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.
Senate Leaders May Save Derivatives Battle For Back Room
Reid ponders a quick Monday cloture vote, but derivatives battle may simply move to backroom House-Senate conference. Politico: "The most significant policy sticking point most likely will be the controversial language on derivatives proposed by Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), who faces a tough primary election battle Tuesday. Members and aides on both sides of the aisle have acknowledged that changes to the derivatives language would not occur until after the election ... [Opponents] hold out hope that a manager’s amendment [on the Senate floor] could replace Lincoln’s language. By moving ahead Monday, however, Reid could undercut any chance for change and narrow the possibilities for amendment to a conference committee if the bill passes — a prospect that could draw flak similar to complaints that health care reform was negotiated behind closed doors."
Alternet launches grassroots "whip count" to find out where Senators stand on Carper amendment to pre-empt strong state consumer protections: "We don't know where people should focus calls to Congress to secure the last few votes we need to get the amendment passed. We're totally outgunned here by the moneyed special interests, and they are counting on people not getting involved in "technical" issues of who gets to enforce. But it is not technical. It is about the rule of law."
Senate passes Durbin amendment to limit debit cards fees on merchants, risking support of right-leaning Dems. Politico: ...Durbin and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) dismissed the notion that the amendment was causing caucus tension ... Moderates, though, are clearly unhappy. Democratic Sen. Tom Carper, whose home state of Delaware has more than its fair share of credit card companies, said his constituents are concerned..."
Bloomberg on the impact of limiting debit card fees: "Limiting the fees may crimp revenue at Bank of America Corp., Wells Fargo & Co. and JPMorgan Chase & Co., the biggest U.S. debit-card issuers [and] at Visa and MasterCard, which collect royalties from banks based on card-spending volumes."
Two amendments pass to crack down on credit agencies and conflicts of interest. NYT: "One measure approved Thursday, sponsored by Senators George LeMieux, Republican of Florida and Maria Cantwell, Democrat of Washington, would remove references to the credit agencies in major financial services laws ... to spur the government to find alternative rating methods ... another amendment [that passed came] from Senator Al Franken, Democrat of Minnesota, that aims to prevent conflicts of interest by randomly assigning ratings agencies to provide initial assessments."
OurFuture.org's Richard Eskow worries Dodd may weaken the credit rating provisions behind closed doors: "Sen. Chris Dodd opposed the bill for reasons he couldn't quite specify, saying that it made him 'uneasy' and he 'wasn't sure it was sound.' Since the reasons for his opposition were unclear, it's equally unclear whether any deals might be underway to weaken the amendment with other provisions during the negotiation process."
Sen. Byron Dorgan threatens to filibuster bill if his amendment to rein in credit default swaps is not considered. TPMDC: "Dorgan was told his amendment banning naked CDSes would get a hearing. But when the list of coming amendments was unveiled this evening, Dorgan's was missing--and he doesn't know why."
Dems put off GOP amendment to exempt car dealers from derivatives rules, perhaps looking to deal with the issue in the final, comprehensive "manager's amendment." AP: "President Barack Obama argued against the exemption Wednesday, but Democrats feared that even by requiring 60 votes to pass it, they would be unable to defeat it.
Federal prosecutors expanding their inquiries. McClatchy: "The Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission have expanded preliminary criminal inquiries into conduct by Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley to four other banks, a person who's familiar with the inquiry said Thursday, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter. The agencies have requested information from JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup Inc., Deutsche Bank AG and UBS AG, and federal prosecutors have sought advice from Wall Street experts in complex securities to help unravel the banks' layered offshore deals, the person said."
Legal settlements, and not trials, may face Wall Street firms. NYT: "Many suggest that Wall Street banks may seek a global settlement akin to the 2002 agreement related to stock research ... A settlement also would let the S.E.C. declare victory without having to bring a series of complex cases. The public, however, might never learn what really went wrong."
While Senate Waits On Climate, EPA Moves
Without congressional action, EPA forges ahead with plan to regulate carbon pollution. NYT: "Starting in July 2011, new sources of at least 100,000 tons of greenhouse gases a year and any existing plants that increase emissions by 75,000 tons will have to seek permits, the agency said. In the first two years, the E.P.A. expects the rule to affect about 15,550 sources, including coal-fired plants, refineries, cement manufacturers, solid waste landfills and other large polluters ... sites accounting for about 70 percent of the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions."
Clean Air Watch worries EPA is not moving fast enough to prod Congress. The Hill: "Kerry on Thursday sought to use the new EPA rule to bolster political support for the bill, which faces major hurdles. '... The Obama Administration has again reminded Washington that if Congress won’t legislate, the EPA will regulate,' he said ... But Frank O’Donnell of the advocacy group Clean Air Watch said EPA’s plan is too measured to scare lawmakers into action. 'If it is designed to nudge Congress, it almost seems to me that it has the opposite effect, because it should reassure people in Congress that EPA is not a rogue agency,' he said."
NYT edit board puts the onus on Obama to push the Senate: "...the bill has no chance unless President Obama steps up."
Grist's Eric de Place pleasantly surprised by key Kerry-Lieberman details: "My take on the treatment of transportation fuels? It’s pretty good. All of the allowances are sold, not given away. Transportation fuels are (almost) all under the cap, meaning the petroleum industry doesn’t get a free ride ... [It] gets carbon market oversight right. Appropriately enough, the bill borrows from Senator Cantwell’s CLEAR Act ... it will make the carbon market about as risky as the markets for hog bellies and soybeans ... The cap-and-trade program is remarkably oriented toward consumer protection ... the expansive offset provisions is the most worrisome feature of the bill. Yet we haven't seen any bill (no, not even the CLEAR Act) that doesn't contain very large offset, or offset-like provisions."
Green For All's Jessy Tolkan flags the lack of a robust green jobs provision. 1Sky: "...the Green Jobs Act in [the House bill] is not currently in the new bill ... Our role is how can we guarantee the jobs are going to the communities that need them most, the low-income communities and communities of color."
Sojourner's Jim Wallis rallies the faith community behind the Kerry-Lieberman climate bill, while layout out the additional work ahead: "...it promises to be the beginning, and just the beginning, of a new direction in America's energy future ... The attempt is to start mitigating the effects of climate change and to begin the critical process of adapting to a new energy future. For that adaptation, much more help will be needed for the world's poorest people and regions than this bill (in its current form) delivers."
Federal agency supervising oil drilling failed to follow law when granting permission to drill. NYT: "Under the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the Minerals Management Service is required to get permits to allow drilling where it might harm endangered species or marine mammals. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, is partly responsible for protecting endangered species and marine mammals. It has said on repeated occasions that drilling in the gulf affects these animals, but the minerals agency since January 2009 has approved at least three huge lease sales, 103 seismic blasting projects and 346 drilling plans ... without getting the permits required under federal law ... Managers at the agency have routinely overruled staff scientists whose findings highlight the environmental risks of drilling, according to a half-dozen current or former agency scientists."
The owner of the doomed Deepwater Horizon oil rig has invoked an 1851 law to limit its liability, reports the Miami Herald: "Transocean, Ltd., the Switzerland-based offshore contractor that owned the Deepwater Horizon floating drilling rig, has asked a federal court in Houston to limit its liability from the oil spill to less than $27 million. Invoking a little-known maritime law passed in 1851, the company said it should not have to pay any more than the salvage value of the charred oil rig and its freight..."
Sen. Lisa Murkowski steps up for BP, single-handedly blocks legislation to make them pay. Sierra Club's Carl Pope:: "Senator Robert Menendez had introduced legislation, (The Big Oil Bailout Prevention Act) that would have ensured BP can't hide behind the $75 million liability cap that the oil industry had previously lobbied and obtained from Congress for damages from an oil spill. But Murkowski, once again using the Senate's [rules] by which a single senator can prevent the majority from legislating in a crisis, blocked
consideration of the bill ... Menendez's bill not only would have protected fishermen and communities in the Gulf of Mexico from being stuck with the bill ... it would also have ensured that, as the oil industry moves into even more-dangerous Arctic waters ... it would be held accountable for future catastrophes."
Grist's David Roberts explains Murkowski's argument: "...what was her argument? If the liability cap is raised, that might exclude small oil companies from being able to get the insurance and financing necessary to drill offshore. After all, only the oil giants could afford $10 billion. That is to say: only the oil giants can afford to clean up after themselves. ... She's just defending mom-and-pop oil shops! The gall is breathtaking."
Scientists argue early government estimate of Gulf spill's size is far too low. NYT: "The figure of 5,000 barrels a day was hastily produced by government scientists in Seattle. It appears to have been calculated using a method that is specifically not recommended for major oil spills. Ian R. MacDonald, an oceanographer at Florida State University who is an expert in the analysis of oil slicks, said he had made his own rough calculations using satellite imagery. They suggested that the leak could 'easily be four or five times' the government estimate, he said."
Obstacles Continue To Plague Jobs Efforts3>
House GOP scuttles $86B job-creating science and research bill with parliamentary maneuver. The Hill: "... the Republican motion ... contained language prohibiting federal funds from going 'to salaries to those officially disciplined for violations regarding the viewing, downloading, or exchanging of pornography, including child pornography, on a federal computer or while performing official government duties.' ... That provision scared dozens of Democrats into voting with Republicans ... But because of additional changes contained in the motion, Democrats decided to pull the bill from consideration immediately following the passage..."
PA Gov. and LA mayor, testifying to House Ways & Means, push for a gas tax increase to fund infrastructure bank and create jobs. Streetsblog's Elana Schor: "Few Democrats on the Ways and Means panel, however, were prepared to echo their colleagues from the state and local levels ... A middle-ground approach was offered by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), who reminded fellow House members that 'there is no reason we have to raise a gas tax, this year or next year,' to pay for sustained new federal transport investment. "As long as we establish a revenue path going forward within a 10-year budget score, we can leverage it." Still, in a political climate dominated by incumbents in both parties running scared ahead of the November midterm elections, the prospects for any significant commitment from Washington appeared bleak."
White House announces support for $23B plan to prevent teacher layoffs. W. Post: "[Education Sec. Arne] Duncan's letter, released Thursday evening with backing from the White House, aimed to push the issue of education jobs to the fore as the Senate prepares to consider a supplemental spending bill in coming weeks to fund military operations in Afghanistan and other expenses ... congressional aides say significant hurdles remain. Republicans and some Democrats have expressed concern that Harkin's measure would add to the federal deficit."
NYT's Paul Krugman lays out why "We're Not Greece": "We may currently be running deficits of comparable size, but our economic position — and, as a result, our fiscal outlook — is vastly better. That said, we do have a long-run budget problem ... they’re not driven by some generalized problem of overspending. Instead, they largely reflect just one thing: the assumption that health care costs will rise in the future as they have in the past. This tells us that the key to our fiscal future is improving the efficiency of our health care system ... something the Obama administration has been trying to do..."
New NBC/WSJ poll says Americans want candidates to give health care reform a chance. Ezra Klein:: "...Fifty-five percent say we should give the bill a chance. Forty-two percent say we should start over."
Hispanic voters are hugely opposed to Arizona's recent immigration measure, polls say. Digby on what that means for Republican prospects: "The Republicans also have to be worrying just a little bit about the fact that this issue falls way down the list of the country’s biggest concerns. So, while 70% of my fellow freedom loving Americans may think it’s just ducky to racially profile and even treat legal immigrants (or people who just look like them) like second class citizens, most of them are unlikely to vote on that issue. On the other hand, young Hispanic Americans are unlikely to ever forget it."