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.
Amendment Battles Still On Tap After Reid’s Cloture Move
Reid files for cloture, pushing toward final vote this week, but final Dodd amendment not completed. The Hill: “The Senate will continue to debate a series of controversial amendments that could toughen the bill’s impact on Wall Street.”
Dorgan, Cantwell threaten filibusters if their amendments aren’t heard. Politico: “Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) has said he will filibuster the bill unless the Senate votes on his amendment banning a speculative financial instrument known as a “naked” credit default swap. Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) has done the same, saying she needs a vote on her amendment separating commercial and investment banking operations. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said any Democratic defections are a cause for concern.”
Volcker Rule opponents try to establish 60-vote threshold. HuffPost: “If any Senator objects to moving to a vote on an amendment, that Senator can effectively require a 60-vote threshold. A 60-vote threshold would benefit opponents of Levin-Merkley and became seriously discussed as a possibility only over the past week, as support for it surged, with some counts putting it over the 50 votes it would need for a majority, according to sources closely involved in negotiations. Only Sen. Dick Durbin’s (D-Ill.) credit-card reform amendment has so far needed 60 votes. The rest have required only a simple majority. The higher requirement is an indication of the high stakes in play for Wall Street.” OurFuture.org’s Zach Carter: “In Defense Of The Volcker Rule.”
Following an FT report suggesting Sen. Lincoln is flexible on derivatives reform, Daily Kos’ Joan McCarter charges her with posing as a populist: “The narrative that’s been building that Lincoln’s tough derivatives reform was all about trying to solidify Dem/anti-Wall Street support before her primary tomorrow, and that further, once the primary was over, she and Dem leadership were ready to gut the reforms. Now comes confirmation, direct from the horses’ mouths.”
Sen. Whitehouse amendment seeks to clamp down on credit card rates. Bloomberg: “Credit-card firms caught off-guard by U.S. Senate passage of curbs on debit fees last week may be forced to abide by state limits on interest rates under another amendment to the financial overhaul bill … Whitehouse’s amendment wouldn’t set rate caps, leaving that to individual states, with the law taking effect 12 months after enactment.”
Amendment passes to include credit score on free credit reports. NYT: “…the score [would] be provided if it was used to deny credit, required a higher interest rate on a loan, or prevented an applicant from being hired for a job … its adoption, by an overwhelming margin, underscored the keen desire by lawmakers to support pro-consumer initiatives in an election year.”
Dems Yet To Coalesce On Jobs Agenda
Ideological split in Democratic Party hindering jobs agenda. NYT: “…many moderate and conservative Democrats have demanded as the price of their support … keeping with a new pay-as-you-go law mandating offsetting savings for new spending or tax cuts. But that breaks with the economic theory that it is counterproductive for the government to raise taxes or cut spending when it is trying to stimulate job creation … Congressional Democrats say they tentatively have agreed that ‘pay-fors’ will not be required to offset some safety net programs … Then, however, lawmakers must figure out how to pay for two or three additional measures … First is a package for small businesses, including an exemption from capital gains taxes for investors in qualified ventures. Next up, if there is time and offsetting savings, is a ‘green jobs’ bill with tax incentives … A priority for some Democrats, however, is a proposal from Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa and Representative George Miller of California for $25 billion to avert layoffs of teachers…”
CQ reports some deficit hysteric Dems still not on board with next jobs bill: “Freshman Democrats reluctant to increase the budget deficit are warning that they may oppose the latest, $220 billion version of the “tax extenders” bill when it comes to the House floor later this week. … The core of the legislation being negotiated by tax writers in both chambers would revive and extend dozens of tax breaks that expired at the end of 2009, including the research-and-development tax credit, the state sales-tax deduction and incentives for biodiesel production. Tax writers are also expected to add money to extend several spending programs through the end of the year, including Medicaid assistance to states, health insurance subsidies for jobless Americans and expanded unemployment benefits…”
House and Senate leaders trying to attach aid to prevent teacher layoffs to war funding bill, opposition leaders seek to block. The Hill: “House Republicans have strongly criticized the effort to tack on the education funding, suggesting that they could oppose a war-spending bill for the second year in a row … the inclusion of the teacher fund … could make House liberals take a second look at the package.”
While more jobs were created last month, we also had more people shut out off the workforce. Truthdig’s Moshe Adler: “How can higher unemployment be reported as good news? By pointing out that among the unemployed were 195,000 people who in March were classified as discouraged workers but in April joined the labor force. … But this argument is misleading. In fact, the number of the unemployed in April increased by 255,000 workers. This means that in addition to the discouraged workers, 60,000 workers who lost their jobs had also joined the ranks of the unemployed. While some discouraged workers did start seeking work, more of them stopped: In April the number of discouraged workers actually increased by 203,000 people.”
Racial wealth gap was widening even before the recession, new study finds. NYT’s Michael Powell: “… a study released today by Professor Thomas M. Shapiro and his colleagues at the Institute on Assets and Social Policy at Brandeis University [tracked] the same 2,000 black and white families between 1983 and 2007, and found that the racial wealth gap ‘has more than quadrupled over the course of a generation.’ … wealth begets wealth, and the lack of wealth perpetuates the same. Black families — who save at the same rate as white families — have less money to pay for college tuition, less money to invest in business and less money to tide them through rough times.”
Improvements Sought For Climate Bill
Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth lead new “Climate Reality Check” coalition opposed to Kerry-Lieberman “American Power Act” climate compromise. The Hill: “The groups want sharper pollution reductions; the EPA to retain the authority to regulate greenhouse gases through the Clean Air Act; and to ‘reject offsets and other loopholes that prevent pollution reductions from taking place in the U.S.’”
World Wildlife Fund pushing to add more international assistance reports Greenwire.
Grist’s Meredith Niles raises caution on Kerry-Lieberman approach to agriculture: “It establishes a ‘Carbon Conservation Program’ [which] does what a lot of farmers wanted: it provides a way to reward the early adopters of beneficial practices. It will provide incentives for farmers already practicing organic practices — or cover cropping or reduced tillage — to continue to do so. This is vital, but also has the potential to backfire if the practices being rewarded are not actually providing climate change benefits. The bill’s list includes several practices that have questionable benefits… Featured prominently is no-till agriculture, which is widely associated with Roundup-Ready genetically modified crops and often accompanied by increased herbicide use to control weeds in lieu of tilling. Biofuels are also weighted heavily in the bill, even though certain kinds have been shown not to reduce greenhouse gases. The inclusion of composting in the bill ought to be positive, but ‘compost’ can sometimes be a cover word for chemical-laden sewage sludge. Close board oversight and quality methodologies will be crucial…”
Minerals Management Service fails to appear before Senate Homeland Security Committee, reports The Hill but Interior Secretary will testify to two different Senate committees today.
Top offshore drilling official in MMS resigns, reports McClatchy: “Some in Congress welcomed Chris Oynes’ resignation as the head of the Minerals Management Service’s offshore drilling program as a sign that the administration would follow through on President Barack Obama’s pledge to end the MMS’s cozy relationship with the oil industry.” Salon’s Jenn Kepka adds: “Oynes was a cheerleader for reduced royalties for deepwater drilling throughout the Bush administration.”
Dems working with evangelical, Southern Baptist leaders on climate as well as immigration. The Hill: “‘We’re encouraging Southern Baptists to reach out to senators and congressmen to encourage Democrats and Republicans to quit playing politics and deal with immigration reform in a fair way,’ said Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission … Kerry has also reached out to evangelical leaders to spur Republicans to support his 1,000-page climate bill. ‘It’s been unusual, but these are what we see as two very moral issues that have a lot of implications for a lot of families and definitely affect the vulnerable,’ said Dr. Joel Hunter, pastor of Northland, a mega-church in central Florida.”
Health Care Implementation Update
WH looks to speed up implementation of health reform to skeptical public. Politico: “the administration took advantage of provisions allowing it to speed up the ordinarily sluggish regulatory process, cutting short the public notice and comment periods that accompany issuance of new regulations as impracticable under the circumstances.”