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.
Teacher Funding, Jobless Aid Remain In Doubt
House leaders formally propose deficit-neutral $10B to prevent teacher layoffs in war spending bill, but WH ambivalent. Politico: "House Democratic support for the war in Afghanistan has eroded to a point where President Barack Obama is now so reliant on Republican votes that he’s backtracking from his own party’s efforts to add new education funding to avert teacher layoffs ... 'We’re trying to put the pieces of a puzzle together that don’t quite fit together,' Rep. Robert Andrews (D-N.J.) said in an interview. 'Our problem right now is a significant number of moderates don’t want to vote for the domestic spending and a significant number of progressives don’t want to vote for the war funding.' ... 'There are a number of moderates who feel that any pay-fors should be for deficit reduction, not to offset new spending ... If you have $10 billion laying around for teachers, reduce the deficit by $10 billion [instead].'"
GOP fuzzy math on deficit neutral spending for teachers. CQ: "Privately, Republicans say they expect House Democratic leaders to realize this week that the votes simply are not there — and certainly not in the Senate — for a supplemental that expands domestic spending, even if that spending is paid for with cuts elsewhere. 'We need to get a supplemental passed as soon as possible,' [House Min. Leader John] Boehner said. 'It should not be used as an excuse for tens of billions of dollars of additional social spending that will pile more debt on the backs of our children and grandchildren.'"
House planning to pass jobless aid as essentially stand-alone measure: "[The bill includes only] a six-month extension of jobless benefits and a small adjustment to a tax credit for home buyers ... the House rejected extended jobless benefits [yesterday], failing to muster the two-thirds needed for [expedited] passage. Most Republicans voted no ... Democratic leaders accused Republicans of turning their backs on jobless workers, and vowed to approve the bill Wednesday under different rules ... [Senate] Democrats are hoping it will prevail this week. But it was unclear late Tuesday whether any other Republicans would join [GOP Sen. Olympia] Snowe ... With the death of Sen. Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.) and continued opposition of Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), Democrats have, at most, 57 votes for the jobless extension."
Wonk Room's Pat Garofalo partial to stand-alone measure that would win GOP Sen. Snowe's vote: "considering that 1.2 million people will have lost their benefits by the end of this week if something is not done and that 46 percent of the unemployed have been out of work for six months or more, I suppose this is worth considering. Of course, passing a stand-alone bill neglects all the other important provisions that were in the extenders bill, including COBRA subsidies to help laid-off workers purchase health insurance and aid to states to help them with their Medicaid bills. Failing to pass such measures is only going to add to the economic misery that Snowe at least seems aware is occurring."
NYT's David Leonhardt worries the world is making the same mistake in the 1930s by cutting back too soon: "In effect, policy makers are betting that the private sector can make up for the withdrawal of stimulus over the next couple of years. If they’re right, they will have made a head start on closing their enormous budget deficits. If they’re wrong, they may set off a vicious new cycle, in which public spending cuts weaken the world economy and beget new private spending cuts."
Half of America directly hit by recession. W. Post: "The recession has directly hit more than half of the nation's working adults, pushing them into unemployment, pay cuts, reduced hours at work or part-time jobs, according to a new Pew Research Center survey."
Chris Matthews urges White House to go big on infrastructure, leading with high-speed rail: "What got us out of the Great Depression was production: massive industrial production to support the allies in World War Two. We need production for this country now. We need to build rapid rail to catch up to those allies from World War Two."
Bank Tax Stripped From Reform Bill
House-Senate conference committee strips out bank tax from Wall St. reform, to appease wavering GOP "moderates." LAT: "By stopping additional payments from the Troubled Asset Relief Program a little more than three months before it formally ends, the proposal would save $11 billion ... 'It effectively ends the TARP program,' [said Sen. Chris Dodd] ... Dodd's plan also would increase the premiums that banks with more than $10 billion in assets pay for federal deposit insurance ... The House could vote on the revised legislation as early as Wednesday. A hoped-for Senate vote this week is likely to be delayed because of the death of Sen. Robert C. Byrd (D- W.Va.). His replacement would be needed to help the Democrats pass the legislation but is unlikely to be named this week."
Will those waverers be appeased? CQ: "Whether the changes would mollify moderate Republicans in the Senate was unclear late Tuesday. The four GOP lawmakers who supported the underlying bill on the floor last month — Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, Scott P. Brown of Massachusetts and Susan Collins and Olympia J. Snowe of Maine — were largely silent on Tuesday’s changes."
The Atlantic's Daniel Indiviglio criticizes GOPers for fighting the bank tax: "If these Republicans were really concerned about a tax, then they should have demanded spending cuts to fill the gap or scaled back some of the expensive regulation that the bill calls for. The only ones who benefit from this change are big banks and hedge funds. Taxpayers and community banks are indisputably worse off."
Mark Thoma argues final bill will not end "too big to fail" in Moneywatch oped: "One is to ensure that the banks that operate under the implicit guarantee cannot take on excessive risk, and the other is to eliminate the advantage that the implicit guarantee gives to bigger banks ... The compromise proposal does require a differential increase in FDIC insurance payments with bigger banks forced to pay more, but the difference is not sufficient to take away the advantage the big banks have over smaller banks."
Volcker reportedly unhappy with outcome of Volcker rule. Bloomberg: "As first envisioned, the Volcker rule would have banned banks from running private-equity and hedge funds ... Last-minute congressional negotiations aimed at winning Republican support led to a compromise that allows banks to invest up to 3 percent of their capital in such funds. Volcker ... didn’t expect the proposal to be diluted so much, said a person with knowledge of his views."
Rortybomb catches House Min. Leader Boehner in major contradiction: "House GOP leader John Boehner thinks that the financial reform bill 'is killing an ant with a nuclear weapon.' ... His argument [in December] against voting for the bill? It’s too weak, and will just bail out banking firms ... Now it’s the opposite – the bill will nuke Wall Street."
After McClatchy investigation, Goldman 'fesses up -- it had a bigger role in the AIG deals than we were led to believe.: "Reversing its oft-repeated position that it was acting only on behalf of its clients in its exotic dealings with the American International Group, Goldman Sachs now says that it also used its own money to make secret wagers against the U.S. housing market. A senior Goldman executive disclosed the 'bilateral' wagers on subprime mortgages in an interview with McClatchy, marking the first time that the Wall Street titan has conceded that its dealings with troubled insurer AIG went far beyond acting as an 'intermediary' responding to its clients' demands. ... AIG's losses on those deals ... were ultimately borne by taxpayers as part of the government's bailout of the insurer."
No Agreement From Climate Mtg, But Partial Carbon Cap In Play
"No breakthrough," no clear path forward, from WH climate meeting. The Hill: "But Democratic leaders may seek to keep the issue alive by using energy and oil spill legislation as the base for a Senate floor battle that would allow them to salvage climate provisions — possibly ones limited just to electric power plants ... [Sen. John Kerry] offered to narrow the bill, and said the utility-only idea is in play ... Centrist Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham (S.C.) and Olympia Snowe (Maine) are two who are backing the utility-only concept ... Several Democrats at the meeting with Obama — including Dorgan, Sherrod Brown (Ohio), Blanche Lincoln (Ark.), Jay Rockefeller (W.Va.) and Maria Cantwell (Wash.) — have cited strong concerns over utility-only."
Climate Progress sees hope in Snowe support for utility industry carbon cap: "...as lame as this statement is in many respects, at least she has endorsed a bill with a carbon price."
GOP Sen. Susan Collins keeps door open to utility cap, but with a condition. W. Post: "Collins ... said she could support a price on carbon only if revenue from pollution allowances was returned to consumers.
GOP Sen. George Voinovich sounds negative on utility cap. The Hill: "'As far as a cap and trade program for the electric power sector, I understand that there is no consensus in the utility industry,' he said. Voinovich was rosier on the prospects for legislation authored by Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) [that] contains a national renewable electricity mandate for utilities, wider federal support for low-carbon energy projects and a suite of efficiency measures, among many other provisions, but does not impose limits on greenhouse gas emissions." Different take from Politico: "...Voinovich also said he would take a closer look at the utility-only approach..."
Grist's David Roberts pessimistic on carbon cap prospects: "The president asked a group of centrist and conservative senators to support action on climate, and they refused. They want to offer subsidies and tax breaks to various favored technologies, but they don't want to raise the revenue to pay for it ... we are on a glide path to failure. Unless there's some sort of large jolt, the default outcome is that all polluter-pays provisions drop out of the bill and we end up with some energy-only package of standards and incentives."
Grist's Jonathan Hiskes laments Kerry's negotiating tactics: "'We believe we have compromised significantly, and we're prepared to compromise further,' Kerry told Politico's Darren Samuelsohn. If you're looking for the sorry state of American energy politics distilled into one line, there it is."
Wonk Room's Brad Johnson debunks conservative "national energy tax" talking point: "After a White House meeting on energy reform this morning, Republican senators rejected President Obama’s call for a price on carbon pollution, repeating the Newt Gingrich lie that it would be a 'national energy tax' ... These senators know they’re lying when they equate greenhouse gas pollution with 'energy.' Their states are being ravaged by our overheated climate system, including the freak flooding of Nashville and Kentucky and the melting of Alaska’s tundra."
Remember when Republicans liked cap-and-trade? Grist's Randy Rieland does: "Let's have a flashback moment with some of the GOP's most notable flip-floppers: Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska): Last month, she led an unsuccessful attempt to stop the EPA from controlling carbon emissions. But just two years ago, she cosponsored a cap-and-trade bill..."
House may take up green jobs measure next month. CQ: "Lawmakers said that an extension of an advanced manufacturing tax credit created in last year’s stimulus law may be one of the most significant provisions in the bill. The stimulus created a $2.3 billion pool of money for investment tax credits for clean-energy manufacturing projects. The administration ... has been urging Congress to add another $5 billion. The discussions on the bill are still at an early stage ... Among the ideas under consideration are investment tax credits for geothermal energy, investment tax credits for energy storage and tax-favored bonds for energy conservation and renewable-energy projects, said House Ways and Means member Shelley Berkley, D-Nev."
Obama administration pushes offshore renewables. The Hill: "[Energy and Interior plan] a suite of joint actions, such as developing 'attainable' deployment goals for the various offshore energy sources; harmonizing federal and state approval processes for projects; measuring marine and hydrokinetic resources along the Pacific coast..."
Obama Immigration Speech Tomorrow
Rep. Luis Gutierrez praises President in advance of Thursday immigration speech. ABC quotes: "For months we have been demanding that this administration take action and be the lead on comprehensive immigration reform. And then, from the White House, we hear a president that’s committed and assertive and in command and in charge ... [Tomorrow's speech is] obviously not going to be more on enforcement. He’s done a lot of that already."
Other immigration advocates shift their criticism away from Obama, towards Republicans. NYT: "'We really have to raise the stakes on the Republicans to make it clear who is responsible for where we are,' said Eliseo Medina, a vice-president of the Service Employees International Union."
"Don't trust the Feds to be better than Arizona," says Tapped's Gabriel Arana: "...most of the legal challenges to SB 1070 focus on who has the right to regulate immigration — not whether the law violates civil rights. In the short term, I think this is the right strategy to get the law overturned, but the working assumption of civil-rights lawyers who have brought these lawsuits is that the federal government will be more benevolent in its approach to immigration. But if the Obama administration's surprising step-up in deportations and the militarization of our Southern border are any indication, it's not a safe one."
House Minority Leader John Boehner's revealing interview with a conservative Pittsburgh paper summarized by Salon's Alex Pareene: "A Republican government will not 'overreact' to oil spills or financial meltdowns, and will pay for endless, unchecked war on the backs of retirees. None of that is news, but I don't think they were supposed to say all that so explicitly."