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Budget Deal Faces Senate Test

It’s crunch time for the Senate this week. MSNBC’s Meredith Clark: “The Senate is tasked with confirming several presidential nominees, including new heads of the Federal Reserve and the Department of Homeland Security. It is also expected to vote on both the budget and a compromise defense bill. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has filed to hold a cloture vote on the budget bill Tuesday. … President Obama has seen nine of his nominees confirmed since Wednesday. No longer able to block nominees with filibusters, Republicans are instead resorting to slowing down the process.”

Senate passage of compromise budget “a pretty safe bet.” The Hill quotes Sen. Richard Durbin, D-N.Y. on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe”: “After what happened in the House, where so many Republicans voted for it, I think [Sen.] Mitch McConnell, the Republican leadership knows they can’t let it go down.” But he noted on Sunday that he still doesn’t have enough votes to pass it. “He said he expects three Democrats to defect.”

GOP hostage-taking strategy not fully abandoned. “Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) on Sunday said Republicans will insist on more concessions for raising the debt limit in early 2014, indicating that the fiscal ceasefire he brokered in a budget deal may not last long. … House and Senate Republicans will discuss their debt-limit strategy at separate party retreats in January, Ryan said.”

Expect even less from “do-nothing Congress” in 2014. The Washington Post’s Reid Wilson: “After the Senate reconvenes in January, observers say, the coming year is unlikely to yield significant legislative action. Democrats will probably advance measures intended to draw political contrasts with Republicans — including a proposal to raise the minimum wage and a number of smaller bills that they say would boost jobs and strengthen the economy. None of those measures are likely to win Republican votes or spur action in the GOP-controlled House.”

Still Addicted to Killing Obamacare

GOP manta is “nix, not fix,” says Politico. “Even the slightest hint that a GOP contender might support anything besides all-out repeal of the health care law is drawing attacks from the right. So, increasingly, in races across the country, proposals to fix the existing law or retain any of it are being ruled out by Republicans eager to further burnish their conservative credentials.

Rick Santorum says government-provided health care is a tool for government officials to “get rid of” political opponents. Speaking at a Young Americans for Freedom event on Friday, former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) offered an unusual assessment of what happens when “the government is going to be the principal provider of health care for the country.” “It’s actually a pretty clever system,” the former presidential candidate explained, “Take care of the people who can vote and people who can’t vote, get rid of them as quickly as possible by not giving them care so they can’t vote against you.”

U.S. ranks near the bottom globally in efficiency of health care spending. Via Economist’s View: “…The United States health care system ranks 22nd out of 27 high-income nations when analyzed for its efficiency of turning dollars spent into extending lives. The … U.S.’s inferior ranking reflects a high price paid and a low return on investment. For example, every additional hundred dollars spent on health care by the United States translated into a gain of less than half a month of life expectancy. In Germany, every additional hundred dollars spent translated into more than four months of increased life expectancy. The researchers also discovered significant gender disparities within countries.”

Breakfast Sides

Deal in a Senate committee sets up a fierce 2014 trade policy battle. “Leaders of the Senate finance committee have reached a deal to give trade agreements negotiated by President Barack Obama speedier passage through the US Congress … Mr Obama will need the bill to ensure that his ambitious second term trade agenda – including sweeping deals with Pacific Rim nations and the European Union [the Trans-Pacific Partnership]– will not get bogged down in political gridlock.”

Dean Baker rebuts Ezra Klein: Inequality and unemployment are the same problem. “In his Washington Post column this morning, Ezra Klein dismisses the problem of inequality and argues that progressives should instead focus on unemployment. While he will get no argument from me on the need to focus on unemployment, the idea that this is a separate issue from inequality is seriously misplaced. Ezra gets to this spot by first dismissing the idea that inequality harms growth. He is certainly right that the evidence is less conclusive than we might like, but I would attribute that largely to the reluctance of the economic profession to even consider this possibility.”

What federal workers lost in the budget deal – and the past three years. AP: “Most federal civilian employees hired beginning in January will contribute 4.4 percent of their pay to their pension plans under the House-passed budget bill the Senate is expected to approve this week. Government workers hired in 2013 will continue paying 3.1 percent of their gross pay to help cover their pensions; those on the federal payroll before then, 0.8 percent. … Federal workers and their supporters argue that their pensions can’t be considered in a vacuum. The 2.2 million federal civilian employees have had their pay frozen for the past three years. In addition, most were furloughed for at least a day without pay this year, thanks to the automatic spending cuts triggered by the two parties’ budget standoff.”

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