Each morning, Bill Scher and Terrance Heath serve up what progressives need to affect change on the kitchen-table issues families face: jobs, health care, green energy, financial reform, affordable education and retirement security.
Senate Dems Respond To Filibuster With Bigger Jobs Bill
Senate leadership to raise job stakes, push long-term one-year extension of jobless aid, and add aid to states. Bloomberg: “Senate Democrats are proposing to reinstate unemployment benefits that expired Feb. 28 as part of a $150 billion measure intended to boost the economy. The legislation would spend $81 billion to extend the unemployment benefits, including so-called Cobra subsidies… for the rest of this year. It also would send $25 billion to state governments to help prevent layoffs … The Senate aims to send the bill to the House for approval this week or next.”
As filibustering Sen. Jim Bunning literally gives middle finger to America, OurFuture.org launches Twitter petition, pressuring GOP to end filibuster.
Damage being felt by Bunning filibuster. W. Post chronicles: “[Sen. Dick Durbin] said Bunning’s action would result in 400,000 people nationwide going without an unemployment check, with that number rising each day … On Monday, the government began paying doctors who see Medicare patients more than 20 percent less … some rural satellite-TV subscribers likely lost access to local channels, and a Small Business Administration lending program was interrupted. The Department of Transportation furloughed 2,000 employees without pay Monday … unless Congress this week restores the transportation funding … construction contracts will be delayed, construction loans may be jeopardized and projects suspended. Two constructions that require on-site federal inspectors — replacement of the Ninth Street Bridge in the District and a new road at the Hoover Dam in Nevada — were immediately suspended.”
McClatchy adds: “Federal projects shut down include more than $38 million in project funding for Idaho’s Nez Perce National Forest and Fernan Lakes Idaho Panhandle National Forest and $86 million for bridge replacements in the Washington, D.C., area. Bunning’s home state of Kentucky has no projects affected by his action. However, nearly 1.2 million unemployed workers, including 14,000 in Kentucky, would lose federal jobless benefits this month if Congress doesn’t extend them…”
Bunning’s crusade against jobless aid making many Republicans squeamish. Politico: “Sensing the unease of their GOP colleagues, Democrats are challenging Republicans to defend Bunning’s effort … Representatives of senators in states that have seen furloughs … did not respond to inquiries seeking comment about Bunning’s push.”
Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl doubles down on Bunning filibuster, attacks entire concept of unemployment insurance. HuffPost: “[Kyl] argued that unemployment benefits dissuade people from job-hunting ‘because people are being paid even though they’re not working.’ … [Sen. Max Baucus retorted] ‘…there are five unemployed Americans today for every job opening in the economy … People are looking for work. They’re not unemployed because of choice.’”
Sen. John Kerry writes at TPMCafe that the lives of unemployed Americans and their families are not a political football: “This has to end. In the last Congress, the Republican minority more than doubled the previous record for filibusters, and they are on a pace to challenge or surpass that “accomplishment” this Congress as well.”
House still lacks majority for Senate jobs tax credit bill. Politico: “House Democrats … won’t take up the legislation on Tuesday … Ways and Means Democrats are trying to find ways to offset the $2 billion cost of the legislation [to appease Blue Dogs]. And liberals say the measure pales in comparison to the $154 billion jobs bill the House passed last December.”
Deal Floated To Give Fed New Consumer Protection Authority
W. Post reports Sen. Dodd shopping Sen. Corker proposal to house consumer protection agency at Fed: “The proposal … would place a presidential appointee inside the Fed with an independent budget and a mandate to write rules protecting consumers. Those rules, however, would be enforced by existing banking regulators. Key issues remain, including whether the new regulator could impose rules over the objections of banking regulators. Dodd and Corker also are negotiating how broadly the rules would apply to financial institutions other than banks.”
Rep. Barney Frank warns watered-down consumer protection may not pass the House reports LAT.
Dodd forgoing his idea to put it in Treasury. Bloomberg: “Dodd is backing away from a proposal he circulated last week to create a Bureau of Financial Protection at the Treasury Department because it would be politically unpopular, according to a Democratic Senate aide. Placing the authority with a Cabinet-level agency could subject it to influence from the White House.”
White House likely supportive of new proposal, Sen. Shelby’s position unclear. Politico: “[Shelby is] a well-known Fed skeptic so his support is by no means assured. But Dodd has been adamant in recent statements that the actual independence and power of the consumer entity is more important than its location. The White House, too, in recent days has signaled that Obama is open to getting less than what he’s asking when it comes to the contentious CFPA, acknowledging that the president could settle for a consumer entity within another regulator.”
Naked Capitalism trashes Fed proposal, signals support for Shelby FDIC idea: “The Treasury, Fed, and Office of the Comptroller of the Currency are notoriously bank friendly. Think they are gonna do anything to seriously inconvenience their charges? Not on your life. The sole reason the FDIC could be a viable choice is that it is the only Federal bank regulator that is serious about enforcement. And that is due to the simple fact that if they mess up on enforcement, they wind up with more dead banks, which is embarrassing, costly, and a ton more work for them than preventing train wrecks in the first place (to the extent they can).”
“Uh, wasn’t the Fed already responsible for consumer financial protection?” notes Calculated Risk.
Arianna Huffington writes that Dems are preemptively surrendering: “It’s hard to believe that even the messaging-challenged Democrats could fail to frame to their advantage a bill that would prevent banks from abusing the public … Instead, the attitude seems to be, why even try?”
Mother Jones’ Reid Cramer lays out 5 keys to real reform: “Fix the big picture, not just individual firms … Separate retail banking from the casinos … new [consumer protection] authority has to have both rule-making authority and strong enforcement mechanisms … streamline information disclosure … And for heaven’s sake, limit executive pay.”
New Fed vacancies give Obama opportunity to shape board. NYT: “The departure of the vice chairman, Donald L. Kohn, a 40-year Fed veteran, means Mr. Obama has three seats to fill on the Fed’s seven-member board of governors … Henry W. Chappell Jr., an economist at the University of South Carolina … predicted that the administration would choose nominees who hold the Keynesian belief that full employment does not necessarily return on its own after a recession … Advocates of making price stability the more dominant of the Fed’s mandates say that only through consistent application of aggressive anti-inflation policies can the economy grow to its maximum potential over the long run.”
Geithner and Summers leading the search. Bloomberg: “The search to fill vacancies at the Federal Reserve is being led by President Barack Obama’s Treasury secretary and chief economic adviser, indicating Chairman Ben S. Bernanke will get support for his policies as he tries to sustain growth while withdrawing monetary stimulus … Possible Kohn successors, according to Fed watchers and former officials, include Fed Governor Daniel Tarullo, 57, who’s backed tougher bank regulation; Christina Romer, 51, an architect of the administration’s 2009 fiscal stimulus; and San Francisco Fed President Janet Yellen, 63, one of the central bank’s top advocates of lower interest rates.”
W. Post says current board may be more conservative than Bernanke: “as the economy improves, some officials, especially presidents of regional Fed banks, are likely to be more eager than Bernanke to raise interest rates and drain the money supply, even at the risk of slowing the recovery … Fed watchers generally expect the president to favor appointees who would be in line with Bernanke’s thinking or perhaps even more tilted toward worrying about unemployment as opposed to inflation.”
WH Readies Health Care Push
NYT sets stage for health care endgame: “President Obama this week will begin a climactic push to rally restive Congressional Democrats to pass major health care legislation by hammering the argument that the costs of failure will be higher insurance premiums and lost coverage for individuals and businesses … Mr. Obama’s emerging message against higher insurance costs was seconded on Monday by the Business Roundtable, a Washington group representing major corporations…”
AP reports nine House Dems may switch from “Nay” to “Aye”: “Democratic leaders stress that the legislative package soon to reach the House will be less expensive than the one that passed in November and will contain no government-run insurance program to compete with private insurers. They hope those changes will give additional cover to party moderates thinking of switching from no to yes … at least nine of the 39 Democrats – or their spokesmen – either declined to state their positions or said they were undecided about the revised legislation … Three of them – Brian Baird of Washington, Bart Gordon of Tennessee and John Tanner of Tennessee – are not seeking re-election this fall. The others are Rick Boucher of Virginia, Suzanne Kosmas of Florida, Frank Kratovil of Maryland, Michael McMahon of New York, Scott Murphy of New York and Glenn Nye of Virginia.”
Slate’s Timothy Noah says the challenge to reconciliation lies in the House: “Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., need only pick up nine [undecided Senators]. That’s eminently doable … [But] Pelosi needs to pick up a baker’s dozen votes to pass health reform.”
Grassroots fired up. Politico: “Progressive advocacy groups like Health Care for America Now and Families USA are organizing supporters and protests across the country, reminding Americans and lawmakers why inaction is unacceptable … This week, HCAN will issue a report that … will refute the insurance industry’s claim that its premium increases are a result of rising medical costs. The group will also begin radio, television, print and online ads promoting a rally to shut down the March 9 policy conference industry trade group America’s Health Insurance Plans is hosting.”
Sen. Kent Conrad supports making changes to Senate bill through reconciliation, but House must move first. The Plum Line: “Conrad said that under Congressional rules, for a reconciliation fix to be ‘scored,’ it’s not necessary that it become law, but it is necessary for it to have passed both houses of Congress before getting fixed. … ‘The only thing that works here is the House has to pass the Senate bill [first],’ Conrad continued.”
Daily Kos’ Jed Lewison argues Dems are giving themselves nowhere to hide on the public option: “The list of Democratic Senators who have pledged their support for the public option through reconciliation now stands at 30, including a majority of the Democratic caucus … they are approaching the point where they must deliver. It’s not clear what the tipping point will be (40? 45? 50?), but with more than half the Senate Democratic caucus on the record supporting the public option through reconciliation, that tipping point is drawing nearer.”
Rep. Anthony Weiner blasts obstructionist Republicans, and urges Democrats to act like a majority party: “First we let the Gang of Six make the rules, then we let Olympia Snowe and Joe Lieberman have their turn. It got us nothing! We need to let the majority make the rules. The public option passed in the House and it’s time to force a vote in the Senate.”
Bye Bye “Cap And Trade” … Sort Of
Say bye-bye to the phrase “cap-and-trade”: “While the Senate trio’s plan will differ radically from the sweeping ‘economy-wide’ House cap-and-trade bill approved last year, it likely won’t abandon cap-and-trade entirely. The senators’ retreat – rhetorically complete, substantively partial – follows months of attacks on cap-and-trade by Republicans, who have labeled it ‘cap and tax’ and said other unfriendly things. ‘It’s possible,’ notes one activist, ‘that ‘”cap and trade is dead” means the phrase will not be uttered again.’ … Overall, Kerry and Graham are emphasizing the need to ‘put a price on carbon,’…”
Enviro groups mount push to keep price on carbon in tripartisan climate bill, reports Mother Jones’ Kate Sheppard.
Grist’s David Roberts explores Senate climate dilemma: “[Sen. Lindsey] Graham says they are trying to hash out a moderate bill that can draw broad public support and pick up a few Republican votes. Now, as it happens, what Graham is groping around for already exists. There is a moderate climate/energy bill that has drawn broad public support and picked up a few Republican votes … It passed the House back in June of ‘09. But Graham can’t use that bill! Indeed he has to make a big production of not using it … He’s got to come up with a bill that can satisfy a wide range of legislators and interest groups … but looks completely different from the bill that’s already done so. That’s quite a pickle.”
NRDC’s Dan Lashof, at Grist, shames Sen. Inhofe for threatening climate scientists with criminal investigations: “If Inhofe wants to call global warming a hoax, as he first did in 2003, that may be paranoid, but he has that right … But when Inhofe attempts to discredit respected scientists through innuendo and tries to intimidate them by threatening a criminal investigation, enough is enough. It is time to say, ‘Have you no sense of decency sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?’”