House Backs Econ Recovery Plan
WSJ: “The House bill expands access to health care for the unemployed, represents perhaps the largest expansion of the federal government’s role in education financing ever and begins what Mr. Obama has promised will be a push toward renewable energy that will continue throughout his presidential tenure.”
MyDD’s Todd Beeton: “To Obama’s credit, notice The AP’s frame here: it’s a “swift victory” for Obama who has been making “pleas for bipartisan support.” Obama is winning this debate even though the Republicans think they can make him out to be the bad guy who is going back on his promises. Well played, Mr. President, so far.”
Jack and Jill raves: “’I’m impressed so far with how Brother Barack has launched the first 100 days. He’s gotten a lot done in only about a week. Gives a body hope for the future. Things might get a bit worse economically (and therefore in folks’ everyday lives) before they get better. Yet a lot of people who really need a little help out there are finally, finally about to get some.”
TPM’s Elana Schor says Senate prospects look good: “Brad Woodhouse, president of the Dem-allied group Americans United for Change, described the GOP’s stalwart opposition in two words: “political suicide,” the subject of his e-mailed statement on the stimulus vote. But maybe this was the Republicans’ plan all along. Now Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and his troops can start the next act in the show and ask for just a few more concessions in order to give the stimulus its bipartisan stripes. Either way, with GOP Sen. Olympia Snowe (ME) signaling her support, its passage in the Senate by next week is looking assured.”
Pressure for quick action remains. Stateline: Jobless rates up in every state
What Other Fights Remain?
Top House and Senate Democrats are also negotiating major changes to longstanding efforts to help workers who lose their jobs to foreign competition. The Trade Adjustment Assistance program, created in 1962, would be broadened to cover a wider range of workers, including employees in service industries, from accounting to aircraft maintenance, lawmakers and congressional aides said.
As the sweeping measure moves to the full Senate next week, tussles loom that will eventually require Mr. Obama to referee differences between the House and Senate. The Senate is looking to add more business-friendly provisions, for example. Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D., Mont.) is signaling a willingness to add amendments that would extend soon-to-expire tax breaks for U.S. timber companies, as well as strengthen a provision already in the bill that creates a tax benefit to encourage corporate debt restructuring.
An issue of keen interest to a wide coalition of businesses, including real-estate, home builders and telecommunications companies, is a proposal added in the Senate to allow companies to defer taxes in 2009 and 2010 that they would otherwise owe for restructuring or retiring debt. As currently written, the bill would require corporations to eventually pay back the taxes, and only applies when companies use cash to buy back debt.”
Reality-Based Community’s Jonathan Zasloff on transit funding: “Apparently some transit will survive in the stimulus, and that’s a good thing. But it’s not nearly enough, and remember, this thing still has to pass the Senate, which is even more tilted toward rural interests … Transit advocates need to assembly a lobby that can at least be in the same ballpark with highways. And so far, we haven’t.’”
Zero Republican Votes for Economic Recovery
TPM says GOP is the “Party of No”: “President Obama is extremely popular. The Stimulus Bill is pretty popular. Hill Democrats are reasonably popular. And Hill Republicans are deep in Bush unpopularity territory, as much as they now try to distance themselves from the man they once wrapped their party around. It grated on a lot of people — and I include myself — to see Obama going every extra length to cater to Republican nonsense. But it’s left little question who was doing what. One benefit the Republicans carry out of the 2008 election is that most of the remaining Republicans come from districts that are so red that it’s hard for Democrats to ever contest them. But not all of them. And in a lot the industrial Midwest especially, the GOP is the party of ‘no’.”
CNN reported that about 30 Republican House members wanted to vote for the stimulus but were convinced to make this a unanimous rejection of ‘Pelosi’s bill’.
However, this is not the final bite of the apple for the House Republicans. The House version has to go to conference and be reconciled with the Senate version. At that point, the House will vote again on the final version of the bill which will then be signed by the president and become law.
So…those 30 Republicans will have an another opportunity to vote for the stimulus bill and two years from now, when they are up for reelection, no one is going to care that they voted against the stimulus today.
Why do Boehner and the other leaders want today’s vote to be unanimous? Because they still want to extract concessions in the conference. They want to bitch and moan about Pelosi’s bill. In the end, I suspect that a couple dozen Republicans will vote for the final stimulus bill. But they sent a message today that they have discipline.
1) Will Obama use the fact that he continues to go out of his way to reach out to Republicans to paint the GOP votes against the package as intransigent and political? With Republicans refusing to heed his call to “proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogmas that for far too long have strangled our politics,” Obama is in a position to use their votes against them.
2) Will House Republicans pressure their Senate counterparts to follow their lead and oppose the upper chamber’s version of the bill? Or will they push Senate Republicans to pass a stimulus measure that they can support (i.e. one with a fix for the AMT) when the two chambers meet to reconcile the differences between their respective versions of the bill? And will Senate Republicans even care what their friends in the House have to say?
1. Democrats should never let the voters forget this. Republicans chose the opportunity to give an overwhelmingly popular new President the finger over the opportunity to work together to drag the economy out of the hole their policies left it in. In particular, those running in 2010 against the remaining Republicans from Blue districts should wrap this vote around the incumbents’ next; when push came to shove, they put party first, country last.
2. When the House and Senate bills go to conference, some of the concessions made in the name of bipartisanship — in particular some of the inequitable and uneconomic tax cuts — should be taken out, and replaced by, e.g., a payroll-tax holiday for employees. And we should be sure to put the birth control funds back into the bill, Republican politicians, their corporate paymasters, and their fundamentalist voters need to be taught the lesson that obstructionism has a price.”
TNR’s Michael Crowley looks to 2010: “As it happened [in the first Clinton term], in the long term the Republicans looked pretty dumb for opposing a measure that immediately preceded a huge economic boom. It is true, though, that in the near term the Clinton Democrats were annhiliated in the 1994 midterms. But that had more to do with other troubles–gays in the military, the Somalia fiasco, a pork-stuffed crime bill, and various House scandals–than the budget vote per se. That said, the 2010 midterm campaign is now very much underway.”
Jed Report: “GOP 100% Against Economic Recovery”
Oliver Willis: “No Republicans on board, but as we know… elections have consequences. The party of no can party along as the rest of us do work.”
Matthew Yglesias: “The lesson I would hope the administration learns here is this: He needs to spend less time seeking political cover to mitigate the downside to possible policy failure, and more time trying to implement the best policies he can.”
Canadian Michael Stickings calls Republicans anti-American: “the Republicans’ true colours are bright and clear. They may wrap themselves in the flag, and they may play the patriotism card whenever and wherever possible, but they’re actually the anti-American party. At a time when the American people need help, and when the new president and the majority party are willing and eager to rise above partisanship, the House Republicans, once again, put themselves before all else.”
Zero New Conservative Ideas
Balloon Juice rips House conservative tax cut plan led by Rep. Eric Cantor:“Considering the Republican plan when the economy was good and the coffers were full was tax cuts, and the Republican plan when the economy was lagging was tax cuts, and the Republican plan while we were fighting two wars and the deficit was rising was more tax cuts, and the Republican plan for, well, everything is tax cuts, I am going to go out on a limb and guess that the Republican plan for economic stimulus is going to be… tax cuts …. I keep hearing him say that the Republicans are dedicated to preserving jobs. Now, correct me if I am wrong, but didn’t Cantor and the GOP spend the last few months openly rooting for the failure of the auto industry in the hopes that several million union jobs would go up in smoke? But now they are all about job preservation?”
OurFuture.org’s Bill Scher on how House conservatives falsely claimed their all tax cut/no public investment plan would create 6.2 million jobs, by distorting a 1994 academic paper by one of Obama’s aides.
Next To Zero Dems On TV
ThinkProgress: “As Media Matters has documented, during the Bush administration, the media consistently allowed conservatives to dominate their shows, booking them as guests far more often than progressives. The rationale was that Republicans were ‘in power.’ It appears that old habits die hard. Even though President Obama and his team are in control of the executive branch and Democrats are in the majority in Congress, the cable networks are still turning more often to Republicans and allowing them to set the agenda on major issues, most recently on the debate over the economic recovery package.”
More Transit Added to House Bill
Streetsblog “The House just passed Jerrold Nadler’s amendment to add $3 billion for transit investment to the stimulus bill. There’s a lot more work coming up very soon — in the Senate and in conference committee — but this was a hard-fought win and everyone who helped push it through should take a minute to pat yourself on the back.”
According to Nadler’s floor speech, 1.5 billion will go to the transit capital formula program, which goes to all states, and 1.5 billion to the new starts program. The AFL-CIO and environmental organizations will “score” this amendment, he said, meaning they’ll factor members’ votes on this issue into their scorecard ratings for each Representative. Since it was a voice vote, though, we don’t know who opposed the amendment, making that impossible.
John Mica (R-FL), ranking member of the Tranportation Committee and the House’s leading pro-transit Republican, called this “an amendment we have to support.” The Appropriations committee, he said, “took one of the most important parts out: that’s the rail and transit.” Transit infrastructure creates jobs, he said. “Support the Nadler amendment!”
Transportation Chairman James Oberstar (D-MN) added, “we heard very clearly from the major transit agencies in this country. They have options for buses. They have options for railcars that could be exercised within days.” Manufacturers can ramp up production and create jobs all across the nation.”
OurFuture.org’s David Sirota likes how this came about: “This week, this nascent progressive pressure system emanating from Capitol Hill and the outside progressive media/movement intensified … DeFazio’s call to action was followed up by an outside-inside campaign to add more transportation funding to the stimulus bill – outside pressure is coming from blogospheric drumbeating, inside pressure is coming from lawmakers sponsoring the amendment … Suddenly, we have a Congress pushing the executive branch to be more progressive – and that’s a big deal.”
Gristmill’s Kate Sheppard: Rep. Oberstar passed an amendment “that would mandate that funds for aviation, highway, rail, and transit come with a “use-it-or-lose-it” provisions, requiring that 50 percent of the funds be obligated within 90 days.”
Nicholas Beaudrot frames the House vote blocking a delay in digital TV transition: “THE 155 REPUBLICANS (AND 13 DEMOCRATS) WHO WANT TO TAKE AWAY YOUR TEEVEE”
Latina Lista: “House Republicans negative vote on digital tv switchover disenfranchises millions of Latino and African American families”
TARP Take 2
As lawmakers pressed the Obama administration for details of how it would assist financial firms that have been rapidly deteriorating, Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner said Wednesday the administration is working on a comprehensive plan to “repair the financial system.”
Mr. Geithner declined to provide any specific details or to address rising calls for the creation of a government institution to buy or guarantee the declining assets at several of the nation’s largest banks. He discouraged speculation that the plan would include the nationalization of some banks.
“We have a financial system that is run by private shareholders, managed by private institutions, and we’d like to do our best to preserve that system,” he said.
But bank stocks surged on hopes the government was moving toward creating a “bad bank” to purge toxic assets from balance sheets that are rapidly deteriorating as the economy worsens.”
W. Post on congressional oversight panel report, and GOP dissent: “A congressional panel overseeing the government’s financial bailout has concluded that the economic crisis could have been prevented with better regulation and called for a raft of proposals to overhaul government oversight of the financial sector … The group urged creating a regulator with the authority to oversee financial firms whose failure poses a risk to the overall financial system. The panel also called for further regulation of the mortgage industry, hedge funds and derivatives, as well as limits on excessive borrowing by financial institutions … The Republicans plan to release a separate dissenting report … ‘Before embracing more government regulation as the only answer, such advocates should consider the many ways in which government regulation itself can be part of the problem,’ the Republican report said.”
Union Ranks Up, Mostly in Govt, While Union-Busting Persists
In These Times’ Art Levine: “A new report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that union membership rose sharply last year, adding over 400, 000 new union members. But that growth occurred in the face of a wide range of legal and illegal unionbusting tactics and intimidation: Studies of hundreds of organizing campaigns have found that a fifth of all pro-union activists are fired during a campaign, half of all employers threaten to shut down their plant and roughly 80% of employers hire unionbusting consultants. Even so, as union activists point out, when workers are allowed to join unions, they do. ”
W. Post on business lobby reaction: “‘Organized labor is running ads claiming that current labor laws prevent them from signing up new members. Too bad the facts aren’t cooperating,” U.S. Chamber of Commerce chief legal officer Steven Law blogged yesterday. Union officials instead focused attention on the fact that the gains in unionization were largely achieved by federal, state and city government workers — and not at private companies. … Indeed, the rates of unionization between the private and public sector are starkly different. According to the new federal information, 7.6 percent of private-sector employees belong to a union, while about 37 percent of government employees do.”
Gore Calls For Cap-and-Trade and Global Treaty This Year
Al Gore’s Senate testimony: “Quickly building our capacity to generate clean electricity will lay the groundwork for the next major step needed: placing a price on carbon. If Congress acts right away to pass President Obama’s Recovery package and then takes decisive action this year to institute a cap-and-trade system for CO2 emissions – as many of our states and many other countries have already done – the United States will regain its credibility and enter the Copenhagen treaty talks with a renewed authority to lead the world in shaping a fair and effective treaty. And this treaty must be negotiated this year. Not next year. This year.”
US News: “…there were new indications that a cap-and-trade bill on carbon dioxide could emerge later this year, as a reassuring precursor to U.S. participation in next December’s climate change conference in Copenhagen … From the Republican ranks, there was much less vocal opposition to Gore’s arguments—his data about polar ice melting, his narrative of the consequences of rising carbon dioxide levels for civilization—than there was just a few years ago. Senators of both parties seem to now mostly agree that a price on carbon dioxide, most likely through a cap-and-trade system, is inevitable, even coming soon.”
Gristmill’s Tom Laskawy: “…as necessary as a robust, functioning cap-and-trade system is to addressing climate change, the opinion among many environmentalists is very much that government regulation, i.e. emissions cuts by decree, holds the key to a low-carbon future. The reason? The emissions cuts are going to have to be really, really, really big and markets, while very good at the trading part, don’t do such a good job with the capping part.
SCHIP, Covering Legal Immigrants, To Pass Senate Today
W. Post: “The Senate is expected to approve a bill today that provides health insurance to about 11 million low-income children … Senate Democrats, after easily defeating Republican attempts to narrow the bill yesterday, predicted they had the votes to renew and expand [SCHIP] … In particular, Republicans objected to a provision in both the House and Senate versions that would, for the first time, lift a five-year waiting period for children of legal immigrants to enroll in the program. ‘This is not the bill we intended,’ bellowed the normally mild-mannered Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) … ‘Those kids come from low-income families with parents that work hard and pay taxes just like citizens,” countered Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.). ‘And, those kids need checkups and prescriptions just like all other CHIP kids.’”
Will Obama Get Stingy, or Bolder?
Yesterday there was news Obama would soon install PAYGO rules that could restrict more bold public investment. Today brings differing indications.
National Review’s Guy Benson reports House conservatives blowing gaskets after Obama told FDR didn’t spend enough, early enough. One member relayed to his area’s radio station: “The president offered a comment in the conference the other day. He said that the spending program that President Roosevelt used in the beginning of the depression — the real problem was that Roosevelt slowed down on public spending in the first two years. If he’d just kept on spending that money, we’d have gotten out of the depression quicker. I think [that’s] an indication of what’s coming.”
WH Press Sec Robert Gibbs also indicated more is coming: “We are not going to be out of the woods after only a certain period of time. There are obviously going to be time periods after that where we’re going to have to continue to do — we’re going to have to continue to make investments in order to continue that economic growth and that job growth. This isn’t a one-time deal. We are going to have to work actively, not just this year, not just next year, but likely the year after that. The stimulus program isn’t going to, in and of itself, solve every problem. We’ve got a lot of work to do, and it’s going to take a long time to get that done.”
The economy will recover. It won’t recover anytime soon. It is likely to get significantly worse over the course of 2009, no matter what President Obama and Congress do. And resolving the financial crisis will require both aggressiveness and creativity. In fact, the main lesson from other crises of the past century is that governments tend to err on the side of too much caution — of taking the punch bowl away before the party has truly started up again. “The mistake the United States made during the Depression and the Japanese made during the ’90s was too much start-stop in their policies,” said Timothy Geithner, Obama’s choice for Treasury secretary, when I went to visit him in his transition office a few weeks ago. Japan announced stimulus measures even as it was cutting other government spending. Franklin Roosevelt flirted with fiscal discipline midway through the New Deal, and the country slipped back into decline.
Geithner arguably made a similar miscalculation himself last year as a top Federal Reserve official who was part of a team that allowed Lehman Brothers to fail. But he insisted that the Obama administration had learned history’s lesson. “We’re just not going to make that mistake,” Geithner said. “We’re not going to do that. We’ll keep at it until it’s done, whatever it takes.”