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Wonkbook: Jobless aid advances; Kagan wins committee vote; energy bill uncertain


Republican attempts to filibuster the unemployment insurance extension failed yesterday, setting up the bill for final passage over a month after benefits expired; the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to advance Elena Kagan's Supreme Court nomination to the Senate floor; the Obama administration is moving to reform homeownership by giving renters a bit more consideration; and in a notable rhetorical shift, Harry Reid is no longer promising a climate and energy bill by August.

Welcome to Wonkbook.

Top Stories

A Republican filibuster of an unemployment benefits extension failed, reports Lori Montgomery: "The bill before the Senate would extend benefits retroactively. While state laws vary, Labor officials and advocates for the unemployed said some people could expect to see lump-sum payments covering lost income back to June 2. Even if the bill passes, many people will have to wait two to four weeks before checks are restored, said Rick McHugh, a staff attorney for the National Employment Law Project, which advocates for jobless workers."

The Senate Judiciary Committee approved Elena Kagan's nomination, 13-6, reports Paul Kane: "Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who previously voted for President Obama's nomination of Justice Sonia Sotomayor, was again the only Republican on the panel to support Kagan. 'I think there's a good reason for a conservative to vote yes,' Graham told his colleagues."

Harry Reid is no longer promising a climate bill before August recess, reports Darren Samuelsohn: "Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has wanted to introduce a sweeping energy and climate bill by next week, and Reid even told POLITICO on Monday night that the package was almost ready to go. But by Tuesday afternoon, Reid was noncommittal about when a bill would come or what it would contain. 'We’re going to make a decision in the near future,' Reid said, describing plans for a Democratic caucus on the issue Thursday. 'We’re really not at a point where I can determine what I think is the best for the caucus and the country at this stage.'"

Scandinavian pop interlude: Robyn plays "Dancing On My Own" on Letterman.

Still to come: Harry Reid may be punting on climate change; credit rating agencies are discouraging customers from relying upon them; some progressive states are having trouble funding high-risk health pools; and a pug sings the theme song to Batman.


Thad Allen has given BP another 24 hours to test its cap:

BP has sold off $7 billion in assets, reports Steven Mufson: "The sale takes BP most of the way toward its goal of raising $10 billion over the next year by selling exploration and production assets. Those asset sales would cover half of the $20 billion BP has pledged to put in an escrow fund to cover claims resulting from the spill."

An BP oil rig manager says its safety device was flawed:

David Leonhardt considers the case for a rules-based approach to climate change mitigation: "Senator Richard Lugar, Republican of Indiana, has proposed new rules not just for vehicles but also for appliances, building codes and power plants. If these regulations were tough enough, they could make a difference, as the fuel economy rules have. So some Democrats and environmentalists see this approach as their best remaining chance. 'There’s a way Senator Reid and the president could manage this to get a very strong energy bill,' Hal Harvey, head of the ClimateWorks Foundation in San Francisco, said...The result would almost certainly be higher, albeit better disguised, costs than with a carbon cap or tax."

Tom Friedman argues Senate paralysis is preventing an energy revolution:

Adorable animal being adorable interlude: A pug sings the Batman theme song.


Credit rating agencies are attempting to stop their products from being used in official documentation, reports Anusha Shrivastava: "Standard & Poor's, Moody's Investors Service and Fitch Ratings are all refusing to allow their ratings to be used in documentation for new bond sales, each said in statements in recent days. Each says it fears being exposed to new legal liability created by the landmark Dodd-Frank financial reform law. The new law will make ratings firms liable for the quality of their ratings decisions, effective immediately. The companies say that, until they get a better understanding of their legal exposure, they are refusing to let bond issuers use their ratings."

The housing market is slowing again:

A group of Democrats is brainstorming ideas for cutting the deficit, reports Simmi Augla: "Reps. Gary Peters, John Adler (D-N.J.), Jim Himes (D-Conn.) and Peter Welch (D-Vt.) are getting more vocal on their concerns about government spending. They’re forming a working group to propose major cuts to spending in areas like defense, energy, housing and agriculture that they say would save about $70 billion over ten years."

Both the AFL-CIO and SEIU are backing Elizabeth Warren to head the CFCB:

European Central Bank economists are making the case for austerity, reports Brian Blackstone: "'Our findings suggest that the effectiveness of spending shocks in stimulating economic activity has substantially decreased over time,' ECB economists Jacopo Cimadomo and Sebastian Hauptmeier wrote with Markus Kirchner of the University of Amsterdam. The authors conclude that aggregate demand is 'increasingly being crowded out' by fiscal expansion, and 'the response of private consumption to government spending shocks has become substantially weaker over time.'"

Jagdish Bhagwati believes the US is now the main impediment to a global trade deal: "Today, domestic politics in the US and India has left America as the only stumbling block to progress. The last election freed India’s Congress Party of its coalition with the Communists, who opposed trade, and thus increased the flexibility of pro-trade Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. But the last election in the US ushered in a Democratic congressional majority that is indebted to trade-fearing unions, thus constraining the pro-trade President Barack Obama."

Ed Glaeser argues FinReg ignores human error on the part of regulators:

Steve Pearlstein draws lessons from the Post's revelations of intelligence budget bloat: "In the wake of the financial crisis, there was a consensus that one problem was that the resources of the Securities and Exchange Commission had failed to grow with the size and complexity of the financial markets it was supposed to oversee. Although inadequate resources were surely a factor, it doesn't really explain why the agency basically sat back and failed to respond to the dangerous leverage taken on by investment banks, or ignored flagrant ratings-shopping by issuers, or did nothing about widespread use of undisclosed off-balance-sheet vehicles by public companies."

Michael Boskin thinks Obama is overselling the stimulus:

Early 60s interlude: Best quotes from Mad Men's women.

Domestic Policy

The Obama administration is seeking to overhaul housing policy to give more support to renting and less to homeownership, reports Zachary Goldfarb: "Three months ago, the Treasury Department and HUD released seven broad questions about the future of housing. Comments from the public are due Wednesday, and the administration is required by the financial overhaul legislation to offer a proposal for housing reform by early next year...Officials in a new Office of Capital Markets and Housing Finance set up in Treasury are studying options for reform, and generally have concluded that federal policy should focus on what they call 'sustainable homeownership' and not on simply boosting the homeownership rate."

Reihan Salam and Christopher Papagiania make the case against subsidizing homeownership:

States with the most progressive health laws are having trouble getting funding for high-risk pools, reports Sarah Kliff: "Five states -- Vermont, Maine, New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts -- have 'guaranteed issue' of insurance: individual subscribers cannot be turned away because of a health condition. Moreover, all five states have some form of community rating, which bars insurers from charging exorbitant rates based on health, gender and other factors...While states say they’re committed to getting their fair share of the new federal funds, they will have to work much harder to comply with the program, all the while uncertain how many residents it could serve."

A Supreme Court decision could allow tens of thousands of deported legal immigrants redress:

Advocates are stepping up a push for the Dream Act, reports Tara Bahrampour: "On a patch of asphalt outside the White House this week, Renata Teodoro, Maricela Aguilar and scores of other students are risking deportation simply by sharing their full names and immigration status with anyone who asks... undocumented high school and college students and graduates have been streaming into Washington this week to demand passage of the Dream Act, legislation that would give unauthorized young immigrants a path to legal residency if they contribute to the country by serving in the military or getting a college education."

Treasury is being attacked for switching to paperless Social Security checks:

The House and Senate are fighting over a food safety bill, reports Lyndsey Layton: "Dingell wrote the House bill, which would grant vast new authorities to the Food and Drug Administration and mark the first serious reform of food safety laws in 70 years. The measure was headed for easy passage in Senate until the spring, when Feinstein said she wanted to add language that would ban a controversial chemical, bisphenol A or BPA, from food packaging. Feinstein's BPA proposal won applause from some public health groups but sparked immediate protest from the chemical industry, food manufacturers and major business interests, who pledged to withdraw their support for the bill if it included a ban on BPA."

Auto safety experts are concerned about the composition of the panel investigating Toyota's acceleration problems:

Dahlia Lithwick believes the Kagan hearings show the value of taping Supreme Court sessions: "Were the public allowed to scrutinize, criticize, and engage with the Supreme Court on a day-to-day basis, we would all be better prepared to have a serious discussion at these hearings. More important, we'd know what the real stakes are and why these nominations matter, beyond just picking nominees with really Compelling Family Narratives. Because we reserve all our umbrage, passion, chills, and spills for these very occasional and very staged hearings, we have none left over where and when it matters: At the court itself, every other day of the year."

Closing credits: Wonkbook compiled with the help of Dylan Matthews and Mike Shepard. Photo credit: Melina Mara/the Washington Post Photo

By Ezra Klein  |  July 21, 2010; 6:34 AM ET
Categories:  Wonkbook  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Reconciliation
Next: You shall know them by their work


yeah that is true, major brands do give out free samples of their popular health products best place to check is send it to your friends

Posted by: jordanrow | July 21, 2010 7:09 AM | Report abuse

How does Ezra explain his participation as described in this article?

Hey Ezra, you still supporting Obama that much?

Posted by: gfafblifr | July 21, 2010 8:21 AM | Report abuse

Ooo. Stories about Journolist all over this morning. Not a word in the Washington Post, though. Can't be healthy, holding it all in like that. But then, it's becoming more and more apparent that Klein's little baby wasn't healthy at all. Right? Fraud and lies built on a bed of seething, ignorant hate.

Posted by: msoja | July 21, 2010 8:28 AM | Report abuse

the high risk pool issue is one we should watch to follow how implementation progresses. Interesting how those states (like mine) that have "done the right thing" (Gee I thought all states had pre-ex if you listened to this administration) will be shut out of funding for high risk pools. And the by-product of having an end to pre-ex. You guessed it, the HIGHEST HEALTHCARE COSTS IN THE COUNTRY. But sure we'll believe that this won't raise costs. It'll cut the deficit. Sure.

What someone should do is take a look at a comparable individual, comparable small employer policy across every single state and compare the benefit and cost.

I think you'll find our startling future come 2014. But hey we'll be getting subsidized so who cares!

Posted by: visionbrkr | July 21, 2010 9:20 AM | Report abuse

Hey Ezra, I see that you and the boys at Journolist were trying to manipulate the news! Cool man, keep it up.

I especially like the story of how you and your leftie buddies in the media plotted to play the race card against conservatives--let's "accuse them of being racists"--as a way for the MEDIA to provide cover for Barry in 2008 when video of the REAL racist and Obama mentor, Jeremiah Wright, appeared. WE cannot allow for truth in journalism, eh? But, the NAACP certainly would have approved of your tactics.

And great that you all were in favor of the government shutting down FOX News.
Stalin would have approved of this tactic. Who needs a free press anyway?

Ezra, why not change your blog title from Wonkbook to FASCISTBOOK.

Better yet, why not resign. You are a disgrace to journalism.

Posted by: hartwr1 | July 21, 2010 9:23 AM | Report abuse

Everyone is talking about Journolist this morning, and will for a while. I don't know how Ezra get really "get out ahead of it", but I expect Tucker Carlson is going to be feeding selected content from Journolist out, piecemeal, until every juicy tidbit is out.

One of the members of Journolist was apparently not adequately left-of-center.

That being said, I don't think Ezra is really under any obligation to address the issue here. And the big secret is that a list full of left-of-center journalists was (wait for it!) . . . liberal! And that liberals are judgmental and stereotype conservatives, and typically paint them with the broadest of brushes, with a lot of self-important psycho-babble thrown in . . . it's amazing, I tell ya.

Does anything that has leaked out of Journolist actually surprise anybody?

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | July 21, 2010 9:23 AM | Report abuse

"Ezra, why not change your blog title from Wonkbook to FASCISTBOOK."

Godwin's Law. Amazing. A) Ezra started and managed the list. I have yet to see where he engaged in the kind of invective many of its members clearly did. So, acting like he said all the things the list members said is not accurate.

"And great that you all were in favor of the government shutting down FOX News."

Was this a secret to you? Lefties have discussed this in the public sphere numerous times. There have been numerous liberal efforts to minimize Fox News and conservative talk radio.

"WE cannot allow for truth in journalism, eh? But, the NAACP certainly would have approved of your tactics."

The "play the racist card" thing (liberals do that? Shocking!) and attempts to minimize the Jeremiah Wright story, such as they were, were based on a honest belief that over-coverage of Obama's pastor (egged on by the "right wing media") was distorting the truth of the story and removing the context. They were, I think, intending to "protect the truth" or otherwise present the essential "truthiness" of the Obama story, and not let over-coverage and over-discussion distract from the "real issues" of the campaign.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | July 21, 2010 9:33 AM | Report abuse

Hey Ez, my man, how's that Journolist thing working out for you? Seems the Post might be in a little hot water...

Hope your resume is up to date.

Posted by: luca_20009 | July 21, 2010 9:42 AM | Report abuse

Klein! Rufen Sie mich nicht rassistisch an!

Posted by: DemoKraut | July 21, 2010 9:44 AM | Report abuse

God, another JournoList story, another day spent suffering with the sudden influx of trolls to our already too-healthy supply.

Kevin, I think your reaction is pretty much right. I'm not surprised at all that Spencer Ackerman was part of an email list and said some mean things about conservatives. I also wouldn't be surprised if there was a conservative list serve where conservatives said mean things about liberals. List serves are, usually, pretty informal settings and you're going to get pretty informal comments.

And the Jeremiah Wright story (which is what today's dustup seems to be about) *WAS* a dumb story that should have been killed in favor of substantive stories, but not because it was trouble for the Obama Campaign. It was tabloid journalism in the same way that stories about John McCain leaving his first wife were stupid (though, I must say, much less covered), and stories about George W. Bush's alcoholism were stupid, and all the Swiftboat stuff was stupid.

Furthermore, the only even remotely inflamatory things in that article were said by Chris Hayes and Spencer Ackerman, who don't try to pass themselves off as neutral reporters. They're liberals, they hold liberal positions, and I'm not surprised at all that when having an informal conversation with their friends/collegues they expressed themselves how they did.

Like you said in much fewer words, Kevin, how is anyone surprised by anything that's come from this JournoList story.

Posted by: MosBen | July 21, 2010 9:45 AM | Report abuse

Damn Ezra, you do hang with some interesting people....good little Stalinists.

Tighten up that resume buddy.

Posted by: luca_20009 | July 21, 2010 9:54 AM | Report abuse

Personally I am disgusted with the whole rev wright story coverage. I would still take Wrights life work and writings over most of the "respected" right wing "leaders".

Hagee who McCain solicited for his endorsement

"When you give, it qualifies you to receive God's abundance," he tells his listeners. "If God gives to you before you give to him, God himself will become a liar. ... If you're not prospering, it's because you're not giving."

"If you're not prospering, it's because you're not giving," he repeats."

The John Hagee Rabbi Trust includes a $2.1 million 7,969-acre ranch outside Brackettville, with five lodges, including a "main lodge" and a gun locker. It also includes a manager's house, a smokehouse, a skeet range and three barns.

Taken together, his payment package, $842,005 in compensation and $414,485 in benefits, was one of the highest, if not the highest, pay package for a nonprofit director in the San Antonio area in 2001."--

If left up to Hagee, there would be a military strike against Iran today. Since last summer, Hagee has been practically foaming at the mouth for a new war with Iran. Why? Because he thinks it is the rest of the world’s job to fight Israel’s wars and because he thinks such a showdown is a piece of the puzzle in regards to Bible prophecy. To Hagee, there is no middle ground on this issue. God told Abraham he would "bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you" (Gen. 12:3). That means if YOU aren’t on board with wars that might be in Israel’s interest, but not in the United States’, then YOU will be cursed by God. At least according to Hagee.

Pat Robertson
"Robertson took to the airwaves Wednesday on his show and said that the country has been "cursed by one thing after another" since they "swore a pact to the devil."

"Just like what Nazi Germany did to the Jews, so liberal America is now doing to the evangelical Christians. It's no different. It is the same thing. It is happening all over again. It is the Democratic Congress, the liberal-based media and the homosexuals who want to destroy the Christians.

"I would warn Orlando that you're right in the way of some serious hurricanes, and I don't think I'd be waving those flags in God's face if I were you, This is not a message of hate -- this is a message of redemption. But a condition like this will bring about the destruction of your nation. It'll bring about terrorist bombs; it'll bring earthquakes, tornadoes, and possibly a meteor." –Pat Robertson, on "gay days" at Disneyworld

Now that's Christian Charity

These are leaders that republicans and some conservadems embrace without any sanction even though they spew some of the most hateful rhetoric, no one is constantly asked to denounce them. Double standard anyone?

Posted by: srw3 | July 21, 2010 9:57 AM | Report abuse

Kevin, my favorite part about that "FascistBook" comment is the idea that Ezra blog is called "Wonkbook". I know that there was a time when sites were called blogs and posts were also called blogs, but I also think it's much more likely that this is a sign of a newfound troll in our midst. Also, the fact that hartwr1 uses "NAACP" as if its very mention is some kind of slight against Ezra tells me pretty much all I need to know about him/her.

As for you actual comments, I agree that liberals tend to have strong feelings about FOX, and many liberals think we'd be better off if they did indeed shut down, but I don't think I've ever seen someone honestly argue (in public or private) that the government should intervene and shut them down. I think you grant the troll too much in equating his statement with the common knowledge that liberals think Fox is a bad news organization.

For "playing the race card", I tend to think of that as an unprincipled use of a racial issue to distract from the substantive point. I agree that frustration with the Wright story were based on honestly held beliefs that it wasn't relevent or was being given more attention than it warranted, and therefore I'd say it wasn't "playing the race card." I tend to agree with Matt Yglesias that all too often conservative commentators seem to think accusations of racism are more important than actual racism, which leads to lots of talk about "playing the race card" in situations where there is, I think, a genuine race issue.

Posted by: MosBen | July 21, 2010 10:02 AM | Report abuse

all this crap is bound to happen when you blur the lines of true journalism and opinion journalism.

Posted by: visionbrkr | July 21, 2010 10:03 AM | Report abuse

"the Dream Act, legislation that would give unauthorized young immigrants a path to legal residency if they contribute to the country by serving in the military or getting a college education."

Why is "getting a college education" a contribution to the country? Serving in the military or some sort of civilian service maybe, but getting a college education? That's a benefit to the individual.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | July 21, 2010 10:07 AM | Report abuse

Yeah, srw3, I had forgotten those Pat Robertson quotes, but man, that's just amazing. I mean, usually somebody (conservative or liberal) will say something stupid in public that compares their petty slights to some great historical disaster like the Holocaust, but they leave themselves enough room to say, "Well, of course I didn't mean it's the same!" But wow, he throws out two absolute affirmative statements there. That's just...well, it's something.

Posted by: MosBen | July 21, 2010 10:07 AM | Report abuse

visionbrkr, this "crap" isn't bound to happen when someone behaves as Ezra has, or when something like JournoList exists. Something like this is bound to happen when we have a media outlets (in this case consevative) that care more about breaking big stories with sensational headlines than they care about factually and fairly reporting the news.

Posted by: MosBen | July 21, 2010 10:21 AM | Report abuse

Just FYI, Pat Robertson is not a respected conservative leader. He's pretty broadly regarded as a kook. He heals people through the television.

@visionbrkr: Opinion journalism has always been the dominant form of journalism. Although, it was more true that it was generally understood that each paper had some form of party or ideological affiliation. In some ways, it may have been the advent of television news that helped breed the (mostly fictional) expectation of the objective, neutral journalist.

@MosBen: "I think you grant the troll too much in equating his statement with the common knowledge that liberals think Fox is a bad news organization."

I've heard the argument made by rank-and-file liberals and 4th tier pundits--but in public. And they are entitled to their opinion. Many conservatives don't think the government should fund PBS or NPR, and are quite public about it, and while it's not apple-to-apples it's not a dissimilar argument.

I haven't heard that kind of argument from MosBen or Ezra Klein or Barack Obama.

"and therefore I'd say it wasn't 'playing the race card.'"

It depends on the circumstance, and the players. There are some rank-and-file liberals who put everything conservatives advance in the context of a deep-seated desire to hurt people with darker complexions. The accusation of "playing the race card" is, in my opinion, a fair one. With Barack Obama or Jeremiah Wright, at least it makes sense--but when someone advances a military action based on supposed WMDs or ensuring the free flow of oil and market prices, it's not about killing brown people. It might still be a bad idea, but it's not based on race. Yet "the race card" is played.

In this particular situation, "the race card" as an issue comes up as a point specifically because of Spencer Ackerman's ill-chosen words on the Jeremiah Wright story:

"If the right forces us all to either defend Wright or tear him down, no matter what we choose, we lose the game they’ve put upon us. Instead, take one of them — Fred Barnes, Karl Rove, who cares — and call them racists. Ask: why do they have such a deep-seated problem with a black politician who unites the country? What lurks behind those problems? This makes *them* sputter with rage, which in turn leads to overreaction and self-destruction."

While possible, I think it's difficult not to read that statement as an explicit appeal to knowingly play the race card, and manipulatively make race the focus when they understand that it is, at the very least, not the central issue.

I think it was understood that conservatives objected to Wright's "g-d America" comment and suggesting that 9/11 was our fault, and (not unreasonably) wanted Obama to publicly disagree with (or, more preferably, admit to agreeing with) those statements.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | July 21, 2010 10:25 AM | Report abuse


so liberals don't care about "breaking big stories that put conservatives in a negative light?"

I don't profess to honestly care that much about Journolist or whatever but in reading briefly about it on Politico wasn't that exactly what Spencer Ackerman was doing about trying to GUIDE the media's coverage of Rev. Wright?

Sure its wrong when conservatives do it but its wrong when liberals do it too.

I wonder what Journolist would be saying today about Ms. Sherrod?

And MosBen who knows how Ezra behaves outside of what we see (or what he allows us to see)? Who knows how you behave? Who knows how I behave?

I stand by my point that when you blur the lines of what journalism is this is bound to happen if you're right leaning, left leaning or whatever.

Posted by: visionbrkr | July 21, 2010 10:29 AM | Report abuse

Kevin Willis, oh, I didn't mean to imply that the "race card" is never played, just that the phrase itself is overused. I think you're right that, without any more specifics, your description of a proposed military action would be a situation where I would agree that opposition may be playing the "race card."

I'll also grant that it's possible that rank-and-file liberals and/or 4th tier commentators have suggested that Fox's broadcast license be revoked. I haven't heard it, but that doesn't mean it doesn't happen. But as you say, not from people I'd consider really credible or powerful.

With respect to Ackerman's statement in particular, I guess maybe I'm splitting hairs here, but I'd say that the race card was already played by the hyping of the Wright story. I took the comment to be, essentially, "If we're going to talk about this nonsense race issue, then let's talk about all the other race issues on the other side too!" I don't know, I'd be willing to consider that I could be wrong on that, but it feels somewhat different than your military action example, which I agree falls under the "playing the race card" scenario.

Posted by: MosBen | July 21, 2010 11:20 AM | Report abuse

visionbrkr, oh not at all. That's why I included the "in this case conservative" aside there. I'm sure there have been instances when a liberal outlet has put out a story that was reckless with the facts so that they could break a big headline. The Dan Rather flap comes to mind.

I agree that I don't know how people behave in their private lives, but that's been true as long as there have been journalists and long before that. Journalists have always talked about their opinions on news and newsmakers when they talk to each other or their friends, whether that's around the newsroom, in a bar after work, or when the bbq with their friends on the weekend.

Posted by: MosBen | July 21, 2010 11:54 AM | Report abuse

Objective much?

Dude, employers prefer simple times roman font on the resumes they get.

Posted by: luca_20009 | July 21, 2010 1:32 PM | Report abuse

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