Posts Tagged ‘GOP

31
Jul
10

Weekly Address: Good News on Autos, Obstruction on Small Business

NEWS
Weekly Address: Good News on Autos, Obstruction on Small Business
President Obama Hails Successes of the Restructuring of the Auto Industry, Calls on GOP Leaders to Stop Blocking Aid for Small Businesses

Saturday, July 31, 2010

In this week’s address, President Obama praised the successes of the auto industry restructuring. When his administration decided to invest in the American car companies, some said such a move was bound to fail. But since GM and Chrysler have emerged from bankruptcy, the auto industry has added 55,000 jobs – the strongest growth in 10 years – and for the first time since 2004, all three companies are operating at a profit. The President also called on Republican leaders in the Senate to stop blocking a vote on a bill helping small businesses. Even though this bill will help the recovery, and has been endorsed by groups like the Chamber of Commerce and the National Federation of Independent Business, the Republican Senate leadership continues to hold it hostage to politics by denying an up-or-down vote on the bill.

Hello everyone. I’m speaking to you from the GM auto plant here in Detroit, Michigan, where a hopeful story is unfolding in a place that’s been one of the hardest hit in America.

In the twelve months before I took office, American auto companies lost hundreds of thousands of jobs. Sales plunged 40 percent. Liquidation was a very real possibility. Years of papering over tough problems and failing to adapt to changing times – combined with a vicious economic crisis – brought an industry that’s been the symbol of our manufacturing might for a century to the brink of collapse.

We didn’t have many good options. On one hand, we could have continued the practice of handing out billions of taxpayer dollars to the auto industry with no real strings attached. On the other hand, we could have walked away and allowed two major auto companies to go out of business – which could have wiped out one million American jobs.

I refused to let that happen. So we came up with a third way. We said to the auto companies – if you’re willing to make the hard decisions necessary to adapt and compete in the 21st century, we’ll make a one-time investment in your future.

Of course, if some folks had their way, none of this would be happening at all. This plant might not exist. There were leaders of the “just say no” crowd in Washington who argued that standing by the auto industry would guarantee failure. One called it “the worst investment you could possibly make.” They said we should just walk away and let these jobs go.

Today, the men and women in this plant are proving these cynics wrong. Since GM and Chrysler emerged from bankruptcy, our auto industry has added 55,000 jobs – the strongest period of job growth in more than ten years. For the first time since 2004, all three American automakers are operating at a profit. Sales have begun to rebound. And plants like this that wouldn’t have existed if all of us didn’t act are now operating maximum capacity.

What’s more, thanks to our investments, a lot of these auto companies are reinventing themselves to meet the demands of a new age. At this plant, they’re hard at work building the high-quality, fuel-efficient cars of tomorrow – cars like the plug-in hybrid Chevy Volt that can run 40 miles before taking a sip of gasoline. Throughout Michigan, an advanced battery industry is taking root that will power clean electric cars – an industry that produced only 2 percent of the world’s advanced batteries last year, but will now be able to produce as much as 40 percent in a little over five years. That’s real progress.

There’s no doubt that we have a long way to go and a lot of work to do before folks here and across the country can feel whole again. But what’s important is that we’re finally beginning to see some of the tough decisions we made pay off. And if we had listened to the cynics and the naysayers – if we had simply done what the politics of the moment required – none of this progress would have happened.

Still, even as these icons of American industry are being reborn, we also need to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with America’s small businessmen and women, as well – particularly since they’re the ones who create most of the new jobs in this country.

As we work to rebuild our economy, I can’t imagine anything more common-sense than giving additional tax breaks and badly-needed lending assistance to America’s small business owners so they can grow and hire. That’s what we’re trying to do with the Small Business Jobs Act – a bill that has been praised as being good for small businesses by groups like the Chamber of Commerce and the National Federation of Independent Business. It’s a bill that includes provision after provision authored by both Democrats and Republicans. But yesterday, the Republican leaders in the Senate once again used parliamentary procedures to block it. Understand, a majority of Senators support the plan. It’s just that the Republican leaders in the Senate won’t even allow it to come up for a vote.

That isn’t right. And I’m calling on the Republican leaders in the Senate to stop holding America’s small businesses hostage to politics, and allow an up-or-down vote on this small business jobs bill.

At a time when America is just starting to move forward again, we can’t afford the do-nothing policies and partisan maneuvering that will only take us backward. I won’t stand here and pretend everything’s wonderful. I know that times are tough. But what I also know is that we’ve made it through tough times before. And we’ll make it through again. The men and women hard at work in this plant make me absolutely confident of that.

So to all the naysayers out there, I say this: Don’t ever bet against the American people. Because we don’t take the easy way out. That’s not how we deal with challenge. That’s not how we build this country into the greatest economic power the world has ever known. We did it by summoning the courage to persevere, and adapt, and push this country forward, inch by inch. That’s the spirit I see in this plant today, and as long as I have the privilege of being your President, I will keep fighting alongside you until we reach a better day.
Thanks.

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30
Jul
10

President Obama in Detroit: The Fight for America’s Workers

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President Obama in Detroit: The Fight for America’s Workers
President Obama hails auto bailout as good news in Michigan

Friday, July 30, 2010

Today the President was in Detroit visiting workers at a Chrysler plant and a GM plant that have not only survived, but found success after critics looking to score political points claimed there was no hope for them. For those critics the President offered a lesson: “Don’t bet against the American worker.”

During the two years since the economy took its hard downward turn, millions of Americans have had to fight with everything they had to stay afloat, to keep food on the table, to keep their businesses in business – and nowhere has that been more true than in Detroit.

The President has also been fighting alongside America’s workers – from the Recovery Act that’s saved or created about 3 million jobs, to the fight today over small business lending – and of course for the workers in Detroit and across America who contribute to the decades-old craft of American cars. When political opponents said that helping the American auto industry survive was a lost cause, and tried to turn public frustration against the President, he stepped in and made the hard choices anyway. There couldn’t necessarily be a life raft for everybody, but he was not going to let a million American jobs fall by the wayside simply because it opened him up for cheap political attacks.
And as the report released yesterday made clear, that investment is paying off: “In the year before GM and Chrysler emerged from bankruptcy, the auto industry shed 334,000 jobs. In the year since, auto industry employment has increased by 55,000 jobs. This is the fastest year-over-year growth in auto employment since 1999.” Not only that, but with a boost from the Recovery Act’s investments in the clean energy economy, the industry has turned toward the future in ways many thought they never could. A quick look at the interactive map released yesterday gives a glimpse of how America can move back to the front of the pack in the coming generation of fuel efficient and electric vehicles.

In his visit to the Chrysler Jefferson North Assembly Plant, speaking to workers who have had to fight just to keep working, it was clear the President felt in a bit of a fighting mood himself:

The President: Investments like those mean jobs for American workers to do what they’ve always done: build great products and sell them around the world.

So the bottom line is this – we’ve got a long way to go, but we’re beginning to see some of these tough decisions pay off. We are moving forward.

I want you to remember, though, if some folks had their way, none of this would have been happening. I just want to point that out. Right? I mean this – this plant – this plant and your jobs might not exist. There were leaders of the “just say no” crowd in Washington – they were saying – oh, standing by the auto industry would guarantee failure. One of them called it “the worst investment you could possibly make.”

Audience: Boo!

The President: They said – they said we should just walk way and let those jobs go.

Audience: Boo!

The President: I wish they were standing here today. (Applause.) I wish they could see what I’m seeing in this plant and talk to the workers who are here taking pride in building a world-class vehicle. I don’t think they’d be willing to look you in the eye and say that you were a bad investment. They might just come around if they were standing here and admit that by standing by a great American industry and the good people who work for it, that we did the right thing. It’s hard for them to say that. You know, they like admitting when I do the right thing. (Laughter.) But they might have had to admit it. And I want all of you to know, I will bet on the American worker any day of the week! (Applause.)

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24
Jul
10

Weekly Address: Moving Forward on the Economy vs. Moving Backward

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Weekly Address: Moving Forward on the Economy vs. Moving Backward
President Obama Praises New Wall Street Reform Law; Says GOP Plan Will Take Us Backward

Saturday, July 24, 2010

In this week’s address, President Obama praised the Wall Street reform bill that he signed into law on Wednesday and explained how it fits into the greater strategy to bring the country out of recession and build an economy for the long run. The president’s plan is aimed at strengthening the middle class and gives tax breaks to small businesses that creates jobs here, invests in homegrown, clean energy, and cuts taxes for working families. Unfortunately, when the Republican leader in the House offered his plan to create jobs this week, he presented the same policy ideas that led to this recession – ideas that will kill jobs instead of create them, and will add $1 trillion to the deficit, not reduce it.

This week, I signed into law a Wall Street reform bill that will protect consumers and our entire economy from the recklessness and irresponsibility that led to the worst recession of our lifetime. It’s reform that will help put a stop to the abusive practices of mortgage lenders and credit card companies. It will end taxpayer bailouts of Wall Street firms. And it will finally bring the shadowy deals that caused the financial crisis into the light of day.

Wall Street reform is a key pillar of an overall economic plan we’ve put in place to dig ourselves out of this recession and build an economy for the long run – an economy that makes America more competitive and our middle-class more secure. It’s a plan based on the Main Street values of hard work and responsibility – and one that demands new accountability from Wall Street to Washington.

Instead of giving tax breaks to corporations that ship jobs overseas, we want to give tax breaks to small business owners who are creating jobs right here in America. Already, we’ve given small businesses eight new tax cuts, and have expanded lending to more than 60,000 small business owners.

We’re also investing in a homegrown, clean energy industry – because I don’t want to see new solar panels and wind turbines and electric cars manufactured in some other country. I want to see them made in America, by American workers. So far, we’ve provided new tax credits, loan guarantees, and investments that will lead to more than 800,000 clean energy jobs by 2012. And throughout America, communities are being rebuilt by people working in hundreds of thousands of new private sector jobs repairing our roads, bridges, and railways.

Our economic plan is also aimed at strengthening the middle-class. That’s why we’ve cut taxes for 95% of working families. That’s why we’ve offered tax credits that have made college more affordable for millions of students, and why we’re making a new commitment to our community colleges. And that’s why we passed health insurance reform that will stop insurance companies from dropping or denying coverage based on an illness or pre-existing condition.

This is our economic plan – smart investments in America’s small businesses, America’s clean energy industry, and America’s middle-class. Now, I can’t tell you that this plan will bring back all the jobs we lost and restore our economy to full strength overnight. The truth is, it took nearly a decade of failed economic policies to create this mess, and it will take years to fully repair the damage. But I am confident that we are finally headed in the right direction. We are moving forward. And what we can’t afford right now is to go back to the same ideas that created this mess in the first place.

Unfortunately, those are the ideas we keep hearing from our friends in the other party. This week, the Republican leader in the House of Representatives offered his plan to create jobs. It’s a plan that’s surprisingly short, and sadly familiar.

First, he would repeal health insurance reform, which would take away tax credits from millions of small business owners, and take us back to the days when insurance companies had free rein to drop coverage and jack up premiums. Second, he would say no to new investments in clean energy, after his party already voted against the clean energy tax credits and loans that are creating thousands of new jobs and hundreds of new businesses. And third, even though his party voted against tax cuts for middle-class families, he would permanently keep in place the tax cuts for the very wealthiest Americans – the same tax cuts that have added hundreds of billions to our debt.

These are not new ideas. They are the same policies that led us into this recession. They will not create jobs, they will kill them. They will not reduce our deficit, they will add $1 trillion to our deficit. They will take us backward at a time when we need to keep America moving forward.

I know times are tough. I know that the progress we’ve made isn’t good enough for the millions of Americans who are still out of work or struggling to pay the bills. But I also know the character of this nation. I know that in times of great challenge and difficulty, we don’t fear the future – we shape the future. We harness the skills and ingenuity of the most dynamic country on Earth to reach a better day. We do it with optimism, and we do it with confidence. That’s the spirit we need right now, and that’s the future I know we can build together.
Thank you.

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19
Jul
10

Obama to GOP: Restore unemployment benefits now

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Obama to GOP: Restore unemployment benefits now
President Obama Pushes for Up-or-Down Vote on Help for Our Laid Off Friends & Neighbors

Monday, July 19, 2010

President Barack Obama tore into congressional Republicans on Monday for blocking an extension of unemployment benefits, arguing that a “partisan minority” had allowed short-term political calculations to trump genuine economic need.

The Senate is set to consider a bill Tuesday that would extend the deadline to file for unemployment benefits through the end of November. The bill would cost $33 billion in additional deficit spending, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

“It’s time to stop blocking emergency relief for Americans who are out of work and extend unemployment insurance,” Obama said in a statement issued by the White House.

He accused Senate Republicans for “holding workers laid off in this recession hostage to Washington politics.”

The bill, formally known as Emergency Unemployment Compensation, is a U.S. federal government program which assists states in providing additional weeks of unemployment benefits to workers who have been laid off due to no fault of their own.

The legislation, which has already cleared the House of Representatives on July 1, would retroactively restore benefits to recipients who as early as the end of May may have started losing their benefits. The Senate is scheduled to take up the measure on Tuesday.

Republicans have successfully blocked the bill from clearing the Senate for three times, quoting the additional budgetary burden as their main concern.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell stressed Sunday that Republicans are “all for extending unemployment insurance” but not in favor of deficit spending.

“They’ve taken the deficit as a percentage of GDP from 3.2 percent to almost 10 percent in a year and a half,” McConnell said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “Somewhere in the course of spending a trillion dollars, we ought to be able to find enough to pay for a program for the unemployed.”

Obama also urged the Senate to act this week on a package of tax cuts and expanded lending for small businesses, the two other legislative priorities Obama and Democrats agreed to last week following the passage of the financial regulation bill.

Good morning, everybody. Right now, across this country, many Americans are sitting at the kitchen table, they’re scanning the classifieds, they’re updating their resumes or sending out another job application, hoping that this time they’ll hear back from a potential employer. And they’re filled with a sense of uncertainty about where their next paycheck will come from. And I know the only thing that will entirely free them of those worries – the only thing that will fully lift that sense of uncertainty – is the security of a new job.

To that end, we all have to continue our efforts to do everything in our power to spur growth and hiring. And I hope the Senate acts this week on a package of tax cuts and expanded lending for small businesses, where most of America’s jobs are created.

So we’ve got a lot of work to do to make sure that we are digging ourselves out of this tough economic hole that we’ve been in. But even as we work to jumpstart job growth in the private sector, even as we work to get businesses hiring again, we also have another responsibility: to offer emergency assistance to people who desperately need it – to Americans who’ve been laid off in this recession. We’ve got a responsibility to help them make ends meet and support their families even as they’re looking for another job.

That’s why it’s so essential to pass the unemployment insurance extension that comes up for a vote tomorrow. We need to pass it for men like Jim Chukalas, who’s with me here today. Jim worked as a parts manager at a Honda dealership until about two years ago. He’s posted resumes everywhere. He’s gone door-to-door looking for jobs. But he hasn’t gotten a single interview. He’s trying to be strong for his two young kids, but now that he’s exhausted his unemployment benefits, that’s getting harder to do.

We need to pass it for women like Leslie Macko, who lost her job at a fitness center last year and has been looking for work ever since. Because she’s eligible for only a few more weeks of unemployment, she’s doing what she never thought she’d have to do – not at this point, anyway. She’s turning to her father for financial support.

And we need to pass it for Americans like Denise Gibson, who was laid off from a real estate agency earlier this year. Denise has been interviewing for jobs – but so far nothing has turned up. Meanwhile, she’s fallen further and further behind on her rent. And with her unemployment benefits set to expire, she’s worried about what the future holds.

We need to pass it for all the Americans who haven’t been able to find work in an economy where there are five applicants for every opening; who need emergency relief to help them pay the rent and cover their utilities and put food on the table while they’re looking for another job.

And for a long time, there’s been a tradition – under both Democratic and Republican Presidents – to offer relief to the unemployed. That was certainly the case under my predecessor, when Republican senators voted several times to extend emergency unemployment benefits. But right now, these benefits – benefits that are often the person’s sole source of income while they’re looking for work – are in jeopardy.

And I have to say, after years of championing policies that turned a record surplus into a massive deficit, the same people who didn’t have any problem spending hundreds of billions of dollars on tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans are now saying we shouldn’t offer relief to middle-class Americans like Jim or Leslie or Denise, who really need help.

Over the past few weeks, a majority of senators have tried – not once, not twice, but three times – to extend emergency relief on a temporary basis. Each time, a partisan minority in the Senate has used parliamentary maneuvers to block a vote, denying millions of people who are out of work much-needed relief. These leaders in the Senate who are advancing a misguided notion that emergency relief somehow discourages people from looking for a job should talk to these folks.

That attitude I think reflects a lack of faith in the American people, because the Americans I hear from in letters and meet in town hall meetings – Americans like Leslie and Jim and Denise – they’re not looking for a handout. They desperately want to work. Just right now they can’t find a job. These are honest, decent, hardworking folks who’ve fallen on hard times through no fault of their own, and who have nowhere else to turn except unemployment benefits and who need emergency relief to help them weather this economic storm.

Now, tomorrow we will have another chance to offer them that relief, to do right by not just Jim and Leslie and Denise, but all the Americans who need a helping hand right now – and I hope we seize it. It’s time to stop holding workers laid off in this recession hostage to Washington politics. It’s time to do what’s right – not for the next election but for the middle class. We’ve got to stop blocking emergency relief for Americans who are out of work. We’ve got to extend unemployment insurance. We need to pass those tax cuts for small businesses and the lending for small businesses.

Times are hard right now. We are moving in the right direction. I know it’s getting close to an election, but there are times where you put elections aside. This is one of those times. And that’s what I hope members of Congress on both sides of the aisle will do tomorrow.

Thanks very much.

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17
Jul
10

Weekly Address: Filibustering Recovery & Obstructing Progress

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Weekly Address: Filibustering Recovery & Obstructing Progress
President Obama Says GOP Senate Leadership Choosing to “Filibuster Our Recovery and Obstruct Our Progress”

Saturday, July 17, 2010

In this week’s address, the President criticized the Republican leadership in the Senate for opposing initiatives which that would create jobs and strengthen the economy like cutting taxes for small businesses and extending unemployment insurance for Americans who have lost their jobs during the recession. Aiding small businesses and renewing unemployment insurance are not just the right things to do for those hit hardest by the recession, they are steps that will help strengthen the recovery. When crises strike Main Street, the President believes it’s important to put aside politics and act in the best interests of American families and small businesses.

This week, many of our largest corporations reported robust earnings – a positive sign of growth.

But too many of our small business owners and those who aspire to start their own small businesses continue to struggle, in part because they can’t get the credit they need to start up, grow, and hire. And too many Americans whose livelihoods have fallen prey to the worst recession in our lifetimes – a recession that cost our economy eight million jobs – still wonder how they’ll make ends meet.

That’s why we need to take new, commonsense steps to help small businesses, grow our economy, and create jobs – and we need to take them now.

For months, that’s what we’ve been trying to do. But too often, the Republican leadership in the United States Senate chooses to filibuster our recovery and obstruct our progress. And that has very real consequences.

Consider what that obstruction means for our small businesses – the growth engines that create two of every three new jobs in this country. A lot of small businesses still have trouble getting the loans and capital they need to keep their doors open and hire new workers. So we proposed steps to get them that help: Eliminating capital gains taxes on investments. Establishing a fund for small lenders to help small businesses. Enhancing successful SBA programs that help them access the capital they need.

But again and again, a partisan minority in the Senate said “no,” and used procedural tactics to block a simple, up-or-down vote.

Think about what these stalling tactics mean for the millions of Americans who’ve lost their jobs since the recession began. Over the past several weeks, more than two million of them have seen their unemployment insurance expire. For many, it was the only way to make ends meet while searching for work – the only way to cover rent, utilities, even food.

Three times, the Senate has tried to temporarily extend that emergency assistance. And three times, a minority of Senators – basically the same crowd who said “no” to small businesses – said “no” to folks looking for work, and blocked a straight up-or-down vote.

Some Republican leaders actually treat this unemployment insurance as if it’s a form of welfare. They say it discourages folks from looking for work. Well, I’ve met a lot of folks looking for work these past few years, and I can tell you, I haven’t met any Americans who would rather have an unemployment check than a meaningful job that lets you provide for your family. And we all have friends, neighbors, or family members who already knows how hard it is to land a job when five workers are competing for every opening.

Now in the past, Presidents and Congresses of both parties have treated unemployment insurance for what it is – an emergency expenditure. That’s because an economic disaster can devastate families and communities just as surely as a flood or tornado.

Suddenly, Republican leaders want to change that. They say we shouldn’t provide unemployment insurance because it costs money. So after years of championing policies that turned a record surplus into a massive deficit, including a tax cut for the wealthiest Americans, they’ve finally decided to make their stand on the backs of the unemployed. They’ve got no problem spending money on tax breaks for folks at the top who don’t need them and didn’t even ask for them; but they object to helping folks laid off in this recession who really do need help. And every day this goes on, another 50,000 Americans lose that badly needed lifeline.

Well, I think these Senators are wrong. We can’t afford to go back to the same misguided policies that led us into this mess. We need to move forward with the policies that are leading us out of this mess.

The fact is, most economists agree that extending unemployment insurance is one of the single most cost-effective ways to help jumpstart the economy. It puts money into the pockets of folks who not only need it most, but who also are most likely to spend it quickly. That boosts local economies. And that means jobs.

Increasing loans to small business. Renewing unemployment insurance. These steps aren’t just the right thing to do for those hardest hit by the recession – they’re the right thing to do for all of us. And I’m calling on Congress once more to take these steps on behalf of America’s workers, and families, and small business owners – the people we were sent here to serve.

Because when storms strike Main Street, we don’t play politics with emergency aid. We don’t desert our fellow Americans when they fall on hard times. We come together. We do what we can to help. We rebuild stronger, and we move forward. That’s what we’re doing today. And I’m absolutely convinced that’s how we’re going to come through this storm to better days ahead.

Thanks.

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23
Apr
10

Harry Reid moves forward with first financial reform vote

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Harry Reid moves forward with first financial reform vote

Friday, April 23, 2010

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says he’ll try to move a financial reform bill to the floor today–and if the Republicans object, as they’ve threatened to do, he’ll force them to take a tough vote on whether to allow debate on legislation to regulate Wall Street.

“If they let us move to it, I’d be happy to do that,” Reid said at a press conference with Democratic leadership this afternoon. “If they don’t … I’m filing cloture [and we’ll] have a cloture vote on Monday, 5:15.”

That won’t please the GOP. Just before the Democrats’ press conference, Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), whose vote is still in play on financial reform, implored Reid not to move ahead until a final bipartisan agreement is reached.

“I hope that Senator Reid abandons his plan to force a premature cloture vote on Monday,” Collins told reporters. “I think that would be unfortunate in view of the fact that both sides of the negotiations say that progress is being made.”

Reid is undeterred. “I have been around for quiet a while,” he said. “What we have done on financial reform was just as energetic as what we did on health care. We worked for more than two months with [Sen. Richard] Shelby trying to come up with something … I’m not going to waste any more time of the American people while they come up with some agreement.”

“The games of stalling are over,” Reid said.

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15
Apr
10

House Republicans split on terms of new ‘Contract with America’

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House Republicans split on terms of new ‘Contract with America’

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Tea Party Patriots have released their “Contract with America” today to praise from GOP House leaders.

The contract is the result of a months-long effort between tea party groups to discuss then vote on what their members feel are this nation’s most pressing problems and offer their ideas for solutions.

The Contract with America serves as a clarion call for those who recognize the importance of free market principles, limited government, and individual liberty. It is the natural extension of a movement that began in the local communities and quickly spread across America in response to unprecedented government expansion, reckless spending, and a blatant disregard by our leaders of the nation’s founding principles.

During the past several months, hundreds of thousands of Americans have debated thousands of ideas to solve our nation’s most pressing problems. 454,331 votes were cast. It has been an open process and has provided a genuine opportunity to give voice to a broad cross section of concerned Americans.

You can find the Contract in its entirety at the link.

House Republican leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) praised the effort:

“This ‘Contract with America’ captures the American people’s frustration with a government that has grown too big, too costly, and too arrogant. It is culled directly from the voices of Americans who have said ‘enough’ to permanent bailouts, ‘enough’ to government takeovers, and ‘enough’ to wasteful Washington spending.

“This document is just the latest example of how the Tea Party movement has done this nation a great service by giving Americans who believe their government is no longer listening to them a platform to come together that transcends party and ideology. Republican elected officials must continue to listen to them, stand with them, and walk among them.

“Every lawmaker – Republican, Democrat, and Independent – should consider the ‘Contract from America’ required reading and heed its call for a return to the principles on which our nation was founded.”

House Republican Caucus Chairman Mike Pence (R-Ind.) also responded immediately to the release of the Contract:

“I want to commend the grassroots effort of the Contract from America initiative. Its principles represent a good start toward the essential goals of individual liberty, limited government, and economic freedom.

“I hope that many conservative leaders will join with this bold initiative that’s marked by powerful ideas to get our government’s fiscal house in order. As Republicans move forward developing our agenda for the 112th Congress, efforts like this will be invaluable.”

House Republican Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) also offered his support:

“Today there is an unparalleled level of frustration directed at Washington from across the country, and for good reason. Washington has become entirely too intrusive in every aspect of our economy and far too irresponsible with taxpayer dollars – and Americans know it. The economic insecurity felt by American families and businesses has not just created a sense of tangible fear, but legitimate disagreement with the agenda being pursued by President Obama and the Democrat Congress. People wonder whether Washington can actually fix anything with the kind of misguided legislation that is being passed and enacted into law. And can anyone blame them? Washington must stop pretending there won’t be severe consequences for their out-of-control spending programs that impede job creation and economic growth, while creating a permanent dependency on the government.

“The Contract with America represents a grassroots awareness that people have been over taxed and Washington has been overspending for far too long. It is born out of love for the Constitution and transcends partisanship in the hope that those controlling the levers of power in Washington finally start listening to the people again. America has long been governed by a common sense conservative philosophy that goes back to the days of our Founding Fathers. We believe in free markets, we believe in individual responsibility, and we don’t believe that the government has all the answers.

“That’s why we will continue to fight to restore balance to Washington by bringing responsible, adult leadership that focuses on job creation, economic opportunity, putting the country back on the path to financial stability, and limited government. We must also work to repeal and replace the Democrats’ overhaul of health care with a system that will improve access to care and make health insurance more affordable for everyone. I want to thank all those Americans who had a hand in developing and putting forward the Contract from America. Our republic benefits from their work.”

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14
Apr
10

White House fights for finance reforms

NEWS
White House fights for finance reforms

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

A bipartisan meeting on financial regulatory reform between President Barack Obama and GOP congressional leaders broke up early and acrimoniously Wednesday – as the White House warned Republicans against trying to water down the bill.

“Obama made clear that bipartisanship should not be equated with an openness to lobbyists’ loopholes and special interest carve-outs and that he would be unwilling to negotiate on some key issues,” said White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, in an e-mailed readout of the meeting, “And that he could not accept bad policy” in pursuit of a deal with the GOP.

“It appears the bipartisan talks have broken down,” pronounced Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kent.), after meeting for less than an hour with Obama, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).

“The strings were kind of pulled by the Democratic leaders,” added McConnell, who said that Democrats “are trying to jam us” for political gain.

“If there’s one lesson that we’ve learned,” said Obama in televised remarks prior to the meeting, “it’s that an unfettered market where people are taking huge risks and expecting taxpayers to bail them out when things go sour is simply not acceptable.”

Pelosi said Obama and the Democrats confronted McConnell and House Minority Leader John Boehner, saying they asked the Republicans, “Do you want to rein in Wall Street?”
Despite McConnell’s claims, Democratic staffers have expressed confidence that regulating Wall Street is such a poisonous issue for the GOP this fall that many in the party will ultimate side with Democrats – with as many as half a dozen defections possible.

Senate Democrats are lining up behind a proposal passed by lame-duck Banking Committee Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.) that would create a consumer protection bureau with authority to write rules governing all financial entities, including banks and other institutions, in addition to “authority to examine and enforce regulations for banks and credit unions with assets over $10 billion and all mortgage-related businesses.”

Acrimony aside, Dodd and Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), the ranking Republican on the committee, are due to meet this afternoon in hopes of hashing out a broader deal. But Dodd earlier Wednesday threatened to end negotiations with Republicans on a financial regulatory reform bill if they continue to lead what he called a misinformation campaign based on Wall Street talking points.

In a blistering floor speech Tuesday, McConnell laid out the GOP’s counterargument – claiming the Democrats’ bill would put taxpayer on the hook for future bailouts.

Emerging from his Tuesday meeting, McConnell hammered home that point, saying, “It’s a bill that actually guarantees future bailouts of Wall Street banks, if you look carefully… hat is clearly not the direction the American people want to go.”

A seething Reid, squinting in the bright sunlight of the West Wing driveway, called McConnell’s claim that Democrats had abandoned talks a “figment of his imagination” and vowed to pass the overhaul quickly.

The White House has accused McConnell of parroting the party’s talking points, driven by polls.

Participants described the meeting as “lively” and “candid” but demurred when reporters pressed him on the number of GOP “yes” votes he hoped to get.

“It’s difficult to work with the party of no,” he said.

The majority leader, facing a tough reelection fight in Nevada this fall, seized on a FOX Business News report that McConnell and Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) recently met privately with about 25 hedge Wall Street executives, many of them hedge fund managers, to talk fundraising and regulatory reform.

McConnell dodged questions about the meeting saying only that he had heard criticism of the Dodd bill from “community banks in Kentucky.”

But when a reporter pressed him about his relationship with Wall Street, McConnell said, “Sure, we talk with people all the time, I’m not denying that,” – saying it was “inaccurate to say the GOP was fighting for the big banks.

As the meeting took place, Boehner’s staff released a list of talking points the leader planned to make, including the argument that the Dodd bill “sets up a huge new bureaucracy” and “does nothing to address the root causes of the Fannie & Freddie.”

But a person familiar with the situation that Boehner “actually said none of that” during the brisk, businesslike meeting.

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12
Apr
10

Scott Brown Won’t Attend Boston Tea Party, But Sarah Palin Will

NEWS
Scott Brown Won’t Attend Boston Tea Party, But Sarah Palin Will

Monday, April 12, 2010

U.S. Sen. Scott Brown, whose stunning victory in January was fueled in part by Tea Party anger, has snubbed the fiery grassroots group and declined its invitation to join Sarah Palin Wednesday at a massive rally on Boston Common, the Herald has learned.

Brown’s decision to skip the first big rally in Boston by the group whose members are credited with helping him win election has some experts saying he’s tossed the Tea Party overboard, as he prepares for re-election in 2012.

“He wants to mainstream himself before the election,” said Larry Sabato, a University of Virginia political scientist.

Brown, who took heat for the alleged misbehavior of some of his supporters at campaign events, may be trying to distance himself from what could be a volatile event, said political analyst Lou DiNatale.

“You’re worried at a rally that there’s a sign, a statement, an incident that’s certifiably cuckoo occurs,” DiNatale said.

“To win re-election, Scott Brown floating to the right is a serious problem.

“And showing up at a Sarah Palin, Tea Party event is not the way to the middle.”

But Brown spokesman Felix Browne said the senator applauds the “energy and enthusiasm” Palin and the Tea Party bring to GOP politics.

The Senate is in session and Brown can’t get away, Browne said.

“He’ll be doing the job he was elected to do – serving the people of the commonwealth of Massachusetts,” Browne said.

Sabato said it’s “possible” Brown can’t get away but noted senators do travel to their districts during the weeks-long stretches that the Senate is in session.

“It’s not like they’re voting constantly,” Sabato said.

Tea Party members said they don’t feel slighted.

“It’s not about paying favors back,” said Mark Williams, chairman of the Tea Party Express, which organized the rally and invited Brown.

“I’d happily forgo (having him) if he’s truly doing the job of the people.

“He has half a century of Kennedy damage to compensate for, after all.”

Barbara Klain, head of the Greater Lowell Tea Party, said Brown also turned down an invite to speak at their April 15 rally in downtown Lowell.

“He said he was going to be in Washington,” Klain said. “He needs to be doing his job.”

It’s a view Sabato suggested was willfully naive.

“It’s naive, but they’re cutting him some slack,” Sabato said.

“But he’s their hero, more so than Sarah Palin – they got him elected.”

This won’t be the first time Brown has appeared to distance himself from Palin.

Shortly after his triumph, Brown denied receiving a congratulatory call from Palin, only to remember the exchange when pressed.

Palin is a possible 2012 presidential rival to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, whose aides were the architects of Brown’s Senate win.

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11
Apr
10

Michael Steele To Republicans: ‘I’ve Made Mistakes’

NEWS
Michael Steele To Republicans: ‘I’ve Made Mistakes’

Sunday, April 11, 2010

In damage control mode, GOP national chairman Michael Steele on Saturday sought to quell the furor over his management of the Republican National Committee by acknowledging errors and vowing to learn from them.

“I’m the first here to admit that I’ve made mistakes and it’s been incumbent on me to take responsibility to shoulder that burden, make the necessary changes and move on,” Steele told GOP activists and party leaders, drawing a standing ovation.

“The one mistake we cannot make this November is to lose,” he added, and the crowd cheered in agreement.

Saturday’s speech to the Southern Republican Leadership Conference was Steele’s first public appearance since the disclosure of questionable spending – including a $2,000 tab at a sex-themed California night club – resulted in top advisers cutting ties with him and North Carolina’s state party chief calling for his resignation.

Normally a bombastic showman, Steele struck a contrite tone before the supportive audience in the half-full hotel ballroom. He did not address the specific complaints.

And even though he acknowledged his errors, he also blamed others. “We can’t coast into the majority, nor can we assume it’s a sure thing.

The liberal media are looking for any possible alternative narrative to tell,” Steele said. “They are looking for those distractions, and Lord knows I’ve provided a few.”

He added: “The Democrats also know that they have some explaining to do, and they’d love nothing more than for us to keep pointing fingers.”

Outspoken and brassy, Steele is not a traditional buttoned-down GOP chairman and he’s been a target of criticism since he was elected last year.

The complaints reached a fever pitch over the past week, causing both embarrassment and distraction for a GOP looking to take advantage of a troubling political environment for Democrats ahead of this fall’s midterm elections. Still, for all the angst in the GOP over Steele, it’s unlikely he will be fired.

Ousting a chairman is a complicated, messy process that requires votes of two-thirds of the 168-member RNC.

And, while there are both hard-core Steele opponents and fierce Steele allies, several Republican officials at the New Orleans conference said that most committee members and party chairman simply seem to want to move on from the controversy so Republicans can focus on November.

Attended by roughly 3,000 GOP activists and party leaders, the three-day conference wrapped up Saturday with speeches by prominent Republicans considering running for president in 2012 against President Barack Obama.

Conference participants voted in a “straw poll” for their top 2012 choice; the results were hardly predictive and meant little. Some would-be contenders like former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Minnesota Gov.

Tim Pawlenty were absent and others like Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour asked that their names not be included. Those who gave speeches downplayed talk of the next presidential election.

“We have got to stay focused on the election of 2010. Don’t worry about 2012 … We can’t wait until 2012 to start taking our country back,” Barbour told the crowd.

Despite that message, he sounded every bit the presidential candidate and spoke after running a slick video that promoted his role as the chairman of the Republican Governors Association.

Barbour also urged unity as the GOP wrestles with what to do about Steele and as the tea party’s emergence highlights divisions among Republicans.

“The wind is at our back. How are we going to make sure it continues to fill up our sails?” Barbour said. “We stick together.” He said Republicans should focus on the 80 percent of issues that unite them, not the 20 percent that may divide them. “We’ve got to let the things that unite us be the things that guide us,” he said.

“We cannot let ourselves by torn apart by the idea of purity.” Earlier, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, who is looking for a political comeback, took on the Republican Party, saying that when Republicans controlled Congress and the White House before Democrats won control: “We let America down.”

“Conservatism didn’t fail America, conservatives failed conservatism,” Santorum said, prompting huge cheers. “Let’s be honest: we were guilty of more government when we were there.” Seeking to raise his national profile, Indiana Rep. Mike Pence – a darling of the party’s right flank – introduced himself as “a Christian, a conservative and a Republican.”

And, eying another run after his 2008 failed bid, Texas Rep. Ron Paul told activists that “the American people have awoken” because Washington won’t address the nation’s fiscal crisis. Still, for all the appearances by likely 2012 candidates and excitement over the midterms, the RNC’s woes hovered over event.

“In life, you realize very quickly that you can’t please everyone. But you can certainly make them all made at you at the same time,” Steele said. “And that is a lesson well-learned. It is an opportunity as well.

Because folks have been mad at us in the past and we have learned from that past, and we are now ready to move on to a brighter future.”

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11
Apr
10

SELC: For GOP, no front-runner and no worries

NEWS
SELC: For GOP, no front-runner and no worries

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Tim Pawlenty and Mitt Romney, the two Republicans taking the most obvious steps toward presidential bids, both skipped the Southern Republican Leadership Conference here this weekend.

And the thousands of Republicans in attendance didn’t seem to miss them.

With GOP leaders and activists viewing the 2010 midterms as a unique, defining chance to stop the hated Obama agenda, the invisible primary appears to be largely on hold, and the presidential field remains wide open.

Only two men are really running so far: Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, thanks to his previous White House run and fundraising capacity, starts off the 2012 race as the nearest thing his party has to a frontrunner, while Pawlenty, the governor of Minnesota, is working feverishly to boost his profile.

But Republicans – who, this time four years ago, were riveted by the contest between candidates including Romney, former Tennessee Sen. Bill Frist, and Arizona Sen. John McCain – seem in no hurry to focus on the two all-but-declared candidates, or on any of the other figures beginning to position themselves for 2012.

Among the activists, operatives and elected officials gathered for this quadrennial exercise, part political beauty contest and part strategy session, there is little consensus not only who they’d like to nominate but even on which candidates they’d like to see run.

“Don’t get distracted by 2012,” Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour told an approving crowd in his speech Saturday.

“People are very excited about our opportunity in ‘10, but more important they think the stakes in ‘10 are incredibly high,” Barbour, who also chairs the Republican Governors Association and could himself seek the presidential nomination in two years, said in an interview. “They think the issues that we’re going to start dealing with in ‘10 really matter to them but also the country’s future. So there is no question, the focus here is almost totally on ’10. If I had my way it would be exclusively on ’10.”

Presidential cycles have in recent years started earlier and earlier, but the race to become the GOP nominee in 2012 seems to be reversing that trend. Less than two years before the first votes are cast in Iowa and New Hampshire, the field generals and their lieutenants in the Republican Party are simply not in a hurry to find a standard-bearer. It’s not for a lack of potential candidates or energy in the party ranks – the GOP has clearly emerged from its Bush-era funk and is confident their string of statewide wins since last November portends good things for this fall.

But it seems highly unlikely that there will be any move to coalesce behind a single figure in the fashion of, for example, then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush in 1999.

That’s in part because the various contenders have some elements that seem attractive but no one offers such a complete package that they’re standing out from an unsettled field. Take the two leaders in many early polls: Grassroots activists adore Sarah Palin and nobody else comes close to the former Alaska governor’s own-the-room star wattage.

But party leaders, and even some of her rank-and-file fans, have grave doubts about her command of the issues and viability. Romney is just the opposite – he’s unquestionably competent, but a sober Mr. Fix-It isn’t exactly the order of the day at a time when many in the party feel the same sort of mad-as-hell outrage that Palin seems to embody.

At the core of the 2012 apathy is a larger and more important point about the current mood among conservatives: Republican Party activists have such fear of President Barack Obama and the Democratic majority’s policies that they are intensely focused on the present.

It is, of course, a familiar line, trotted out predictably by politicians at such party confabs as this, that the only election that matters is the next one.

But the GOP leaders stressing the mid-terms here aren’t just doing it to downplay their own ambitions and keep activists focused on the near-term. They’re also doing it because they don’t want to get cross-wise with a base that truly believes, with a palpable urgency, that America as they know it hangs in the balance of whatever the next election is.

In January, that was the special Senate election in Massachusetts, into which poured vast amounts of conservative money and manpower. And now it means this November’s contests.

Using one sports metaphor after another, GOP politicians made that point in New Orleans. Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.), a member of the House leadership who is mulling a 2012 run, explained Saturday in his speech how Indiana’s Butler University made its Cinderella run through this year’s NCAA basketball tournament.

“We have just got to focus on the next possession,” Pence said, drawing rousing applause from the floor.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry invoked Big 12 college football, and counseled “keeping the team focused on the game at hand.”

In interviews, top GOP leaders explained why the party was so fixated on the here and now.

“I do think there’s a sense among voters and activists out there that these are important times for our country’s future,” said Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal in an interview. “That this is greater than just the recession, it’s greater than one health care bill. There are some fundamental decisions we have to make as a country.”

The question, said Jindal, is this: “Do we want to become more like Europe, with higher levels of spending which means higher levels of taxes which means larger, more intrusive government programs or are we going to take back a more limited government? That’s why I think [the moment] is greater than any political party, or movement or particular leader or set of speakers.”

In speaking to a small breakfast of top GOP donors Saturday morning, Barbour urged the moneymen against looking beyond this fall with a folksy aphorism he credited to FedEx CEO and Mississippi native Fred Smith: “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.”

Barbour did his part, as aides made sure to point out, by requesting his name not be placed on the conference’s straw poll ballot.

He wasn’t the only one who got the message: Jindal and Perry also stayed off the ballot.

And, perhaps most telling, the most implicit mention of the 2012 contest during the slew of speeches over the three days may have been when Jindal used his chance on stage Friday to flatly declare he would not be seeking the nomination.

Among party operatives – the types who, like their candidate clients, do think about the next presidential contest but who, unlike their clients, will actually talk about the race – the GOP’s revival at the polls and Obama’s descent into the ranks of political mortals has created a what-me-worry feeling about the White House campaign.

Unlike at the last SRLC in 2006 when the party was consumed with determining who would succeed Bush and what the future direction of a majority party grappling with an unpopular war would be, now party strategists are happy to wait until after what they expect will be a smashing November to let the field take shape.

“Somebody will emerge – somebody we’re not talking about now or who does not want to be talked about now,” said GOP veteran Mary Matalin, following her kick-off address at the conference.

Matalin recalled her own initial favorite – and one of the most-talked-about potential candidates this time four years ago–to make the case for why it makes sense for White House prospects to avoid the spotlight.

“Look at what happened to poor George Allen,” she said, alluding to the former Virginia senator who made little secret of his presidential ambitions only to lose his own re-election in 2006. “He got a big target put on his back. If I were thinking about 2012 seriously, I would lay low.”

But Matalin, who worked for both Presidents Bush, said that the only certainty about the next presidential race is there will be no obvious frontrunner who captures the nomination thanks only to the party’s tradition of political primogeniture.

“Who’s in line? There is nobody in line,” she said.

Jindal said the current levels of grassroots energy will also preempt any crowning of a favored candidate.

“They don’t want to be told who to vote for,” the governor said, referring to the party foot soldiers. “This isn’t going to be a pre-ordained election. There is this reputation in the Republican Party that you wait your turn and then when it’s your turn, you run. I think the voters are saying we want to make the decision, this is democracy, we’ll decide who we want to represent us and lead us.”

“The activists would resist any attempt from party leaders or anybody else to try to pre-ordain a process or a pick,” he added.

The expectation among Republicans is that field will grow – and will include names who haven’t previously been considered.

“Every cycle that happens, there is a surprise,” said Liz Cheney following her own address to the conference.

Or, as Jindal put it: “Who would have thought a year into President Bush’s second term, that Sen. Obama would be the next president of the United States?”

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31
Mar
10

Barack Obama tries triangulation lite

NEWS
Barack Obama tries triangulation lite

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Just days after Republicans fumed that passage of the health care bill tolled the death knell for bipartisanship, there was a very different message coming from some GOP quarters Wednesday: praise for President Barack Obama’s decision to lift the ban on some offshore oil drilling.

Credit Obama with pulling off a small political coup – one you could even call triangulation lite.

The price he paid in political terms was relatively small: Angry blowback from environmental activists who still support his overall climate change policy.

But the short-term benefits were large: By announcing the policy change, Obama defused a potentially potent Republican issue ahead of the summer gas spike and the fall midterms, while embracing major elements of the GOP’s “all of the above” energy approach to kick-start a stalled climate change bill.

And the drilling decision also allows the president to distance himself from liberal environmentalists disdained by some pro-drilling, blue-collar voters.

“It’s not a bad thing to show you’re willing to do something that gets liberals angry right after you pass the biggest liberal bill in a generation,” said a Senate Democrat staffer, whose boss opposes the policy.

The aide was encouraged by reader comments on news stories about the drilling decision announced early Wednesday. “Lots of people are saying ‘Obama finally did something I can get behind.’”

Obama proposed opening up a huge swath of the U.S. coastline to offshore drilling, an area that includes the Gulf Coast and much of the eastern seaboard, including possible petroleum fields off the Virginia coast, a move backed by the state’s two Democratic Senators, Mark Warner and Jim Webb.

Obama’s plan would maintain the ban on drilling off the southwestern coast of Alaska, but lifts restrictions on exploration of north Alaskan oceanic fields.

The move, which Obama telegraphed in his State of the Union speech and promised to pursue during the 2008 campaign, earned him rare bipartisan plaudits.

“I appreciate the department’s decision to allow valid existing rights to explore Alaska’s huge offshore oil and gas reserves to go ahead,” said Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, one of the Republicans Obama hopes to woo with his decision.

“I will work with the administration on proceeding with important future lease sales off Alaska’s coast.”

Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who has opposed virtually everything Democrats have proposed in the 111th Congress, said he was encouraged but skeptical; effusive support by McConnell standards.

Administration officials hope that the drilling announcement will coax other moderate Republicans in the Senate to join efforts by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Massachusetts Democrat John Kerry of Massachusetts and Connecticut independent Joe Lieberman to cross party lines to pass a carbon-regulating climate change bill this year.

The long-awaited decision by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar – coming on the heels of Obama’s proposed tripling of funding for nuclear plant development – sparked a far less positive response from most green groups, who view it as a sell-out.

“We had been told they were going to come out with something and we had been told we weren’t going to like it. I’m just really surprised by how counter-productive this proposal is,” said Anna Aurilio, of Environment America, which joined Greenpeace, the League of Conservation Voters and other groups in opposing the move.

“To me this doesn’t add up to any progress. This is a step backwards … All this stuff that we’ve been working to protect for so long is now threatened for no good reason.”

Rep. Jay Inslee, (D-Wash.), an opponent of drilling, told that Wednesday’s move will be pointless if Obama can’t follow up with passage of a comprehensive bill that regulates carbon – a tall order even following the Democrats’ big health care win.

Without comprehensive reform, “a massive expansion of offshore drilling does not cut the mustard,” Inslee said. He added that he’s worried the administration is giving away one of their most important climate carrots – and getting nothing in return.

“It would in my mind be more confidence building to have this as part of the final agreement rather than the opening discussion,” he said.

Obama anticipated such criticism during a speech announcing the policy at Andrews Air Force Base.

“There will be those who strongly disagree with this decision,” he said. “What I want to emphasize is that this announcement is part of a broader strategy” to wean the U.S. from foreign oil.

It’s not clear what, if any, impact the announcement will have on the Graham-Kerry-Lieberman effort to craft a bill sometime this spring. Obama and his staff have made it clear they plan to tackle financial regulatory reform next – a process that’s expected to take until Memorial Day.

That leaves only a few weeks before lawmakers leave for the midterm elections to pass a climate bill, a particularly tight timeframe given that Kerry, Graham, and Lieberman have yet to release a draft.

Other congressional aides steeped in climate politics say the drilling proposal is more defensive – by adopting the Republican cry for expanded drilling, the White House preempts one of their favorite attacks.

“Republicans claim they are for an ‘all of the above’ energy strategy. Now, when a vote occurs on a bill that includes drilling and nuclear power along with clean energy and a climate component, President Obama can call their bluff,” said a House aide involved in energy issues.

In the Senate, moderate Democrats and a handful of Republicans have named offshore drilling as their price of admission for a comprehensive climate bill.

“I will not support any bill that doesn’t have off-shore drilling in a meaningful way,” said Graham.

“It’s just impossible to pass any piece of legislation without it,” said Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.). “In order to get any bill through here, there’s going to be expanded drilling opportunities both on-shore and off.”

“It will be a fight – it always is,” she said, “but I think we’ll win.”

Yet even if Obama’s wins a short-term bump on the issue, perils remain. The decision may gain him some GOP backing – at the expense of anti-drilling Democrats.

Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) has vowed to filibuster any legislation that removes the ban on drilling off the coast of Florida. And last week, 10 coastal state Democrats wrote the three senators working on the climate bill, warning that they could not support a bill that includes offshore drilling.

“We hope that as you forge legislation, you are mindful that we cannot support legislation that will mitigate one risk only to put our coasts at greater peril from another source,” they wrote.

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25
Mar
10

‘Go For It,’ Obama Tells Republicans On Health Care Repeal

NEWS
‘Go For It,’ Obama Tells Republicans On Health Care Repeal

Thursday, March 25, 2010

President Barack Obama mocked Republicans’ campaign to repeal his new health care law, saying they should “Go for it” and see how well they fare with voters.

“Be my guest,” Obama said Thursday in Iowa City, Iowa, in the first of many appearances around the country to sell the overhaul to voters before the fall congressional elections. “If they want to have that fight, we can have it. Because I don’t believe the American people are going to put the insurance industry back in the driver’s seat.”

With emotions raw around the nation over the party-line vote to approve the nearly $1 trillion, 10-year law, Obama took the opposition to task for “plenty of fear-mongering, plenty of overheated rhetoric.”

“If you turn on the news, you’ll see that those same folks are still shouting about how it’s going to be the end of the world because this bill passed,” said Obama, appearing before thousands in this college town where, as a presidential candidate three years ago, he first unveiled his health care proposals.
No Republican lawmakers voted for the overhaul, a sweeping package that will shape how almost every American will receive and pay for medical treatment. Many in the GOP are predicting it will prove devastating in November for the Democrats who voted for it.

But the president stressed the notion of a promise kept, saying the legislation he signed into law on Tuesday is evidence he will do as he said. As the crowd broke into a chant of “Yes we can!” Obama corrected them: “Yes we did!”

The White House suggests it has the upper hand against Republicans politically, arguing the GOP risks a voter backlash because a repeal would take away from small businesses and individuals the benefits provided to them immediately under the new law.

“We’re not going back,” Obama said.

Obama spoke as Democrats in Washington raced to complete the overhaul with a separate package of fixes to the main bill.

Senate leaders finished work Thursday on the fix-it legislation, already approved in the House. But Republican attempts to derail the process resulted in minor changes to the bill, which meant the House would have to vote on it again before it can go to Obama for his signature. The House vote was expected by evening.

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25
Mar
10

Senate OKs changes to healthcare bill

NEWS
Senate OKs changes to healthcare bill

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Senate Democrats voted to pass the reconciliation package of repairs to President Obama’s health care overhaul Thursday afternoon after nearly round-the-clock votes to reject dozens of Republican amendments.

The bill passed 56–43 but has to go back to the House for another vote after Republicans were able to get two lines of the legislation deleted because they violated Senate rules. The House is expected to approve the changes to the bill – one a technicality, the other a limit on the maximum Pell grant allowed in the federal student loan program – and send the package to Mr. Obama late Thursday evening. A reform of the nation’s student loan system was included in the reconciliation bill for health reform.

The reconciliation bill contains a series of corrections to the underlying health care overhaul plan, which Mr. Obama signed into law this week.

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25
Mar
10

Senate Will Have to Return Health Bill to House

NEWS
Senate Will Have to Return Health Bill to House

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Washington, DC Spokesman for Nevada Senator Harry Reid, Jim Manley, released the following statement today after Republicans forced shut down of several Senate committees for the second consecutive day:

“For a second straight day, Republicans are using tricks to shut down several key Senate committees. So let me get this straight: in retaliation for our efforts to have an up-or-down vote to improve health care reform, Republicans are blocking an Armed Services committee hearing to discuss critical national security issues among other committee meetings? These political games and obstruction have to stop – the American people expect and deserve better.”

The reconciliation bill will have to go back to the House for another vote after Senate parliamentarian Alan Frumin ruled early this morning that two minor provisions violated the chamber’s rules and could not be included in the final bill, according to Majority Leader Harry Reid’s spokesman Jim Manley.

Both provisions made technical changes to the bill’s Pell Grant regulations. All told, 16 lines of text will be removed from the 153-page bill, Manley told reporters as business on the Senate floor wrapped early Thursday morning.

A spokeswoman for the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) reiterated that the changes are “minor” and won’t create problems when the altered bill goes back to the House for approval. The reconciliation bill is designed to make changes to the newly minted health care reform law.

“The parliamentarian struck two minor provisions tonight form the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act, but this bill’s passage in the Senate is still a big win for the American people. These changes do not impact the reforms to the student loan programs and the important investments in education. We are confident the House will quickly pass the bill with these minor changes,” Harkin spokeswoman Kate Cyrul wrote.

The all-night session came as Republicans offered 29 amendments in a final attempt to scuttle the bill, or at least force Democrats into taking politically difficult votes that could be used against them in November. Democrats steadily rejected each amendment, arguing that any changes would send the bill back to the House for another vote, an outcome Senate Democrats worked mightily to avoid before the parliamentarian’s ruling early Thursday.

Reid finally adjourned the marathon session at about 2:45 a.m. after striking a deal with Republican Leader Mitch McConnell to return at 9:45 a.m. today and hold a final vote on the bill around 2 p.m. – news that was greeted with audible sighs of relief from tired senators.

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25
Mar
10

Health care ‘fix-it’ bill up for Senate debate

NEWS
Health care ‘fix-it’ bill up for Senate debate

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Democratic senators ripped their Republican counterparts for forcing cancellations of hearings throughout the Senate on Wednesday, claiming that the GOP is needlessly blocking essential national security business.

Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and Sen. Claire McCaskill both complained that Republicans kept them from holding their hearings on budget requests for the military’s Pacific and strategic and police training contracts in Afghanistan.

Either party in the Senate is allowed to object to holding hearings, as Senate rules require a unanimous consent request for hearings to be held after 2 p.m. Most of these unanimous consent requests aren’t even noticed on any given day, but Republicans have been objecting to these requests, essentially shutting down committee work.

“It is astounding to me that the Republicans have decided to take this course of action. There’s no point to it. It does not accomplish their goals of stopping health care reform. All it can do is stop us from carrying out our duties to provide for the security of our country,” Levin said.

Generals from U.S. Pacific Command, Strategic Command and U.S. Forces Korea posted overseas flew to Washington for their annual update to the Armed Services committee, and Levin said his staff is working to reschedule a hearing for Friday but that it is unclear whether the generals will be able to stay that long.

Levin said he approached Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) Tuesday night at a meeting with senators and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, alerting him of the importance of the hearing and asking for assistance in ensuring the committee could meet. “He told me he’d look into it,” Levin said.

McCaskill, who chairs the Subcommittee on Contracting Oversight, stepped up the criticism of the McConnell, saying that although he might not be the senator blocking the committee hearings, it’s well within his purview to stop it.

“If he’s a strong enough leader to keep all of his members in the corral on some of the things he’s kept them in the corral on in the past few months–surely, he’s a strong enough leader to say we’re not going to stop hearings on police training contracts in Afghanistan and commanders who travel halfway across the world to testify on behalf our United States military,” McCaskill said of McConnell.

McCaskill went on to say that the rule that allows members to block committee proceedings is “dumb” and “antiquated” and that although the “buck stops with the Republican leader… at a minimum, they owe the American people an answer as to who is responsible.”

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), is pushing to strike so-called “sweetheart deals” such as an extra $300 million in Medicaid funds for the state of Louisiana. Critics have labeled the deal the “Louisiana Purchase.”

Democrats have dismissed the GOP proposals as little more than politically motivated obstructionism meant to derail the deal.

Republicans are “not serious about helping this bill,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), said Wednesday. They are concerned only with “throwing roadblocks in front of anything we do.”

Reid said Senate Democrats “feel very comfortable and confident” that the package of changes as currently drafted will pass.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), said Tuesday he didn’t think the Senate would change the bill, but if it did, the House would be prepared to vote on the revised bill and send it to Obama.

After a White House meeting Monday night with Senate Democratic leaders and Obama, a senior Democratic source said they believe some portions of the fixes bill may be ruled out of order because they violate the complicated legislative rules governing the process. The source would not specify the potential problems identified at the meeting.

Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), said one or two potential problems were identified, but he said they were minor.

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15
Mar
10

Health Insurance Reform Right Now

NEWS
Health Insurance Reform Right Now

Monday, March 15, 2010


President Barack Obama continued to try to put a human face on Democrats’ plans to overhaul the nation’s health care system as he raised the stakes Monday on final passage of a reform bill.

The cornerstone of Obama’s speech in this Cleveland suburb was Natoma Canfield, an Ohio woman with leukemia who sent a letter to Obama saying her insurance premiums went up 40 percent. Obama recently read the letter at a meeting with health insurance company executives.

“I’m here because of Natoma,” he said after being introduced by Canfield’s sister. “I’m here because of the countless others who have been forced to face the most terrifying challenges of their lives with the added burden of medical bills they cannot pay. I don’t think that’s right. Neither do you, and that’s why we need health insurance reform, right now.”

Obama highlighted Canfield’s story to argue the urgent need for reform, saying she was diagnosed with cancer 16 years ago and couldn’t afford to keep her health insurance in January after her premiums repeatedly increased, he explained.

Since her new diagnosis with leukemia, Obama said, “she is racked with worry not only about her illness but about the cost of the tests and the treatments that she’s surely going to need to beat it.”

“And so when you hear people say ‘start over’ — I want you to think about Natoma,” he said. “When you hear people saying that this isn’t the ‘right time’ — you think about what she’s going through. When you hear people talk about, ‘well, what does this mean for the Democrats, what does this mean for the Republicans, I don’t know how the polls are doing,’ when you hear people more worried about the politics of it than what’s right and what’s wrong, I want you to think about Natoma and the millions of people all across the country who are looking for some help.”

“What we have to understand is, what’s happening to Natoma, there but for the grace of God go any one of us,” Obama said.

Canfield, who lives in the nearby congressional district of Rep. John Boccieri, a freshman Democrat who voted against health care reform last year, was recently readmitted to the hospital to be treated for leukemia. The diagnosis came Saturday, after Obama shared her letter with the nation and scheduled his trip to Strongsville.

The crowd was as feisty as Obama, shouting things to him, and finishing his sentences for him. At one point, a woman shouted to him as he was talking about how “and now as we get closer to the vote there is a lot of hand wringing going on. …”

“We need courage!” a woman shouted.

And he incorporated it into his remarks, saying repeatedly that Washington needs “courage.”

“The truth is, what is at stake in this debate is not just our ability to solve this problem, but our ability to solve any problem,” he said. “The American people want to know if it’s still possible for Washington to look out for their interests, for their future. So what they’re looking for is some courage. They’re waiting for us to act. They are waiting for us to lead. … And as long as I hold this office, I intend to provide that leadership.”

While pitching his proposal on a stage in the middle of a toss-up region represented by members of Congress who are on the fence about supporting reform, Obama shunned the politics of the health care debate.

“I don’t know about the politics,” he said in the ultimate swing state of Ohio with less than a week to go before his top aides say reform will be nearly complete. “But I know what’s the right thing to do. And so I am calling on Congress to pass these reforms — and I’m going to sign them into law. I want some courage. I want us to do the right thing.”

Obama continued to argue that his proposal melds ideas of Democrats and Republicans, despite t House Republican leader Rep. John Boehner of Ohio said Sunday that he merely “took a couple of Republican bread crumbs and put them on top of their 2700-page bill.”

Obama also ad-libbed to say his plan is paid for, and, digging at Republicans, said that’s “more than can be said for our colleagues on the other side of the aisle,” who passed a prescription-drug plan without paying “for any of it.”

“Now they’re up there on their high horse,” he says. “Their plan expanded the deficit.”

Several dozen demonstrators protesting Obama’s health care proposal had gathered as early as 9: 30 a.m. outside the Strongsville senior center at which Obama spoke. The area Obama came to make his pitch is such a battleground that during the presidential campaign, Republican Sen. John McCain and his running mate, Gov. Sarah Palin, had packed a crowd of 8,000 in the same venue.

“No govt health care” read one of the protestors’ signs, bearing one of the critical arguments that has stuck since the debate over reform began more than a year ago.

Obama was on the defensive once again, arguing that his proposal is not a government takeover of health care, stressing that under his proposal “if you like your plan, you can keep your plan.”

He also fought back against critics who say his plan would hurt Medicare. “This proposal makes Medicare stronger, makes the coverage better, and makes its finances more secure,” Obama said. “Anyone who says otherwise is either misinformed — or is trying to misinform you. Don’t let them hoodwink you.”

As for politics, Obama downplayed their role in his push for reform. But politics was outside on the street in Strongsville, more than 200 miles away in Cincinnati and right there in the audience.

Rep. Dennis Kucinich, the liberal Ohio Democrat who voted against the health care bill the first time, was seated in the senior center and flew with Obama to Cleveland on Air Force One. When Obama introduced Kucinich, who voted ‘no’ on health care reform the first time, an audience member shouted “Vote yes!”

“Did you hear that Dennis?” Obama said, urging the man to say it again.

“Vote yes!” he shouted.

As Obama spoke in Strongsville, Vice President Joe Biden was in the Cincinnati area raising money for Rep. Steve Driehaus, a freshman Democrat who voted for the House bill in November but now is undecided.

“Of course, now that we’re approaching this vote, we’re hearing a lot of people in Washington talking about the politics, talking about what this means for November,” Obama said after renewing his call for “an up or down vote.” “Because in the end, this debate is about far more than the politics. It’s comes down to what kind of country we want to be.”

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14
Mar
10

Inside the Beltway

NEWS
Inside the Beltway

Monday, March 15, 2010

MISS ME YET?

“Public cynicism that the federal government operates in an atmosphere of secrecy is as strong as ever, despite President Obama‘s promises to make government information more easily available to the public,” says research from the American Society of News Editors, Scripps Howard News Service and Ohio University released Monday.

Certain realities of the world persist, apparently: The new survey of 1,001 adults found that 70 percent believe that the federal government is either “very secretive” or “somewhat secretive.” The largest portion of respondents, 44 percent, said it is “very secretive.” That finding “matches the worst rating the federal government received during the final year of George W. Bush‘s presidency,” the consortium says. (See more findings in “Poll du Jour.”)

NAKED TRUTH

It’s been 28 years. But no one is really quite over then-Senator-to-be Scott Brown‘s 1982 appearance as a nude male centerfold in Cosmopolitan magazine, including the Massachusetts Republican himself. During an annual St. Patrick’s Day breakfast in South Boston, the “overwhelmingly Democratic” Massachusetts political establishment got a laugh when state Treasurer Timothy Cahill presented Gov. Deval Patrick with a blowup of Mr. Brown’s languorous, reclining pose – with the governor’s head digitally placed over Mr. Brown’s.

But there was a greater guffaw when Mr. Brown himself showed up to present his former State Senate colleague Jack Hart with yet another blow-up of the same old photo, with Mr. Hart’s head in place this time, advising the crowd that this was truly “Jackie Heartthrob” – and adding just a wee symbol o’ the season, according to one august news organization.

“It had Hart’s face in place of Brown’s – and a shamrock over the crotch,” the Associated Press observed.

A DOSE OF REPUBLICAN

The hard-wired, hard-charging habits of Democratic heavyweights could damage President Obama‘s image, some say.

“If President Obama is ever going to regain the ground he’s lost as a bipartisan healer determined to transcend ideological divisions, he’ll need to have Speaker Nancy Pelosi or Majority Leader Harry Reid or both shunted back to the minority. For Obama, a Republican Congress could be a counterintuitive political boon,” says Rich Lowry, editor of the National Review.

“Congressional leaders generally don’t make appealing national figures. They rule over an unwieldy (and often unseemly) institution and rise to prominence based on their appeal to their fellow members, not their stage presence or post-partisan personas. At the health-care summit a few weeks ago, Pelosi and Reid characteristically jangled as Obama soothed. He’d have been better off without them,” Mr. Lowry continues.

But the Grand Old Party could have palliative effects.

“A Republican Congress would give him a handy foil and force him, right in time for his re-election campaign, into strategic bipartisanship. … Obama probably doesn’t consider a Republican Congress in his interest. But with all he’s done to bring one about, who knows?” Mr. Lowry asks.

JUST SO YOU KNOW

A terse missive from Friend-of-Beltway and Ronald Reagan historian Craig Shirley: “Maybe you heard. Newt Gingrich asked me to write his political biography. The working title is ‘Citizen Newt.’ What do you think?”

Sounds good, Mr. Shirley.

GET MORE GITMO

Why fix what ain’t broke? House Minority Leader John A. Boehner of Ohio dismissed suggestions that Guantanamo Bay detention facility in Cuba be shuttered and that 9/11 suspects transferred to a fancy “supermax” prison stateside.

“They want $500 million from this Congress to rehabilitate this prison in northwest Illinois. I want to see who the members are who are going to vote for this. I wouldn’t vote for this if you put a gun to my head,” Mr. Boehner told CNN on Sunday.

“We have a world-class facility at Guantanamo. I think it’s the appropriate place to hold these prisoners. And they can do the tribunals right there at Guantanamo,” he continued. “There is no reason to bring these terrorists into the United States. No reason to increase the threat level here because they’re here. Their friends may want to come. It makes no sense to me. And I don’t think the Congress will appropriate one dime to move those prisoners from Guantanamo to the U.S.”

POLL DU JOUR

• 60 percent of Americans say their local government is “somewhat or very” open.

• 36 percent say it is somewhat or very secretive.

• 47 percent say their state government is somewhat or very open.

• 48 percent say its is somewhat or very secretive.

• 38 percent say the level of secrecy is “the same” as it was under previous administrations.

• 34 percent say it is less secretive; 22 percent say it is more secretive.

Source: A Scripps Howard Survey Center at Ohio University poll of 1,001 adults conducted Feb. 3 to 9

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14
Mar
10

Chris Dodd: Wall Street reform ‘cannot wait’

NEWS
Chris Dodd: Wall Street reform ‘cannot wait’

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Senate Banking Chairman Chris Dodd will unveil a revised financial reform bill Monday that seeks to find a middle ground between the skeptical Republicans he left at the negotiating table last week and the unhappy left-wing of the Democratic caucus.
Neither side will be satisfied by what Dodd’s offering, and particularly the left.

Two Republican ideas expected to make Dodd’s final cut are creating a consumer-protection agency inside the Federal Reserve and giving a veto on the agency’s rule-making to an outside body – a far cry from President Barack Obama’s original vision for a muscular stand-alone agency, several sources said Sunday.

Still, Dodd defended his bill against the expected criticism from the left.

“At the end of the day if this is nothing more than sort of competing press conferences as to who can be more punitive to the financial services sector… we’re not legislating here. I’ve been around for 30 years, legislating.… And I have a pretty good feel of where I think the tipping points are and tolerance levels are. And unlike maybe other members [whose] only interest is whether or not they can be on the quote ‘right side of the issue,’ I’ve got to produce a product. And this is a hard product to produce.”

He also took on Republicans who are calling for more time to consider the bill.

By his calculation there are roughly 60 legislative days left in the calendar, “so getting this done cannot wait,” Dodd said. “Besides, we have spent hundreds if not thousands of hours on this subject matter. So I need to move.”

Moreover, he said “major portions” of the bill he will unveil Monday reflect the widespread consensus of committee members, including areas regarding the end of too-big-too-fail firms and the creation of a mechanism for dealing with failing financial behemoths without taxpayer money.

Dodd’s bill is sure to anger some Democrats, who say Dodd should put forth the toughest bill possible –and then effectively dare the GOP to vote against cracking down on Wall Street.

“The Republicans won’t want to face the voters in November without having lifted a finger to rein in Wall Street excesses that almost ruined the country,” said one Senate Democratic aide. House Republicans voted unanimously against the financial reform legislation there.

That line of thinking believes that the politics of the Wall Street issue are so strongly on the Democrats’ side that it’s a win-win situation. Either moderate Republicans – say, Olympia Snowe of Maine or George Voinovich of Ohio – cross the aisle and support the Democratic bill, or Democrats would accuse Republicans of being Wall Street lapdogs during the 2010 campaign.

Other members of the Democratic caucus disagree that a partisan fight will help them in November, believing instead they need to show voters they can use their majorities to govern and that an effective reform bill is possible with Republican support.

Either way, Dodd’s bill shows where he comes down on the question, committed to finding some bipartisan support for a package of reforms aimed at curtailing the practices that led to the global financial meltdown in 2008. Putting the consumer agency in the Fed, for instance, is a compromise Dodd worked out with Sens. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), who had taken the lead in bipartisan talks in recent weeks, and Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), the top-ranking GOP member on the banking committee.

Dodd abruptly decided last week to finish the draft he will unveil Monday without his Republican negotiating partners, but the legislation is nonetheless expected to contain several key concessions Dodd made to the GOP.

“This is still reasonably middle of the ground stuff,” said one industry lobbyist of the description of the bill making the rounds Sunday.

A senior administration official says formal reaction will come from the White House after Dodd releases his plan Monday, but “I think it will be very positive.” As for the chances of final passage of this measure, the official said, “I think chances are pretty solid, but we aren’t even to the seventh inning stretch.”

The bill includes some sweeteners for Democrats, too.

Dodd’s bill is expected to allow states to enact consumer protection laws that go beyond federal statute – language similar to that in the House bill. That’s a win for the White House, liberal Democrats and consumer advocates; a Dodd-Corker bill had been headed toward an almost-complete ban on tougher state laws, according to Corker. In this draft, Dodd would allow the state rules to be challenged in court.

Dodd’s draft will also contain corporate governance provisions authored by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), according to a Senate aide, including one that would allow shareholders to nominate their own candidates using proxy ballots. Corker had said the provision wasn’t acceptable to Republicans, and industry lobbyists have fought against it. The bill will also include Schumer’s provision to give shareholders a nonbinding vote on executive compensation. Both measures will appeal to consumer advocates.

While the details could still change, Dodd’s draft also is expected to include:

– The Fed would retain supervision of big banks and bank holding companies with more than $50 billion in assets, about 40 institutions, industry sources said. That’s a big change from Dodd’s original draft in November, in which he stripped the Fed of all bank supervision.

– Investment banks such as Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley that became bank holding companies during the crisis would be blocked from reverting to their old status to avoid regulatory scrutiny.

– The bill would create a new systemic risk council comprising of a presidentially appointed chairperson and seven other existing regulators, including the Treasury secretary, Fed chairman and the director of the consumer watchdog.

– The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Office of Thrift Supervision would be merged into a new regulator for national banks with less than $50 billion in assets.

But it’s the Consumer Financial Protection Agency provision that particularly rankles Democrats, including some members of the banking committee. Many liberals feel like the Fed abandoned consumers during the global meltdown by refusing to rein in predatory lending.

The bill also would set up a veto-process over the rules the consumer body could write, by empowering the systemic risk council to take a vote on any rule that raises concerns. But Dodd’s bill would require a two-third votes to overturn a rule, rather than the majority vote proposed by Republicans.

The combination of Fed location and veto mechanism amounts to a “faux” consumer protection agency, said John Taylor, CEO and president of the National Community Reinvestment Coalition.

“If you’re an agency that has the mandate to protect consumers from financial abuse if you do not have ultimate the decision making, somebody else does, you’re not a very powerful agency,” said Taylor.

Eighty-two percent of Americans believe that “recent events have shown that Wall Street should be subject to tougher regulation,” according to a March 11 Harris poll that is bolstering a get-tough mood among Democrats. Other polls, however, indicate that Republican arguments against creating unnecessary new bureaucracies are persuasive with voters, too.

Some analysts are starting to wonder if the Obama administration would prefer to have Republicans oppose a bill so they can take full advantage of the issue for the campaign. Having broad bipartisan support for a bill in the Senate – the goal Dodd had been aiming for – would make it harder for Democrats to make a powerful political weapon out of the issue.

“[I]t is increasingly unclear whether the White House prefers a bill or a mid-term election fight with Republicans,” Hamilton Place Strategies’ Tony Fratto and Taylor Griffin, former Bush administration officials, wrote in a recent client note. “We had previously supposed that if health care was off the table, Democrats would need financial regulatory reform to avoid facing voters in November without a major legislative accomplishment. If the West Wing and Congressional leaders believe that they are going to jam a health care bill through reconciliation, then perhaps the pendulum swings the other way.”

Meanwhile, all 10 Republicans on the Banking Committee urged Dodd to give them more time to consider his bill, and not go to a committee mark-up the week of March 22.

“While we remain open to finding common ground and to working diligently toward the passage of bipartisan legislation, we believe a markup scheduled in haste would certainly prevent us from achieving that goal,” the GOP senators wrote to Dodd Friday.

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13
Mar
10

Nancy Pelosi: Confident House will pass health care

NEWS
Nancy Pelosi: Confident House will pass health care

Saturday, March 13, 2010

San Francisco, Calif. – House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Saturday she’s confident the House will pass health care legislation and dismissed Republican criticism that she did not have enough votes for the measure.

“We’re very excited about where we are and will not be deterred by estimates that have no basis in fact,” she said during a dedication of the renamed Lim P. Lee Post Office in San Francisco. The post office was renamed after the nation’s first Chinese-American postmaster.

Pelosi declined to say when House members would vote on a health care bill, or how many votes that she had secured. Although she added that lawmakers were “on the verge of making history.”

She also dismissed criticism by House GOP leader John Boehner of Ohio that she did not have sufficient votes.

“I’m never dependent on Congressman Boehner’s count. I never have,” she said to a smattering of laughter from the crowd.

House Democratic leaders are pressing for a vote on their bill as early as this coming week.

The legislation would provide health care to tens of millions who currently lack it. It would require almost everyone to obtain coverage and subsidize the cost of premiums for poor and middle-income Americans.

It would also ban insurance companies from denying coverage on the basis of pre-existing conditions.

The health care bill appeared to be on the verge of passing in early January before Democrats lost a special election in Massachusetts to fill the seat of the late Edward M. Kennedy and with it, their filibuster-proof majority in the Senate.

In the weeks since, the White House and Democrats have embarked on a rescue strategy that would require the House to pass legislation that cleared the Senate in December before both houses approve a second bill that makes changes to the first.

But some anti-abortion Democrats in the House have balked at the bill, and it’s not clear they will vote for final passage. The bill needs 216 votes to clear the House.

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