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Wonkbook: GOP's 'Pledge'; no vote on tax cuts; DISCLOSE gets another chance


The GOP's will unveil its "Pledge to America" today, though the document is already available for download on such fine web sites as 'The Washington Post.' And given the early reaction, the GOP deserves some credit: Amidst an acrimonious campaign cycle, they managed to produce an agenda that both parties love.

Republicans love it because it's an agenda. They can't be accused of lacking ideas. From big-ticket items like extending the Bush tax cuts and repealing the health-care bill and reforming Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to smaller ideas like non-security discretionary spending caps and federal hiring freezes, there's a long list of actionable policies in the document. The Democrats agree -- and gleefully note that those policies would, in total, increase the deficit by trillions of dollars.

Back in the Senate, Democrats now look likely to delay a vote on the Bush tax cuts and instead take on the more populist issue of corporate outsourcing. And the DISCLOSE Act is going to get another chance to pass a filibuster -- though no one thinks it will.

I had lunch at Siroc yesterday and it was really terrific. Welcome to Wonkbook.

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The GOP will reveal its policy agenda today, report Paul Kane and Perry Bacon: "After enduring "party-of-no" insults from President Obama and Democrats for many months, House Republicans are offering a collection of conservative ideas, including freezing government spending and replacing the president's sweeping health-care legislation with a scaled-back version allowing for the purchase of health plans across state lines...Highlights of the plan include...requiring all bills to be posted online three days before votes and requiring legislation to cite the constitutional authority for the new law."

Read the full plan:

Read a breakdown of its proposals:

Read my take:

Senate Democrats may not attempt a vote on the Bush tax cuts before elections, reports Lori Montgomery: "Instead of spending their time tussling over income tax rates, some Senate Democrats are pressing their leaders to stage a debate over companies that ship jobs overseas, an issue that proved politically potent in a Pennsylvania special election this year...Reid spokesman Jim Manley confirmed that Reid has set the procedural wheels in motion for debate on the bill and hopes to bring it to a vote before the Senate leaves town, perhaps as soon as next week."

Harry Reid is bringing the DISCLOSE Act to the floor today, reports Meredith Shiner: "When the defense authorization bill failed to clear cloture Tuesday, Democrats needed a measure to fill floor time before the weekend, and the DISCLOSE Act was one of the few measures in their legislative arsenal that was quickly available. Having failed cloture once, the campaign bill only requires a less strict 'motion to recommit' from Reid to call another cloture vote. New legislation likely would need 30 hours after being filed, 30 hours the Senate doesn’t have. So even if Democrats know they’re likely short of votes Thursday, the alternative was practically nothing."

Could Michelle Rhee be going to Newark to help Cory Booker administer a $100 million education grant from Facebook-CEO Mark Zuckerberg that will be announced on Oprah? Maybe!

Danish pop interlude: Quadron's "Slippin'".

Still to come: Wrongly signed documents may block thousands of foreclosures; the US is taking a tougher tone in climate negotiations with China and India; state workers are taking lead on implementing health care reform; and a toddler dances to "Billie Jean".


The top Republicans on the House Ways and Means committee is backing a temporary Bush tax cut extension, reports Simmi Aujla: "The top Ways and Means Republican said Wednesday that Republicans are open to a vote on extending all the Bush era tax cuts for only two years, instead of permanently. 'We think at least there should be a vote on the two-year extension,' said Ways and Means ranking member Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.). 'We’re calling for a clean up or down vote. At a minimum there should be a vote on the two year extension. We all believe that a permanent statement would actually help take away the uncertainty that many employers are factoring in.'"

Congress is moving forward on a bill targeting China's currency:

The US is pressing for less European representation at the IMF, reports Howard Schneider: "Taking on a cluster of small nations such as Belgium and the Netherlands, the administration has threatened to to let the board dissolve unless the Europeans give up two or three of the nine seats they hold. The U.S. appointee to the IMF board, Meg Lundsager, in August blocked a vote needed for new board elections, part of an effort to redistribute power within the IMF and, the administration says, sustain the agency's credibility in newly influential parts of the world. By most any reckoning, Western Europe's role in the global economy is not what it used to be. But the region accounts for more than a third of the board's 24 seats, and several smaller European countries argue that their presence on the board remains vital."

Mike Konczal compares Larry Summers' record to his academic writing: "He is infamously reported to have kept the $1.2 trillion-proposal of Christina Romer, then chair of the president's Council of Economic Advisers, off the table...Now growth is sputtering, unemployment is still very high, and the very notion of Keynesian stimulus is toxic because it wasn't carried out seriously enough to begin with...In 1986, Summers wrote an influential paper about 'hysteresis' in unemployment. He argued that unemployment, instead of returning to a mythical 'natural' rate, could build on itself. Higher unemployment could generate more unemployment, which would push this natural rate upward. If he took his own advice to heart, he would be doing everything he could to get unemployment down right now."

Summers helped stave off another Great Depression, writes Niall Ferguson: "As for Larry’s turn in Washington, the administration was facing the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression. I have no doubt that he was a crucial decision-maker in the administration’s response to that crisis. Whatever one may say about the administration, things could have gone a whole lot worse than they did. We avoided the Great Depression and it was a pretty near-miss. I think the economic team in the White House deserves some credit for that."

The White House denies it's focused on corporate candidates for NEC chief:

Former NEC chair Keith Hennessey explains what the job entails:

Steven Pearlstein thinks Wall Street is disconnected from the public mood on the economy (and he;s not that impressed with the Republicans, either): "Then this week, Skybridge Capital's Anthony Scaramucci showed up at a televised 'town meeting' with the president, complaining that he and his hedge fund buddies were tired of being treated as political pinatas by the administration. It shows you how thoroughly disconnected Wall Street is from the rest of the country that Scaramucci actually thought he could elicit an apology from the president or some sympathy from the public. Obama quickly turned the tables on his former Harvard law school classmate, getting the biggest applause of the session when he noted that much of the public felt that he hadn't been tough enough on Wall Street."

'80s nostalgia interlude: A functioning Transformer costume.


The US won't commit to action on climate change unless India and China do, writes Andrew Revkin: "The latest word from Todd Stern, the lead United States official in talks aimed at building a new climate treaty, powerfully supports Schelling’s view. At a briefing for reporters after the close of the latest meeting of the Major Economies Forum on Climate and Energy, he described how the United States is only willing to go forward on legally binding steps to limit greenhouse gases if fast-growing developing countries -- aka India and China -- are similarly bound."

The fossil fuel industry is in a tough PR spot, reports Darren Samuelsohn: "Environmentalists have had help making their case during a five-month period that started in early April, when 29 coal miners died at the Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia, the worst accident for the industry in almost 40 years. That was followed by almost daily coverage of the BP calamity in the Gulf of Mexico, an oil pipeline rupture in Michigan that sent close to 1 million gallons of oil into the Talmadge Creek and Kalamazoo River and a gas pipeline blast in the San Francisco area that killed four and injured 60."

Another action has injured BP workers:

Stimulus money is being distributed slowly on green projects, reports Matthew Wald: "The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, passed in February 2009, allocated $3.1 billion for distribution by state energy offices to improve energy efficiency and spur the use of renewable energy. But by July 9 of this year, only about 7.2 percent had been spent, the audit indicates. Released on Wednesday afternoon, the audit is the third in a series; earlier ones found similar problems in two other Recovery Act energy programs. One was for weatherizing houses and apartments, and the other was for making energy improvements in publicly owned buildings."

Artificial salmon will actually help the environment, writes James Greenwood: "Overfishing and pollution are quickly wiping out the native global fish supply. Already 80% of fish stocks world-wide are fully exploited or overexploited, according to a May 2010 U.N. report. If current trends continue, virtually all fisheries risk running out of commercially viable catches by 2050. Fish farming has helped address this problem: About half of seafood consumed world-wide is now farm-raised. But it's expensive...Faster-growing genetically engineered salmon could help restore America's domestic fish farming industry, trimming costs and reducing energy consumption."

Adorable children being adorable interlude: A toddler dances to "Billie Jean".

Domestic Policy

State governments are taking lead on implementing health care reform, report Darryl Fears and Lena Sun: "The task of expanding Medicaid to include millions more Americans, converting paper medical records to electronic records, and creating an entirely new health insurance marketplace is falling on state health agencies during a recession that has cut their budgets. And staffs - trimmed by layoffs, early retirements, furloughs and hiring freezes - are feeling the strain...Experts are starting to wonder if states with depleted budgets - such as California, Oklahoma and Virginia - can keep up with the conveyer belt of grant opportunities and account for millions of dollars once the money is awarded."

A Congressional panel interrogated the farmers behind the salmonella outbreak:

Potential deals to move food safety legislation fell apart last night, reports Meredith Shiner: "The Coburn offer would require the food safety package, which is an authorization bill that the Congressional Budget Office scores as not needing offsets, to be fully paid for. Coburn asked for votes on three amendments -- two less than Reid's original five -- including a vote on the substitute amendment 'which is fully offset and has been agreed to by both managers.' The problem is that the two managers of the bill, Democrat Tom Harkin of Iowa and Mike Enzi of Wyoming, only agreed to their provision, not to Coburn's proposal. It was a twist of words, and an unspoken comma, that made all the difference for negotiators."

Many health care reform provision take effect today:

A new bill could end Saturday mail service, reports Ed O'Keefe: "It echoes proposals pushed by Postmaster General John E. Potter, who is seeking greater independence from lawmakers despite the Postal Service's quasi-government role...The bill would lift restrictions on the types of products and services the Postal Service sells and when and where it operates. Potter wants to end Saturday mail deliveries, close post offices and open for business in nearby retail outlets. He also wants to explore selling banking or insurance services. Carper's bill goes a step further. It would permit the Postal Service to work with state governments to provide voter registration forms and driver's license applications at postal locations."

Obama is back stumping for health care reform:

The public reaction to health care reform has barely begun, writes Drew Altman: "Consider what happened when a Republican-controlled Congress created the Medicare drug benefit in 2004. Three times as many seniors opposed the law as favored it, and many liberals criticized the legislation as a first step toward privatization of Medicare, just as some conservatives call current health reform a government takeover. Within three years, though, supporters of Medicare Part D outnumbered detractors as it became clear the program was working well and helping seniors afford their medicines."

Closing credits: Wonkbook compiled with help from Dylan Matthews and Mike Shepard. Photo credit: House GOP Leadership.

By Ezra Klein  | September 23, 2010; 6:35 AM ET
Categories:  Wonkbook  
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