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Wonkbook: The no-compromise conference; food safety bill moves; paycheck bill doesn't; Elmendorf in trouble?

By Ezra Klein

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It's early yet, but those who were hoping the GOP's capture of the House of Representatives would give Republicans and Democrats a shared stake in governance and compromise can't be feeling too confident. Yesterday, Boehner and McConnell postponed a meeting with Obama to discuss the extension of the tax cuts. The reason? "Scheduling conflicts."

More substantively, the GOP has also sought out a harder line on the tax cuts themselves -- Dave Camp, the incoming-chairman of the influential Ways and Means Committee has said any reduction in the tax cuts for income above $250,000 is a "non-starter." And it's not just the tax cuts: Jon Kyl, a member of the GOP's Senate leadership team, is on a mission to kill the START treaty, the two sides have been sniping back-and-forth on earmarks and the Paycheck Fairness Act got filibustered yesterday. Where's that compromise again?

It's no surprise, of course, that Democrats and Republicans disagree about policy matters. What optimistic observers had hoped, however, was that they'd agree that the public wanted them to work together, and both sides would be too afraid of another harsh judgment from an angry electorate to argue. At the very least, they'd make a big show of trying to find common ground. But so far, the opposite is happening. Before the election, Boehner told Sean Hannity that this was "not a time for compromise," and he seems to have meant it. If the president has this much trouble getting the GOP leadership to sit down for a chat, imagine the difficulty he'll have getting them to vote for a bill.

Top Stories

Congressional Republicans are not compromising, reports Perry Bacon: "They say they will insist on keeping in place all the tax cuts passed in 2001 and 2003. House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), the incoming speaker, and Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said that if Obama were serious about curtailing earmarks, he would promise to veto any bill that contains them. And on Tuesday, the Senate's second-ranking Republican, Jon Kyl (Ariz.), said he will not support ratification of the U.S. nuclear treaty with Russia until next year, dealing a potentially fatal blow to one of Obama's top foreign policy priorities."

Senate debate has begun on food safety legislation, reports Lyndsey Layton: "The Senate voted 74 to 25 to begin debate on the bill, suggesting the measure has strong bipartisan support and good prospects for passage. The House approved its version more than a year ago, and food safety advocates have been pushing the Senate to act so differences between the two measures can be reconciled and the legislation signed into law by President Obama by the end of the lame-duck session...Congress members, the Government Accountability Office, consumer groups and even the food industry have said the FDA lacks modern enforcement tools and adequate resources to keep the food supply safe."

The Paycheck Fairness Act failed to break a Senate filibuster, 58-41, reports San Hananel: "Civil rights groups, labor leaders and the Obama administration all supported the bill, which would make employers prove that any disparities in wages are job-related and not sex-based. Republicans and business groups said the bill would expose employers to more litigation by removing limits on punitive and compensatory damage awards. The bill was one of the first measures passed by the House last year after President Barack Obama was elected."

Harry Reid has promised Senate votes on the DREAM Act and ending Don't Ask Don't Tell, reports Scott Wong: "Led by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Senate Republicans blocked both pieces of legislation when Reid and other Democrats tried to attach them to the defense authorization bill in late September. And GOP leaders don’t appear to have warmed to the proposals since the Nov. 2 election. But Reid, who survived a tough reelection fight, told Hispanics and gay-rights advocates on the campaign trail that he would continue pushing for the bills after the election."

Republicans may try to block another four-year term for CBO head Doug Elmendorf, reports John Maggs: "Congressional Budget Office Director Douglas Elmendorf wants a new four-year term. And he’s got the support of North Dakota Sen. Kent Conrad, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Budget Committee who usually would make the call...House Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio, who is preparing to be the next House speaker, reportedly is still angry about Elmendorf’s role in health care and could block Elmendorf’s appointment. And some Democrats are expecting him to do just that. 'This ought to be Conrad’s decision, but I’m afraid it is not going to be,' said a top aide to a key Democrat."

Welsh anarcho-punk interlude: Los Campesinos! play "Romance Is Boring" and "There Are Listed Buildings".

Still to come: The Fed is preparing a new round of "stress tests" for banks; an unlikely pair of Senators want to let states opt out of health care reform's individual mandate; Senate Democrats could join Republicans in banning earmarks; a climate denier will chair the House Science Committee; and a dolphin and a dog form a beautiful friendship.

Economy

The Fed will conduct new "stress tests" on major banks, reports Neil Irwin: "The Federal Reserve said Wednesday that it will use a 'conservative' approach, applied equally across the 19 largest and most complex U.S. banks, to determine whether they should be allowed to pay their shareholders dividends, repurchase shares or take other actions that would reduce their buffers against future losses. The reviews amount to a lower-profile version of the 'stress tests' that regulators performed on the top banks in 2009, when officials sought to learn how much capital large firms would need to withstand worst-case-scenario economic conditions."

Americans oppose most provisions of the Bowles-Simpson debt reduction plan: http://on.wsj.com/9XEDts

General Motors' IPO could garner $20 billion, reports Steven Mufson: "The GM offering has become a referendum not only on the company but also the economy. Despite jitters over the past week about the Federal Reserve's monetary policy, Ireland's debt crisis and weak demand for goods, many investors said that they are confident that American car sales will continue to pick up and that GM will benefit. As GM's one-time chief executive said in the 1950s, 'what was good for General Motors was good for the country - and vice versa.'... If underwriters take their over allotments, the Treasury will earn $13.6 billion and its stake would shrink to 33.3 percent."

Fed leaders are on a charm offensive to defend quantitative easing: http://nyti.ms/9ceBRb

Much of the projected doubling of the national debt over the next decade comes from policies on Obama's current budget, writes Martin Feldstein: http://on.wsj.com/9cAUwA

The US tax code is biased toward the rich, writes
David Ignatius:
"That pro-billionaire version of populism seems to have won big in the midterm elections. And it probably means the demise of a congressional effort to strike down one of the most outrageous provisions of our messed-up tax code, which is the special treatment of 'carried-interest' compensation that's paid to many investment fund managers. This loophole is so unfair that it gets criticized even by some of the tycoons who have benefited from it, such as former Treasury secretary Robert Rubin and other prominent investors I've queried. Basically, it taxes the money paid to managers of private-equity funds and similar partnerships at 15 percent, as if it were risk capital, rather than at ordinary income rates of 35 percent."

Adorable animals putting aside differences interlude: A dog and dolphin that are best friends.

Health Care

A bill from Sen. Ron Wyden and Scott Brown would let states opt out of the individual mandate -- and more, reports Sarah Kliff: "The Affordable Care Act allows states to set up health care systems without a mandated purchase of health insurance, as long as they meet minimal requirements established by the Department of Health and Human Services. States can begin applying for mandate waivers in 2017, three years after the individual mandate is set to take effect. But Wyden...has previously spoken out against the 2017 start date as problematic: States would have to go through the motions of setting up a mandate-centered system only to dismantle it a few years later. This new legislation would roll the waiver date back to 2014, when the individual mandate comes into effect."

Obama thinks the GOP outplayed him during the health care debate: http://wapo.st/b8tAqI

Medicaid and Medicare head Donald Berwick defended health care reform before Congress yesterday, reports Robert Pear: "Until now, the White House and Democrats in Congress had appeared to be shielding Dr. Berwick from his critics. But Republicans were relatively gentle with him. They did not ask him about prior statements in which he discussed the rationing of health care and lavishly praised the British health care system...President Obama nominated Dr. Berwick in April, but he never had a confirmation hearing. In July, Mr. Obama bypassed Congress and appointed Dr. Berwick while the Senate was out of town. The recess appointment expires late next year. If Dr. Berwick is renominated, it is not clear whether he could win Senate confirmation."

A Medicare panel may block spending on an expensive prostate cancer drug: http://on.wsj.com/d42GSL

Domestic Policy

Senate Democrats are considering their own earmark ban, reports Scott Wong: "'There was a long discussion,' said retiring Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), adding that the caucus agreed not to speak publicly about any details since no agreement had been reached...But most Democrats defend the practice of funneling federal dollars to pet projects in their home states. The debate over an earmarks ban is a 'shallow' issue because it would not save any money, just hand the executive branch more power in deciding how federal dollars are directed to states, said Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), who secured $160 million in earmarks this year for 140 projects including hurricane-protection and flood-control needs."

State film tax credits hurt public safety and social services: http://on.wsj.com/ad7t7V

Mary Landrieu is not releasing her hold on OMB nominee Jack Lew, reports Abby Phillip: "'My position is unchanged,' Landrieu, of Louisiana, told reporters on a conference call. 'I’m very sympathetic to the administration's position. I understand how difficult it is to go without a point person for the budget.' Landrieu said she would consider lifting her block on Lew when a “clear path forward” is made for issuing permits for deepwater drilling in the Gulf. 'When that happens, I’ll consider releasing my hold,' she said. 'There’s no specific number of permits, but what there is, is a request that there be a clear path forward for the issuing of permits.'"

Arizona's immigration law could cost its convention business hundreds of millions dollars: http://nyti.ms/cMxlqF

Edited footage of the day: Every secret word on Pee-wee's Playhouse.

Energy

A climate denier will take over the House Science Committee, reports Robin Bravender: "Rep. Ralph Hall (R-Texas) on Wednesday vowed to investigate the Obama administration’s climate policies if he becomes chairman. 'This administration argues that cutting greenhouse emissions as a policy directive is justified by science,' Hall said at a hearing organized by Democrats and billed as a 'rational discussion' on climate science before the GOP takes over. 'I think this hearing today will demonstrate and should demonstrate that reasonable people have serious questions about our knowledge of the state of the science,' he added."

The Chicago Climate Exchange is shutting down due to federal inaction: http://bit.ly/c5enZ6

Ed Markey will likely become ranking member of the House Natural Resources Committee, report Darren Samuelsohn and Dan Berman: "Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) is on his way to securing the top Democratic spot on the House Natural Resources Committee, his opponent, Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), told POLITICO on Wednesday. Grijalva, once on the short list to be President Obama’s Interior secretary, was seen as a long-shot against Markey, who has seniority and is close to Speaker Nancy Pelosi...One potential drawback for Democrats of having Markey as ranking member is the traditional western focus of the Natural Resources Committee. The panel oversees millions of acres of land west of the Mississippi River."

Climate hawks debate where to go from here: http://slate.me/9HcJp3

Closing credits: Wonkbook is compiled and produced with help from Dylan Matthews, Mike Shepard, and Michelle Williams. Photo credit: Jonathan Ernst Photo.

By Ezra Klein  | November 18, 2010; 6:40 AM ET
Categories:  Wonkbook  
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Next: The biggest problem with the health-care system is...

Comments

Did the Democrats "compromise" with the Republicans during the past two years? I think not.

The Republicans were not voted in this last round to "compromise" with the Democrats. They were voted in to "replace" the Democrats and to turn this country back around.

And if the Democrats, what's left of them, continue allowing people like Pelosi and Schumer to be the face of the party, 2012 is likely going to look a lot like 2010.

Posted by: RealTexan1 | November 18, 2010 8:36 AM | Report abuse

"but those who hoped the GOP's capture of the House would give Republicans and Democrats a shared stake in governance and compromise can't be feeling confident."
-------------------------------------------
More proof (as if more were needed) that liberalism is a genetic and mental disorder.

The people who voter FOR Repubs and A-G-A-I-N-S-T Dems don't want the Repubs cooperating with those morons. At this point, the best action is to stop further damage by Piglosi & Obumbler. It is a, "do no harm clause". If that means shutting down the Fed Gov't, fine.

Posted by: illogicbuster | November 18, 2010 9:03 AM | Report abuse

"but those who hoped the GOP's capture of the House would give Republicans and Democrats a shared stake in governance and compromise can't be feeling confident."
-------------------------------------------
More proof (as if more were needed) that liberalism is a genetic and mental disorder.

The people who voter FOR Repubs and A-G-A-I-N-S-T Dems don't want the Repubs cooperating with those morons. At this point, the best action is to stop further damage by Piglosi & Obumbler. It is a, "do no harm clause". If that means shutting down the Fed Gov't, fine.

Posted by: illogicbuster | November 18, 2010 9:05 AM | Report abuse

People are waking up. The World is seeing Obama for what he is. The only way to beat obama is to Deny him. obama, His words describe him, He is a False Hope, If you listen to him you will love him. He carries a Bow without an Arrow. He will conquer all through his speech, his false hoods will capture all who sit and listen to him.
2 Thessalonians 2:11-12
11And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, 12 that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness. The Truth is out.

Posted by: makom | November 18, 2010 9:05 AM | Report abuse

Obama could kick Republican Tail on DADT by Signing a STOP LOSS ORDER forcing the military to keep Gays. Will he; that's the $64 million question.

Posted by: ddoiron1 | November 18, 2010 9:24 AM | Report abuse

Obama and Democrats should force their 2009 Tax Cut to be either Extended or made permanent and allow ALL of Bush Tax Cuts to expire Jan 1, 2011.

Hardball is a NINE INNING GAME.

Posted by: ddoiron1 | November 18, 2010 9:33 AM | Report abuse

2 Thessalonians 2:11-12
11And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, 12 that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness. The Truth is out.

makom you still believe Bush, Cheney and Republican lies even after years of their debunking. You believed them right up to the 2010 elections and voted accordingly.

Posted by: ddoiron1 | November 18, 2010 9:39 AM | Report abuse

Spoiled little half educated punks like ezra are the cancer. conservatism is the cure.

Posted by: carlbatey | November 18, 2010 11:22 AM | Report abuse

Obama and his party just passed a bill through that allows unions to be created in Airline and railroad industry without a majority vote by the employees. His objective is to destroy these; so, that stock prices will fall for a takeover of these industries. Obama is anti-american and is destroying america a bite at a time.

Posted by: sesp | November 18, 2010 12:11 PM | Report abuse

"The Paycheck Fairness Act failed to break a Senate filibuster, 58-41, reports San Hananel: "Civil rights groups, labor leaders and the Obama administration all supported the bill, which would make employers prove that any disparities in wages are job-related and not sex-based."

This along with the Dream Act and Cap and Trade is why gridlocked government is not only a good thing, it's a GREAT thing!


"A Medicare panel may block spending on an expensive prostate cancer drug: http://on.wsj.com/d42GSL"

They should but they don't have the plitical clout to do so"

Posted by: 54465446 | November 18, 2010 12:41 PM | Report abuse

makom and ddoiron:

This is not a forum for idiots. You made a wrong turn when you came out of the men's room. Please exit, stage left!

Posted by: 54465446 | November 18, 2010 12:43 PM | Report abuse

Moody's Steven Hess, Senior Credit Officer covering sovereigns was interviewed by Market News, in which Moody's has given the point blank warning that a permanent extension in the Bush tax cuts may lead to a downgrade of the US. Good luck with that.

Posted by: betterdays1 | November 18, 2010 1:09 PM | Report abuse

Ezra, why should the Republicans compromise on BAD policies?

Le the Democrats compromise!

Posted by: Hazmat77 | November 18, 2010 1:30 PM | Report abuse

GOP definition of compromise: Do it our way. Where is the adult supervision? Only children don't compromise.

Posted by: jckdoors | November 18, 2010 1:45 PM | Report abuse

I love the semantics of the left: tax cuts. Tax cuts from when? Bush (obviously)? But did Bush lower them from the tax hikes of Clinton? And did Clinton raise them from the tax cuts of Reagan? And did Reagan cut taxes from Kennedy, or did he just extend the Kennedy tax cuts?

I know, we should abolish the Kennedy tax cuts!

LOL

There is no set level of taxes. A cut implies that there should be a 'normal' level where taxes ought to be collect at. Taxes are a rate that is lowered or raised. Period.

Truth is, libs can't allow themselves to say they want to RAISE taxes. Come on, say it with me now. You want to RAISE taxes from current levels. Although, that might not sound as popular.

Posted by: dnara | November 18, 2010 3:33 PM | Report abuse

Elmendorf has been the worst CBO director ever. I would be glad to see him go.

Posted by: cautious | November 19, 2010 4:33 AM | Report abuse

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