more interested in what comes out of this meeting than I am with the President's speech tomorrow night. This is where we'll learn whether the Obama administration can get sucker-punch a corporation that has been thoroughly discredited in public.

I'm also pleased to see that the President is taking some leadership on the jobs issue. This Saturday night, Obama sent a letter to Congressional leaders asking them to approve $50 billion in emergency funding for states and localities to prevent layoffs to teachers, firefighters and policemen. It's unclear whether Democrats on Capital Hill can move this funding quickly. They'd probably have to include it in the current jobs legislation, now on the Senate floor, or as part of a larger war-funding measure. Nothing could do more immediately to stave off a double-dip recession than emergency spending to protect state employees. It may not make sense to brain-dead conservatives, but it's not exactly a great investment in our future when kids are forced to sit in classes with 100 other students, police forces can't protect neighborhoods, and thousands of workers don't have any money to spend.

This funding will be universally opposed by Republicans, who have taken up the mantle of deficit-peacocks this election season. The big problem, once again, will be Blue Dog Democrats, whose misguided concerns about the debt will lead them to oppose this common-sense jobs measure, which in turn will keep joblessness high and doom their chances for reelection. To win over some Blue Dogs, the best option might be to couple this emergency funding with steps two or three years down the road that reduce the deficit. This way, you can do something about the jobs situation now, but also improve our fiscal balance sheet in the long-term.

THE SENATE: The Senate this week will continue to slog through the bill to extend a variety of tax provisions, as well as long-term unemployment benefits. The bill has been hung up while Democrats seek to find spending offsets and make other changes. There will be no votes on the bill today or tomorrow, so the earliest we could see final action on this bill probably won't be until Thursday or Friday.

The Senate will also take up some District Court nominees tomorrow.

THE HOUSE: The House gavels in today for a busy week of work. After dealing with suspension bills today and tomorrow, the House will take up a measure designed to spur lending to small businesses. This is a bill pushed heavily by the White House in recent weeks. I expect the bill to pass, with little to no Republican support. I would love to see how they explain away this one!

The House also might take action on a couple of other key pieces of legislation. It's possible we could see consideration of the DISCLOSE Act, a bill that would require corporations to stand by their advertisements of political candidates. This bill is in response to the Supreme Court's decision in the Citizens United case. It's possible we could see the House take up the war-funding bill by the end of the week as well.

That's it for now, see you tonight!

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