Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Daily Strike-7/28/10-Going Small

Good evening and welcome to the Daily Strike. The President spent the day today in New Jersey and New York City, first talking jobs, then going to some elite fundraisers. Not exactly a good political juxtaposition.

THE SENATE: It's becoming very apparent that Congress won't be doing much of anything for the rest of this election year. Republicans seem pretty content to not only filibuster Democratic agenda items, but to grind the Senate to a halt until the Democratic majority is reduced or eliminated. Take the bill on the floor right now, the small business lending bill. The bill has been on the floor for almost a month. Republicans have refused to allow votes on amendments or the bill itself, despite the fact that the bill is basically a Republican idea. The party that talks daily about tax breaks to businesses doesn't want to allow a vote on a bill that gives money directly to small businesses. We've said it a million times, but Republicans knee-jerk opposition is becoming a disturbing matter of habit.

Tomorrow, finally, the Senate will vote whether to cut off debate on the small business bill, and hopefully will send it to the House quickly so that it can go straight to President Obama's desk.

Then there's the issue of energy. Majority Leader Reid has taken the idea of a comprehensive energy bill off the table for this session of Congress. He has instead proposed a much narrower bill, that will raise the liability cap for BP in relation to the oil spill, and will also contain some small investments in alternative energy. Reid was hoping to bring the bill to the floor early next week. But Republicans are howling in opposition even to this small measure, ostensibly because they are against new regulations on "hydro-flacking" which is a way to extract onshore natural gas. Is there any question whether they'll let this bill go through? I don't think so.

Given these restrictions, I think it's time that the President use some of his executive powers to make changes. For one, he could have the EPA place restrictions on carbon emissions. At the very least, the EPA could issue that threat to spur some sort of action on climate change. On the jobs front, Obama could put some backhanded political pressure on the federal reserve to take more measures to pump money into the economy short-term, or as Matthew Yglesias suggests, do some strategic talking.

THE HOUSE: While the Senate spent a day dilly-dallying, the House actually did some minorly important work. This morning, the House unanimously passed a bill that would bring parity to sentencing for crack and cocaine users. There has long been a policy that punishes crack users far more than cocaine users, which has a disparate impact on minorities. The Senate has already passed the bill, so it will go straight to President Obama for his signature.

The House also passed the first of 12 annual appropriations bills today, the bill funding Military Construction and Veterans Affairs. This is usually the least controversial of the spending bills, and today was no exception. The bill passed by a vote of 411-6. All of the no votes came from Republicans. The House will take up another spending bill tomorrow, though they will almost certainly not complete all 12 bills prior to the end of the fiscal year, which will require Congress to pass some continuing resolutions to keep the government funded.

That's it for today, we'll see you tomorrow, at which point we'll have a special announcement.

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