Wonkbook: Climate bill unlikely; major Medicare cuts scheduled; Obama's stimulus demands
In his first Oval Office speech Tuesday night, President Obama will demand that BP fund an independently-run fund to pay for the Gulf cleanup. That's the deliverable, at least. The bigger question is whether he uses the speech to make the case for a climate bill? Right now, the Senate is trending towards doing an energy only bill instead. Tuesday's speech could be the last chance for climate legislation to get a hearing.
Meanwhile, Congress has allowed cuts in Medicare doctors' payments to take effect. Obama is demanding that Congress provide $50 billion in aid to state and local governments. And should a gallon of gas really cost $4.60?
It's Monday. Welcome to Wonkbook.
The BP spill is leasing Congress towards an energy bill, not a climate bill, writes John Broder. "There is growing sentiment for a measure that penalizes BP, imposes higher costs and tougher regulations on offshore drillers and takes some steps toward reducing overall energy and petroleum consumption. But despite the outrage over the spill, there appears to be limited appetite in the Senate for a broad-based effort to cap greenhouse gas emissions across the board."
Does a gallon of gas actually cost $4.60? http://bit.ly/d0PWuN
Obama wants to force BP to establish an independently-run cleanup fund, reports Jackie Calmes: "President Obama will use his first Oval Office speech Tuesday night to outline a plan to legally compel BP to create an escrow account to compensate businesses and individuals for their losses from the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, administration officials said on Sunday."
Not having passed a "doc fix", Congress will allow Medicare doctors' payments to drop by 21 percent this week: http://bit.ly/bmLtQ0
Obama wants $50 billion in federal aid in further stimulus, reports Lori Montgomery: "President Obama urged reluctant lawmakers Saturday to quickly approve nearly $50 billion in emergency aid to state and local governments, saying the money is needed to avoid 'massive layoffs of teachers, police and firefighters' and to support the still-fragile economic recovery."
Download Obama's letter: http://bit.ly/ctYQsk
Playbook had Mitch McConnell's response: “[E]ven in the face of public outrage, Democrats are showing either that they just don't get it on this issue of the debt, or that they just don't care. Right now, among other challenges, we have a debt crisis, a jobs crisis, a housing crisis, a financial crisis, and an oil spill that the American people clearly don't believe government is effectively responding to. So you can understand the American people's skepticism when they're told that simply adding more government is the solution to government's previous failures.”
Goo goo ga joob interlude: The world's saddest walrus.
Table of Contents: The US is starting to use foreign aid to clean up the Gulf (and other energy news); members of Congress tend to invest heavily in the areas they regulate (and other economic news); and doctor and nurse retirements threaten to make health care reform's implementation difficult (and other domestic policy news).
The US is using foreign aid to help with the Gulf cleanup, report Juliet Eilperin and Glenn Kessler: "In late May, the administration accepted Mexico's offer of two skimmers and 13,779 feet of boom; a Dutch offer of three sets of Koseq sweeping arms, which attach to the sides of ships and gather oil; and eight skimming systems offered by Norway."
Louisiana's treasurer fears the cost of the BP spill could drive the firm into bankruptcy: http://politi.co/bjqsxY
Environmentalists are embracing the Obama administration despite the spill, reports Josh Gerstein: "'President Obama is the best environmental president we’ve had since Teddy Roosevelt,' Sierra Club chairman Carl Pope told the Bangor Daily News last week. 'He obviously did not take the crisis in the Minerals Management Service adequately seriously, that’s clear. But his agencies have done a phenomenally good job.'"
Green groups are also using the spill as a fundraising tool: http://nyti.ms/914qok
Shallow-water drilling operations in the Gulf are confused by the administration's regulatory policy, report Dana Hedgpeth and Steven Mufson: "rig owners say that confusion over safety regulations issued last week by the Interior Department and uncertainty about additional rules Interior says are on the way could extend delays in the issuance of shallow-water permits, creating a de facto moratorium. And that could force companies to idle rigs and furlough thousands of workers. Since the April 20 accident, the number of rigs actively drilling in shallow water of the gulf has dropped by half."
Obama is trying to ease tensions with Britain over the BP disaster: http://bit.ly/abOxYS
Bill Gifford looks at two books on geoengineering, and its possible unintended consequences: http://bit.ly/atWB4p
Deborah Gordon and Daniel Sperling argue we can't count on oil companies to invest in renewable energy: "Yes, conventional oil supplies are peaking, and Big Oil needs to replace dwindling resources to survive. But faced with a choice between oil -- even oil that is ever dirtier and more dangerous to extract -- and alternative fuels, the industry is still betting on the devil it knows. And so Big Oil is drilling deeper and finding ways to convert unconventional oil -- petroleum extracted by means other than traditional wells, from sources such as oil sands, coal and oil shale -- into gasoline, diesel and jet fuels."
Canadian rock interlude: Wolf Parade plays "What Did My Lover Say? (It Always Had to Go This Way)".
Members of Congress tend to invest heavily in industries they regulate, report Robert O'Harrow Jr. and Dan Keating: "On the House Agriculture Committee, which holds sway over farm policies and subsidies, members had farming and agribusiness investments worth five times on average the amount held by other colleagues in the House. Many of the committee members' holdings were in family farms. Nothing prevents those members from also receiving farm subsidies, and in the past, some have. Likewise, House Energy and Commerce Committee members, who routinely hold hearings about telecommunications and computer issues, had heavier than average investments in companies such as Oracle, Nokia, AT&T and Verizon."
A stronger dollar is rattling investors: http://bit.ly/b7guc2
Expiring estate tax cuts won't affect many estates, reports David Kocieniewski: "According to the Tax Policy Center, a research group, unless Congress revises the law by Jan. 1, the number of estates affected in 2011 would increase to 44,200 next year from 5,500 in 2009. Even so, that figure represents less than 2 percent of the 2.5 million Americans expected to die next year, and is far below historical levels. In 1976, 139,000 estates representing 7.6 percent of all deaths were taxed when the exemption was set at $60,000 (nearly $230,000 in buying power today). And these figures also don’t take into account the world of estate planning, where numbers can be fungible."
The financial crisis and Gulf spill both show the failure of regulation, writes Gerald O'Driscoll: "The regulatory state did not prevent excessive risk taking whether in financial services, nor perhaps in offshore oil drilling. Government response to crises once they occur is slow and inept. All this is not because either Republicans or Democrats are in power, but because big government doesn't work. It can't deliver on its promises. Big government overpromises and underdelivers. In reaching to do more, big government accomplishes less."
Robert Samuelson argues that pessimism about economic recovery could create a double-dip recession: http://bit.ly/9tAosc
Consumer confidence is up even as consumer spending declines, reports Ylan Mui: "An early reading of consumer sentiment by the University of Michigan and Reuters jumped to the highest level in more than two years. But the U.S. Commerce Department reported that retail sales dropped 1.2 percent in May, ending a seven-month streak of gains."
Violence, scandal, corruption, and controversy interlude: David Rothkopf explains why Americans should love soccer.
Doctor and nurse retirements threaten to dull the impact of health care reform, reports Darryl Fears: "Health-care economists and other experts say retirements in that group over the next 10 to 15 years will greatly weaken the health-care workforce and leave many Americans who are newly insured under the new legislation without much hope of finding a doctor or nurse. Nearly 40 percent of doctors are 55 or older, according to the Center for Workforce Studies of the Association of American Medical Colleges."
Clinton-era memos show Elena Kagan to be a political animal, reports Alec MacGillis: "Her advice often veered into politics. In one memo, she noted that a University of Chicago law professor helping on the case had suggested an amicus brief by members of Congress in support of Clinton. She discouraged the idea, warning that 'if only Democrats joined, the brief would increase the partisan feel of the case' and that 'getting such a brief might be difficult -- and our efforts to do so might become public.'"
Federal pressure is coming down on for-profit colleges and universities, report Elaine Korry and Liz Willen: "New federal rules, expected to be formally proposed in coming days, would tighten oversight of the industry. One much-debated proposal would cut federal aid to for-profit schools in certain cases if graduates spend more than 8 percent of their starting salaries to repay loans. Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) also plans this month to begin hearings on the industry, examining recruiting practices and student loan default rates."
A consensus around abolishing fee-for-service care in emerging in Massachusetts, reports Naftali Bendavid: "There is fairly broad agreement on how to fix the system. A state commission -including representatives of government, insurers, doctors and hospitals-recommended in July that Massachusetts adopt a "global payment" system. Health professionals would be paid for caring for patients over a certain period of time, rather than compensated for each test or treatment. Implementing the fixes, though, will take years."
Deficit concerns may threaten funding for the war in Afghanistan: http://politi.co/cIGKyO
The US needs paid parental leave, writes Sharon Lerner: "Earlier versions would have given all workers 26 weeks for medical leave and 18 for parental leave. But in its anemic final form, the Family and Medical Leave Act grants only 12 weeks off and covers only a little more than half of workers, leaving out those who work for companies with fewer than 50 employees or who have logged less than 1,250 hours in the past year. And because the leave is unpaid, many of those who are covered can't afford to take the time off."
Public schools are being forced to rely on private donations to get by: http://bit.ly/buCqha
Closing credits: Wonkbook compiled with the help of Dylan Matthews. Photo credit: Saul Loeb-AFP/Getty Images.
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