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Senate Finance Takes Up 564 Amendments Tuesday

NYT frames Senate Finance health care debate as all about Sen. Snowe: " Republican, Senator Olympia J. Snowe of Maine, wants important changes but appears ready to get behind it, provided Mr. Baucus can keep his fellow Democrats in line. For Mr. Baucus, the challenge will be to stop his fellow Democrats — they outnumber Republicans 13 to 10 — from shifting the bill so hard to the left that they chase away Ms. Snowe ... Consider Ms. Snowe’s most important amendment: to trigger the creation of a government-sponsored insurance plan in any state that fails to provide affordable insurance to 95 percent of residents. Mr. Baucus will have to fend off powerful Democrats, including Senators John D. Rockefeller IV of West Virginia and Charles E. Schumer of New York, who want to create the public plan from the outset."'s Tim Foley is "focusing on the financing amendments: "...even more so than whether there’s a public option or not (Schumer and Rockefeller), whether the Exchange is open to more or fewer people (Wyden), or whether the level of coverage for the Exchange will be cut even more (any Republican Senator not from Maine), the real controversy of health care reform is how are you going to pay for it. I’ve already written that Baucus’ financing scheme of a 35% excise tax on the most expensive insurance plans combined with fees on the industry is barely tolerable, albeit lame, and hitting an ever-increasing percentage of the middle class each year. But who out there is submitting a better idea? ... Real kudos go to Sen. Tom Carper ... He wants to eliminate the excise tax of 35% on health insurance plans however he can, including one amendment that would replace it with a mandatory cap on medical inflation ... another amendment to replace it with a cap on the current tax exclusion for employer-sponsored benefits – Baucus’ original and superior idea; and another to replace it with a combination of that cap and by capping itemized deductions for the wealthy at 35%."

NYT airs concerns about Baucus insurance tax: "...the tax is intended to discourage the overly generous coverage that many experts say has helped propel the country’s reckless spending on medical care. As it turns out, though, many smaller fish would get caught in Mr. Baucus’s tax net. The supposedly Cadillac insurance policies include ones that cover many of the nation’s firefighters and coal miners, older employees at small businesses — a whole gamut that runs from union shops to Main Street entrepreneurs ... On Sunday, President Obama said he saw the need to protect union members, but he also defended the tax." Politico also covers Dem vs. Dem friction over insurance tax.

Wonk Room's Igor Volsky breaks down the key amendments into three categories: Helpful, Political and Dubious.

Obama To Deliver Climate Speech at UN Tuesday

WH emphasizing global warming this week. LAT: "President Obama is about to shift the White House spotlight to global warming -- first with a speech to the United Nations in New York on Tuesday, then later in the week at the G-20 economic conference in Pittsburgh ... there is concern that negotiations leading up to [the December talks in] Copenhagen could be bogging down. Obama administration officials, while admitting the seriousness of the challenges, hold out hope for a deal."

Grist's Emily Gertz less sure of WH focus: "While climate is not formally on the G20’s agenda, some are hoping that President Obama will come off his speech at the New York event ready to signal to other world leaders that the U.S. will lead on forging a strong replacement to the Kyoto Protocol treaty to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, which expires in 2013. Its successor is supposed to be largely finalized at December’s global-warming talks. How likely is Obama to do that? As the Magic 8-Ball might say, 'Reply hazy; try again.' ... On the international negotiating front ... the Obama administration may be hamstrung by sluggish Senate progress on passing climate legislation."

European leaders vent to NYT about US inaction: "Officials of several European countries have cited what they see as a lack of political will on the part of the United States to adequately address climate change. The American reluctance to accept any agreement that would require legally binding and internationally enforceable targets for reductions in greenhouse gas emissions could doom the Copenhagen session, they said."

Cap-and-trade popular in key Blue Dog districts. The Plum Line: "It’s become a Beltway article of faith that Blue Dog and conservative Dems have to tread really carefully on health care because their vote on cap and trade earlier this year was tremendously risky in so-called 'marginal' districts. But is this really true? I’ve obtained a new poll done for the Environmental Defense Fund which found that in three conserva-Dem districts, backing cap and trade vote may not be a huge risk, after all."

Politico reports Lieberman looking to deal with Republicans on Senate climate bill: "...the Connecticut independent is trying to get Republicans and moderate Democrats on board by adding money for coal power and nuclear plants ... Lieberman’s staff has been meeting quietly with staffers for more than a dozen senators on both sides of the aisle [including] McCain and Sen. Lindsay Graham of South Carolina ... Sens. George Voinovich of Ohio, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Richard Burr of North Carolina ... some [of those Republicans] say that increasing support for nuclear power is unlikely to be enough to win their votes."

ABC busts Mitt Romney peddling phony cost figure inflating the price of the House climate bill.

More and more businesses breaking from Chamber of Commerce over global warming. W. Post: "On Monday, the Carbon Disclosure Project is set to release a report surveying the climate policies of the majority of the S&P 500, in which 52 percent of respondents said they've set emissions-reduction targets for the companies, compared with 32 percent last year. Many of these groups also see global warming as a threat to their bottom lines -- including 84 percent of financial-sector respondents -- citing concerns including a potential shortage of raw materials and supply-chain disruptions because of severe weather ... a number of companies have split with the chamber to back the House bill and are taking steps to curb their own carbon footprints."

G-20 Set To Meet In Pittsburgh Thursday

Global financial regulation on the table. Bloomberg: "President Barack Obama and his Group of 20 counterparts convene in Pittsburgh on Sept. 24-25 to cement a plan to force banks to curb leverage, hold more equity capital and keep a greater pool of assets that can be easily traded. Restraining bankers’ pay and narrowing imbalances in trade and savings will also feature on the agenda as officials try to hammer out an accord to prevent a repeat of the worst crisis since the Great Depression and ensure a sustained recovery. By limiting the scope of banks to invest and trade, governments may check this year’s 22 percent gain in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Financial Index. That may be a price they’re willing to pay to prevent a repeat of the risk-taking that sparked the collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. a year ago, a worldwide recession and taxpayer-funded bank rescues."'s Eric Lotke discusses new report timed to impact talks: "Two lessons from Pittsburgh are important for the United States and the G-20 Summit ... We tried over the past thirty years to replace goods-producing jobs (down 54 percent) with service-providing jobs (up 34 percent). It hasn’t worked so well ... Many countries find it appropriate to enact protectionist and mercantilist polices to their individual advantage ... As a result, steel manufactured in Pittsburgh is competing against steel manufactured in China with devalued currency, government subsidies, deeply suppressed labor rights, and lower (cheaper) environmental and safety standards."

Financial Reform Tests Dem Caucus

Blue Dogs seek to block creation of consumer protection agency. Politico: "Blue Dogs and other conservative Democrats — uneasy with a key element of President Barack Obama’s plan to regulate Wall Street — are rallying around an alternative proposal that scraps the consumer financial protection agency the president has been pushing. Rep. Walt Minnick, a freshman Democrat from Idaho, has floated the new plan. Instead of creating a new federal agency to protect consumers from predatory financial firms and shoddy products, Minnick’s plan would have existing state and federal regulators work together in a 'consumer financial protection council.'"

Dodd parts with Obama on empowering Fed: "Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd’s plan for a single bank regulator may set up a fight with House colleague Barney Frank and the Obama administration and might slow the overhaul of financial rules. Dodd, leading efforts to rewrite regulations, will suggest combining the Federal Reserve, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., the Office of Thrift Supervision and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency into one agency ... Dodd’s plan embraces ideas of Democratic Senators Charles Schumer of New York and Mark Warner of Virginia and has elements from measures introduced by House Republicans ... Obama in June recommended combining OCC, regulator of national banks including New York-based Citigroup Inc., and OTS, which regulates savings and loans including Paramus, New Jersey- based Hudson City Bancorp Inc.. His proposal leaves intact oversight powers of the Fed and FDIC ... Stripping the Fed and FDIC of their oversight powers would be 'a big mistake,' Frank said. Representative Spencer Bachus of Alabama, top Republican on the Financial Services panel, has proposed consolidation as a step to reduce duplication and avoid the separate Consumer Financial Protection Agency proposed by Obama."

Fed reportedly pushes back on Treasury attempt to open the books. Bloomberg: The Federal Reserve Board has rejected a request by U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner for a public review of the central bank’s structure and governance, three people familiar with the matter said. The Obama administration proposed on June 17 a financial- regulatory overhaul including a 'comprehensive review' of the Fed’s “ability to accomplish its existing and proposed functions” .. Some top central bank officials, after agreeing to the review, saw a potential threat to Fed independence after the Treasury released the proposal, two of the people said...”

Dems debate different approaches to stop excessive overdraft fees. W. Post: "The Federal Reserve has now proposed a new requirement that banks must sign up customers for overdraft programs. That is the minimum standard under consideration by Dodd's staff. The House bill, authored by Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), would require banks to obtain permission from customers before each overdraft loan, but Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, said he considered that idea unwieldy. Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) also favors a requirement making the fee proportional to the amount of the loan. The fate of the bill is intertwined with the broader debate over financial reform. Frank said new rules clearly were necessary, but if Congress voted to create a new consumer protection agency, it could write the rules. If the banking industry succeeds in its opposition to the new agency, he said, he would favor a strong overdraft bill."

Execs try to diffuse outcry for new pay rules. WSJ: "A group of blue-chip companies is lining up behind efforts to voluntarily change their pay practices, in part to head off potentially more onerous restrictions out of Washington. The Conference Board, a nonprofit business-research group, is set to announce Monday that companies including AT&T Inc., Cisco Systems Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co. and Tyco International Ltd., are endorsing a set of principles that hew closely to what the Obama administration is pushing, including tying pay to performance and reducing short-term financial incentives ... The Conference Board report stops short of endorsing so-called "say on pay" legislation, which would give shareholders a nonbinding vote on executive pay packages. The House recently passed legislation requiring such shareholder votes and the administration is pushing for the Senate to take up similar legislation this fall."

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