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Wonkbook: Tax vote delayed; DISCLOSE fails again; Lew blocked


We won't see a vote on the Bush tax cuts before the election. And we won't see the vote because Democrats don't want to take the vote.

And they wonder why there's an "enthusiasm gap." As we learned yesterday, the Republicans have a bunch of deficit-exploding ideas that their base likes and they're enthusiastically committed to. Democrats have some things they got done but can't seem to make popular and some things they wish they had gotten done but have mostly given up on.The exception, it seemed, was that they'd gotten excited over fighting Republicans on the Bush tax cuts, as it allowed them to be both more populist and more fiscally responsible at the same time. But now they're shirking on that, too.

So there's your choice, America: The GOP has counterproductive ideas, and the Democrats have ideas they don't seem committed to. And it's not even quite fair to call the Bush tax cuts their idea, as the only reason they're on the agenda is that their scheduled expiration forced them their. Democrats haven't written a tax-cut policy of their own, and they're not talking about an energy bill or major campaign-finance reform or anything else. I'm one of the folks who think their record over the past two years is impressive, but they're not doing anything to excite people about the next two years. And this election is, at least partially, about the next two years.

I, of course, am with whichever party will pledge to protect DC's food trucks. Welcome to Wonkbook.

Top Stories

The Senate won't vote on extending Bush tax cuts for the middle class until after the midterms, reports Lori Montgomery: "Just a few weeks ago, Democratic leaders in both the House and Senate argued that a pre-election tax battle would put Republicans on the defensive, forcing them to justify borrowing billions of dollars to pay for tax breaks for the nation's 3 million wealthiest families...Among those senators who want to see the tax cuts for the wealthy expire, some acknowledged their odds of success might be better after the election, when retiring Republicans may be more willing to break with party leaders."

Allan Dodds Frank profiles NEC contender Anne Mulcahy:

The DISCLOSE Act failed again, reports Dan Eggen: "The 59-39 vote marks a bitter defeat for Democratic leaders and President Obama, who has repeatedly urged Congress to pass the bill in response to a Supreme Court ruling lifting restrictions on corporate and union political spending...Despite the Disclose Act defeat, activists in favor of changing campaign finance rules celebrated a small victory in the House on Thursday: The Committee on House Administration passed the Fair Elections Now Act, which would allow candidates to receive 4-to-1 matching funds culled from broadcasting license fees by agreeing to limit themselves to donations of $100 or less. The fate of the bill remains unclear, however."

Paul Volcker unexpectedly blasted pretty much everyone in the financial system in a speech at the Chicago Fed, reports Damian Paletta:

Congress has passed Obama's small business aid package, reports Andrew Taylor: "The $40 billion-plus bill is the last vestige of the heralded jobs agenda that Obama and Democrats promoted early this year. They ended up delivering only a fraction of what they promised after emboldened Senate Republicans blocked most of the agenda with filibusters."

Mary Landrieu is blocking Jack Lew's nomination from advancing, reports Ed O'Keefe: "'Although Mr. Lew clearly possesses the expertise necessary to serve as one of the President's most important economic advisers, I found that he lacked sufficient concern for the host of economic challenges confronting the Gulf Coast,' Landrieu wrote in a letter informing Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid of her decision. The Louisiana Democrat met with Lew on Sept. 14 and discussed the six-month moratorium and host of issues related to the Gulf Coast economic recovery, said Landrieu spokesman Aaron Saunders."

Crooner interlude: Antony and The Johnsons' "Thank You For Your Love".

Still to come: Small business aid passes the House; a renewable energy standard picks up steam; health care reform is starting to take effect; and Sesame Street skewers True Blood.


Data suggests a still weak housing market:

Democrats are preparing one last jobs bill, reports Sam Stein: "Senate Democrats are planning to vote on a payroll tax incentive by the end of next week, leadership aides confirmed. The bill, entitled 'Creating American Jobs and Ending Offshoring Act,' would provide payroll tax relief to companies which hire employees domestically during a three-year period beginning September 22...In addition to pushing the payroll tax holiday, the legislation includes another provision designed either to raise revenue or discourage companies from sending operations abroad."

The House voted to repeal the SEC's exemption from the Freedom of Information Act:

The federal government is shrinking the GM IPO, report Nick Blunkley and Michael de la Merced: "To fetch the highest possible price for the government, G.M. is planning an overall offering of stock valued at $8 billion to $10 billion...The Treasury Department has made it clear to G.M. and its underwriters that the government is more interested in setting the highest price possible for the stock rather than maximizing the size of the offering. While both G.M. and the Treasury still hope to reduce the government’s stake in the company to less than 50 percent and rid the company of its Government Motors nickname, that goal may not be met, one of the people said."

The US would have to sell GM stock at $134 a share to recoup its investment:

Paul Krugman savages Republicans' budget plan: "Howard Gleckman of the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center has done the math. As he points out, the only way to balance the budget by 2020, while simultaneously (a) making the Bush tax cuts permanent and (b) protecting all the programs Republicans say they won’t cut, is to completely abolish the rest of the federal government: 'No more national parks, no more Small Business Administration loans, no more export subsidies, no more N.I.H. No more Medicaid (one-third of its budget pays for long-term care for our parents and others with disabilities). No more child health or child nutrition programs. No more highway construction. No more homeland security. Oh, and no more Congress.'"

Steve Pearlstein predicts an upward swing for stocks:

Heather Boushey makes the case for the Paycheck Fairness Act: "The American Association of University Women tackled the pay gap question by looking at workers of the same educational attainment--same kind of college, same grades--holding the same kinds of jobs, and having made the same choices about marriage and number of kids. They found that college-educated women earn 5 percent less the first year out of school than their male peers. Ten years later, even if they keep working on par with those men, the women earn 12 percent less."

Muppet interlude: Sesame Street parodies True Blood.


A renewable energy standard now has four Republican co-sponsors, reports Andrew Restuccia: "The renewable energy standard introduced by Sens. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) and Sam Brownback (R-Kans.) this week now has 25 co-sponsors. In fact, Sen. Chuck Grassley’s (R-Iowa) office confirms that he signed on today as the fourth Republican co-sponsor, joining Brownback, Susan Collins (Maine) and John Ensign (Nev.)"

Brad Plumer warns a Renewable Energy Standard will require a lot of Republican backing to pass: "Four Republican co-sponsors won't be enough. 'Realistically, this bill will need at least a half-dozen Republicans actively supporting it,' says Dan Weiss of the Center for American Progress. For one, a bunch of Senate Democrats flatly oppose an RES, including Evan Bayh, Ben Nelson, Mary Landrieu, Blanche Lincoln. Second, if this bill doesn't come up until the lame duck session after the midterms, there's going to be enormous pressure on Republicans from the Senate leadership not to cooperate on anything. Which means it'll need an even bigger critical mass of support."

24 Republicans sought energy funding in the stimulus:

The hottest year on record isn't helping climate change activists, reports Juliet Eilperin: "For all the visible signs of global warming, weakened political support for curbing emissions means the United States is unlikely to impose national limits on greenhouse gases before 2013, at the earliest. Several leading GOP candidates this fall are questioning whether these emissions even cause warming, while some key Democratic Senate candidates are disavowing the cap-and-trade bill the House passed in 2009. 'I don't see a comprehensive bill going anywhere in the next two years,' Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, told a Washington policymakers conference sponsored by Reuters on Tuesday."

Senators got defensive about their motives at a conference on climate policy:

The world's largest wind farm is opening in England, reports Julia Werdigier: "The wind farm is operated by Vattenfall, a Swedish energy company, and has 100 turbines spread over 13.5 square miles. At 377 feet tall each, the turbines are visible from the coast in Kent. The wind farm took more than two years to build and is expected to generate 300 megawatts of electricity. Vattenfall’s turbines mean that power generated from wind can reach five gigawatts in Britain, enough 'to power all homes in Scotland,' Chris Huhne, Britain’s energy secretary said in a statement."

Republicans are seeking to eliminate light bulb efficiency requirements:

Adorable animals with creepy music interlude: A corgi swims to the soundtrack to Requiem for a Dream.

Domestic Policy

Internet inventor Vint Cerf makes the case for FCC approval of "super Wi-Fi":

Key provisions of health care reform took effect yesterday, reports N.C. Aizenman: "Insurers will no longer be permitted to: Deny coverage to children with preexisting conditions. Put lifetime limits on benefits. Cancel a policy retroactively without proving fraud. The benefits include: The right to appeal the denial of a claim. Free preventive services, such as screenings, vaccinations and counseling. The right of young adults to stay on a parent's plan until age 26. The choice of primary care doctor, obstetrician/gynecologist and pediatrician within a provider's network. The right to use the nearest emergency room without penalty."

Advocates for the poor are opposing the child nutrition bill's Food Stamp cuts:<p>

A conservative group is testing Citizens United, reports Mike McIntire: "With every election cycle comes a shadow army of benignly titled nonprofit groups like Americans for Job Security, devoted to politically charged 'issue advocacy,' much of it negative. But they are now being heard as never before -- in this year of midterm discontent, Tea Party ferment and the first test of the Supreme Court decision allowing unlimited, and often anonymous, corporate political spending. Already they have spent more than $100 million -- mostly for Republicans and more than twice as much as at this point four years ago...This week, emboldened by the court ruling, the group paid close to $4 million more for ads directly attacking nine Democratic candidates for Congress."

The food safety bill is still in limbo:

An FCC decision allows for the development of longer range wifi, reports Cecilia Kang: "In a unanimous vote, the five-member FCC said the airwaves -- unused channels between TV stations -- will be used for mobile broadband services. Google and Microsoft are among companies that have advocated for that use of spectrum. Performers on Broadway and Nashville have expressed concern, along with broadcasters, that using those channels could cause interference for TV channels and wireless microphones. The FCC's order would allow for two channels in some areas to be reserved for the use of wireless microphones to address concerns of interference. New devices would have to meet technological standards set by the FCC that would prevent interference of broadcast shows."

The child nutrition bill might increase child hunger, writes Jim Weill:

David Axelrod urges transparency for corporate-funded campaigns: "Prohibitions against rampant corporate spending in our elections were championed by Theodore Roosevelt. They were written in reaction to the untrammeled political power of the "robber barons," who used their money to bend the national agenda to their interests, and were strengthened after the Watergate scandal, which involved secret campaign spending by corporations. By reversing long-established safeguards, the Supreme Court has turned back the clock. There is still time for the media to shine a light on these front groups. There is still time for an aroused public to rise up against this ominous special-interest hijacking of our elections."

Closing credits: Wonkbook compiled with help from Dylan Matthews and Mike Shepard. Photo credit: White HOuse

By Ezra Klein  | September 24, 2010; 5:20 AM ET
Categories:  Wonkbook  
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Next: Why does Malthus appeal to novelists?


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Posted by: tonycurtis24 | September 24, 2010 6:24 AM | Report abuse

You know, when it comes to legislating, I'm as pragmatic as can be. Need to cut out the public option because you're sure you can't pass the bill with it? Ok, fine, cut it out and pass the bill. When I get pissed off at the Dems are times like these, where they don't even seem to want to win the election. Let's say that they passed their entire legislative agenda as articulated in '08 by this point. Yeah, I may be thrilled, and there's little chance that I won't vote down the line for Dems, but the Dems would *still* need to talk about the things they're going to do in the next two years if they want people to get excited to vote for them this time.

And the True Mud thing was awesome. I don't know that I've ever seen the Muppets do something that would fly over kids' heads as much as that. On the other hand, maybe I'm just not remembering the old Muppets sketches very well, or maybe I'm drastically underestimating the TrueBlood/Sesame Street crossover audience.

Posted by: MosBen | September 24, 2010 7:46 AM | Report abuse

Well, I think this may have finally pushed me over the edge into complete apathy. I probably would be called a classic Obot, volunteered donated through 2008 campaign. Have been happy with the way things have progressed over the last two years - healthcare, financial reform, etc.. Most disappointed over the failure to close Gitmo, and now this refusal to commit to getting rid of the tax cuts for the rich - to take a vote - WHEN the public overwhelmingly supports it - is absolutely ridiculous. I am at a loss. Do they want me to go out and give my time going door for these Dems when they have to be pushed kicking and screaming to enact any of the agenda Obama ran on? And how does it get better? When they have even smaller numbers in the house and Senate? AARGH!!!!

Posted by: KDID | September 24, 2010 8:16 AM | Report abuse

"I'm one of the folks who think their record over the past two years is impressive"
And this, after reporting about YET ANOTHER issue where the Dems failed horribly, and where Obama again did nothing to push for a better result? Sry, but this looks like a severe case of cognitive dissonance to me!

Posted by: Gray62 | September 24, 2010 8:49 AM | Report abuse

"Just a few weeks ago, Democratic leaders in both the House and Senate argued that a pre-election tax battle would put Republicans on the defensive, forcing them to justify borrowing billions of dollars to pay for tax breaks for the nation's 3 million wealthiest families...Among those senators who want to see the tax cuts for the wealthy expire, some acknowledged their odds of success might be better after the election, when retiring Republicans may be more willing to break with party leaders."

It's just as well that they aren't fighting for it, given that raising taxes on only the rich does almost nothing to close the deficit.

Posted by: justin84 | September 24, 2010 8:53 AM | Report abuse

Concerning the DISCLOSE Act, it might pass if it appled equally to everyone.

Posted by: gfafblifr | September 24, 2010 8:58 AM | Report abuse

justin84, you're right. My preferred policy outcome is that all the tax cuts expire. I just wish the Dems didn't look like such wimps doing it.

Posted by: MosBen | September 24, 2010 10:35 AM | Report abuse

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