fresh voices from the front lines of change







Blue Dogs Struggle To Avoid Obstructionist Rep

Bloomberg captures the Blue Dog spin to appear constructive: "'I want the president to succeed but at the same time I don’t want our country to continue down the same road it has been going for the last eight years,' said Representative Charles Melancon, 61, a Louisiana Democrat and Blue Dog spokesman."

Bayh Bloc member Sen. Mark Begich contradicts himself during Rachel Maddow Show, regarding obstruction of global warming legislation:

MADDOW: But you have been meeting with the moderate Democrat caucus that has just been founded. Do you agree with the eight Democrats who say the Republicans should be able to filibuster the climate change legislation?

BEGICH: Well, no. And the issue on the filibuster ... I know they have overused it and abused it. And that`s been the problem. And I don`t think we should utilize the filibuster on major pieces of legislation such as climate change, energy, healthcare, many issues that are coming forward. But I didn`t sign [the letter opposing simple majority vote on climate change] because you want to keep some flexibility to get the legislation that I think this country is looking forward to.


MADDOW: Will you commit to supporting efforts to bring up important legislation under budget reconciliation rules even if other moderate Democrats try to stop that?

BEGICH: I`ll tell you, Rachel, the answer is probably no. I won`t commit either way on it at this point. I want to see what is coming forward. And plus, the way this system works, in three weeks, we`re going to be dealing with the budget.

Is that an adequate time to deal with a significant piece of legislation? I don`t think so. We have to make sure we do this right because we`re dealing with millions of people.

But I will tell you, I`m not closing the door either, you know. And I have made that clear, but that is where I stand now. It is not one I`m sure you are excited about. You want me to say this, deal with 51 and rock and roll. But the reality is, we`ve going to see what is coming forward.

DailyKos's BarbinMD on Blue Dog whining about attacks.

CBO will estimate budget at $2T, reports NPR. Expect Blue Dogs to howl, though note WH has challenged CBO's economic assumptions.

Blue Dogs Step Up Obstruction on Global Warming

House Blue Dogs release budget guidelines opposing simple majority vote on global warming. CongressDaily:

The fiscal 2010 budget resolution should hold nondefense domestic spending increases to the rate of inflation and reject using the budget reconciliation process to get around a Senate filibuster to pass a cap-and-trade program, according to budget principles released on Thursday by a group of 51 fiscally conservative House Democrats. Those guidelines were developed by members of the Blue Dog Coalition in an effort to influence the fiscal 2010 budget resolution, which the House and Senate Budget committees will consider next week...

...The group supports Obama's "very ambitious agenda," Rep. Allen Boyd, D-Fla., a Blue Dog leader and senior member of the Budget Committee, said on Wednesday. He added that Obama has entrusted Congress to adjust the budget to meet their mutually desired goals. One concern surrounds cap and trade, which the Blue Dogs contend pits regions of the country that have plentiful renewable resources against regions that produce traditional energy resources, such as coal. He said Blue Dogs oppose using reconciliation for cap-and-trade to ensure fairness. House and Senate Democratic leaders and the White House this week said it remains an option.

The Atlantic's Chris Good on WH reaction: "President Obama says he is confident that the House Democratic caucus will hold firm in support of his budget proposal but that he expects some concessions to be made. The fiscally conservative Blue Dog Democrats ... have announced some demands for the budget, which include a cap on non-defense discretionary spending and that future programs be deficit neutral. In a call-in interview with talk radio host Ed Schultz today, Obama said,' We have great confidence in the Democratic caucus holding together on the budget. It's not gonna be 100 percent of what I want, but all of us are going to have to make adjustments.' The 51 Blue Dogs probably can't defeat the budget, but it's the arena in which Obama wants to advance health care reform and cap and trade--the two biggest domestic policy initiatives for his first term in office. As a result, he'd likely prefer to have his party united behind it."

HuffPost's Ryan Grim notes GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham's support for cap-and-trade BUT he also joins Blue Dog position for a 60-vote super-majority, making likely any such bill will get watered down and rendered ineffective. Washington Independent's Jefferson Morley speculates the proposed budget move forced Graham's and McCain's hands: "There’s no way to prove that the threat of being excluded from cap-and-trade negotiations prompted McCain and Graham to act today. But the fact remains, they didn’t speak up until the threat was made."

Climate Progress: "Why the United States REQUIRES a strong climate bill to remain competitive, Part 1"

Ezra Klein on possible revenues from WH global warming strategy: "Apparently, White House economic adviser Jason Furman is telling Hill staffers that the administration's cap and trade plan might raise much more than the $646 billion they've projected in revenues. How much more? Two to three times that."

Progressive Breakfast

On Health Care, WH and House Dems Prepared To Blow Past Blue Dogs

W. Post on decision by House leaders to prepare for passing health care using budget rules that preclude filibusters:

House Democrats, in consultation with the White House, will give Republican lawmakers until September to reach a compromise on President Obama's signature health-care initiative -- otherwise, they will use a shortcut to move the measure through Congress without Republican votes. After meeting late Wednesday with senior White House officials, House Democratic leaders decided to include the shortcut in the budget proposal they will unveil next week, congressional sources said.

Known as budget reconciliation, the shortcut would permit lawmakers to roll Obama's health-care proposals into a bill that cannot be filibustered, meaning Democrats could push it through the Senate with 51 votes, instead of the usual 60...

...Senate Democrats have made no decisions about including reconciliation in their version of the budget bill. If they leave it out, as appeared likely, the two chambers would have to resolve the issue in a committee this spring...

...House Democrats have decided not to use the tactic for another Obama initiative: a proposal to tax greenhouse gas emissions, known as cap and trade.

Tom Daschle advocates for health care reform on outside, in W. Post oped: "...the biggest error those pundits made was in thinking that the debate over health-care reform would be decided by who occupies certain positions in Washington. It won't. It will be decided by the American people. And at the Forum on Health Reform, those voices were finally heard. In a report that was handed to President Obama, more than 30,000 Americans who volunteered to participate in local health-care discussions affirmed in their own words (available at what we've been seeing in polls and public meetings for a long time: The American people want major health-care reform now."

HuffPost's Roy Ulrich worries that Sen. Max Baucus won't stick up for a public insurance plan option.

Wonk Room's Igor Volsky busts top GOPers on Sen. Finance Cmte: "Grassley: Lying About Health Care Reform Is ‘The Only Way’ To Get People To Pay Attention"

Wolsky also smokes out obstructionist budget tricks by Sen. Conrad: "Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-ND), who has recently questioned the wisdom of investing more money into the health care system, is now warning the administration that he may confine the budget resolution to five years instead of ten ... Narrowing the budget window will be unhelpful towards enacting for health care reform. The administration has consistently argued that bending the curve on unsustainable health care spending requires an upfront investment in prevention, health information technology, comparative effectiveness research, and expanding access to the uninsured. Confining the budget resolution to just five years wouldn’t capture the long-term return on the investment and could jeopardize the effort."

Health Care for America Now's Jason Rosenbaum exposes weak credentials of health care reform opponents.

D-Day responds to Jonathan Cohn case for certain taxes on employee benefits to fund broader reform: "I think taxing all health care benefits would be wrong, but capping the amount excluded for the benefit of funding a plan that offers affordable care to the broadest number of people makes a good deal of sense, particularly if the cap was phased in progressively, and ultimately I think that's where Obama's team will fall on this. The budget does not provide the funds needed to enact reform, so no sacred cow can really come off the table at this point."

House Votes To Tax Obscene Bonuses

W. Post plays up bailout concerns: "In February, after Congress imposed restrictions on compensation for senior executives at companies that accepted federal aid, several banks asked the Treasury Department for permission to return the government's investment. The much broader restrictions now being considered by Congress could add urgency to that exodus. ... Some banks that received government money don't need it. Others cannot afford to return it. The vast majority of aid recipients, however, fall in a middle category: They can afford to return the money, but they would be significantly weakened, restricting their lending. Officials fear that if the healthiest banks begin to return the money, weak banks will be forced to follow."

Dean Baker doesn't buy it: "This one is pretty straightforward. If banks lack capital, then they can't make loans. Banks make money (i.e. compete) by making loans. When the banks take bailout funds, they are not performing a public service, they are getting access to capital at a lower cost than they would pay in the private sector. If banks have ample access to capital in the private sector, then there is no reason for the government to force them to take public money. On the other hand, if the banks don't have access to private capital, then they need the public money to compete. This obvious fact never appeared in this front page article."

OpenLeft's Chris Bowers sees WH support for bonus tax. BUT WSJ reports WH is wary: "President Barack Obama issued a statement that aides said was intentionally lukewarm. In it, he said the House vote 'rightly reflects the outrage that so many feel' over the bonuses, but it didn't mention the substance of the bill. ... But privately, there's concern within the Obama administration that the angry political atmosphere now surrounding the federal bailout program will scare away private participants the government needs to help bolster the financial system."

Bloomberg has the TALF update: "The Federal Reserve’s effort to unfreeze markets for securities backed by loans kicked off with requests for $4.7 billion of financing, a total that officials hope will surge to as much as $1 trillion after investors resolve contract terms with dealers and other concerns."

The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder on toxic asset timing: "An administration offiicial says that the Department of Treasury is on track to roll out its plan to remove toxic assets off of distressed bank ledgers early next week. Originally, that plan was slated for a Friday roll-out; it's been postponed; it's not clear whether the news about AIG intervened here."

NYT on auto rescue developments: "The Obama administration signaled its intent Thursday to provide broad relief to the American auto industry with the creation of a $5 billion fund to aid troubled parts suppliers. The financing from the Treasury Department for suppliers is the initial step by a presidential task force to stabilize the ailing industry, and could be followed by more bailout money for General Motors and Chrysler. One industry analyst said the program could mean members of the task force want to keep the automakers solvent and operating without the disruption of bankruptcy filings ... Assistance to G.M. and Chrysler may come in stages, rather than in a single aid package, administration officials said Thursday."

Stimulus Watch

Stateline reports stimulus is being implemented in record speed, with unprecedented accountability measures:

Congress and the Obama administration appear to have avoided at least one pitfall of previous economic stimulus packages: sending funds to states too late to help ...

...Federal funds are already flowing to states. The Obama administration this month announced: $8.4 billion for states to fix and build public transportation; $2 billion in funding allocations for state and local law enforcement; $44 billion in education funding to prevent cuts in education and teacher layoffs; and the first installment of $165 million to help states provide more funding in food stamps.

But Congress didn’t write states a blank check, fixing what some experts say was a flaw of anti-recession programs in the 1970s that gave aid to states with no strings attached. Studies later showed the unrestricted aid got delayed in bureaucratic wrangling...

...States also are under unprecedented scrutiny to show they are spending the money wisely – another difference from previous packages that made it difficult, if not impossible, to track how the states used the funds.

W. Post profiles stimulus watchdog, who emphasizes the size of challenge: "For Devaney, 61, the challenge is without modern precedent. He is tracking a sum nearly 70 times the size of Interior's annual discretionary budget. The funds are being funneled quickly to thousands of programs. The stimulus is so awesome in size, scope and speed, Devaney said, that fraud is inevitable. 'Logic would suggest there's going to be a loss of money to fraud and waste with this amount of money going around,' said Devaney, who chairs the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board -- or RAT Board, as it is affectionately known. 'This is huge. I've been involved in building and fixing things in the past, but quite frankly I've never built something this big.'" MyDD's Texas Nate shares concerns.

Breakfast Sides

FiveThirtyEight's Sean Quinn on this weekend's "Pledge Project" by Organizing For America in support of Obama's budget: "Field edge is gained and maintained with constantly refined lists. It may seem silly, given that the campaign only ended four and a half months ago, but keep in mind that people move, people change registration, new voters hit 18, people change their minds about who they support... you simply cannot let a list sit for any length of time or it becomes unhelpful. The Pledge is a person-to-person high value touch. There is persuasion involved in this effort, as volunteers are encouraged to share their personal stories as a way of gathering signatures."

Commerce Sec. nominee Locke embraces "fair trade:" OpenLeft's Sirota: "We still don't know the policy implications of Gary Locke taking the helm of the Commerce Department, but this initial declaration by him is a good sign."

Tapped's Tim Fernholz says new congresspeople shouldn't fret over backing EFCA: "Despite the intense debate over the bill here in Washington, when it comes down to voting time, it seems that most people don't make their final choices based on labor policy, in part, I'd imagine, because of low union density. But it's not clear from recent events that support of EFCA will lead to an elected official losing their seat, even in contested states."

TPMDC's Elana Schor on mass transit plans: "During the debate over mass-transit funding in the stimulus bill, TPMDC highlighted the puzzling disconnect between the Obama administration's calls for investment in sustainable transportation and its low level of actual money to modernize the system. Now that modernization debate has moved into its next phase, with Congress poised to take up its five-year transportation authorization bill later this spring. The prospect of kick-starting a true greening of U.S. transportation policy has prompted lawmakers to introduce two bills that form a progressive marker for that coming debate."

Terrance Heath contributed to the making of this Breakfast

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