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.
MORNING MESSAGE: On Social Security, Stand Up To The Hostage-Takers!
OurFuture.org’s Roger Hickey: “Republican hostage-takers got President Obama to go along with their tax cuts for the wealthy by threatening to raise taxes on the middle class and blocking even modest stimulus funds for our struggling economy. Now the Republicans have identified their next hostage: They’re going to threaten to destroy the international financial stability of the United States by refusing to raise the debt ceiling. What are they demanding for ransom? They want President Obama to slash Social Security and Medicare before this next hostage crisis comes to a head in March or April. Who can stop this next hostage crisis? We can. We have to start by sending a message to the President here…”
Tax Cut Deal Is Done
House passes tax cut deal, President to sign today. The Hill: “The vote was 277-148, and the bill gained a majority of both Democrats and Republicans despite complaints from each party’s political base … 112 Democrats and 36 Republicans voted against the deal … ‘I applaud President Obama for his side of the ledger,’ Pelosi said. ‘I’m sorry the price that had to be paid for it is so high.’”
President meets with union leaders this afternoon to smooth concerns over the deal. Bloomberg: “The administration is making an ‘all hands on deck’ effort to contact party activists angry over the accord, said Jared Bernstein … ‘The president is trying to build consensus among labor leaders for his compromise tax policy’ said Amy B. Dean, a former official with the AFL-CIO labor federation. The administration has ‘no problem reaching out to the labor movement when they need labor to be part of their electoral coalition. But they quickly forget that labor has a role to play in their governing coalition.’ …
Tax cut deal includes tax credit for liquid coal. McClatchy: “The liquid coal provision would extend a tax subsidy that expired at the end of 2009. It would provide tax credits of 50 cents per gallon of the fuel. The U.S. has no commercial liquid coal plants, but the Sierra Club has tracked proposals for them in many states, including Kentucky, Alaska, Wyoming and Ohio … Friends of the Earth said that replacing 15 percent of the nation’s projected gasoline demand for transportation with liquid coal would result in a 40 percent increase in coal mining.”
GOP flinches as their own earmarks become known: “Democrats say that nine Senate Republicans had pledged to back the bill but withdrew their support at the last moment under heavy pressure from their GOP colleagues. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) emphasized that Republicans helped put the bill together although they distanced themselves from it in recent days … Republican leaders and rank-and-file members had come under fire for hundreds of earmarks they inserted in the 1,924-page spending bill.”
Smaller, short-term bill expected to pass by tomorrow to avert government shutdown. CQ: “The most likely candidate would be a short-term continuing resolution to keep the government running, perhaps into February. That would give Republicans, who in January will take control of the House and have greater numbers in the Senate, an early opportunity to shape government operations. ‘In reality, we only have one choice, and that’s a short-term CR,’ Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said Thursday night.”
Funding for health reform implementation stalled as a result. AP: “Republicans were also irate that the measure contained money to begin implementation of Obama’s controversial health care law and a financial overhaul measure that all but a handful of Republicans opposed.”
End of spending showdown clears Senate schedule for Don’t Ask Don’t Tell repeal. NYT: “…Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, said that the Senate would begin voting on the repeal as early as Saturday … Senator Susan Collins, the bill’s one Republican sponsor, had been joined by three other Republican senators — Scott P. Brown of Massachusetts, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Olympia J. Snowe of Maine — in supporting the measure.”
As well as immigration reform and the START treaty. HuffPost: “Votes on those [domestic] measures … would now come on Saturday morning. DREAM will go first, followed by DADT. The former has, it is believed, less of a shot at passage than the latter. Once the Senate casts those Saturday votes, members will return to debating the START nuclear non-proliferation treaty.”
Several anti-recession, anti-poverty programs are expiring. HuffPost: “According to a new report by the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, ‘more homeless families will go without shelter, fewer low-wage workers will receive help with child care expenses, and fewer families involved with the child welfare system will receive preventive services’ now that Congress has passed legislation that will end funding for the TANF Contingency Fund in 2011. Congress also failed to reauthorize an emergency fund for a subsidized job program on September 30 that would have allowed states to provide emergency help to needy families and place low-income people in subsidized jobs.”
Ezra Klein on how Republicans are making it impossible to be fiscally responsible: “This is part of a broader problem for the Republicans: Having convinced the country that we have a deficit problem, it now seems obvious that taxes will have to go up, particularly on the rich. So Republicans have begun to argue that the problem is spending, not taxing … We need to reauthorize the Surface Transportation Act, which is our main vehicle for infrastructure funding. It’s usually funded by the gas tax. Under [new rules for the next House], there’s basically no way to do that: You can’t offset a spending increase with a tax increase. It’s not just nuts as a matter of budget arithmetic, but it’s nuts in a way that has procedural teeth.”
Second Conservative Activist Judge Out For Health Reform
Another conservative activist judge signals he will rule the entire health reform law unconstitutional. NYT: “Judge Vinson, a senior judge appointed by President Ronald Reagan, has seemed somewhat more receptive than Judge Hudson to the states’ argument that the entire health care law should fall if the insurance mandate is unconstitutional … Judge Vinson said he would rule ‘as quickly as possible.’”
Judge Vinson may back selling insurance in ERs. Wonk Room’s Igor Volsky: “…Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum (R) co-hosted a press conference in which he expressed optimism that the landmark law would be struck down … ‘…he said that several times today…like when you go into, I think he said an emergency room, for example, you know, maybe you could, at that point, be required to buy insurance.’ … [But those] with preexisting conditions cannot be protected unless the law also prevents them from entering the insurance market at the last minute.”
“New Dem Report Argues Health Repeal Is ‘Dangerous To America’s Health’” reports Wonk Room.
PolitiFact’s Lie of the Year: “A government takeover of health care.”
See No Evil, Write No Evil About Wall Street
NYT’s Paul Krugman slams GOPers on financial crisis commission for a “Wall Street Whitewash: “It’s a straightforward story, but a story that the Republican members of the commission don’t want told. Literally … the G.O.P. commissioners are just doing their job, which is to sustain the conservative narrative. And a narrative that absolves the banks of any wrongdoing, that places all the blame on meddling politicians, is especially important now that Republicans are about to take over the House.”
Slate’s Bethany McLean asks why the GOP’s financial-crisis report “won’t follow the money.”: “…companies like Countrywide and Ameriquest didn’t make mortgages—and Wall Street firms didn’t package those mortgages and sell them off to investors—because the government was holding a gun to their heads. The mortgage companies and securities firms did what they did for one overwhelming reason: There was a huge amount of money to be made.”
Fed proposes cap on debit card charges on merchants. W. Post: “The move was applauded by retail industry groups and small businesses … they said the new rules would allow them to deliver significant savings to shoppers … Banks have begun seeking ways to recoup their losses from the wave of new regulations passed by Congress. Tower Group analyst Brian Riley said they would probably consider instituting charges for accounts that carry low balances or are used infrequently.”
International committee proposes new bank lending rules. US partially resists: “A committee writing new international financial standards has recommended strict new guidelines to restrain bank lending, an idea considered central to preventing the global financial system from overheating … Although U.S. officials say they agree with the overall aim of the recommendations … they are researching alternative ways to achieve the same end … The recommendations try to break [the bubble] cycle by forcing banks to hold more cash and other capital in reserve if credit grows too fast – a step that would raise banks’ costs and serve as an effective brake on lending.”