Major Congressional fights, July and beyond

by: Chris Bowers

Wed Jun 30, 2010 at 18:49

After passing literally nothing of substance into law in June, Congress will be in recess off starting on Friday, July 2nd and resuming on Monday, July 12th. Considering how little they got done over the past five weeks, there is a long list of issues they will struggle with during the break, and when they return:

  • Dems need one more vote to pass unemployment extension. Passing a nearly stand-alone unemployment extension (it is coupled with an extension of the homebuyer's tax credit) is the only thing that could actually happen before recess.  However, it might not, since Democrats are one vote short and Byrd's replacement won't be around until after recess. Annie Lowrey has the state of play:

    Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is telling reporters that he has the votes of two Republicans for his extension of federal unemployment insurance benefits. He also says he is one vote away from having 60 senators to vote for cloture on the bill, which would then move forward to a final vote.

    Though there are currently 58 members who caucus with the Democrats, meaning the addition of two Republicans brings the number to 60, Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) is not in support of Reid's bill. "If we had Senator Byrd's replacement we would have 60," Reid told The Hill. "We have to wait and see what a couple of Republicans do." The two Republicans are most likely Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine, both of whom have signaled they would be willing to vote for a standalone measure.

    A Senate Democratic aide says gaining the 60th vote with both Collins and Snowe likely on board is proving extremely difficult - because Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) has indicated he will not vote for the proposal.

    This bill originally had nearly $200 billion in new domestic spending.  It included tens of billions, each, to prevent laying off teachers, preventing reduced Medicare payments to doctors, funding Medicaid, infrastructure projects, the extension of a variety of tax breaks, AND unemployment benefits.  It was, in effect, a second stimulus bill.  Now, even worn down the the nub, it is still in serious danger of being defeated.

    Update: The bill was defeated last night by one vote. Dems will wait until Byrd's replacement is appointed to pass it.

  • Wall Street reform definitely will not be finished this week: This evening, House passed the conference report on Wall Street reform, 237-192 (with 3 Republican votes, actually).  However, we are still going into the recess on this one.  Harry Reid says Wall Street reform will not be done before the July recess:

    Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) told reporters Wednesday that Senate procedures would not allow him to bring the bill to the floor on Thursday.

    Members of the Senate will be away from Washington on Friday to attend the funeral of Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) in Charleston.

    "I can't because I can't procedurally get to it," Reid said.

    The current plan is to file cloture on July 12th, the day Congress returns. So, Wall Street gets a chance to peel off enough votes to defeat the bill.

  • War supplemental legislation also headed until after recess: Yesterday, House Democrats stripped $3.9 billion in aid to the Afghanistan government from the war supplemental bill, citing corruption.  That change alone guaranteed that this fight would not be finished before the break, since any changes to the bill have to also be approved by the Senate (which passed war supplemental that included the $3.9 billion).  Today, House Dems are proposing a further change that would provide $10 billion in aid to states:

    House Democrats today proposed adding $10 billion to a pending war-funding bill to prevent layoffs of an estimated 140,000 school teachers as part of an effort to revive a stalled jobs agenda

    Given the fate of the second stimulus bill in the Senate, I am not confident about this passing.  However, given that it will likely further delay passage of the war supplemental, I am all for it.  No domestic economic relief funding, then no war funding. Block the bill until we get relief here at home.

  • Kagan continues to sail through confirmation hearings. No trouble spots have appeared for Kagan yet in her confirmation hearings. Don't expect any problems to  appear, either. As Chriis Hayes said:

    Just occurred to me that these hearings are MUCH easier when you don't have decades of decisions you need to both recall and defend.

    I'm telling you, the Kagan nomination is going to ratify the blank slate strategy. When she is confirmed after recess, expect more of it in the future, not less.

  • Compromises continuing on climate change.  Once Wall Street reform is passed or defeated in the first week after recess, it will be on to the energy / climate bill.  Just in case you missed it, yesterday John Kerry beautifully summarized the state of that bill:

    "We believe we have compromised significantly, and we're prepared to compromise further," Kerry said.

    Yesterday, the compromise talk was of only putting a price on carbon when it came to utilities.

That's what's on tap in the Senate for the next month.  And really, that is what's on tap in Congress until the elections.  Once Congress adjourns in early August, they won't be back until after Labor Day.  And, even when they do return, don't expect much to get done so close to the elections.

Immediately after the elections, there are two big fights:

  1. Reforming Senate procedure:: On this subject, a new Brookings Institute paper on that subject is worth a read. It provides a good background on recent procedural fights in the Senate, and examines possibilities for reform.  Of particular interest, it argues that just forcing the minority to engage in a "real filibuster" won't work.

  2. Deficit commission report: Personally, I still think anything the deficit commission recommends (report due in Decemeber) in will be too unpopular to ever pass Congress.  A coalition also seems impossible legislatively, as proposing just one tax increase, and one benefit reduction, would sink the whole enterprise.  However, with even Andy Stern, one of the more progressive members of hte deficit commission, suggesting that some of the Social Seccurity trust fund should be invested in Wall Street, it seems like this is going to be a big fight we have to negage anyway.
That is what is on tap for the next six to seven months in Congress--plan accordingly.
Chris Bowers :: Major Congressional fights, July and beyond

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Three Things (0.00 / 0)
1) Where the hell are the states on the issue of spending?  When the stimulus was being worked out, there were Republican governors who joined most Democratic governors in supporting it. Dems in the statehouses and governor's mansions should be clamoring for help.  Is anyone pressing them to do this?  Their demands for more money would carry a lot more weight.

2) Andy Stern's position on weakening Social Security is evidence that he's not progressive.  
3) I'm not sure what you mean by this:

the Kagan nomination is going to ratify the blank slate strategy

You are probably right if by ratify you mean official Washington will use this as an excuse to demand blank slates in the future (and, probably to block even remotely progressive nominees).  If you mean it proves that it works, I disagree - anymore than rain after a rain dance proves it works.  I believe the fact that official Washington is ok with her likely positions on the Court is a more likely reason for her easy confirmation - but the fact of her success can't really tell us anything.

Politics is the art of the possible, but that means you have to think about changing what is possible, not that you have to accept it in perpetuity.

Andy stern's position seems bizarre to me (4.00 / 1)
He seems to be advocating that the GOVERNMENT be investing the trust fund in Wall Street.  Who chooses which stocks to buy?  How to vote with the stocks acquired?  

It seems to be more nationalizing a chunk of Wall street more than anything.  

[ Parent ]
Some Red State stimulus dollars should have been respent elsewhere.. (0.00 / 0)
Re spending:
"...budget shortfalls [in 46 states] are the equivalent of a massive anti-stimulus, which some experts believe has overwhelmed the $787 billion stimulus passed by the federal government in 2009. "

The big mouths of the Right, including hacks like Dylan Ratigan and Glen Beck, have once again managed to take charge and strike fear into the brains of every American and politician by claiming that cutting costs and reducing the deficit are the only way out of our respective messes. And most states are responding accordingly, making Obama and the Democrats stimulus policies appear to be completely ineffective.

Had any Democrat been willing to play some real hardball, they could have agreed with and rescinded every unspent stimulus dollar to those Red state whose Senators who thought the unemployment extensions should be paid for out of the stimulus. But no Democrat spoke out, just the usual whining.
And so we enter another hot summer recess with economic conditions worse than last year for many voters, but this time facing a midterm election with most polls favoring the Right.
I'm actually rooting for crackpot Angle, in hopes Harry Reid never sets foot in the Senate again.

Nationalism is not the same thing as terrorism, and an adversary is not the same thing as an enemy.

[ Parent ]
It is a shame Scott Borwon is getting off lightly and has been (4.00 / 3)
promoted to president. Instead of pressuring him and reminding him that he could easily be half-term senator from MA if he votes against Main street. Leave it to the squanderer-in-chief who makes me see the positives in Bush (never thought I will do this). Bush for all his faults, had some courage of conviction. Sq-in-c - no courage , no conviction. Bush , if in S-in-C's place, will be doing townhalls in Maine & MA and building up pressure.

Pressure? (0.00 / 0)
Well, we have to get past left-vs-right, don't ya know.  Obama is above all that.

[ Parent ]
Difficult for me to believe Stern is a progressive. He is more in the Obama (4.00 / 2)
mold setting up bizarre coalitions with Walmart execs. Maybe I don't have enough info?

re: stern (0.00 / 0)
you got it right

[ Parent ]
A more fitting tribute to Byrd.... (4.00 / 2)
...would have been to stay in DC and do the work of the people - particularly the unemployed who need this extension - rather than go for a photo op to the funeral.

They could have held a 1/2 hour recess in his honor at the same time that the funeral was going on....and America would be better for that gesture of respect.


ATTN ALL! (4.00 / 2)
You need to stop operating with the mentality that climate action is something that can be "compromised." Its all or nothing. We cannot compromise on climate legislation. There is NO time left. Its either rapid fossil fuel reduction,(I'm talking like 80% by 2020) or revolution. Its as black and white as that. We're waiting for you at the barricades!


your friends on the revolutionary libertarian-left.


This would be comical... (0.00 / 0)
...if it didn't involve, you know, the infliction of actual suffering on actual people, a fact that seems lost on Ben Nelson. What does it take to get kicked out of the caucus? I honestly don't see any upside to keeping Nelson in the Democratic party. I suppose, on rare occasions, he provides a moderate Republican vote alternative to Snowe or Collins, but just as frequently he provides the Republicans with the "bipartisan opposition" card.

In the next Congress, it needs to be spelled out: On procedural votes, vote with the caucus or lose your committee seats.

The Senate doesn't work that way (0.00 / 0)
If we want it to, we have to do the heavy lifting, by which I mean we have to primary Nelson in the nastiest possible way in 2012 and keep flinging shit at him even if he wins, even (or especially) if it helps the Republican wins.

The Senate won't rein in its own, so progressives are going to have to instead.

Forgotten Countries - a foreign policy-focused blog

[ Parent ]
Ben Nelson (0.00 / 0)
is already mostly screwed for 2012.  His approval-disapproval in January was 42-48, and I imagine it's gotten worse since then.  But his screwage will come from a conservative Republican rather than from a liberal.  So while I wholeheartedly support a primary challenge, when it loses (as it probably will) I say we focus on a more important general election campaign, like electing a maximum liberal/socialist to Ted Kennedy's and Robert Byrd's seats.

[ Parent ]

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