Wonkbook: State aid passes Senate; static kill succeeds; no more secret holds?
It's a day of progress in Washington: The Senate has broken a filibuster of the state budget aid package, setting up the House to come back in session to past the final version. Harry Reid has put legislation ending secret holds on the legislative docket for this Congress, and has set a schedule for dealing with the Bush tax cuts. BP's "static kill" has succeeded in closing off the leaking Gulf oil well once and for all. But these days are rare: Just read David Broder today, who joins George Packer is arguing that the Senate's dysfunction has become one of the nation's more pressing issues, if only because it keeps the nation from addressing its other pressing issues.
It's Thursday, and I have a huge iced coffee. Welcome to Wonkbook.
The state aid package broke a filibuster and is headed to the House again, report Lori Montgomery and Jenna Johnson: "House members left town last week, and many rank-and-file Democrats looked forward to the break as a chance to defend dozens of seats at risk in the November elections. But aides said many lawmakers will welcome the interruption, viewing it as a chance to score a fresh legislative victory for teachers and public-service unions, an important Democratic constituency. The House had earlier approved the state aid, though in a different form."
Even David Broder thinks the Senate is broken:http://bit.ly/9IRmpu
The "static kill" procedure has finally ended the Gulf oil spill, report Joel Achenbach and Steven Mufson: "About three-quarters of the nearly 5 million barrels of oil that escaped Macondo has evaporated, dissolved or been dispersed by chemicals, skimmed by boats, burned, weathered and, most important, devoured by the Gulf of Mexico's permanent oil-eating microbial workforce, according to a study released Wednesday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Interior Department."
A bill banning secret holds will be on the September agenda for the Senate, reports Giovanni Russonello: "McCaskill wrote a petition against secret holds in April and has collected signatures from more than the requisite 60 senators needed for cloture. But Wyden and Grassley had attempted to expedite the legislation’s passage by proposing the bill as an amendment to other legislation measures in the spring. When DeMint tripped them up, they came to Reid to request that he put the bill up as a freestanding vote. Wyden, Grassley and McCaskill said this would be a difficult measure for their colleagues to vote against, which is why they plan to bring the bill forward for a cloture vote and defuse the threat of a filibuster."
The Senate fate of a tax credit extension meant to spur R&D is looking dimmer: http://bit.ly/cvfAaB
Tim Geithner doubled down on the administration's opposition to extending the Bush tax cuts for top earners, reports Brady Dennis: "He also suggested that Republicans are using a misleading definition of 'small business.' According to the GOP's definition, Geithner said, a small business could include partners in a major law firm and directors of a large financial company. 'If you actually want to help small businesses get needed tax relief as opposed to using them as a cover for supporting tax cuts for the most well-off,' he said, 'those people should be supporting Senate passage of the Small Business Jobs Act this week.' The bill is stalled, and aides said it may not pass until after the August break."
Late night indie interlude: Spoon play "Nobody Gets Me But You" with Questlove on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.
Still to come: Reid sets a schedule for addressing the Bush tax cuts; green groups are pushing for smaller Congressional measures in lieu of cap and trade; 14th amendment opposition spreads; and adorable baby owls.
Harry Reid has scheduled a showdown on the Bush tax cuts for September, reports Alexander Bolton: "Midwestern centrists such as Sens. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) and Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) have called for an extension of all of Bush’s tax cuts, including those benefiting individuals earning more than $200,000 and families earning over $250,000 annually...Some liberals balk at the notion that families earning $250,000 or more belong in the middle class. 'Two hundred and fifty thousand dollars? Is that the top 1 percent of Americans, or half a percent? Come on!' said Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa)."
Employers' labor costs are rising even though employee pay is shrinking, reports Sara Murray: "The latest Employment Cost Index showed the cost of wages and benefits was rising slowly. And, seemingly in contrast, BEA’s consumer spending report showed declining wages and salaries. 'For employers, labor costs are going up, while many employees are seeing flat or even falling wages and salaries,' Kevin Hallock, director of the Cornell institute, said in a release, '.. while salaries are being squeezed, the cost to employers of providing benefits is rising.' There you have it: employers pay more, employees make less, everyone loses."
Industry groups say the administration's policies will meet their export goals: http://bit.ly/ahXzok
Glenn Hubbard and Hal S. Scott argue FinReg will cause widespread regulatory uncertainty: "Mr. Geithner's 'obligation of speed' ignores the international process for setting capital requirements for financial institutions. These requirements have a major impact on the activities in which financial institutions engage. They operate like a tax, and if they reduce the profitability of a financial product or service, then institutions will gravitate to other businesses. Without knowing what such 'taxes' will be, businesses are naturally reluctant to invest. But capital requirements are not set by the Treasury; they are instead effectively set by the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision, a group of regulators from 27 countries."
Daniel Gross highlights companies who dropped their 401(k) contributions in 2008 only to never bring them back: http://bit.ly/bDXRMB
Howard Gleckman explains what "small business owners" will be hit by the expiration of Bush tax cuts for high earners: "A half million top-bracket filers will report net positive business income averaging more than $700,000. These are the people--not the mom-and-pop business owners-- who would be hit by the expiration of the top bracket tax cuts. Who are they? Many are doctors, lawyers, and investors. Others are very successful entrepreneurs who may own a chain of grocery stores or dry cleaners, or a lot of real estate. Do they fit your image of a small business owner? That, I suppose, is in the eye of the beholders."
Reconstruction interlude: Photos of the same European streets, during World War II and now.
Greens are turning to small-scale issues after cap and trade's failure, reports Coral Davenport: "In the coming year, environmentalists and their friends in Congress are likely to focus on smaller, more bang-for-your-buck environmental bad guys: discrete pollutants produced by only one sector or industry that have an immediate impact on human health -- and are more accessible in the minds of voters...[Sen. Tom] Carper and Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) are teaming up on a bill to crack down on the power plant pollutants sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide, which cause acid rain and mercury, which causes asthma and damage to the nervous system."
Michael Bromwich is declining to give a timeline for ending the drilling ban: http://bit.ly/8XxZZG
EPA greenhouse gas regulations are beginning their roll-out soon, report David Fahrenthold and Juliet Eilperin: "Starting in January, under EPA rules new permits will require the largest factories and power plants to show they have installed the "best available" technology to curb emissions. Smaller sources of greenhouse gases like shops, apartment buildings and bakeries are exempt. That might mean upgrades to make plants burn fuel more efficiently or perhaps to switch from coal to cleaner-burning natural gas."
Little is expected from this year's UN climate conference: http://bit.ly/9ImSpA
Environmentalists are raising doubts about a new study suggesting that much of the oil in the Gulf has already broken up, report Leslie Eaton and Elizabeth Williamson: "In Mississippi, Robert Wiygul, a lawyer involved in several environmental lawsuits against both BP and the government, said that he hope the report's optimistic tone was justified. But, he added, 'any pronouncement that things are okay smacks more of political science than hard science.'...Stan Senner, director of conservation science for the Ocean Conservancy, an environmental group, said he was concerned that the administration's report could mislead Americans into thinking that the fallout from the oil spill was over."
Noah Millman argues that energy innovation is the only way to stop global warming: "Technologies to capture or remove carbon from the atmosphere are going to be an essential part of the any effort to stop global warming. No matter what the United States does - no matter what the entire developed world does - the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is going to go up for the next few decades. In fact, no matter what China and India do, it’s going to go up, because the laudable efforts they are going to make to improve the energy efficiency of their economies are going to be swamped by the rate of increase of energy use."
Daniel Gross sees a growing developing country dependence on coal that will be tough to dislodge: http://bit.ly/9dK3wZ
Adorable birds being adorable: Pictures of baby owls.
Five GOP senators now back Senate considering of rolling back the 14th amendment's guarantee of birthright citizenship, report Manu Raju and Scott Wong: "Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) on Tuesday added their voices to GOP calls for congressional hearings into altering the Constitution's 14th Amendment, which grants citizenship to U.S.-born children of illegal immigrants...McCain and Sessions join Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) in calling for Congress to examine the issue. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) announced last week that he may propose an amendment to change the Constitution on the matter."
Bobby Jindal -- who may not be a US citizen without birthright citizenship -- expressed support for abolishing it: http://politi.co/9uagDP
EJ Dionne defends birthright citizenship: http://bit.ly/d0ympz
Obama reiterated his support for the Employee Free Choice Act, reports Kendra Marr: "He passed the Fair Pay Act to end wage disparities between men and women doing the same jobs, extended unemployment benefits and reversed Bush-era executive orders designed to bust up organized labor. 'And we are going to keep on fighting to pass the Employee Free Choice Act,' said Obama, as union leaders gave him a standing ovation for his commitment to a controversial 'card check' bill that would make it easier to create unions in non-union workplaces.
Elena Kagan faced the least controversial confirmation process in over a decade: http://politi.co/9MFMwr
Health care reform proponents are rallying around Missouri's vote against the individual mandate, reports Alec MacGillis: "About two-thirds of the voters participated in the Republican Senate primary, and turnout in Democratic strongholds such as St. Louis and Kansas City was among the lowest in the state. And Missouri in general is conservative on health-care policy -- its Medicaid eligibility policy is among the most stringent in the country. The overhaul's backers also pointed to national polls that show an uptick in support for the new law."
Matt Miller makes the deficit hawk's case for lowering the voting age to 10: "Imagine a phalanx of fresh-faced yet fierce 13-year-olds (like those on my daughter's middle school debate team) shaming the adults with the following, for starters: Is it really a national priority to borrow billions more from us to keep taxes for the best-off 2 percent of Americans lower than they were during the Clinton boom, when we're in the midst of two wars and already piling up trillions in fresh debt?"
Closing credits: Wonkbook compiled with the help of Dylan Matthews and Mike Shepard. Photo credit: AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais.
August 5, 2010; 7:57 AM ET
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