fresh voices from the front lines of change







Each morning, Bill Scher and Terrance Heath serve up what progressives need to affect change on the kitchen-table issues families face: jobs, health care, green energy, financial reform, affordable education and retirement security.

How Small Is The Senate Jobs Bill?

Senate to unveil jobs package today, refrain from specifying size. Reuters: "The package will include tax credits to spur hiring and equipment purchases, along with incentives for states to ramp up construction projects ... It could also extend soon-to-expire programs that provide unemployment aid and healthcare subsidies for the jobless ... the Senate's bill is not likely to carry as steep a price tag as a $155 billion package passed by the House ... Instead, the Senate is likely to pass several smaller, more targeted measures ... The first could come up for a vote next week ... A price tag has not been set because the bill could change substantially when it comes up for a vote..."

Myopic conservaDems make passing a bold jobs bill extremely difficult. Washington Independent: "Not only are Senate Republicans balking at early proposals ... but moderate Democrats in both chambers ... have grown wary of big spending bills, fearing that support for such measures could haunt them on the campaign trail this year. As a result, Democrats are under pressure to scale down their jobs bills at the same time leading economists warn that the severity of the unemployment crisis demands a much larger package."

Senate Republicans make demands for even allowing a vote on a jobs bill. CQ: "Republicans want two binding commitments from Democrats regarding the process for considering a jobs-focused bill, a senior Senate GOP aide said. First, they want Democrats to pledge to call up estate tax legislation in a timely manner. Second, the aide said, any bipartisan tax package must be kept separate from spending provisions that Democratic Whip Richard J. Durbin of Illinois and Byron L. Dorgan, D-N.D., have been pulling together."

Campaign for Americas' Future continues grassroots effort to press Senate for a real jobs bill.

After with the Vice-President, W. Post's E.J. Dionne's sees potential in patriotic argument for public investment: "Transforming a listless national argument about the stimulus and health care into a larger debate over how to maintain American preeminence is both audacious and useful."

President today to lay out strategy to double exports. AFP: "China and India are obviously among the top markets to be tapped ... The Obama administration believes that as a number of key markets around the world recovered more quickly than the United States from recession, exports to these countries will create good American jobs at home."

Treasury to help small banks fund community development. W. Post: "The Treasury Department said Wednesday that it will offer up to $1 billion in low-cost loans to banks that focus on funding development in lower-income communities ... The government will offer loans to about 60 banks and 150 credit unions that are certified as community development financial institutions. The loans will carry an interest rate of 2 percent, less than the 5 percent paid by other banks."

Cheap overseas labor and lack of carbon price undermining green stimulus efforts. Bloomberg: "President Barack Obama is spending $2.1 million to help Suntech Power Holdings Co. build a solar- panel plant in Arizona. It will hire 70 Americans to assemble components made by Suntech’s 11,000 Chinese workers ... 'The cost of manufacturing here is too expensive compared to Asia,' said Guy Chaffin, chief executive officer of Elite Search International ... To compete for clean-energy jobs, the U.S. must create demand by capping fossil-fuel pollution that contributes to global warming..."

Subtle Friction Between President and Senate over Health Care

At caucus meeting, President chides Senators for flinching at passing reforms. HuffPost quotes: "If the price of certainty is essentially for us to adopt the exact same proposals that were in place for eight years leading up to the biggest economic crisis since the Great Depression -- we don't tinker with health care, let the insurance companies do what they want, we don't put in place any insurance reforms ... then I don't know what differentiates us from the other guys. And I don't know why people would say, boy, we really want to make sure that those Democrats are in Washington fighting for us."

Senators grouse about WH strategy afterwards. The Hill: "...once the president left and reporters were escorted out of the room, senators pressed White House officials about healthcare reform ... 'It wasn’t a discussion about how to get from Point A to Point B; it was a discussion about the lack of a plan to get from Point A to Point B,' said a person who attended the meeting. 'Many of the members were frustrated, but one person really expressed his frustration.'"

WH quietly supportive of using budget reconciliation. The Plum Line: "White House aides have privately told Dem Congressional aides that the White House supports the House passing the Senate health reform bill with a reconciliation fix, something that could give a bit more momentum to that approach, according to two Congressional staffers ... It’s unclear whether Obama himself has privately communicated support for this option directly to Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid."

Sen. Landrieu is not. The Hill: "...some Democrats in the Senate have balked at using reconciliation rules to pass healthcare reform. 'I’m not for using reconciliation for healthcare — I’m just not.' said Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.). 'If we couldn’t get a bill through the Congress that had broad support, I said we shouldn’t have a bill.' Another Democratic senator said that using reconciliation to pass healthcare reform in the next few months would be very difficult and that the best solution is for the House to pass the Senate bill."

After Senate Q&A, Digby calls for less whining, more governing: "...this approach of whining about obstructionism has rapidly diminishing returns ... the Democrats think they can adopt the same tone of victimization as the Republicans and reap the same rewards. But the right has a highly developed, centuries-in-the-making chip on their shoulders that makes them able to seen as both strong and victimized at the same time. They whine and complain with an accompanying smirk to let people know that they are only adopting the tone in order to make the other side look bad, not because they truly believe the other side has beaten them. The Democrats are just complaining."

Will Dems attempt to get Republican support for a smaller bill? W. Post: "If Pelosi and Reid can't reach agreement, Democratic lawmakers said, they will explore alternative approaches, including passing smaller bills to address problems in the health-care system or attempting to write consensus legislation with Republicans."

Baseline Scenario's James Kwak dissects leading House Republican alternative: "What will happen? People won’t be able to afford coverage as good as Medicare is today. People will die."

Meanwhile, health care costs still skyrocketing. LAT: " spending grew to a record 17.3% of the U.S. economy last year, marking the largest one-year jump in its share of the economy ... In the absence of [a health care bill], the report raises a grim prospect for the country -- a healthcare system consuming an ever greater and potentially unsustainable share of the economy even as private health coverage lags."

Graham Doubles Down On Comprehensive Climate Bill

Wonk Room quotes GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham rejecting any energy bill that does not put a price on carbon pollution as "half-assed": "There was this idea floating around yesterday – don’t know how serious it is – that somehow it would be wise for Congress to do energy bill only. I don’t think that’s wise. .. I don’t think you’ll ever have energy independence the way I want it until you start dealing with carbon pollution and pricing carbon. The two are connected in my view ... if the approach is to try to pass some half-assed energy bill ... forget it with me."

Climate Progress cheers: "Who would have guessed that Lindsey Graham — among the 20 most conservative U.S. Senators in 2008 — would have more of a backbone for a comprehensive bill than many Senate progressives and the President himself!"

Mother Jones' Kate Sheppard notes Graham's other motivation: "...Graham opposes this option both because it lacks carbon curbs, but also because he doesn't think the energy bill approved last June by the Energy and Natural Resources Committee does enough to expand development of nuclear power or offshore oil and gas drilling. But his support for a [comprehensive] bill ... sets him apart from a number of conservative Democrats, who would prefer to scrap carbon restrictions altogether."

The Vine's Brad Plumer urges Graham to get more specific: "Graham's right. Ultimately, only a price on carbon, rippling through the economy, will be able to spur all the myriad little changes needed to shift away from dirty energy ... That said, no one knows yet what Graham's preferred approach actually is, especially since he dislikes the cap-and-trade bill that passed the House last summer."

Greenwire checks in on the status of tripartisan climate talks: "Kerry, Graham and Lieberman are circulating text on a number of key issues, including offshore drilling, natural gas and carbon capture and storage at coal-fired power plants ... the trio is still working with the White House on several different options for pricing carbon emissions, including a 'hybrid system of the old cap-and-trade system.' ... Graham said the talks are focusing on both sector-specific emission limits and a 'cap and dividend' proposal ... While Graham would not name names, he insisted that the closed-door negotiations have actually started winning over lawmakers and interest groups."

New Biofuel, Carbon Capture Initiative

WH announces plan to boost biofuels and carbon sequestration. NYT: "...the administration announced that it was completing a rule to try to meet a mandate in a 2007 energy bill to produce 36 billion gallons of ethanol and advanced biofuels a year by 2022. The United States now produces 12 billion gallons ... And the Energy Department said it would try to build five to 10 projects by 2016 to capture and store carbon dioxide emissions from the burning of coal."

Ethanol advocate Sen. Harkin criticizes EPA for tough biofuel emissions standard. The Hill: "...he echoed ethanol industry trade groups in attacking EPA for considering 'indirect' land use changes when calculating ethanol’s carbon footprint..."

McClatchy rounds up additional reactions: "Environmental groups offered a mixed reaction. Nathanael Greene, the director of renewable energy policy at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said the new EPA rule confirmed that some biofuels reduce global warming pollution and other types pollute more than gasoline and diesel. Growth Energy, an ethanol trade group, said the new EPA rule is an improvement over its approach last year, when it calculated a higher level of global warming pollution from corn-based ethanol. The Clean Air Task Force, a non-profit environmental group, said in a statement that the EPA was right to continue to calculate how changes in land use around the world contribute to global warming."

West Virginia pols and pundits unimpressed with WH backing of carbon sequestration. Coal Tattoo: "[Gov.] Manchin and most of the West Virginia media don’t want to talk about much except whether those 'tree-huggers' at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency are going to stop trying to make sure coal operators comply with the Clean Water Act when they perform mountaintop removal mining ... it was disappointing to hear the rest of the West Virginia media be totally uninterested in this new CCS project the Obama administration is launching."

Bailout Bonus Tax

Suspense around bonus for Goldman Sachs CEO. NYT: "Anxious executives at rival banks are awaiting the news with a mixture of envy and alarm. Guesses range from nothing to $100 million. Whatever the final figure is — high, low, or somewhere in between — it will set a new benchmark for pay throughout the industry."

Push for new tax on bonuses at bailed out firms. The Hill: "Democratic Sens. Jim Webb (Va.) and Barbara Boxer (Calif.) intend to unveil legislation on Thursday that would tax bonuses for top executives at firms that benefited from government bailout money in 2009. Meanwhile, Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) ... said she is working with lawmakers on a 50 percent tax on any bonuses exceeding $50,000 at 'government-supported institutions.'"

Bernanke suggests some additional Fed transparency at swearing-in for second term. W. Post: "He did not specify what the Fed might consider disclosing, however. Many in Congress have been angered that the Fed, in a long-standing practice, will not disclose which banks have received emergency loans from the 'discount window,' nor recipients of loans through various special lending programs."

Mother Jones' Andy Kroll offers the story of arms dealer and Bank of America customer Peter Falcone as a cautionary tale for financial reform: "With financial regulatory reform currently moving through Congress, Levin may consider adding anti-money laundering provisions to the Senate’s reform bill. He told reporters that banks 'are doing a lot better' combating corrupt foreign funds, but said plenty of work remains to be done to prevent the kinds of cases his subcommittee unearthed. 'We’ve got to lead,' he said, 'on the issue of corrupt money and money laundering.' And the report's account of big Wall Street players like Bank of America and Citibank and their failure — or refusal — to block the flow of dirty cash from abroad certainly won't ease the public's distrust."

Scott Brown Swearing-In May Kill NLRB Nom

The Guardian's Michael Tomasky reports Scott Brown's apparently already running the joint: "Scott Brown and the GOP Senate leadership agreed previously that Feb. 11 would be the date of his swearing in ... Now, today, he announced that he wants to be sworn in immediately! Why? ... The Democrats might use the waning moments of their 60-40 super-majority to maybe try to get a generally pro-union appointee, Craig Becker, on the National Labor Relations Board. ...But far more amazing: The Senate Democrats said yes! What is the matter with these people? Can you picture Mitch McConnell being a nice guy about this if the situation were reversed?"

Tea Party Conference Starts Tomorrow

NYT's Timothy Egan previews Sarah Palin's keynote: "When she quit on her state, barely halfway through a single term as governor, he explanation was a classic of incoherence. She never mentioned the obvious reason for resigning: to get rich, quick ... why not come out and say it, instead of cloaking it in some larger cause? If Palin truly believed in the Tea Partiers and their discontent, she would not be charging $100,000 to stoke their fears ... what policy solutions does she offer the troubled middle class? Tax cuts, like the ones that caused this massive deficit to begin with? Preventing new regulation of the banks that got us into this horrid economic collapse, under the guise of 'less government'? She has nothing to offer but honeyed words, the syrup for suckers."

MyDD's Charles Lemos questions skewed sample of Daily Kos poll of Republican voters: "In short, the Daily Kos poll has a bias that oversamples Southerners who are more extreme in their views .... and thus paints the GOP as more extreme than they really are. The Daily Kos poll is an inaccurate reflection of the national GOP but likely an accurate picture of the views of its Southern base which nonetheless does account for over one third of its electoral strength nationally. And that Southern base plagues the national GOP to a degree that cannot be overstated."

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