Progressive Breakfast for May 21

Morning Message

URGENT – Senate Debating Fast Track Now: Call Your Senators

If you are following the trade debate over fast track and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), then you know that the votes are being rushed through the Senate with very little debate. Call your senators today and tell them to support critical amendments and to vote against fast track. There is no reason that our Congress should pre-approve a massive trade agreement that the public is not allowed to see. If senators know people are paying attention it makes a difference. The game now is all about pushing fast track through before the public can rally to stop it. That’s why the Senate Republican leadership is trying to get the vote done before the Memorial Day recess.

NSA Talkathon May Upend Fast Track

Sen. Rand Paul’s marathon speech on NSA complicates fast track vote. Politico: “A vote on the trade bill is locked in on Thursday, though Senate Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said Paul’s theatrical speech ‘doesn’t help us on trade, I’ll put it that way.’ Paul’s speech prevents trade amendment votes from taking place, for example … Asked if Paul could hurt his efforts to reach a long-sought deal on trade amendments, Hatch responded: ‘I can think of some ways I can get around that.'”

Senate will need unanimous agreements to proceed quickly. The Hill: “Paul’s move will require McConnell to get a series of unanimous-consent agreements if he is to stick to his timeline of passing fast-track and an extension of the Patriot Act this week. Any one senator can block such an agreement, and there are many who feel strongly about trade and the nation’s spying powers. Senate officials say there is a chance proceedings could extend well into the holiday weekend.”

TPP may not address steel dumping. HuffPost: “Without an amendment to the [fast track] bill ensuring stricter enforcement against steel dumping, [Sen. Sherrod] Brown argues, the unfair trading practices plaguing the U.S. steel industry will continue.”

W. Post’s Harold Meyerson challenges TPP claim it would keep China in check: “Of all the developments that led to the increase in China’s power and the diminution of ours, the one that definitively did both was Congress’s enactment of permanent normal trade relations with China in 2000 … So a trade deal benefiting U.S. investors at the expense of U.S. workers created the rise in Chinese power, and now, we’re told, a trade deal benefiting U.S. investors at the expense of U.S. workers will help us keep Chinese power in check.”

House-Senate Split On Repatriation

Senate GOP less interested than House GOP in repatriation-transportation deal. Politico: “House Republican leaders … are eyeing a massive tax reform-transportation package that taps $2 trillion in corporate profits parked offshore as a way to cover the costs … But tax-minded Republicans, like Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch of Utah and Ways and Means Chairman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, aren’t keen on using the money to cover the shortfall in the highway trust fund. They’ve got much grander goals — like using the money to lower rates in a business tax code rewrite.”

Sen. Thomas Carper floats gas tax compromise. Roll Call: “A solution Sen. Thomas R. Carper, D-Del., is promoting to try to rally support from both parties for the tax increase is to pair it with a more generous earned income tax credit, or EITC, which would benefit those same lower-income Americans. But his effort faces resistance from Republican leaders.”

Senate Banking Committee Proposes Dodd-Frank Rollback

GOP bank bill is a “$66 billion gift for U.S. banks” says Bloomberg: “A U.S. Senate proposal to raise the level at which banks are deemed systemically important could help free up as much as $66 billion in capital at 11 lenders and allow for increased shareholder payouts. If lawmakers approve the most extensive rewrite of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act, it would remove an obstacle to returning capital for firms such as American Express … and Capital One …”

“Moderate Dems to oppose” reports The Hill: “Sources close to Sens. Mark Warner (D-Va.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Jon Tester (D-Mont.) each said that the four moderate members of the panel are planning to vote against [Sen. Richard] Shelby’s proposal [which] It would ease regulations on smaller banks and credit unions, while also seeking to make structural changes at the Federal Reserve to increase transparency.”

Banks Slapped With Felonies, But No Jail Time

Latest settlement turns banks into convicted felons. Bloomberg: “The criminal admissions by five banks including Citigroup Inc. and JPMorgan Chase & Co. … barely registered in markets … The Securities and Exchange Commission helped ensure the pleas wouldn’t hurt banks’ businesses [by giving] the banks the permission they needed to keep managing mutual funds and issuing certain securities.”

But no individuals face criminal charges in settlement. The Hill: “Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) criticized the new settlement hours after the Justice Department hailed its historic nature — specifically that no individual bank employees faced criminal charges … The banks will pay the Justice Department and the Federal Reserve a total of $5.7 billion in criminal penalties …”