Student Loan Reform Clears Congress With Reconciliation
Students win, bank lobby loses. AP: "More needy college students will have access to bigger Pell Grants, and future borrowers of government loans will have an easier time repaying them ... the most sweeping rewrite of college assistance programs in four decades ... strips banks of their role as middlemen in federal student loans and puts the government in charge."
Details on what's in student loan reform from OurFuture.org's Armand Biroonak.
As Congress Completes Work On Health Care, Obama Scoffs At Repealers
Obama dares GOP to back repeal at Iowa rally. NYT: "President Obama on Thursday began an aggressive White House public relations blitz to sell his newly signed health care overhaul ... calling the measure 'pro-jobs' and 'pro-business' and taunting Republicans who are vowing to repeal it. 'My attitude is, go for it! ... If these congressmen in Washington want to come here to Iowa and tell small business owners that they plan to take away their tax credits and essentially raise their taxes, be my guest.'"
Opponents of reconciliation bill were supporting the "Cornhusker Kickback." TPMDC: "The reconciliation bill nullifies the controversial Nebraska Medicaid deal, which was added to health care legislation by the Senate back in December. It also will close the Medicare prescription drug donut hole, and bolster subsidies to uninsured working and middle-class Americans..."
GOP Sen. Grassley justifies individual mandate flip-flop by claiming it's unconstitutional. Wonk Room's Igor Volsky: "This is a fairly silly argument, particularly because constitutional lawyers believe that the health care mandate is as constitutional today as it was in 1993 ... even Mitt Romney (sometimes) agrees.."
Public option may shift to the states. TNR's Jonathan Cohn: "The odds of creating a public option at the state level might seem longer than the odds of getting one at the national level. But if a state really does have a lack of competition, I don't see why determined lawmakers there couldn't add one--or, at the very least, arrange for some kind of Medicare access."
Yet Another Filibuster Cutting Off The Jobless
Another conservative filibuster threatens jobless aid. AP: "As Congress raced to leave Washington for a two-week recess, a single Republican senator, Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, blocked a stopgap bill to extend jobless benefits, saying its $9 billion cost should not be added to the national debt. As a result, some people who have been out of work for more than six months will at least temporarily lose benefits."
Senate Dems hope to repair problem after recess: "Lawmakers are unlikely to work out a deal by the time benefits begin expiring for some of the unemployed on April 5, said Jim Manley, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid ... he anticipated lawmakers would approve the extension, along with retroactive benefits, when they return to the Capitol next month. The break ends April 12."
As a retroactive fix doesn't prevent disruption to the jobless, Time's Jay Newton-Small wonders why Republicans would do this again: "The problem with this solution is that some benefits start to expire April 5th. And as the country learned the last time these provisions ran out last month during Bunning's filibuster, that means ... gaps in unemployment and health coverage for some of the most desperate Americans ... 'I think Americans — a majority of whom have someone in their orbit out of work — are not very receptive to the idea of cutting off unemployment benefits in the midst of a bad economy,' said Norm Ornstein, a congressional scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute. 'This strategy is not a winner.'"
Bipartisan group of governors push 13-state rail corridor in part to create jobs in W. Post oped: "Our five states have joined together in a public-private partnership to apply for $300 million in federal funding to develop the corridor ... The projections for the Crescent Corridor project are 47,000 jobs by 2020 and 73,000 by 2030 ... a savings of an estimated 170 million gallons a year in fuel and significantly reduced emissions of carbon dioxide..."
"Tea Party Advocates Who Scorn Socialism Want a Government Job" finds new Bloomberg poll.
Dodd "Too-Big-To-Fail" Reforms Hit From Left and Right
Top Banking Cmte GOPer Sen. Richard Shelby rejects Dodd approach. NYT: "He said that the bill would leave the Federal Reserve with emergency lending powers that could be abused, and that the bill would give the F.D.I.C. and the Treasury Department the ability to provide broad debt guarantees ... The Dodd proposal contains a provision that would require large financial companies to contribute to a $50 billion fund that could be used to help dismantle a systemically important company. Mr. Shelby called it a slush fund ... Finally, Mr. Shelby said that giving the Fed oversight over the largest and most interconnected financial companies would tarnish those firms by singling them out for scrutiny."
Baseline Scenario's Simon Johnson says "resolution authority" doesn't cut it, banks need to smaller in the first place: "...Citi’s debt is generally cross-guaranteed across various parts of the company ... The cross-border dimensions make everything that much more knotty ... How would any administration put a huge bank into any kind of 'resolution' ... when it knows that doing so would trigger default across all the complex pieces of this multinational empire? ... Banks that are 'too big to fail' are simply too big."
Climate Talks Grind On
Multiple challenges confront Senate climate compromise. CQ: "...preliminary proposals to promote more offshore oil and gas drilling ... prompted a backlash this week by Democrats from six coastal states ... [The Cantwell-Collins cap-and-dividend bill] is gaining traction and threatens to pull some support away from the Kerry-Graham-Lieberman effort ... Kerry said they were getting away from cap-and-trade and moving toward emissions 'reduction' and 'refund.' Cantwell and Collins said they were not satisfied and would keep pushing their own bill..."
Mother Jones' Kate Sheppard on why "revenue sharing" with states may be flashpoint in drilling debate: "Revenue-sharing is also a big concern for enviros, since it would dramatically increase a state's incentive to opt-in."
Industry reps continue positive talk after meeting with Kerry-Graham-Lieberman. Mother Jones: "'It was just a good exchange of information from each of the groups… an exchange back and forth with the senators,' said Bruce Josten, the head lobbyist for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. 'We’ve had a bunch of provisions that we’ve been sharing with their staff,' said Marvin Fertel, CEO of the Nuclear Energy Institute. ' ... We were very pleased with the discussions we’ve had with the staff.' He also expressed hope that nuclear power would be included in a 'clean energy standard' in the bill, rather than an renewable electricity standard..."
House Way & Means prepares to review energy tax policy. The Hill: "Ways and Means Chairman Sandy Levin (D-Mich.) said his committee will take up energy legislation with an emphasis on job creation after Congress returns from Easter recess ... [Rep. Earl Pomeroy (D-N.D.)] introduced legislation on Thursday extending a slew of ethanol-related tax credits slated to begin expiring this year ... [Rep.] Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) said the committee has talked about ending tax preferences for oil producers to help pay for its energy/jobs bill ... Pomeroy will likely oppose ending those tax breaks."
Labor Relations Board Appts May Be Coming
President may completely fill National Labor Relations Board will recess appointments soon. CQ: "The mystery over the potential recess appointment of controversial labor lawyer Craig Becker to the National Labor Relations Board is not so much whether it will happen but whether President Obama will include other NLRB nominees along with him ... there are two additional nominations pending — Democrat Mark Pearce and Republican Brian Hayes ... Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., said Thursday that he did not think the White House had made a final decision ..."
Senate GOPers send angry letter to Obama demanding no NLRB recess appointments. Wonk Room's Pat Garofalo: "'Taking this action would install a rejected nominee for an appointed term to the NLRB, setting an unfortunate precedent for all future nominations and future administrations' ... These are pretty strong words from the GOP ... You’d almost think he faced an up-or-down vote sometime."
DLC CEO Bruce Reed to be top staffer on presidential debt commission. Politico: "...Reed was deeply involved in Clinton’s welfare reform and police-on-the-beat initiatives. But liberals have sometimes looked askance at Reed and his colleagues at the centrist Democratic Leadership Council, accusing them on occasion of being too close to corporate America."
NYT speculates of possible Supreme Court nominees for the possibly retiring Justice Stevens.
Conservatives: No Independent Thought Allowed
Following David Frum-AEI split, Capital Gains & Games' Bruce Bartlett reveals how conservative movement is crushing independent thought: "... I feel free to say publicly something [Frum] told me in private a few months ago. He asked if I had noticed any comments by AEI 'scholars' on the subject of health care reform. I said no and he said that was because they had been ordered not to speak to the media because they agreed with too much of what Obama was trying to do ... Rigid conformity is being enforced, no dissent is allowed, and the conservative brain will slowly shrivel into dementia if it hasn't already."