The Hill on EFCA’s introduction: “[Rep. George] Miller and Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) indicated Democrats are likely to start the bill in the Senate, where it faces a tougher path to President Obama’s desk.”
Politico: “Harkin says he’s hoping for a vote shortly after the Easter recess.”
Working Life’s Jonathan Tasini: “Democratic Senators who block or undercut the Employee Free Choice Act should face well-funded primary challenges.”
Conservative Matt Lewis looks at former EFCA sponsor, now fence-sitter, GOP Sen. Arlen Specter’s political calculations.
HuffPost’s Sam Stein on conservative Dem Sen. Ben Nelson: “[Nelson] told reporters Tuesday afternoon that he does not currently support the Employee Free Choice Act [but] as he almost always does, left a window open. ‘But I also believe there’ll be a major effort to modify it before it ever comes for consideration, and I’ll have to take a look and see what it is then.’”
HuffPost’s Art Levine: “Labor Targets Unionbusting Firms, Front Groups Profiting from Fear of Workers’ Rights”
AP reports EFCA sponsors are willing to make some changes: “Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin, a lead sponsor of the bill, said his colleagues are talking about ‘certain modifications,’ but no agreement has been reached. ‘There might be some amendments that don’t destroy the underpinnings of the bill, maybe provide for better enforcement,’ Harkin said. ‘That type of thing might be acceptable.’”
Corporate lobby won’t compromise. W. Post: “Chamber [of Commerce] leaders told their troops to demand a filibuster vote and not settle for senators saying they would improve the bill. ‘There is no compromise,’ said Chamber general counsel Steven J. Law.”
Tapped’s Tim Fernholz sums up the various political dynamics.
HuffPost suggests some opponents may not filibuster.
Down With Tyranny: “Republicans, As Always, Can’t Stand Free Choice, Not For Women And Not For Working People”
Majikthise simplifies: “Under the status quo, the employer gets to decide whether there will be an NLRB election. Under Employee Free Choice, the employees choose how their votes will be counted.”
Andy Stern: “Five Things to Know about the Employee Free Choice Act”
United Steelworkers’ Leo Gerard notes on MSNBC, there’s no “secret” ballot when organizers routinely get fired.
Extra Stimulus Passes Senate
W. Post: The Senate gave final approval last night to a $410 billion spending bill to fund most of the federal government for the remainder of the year after overcoming a resilient Republican opposition and several Democratic defections.”
Beat The Press’ Dean Baker: “Republicans Object to Stimulus in the Middle of an Economic Crisis … these Republicans would prefer to see budget cuts even as the economy desperately needs spending. That would be an effective way to slow growth and raise unemployment.”
Conrad Attacks Obama Over Capping Carbon in Budget
Senate Budget Cmte Chair Kent Conrad tells OMB Director Peter Orzsag the budget lacks the votes in large part because of WH inclusion of cap-and-trade global warming plan. But Orszag left open possibility of using Senate budget rules that require fewer votes. The Hill:
Conrad urged White House budget director Peter Orszag not to “draw lines in the sand” with lawmakers, most notably on Obama’s plan for a cap-and-trade system to curb carbon emissions …
Conrad said that it would be a “distant hope” to expect the climate change plan to pass unless it includes help for industries that would be hit hard by limits on carbon emission production …
…[GOP Sen. Judd] Gregg said that attaching a cap-and-trade or healthcare plan to reconciliation bills, which need only a simple majority to pass, would be an “outright act of violence” against the Senate, where most contentious legislation needs 60 votes to advance … Orszag, however, didn’t rule out the use of reconciliation bills.
ThinkProgress on moderate Dems’ budget complaints: “Moderate Democrats Look To Serve Their Special Interests And Thwart Obama’s Agenda”
EPA moving ahead on global warming. W. Post: “The Environmental Protection Agency plans to establish a nationwide system for reporting greenhouse gas emissions, a program that could serve as the basis for a federal cap on the buildup of carbon dioxide and other gases linked to global warming.”
Dems to release carbon sequestration report in hopes of reviving controversial FutureGen project. WSJ: “Today, Democrats on the House Committee on Science and Technology plan to release a report summarizing the results of their inquiry into the Bush administration’s February 2008 decision to scrap the proposed FutureGen clean coal plant. It’s not a glowing assessment. The upshot? In cancelling the $1.8 billion project, the first big demonstration coal plant designed to sock away carbon emissions underground, the U.S. may have set back clean coal technology a decade and contributed to the release of billions of tons of additional carbon emissions.”
Global Solutions Needed
Business Week on rising global instability: “The global financial crisis is making itself felt in the lives of ordinary people, and they’re mad about it. As a result, professional risk watchers say, global political instability is rising fast…”
Huffington Post’s Robert Borosage calls for global coordination at next month’s G-20: “We need every major economy – particularly those like Germany, Japan and China in the best position to do so – to help boost the global economy with bold national, deficit financed, recovery plans. … The Chinese, Japanese, Germans and other nations have to move away from export-led growth. The unsustainable trade imbalances – with the US absorbing 70% of the world’s savings – provided the flood of cheap capital that eventually capsized the global economy.”
WSJ on possible US-UK trade support package: “The U.S. and the U.K. are putting together a global plan to provide several hundred billion dollars in trade financing to fight the sharpest contraction in global trade since the Great Depression … the funds would come from the Group of 20 countries, which … would spend about half of the money to increase funding of their own trade-finance agencies, which help to underwrite exports. The other half would go to the World Bank, regional development banks and the International Monetary Fund to help finance exports from the world’s poorer nations, which often ship to the U.S. and Europe.”
LA Times on WH plans: “the Obama administration is opening a second front — pressing European and other nations to launch bigger efforts to stimulate their own economies. The campaign, coming to the forefront this weekend at an international conference of finance ministers in London, is designed to attack the worldwide recession with a coordinated global stimulus effort. The message from U.S. officials is clear — we can’t do it alone.”
Portfolio.com’s Felix Salmon: “Are you reading thousand-word stories about how Citigroup managed to propel the stock market upwards on Tuesday? Bear in mind this: Citigroup rose the grand total of 40 cents per share — which means that its contribution to the 379-point rise in the Dow was a whopping 3 points. And at $1.45 a share, Citi is still, to all intents and purposes, trading at zero. The optimism about Citi wasn’t that Citigroup itself might actually be solvent, so much as the idea that if even a seemingly-insolvent bank like Citi managed to eke out a profit this year, then everybody else in the banking sector might actually have something approaching a future.”
Baseline Scenario’s Simon Johnson: “At last, our long wait to learn the Administration’s policy on banking is over. The policy is: wait … Sometimes this is a great idea and works out just fine. Now seems unlikely to be such a time.”
NYT: “Some Banks, Citing Strings, Want to Return Federal Aid”
Fed Ponders Next Steps
Bernanke calls for new financial regulations. Christian Science Monitor: “…the Federal Reserve chairman is calling for sweeping changes that would put all financial institutions under the hot lights of a new super-regulator. This government overseer would not only assess risk in the financial sphere, but also have authority to correct imbalances before they threaten the entire world economy.”
..the future also requires the kind of overhaul that Mr. Bernanke has begun to sketch out. Firms will have to be monitored much more seriously than they were during the Greenspan era. They can’t be allowed to shop around for the regulatory agency that least understands what they’re doing. The biggest Wall Street paydays should be held in escrow until it’s clear they weren’t based on fictional profits.
Above all, as [economist Paul] Romer says, the federal government needs the power and the will to take over a firm as soon as its potential losses exceed its assets. Anything short of that is an invitation to loot.
Mr. Bernanke actually took a step in this direction on Tuesday. He said the government “needs improved tools to allow the orderly resolution of a systemically important nonbank financial firm.” In layman’s terms, he was asking for a clearer legal path to nationalization.
Fed may further expand balance sheet. WSJ: “[The Fed] could decide to push harder by, for instance, purchasing long-term Treasury securities or increasing its purchases of debt issued or guaranteed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. It is unclear whether the Fed will decide to take new steps at its meetings on March 17 and 18.”
The Stash’s Noam Scheiber: “How Much Ammunition Does the Fed Have Left?”
Private Health & Pension Systems Weakening
More Americans can’t pay for necessary medical care. USA Today: “As the economy fell, the percentage who reported having trouble paying for needed health care or medicines during the previous 12 months rose from 18% in January 2008 to 21% in December, according to the poll of 355,334 Americans. Each percentage point change in the full survey represents about 2.2 million people…”
Defined contribution pension system buckling in financial crisis. FT: “A wave of US companies are suspending payments to their staff 401(k) retirement plans in a bid to cut costs amid the economic downturn … The growing number of suspensions appears to strike a blow against the viability of 401(k) plans, which were introduced 30 years ago as the main way that Americans should save for retirement, replacing defined benefit pension plans.”
Obama Education Speech React
HuffPost’s Randi Weingarten says there’s no fight between the White House and teachers’ unions after the President’s education speech.
Tapped’s Dana Goldstein: “All the major papers are celebrating Obama’s education speech this morning as a bold call for “merit” pay. I need to make the following point: The word ‘merit’ did not appear anywhere in the address. Instead, Obama talked about ‘recruiting, preparing, and rewarding outstanding teachers.’ This is code-speak for performance pay, which is understood as distinct from merit pay, as it is not primarily calibrated according to student test scores. ”
Health Care Hot On Hill, In Streets
HuffPost’s Robert Creamer: “73% of Voters Think Health Care Reform Must Include Choice of a Public Health Insurance Plan”
HuffPost’s RJ Eskow flags conservatives still ginning up phony outrage over cost-effective health information technology.
Ezra Klein: “Peter Orszag testified before the Senate Finance Committee today on health care reform. The testimony, and his associated slides, can be downloaded here. You won’t get a much better introduction to the health policy thinking of the country’s most powerful health policy wonk … Orszag emphasizes that a thriftier system could also improve quality by ensuring that better evidence informs treatment decisions. Cost cutting doesn’t have to hurt, in other words.” More from the Wonk Room.
D-Day: “If you thought the sausage-making on the stimulus was bad, wait until you see health care reform. The players are more invested in getting their way and more rigid in their opinions. Chuck Grassley seems to be mad about the Obama Administration cutting 60 worthless private tax collection jobs in Iowa (that were costing the IRS more money than the tax collectors were taking in), and folks are worried that he’ll take it out on the bill. That’s the silliness that we’re dealing with.”
Terrance Heath contributed to the making of this Breakfast.