Wonkbook: DeMint's last stand; Sebelius vs. WSJ; Fed purchases; a longer school year?
Senator Jim DeMint is planning to end the 111th Congress with a glorious show of all-points obstruction. Everything he hasn't personally agreed to, he'll hold. The idea is to just run out the clock so the Senate has to adjourn for the election. No wonder Senate Democrats are beginning to murmur again about filibuster reform -- though first they'll have to survive the election.
While the Senate can't act, the Fed simply hasn't decided whether to act. They're considering a program of open-ended bond purchases that would be less than the massive intervention they made during the crisis, but more than nothing And Obama is arguing for a longer school year. He's lucky kids don't vote.
Welcome to Wonkbook.
Jim DeMint is blocking almost all legislation until the election, reports Manu Raju: "Bret Bernhardt, DeMint's chief of staff, said in an e-mail to GOP aides that his boss would place a hold on all legislation that has not been cleared by both parties by the end of the day Tuesday... With the Senate slated to adjourn Thursday untiil after the elections, DeMint's stance could mean trouble for Democrats if the two parties don't quickly agree on a stopgap spending measure to keep the government operating past Sept. 30. And that could mean the demise of a slew of other stalled and largely non-controversial bills that both parties are looking to clear before Election Day."
The Fed is considering a program of open-ended bond purchases, reports Jon Hilsenrath: "Rather than announce massive bond purchases with a finite end, as they did in 2009 to shock the U.S. financial system back to life, Fed officials are weighing a more open-ended, smaller-scale program that they could adjust as the recovery unfolds. The Fed hasn't yet committed to stepping up its bond purchases, and members haven't settled on an approach. After its meeting last week, the Fed's policy committee said it was 'prepared' to take new steps if needed. A decision on whether to buy more bonds depends on incoming data about economic growth and inflation; if the economy picks up steam, officials might decide no action is needed."
A new study shows that Americans wildly underestimate how much income inequality we have -- and they think even that is too high: http://bit.ly/bqRrrN
Kathleen Sebelius goes to the WSJ editorial page to defend the health-care law -- and to hammer the WSj editorial page: "In the last two weeks, my department has been accused of 'thuggery' (this editorial page) and 'Soviet tyranny' (Newt Gingrich). What prompted these accusations? The fact that we told health-insurance companies that, as required by law, we will review large premium increases and identify those that are unreasonable. There's a long history of special interests using similar attacks to oppose change. In the mid-1960s, for example, some claimed Medicare would put our country on the path to socialism. But what is really objectionable about these comments is not who they're attacking, but what they're defending. "
Robin Wells and Paul Krugman chart a way out of the slump: http://bit.ly/9wNJPM
Obama pressed for a longer school year yesterday, reports Erica Werner: "U.S. schools through high school offer an average of 180 instruction days per year, according to the Education Commission of the States, compared to an average of 197 days for lower grades and 196 days for upper grades in countries with the best student achievement levels, including Japan, South Korea, Germany and New Zealand. 'That month makes a difference,' the president said. 'It means that kids are losing a lot of what they learn during the school year during the summer. It's especially severe for poorer kids who may not see as many books in the house during the summers, aren't getting as many educational opportunities.'"
Democratic Senators are still thinking about reforming the filibuster, reports Taylor Rushing: "'It was already virtually certain that we would do something,' said Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.)...Last week, Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said that filibuster reform has been boosted as a top prerogative of Democratic leaders after the failed vote on his defense measure...Senate Rules Committee Chairman Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) has been laying the groundwork for changing the filibuster rules, which is strongly supported by most House Democrats. Schumer has held a series of hearings on filibuster reform and plans to hold his last filibuster-related hearing before the election this week."
Acoustic interlude: St. Vincent plays "Marry Me".
Still to come: Treasury is figuring out how to get its money back from AIG; an end to the drilling moratorium could be announced this week; the IRS is giving up on paper tax forms; and Raytheon more or less builds Iron Man.
Defense Secretary Gates's budget cuts are being reviewed by Congress today: http://politi.co/a5gteC
Treasury has a plan for recouping its investment in AIG, reports Brady Dennis: "The core piece of that strategy would be for Treasury to convert its $49 billion ownership stake in the company into common stock, then sell those shares to investors during the next few years, the sources said. The sources spoke on the condition of anonymity because the plan is not final. The pricing of those shares in part would determine how much the U.S. government would recoup from its rescue of AIG."
Kevin Drum explains why income inequality matters: http://bit.ly/a65EMO
The IRS will stop mailing income tax forms, reports Ed O'Keefe: "Taxpayers who want to file paper returns can still obtain the forms at IRS.gov, local IRS offices or at participating libraries and post offices. The annual savings will be in printing and postage costs, the IRS said. The agency uses the Government Printing Office to print the materials, which in turn hires private printers to do some of the work. The GPO would not comment on the decision...The Postal Service would not comment Monday on the potential financial impact of fewer IRS mailings."
Obama has signed the small business aid bill into law: http://nyti.ms/bf7hpP
David Brooks celebrates mid-century California's progressivism: "They built an outstanding school and university system. They started a series of gigantic public works projects that today are seen as engineering miracles. These included monumental water projects, harbors and ports, the sprawling highway system and even mental health facilities. They disdained partisanship. They continually reorganized government to make it more businesslike and cost effective. 'Thus,' the historian Kevin Starr has written, 'California progressivism contained within itself both liberal and conservative impulses, as judged by the standards of today.'"
The rich don't need a tax cut extension, writes Richard Thaler: http://nyti.ms/bJ4WAI
We should get used to China and others manipulating currency, writes Anatole Kaletsky: "Market fundamentalists who feel that government interference with free markets is anathema should be reminded that, by today’s dogmatic standards, Ronald Reagan is one of the great manipulators of all time. He presided over two of the biggest currency interventions in history: the Plaza agreement, which devalued the dollar in 1985, and the Louvre accord of 1987, which brought this devaluation to an end. The fact is that the rules of global capitalism have changed irrevocably since Lehman Brothers collapsed two years ago -- and if the United States refuses to accept this, it will find its global leadership slipping away."
Real life Iron Man interlude: Raytheon builds a robotic exoskeleton.
Michael Bromwich could announce the end of the administration's deepwater drilling moratorium as soon as Friday, reports Darren Samuelsohn: "Michael Bromwich, director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, said Monday he expects to issue interim rules and a key report later this week - a month early - as the Obama administration weighs its next move on offshore drilling...'Even when the moratorium is lifted, you're not going to see drilling come on the next day or the next week,' Bromwich told the administration’s Oil Spill Commission at a hearing Monday in Washington, D.C."
Scientists are clashing over estimates of the size of the Gulf oil spill: http://bit.ly/bEUgXS
Environmentalists are considering backing a primary challenge to Obama, reports Darren Samuelsohn: "Glenn Hurowitz, former media director at Greenpeace, aired his complaints in an article on the Huffington Post with this headline: 'Environmentalists Need a New President.' 'It pains me to say it, but success will require a new president,' wrote Hurowitz, now a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy...Officials at some of the top mainstream environmental groups, including the Sierra Club, Environment America and Public Citizen, also blasted the idea of another Democrat challenging Obama at the ballot box. 'It’s a lunatic notion,' said an official from one of the nation’s largest groups."
The Fish and Wildlife Service is identifying animals in need of protection from climate change: http://bit.ly/cNxJyO
Obama's recovery panel wants BP to pay the cost of the Gulf recovery, reports John Broder: "In a report to be presented Tuesday in New Orleans, Ray Mabus, the Navy secretary and a former Mississippi governor, will urge Congress to create a Gulf Coast Recovery Fund to oversee the restoration efforts. The fund should be managed by a council including federal, state, local and tribal representatives, the report states. The goal is to create a steady stream of money and a consistent governmental focus on a restoration project that will last years. The Mabus report provides no estimate of the overall cost of the effort, but it is likely to run into the billions of dollars over the next several years."
Buildings contribute a large fraction of greenhouse gas emissions: http://bit.ly/cPLylM
Great moments in advertising interlude: Jason Schwartzman hawks The New Yorker's iPhone app.
Rahm Emanuel could step down as soon as Friday: http://bit.ly/cAlec6
Citizens United has cleared the way for "super-PACs", report Dan Eggen and T.W. Farnam: "FEC records show that super PACs have spent more than $8 million on television advertising and other expenditures, almost all of it within the past month. Groups favoring GOP candidates have outspent Democratic supporters by more than 3 to 1, mirroring an overall surge in spending by the Republican Party and its allies in recent weeks, records show. The super PACs have 'opened the door to the clearest, easiest way to spend unlimited funds on an election,' said Trevor Potter, a former FEC chairman who served as general counsel to GOP presidential candidate John McCain in 2008. 'This is pretty much the holy grail that people have been looking for.'"
Republican calls for abolishing the Department of Education are drawing flack: http://bit.ly/bqy9TG
Suggestions that we freeze the federal workforce are dangerous, writes Max Stier: http://bit.ly/93iFmh
Our courts are suffering from a confirmation crisis, writes Eric Holder: "Today there are 103 judicial vacancies -- nearly one in eight seats on the bench...The problem is about to get worse. Because of projected retirements and other demographic changes, the number of annual new vacancies in the next decade will be 33 percent greater than in the past three decades. If the historic pace of Senate confirmations continues, one third of the federal judiciary will be vacant by 2020. If we stay on the pace that the Senate has set in the past two years -- the slowest pace of confirmations in history -- fully half the federal judiciary will be vacant by 2020.
Closing credits: Wonkbook compiled with help from Dylan Matthews and Mike Shepard. Photo credit: Mark Wilson Photo.
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