By Bill Scher
March 29, 2012 - 7:10am ET
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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: House Republicans Fiddle While Bridges Crumble
OurFuture.org's Isaiah Poole: "There is a real possibility that, because of this impasse, federal funding for transportation projects would abruptly stop at the end of this week ... The Senate has passed a two-year, $109 billion bill that, while imperfect, buys Congress time to tackle the long-term issues that need to be faced about what our future transportation policy should look like and how we should pay for it. House Republicans have proven themselves so far incapable of uniting around a way forward on these key questions, caught as they are between an ideological bloc that wants to use the transportation bill to push the fossil fuel lobby's agenda for oil drilling and coal burning, and small-government ideologues who want to offload national transportation responsibilities onto the states and the private sector ... House Republicans should be forced to answer this question: Is it more important to defeat President Obama, or is it more important to get the economy moving?"
Final Day Of Court Hearing Puts Target On Medicaid
Conservatives openly entertain deemed Medicaid expansion unconstitutional. TPM: "The law’s challengers claim that the health care law’s Medicaid expansion is coercive because states that refuse to adhere to it will lose all of their Medicaid funding. Their reluctance persists even though the federal government will cover nearly the entire cost. The program is so entrenched, that at this point states are captive to it, and can’t turn down any new federal restrictions on the program ... If the court determines that the new conditions imposed by the health care law are coercive to the states and therefore violate the 10th Amendment, it will at the very least call into question future congressional attempts to modify or enhance other programs the states run with the help of federal funds."
Conservatives justices showed their activism, says NY Mag's Jonathan Chait: "The spectacle before the Supreme Court this week is Republican justices seizing the chance to overturn the decisions of democratically-elected bodies. At times the deliberations of the Republican justices are impossible to distinguish from the deliberations of Republican senators. They are litigating the problem of adverse selection, and doing it very poorly ... [Scalia] is gleefully reversing his previous interpretation of the Commerce Clause, now that it is being deployed against big government liberals rather than pot smokers."
Conservative justices pursuit of a "limiting principle" for Commerce Clause is not in the Constitution. W. Post's Jonathan Bernstein: "This whole discussion is rooted in a Tea Party or libertarian version of the Constitution that’s hogwash. The Constitution of the United States was not written to limit government ... What the Framers developed was a democracy, and it’s in the democratic process that we decide what government should and shouldn’t do — and can and can’t do ... The group who needs a limiting principle, it seems to me, are the Court’s conservatives..."
American Prospect Garrett Epps frets: "...it seemed possible the majority, out of sheer punchiness, might gut the Commerce Clause and the Spending Clause in one case, hurtling us into a new world where Congress cannot regulate commerce, can’t fund conditional programs, and maybe can’t even reduce present funding levels to the states."
Complex debate over how much could be overturned could shift support towards upholding the law, observes SCOTUSBlog's Lyle Denniston: "The Supreme Court spent 91 minutes Wednesday operating on the assumption that it would strike down the key feature of the new health care law, but may have convinced itself in the end not to do that because of just how hard it would be to decide what to do after that."
Justices will take secret, preliminary vote today. Bloomberg: "That meeting may be just the beginning of the wrangling. The justices at times shift their positions after they take that initial vote. Kennedy, in particular, 'has been known to change his mind' after reading opinion drafts ... the public’s standpoint, the case will enter a quiet period until the justices release their decision, probably at the end of June."
Chief Justice Roberts' legacy is on the line, argues Politico's Jeffrey Rosen: "If Roberts presides over a court that strikes down health care reform by a 5-4 vote, his ambition of transcending politics on the Supreme Court will have to be judged a failure. If, by contrast, Roberts can find a way of helping his conservative colleagues to overcome their political convictions and uphold health care reform on narrow grounds, even his critics will have to admit that he has achieved a real success."
Construction Shutdown Looms
House GOP will try passing 90-day extension of Highway Trust Fund to prevent construction shutdown. The Hill: "It signals Republicans plan to pass their extension with just GOP votes, if necessary, and put pressure on the Democratically controlled Senate to accept it before it leaves town. A Rules Committee-approved floor vote on the bill could come as early as Thursday ... Democrats in the House are persisting in their efforts to bring the [2-year] Senate transportation bill to the lower chamber, however, petitioning the House Rules Committee to allow them to offer a substitute amendment containing the Senate version."
Senate leaders pressing House to accept their bipartisan bill. HuffPost: "'Should we reach March 31 without passing a bill, states' contract authority for construction projects will cease; 2.9 million jobs will be put at great risk,' warned Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.)."
Simpson-Bowles Goes Bust In House
Simpson-Bowles-style deficit reduction plan loses big in House vote. Politico: "...just 38 members —22 Democrats and 16 Republicans — voted for the package while 382 lined up in opposition ... [Co-sponsors] Cooper and LaTourette will now have to deal with the question of whether they hurt their cause by pushing for a recorded vote without more support to back them up."
Ryan budget expected to clear House today. The Hill: "Dozens of Republicans clearly prefer deeper cuts than Ryan has served up ... While Republicans are confident they have the votes to pass the Ryan budget, they acknowledge there will be more defections this time around ... Before voting on the Ryan plan Thursday, the House will have to dispose of three budget alternatives [including] budgets ... from Budget Committee ranking member Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and the Progressive Caucus..."
Romney finds story of his father closing down a factory "humorous." NYT: "Mitt Romney opened a 'tele-town hall' with Wisconsin voters on Wednesday afternoon with what he described as a 'humorous' story highlighting his connections to the state. But not everyone found the story, about his father closing a Michigan factory, quite so funny."
New report shows success in creating green jobs. Alternet: "..., the Pacific Coast Collaborative unveiled the results of a study it commissioned that found the region supports 508,000 clean economy jobs, or about three percent of the regional workforce ... the three states and British Columbia could triple the number of clean economy jobs to 1.5 million by 2020, if they synchronize renewable power and clean car mandates and green building codes, and pour similar higher levels of investment into the sector."
"Is Dodd-Frank being rolled back while no one is looking?" asks W. Post's Suzy Khimm: "...the House passed two little-noticed bills that changed the derivatives rules under the Dodd-Frank Act. Both bills would place new limitations on regulating derivatives ... By exempting end-users from margin requirements, corporations and Main Street firms could make bigger, riskier trades using derivative swaps, as they won’t be required to have cash reserves on hand in case the deals went bad."
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