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Wonkbook: DISCLOSE fails; Dems deny secret plans; no renewable standard in energy bill


After a final push from the White House, the DISCLOSE Act mustered 57 votes, failing to break a filibuster. Meanwhile, BP has detailed its plans for financing the Gulf's recovery from the oil spill; Harry Reid's energy bill lacks not only a price on carbon, but a renewable energy standard as well; and Dems deny they have a secret plan to pack the lame-duck session with big legislation. But then, they would deny that, wouldn't they?

It's Wednesday. Welcome to Wonkbook.

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Garnering 57 votes, the DISCLOSE Act failed to break a filibuster, reports Dan Eggen: "Schumer vowed to try again after the August recess, and he said he is open to changes to attract GOP support. But Tuesday's vote effectively quashes any chance of enacting disclosure requirements for the 2010 midterms, which appear likely to include record expenditures by outside groups and corporations."

Pelosi upbraided Reid and Obama for not moving faster on climate change:

BP will spend $32.2 billion to clean up the Gulf, report Jad Mouawad and Clifford Krauss: "Although the new BP will be a leaner company that produces about 12 percent less oil than it does today, the moves do not amount to a radical transformation of the company, which has suffered a series of accidents in the last five years. Instead, they show how BP hopes to ensure it will survive this latest crisis and continue to compete on an equal footing with the world’s top producers."

Democrats deny a secret plan to pass their agenda in the lame duck session, reports Michael O'Brien:

The final version of the Senate energy bill lacks a renewable energy standard, reports Andrew Restruccia: "Renewable energy advocates and environmentalists have been pushing for the inclusion of a renewables mandate in recent weeks, but Reid has said the votes are not there to pass such a measure. Asked why an RES was not included in the bill, a spokesman for Reid said the lawmaker 'believes that in light of the Republican stalling tactic, this bill has the best chance possible of getting out of the Senate' because it is 'a small, targeted package.' The spokesman also pointed to time constraints, noting the impending August recess."

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Indie video interlude: PS I Love You, "Facelove".

Still to come: Financial lobbyists proliferate; the oil spill is clearing faster than expected; Education Secretary Arne Duncan has announced the winners of the "Race to the Top" competition; and a dog drives a tractor.


A slew of former regulators are set to lobby following FinReg's passage, reports Eric Lichtblau: "According to the analysis done by the Center for Responsive Politics, nearly 500 officials have gone through the 'revolving doo'” between government financial agencies and the private sector. Of that group, 148 former regulatory officials were registered to lobby the government last year or this year, representing virtually every regulatory agency. Executives at some leading law firms and lobbying shops said in interviews that they began increasing their hiring of former regulators in 2008, soon after the economic crisis hit, in anticipation of the current push for tougher regulations."

A study indicates that credit cards spread money from the poor to the rich:

A new paper from Alan Blinder and Mark Zandi concludes economic policies from 2008 and 2009 prevented a depression, reports Sewell Chan: "The economists argue that without the Wall Street bailout, the bank stress tests, the emergency lending and asset purchases by the Federal Reserve, and the Obama administration’s fiscal stimulus program, the nation’s gross domestic product would be about 6.5 percent lower this year..They estimate the total direct cost of the recession at $1.6 trillion, and the total budgetary cost, after adding in nearly $750 billion in lost revenue from the weaker economy, at $2.35 trillion, or about 16 percent of G.D.P."

The SEC is reaching out to business executives as it implements FinReg:

The unemployed are being politically radicalized by the fight over unemployment benefits, reports Annie Lowrey: "Among the biggest sites in the unemployment netroots is LayoffList, managed by Michael Thornton, a native of Rochester, N.Y. Thornton stared LayoffList in 2008; five months ago, he began writing articles and posting legislators’ information. He now receives hundreds of emails and has logged more than a million hits. Thornton is finding that, rather than losing interest in politics since the end of the fight for extended benefits, the unemployed are “energized and motivated” and have started looking forward to the fall."

Christina Romer is rumored to be thinking of leaving the CEA tolead the San Francisco Fed, reports Neil Irwin: "There are even more reasons that the San Francisco Fed might be interested in her: She is a first-rate academic, one of the leading scholars of macroeconomic history. She has deep ties to the bay area, having taught at Berkeley since 1988. And since coming to Washington at the beginning of 2009, she has gained considerable experience in the policy-making world, which she previously lacked. Add to that, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke has a lot of respect for her, as do her Obama administration colleagues."

Cities and counties face further job and service cuts:

Steven Pearlstein argues Obama can't afford to lose the fight over extending the Bush tax cuts: "It is the refusal to put any tax increase on the table that has impeded much-needed reform of the tax code and rendered impotent a bipartisan commission charged with figuring out how to rein in the budget deficit. And it is the tax bugaboo that stands in the way of an investment agenda to match the global challenges we face. If Obama fails to alter the political dynamic and finally slay the anti-tax dragon, it's game over for his economic agenda."

Ruth Marcus argues for the expiration of the Bush tax cuts: "Think back to the beginning of the Bush administration tax cuts. It seems almost impossible to believe, but the argument then was that the budget surplus was too large. There was, or so President George W. Bush assured us, ample cash to cut taxes for everyone and protect the Social Security surplus and set aside $1 trillion over the next decade for "additional spending needs" and pay down the national debt."

Adorable infants being adorable interlude: Illustrated baby naps.


The Gulf oil slick is dissolving far more quickly than expected, report Justin Gillis and Campbell Robertson: "The dissolution of the slick should reduce the risk of oil killing more animals or hitting shorelines. But it does not end the many problems and scientific uncertainties associated with the spill, and federal leaders emphasized this week that they had no intention of walking away from those problems any time soon. The effect on sea life of the large amounts of oil that dissolved below the surface is still a mystery."

The spill is cutting BP's tax bill by $10 trillion:

A team of federal investigators is preparing a criminal case against BP, reports Jerry Markon: "While it was known that investigators are examining potential violations of environmental laws, it is now clear that they are also looking into whether company officials made false statements to regulators, obstructed justice or falsified test results for devices such as the rig's failed blowout preventer. It is unclear whether any such evidence has surfaced."

Brad Plumer explains how global warming could effect migration patterns: "According to a 2007 World Bank report, the vast bulk of this migration is expected to take place within developing countries, with people moving from rural villages to urban centers. One big concern here is that places like Lagos or Dhaka are already swelling exponentially, and their infrastructure can barely keep up, which is why so many 'megacities' now sport massive slums. But there's also likely to be a fair amount of migration between countries--and the consequences there are much harder to predict. As the rising oceans chomp away at Bangladesh, for instance, as many as 15 million people may have to abandon their towns and villages by mid-century."

Nate Silver argues deficit concerns could make cap and trade a political necessity:

Adorable animals operating heavy machinery interlude: A dog driving a tractor.

Domestic Policy

The Department of Education has selected eighteen finalists in the Race to the Top competition, reports Stephanie Banchero: "Some expressed disappointment Tuesday with the number of finalists, arguing some states did not adopt dramatic enough changes to earn placement on the list. Kentucky, for example, does not allow charter schools, a centerpiece of Mr. Duncan's education agenda. Mike Petrilli, of the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, said only seven or eight states have strong applications and he worried Mr. Duncan would reward money to 'unworthy' states."

The war funding bill is heading to Obama's desk without education funding included:

The Arizona immigration law needs federal cooperation to be effective, reports Miriam Jordan: "Arizona is home to about 460,000 illegal immigrants, according to the DHS. If the new law goes into effect--a challenge by the Obama administration is pending before a judge--police could shower ICE with calls. Without its cooperation, police likely would have to release suspects, because the law doesn't give them the authority to detain an individual indefinitely based on suspicion of unlawful presence in the U.S."

Immigration reform proponents are focusing on smaller measures, reports Krissah Thompson: "That plan centers on lobbying hard for the passage of two bills: AgJobs and the Dream Act. AgJobs is a compromise between farmworker unions and agriculture business groups, which was negotiated more than five years ago and is intended to provide legal farm labor and protect the rights of immigrant workers. The Dream Act would give some undocumented students the ability to apply for permanent residency. Both bills have had Republican support in the past."

Congressional Democrats are split on moving forward with the DREAM Act:

Frank Micciche urges Obama to move fast to set up state health exchanges: "First, it should expedite the distribution of grants to study and design the exchanges, which would complement the work already accomplished by some states and jump-start it in others. Second, the administration should build sufficient flexibility into its mandates to allow states to determine which benefits their exchanges must offer. After all, each state has different needs."

Howard Gleckman defends the CLASS Act:

Melvin Dubofsky considers the role of labor in the Obama administration: "They again have a friend as labor secretary, Hilda Solis, who has implemented reforms that benefit workers and unions, and the president has reconstituted a full National Labor Relations Board that promises to be friendly to unions and truer to the original purposes of the National Labor Relations Act. For good reason, labor leaders have concluded that more is to be gained by working with and within the administration than by acting as a troublesome and threatening presence."

Closing credits: Wonkbook compiled with the help of Dylan Matthews and Mike Shepard. Photo credit: Pete Souza/White House.

By Ezra Klein  |  July 28, 2010; 6:27 AM ET
Categories:  Wonkbook  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Reconciliation
Next: The difficulty of dying well


Just let the Bush tax cuts expire. If you're so convinced that some form of tax relief is necessary in the short term, just pass some new and separate Obama tax cuts which either end after a couple years or have some more gentle phase out. I personally think taking the money from letting the Bush tax cuts expire and putting that towards a new stimulus bill would be a better use of those funds, but there's simply no reason to say that the bill as written during President Bush's Administration must continue. It's ten years later. Write a bill that addresses the economy's needs now.

Posted by: MosBen | July 28, 2010 7:39 AM | Report abuse

Is this the Ezra Klein that founded Journolist?

You are a fraud and embarrasment to journalism, the 4th wing of government.

Resign from your position at the Post now!

You are the state-controlled media, pravda-like, yellow journalism. America is finally getting smart, and November will show the way back to Freedom.

Posted by: jim000122 | July 28, 2010 7:51 AM | Report abuse

Ezra Klein is a nasty, partisan hack that manipulates his articles to distort the truth. get him the f*** out of here.

Posted by: takow | July 28, 2010 8:28 AM | Report abuse

Potential Correction:

There is a headline above which reads "The spill is cutting BP's tax bill by $10 trillion:" which should probably read "billion" instead of "trillion."

Posted by: rmgregory | July 28, 2010 9:12 AM | Report abuse


your post seems to imply that the Dems can pass whatever legislation they choose to.

Should income tax rates be higher on Americans making 50Kish or not?

Posted by: eggnogfool | July 28, 2010 9:58 AM | Report abuse

takow, jim000122 . . .

I wish the Report Abuse button by your comments actually did something useful. Or the WaPo had a vote-down system. Because I understand disagreeing with Ezra (I often do, about so many things) but those comments add absolutely nothing to the discussion, make you look shallow minded and small (and reflect poorly on me, quite frankly, which should be your primary concern at all times).

If someone needs to "get the f***" out of here, as you so coloquially put it, I would suggest that it's the never-seen-before trolls like yourselves, who have never read Ezra, and so don't know what an even-handed, thoughtful young policy-wonk-first liberal he is.

State-controlled media? Really? That's how you want to characterize people who have opinions that differ from yours?

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | July 28, 2010 10:11 AM | Report abuse

"Democrats deny a secret plan to pass their agenda in the lame duck session"

Democrats, in fact, have no plans to pass their agenda, period.

Instead, they plan to cower in the corners of their offices and hope everybody "just doesn't notice them" and "passes right by in November, just leaving us alone".

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | July 28, 2010 10:13 AM | Report abuse

"Howard Gleckman defends the CLASS Act"

Actually he doesn't defend it at all. He doesn't even try to refute the points Capretta made, he just says "Yeah it might be flawed, but maybe we can fix it." He completely ignores that every actuary who has looked at this program says it is a fundamentally poor design that is doomed to insolvency. He also completely ignores that the program creates a new unfunded liability because the Democrats are spending the excess premiums in the early years to pay for health reform, a point that Ezra has repeatedly refused to address.

Posted by: ab_13 | July 28, 2010 10:22 AM | Report abuse


looking at CLASS as an isolated program is moronic.

if it runs a deficit of $20 billion every year from 2030 on, but saves $40 billion in federal medicaid dollars (not to mention savings to the state medicaid programs) each of those years,

sure it's "unsustainable" as an isolated program, but it's a nonsensical view to take.

the federal budget outlook going forward is improved by CLASS.

the state budget outlooks going forward are improved by CLASS.

health care outcomes of americans going forward are improved by CLASS.

those are the things that matter.

Posted by: eggnogfool | July 28, 2010 12:37 PM | Report abuse

-----"if it runs a deficit of $20 billion every year from 2030 on, but saves $40 billion in federal medicaid dollars (not to mention savings to the state medicaid programs) each of those years,

Do you have a source for your claim? I can make up numbers too.

-----the federal budget outlook going forward is improved by CLASS.

No it isn't. It merely shifts dollars between two different programs. And this does not even address the poor design which has a high likelihood of leading to insolvency.

-----"health care outcomes of americans going forward are improved by CLASS."

Oh really? That's a pretty bold assertion, with absolutely nothing to back it up. If you're just going to make wild and unsupported claims please stop wasting our time.

And of course none of this addresses the fact that the Democrats are raiding the CLASS Act trust fund to pay for PPACA, so the program itself is not even funded!

Posted by: ab_13 | July 28, 2010 2:39 PM | Report abuse

"If someone needs to "get the f***" out of here, as you so coloquially put it, I would suggest that it's the never-seen-before trolls like yourselves, who have never read Ezra, and so don't know what an even-handed, thoughtful young policy-wonk-first liberal he is."

Yes. Kevin_Willis says it right.

I suppose that for as long as the Daily Caller chooses to dribble out old and out-of-context emails, and until the next faux outrage is manufactured on some other topic, we'll see these stranger trolls choosing to waste their own time coming here and hurling their robotic insults at Ezra Klein.

This sort of activity does absolutely nothing to influence any thoughtful person's opinion about Journolist, or about Ezra Klein and his work as a blogger.

So waste as much of your own time as you wish, stranger trolls. The rest of us will continue to comment about the actual substantive content of Ezra's postings.

Posted by: Patrick_M | July 28, 2010 2:43 PM | Report abuse


No one has good projections that go far enough into the future to be relevant for you. The point is that looking at the CLASS Act as an independent program instead of the larger perspective of the federal budget makes as much sense as looking at the Department of Defense as an isolated program (Huge deficit! We must repeal!). CLASS adds an entirely new revenue stream while taking on expenses that the Fed is already paying anyway. Is CLASS as an isolated program self-sustaining? Probably not. But that's irrelevant; the fiscal outlook of the Federal government as a whole is what matters, and the Washington Timesers avoid answering it.

Elmendorf, who has generally been a critic on healthcare reform, says the overall PPACA will shave around $50-100 billion / year (2010 dollars) off the deficit for the longterm. I'm not sure if anyone has run analysis of CLASS independent of PPACA on the Federal outlook, besides the one in the post above. But in combination with the budget help it gives the states, I don't think there can be an intellectually honest question whether CLASS helps government budget outlooks in general.

Posted by: eggnogfool | July 28, 2010 4:28 PM | Report abuse

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