June 24th, 2010, Washington, DC–From ALG News’ Capitol Hill Correspondent Derek Baker:
In the Senate, Majority Leader Reid filed cloture on yet another revised Tax Extenders bill last night, setting up a vote to proceed on the bill tomorrow. The revised bill reportedly reduces the state assistance by $8 billion and inserts roughly $11 billion in new spending offsets. The much-discussed $24 billion Medicaid bailout to states has been reduced by about one-third. Reid is under significant pressure from his caucus as well as physician groups and seniors across the nation, since a 21 percent reduction in Medicare reimbursement payments already went into effect due to congressional inaction.
The Conference Committee for the Wall Street Takeover bill continues to meet almost around the clock desperately attempting to work through the final sticking points this week, not the least of which is addressing changes to the Volcker Rule and derivatives trading. Democrats blocked repeated Republican attempts to offer amendments dealing with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac reform, with Chairman Barney Frank arguing the amendment was “not in the scope of the conference. “
Bottom Line: It’s not clear whether the latest revisions to the Extenders bill are intended to actually pick up more votes or just test the Republicans resolve… perhaps both. Since Republicans have been so successful in reducing the overall cost and deficit spending in the bill, it will become more tempting to strike a deal to proceed. Republicans should hold out and demand that the entire package be paid for or Dems can pass it on their own.
In the House, the DISCLOSE Act is front and center today. After last week’s Dem revolt following the NRA carve-out which forced Hoyer and Pelosi to pull the bill from the floor schedule, Democrat leadership has regrouped and launched an aggressive campaign to pass virtually the exact same bill this week. To assuage concerns from rank-and-file Democrat members, Obama weighed in to strongly endorse the bill and the revised carve-outs crafted by Rep. Chris Van Hollen. Then Sens. Reid and Schumer issued a joint statement to work “tirelessly for Senate consideration” once the bill passed the House.
The NRA carve-out has been revised to exempt organizations meeting the following criteria: at least 500,000 dues paying members (down from 1 million), members in all 50 states, receives no more than 15 percent of total funding from corporations or labor organizations, and doesn’t use corporate or union money to pay for campaign-related expenses. Thus, the bill’s regulations still apply to over 99 percent of the applicable outside organizations in America, but would exempt labor unions. According to information released by the House Republican Conference, the bill “would also prohibit political speech by government contractors and TARP recipients, but not labor unions with collective bargaining agreements with the government or unions who receive dues from government payroll deductions.”
Also, yesterday Republican Leader Boehner warned Democrat House leadership that Republicans would vote “present” on the War Supplemental bill – thereby forcing liberal Democrats to support the War Supp or be responsible for its failure – if Democrats attempt to insert the $10 billion education bailout for state governments.
Bottom Line: Americans recognize a naked power grab when they see one. With a myriad of economic and social issues burdening Americans today, the House of Representatives sees fit to spend more than three weeks pushing a bill that stacks the deck in their favor for the next election?! As my colleague at ALG stated recently, “there should be unlimited, unabridged political speech about elections – without exception”… just as the Founders intended in crafting the First Amendment.
Also, kudos to Boehner and House Republican leadership for forcing the Democrats’ hand on the War Supplemental. Everybody already knows what the $10 billion is really for – certainly not for “saving teachers jobs” – but a plain and simple labor union bailout right before an election.
At the other end of the Avenue, almost immediately following the meeting between Obama and Gen. Stanley McChrystal, Obama announced he was removing McChrystal from his post as the top military commander in Afghanistan and replacing with him Gen. David Petraeus. In making the announcement, Obama claimed the decision was made not due to “personal insult” over the comments made by McChrystal and his aides, but stated, “The conduct does not meet the standards that should be set by a commanding general.”
More bad news for Obama was released yesterday in the form of a Wall Street Journal / NBC News poll. The WSJ stated, “Americans are more pessimistic about the state of the country and less confident in President Barack Obama’s leadership than at any point since Mr. Obama entered the White House.” For the first time, Obama’s disapproval percentage is higher than his approval percentage, and the poll also showed “grave and growing concerns” over the Gulf oil spill.
Bottom Line: BO’s decision to fire McChrystal has everything to do with personal insult and pride and nothing to do with military standards. Sadly, weak leaders feel a need put subordinates in their place in a very public manner, regardless of the consequences. Just imagine how indignant VP Biden and the other senior WH staff were over McChrystal’s comments! As Kim Holmes of the Heritage Foundation stated yesterday on The Foundry, McChrystal’s firing “dealt only with a symptom of the disease eating away at our Afghan strategy, and at the risk of perhaps worsening the condition. The disease? “Systematic disarray at the heart of BO’s war strategy” and a president less than fully committed to the task at hand.
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