Each morning, Bill Scher and Terrance Heath serve up what progressives need to effect change on the kitchen-table issues families face: jobs, health care, green energy, financial reform, affordable education and retirement security.
MORNING MESSAGE: Backstabbing Unions? Cutting Jobs? Today, We Stop The Insanity.
OurFuture.org’s Bill Scher: “… the debate in Washington, and in certain statehouses taken over by grandstanding conservative governors, has literally nothing to do with how to solve the jobs crisis. Today, we plan to change that, at the Summit on Jobs & America’s Future.”
WI Senate Breaks Law To Break Union
Wisconsin Republicans use legally questionable moves to ram through anti-union bill. Wisconsin State Journal: “After the session, Senate Republicans scattered, leaving no one to explain how they managed to pass components of the bill that seemed to have a fiscal impact, including changes in pensions and benefits, without the 20 senators needed to vote on fiscal matters … Typically, 24 hours’ notice is required for a public meeting. There are exceptions, but it was not clear Wednesday that the conference committee met those standards … Walker and Republican leaders have repeatedly said that collective bargaining is a budgetary issue and as such, they would not strip fiscal components from the measure.”
WI AFL-CIO holding major rally at 9 AM CT reports WisPolitics.com.
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka to keynote “Summit for Jobs & America’s Future” in Washington today at 10:45 AM in the National Press Club.
FireDogLake’s David Dayen explains how the battle is not over: “There are going to be a number of legal challenges to this bill. It will not be implemented right away … The matchup between David Prosser (R) and JoAnn Kloppenberg (D) for the state Supreme Court on April 5 just got very interesting. It’s a statewide vote, and the balance of power on the state Supreme Court is at stake … This will only energize progressives and labor to get the required signatures for recalls. All 8 Republicans eligible for recall voted to strip public employee unions of their rights …”
Idaho follows suit. Daily Kos’ Joan McCarter: “The bill phases out tenure for new teachers, putting all teachers on one- to two-year contracts. It strips seniority as a factor in determining layoffs, limits teachers’ collective bargaining for salaries and benefits and entirely removes negotiations over issues like class size and workload … public outcry has been loud and overwhelming…”
Washington Dems could learn something from Wisconsin Dems, argues E.J. Dionne: “Washington Democrats, including President Obama, have allowed conservative Republicans to dominate the budget debate so far … In Wisconsin, by contrast, 14 Democrats in the state Senate defined the political argument on their own terms – and they are winning it … in using questionable tactics to force the antiunion provision through the Senate on Wednesday, Republicans may win a procedural round but lose further ground in public opinion.”
Gov. Christie lies a lot about unions, finds the NYT: “New Jersey’s public-sector unions routinely pressure the State Legislature to give them what they fail to win in contract talks. Most government workers pay nothing for health insurance. Concessions by school employees would have prevented any cuts in school programs last year. Statements like those are at the core of Gov. Chris Christie’s campaign to cut state spending by getting tougher on unions. They are not, however, accurate.”
Competing Spending Cut Bills Fail In Senate
No defections to the other side in Senate budget votes. Politico: “The failure [by Republicans] to pick up any Democrats—just months after November’s losses—was most telling … Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who was most outspoken in her criticism of the [House GOP] bill, ultimately fell in line in tandem with two other New England Republicans facing election next year … On the right, conservative Sens. Rep. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Mike Lee of Utah, two freshmen elected in November with tea party support, joined with Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) to vote no as a protest that the cuts did not go far enough … On the left, liberals like Vermont Independent Bernard Sanders and Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) opposed the Democratic alternative—and each has complained that more attention should be given to revenues.”
GOP hits Dems for lack of unity on their own bill, to push for deeper cuts. The Hill quotes Speaker spokesman: “Eleven Senate Democrats just voted against their leadership’s proposal … The bill supported by Sen. Reid … proved less popular than the ‘draconian’ House Republican proposal in the Democrat-controlled Senate … [But n]ot all of the Democrats who voted against their party’s measure want their leaders to agree to deeper spending cuts [and] Republican centrists voted for the House GOP proposal despite their misgivings.”
Tea Party GOPers resist any compromise. Bloomberg: “The party should stand behind its plan even if a failure to pass a bipartisan bill results in a government shutdown, Republican Representative Allen West of Florida said yesterday.”
Senate Dems look to widen the scope of budget areas to put on the table, reports Politico: “Reid, who met later with House Democratic leaders, appears open to broadening the discussion now to look beyond appropriations and include tax reform provisions or savings from mandatory programs, such as farm subsidies, for example … That’s very likely a non-starter for many House Republicans, who want to keep a single-minded focus on rolling back domestic and foreign aid appropriations to the levels seen in the last year of the Bush administration.”
Some Dems even thinking about bringing long-term deficit reduction into the negotiations, but perhaps not Social Security. Time: “…Dems argue, why not roll all three pieces – short-term cuts, long-term deficit reduction and the vote on the debt ceiling – together into one vote, thus limiting the number of opportunities Republicans will have to take a chainsaw to the budget? Republicans have balked at this idea and would prefer to do each one at a time … The biggest hurdle for the Democratic plan may be Social Security … Republicans say Social Security must be part of the equation … [But] Obama lost seniors in 2008 by 8 points … And now Obama’s political team and congressional Democrats worry that messing with Social Security … right before the 2012 election could cede further ground.”
“Senior White House officials joined GOP leaders in questioning the practicality of that approach,” reports W. Post: “‘I don’t think that anyone thinks between now and March 18 we will resolve entitlement reform, tax expenditures and all the other issues that go into a much bigger deal,’ White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters.”
Sen. Chuck Schumer tries putting millionaires tax back on table. Wonk Room’s Pat Garofalo: “…Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) presented an alternative to the House Republicans’ slash-and-burn approach to budgeting in a speech at the Center for American Progress Action Fund … Schumer revived his proposal from last year to institute a surtax on millionaires and billionaires … [He] promoted closing the tax gap by cracking down on tax dodging and income sheltering by big corporations … Schumer also pushed back hard on the notion that Social Security cuts should be a part of deficit reduction.”
Dems paints GOP cuts as hurting seniors. THe Hill: “The Obama administration [warned] that millions of seniors could see their Medicare payments blocked under the House GOP plan. Seniors could also see Social Security payments delayed … GOP efforts to starve the healthcare reform law of implementation funds would prevent Medicare from paying popular private Medicare Advantage insurance plans and would force the agency to rewrite reimbursement rates, which could take months … Social Security Administration (SSA) Commissioner Michael Astrue testified that the House GOP’s spending bill would prevent his agency from eliminating a backlog in disability payments…”
House Dems offer finding budget cuts to offset cost of aid to 99ers reports HuffPost.
Republicans deal with lack of jobs bills, by holding a forum with corporate executives.” NYT: “Republicans have also invited executives of both small and large businesses to come to the Capitol and to participate via teleconference next Wednesday … Cantor said the idea was to solicit suggestions on removing what Republicans see as governmental barriers to job creation and taking aggressive steps to bolster the business sector.”
GOP Looks To Punish Companies That Want To Stop Climate Crisis
GOPers look to punish power companies that support action on greenhouse gas emissions. Politico: “Several House Energy and Commerce Committee Republicans and industry lobbyists are pushing for a ‘Ratepayer Protection Act,’ a measure that would limit utilities’ ability to pass along costs to consumers … The discussions come after POLITICO last week reported that several top utility CEOs weren’t thrilled with a draft bill from Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) to preempt the EPA on climate change…”
GOPers falsely claiming new EPA rules on carbon emissions will raise gas prices. The Hill: “…their claims about the degree to which prices will rise are rooted in an industry-commissioned study of cap-and-trade legislation that died in the last Congress — not an analysis of rules that EPA is moving ahead with under its existing powers … [Rep. Henry] Waxman, however, notes the comparisons are far from apples-to-apples. ‘[Under last year's bill,] gasoline prices were only expected to increase less than 2 cents per year. EPA’s modest energy-efficiency requirements simply don’t apply to existing refineries that aren’t making major capital investments and increasing their pollution, and for the few facilities they cover, they may well produce cost savings,’ he said.”
Oil-state Dem Rep. Gene Green working on legislation to block EPA on climate. The Hill: “He said he was approached in January by [GOP Rep. Fred] Upton and former House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Joe Barton (R-Texas) to support a permanent delay, but declined .. Green said his legislation would delay climate rules ‘for a number of years,’ though he has not yet determined the exact length of the freeze.”
Maine gets HHS waiver regarding limits on profiteering. Bloomberg: “Maine received a three-year waiver of federal rules, contained in the 2010 health-care law, that require insurers to spend at least 80 percent of premiums on patient care … Kentucky, Nevada and New Hampshire also have applied for changes to the 80 percent rule. The federal government is reviewing the applications … Maine Insurance Commissioner Mila Kofman requested the exemption from the 80 percent rule after HealthMarkets threatened to stop selling individual policies in Maine.”
Conservatives falsely accuse HHS of doling out special waivers to unions. Wonk Room’s Igor Volsky: “…the ever expanding list of waivers would lead one to dismiss the argument that the agency is a top-down ideologically driven institution that’s interested in imposing its own version of health reform on employers and states regardless of consequences. Quite the opposite. In heeding the concerns of employers and giving plans more time to adjust to the new regulations and limit any coverage disruption, HHS is displaying a degree of flexibility that’s necessary in any mass scale implementation.”
Republicans proposed foreclosure fraud settlement as too hard on banks. LAT: “Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) also on Wednesday blasted efforts by the state attorneys general and the Obama administration, calling them a ‘regulatory shakedown.’ House Republicans sent Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner a letter asking him to explain the government’s legal justification for trying to impose sweeping changes on the way banks process problem loans…”