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GOPers Complain About Rules They Used ... Again

Republicans criticize possible use of "self-executing rule" so can House deem underlying Senate bill law upon passage of changes in reconciliation ... but Republicans used to do the same thing. Swampland's Jay-Newton Small: “'It is painful and troubling to see the gymnastics that Democrats are going through to avoid accountability on this bill,' [GOP Rep. David] Dreier told reporters ... [But] Dreier is no stranger to self-executing rules. Dreier, though, defended his record saying there's a big difference between self-executing amendments and self-enacting large pieces of legislation ... [Though] the GOP pushed through the controversial $40 billion Deficit Reduction Act on a self-enacting rule."

Why no final decision on process yet, or CBO score? Because the CBO and Senate Parliamentarian are giving conflicting counsel. Politico: "[Senate Parliamentarian Alan] Frumin has privately argued that if reconciliation is to change law, what it changes must truly be law — not simply a bill on its way to the president. He’s pointed to alternative routes such as amending the underlying Social Security or Medicare statutes on which much of the Senate bill rests. But if the bill is written to specifically build on the Senate bill — thereby helping with CBO scoring -- then Obama will have to sign it into law before Senate action."

Furthermore, "Democrats and the CBO remain in negotiations on a number of issues" reports CQ, including the parameters of the excise tax, Medicaid expansion, level of subsidies to buy coverage and how quickly to close the prescription drug "donut hole."

"Pelosi: Bill Will Prevent Insurers From Imposing Unreasonable Premiums Before Reforms Begin" reports Wonk Room.

Last-minute horse-trading is out, reports Politico: "...Pelosi and her leadership team are warning members that the bill is final, and its language is set, so don’t come seeking major changes or handouts for your district."

"[Hispanic] Caucus members have threatened to withhold their votes because of Senate language in the healthcare bill that would prohibit illegal immigrants’ buying healthcare coverage from the proposed health exchanges," reports The Hill. "... at least a dozen members of the CHC are 'tied in knots' over the prospect of choosing between opening up avenues to health insurance to many of their constituents and supporting what they worry is a precedent-setting policy of immigrant discrimination."

Rep. Kucinich appears to consider switching to "Yes" after Air Force One ride. W. Post: "Obama's onetime presidential rival just smiled as he walked across the tarmac upon arrival in his home state. 'I'm looking forward to hearing what he has to say,' Kucinich said."

OpenLeft's Chris Bowers reminds that conservaDems, not Kucinich, are the main obstacle to passing health care reform: "The final group of members who need to be won over have voted pretty conservatively, both in 2009-2010 and throughout their careers. In order to win those votes over, some of the largest progressive organizations are now bringing the hammer down."

Dem "No" votes may face well-funded progressive third-party challengers that could impede their re-elections. Politico: "The first target ... seems to be Rep. Michael McMahon, a New York City Democrat who has indicated he opposes the bill. 'There’s a lot of voters in Staten Island and Brooklyn who [will] realize that [McMahon] just chose to be on the side of the insurance companies and start seeing their wages go to pay for their health care,' said Service Employees International Union President Andrew Stern ... 'It’s a very volatile time, and no one should believe that third party candidates don’t have a chance.'"

$1.3M in pro-reform ads targeting key congresspeople. AP: "A new $1.3 million ad campaign will target 17 House Democrats ... funded by labor unions and other groups backing health care reform ... At least seven of the lawmakers ... voted in favor of the legislation last year."

Chris Weignant asks the $64,000 question at HuffPo — "Can Democrats govern?": "If the answer turns out to be 'no,' then a large part of the electorate is going to decide that it is pointless to bother electing large majorities of Democrats to Congress, because they simply can't get anything done when they get there. If the answer turns out to be 'yes' (or even 'kind of'), then Democrats may have a chance to make the case this fall that electing lots of Democrats is the way for the voters to go."

Paul Krugman sums up the right's inability to attack Obama's health care reforms without attacking Mitt Romney's health care reforms "... the only real difference they can point to is that Massachusetts didn't fund its plan in part out of Medicare savings ... Republicans are saying that what makes Obamacare a socialist takeover, whereas Romneycare wasn't, is the fact that unlike Romney's plan, Obama's plan cuts government spending. Oh, Kay."

At Daily Kos, Angry Mouse points to an Amnesty International report showing that U.S. maternal health is in crisis, and health reform might be the answer: "The report recommends seven ways to address this crisis: Ensure access to quality health care for all; Ensure equitable access to health care without discrimination; Remove barriers to timely, appropriate, affordable maternal health care ... Guess they just forgot to mention tort reform and tax cuts."

Medicaid cuts reducing doctor access for the economically distressed reports NYT.

Dodd Tries To Thread Needle With Financial Reform Bill

Bloomberg reviews how Dodd "diluted" the President's proposal in his continuing quest for Republican votes: "The measure shelves a single regulator that would have stripped the Federal Reserve and Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. of bank-supervision roles, and a plan to hold brokers to the same fiduciary standard as investment advisers. Dodd’s plan for an independent consumer protection agency becomes a unit within the Fed and the so-called Volcker Rule to limit risky trading by banks would be introduced only after a period of study."

Politico sees the inclusion of the Volcker Rule at all as a sign Dodd's getting tougher on Wall Street. "Dodd’s decision to include the provision in his surprisingly tough reform bill meant two things: The Treasury Department had more sway than anyone expected on the Dodd proposal, and much of the financial punditocracy was just dead wrong about 'dead on arrival.' ... [However,] Brian Gardner, a banking industry analyst with Keefe, Bruyette & Woods, said he sees Dodd’s inclusion of a Volcker rule-like provision as nothing more than a negotiating tactic. 'It gives [Dodd] something else to negotiate away with Republicans,' Gardner said."

LAT sees Fed winning in Dodd bill: "..., the Fed fared much better than analysts had predicted a few months ago. 'Their track record is unbelievably horrible and particularly horrible on consumers,' said Bill Black, a ... former regulator who cracked down on banks during the savings and loan crisis in the 1980s. 'It's an extraordinary thing that they serve so inadequately.' The Fed would retain much of its banking oversight and would house the new consumer bureau."

Lobbyists look to weaken Dodd bill. Roll Call: "Credit unions are searching for a Democratic Senator who is willing to offer an amendment that would give the consumer protection agency power to regulate banks with assets of more than $50 billion [instead of $10 billion] ... The insurance industry is already pushing back against being a part of the bill ..." The Hill adds: "Financial lobbyists at the Financial Services Roundtable, National Association of Federal Credit Unions (NAFCU), Credit Union National Association, Consumer Bankers Association and elsewhere were already massing their arguments against the bill. The American Bankers Association (ABA) ... quickly swung back against the Dodd bill. 'We oppose this bill because it will subject traditional banks, which did not cause this crisis, to heavy new regulation...' said Ed Yingling, ABA’s president."

Wonk Room's David Min and Pat Garofalo mostly like Dodd's version of consumer protection agency: "...the key is whether the new Bureau will it be sufficiently empowered and isolated from that hostile culture to be effective. Longtime consumer protection advocate Elizabeth Warren has listed four criteria for an effective consumer financial protection regulator: 1) an independent director appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate; 2) independent budget authority so it is not prone to the whims of the appropriation process; 3) independent rule-making authority; and 4) independent enforcement powers. A close reading of the Dodd bill shows that his Bureau largely meets these tests (and, in fact, Warren has cautiously praised the new bill) ... but if any of its key features are watered down, even a tiny bit, it will quickly become a bad proposal."

Baseline Scenario's Simon Johnson sees Sen. Ted Kaufman pursuit of criminal violations more promising than Dodd bill: "...he actually lays out the parameters of what should be, if our legal institutions still functioned, a compelling case against Goldman ... This sounds like a potential violation of Rule 10b-5 – you are simply not allowed to sell securities in the United States while withholding material adverse information ... [Kaufman] he is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and we are discussing here potential crimes..."

After Citigroup CEO said it rejects the prop trading targeted by the Volcker Rule, Citigroup expands its prop trading unit. Bloomberg: "Citigroup Inc., the bank 27 percent owned by the U.S., is bolstering a unit that trades stocks with the bank’s own money after a proposed government ban of so-called proprietary trading helped spur eight of its 22 employees to defect ... Kevin Russell, head of Americas stock trading, told employees and securities firms supporting the unit last week that Citigroup may increase the group’s trading limits and capital..."

Jobs Tax Credit Nears Final Passage Today

Senate averts filibuster for revised jobs tax credit bill. Final vote today reports NYT.

FCC proposes huge expansion of broadband access. LAT: "The plan by the Federal Communications Commission sets a goal of assuring that at least 100 million homes have affordable access to so-called broadband networks ... Major telecommunications companies, such as Verizon and AT&T, also are expected to fight efforts by the FCC to impose more control over Internet access."

Leon Hindrey and Donald Reigle revisit their year-old suggestion that America needs dramatic investment in jobs, in FT oped: "... given how little has been done in the past year, right now they should focus on the two programs that would most immediately create lots of jobs. First, we need investment in infrastructure and green technologies, provided the spending is coupled with buy-domestic requirements and (ideally) enabled by a new National Infrastructure Bank ... Second, we need employment programs for the roughly 3m to 5m out-of-school youths who are unemployed, and for the 6.4m young people who will be graduating this summer from high school and college and trying to find work in this terrible economy."

NYT's Bob Herbert humiliates Toyota for planning to close a Fremont, CA plant and killing 4,700 jobs: "The company could keep the plant open and profitable if it wanted to. But, instead, it has decided to shift the production of these vehicles to Japan, Canada, Mexico and Texas ... [even though] Toyota has reaped endless benefits not just from California, but from the U.S. government and other states as well..." EARLIER's Dave Johnson "California Factory Closing ... Steps You Can Take."

GOP Rep. Paul Ryan's ultimate conservative budget raises taxes on the middle-class. Salon's Joe Conason:: "The fiscal analysis used by the CBPP found that three out of four Americans, with incomes between $20,000 and $200,000, would see their taxes go up ... While raising the taxes of middle-class families via the sales tax, it reduces taxes on the richest 1 percent of Americans -- those with incomes over $633,000 -- by half.

Dems working on legislation to penalize China if it continues manipulating currency. Bloomberg: "Senators Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Charles Schumer of New York and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan will propose legislation setting criteria to find a country has a misaligned currency, and the consequences, according to a draft of the proposal ... If the Treasury made a misalignment determination ... the U.S. would be forced to take actions at the International Monetary Fund and, after 60 days, would have to bar federal procurement from that country. After 360 days of inaction, the U.S. Trade Representative’s office would have to bring a complaint at the World Trade Organization..."

Can Senate Deal Its Way To 60 For Climate Bill?

LAT on the effort to get industry support behind Senate climate compromise: "The approach has breathed a glimmer of life into a Senate effort many had left for dead, stoking hopes that half a dozen Republicans could sign onto the bill. But the strategy carries dangers too. The efforts by Obama and congressional Democrats to curry industry support to overhaul healthcare and financial regulation have not pushed either bill across the finish line. In both cases, deals between business groups and lawmakers triggered popular backlash."

Politico echoes the risks. "Senators working on a major climate bill have a near impossible task: how to cut deals without looking like they’re cutting deals ... the potential for danger is there, given that regional deals appear to be the only way to pass a climate bill."

Grist's David Roberts sees Senate compromise ending up worse than House bill: "If [the] carbon pricing is as weak as it sounds, and it's coupled with [the Senate Energy Cmte bill] the result will be nothing short of dismal."

Climate compromise draft may not happen until after spring recess reports The Hill.

Grist's Josh Nelson shows that poll declines in acceptance of climate change largely the result of conservatives getting nuttier. "The fact that an equal number of Republicans (31 percent) believe that the effects of climate change have already begun as believe the effects will never happen is an excellent display of the schizophrenia of the Republican position on the issue."

UAW backs EPA over climate deniers. The Hill: "... the UAW, echoing White House concerns, said in a letter to Congress Monday that the resolutions would upend a pending national auto mileage and emissions standard. This would end up 'subjecting auto manufacturers to all of the burdens that the one national standard was designed to avoid,' the letter states."

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