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Wonkbook: Republicans reject immigration push; Brooksley Born and Eliot Spitzer on FinReg; Bingaman takes over climate

Obama renewed his call for immigration reform yesterday, but Republicans in the Senate -- even the ones who supported immigration reform when Bush tried it -- are not biting. On the bright side for Obama, Maria Cantwell has pledged her support for FinReg, leaving only two votes to go until a filibuster can be broken. Brooksley Born, the former-regulator who tried to get derivatives under control in the 90s, has weighed in with supportive comments on the bill. But Eliot Spitzer, has come out in strong opposition.

On climate, Senate Democrats decided to put Jeff Bingaman in charge, replacing John Kerry, who'd been aggressively working on the issue for months. Bingaman's much less of a true believer on the issue than Kerry is, and this is another signal that substantial compromise is in the offing. Meanwhile, new job numbers come out today at 8:30am. Here's hoping.

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From President Obama's remarks on immigration reform: "The politics of who is and who is not allowed to enter this country, and on what terms, has always been contentious. And that remains true today. And it’s made worse by a failure of those of us in Washington to fix a broken immigration system." Full remarks here.

Obama singled out the eleven Republican Senators who backed immigration reform in 2006, but they don't look interested, reports Michael Savage: "Laena Fallon, a spokeswoman for Sen. Judd Gregg (N.H.), said the senator is interested in fixing the immigration system. But she added that he had made it clear he 'does not support any initiative promoting comprehensive reform until the president and this administration get serious about controlling our borders.' A spokesman for Sen. Richard G. Lugar (Ind.) said the senator thinks it is simply the wrong moment for reform. 'There really is not the political landscape to proceed with it at this time,' he said."

Maria Cantwell's support means FinReg needs only two more votes, with three Republicans still on the fence, reports Chris Frates: "Sen. Scott Brown remains on the fence even after Democrats took the unusual step of reopening the House-Senate conference committee to remove a $19 billion bank fee he opposed. Sen. Olympia Snowe reportedly approves of the elimination of the bank fee and has been talking with Democratic Senate Banking Committee chairman Chris Dodd. Sen. Chuck Grassley has said he would consider the final bill."

Eliot Spitzer thinks Congress blew its chance on FinReg: "The bill by and large reinvests regulators with the same discretion they had--and failed to use--before the crisis. The theory underlying the bill is simple: 'Trust us--next time we will do better.' Indeed, in virtually every case, the very same people are still in the positions they had before the cataclysm."

Brooksley Born said she would support the FinReg bill, reports Victoria McGrane:

Jeff Bingaman is taking over from John Kerry as the Senate climate bill's shepherd, reports Coral Davenport: "Some of his colleagues worry that Bingaman’s mild-mannered modesty could be a hindrance when it comes time to round up votes. Democratic Whip Dick Durbin on Wednesday praised Kerry’s passionate efforts on climate change. 'John Kerry devoted almost all his waking moments to bringing this bill forward -- I’ve never seen him commit himself in this manner since he ran for president. He was able to be the leading force on this in our caucus.' Asked if Bingaman could bring the same passion and be a leading force on the issue, Durbin said, 'I don’t know.'"

Jeff Bingaman will likely support a very limited bill, writes Brad Plumer: "Bingaman's been insisting that it's 'difficult' to envision a cap on carbon pollution getting 60 votes. That's not the sort of thing you say when you're preparing for a showdown. Instead, Bingaman's cobbling together a more modest bill that would only cap pollution from electric utilities (see here for the merits of that approach). He also has an energy bill that passed out of his committee last fall that would offer subsidies to various alternative-energy industries and force utilities to buy (a very modest amount) of renewable power. Combine all those together and you have a fairly weak bill that wouldn't do nearly enough to put a dent in greenhouse gases and stop global warming. "

Marxist theory interlude: David Harvey explains the financial crisis - with cartoons!

Still to come: The House passed a "budget enforcement resolution" that leaves the tough decisions to the president's fiscal commission; Bingaman does not want to add carbon pricing in conference committee; the NRA will make Kagan a key vote; and the best zingers in the history of cinema.


The House passed a "budget enforcement resolution" by five votes, but not a full budget, reports Walter Alarkon: "The 'budget enforcement resolution' Democrats are substituting for a traditional budget resolution sets discretionary spending for 2011 at $1.12 trillion, about $7 billion less than Obama’s proposal and $3 billion less than a Senate Democratic plan. It also sets a goal of cutting deficits to the point where revenues equal all spending except for interest payments on the debt....But unlike traditional budget resolutions, this year’s version doesn’t detail how Congress should reach that goal, leaving those tough decisions to Obama’s bipartisan fiscal commission."

A vote on extending the Bush tax cuts likely won't come this year:

Housing is pulling down the economy, reports Dina ElBoghdady: "In a report last month, Harvard University's Joint Center for Housing Studies singled out high joblessness as 'one of the biggest drags' on the housing market. Based on past downturns, the report concluded that employment growth is highly correlated to a sustained housing recovery, even more so than falling mortgage interest rates."

Steve Pearlstein isn't sold on aid to state and local governments:

Mortgage bonds are selling high again, reports Mark Gongloff: "Investors are seeking out mortgage bonds backed by the U.S. government as a safe haven from the tumult of the global economy, a reversal of fortune that has helped drive mortgage rates for consumers to record lows....The implied government backing of mortgage debt issued by government-sponsored entities such as Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae seems to offer a risk-free investment at a slightly higher yield than comparable Treasury debt."

The IMF is considering creating a global fund to provide capital to countries in crisis, reports Howard Schneider: "A U.S. official familiar with the discussion said the Obama administration considered the idea 'intellectually appealing' but would vet any proposal closely to ensure 'the design is sound and safeguards IMF resources.' As the world's largest economy, the United States is responsible for about 17 percent of the fund's more than $300 billion in quota contributions and has a roughly equivalent share of voting power on the IMF board."

Paul Krugman argues the idea that economic growth follows austerity is a convenient myth: "What’s the evidence for the belief that fiscal contraction is actually expansionary, because it improves confidence? (By the way, this is precisely the doctrine expounded by Herbert Hoover in 1932.) Well, there have been historical cases of spending cuts and tax increases followed by economic growth. But as far as I can tell, every one of those examples proves, on closer examination, to be a case in which the negative effects of austerity were offset by other factors, factors not likely to be relevant today."

Cineaste interlude: The 100 greatest insults in movies.


Jeff Bingaman does not want to add climate pricing in during conference committee, reports Stephen Power: "Bingaman, chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, warned his colleagues against assuming they can pass a bill before the election with popular items - such as incentives for wind and solar power and electric cars - and then add more controversial provisions, such as a cap on carbon emissions, in a conference committee with the House after the election. That approach, he said, has failed in the past."

Navy Secretary Mabus says a plan to restore the Gulf will be coming shortly, reports Catherine Cheney: "Mabus said past projects by organizations like the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority have already been authorized by Congress, but lack funding to move forward. It is these sorts of plans, he said, that will be incorporated into a comprehensive strategy for Gulf Coast restoration. Mabus said BP would be expected to pay not only for the cleanup effort, but also for the long term recovery efforts related to the spill."

Lee Hudson Teslik and Christian Menegatti think the economic damage from the spill is being overblown:

Per-capita emissions in China are at developed country levels, reports James Kanter: "The Dutch agency said that per capita emissions were 6.1 tons in China in 2009, up from only 2.2 tons in 1990. Among the French, emissions were 6 tons per person last year, said Jos Olivier, a senior scientist at the Dutch agency....Per capita emissions in 15 nations of the European Union were 7.9 tons in 2009, down from 9.1 tons in 1990, the study said. In the United States, the figure was 17.2 tons in 2009, down from 19.5 tons in 1990."

The scientist accused in "climategate" has been cleared of all charges:

Vinod Khosla argues that we should promote low-carbon fuels, not just renewables: "Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) has proposed requiring electricity providers to use a minimum percentage of energy from renewable sources. If this standard were modified to allow low-carbon electricity from any source, not just renewable, with carbon emissions that are 80 percent lower than coal, it could get support from nuclear, natural gas and even coal advocates. Opening the playing field like this would increase competition and drive down prices. This would encourage coal with sequestration and nuclear technologies to accelerate development to compete."

DC comics interlude: The best of Batman's Twitter account.

Domestic Policy

The NRA will score a vote to confirm Elena Kagan as a "key vote" against gun rights:

Labor is promising to cause trouble for the South Korea free trade deal, reports Ian Swanson: "The groups have a strong ally in Rep. Sandy Levin, the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. Levin is a Michigan Democrat put in charge of trade by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) before he became chairman. On Saturday, he blasted the Korean deal for not addressing regulatory and tax barriers that have led to one-way trade with South Korea and hurt the U.S. industrial sector."

The SEC is investigating home health care firms for Medicare fraud:

Arizona police have received guidelines to avoid racial profiling, reports Jonathan Cooper: "Police enforcing Arizona's toughest-in-the-nation immigration law are allowed to consider if a person speaks poor English, looks nervous or is traveling in an overcrowded vehicle. But top police officials issued a stern warning to officers Thursday, telling them in a training video not to consider race or ethnicity and emphasizing that 'the entire country is watching.'"

Business leadership is still far too male-dominant, writes Chrystia Freeland: "Whenever a job is high-status, we define it as being male. How many would picture a Wall Street 'titan' in a skirt? When I studied in what was still the Soviet Union, almost all of the doctors and factory finance directors were women. In a system where power was vested in Communist Party functionaries, medicine and accounting were low-status professions -- or women's work. In the West, of course, those were considered masculine jobs."

Wonkbook compiled with the help of Mike Shepard and Dylan Matthews.

By Ezra Klein  |  July 2, 2010; 6:51 AM ET
Categories:  Wonkbook  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Good legislation languishes, bad legislation sails through
Next: Economy lost 125,000 jobs and 652,000 workers in June


The fact that the House passed a new set of unemployment extenders last night that virtually everyone assumes is just another dead letter is totally maddening to me. It's even more striking considering the awful new unemployment numbers expected today.

Frankly, I don't want Barack Obama wasting time on an immigration bill that everyone knows is dead right now. Ditto on a climate bill. We can't do comprehensive with Scott Brown as Number 60 (at least without some radical procedural reform). And, as FinReg has shown, doing half-assed reform just saps political will while leaving the biggest icebergs lurking out there.

From now until November, Barack Obama and the Democrats should be talking about jobs, and only jobs. Full court political press. I want to see some really aggressive action explaining just what the Republicans are blocking, and why it's so unprecedented. It's crazy to me that a minority party could literally take the position that 10% unemployment is "structural" -- that we should accept European-style long-term unemployment rates WITHOUT a European-style safety net -- and get away with it. It's amazing to me that a minority party could take radical, unprecedented action to maintain that unemployment rate without any political damage.

So from now to the election, I'd like to see Obama completely focusing on the fact that the Republican party is bending over backwards to block action on jobs. Everything else is a waste of time right now. Propose big, showy plans with the knowledge that they'll be blocked. Put out an impossible-to-pass deficit reduction plan that's all tax increases on billionaires and cuts to Republican pork projects. Make them own it. The Democrats need to show people that the Republican party is behaving incredibly irresponsibly, and will only get worse if they get more power -- if the Dems have any hope, they need to scare people.

Posted by: NS12345 | July 2, 2010 8:27 AM | Report abuse

On immigration reform, why is the focus on the 11 Republicans who supported it in 2007, but now oppose it? What about the 15 Democrats who opposed comprehensive reform back then? Do they support it now that Bush is no longer the one pushing it? Since so many people are blaming every failed piece of legislation from Obama on the Republicans, isn’t then fair to say that we would have already passed immigration reform if it wasn't for the Democrats (the party of NO in 2007)?

Posted by: cummije5 | July 2, 2010 9:54 AM | Report abuse

Well, cummije5, I guess it depends on why those Dems voted against it in 2007. I honestly don't know, but it's possible that some of them felt the bill in 2007 wasn't liberal enough. Similarly, the Republicans who supported it then may think the current bill is too liberal. And frankly, I don't really know exactly how the current bill compares to the 2007 bill. My point is only that we should see what everyone's reasons are for changing their mind before accusing them of rank hyporcisy.

Also, Ezra, please don't use the term "true believer" when referring to climate change. We've got enough problems already with the deniers saying it's just like religion. I know true believer is a convenient term when contrasting someone with Kerry's conviction with someone of Bingaman's, but I think the term creates more trouble than it simplifies.

Re: Climategate. You know, at the time the whole story broke, and through to today for some folks, conservatives lit up the webs with triumphant decrees that the emails disproved all of climate science. I pointed out that they clearly didn't understand how science works, both because a few emails between some people don't disprove all the work that's been done, but also that science has checks built in for stuff like this. When doubt is raised as to a scientist's methods, it gets reviewed. Now here we are, after months of idiotic conservative preening, and this guy's work checks out. Is his work *true*? Well, leave that to a philosophy class. For now we know that he used appropriate methodology and his work stands for itself.

Posted by: MosBen | July 2, 2010 10:35 AM | Report abuse

@MosBen: I dunno. Ezra wins points from me when he uses terms like "true believer". It demonstrates a willingness to see the perspective of folks who disgree. If he has a link to purporting to establish anthropogenic climate change as an incontrovertible fact, I will go read and ponder. Do you call skeptics "deniers"? Then I can safely ignore you.

"but I think the term creates more trouble than it simplifies."

I suppose some people might read it as an admission that The First Church of The Climate Change (Anthropogenic) is quasi-religious in nature, but it might also come off as someone sharing their opinion, and not shaping his conversation with a neat set of DNC-approved talking points (as Ezra is often accused of being).

I'm just one person, but it's exactly the sort of thing that makes me respect and ponder what Ezra says, while I can safely ignore, say, anyone at Democratic Underground.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | July 2, 2010 10:47 AM | Report abuse

Republicans on immigration: Republicans got an earful from their constituents on the Bush Administration-backed reform. There was a lot of effort on the part of the Bush admin (and maverick John McCain) to keep Republicans from bolting, which is the main reason it got any Republican votes. They aren't going to go against the will of the large majority of their base to the benefit of the Obama administration. That's just not going to happen.

However, given the Republican's intransigence to co-govern at all, on anything, the overture to Republican's has to be political in nature. He doesn't expect them to come around, but there is an opportunity to highlight their hypocrisy.

I wonder if some of this (Republican's "party of no") doesn't have something to do with the stimulus negotiations. Obama did say, early on: "I won. So I think on that one, I trump you."

Which is sort of the presidential equivalent of an end zone dance. So, sometimes, I'm thinking their response has been: "Oh, you won? So, you trump us? And we don't matter? So, to hell with us, huh? That what you think? We'll see about that."

Pure speculation on my part.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | July 2, 2010 10:58 AM | Report abuse

Hmmm, you know, I've defended the term "deniers" in the past because I think that most people who deny anthropogenic climate change are either don't understand science or are simply refusing to engage with it. You've got me thinking though, and if I don't want people to assume that people who want to address climate change are religiously devoted to the idea of climate change, then I shouldn't use an absolutist term like "deniers", even if that's what I think the vast majority of people on that side of the argument are. I'm not on board with "climate change skeptics", which seems to a semi-popular term, but I'll try to work something out.

But I still think "true believer" implies an unthinking devotion rather than someone who has carefully considered the evidence and finds it compelling and urgent.

Posted by: MosBen | July 2, 2010 11:53 AM | Report abuse

Kevin, I think you're right on the Republicans' position on immigration, that it's a tough issue, particularly with their base, and they're not going to take big risks to do Pres. Obama a favor.

This is one of the main reasons I wish we didn't have the filibuster. No matter who tackles immigration reform, it's going to be a big political risk. Still, *someone* should be able to take the risk if they can muster a simple majority. And if the voters don't like what they did? Vote 'em out, but at least we'll get more stuff done.

Posted by: MosBen | July 2, 2010 12:03 PM | Report abuse

Gotta love Ezra's objectivity, embodied in the following quote, "Meanwhile, new job numbers come out today at 8:30am. Here's hoping." Sounds like the Obama strategy......hoping.

Immigration Reform to the Obama administration is nothing but a joke and a chance to make bogeyman out of Republicans. If you refuse to allow states to enforce laws the feds REFUSE to enforce, why give the feds more laws they won't enforce in the first place? Is any rational person able to convince themselves that the administration will enforce the new laws when they have no interest in enforcing current law? What they really want to ENFORCE is an open border policy. The law allows them to go after employers who hire illegal aliens where is the enforcement?

Posted by: buggerianpaisley1 | July 2, 2010 2:49 PM | Report abuse

"Gotta love Ezra's objectivity, embodied in the following quote, "Meanwhile, new job numbers come out today at 8:30am. Here's hoping."

You think it is partisan rather than "objective" for anyone to hope that our economy improves?

That's a telling comment.

Posted by: Patrick_M | July 2, 2010 3:00 PM | Report abuse

No kidding, objectivity requires that you not care whether the country is getting better or worse? That's...a viewpoint...

Posted by: MosBen | July 2, 2010 3:20 PM | Report abuse

Gee, Ezra, Any idea why Obama didn't bother to point out the FIFTEEN Democrats who blocked immigration reform when it was attempted under the Bush Administration?
Or why he didn't apologize for his OWN votes that sank the bill in the Senate? You know the ones he promised Teddy Kennedy before he went back on his word?
Rank hypocrisy - from both Obama and Klein.
Obama is not serious. More divisive, political game-playing.

Posted by: parkbench | July 2, 2010 11:11 PM | Report abuse

Mosben said: ". You know, at the time the whole story broke, and through to today for some folks, conservatives lit up the webs with triumphant decrees that the emails disproved all of climate science. I pointed out that they clearly didn't understand how science works,"

No, the email showed the extent to which global warming alarmists will go. The lesson was that if a person lies about his research, it is not unreasonable to question his conclusions. Your snobbery is evident in your statement that anyone who disagrees with you doesn't understand science. Don't go out in the rain or you will drown with you nose stuck so high in the air.

Posted by: groovercg | July 4, 2010 1:45 PM | Report abuse

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