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.
After Summit, Dems Move To Pass Bill Without GOP
Summit ends with presidential call for action, despite continued GOP obstruction. W. Post: "President Obama declared Thursday that the time for debate over health-care reform has come to an end, closing an unusual seven-hour summit with congressional leaders by sending a clear message that Democrats will move forward to pass major legislation with or without Republican support"
HuffPost's Sam Stein notes summit made clear the futility of bipartisanship: "...it did produce one thing: A consensus that there really isn't any point in talking anymore ... even before the summit was over talk shifted to what the party now has to do if it wanted legislation passed."
W. Post's Ezra Klein says Obama's insistence on action is the big summit story: "The Democrats are not taking reconciliation off the table, they are not paring back the bill, and they are not extricating themselves from the issue. They think they're right on this one, and they're going to try and pass this legislation."
NYT suggest right-leaning Dems may not yet be willing to go along: "It was unclear if the event had won over any of those votes, especially among House Democrats who opposed the bill in November, and whose support could be critical to reviving it."
CQ reports on possible next steps: "Democratic senators are discussing a strategy to finish their health care overhaul ... key senators and House members would agree to a set of changes to the [Senate] bill. Legislative language would be sent to the House, along with a letter signed by 51 or more senators pledging to pass the modifications using the budget reconciliation process, which requires only a majority vote and would protect the second bill from a filibuster. The developing tactic is intended to assure anxious House Democrats that the Senate would act on a package of corrections to the Senate bill ... House Democrats do not trust that if they clear the Senate bill, Senate Democrats will follow up with a reconciliation bill."
Politico also explores next steps: "One Democratic lawmaker involved in the negotiations, who asked not to be identified to speak candidly of the process, said the party would not, in fact, start down the path of reconciliation next week. Rep. Rob Andrews of New Jersey ... said House leaders expect Obama to modify his plan based on Thursday’s meeting and send a revised proposal to the House by next week. Democratic leaders will then use the president’s bill as their jumping-off point."
Sen. Ben Nelson defends insurance companies, attacks Sen. Feinstein plan to restrict rate hikes. Politico: "Nelson quietly urged Democratic leaders to reject Feinstein’s effort to include in the Senate health care bill a proposal empowering federal authorities to block high rate increases by health insurers ... that irked Feinstein, who swallowed her pride and voted for the Senate bill even though she felt it shortchanged her state of California in some areas."
USA Today edit board says Dems should act: "...at some point, they're going to have to set aside the polls, pass a credible plan that pays for itself, and let the public judge the results firsthand."
GOP Obstructionism Exposed
Little serious offered by opposition party. Time's Kate Pickert: "I can't recall House Minority Leader John Boehner or Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell offering a single serious, detailed idea. Instead, they both asked the President to 'start over' with 'a blank sheet of paper.' ... It's not going to happen and therefore it's not constructive to suggest it."
TNR's Jonathan Cohn shows the illogic in the Republican obstruction: "Republicans in theory should support many of these ideas, but, as usual, they had nothing good to say about them. Instead, they continued to pound the Democrats for cutting Medicare, even though the Democratic reductions are calibrated to make the program more responsive--and even though the Democratic reductions are far smaller than the ones Republicans have championed over the last 15 years (not to mention the ones Representative Paul Ryan still supports)."
TPMDC's Brian Beutler's deems Sen. Barrasso's touting of catastrophic insurance the "iconic moment": "'Would you be satisfied if every member of Congress just had catastrophic care--you think we'd be better health care purchasers?' Obama asked Barrasso ... 'I think actually we would,' Barrasso responded. 'We'd really focus on it. We'd have more, as you say, skin in the game.' ... Obama's retort left Barrasso speechless: 'Would you feel the same way if you were making $40,000...'"
TNR's Jonathan Chait on why talking with conservative Republicans is a waste of time: "How can [you] have a high-level discussion with people who reply either on debunked claims at best and talk radio-level slogans at worst?"
NYT's Paul Krugman sums up the GOP approach: "...the arrogance that the success of things like the death-panel smear has obviously engendered in Republican politicians. At this point they obviously believe that they can blandly make utterly misleading assertions, saying things that can be easily refuted, and pay no price. And they may well be right. But Democrats can have the last laugh. All they have to do — and they have the power to do it — is finish the job, and enact health reform."
Truthout's Froma Harrop explains to Republicans that the American people spoke on health care reform in November 2008: "All politicians try, but Republicans excel, at creating a fantasy public always marching behind their baton. What the GOP leaders lack in veracity, they make up for in confidence. They base their public mind-reading on polls showing displeasure with the Democrats' reform legislation (or what the public thinks is in it). They ignore polls that don't."
Public Option Left Off Summit Agenda
Public option shunted to the side of summit. The Guardian's Sahil Kapur: "Not even Democrats mentioned the provision in the summit – the clearest indication yet that it's dead."
Public option advocates keep up the pressure. The Atlantic's Chris Good reports: "On a conference call this morning hosted by the Progressice Campaign Change Committee ... Reps. Chellie Pingree (D-ME) and Anthony Weiner (D-NY) said the public option shouldn't be thought of as dead ... Weiner said. 'Let's see where the votes are in the Senate before we go ahead and write the obituary for the public option.'"
Daily Kos' David Waldman argues the Progressive Caucus undercut its public option call by embracing President's proposal:: "You can argue whether or not yesterday's move by the caucus was the right thing to do in terms of actually helping people. But it's hard to see how it was the right thing to do if you were planning on having people take your public option plea seriously the next day."
Dodd-Shelby Talks Resume As Progressive Push For Real Reform
CQ reports Sens. Chris Dodd and Richard Shelby have restarted bipartisan negotiations on financial reform: "Though difficult issues remain unresolved, Shelby’s re-engagement is widely viewed as a significant step. Shelby indicated there has been considerable progress on one sticking point, the proposed creation of a Consumer Financial Protection Agency. 'If we can work out the consumer product deal, if we can, I believe we’ll get together on a bill,' he said."
W. Post reports progressives concerned at direction of bipartisan talks: "Liberal senators and advocacy groups cautioned Thursday that they would not support a compromise on financial reform legislation unless it sufficiently empowered a proposed federal regulator to protect consumers of mortgages, credit cards and other loans ... Dodd is attempting to negotiate the creation of a new consumer protection department within an existing agency ... [Critics] note that it closely resembles the current arrangement, in which banking regulators responsible for both jobs have often neglected consumer protection."
Bankers appear more interested in shaping deal than killing it. NYT: "[Treas. Sec.] Geithner, warned officials from eight industry associations that failure to enact the overhaul would destabilize markets ... 'He spent a lot of time listening, but he opened it by saying that they were going to push hard to really get this bill done and get it done in the near term,' said Edward L. Yingling, president of the American Bankers Association. He added, 'Everybody in the room from the private sector indicated that their wish would be to get a bill done this year — and that they were in fact working to that end.'"
Truthout's Robert Scheer reacts to the news that Wall Street bonuses rose 17% in 2009: "Call it the 'no banker left behind' program. While this plan didn't keep people in their homes, it did wonders for Wall Street profits. To be accurate, it's mostly the big bankers who reaped the rewards ... The victims are primarily the smaller traditional banks that played by the rules but were overwhelmed after the housing market became dreadfully corrupted."
Ed. Sec. keeps up pressure on Senate to stand for students over banks in W. Post oped: "The banks have had plenty of help with government bailouts and other subsidies while working families and students are increasingly squeezed. President Obama wants to eliminate the subsidy for banks and use that money to help poor and middle-class students and adults attend college."
House Resists Senate Jobs Tax Credit, Sen. Bunning Stalls Jobless Aid
Multiple House factions refusing to pass Senate jobs tax credit. Politico: "House Democratic leaders are promoting the idea that the bill is just the first in a series of measures that will address jobs ... But a lot of rank-and-file House Democrats are long past trusting their Senate colleagues ... [Many] would prefer to amend the Senate bill through conference rather than simply hope that the Senate will pass more bills in the future ... On the other side of the ideological spectrum, Blue Dog whip Heath Shuler said he won’t vote to bring the bill up if Democratic leaders plan to waive pay-as-you-go scoring rules ... So $15 billion isn’t enough for much of the 42-member CBC, and it may be too much for the 54-member Blue Dog Coalition."
House leadership to push caucus today. The Hill: "House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) acknowledged that [Transportation chair Jim] Oberstar and the CBC have 'questions' over the bill. 'So I'm going to be talking to a number of people on it and will make a determination on it tomorrow,' Hoyer told reporters."
Sen. Bunning conducting one-man filibuster to stall emergency extension of unemployment insurance. NYT: "The Senate clash over the unemployment benefits ended just before midnight Thursday with Senator Jim Bunning, Republican of Kentucky, refusing to lift his objection, meaning the jobless aid – for however short a time – will run out Sunday night unless a deal is reached Friday ... With Mr. Bunning refusing to relent, Democrats will have to move to override his objections but a vote probably cannot occur until early next week."
Other GOP senators lash out at helping the unemployed. Wonk Room: "Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) said yesterday that he is willing to hold an extension of unemployment benefits hostage in the Senate unless he is given the opportunity to cut taxes for the very wealthiest estates in the country ... Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), meanwhile, said that he would support a short-term extension of benefits, but doesn’t want to accommodate Reid’s request for a full-year extension: 'If we intend to have some immediate impact on the economy through what we’re doing, why would we be extending unemployment insurance for a year?'"
WH looks to federal contracts to boost wages. NYT: "By altering how it awards $500 billion in contracts each year, the government would disqualify more companies with labor, environmental or other violations and give an edge to companies that offer better levels of pay, health coverage, pensions and other benefits ... Because nearly one in four workers is employed by companies that have contracts with the federal government, administration officials see the plan as a way to shape social policy and lift more families into the middle class ... the plan is drawing fierce opposition from business groups and Republican lawmakers. They see it as a gift to organized labor..."
Obama budget leaves $16B budget gap for cities. Streetsblog: "The White House's proposed budget for 2011 would direct $2.8 billion to its biggest-ticket urban aid programs, even as American city governments face estimated budget shortfalls of at least $19 billion next year, according to a report released today by the nonpartisan Drum Major Institute (DMI)."
Utility Lobby Splits On EPA Climate Regs
Leading House members rip utility lobby leadership for misrepresenting and misinforming its members on anti-EPA proposal: "Reps. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Edward Markey (D-Mass.) criticized the American Public Power Association (APPA), which represents publicly owned utilities, for supporting a Senate proposal to limit the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) power to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. 'Numerous APPA members have informed us over the last 24 hours that they do not support APPA’s position,' the two lawmakers wrote in a letter to the trade group ... The letter also alleges that APPA appears to be misinforming members about whether Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s (R-Alaska) proposal would prevent EPA from finalizing auto emissions rules."
CQ reports on the utility lobby split: "Association members in New England and Southern California say they were unaware that the umbrella group had decided to send a letter to [Sen. Lisa] Murkowski supporting [her] efforts to legislate against the EPA’s authority ... 'It’s the Midwest vs. the others,' said a lobbyist familiar with the situation.
Proposal to extend clean energy stimulus. Green Energy Reporter: "On the Senate side, Senators Dianne Feinstein, (D-Calif.), and Jeff Merkley, (D-Ore.) recently introduced a measure that would extend the grants until 2012. That’s likely the scenario favored by renewable energy companies ... On the House side bill H.R. 4599 was introduced earlier this month. The legislation would actually change the cash grants into refundable tax credits. Renewable energy companies would apply for these credits as part of their standard tax filing."
Freshman swing-district Rep. Tom Perriello shreds Senate for inaction on climate, in Grist interview: "If we were going to wait for the Senate to do anything, we would do nothing. This stuff should have been done 10 to 20 years ago. We’re so far behind China, Europe, and other areas in the energy jobs of the future because neither party has had the guts to take this on. There are so many spineless people in D.C. ... The American people respect results: they want jobs, they want the country to be safer. The House has produced a historic agenda in that regard, and the Senate hasn’t ... I’m sick of starting with what can we get through the Senate; let’s start with what solves the damn problem. Until the Senate gets its head out of its rear-end and starts to see the crisis we’re in, our country is literally at risk."