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.
Wall Street Reform Amendments Expected Today
Barrage of progressive amendments on tap. Politico: “Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) has told senators he’d like them to file any amendments to the bill by Monday to set up a shaking-out period in which hundreds of ideas will be considered. The liberal bloc will face an uphill climb winning passage of any of these amendments — but the left hopes the onslaught can change the terms of the debate. And they acknowledge some are so-called messaging amendments designed more to make a political point than to win votes on the Senate floor, including efforts to ban Wall Street investment banks from trading with their own funds and to restrict the size and borrowing of major financial firms … Democratic Sens. Ted Kaufman of Delaware and Sherrod Brown of Ohio have written an amendment that would prevent banks from becoming too big to fail by placing strict limits on their size. That’s one of the amendments that liberal backers say might not succeed, but it will attract a lot of attention … One measure that the administration will push back against, [a WH] official said, is a proposal to audit the Fed…” More on expected amendments from Mary Bottari.
GOP resistance to consumer protection agency still major obstacle to bipartisan agreement, weakening amendments expected. Bloomberg: “Democrats propose creating a consumer protection bureau in the Federal Reserve, with power to write and enforce its rules. Shelby said he wants bank regulators to have a say in the agency’s rule-writing and enforcement. Dodd predicted in an April 30 floor speech that Republicans will bring up ‘a ton of amendments to try to undermine’ the bureau.”
NYT rounds up concerns from academics about what’s missing from pending Senate bill: “Some point to specific issues left largely untouched, like the instability of capital markets that provide money for lenders, or the government’s role in the housing market, including the future of the housing finance companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac … Republicans have repeatedly criticized the administration for advancing legislation that does not address the companies’ future. The Obama administration says drafting a new housing policy is on its agenda for next year.”
Rortybomb is on the hunt for loopholes in Lincoln’s derivatives proposal: “Potential Derivative Loophole #1: Trading Facility … Potential Derivative Loophole #2: Not Cleared Trades Legal”
Matt Yglesias doesn’t buy the proposal to get rid of rating agencies or at least their “quasi-regulatory power”: “… in many cases consumers of high-rated investments aren’t actually especially interested in information, they’re just interested in complying with a regulation that says they need to hold such-and-such quantity of AAA-rated stuff which totally breaks down the market discipline. That’s not to say totally deregulating this field is necessarily the way to go, but the proposal should be understood correctly one way or the other. The idea isn’t to do away with rating, or with firms in the business of doing ratings, it’s to eliminate the demand for inaccurately rated investment opportunities.”
Wall Street lobbyists consider proprietary trading ban and derivatives firewall “existential threats,” reports NYT’s John Harwood: “The quandary for industry lobbyists, and lawmakers who privately sympathize with them, is how to stop them … Mr. Obama has kept his distance from Ms. Lincoln’s derivatives spinoff plan … Sheila C. Bair, the chairwoman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, and Senator Mark Warner, Democrat of Virginia, have warned that it could force derivatives trading offshore, into the regulatory shadows. But the backing Ms. Lincoln received from Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa, shows that some strains of populism cross the 2010 spectrum. Instead of dialing back their populist message, embattled Democratic strategists are considering ways to sustain it with measures like Mr. Obama’s proposed ‘bank tax,’ a tax increase on the ‘carried interest’ income of hedge fund managers, and perhaps an interest cap on lending to small businesses.”
How Can Gulf Drilling Disaster Hurt Climate Bill?
BP still doesn’t know how to stop the underwater oil leak. NYT: “[BP Senior VP Bob] Fryar and Charlie Holt, BP’s drilling operations manager for the gulf, described an audacious plan to confront the blowout preventer problem. In this approach, they would seal the well by cutting the riser at the wellhead, sliding a huge piece of equipment called the riser package out of the way and bolting a second blowout preventer atop the first one. The risk in attempting such a maneuver … is that the pressure of the oil rising from the well could be overwhelming, and the well could gush oil at a far higher rate. Mr. Fryar said a pressure gauge would be installed soon to determine if it was safe to attempt the operation.”
That the future of the climate bill is questionable shows that Congress is learning the wrong lessons from the Gulf oil spill. Washington Monthly’s Steve Benen: “It’s ironic, in a way, that the BP Oil Spill disaster has put the climate/energy bill’s future in further doubt, in large part because expanding drilling opportunities was considered a prerequisite to getting even marginal Republican support. With new offshore drilling leases on hold for the foreseeable future, it’s hard to know what Dems can put in the bill to generate bipartisan support. Indeed, many Republicans are still saying ‘drill, baby, drill,’ even this morning [But] the disaster in the Gulf shouldn’t stall climate/energy efforts on the Hill, it should strengthen those efforts.”
Rikyra says President Obama’s political gamble on offshore drilling is a bust: “I hope the President uses this disaster threefold: 1. to admit that he was wrong. 2. use this as the excuse to PUSH for the Climate Change Bill 3. use this as calling card for the push for alternative energy NOW. the Wind Farm off Massachusetts needs to be just the beginning.”
Digby lambastes Palin and her enablers for blindly continuing the “drill, baby, drill” chant: : “Drilling makes no difference to our security or our access to cheap oil … It would be more understandable if she were the only one doing it since she’s barely sentient. That people who know very well that it’s ridiculous do the same thing is truly reprehensible.”
Louisiana Senator Mary Landreiu hasn’t said much about the spill threatening her state’s shores. Daily Kos’ Jed Lewison guesses why Landreiu might keep quiet: “…six months ago, in a hearing on offshore oil drilling safety, Landrieu sided with David Rainey, BP’s Vice President of Exploration for the Gulf of Mexico … Landrieu’s comments focused on a offshore drilling disaster in Australia in which just over 800,000 gallons of oil were spilled, saying that such an
accident could not occur in the United States because our safety regulations wouldn’t allow such a mishap.”
Daniel Degroot at Open Left calls for limits on “limited liability”: “BP is clearly on the hook for a big clean up bill, but here’s the thing — if the bill is larger than BP is able to raise, in theory the company could just declare bankruptcy and the remainder of the clean up bill drops on society at large.”
Climate Progress asks “Is BP the Goldman Sachs of Big Oil?” : “BP knows it can’t blame the feds since it fought efforts to change the voluntary self-regulation laws, the industry opposed mandates for the remote-control shutoff switch, BP sold the Minerals Management Service on a laughable planning scenario — it was ‘unlikely that an accidental surface or subsurface oil spill would occur from the proposed activities’ — and the industry, not the feds, have the
relevant equipment to stop the gusher.”
What Next For Immigration Reform?
Immigration activists have some tough choices ahead of them, writes National Institute for Latino Policy’s Randy Shaw: “If legislation creating a path toward legalization and an end to deportations does not pass in 2010, will chances improve in 2011 or 2012? Not unless there is a far greater level of organizing against
Republican Senators than has occurred to date … activists may soon face a difficult choice: accept the best that can be achieved in 2010, or wait for something that may or may not occur in the future to secure a far more progressive measure.”
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer claims she doesn’t know “what an illegal alien looks like.” But In These Times’ David Sirota doesn’t buy it: “That seminal admission came in November 2001, when the emotional aftermath of 9/11 momentarily removed politicians’ rhetorical filters. There on the floor of Congress, GOP Rep. Scott McInnis delivered an address about ‘the need for profiling for the national security of this country.’…”
Arizona may serve to fire up the progressive base, argues DailyKos’ Dante Atkins: “Under Jan Brewer’s leadership, Arizona started the trifecta last fall by rescinding domestic partnership benefits for state employees, and completed it last Tuesday by making Arizona the first state in the nation to restrict abortion coverage in the new insurance exchanges … Arizona … has laid out the conservative case for 2010. It’s now up to the Democrats to offer a higher bid to the American people.”
Is Austerity The Answer For Greece? Or Us?
NYT notes slashing of government services creates obstacle to Greek recovery: “The government is now committed to whack back the public sector, including pensions and popular social benefits; to raise consumption taxes to record highs; and to promote tax reform, in an effort to shrink the enormous black market, reduce tax evasion and increase government receipts. Some influential economists, however, fear that such harsh measures risk killing the patient, even as they see the intensity of Greek pain as a serious warning to other countries that use the euro to get their own economies in order before the currency union itself is undermined by rampaging market speculation.”
Krugman holds out some hope for latest European plan: “EU has now, in effect, given up on trying to restore market confidence … providing Greece with all or almost all the financing it needs directly, at an interest rate much lower than the market was demanding. The plan still requires savage austerity on Greece’s part, and ensures a terrible few years for the Greek economy. But it does rise to the scale of the problem, and it might work.”
Congress may seek to “deem” a freeze on discretionary spending. CQ: “If the House and the Senate do not adopt a final, unified budget resolution, lawmakers could turn to a process called ‘deeming’ to set caps on discretionary spending for the 12 annual appropriations bills, or they could try to move the bills without such guidance. But either course comes with difficulties.
Pelosi pressing committee chairs to cut spending. The Hill: “Pelosi asked each House chairman to send her back a letter, by May 28, outlining any oversight hearings already held or planned for this session that are ‘intended to scrutinize departments, agencies, and programs under your jurisdiction.’”
Health Care Implementation Update
Governors split on setting up interim high-risk pools. Politico: “By the Friday deadline, most Democratic governors largely decided to help the Department of Health and Human Services by creating the pools themselves with federal funding. Most Republican governors decided to allow the federal government to establish its own high-risk insurance pool in their states, essentially punting.”
NYT edit board pleased that rescissions are ending early: “Many of the other major provisions of reform don’t kick in until 2014, but it is already changing the behavior of insurers. That means more security for many Americans who might otherwise find insurance unaffordable or unavailable.”
Moyers Signs Off
Bill Moyers officially signs off with a glance back into our history, and a warning: “This marriage of money and politics has produced an America of gross inequality at the top and low social mobility at the bottom … like those populists of that earlier era, millions of Americans have awakened to a sobering reality: they live in a plutocracy, where they are disposable. Then, the remedy was a popular insurgency that ignited the spark of democracy … democracy only works when we claim it as our own.”