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Wonkbook: FinReg doesn't have the votes; Kagan's uneventful first day

With Scott Brown, Russ Feingold, Olympia Snowe, and Susan Collins all on the fence, and Robert Byrd's vote lost, FinReg's final passage is in doubt. And that's not the only bad news for a major Obama priority: Lindsey Graham has announced he'll skip today's White House meeting on climate and energy legislation.

Meanwhile, Elena Kagan's first confirmation hearing was largely uneventful. Kagan proved herself capable of sitting still and looking interested for long periods of time, which is understood to be a key qualification for a Justice. And Obama is still meeting with activists and Congressmen on immigration, despite signs he believes reform to be dead this Congress.

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FinReg doesn't have Robert Byrd's or Russ Feingold's votes, and Susan Collins, Olympia Snowe, Scott Brown, and even Evan Bayh are now on the fence, report Victoria McGrane and Corey Boles: "'You have to look at the entirety of the legislation,' [Snowe] said. 'Obviously, it's important to have financial regulatory reform.' Sen. Scott Brown (R., Mass.), who voted yes when the Senate passed its bill in May, reiterated his reservations about the final product because of the fee. 'I've said repeatedly that I cannot support any bill that raises taxes.' Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, calling herself undecided, said there was 'much in this bill to like' but like Mr. Brown, she voiced concern about the fee 'slipped in during the late hours.'"

Remember: Conference reports can be filibustered, but they can't be amended. Short of going back to conference and coming out with a new report, the legislation can't, at this point, be tweaked and changed to pick up the final votes.

Elena Kagan's confirmation hearing was uneventful, but suggested at least some bipartisan support, report Alec MacGillis and Amy Goldstein: "Kagan got a warmer review from one Republican: Scott Brown, the new senator from Massachusetts, who introduced her to the committee alongside Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.). Kagan, Brown said, is 'undoubtedly a brilliant woman who has served her country in a variety of capacities.'" Also, Orrin Hatch: "I've never considered the lack of judicial experience to be an automatic disqualifier for a judicial nominee."

Watch Kagan's opening statement:

Thomas Goldstein predicts that 63 or 64 Senators will back Kagan, and that she'll move the court to the right, reports J. Taylor Rushing: "'It’s like losing a committee chair, or something like that. You step back in that way,' Goldstein said. 'So just by way of who’s leaving rather than who’s coming in, the court gets a little bit more conservative.'"

Orchestral rock interlude: The Apples in Stereo play "Energy" with the Brooklyn Philharmonic and Brooklyn Youth Chorus.

Still to come: A storm endangers the oil siphoning process; Ireland shows the danger of austerity economics; Obama met with immigration activists; and what Germans consider "American food".


Europe's recovery is floundering, reports Nicholas Winning: "Released Monday, the Conference Board's Leading Economic Index for the euro zone dropped 0.5% to 109.7 in May, the first fall for 14 months. The index is an amalgam of eight indicators of activity and is designed to predict future activity."

Jared Bernstein, Joe Biden's chief economist, argues that deficit reduction and job creation need not be opposed: "As economist Brad DeLong recently noted, at times like this 'there is no crowding out of private investment; on the contrary, there is likely to be crowding in'. We saw just this in our 2009 Recovery Act, which is using matching grants and tax credits to encourage private investors to come off the sidelines and finance the expansion of new industries - and new jobs - most often associated with clean energy. The existence of all this excess capacity keeps interest rates and inflation low, so monetary policy is not compelled to mop up any overflow."

The Supreme Court left Sarbanes-Oxley largely untouched:

The Bank for International Settlements wants higher interest rates, reports Brian Blackstone: "The Bank for International Settlements issued a stern warning to central banks - keeping rates low for too long, and other actions like buying government bonds, creates risks to financial stability and opens central banks up to political pressure. The warning, contained in BIS’s annual report, comes as Europe’s debt crisis has pushed rate-increase forecasts for major central banks including the Federal Reserve, Bank of England and European Central Bank off until well into 2011."

The White House is halting up to $20 billion in spending on tech programs:

Ireland's experience shows the cost of austerity policy, reports Liz Alderman: "Rather than being rewarded for its actions, though, Ireland is being penalized. Its downturn has certainly been sharper than if the government had spent more to keep people working. Lacking stimulus money, the Irish economy shrank 7.1 percent last year and remains in recession. Joblessness in this country of 4.5 million is above 13 percent, and the ranks of the long-term unemployed - those out of work for a year or more - have more than doubled, to 5.3 percent. Now, the Irish are being warned of more pain to come."

Community banker Sarah Wallace explains her opposition to FinReg: "We all know the employees needed to provide banking services to deposit and loan customers: the manager, the teller, the back-office folks who balance the books, the loan officers and the customer-service representatives. In order to comply with the volumes of new regulation-and small banks are required to comply with the same consumer regulations that apply to the Wall Street banks-we will need to have a proportionately higher number of employees working day after day to interpret and implement all the new federal rules."

Consumer spending is still tepid:

Gerald Seib thinks Greece has changed America's deficit politics: "Average Americans certainly don't spend a lot of time worrying about Greece's bond rating, or the status of sovereign debt in the Euro zone. But they can sense fear in the air, and this spring brought a whiff of fear that a nascent recovery might be cut short because of international economic woes. It seems likely we're now seeing the direct and logical reaction to that change in psychology."

Kitsch poetry reading interlude: Wilco's Jeff Tweedy reads the lyrics to "Single Ladies".


The GOP is not responding favorably to cap and trade overtures, reports Darren Samuelsohn: "Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), under pressure back home from a conservative primary challenger, hasn’t come anywhere close to the climate issue that was once a key component of his 'maverick' credentials.…'I’m saying, people who cast about cap and trade and carbon pricing, they may mean well, but I’m not sure they know what they’re talking about,' Lugar told POLITICO. 'And before we get down that step, we really need to know more.'"

Economists doubt the oil spill's economic damage will spread outside the Gulf:

BP's business model depended on aggressive energy market trading, reports Nelson Schwartz: "The trader’s attempt to corner the propane market resulted in the largest fine for market manipulation in the history of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, a federal regulator, in 2007. BP, however, remained committed to the aggressive trading that brought in billions annually - as much as a fifth of the company’s total profits - according to interviews with experts, government officials and other traders."

Europe is still heavily subsidizing coal:

David Roberts explains why Democratic proposals on climate change cost less: "Republican plans to lavish the industries and technologies they favor with subsidies -- which is called 'picking winners' when Democrats do it -- are new spending that's not paid for. They are, by definition, 'more expensive' than alternatives that are paid for. This is a key aspect of the climate debate on which the mainstream media has utterly dropped the ball: Democratic plans on climate and energy are not only more environmentally credible, they are more fiscally credible. Republican plans would achieve less at greater total cost to federal coffers."

What the Germans think of us interlude: The American ethnic food section at a Berlin grocery store.

Domestic Policy

The Supreme Court will consider an earlier immigration law in Arizona, reports Jerry Markon: "With the Justice Department preparing a lawsuit against Arizona over the new law, the court's decision to review the earlier measure -- the Legal Arizona Workers Act -- signals a willingness to get involved in one of the nation's most politically divisive issues. The Obama administration had urged the court to review and set aside the Legal Arizona Workers Act, saying federal immigration law should preempt state efforts."

The Supreme Court ruled that business practices are patentable:

Obama's schedule suggests immigration is still on the agenda, reports Scott Wong: "The president sat down with a handful of community activists and labor leaders Monday afternoon for a meeting that was put on his schedule at the last minute. And he’ll host members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus for an hourlong meeting set to begin at 3:40 p.m. Tuesday, Capitol Hill and White House aides said."

The House GOP is threatening to vote no on war funding if other spending is added:

FedEx and UPS are in pitched battle over a proposed labor regulation, reports Chris Frates: "Memphis-based FedEx has spent millions of dollars, and its chief executive has even threatened to cancel an order of new Boeing planes if the proposal passes. UPS has been quieter about its lobbying but is getting support from the Teamsters, who represent many of its employees. The 230-word provision making it easier to unionize FedEx is part of the House Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization legislation but is absent from the Senate version. And the difference has become a major sticking point in finishing the bill before the current law expires Saturday."

Stuart Taylor thinks Elena Kagan's testimony violates her own views on confirmation hearings:

Noah Feldman argues Kagan's appointment marks the end of the WASPs' reign: "Together, these social beliefs in equality undercut the impulse toward exclusive privilege that every successful group indulges on occasion. A handful of exceptions for admission to societies, clubs and colleges - trivial in and of themselves - helped break down barriers more broadly. This was not just a case of an elite looking outside itself for rejuvenation: the inclusiveness of the last 50 years has been the product of sincerely held ideals put into action."

Closing credits: Wonkbook compiled with the help of Dylan Matthews and mike Shepard.

By Ezra Klein  |  June 29, 2010; 6:19 AM ET
Categories:  Wonkbook  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Reconciliation
Next: Vox populi on the deficit


So the GOP again trumpets itself as the party of the status quo--the same party with the same policies that caused the great recession and created virtually all of the national debt as well as the Gulf Oil Spill.

And if you believe the polls, Americans are taking it hook, line and sinker.

We are dumber than thought and deserve everything that is happening to us.

Posted by: Lomillialor | June 29, 2010 6:56 AM | Report abuse

The best is when Jeff Tweedy points out that Beyonce lifted some of her lyrics from Toy Story.

Posted by: DDAWD | June 29, 2010 7:12 AM | Report abuse

"Economists doubt the oil spill's economic damage will spread outside the Gulf"

Boy, that article just seemed to ooze and unstated: "So, who gives a fig?" in every paragraph. Cuz, you know, they're all in the south. That's Jesusland. And they suck, anyway.

I don't think the oil spill's political damage is going to be limited to the gulf, and the drilling moratorium's political damage isn't going to be limited to the gulf .

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | June 29, 2010 8:44 AM | Report abuse

"The Supreme Court ruled that business practices are patentable"

Ugh. Really? I can patent the feng shui of my office layout and sue anybody who has a similar layout?

I agree 100% with John Paul Stevens in that case. "The better result, he said would have been to declare flatly that 'business methods are not patentable.'"

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | June 29, 2010 8:54 AM | Report abuse


I think deep down in the shallow mind of every birther or tea partier, they know or suspect the oil spill was not caused by the convenient black guy currently in office.

But don't worry, there are sufficient numbers of them around to ensure Obama will take the heat instead of maybe, Bush and Cheney, the oil men who neutered MMS and FERC.

I doubt Obama will even get any credit for the BP escrow fund, which no GOPer would have ever thought to demand. And even though Barton apologized to BP because we got mad they killed the gulf, I am sure he or the like-minded Drill Baby Drill GOP party will suffer any politic damage either.

The south shall rise again and foist on us another generation of moronic, culture-based politicians who know nothing except to create debt and sabotage every worthwhile gvmt endeavor in their endless pursuit of a pure libertarian society.

You have nothing to worry about.

Posted by: Lomillialor | June 29, 2010 9:26 AM | Report abuse

The cost of Ireland's austerity? I'll admit they are taking steps in the right direction, but please, austerity?

Ireland's budget deficit was 14.3% of GDP - larger than in America, Greece or the UK. Keynesians want to point to Ireland and say "look, Ireland undertook austerity measures and has 13% unemployment lol" but they need to consider the fact that Ireland ran a massive budget deficit and doesn't have a whole lot to show for it. Ireland was also running surpluses during the 2003-2007 period. If letting the budget go from surplus to a 14% deficit doesn't prevent a surge in unemployment from 4% to 13%, then it isn't worth doing. It's not as if the bond market would let Ireland run 20%-25% deficits.

In any case, Ireland hardly has the ability to implement a stimulus package. If the Irish had decided to try fiscal stimulus rather than austerity, it would by now be forced to make enormous cuts by the world bond market and would be worse off today because of it.

Posted by: justin84 | June 29, 2010 9:30 AM | Report abuse

The Party of NO! has succeeded in watering down the financial reform legislation to the point where it is just one big nothing-burger, and now they're going to vote against it! They are evil, and their constant assault on Obama, no matter what the damage to the country, will go down in history books as the beginning of their own irrelevancy. They are bought-and-paid for careerists who care only about their own pocketbooks and their personal ambition.

Pigs. Evil pigs.

Posted by: Casey1 | June 29, 2010 9:31 AM | Report abuse


In the same sentence you accuse conservatives of having "shallow minds", you resort to implying that objections to Obama's handling of the oil spill are due to deep-seated racism. Seriously, is that the best you can do? It's only 9:30am, and you have already run out of intellectual arguments and turned to the race card!

It's pretty amusing when liberals, as usual, have to name-call and label everyone who disagrees with them as a racist....because more often than not, liberals will be left grasping at air trying to come up with facts and logic to argue their side.

Posted by: dbw1 | June 29, 2010 9:40 AM | Report abuse

By the way, this is funny:

"The House GOP is threatening to vote no on war funding if other spending is added."

Good to know they'd be willing to compromise American security over a few billion worth of wasteful spending (not that being in Afghanistan obviously enhances American security but I was under the impression Republicans believed that it did).

Probably good ad material for Democrats though.

Posted by: justin84 | June 29, 2010 9:56 AM | Report abuse


I made no mention of Obama's handling of the oil spill. I think his handling of it has been inept.

I specifically referred to the CAUSE of the oil spill.

The problems associated with the CAUSE of the spill significantly outweigh the problems of the handling of it. It would be easier for Obama, with a little appropriate political heat, to start doing better at the cleanup than it would be for the GOP to fix the things that leads it to gt fed regulations and to defer to foreign oil companies as if they were out gvmt. Obama's problem is one of mild incompetence, and the GOP's problem is one of deep-seated culture based ideology. We can fix Obama, we can't fix the GOP.

And of you think race has no bearing on current events, you are naive.

Posted by: Lomillialor | June 29, 2010 9:57 AM | Report abuse

@Lomiliallor: "I think deep down in the shallow mind of every birther or tea partier, they know or suspect the oil spill was not caused by the convenient black guy currently in office."

To paraphrase Dan Ackroyd in "Driving Miss Daisy": You're a doodle, Loma.

That's just . . . awesome.

BTW, I think there are a number of reasons why the political damage won't be limited. 1: Maybe it's Bush's fault, maybe it's really Reagan's fault. Or possibly it's John D. Rockefeller's fault. But the Democrats were holding the Whitehouse when it happened. Strike one.

Moratorium on drilling. Right or wrong, it impacts jobs and industry in the gulf, and appears reactive rather than strategic. Strike 2.

Not a single kind or corrective word regarding the gulf's tourism industry. Under the circumstances, given Obama took the time to address the nation from the Oval Office about the speech, could well appear to many in the gulf to be a sign of malign negligence. Strike 3.

Articles like the one linked to above, where the impact on the gulf is poo-pooed because the non-backwoods, non-southern parts of the country really won't be affected. Strike 3.5.

"The south shall rise again and foist on us another generation of moronic, culture-based politicians who know nothing except to create debt and sabotage every worthwhile gvmt endeavor in their endless pursuit of a pure libertarian society."

Like Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton? And Al Gore? You really think southern politicians are uniformly bad?

"You have nothing to worry about."

I always have something to worry about.

More to the point, I'm just making a point about the political damage of the oil spill to the incumbent administration. Still time to spin it, but it (the political liabilities) isn't likely to go away on its own.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | June 29, 2010 10:00 AM | Report abuse

@dbw1: "It's pretty amusing when liberals, as usual, have to name-call and label everyone who disagrees with them as a racist....because more often than not, liberals will be left grasping at air trying to come up with facts and logic to argue their side."

In all fairness, there are plenty of liberal who use their command of both facts and logic to make rational and thoughtful arguments. Arguments that one can take issue with, or disagree with, but ones where they are clearly making thoughtful, rational, considered arguments--and are trying to communicate with you, rather than just insult you for their own edification.

In fact, I think I've even seen Lomillialor do that, once. ;)

I think it's mistake to conflate the preferences of one person for a whole bunch of people who ostensibly share similar beliefs, or vote the same way, or wear the same color shirt.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | June 29, 2010 10:04 AM | Report abuse


Why did you then refer to the president as the “convenient black guy“ if NOT to play some sort of race card?

Posted by: visionbrkr | June 29, 2010 10:14 AM | Report abuse


Why did you then refer to the president as the “convenient black guy“ if NOT to play some sort of race card?

Posted by: visionbrkr | June 29, 2010 10:14 AM | Report abuse

This is simply the loud and ugly death throws of ignorance and white supremacy in the states.

Posted by: hinterlight | June 29, 2010 1:43 PM | Report abuse

"Why did you then refer to the president as the “convenient black guy“ if NOT to play some sort of race card?"

Because it is my belief that the ferocity of criticism against Obama by tea partiers and birthers is largely based on racism.

Posted by: Lomillialor | June 29, 2010 1:56 PM | Report abuse

"In fact, I think I've even seen Lomillialor do that, once. ;)"

Funny. But my posts are as substantive (or not) as yours.

And if it's OK for mainstream GOP politicians to engage in race baiting, then it is OK for someone like me to talk about it.

If you don't think a large percentage of republicans (and southerners) don't engage in racial baiting or vote purely because of facial issues, then you either haven't spent a lot of time in the south or you are lying.

Posted by: Lomillialor | June 29, 2010 2:04 PM | Report abuse


The moratorium is reasonable and appropriate.

It is also both reactive and strategic. If I have to explain why, please let me know.

Obama is not some knee-jerk, lunatic leftie intent on banning oil exploration or drilling. Indeed, he has taken considerable heat from the left for accomodating the oil industry and expanding offshore drilling as per the GOP's desire. After the gulf spill, anyone saying his moratorium is political is either an idiot or an ideologue.

Posted by: Lomillialor | June 29, 2010 2:09 PM | Report abuse

Jeff Tweedy rocks! what a hilarious cover of Single Ladies.

Posted by: natethedrummer | June 29, 2010 2:52 PM | Report abuse


So how do you feel about the ”truthers"

So every tea partier or everyone concerned with the rapid growth of the federal government in this administration are racists?


Posted by: visionbrkr | June 29, 2010 5:27 PM | Report abuse

Immigration reform is a critical issue that Obama must address in his first term. If our politicians can resist acting like children and instead debate the issues on their merits...alright, I am starting to laugh at the idea of our politicians behaving like adults. Never mind, I am sure that the legislation will be full of pandering and ultimately passed so that the Democrats can claim a legislative victory and the Republicans have something to complain about. DC rocks!

For another take on the immigration debate which is both serious and wicked funny, check out this link:

Posted by: eye95 | June 30, 2010 2:25 AM | Report abuse

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