Wonkbook: Stopgap budget passed; America moves West; net neutrality rules move forward; food safety bill moves to Obama
Census reapportioning is shifting seats West, reports Alexander Burns: "For Democrats and Republicans alike, the U.S. Census data unveiled Tuesday had an unmistakable and familiar political message: Go West. All five of the country’s fastest-growing states -- Arizona, Idaho, Nevada, Texas and Utah -- are located in the Sun Belt and Rocky Mountain regions, according to the once-in-a-decade population count...At least in the immediate term, Republicans are expected to have the advantage. In 2008, the Republican presidential ticket won three-quarters of the states gaining seats next year, and because of changes in population, Sen. John McCain would have won six more electoral votes from the post-census map...Over the long run, the picture is less clear. In some Western states, population growth has come as a result of Hispanic immigration and the expansion of suburbs — trends that already have made states like Nevada and Colorado more hospitable to Democrats.
Here's a great interactive graphic charting Census changes over time: http://wapo.st/hUAL1V
The Senate has passed a stopgap budget without money for health-care reform or financial regulation's implementation], reports Felicia Sonmez: "Facing a midnight deadline to avoid a government shutdown, Congress passed a bill Tuesday that will fund the federal government through March 4. The bill, which also will freeze federal salaries for two years, narrowly passed the House, 193 to 165, several hours after it easily cleared the Senate on an 79 to 16 vote. President Obama was standing by at the White House to sign the measure. The last-minute scramble was required after the Senate last week withdrew a $1.2 trillion omnibus appropriations bill that included more than $8 billion in earmarks."
The FCC has passed net neutrality rules, reports Cecilia Kang: "The Federal Communications Commission voted Tuesday to approve its first ever Internet access regulation, which ensures unimpeded access to any legal Web content for home Internet users. The FCC's three Democratic members made up a majority of votes in favor of the so-called net neutrality regulation, which was introduced more than a year ago by FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski. The rules have sparked intense debate and lobbying over whether such legislation is needed, and are likely to face a legal challenge. Genachowski has argued that Internet access rules would protect companies just starting out on the Web, as well as consumers who are increasingly relying on the Internet for news, entertainment and communications."
The House has passed food safety legislation on to Obama, reports Lyndsey Layton: "The House passed a measure to overhaul the nation's food safety laws by a vote of 215 to 144 Tuesday afternoon, and President Obama is expected to sign it into law as soon as Wednesday. The vote marked the final hurdle for a bill that cleared an unusual number of obstacles, despite enjoying bipartisan support and backing from a wide array of groups across the political spectrum, from Consumers Union to the Chamber of Commerce. "This is a big victory for consumers that finally brings food-safety laws into the 21st century," said Jean Halloran of Consumers Union."
Got tips, additions, or comments? E-mail me.
Dirty South interlude: Lil Wayne plays "6 Foot 7 Foot" on Saturday Night Live.
Still to come: The recession is growing the ranks of low-income families; new HHS rules will limit health insurance rate hikes; the FCC has passed new "net neutrality" rules; the EPA is doubling down on climate regulations; and Shaq conducts the Boston Pops.
The recession is increasing the number of low-income families, reports Michael Fletcher: "The share of working families earning less than double the official poverty threshold - $43,512 for a family of four - increased from 28 to 30 percent between 2007 and 2009, according to a report released Tuesday by the Working Families Project, a nonprofit group that advocates on behalf of the working poor. Overall, the report said, the number of people living in low-income working families increased by 1.7 million to 45 million between 2008 and 2009. In November, the jobless rate rose to 9.8 percent, and has hovered near 10 percent for more than a year. 'Clearly, we are going in the wrong direction,' said Brandon Roberts, a co-author of the report, derived from an analysis of Census Bureau data."
The Federal Reserve is extending swap lines to foreign central banks: http://on.wsj.com/hPmwuU
The Business Roundtable's new leader is a former Republican governor, reports Dan Eggen: "The Business Roundtable, which has served as one of the Obama administration's few allies in the business community in the past, signaled a possible change of course Tuesday by naming a well-known Republican as its president. Former Michigan governor John Engler (R), who has headed the National Association of Manufacturers for the past six years, will begin leading the Business Roundtable in January, officials said. He takes over from John Castellani, who was recently named to head another powerful lobbying group, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America. The roundtable, one of Washington's most influential business groups, has spent more than $18 million on lobbying since the start of the Obama administration."
The National Labor Review Board will require employers to let employees know they can form a union: http://on.wsj.com/hif9dY
Republicans are now opposing conservative economic policies, writes Jonathan Chait: "Of all the strange things that Republicans have freaked out over during the last two years--a federal version of Mitt Romney’s health care plan, a continuation of George W. Bush’s bank bailout, a failed attempt to implement John McCain’s climate bill--perhaps the strangest target is Milton Friedman’s monetary policies. Yet here we are... Inflation-phobia does hold a cherished place in the conservative canon. Inflation is a tax on wealth, while unemployment penalizes labor. Naturally, conservatives cherish price stability. What’s new is the sudden ascendance of radical, hard-money beliefs."
Steven Pearlstein celebrates companies that "give back": http://wapo.st/fY99Ju
Unwrapping interlude: This kid will not stand for receiving books for Christmas.
New health care rules will limit rate hikes, reports N.C. Aizenman: "The Obama administration announced proposed rules Tuesday aimed at curbing large, unwarranted rate hikes by health insurers by subjecting them to mandatory public scrutiny. Under the proposed regulation, which spells out the details of a key provision in the new federal health-care law, next year any insurer seeking a rate increase of 10 percent or more for an individual or small group plan would be required to file financial information justifying the raise with federal and state officials. (Beginning in 2012, the percentage rate increase that triggers the review will be adjusted for each state to reflect its particular market trends.) State authorities would then analyze the data submitted by the insurer to determine if the increase is 'unreasonable.'"
House and Senate leaders are still trying to pass medical aid to 9/11 relief workers: http://bit.ly/hpOBML
Democratic Senators want the EPA to investigate a carcinogen in water supplies, reports Noaki Schwartz: "U.S. Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein have called on the Environmental Protection Agency to protect the public from hexavalent chromium following a report that found the carcinogen in the tap water of 31 cities across the country...Boxer, who chairs the Senate environment and public works committee, said she plans to introduce legislation with California colleague Feinstein that would set a deadline for the EPA to establish an enforceable standard for the chemical also known as chromium 6. The committee will also hold a hearing on the issue in February. The letter was sent after the release of a study by the Environmental Working Group that analyzed drinking water in 35 cities across the country."
Congressional staffer salaries haven't increased in 20 years: http://politi.co/h3ezJm
Obama vows to push for comprehensive immigration reform in the next Congress, reports Carrie Budoff Brown: "President Barack Obama told Congressional Hispanic Caucus members Tuesday that he’ll renew his push for comprehensive immigration reform in 2011 -- even though such an effort would face even longer odds in a Congress where Republicans control the House. Obama made the pledge after the defeat last weekend of a more narrowly tailored reform measure, which cleared the Democratic House by a slim margin but failed in the Senate on Saturday.' It was to reassure us that he wasn't giving up,' Rep. Charles Gonzalez (D-Texas), chairman of the caucus, told POLITICO. 'What he said was we would still be looking at reforming the immigration laws and it would be comprehensive.'"
A new study suggests better teachers result in much higher wages for students, writes Catherine Rampell: "A teacher one standard deviation above the mean effectiveness annually generates marginal gains of over $400,000 in present value of student future earnings with a class size of 20 and proportionately higher with larger class sizes. Alternatively, replacing the bottom 5-8 percent of teachers with average teachers could move the U.S. near the top of international math and science rankings with a present value of $100 trillion...Unfortunately, we know little about the supply function for teacher quality. Thus, it is not possible to predict what kinds of pay changes would be needed to ensure any given quality of teacher force."
Polymath interlude: Shaq conducts the Boston Pops.
The EPA is doubling down on climate regulations, reports Robin Bravender: "The Obama administration is expected to roll out a major greenhouse gas policy for power plants and refineries as soon as Wednesday, signaling it won’t back off its push to fight climate change in the face of mounting opposition on Capitol Hill. The Environmental Protection Agency has agreed to a schedule for setting greenhouse gas emission limits, known as 'performance standards,' for the nation’s two biggest carbon-emitting industries, POLITICO has learned. Under the schedule agreed to by EPA, states and environmental groups, the agency will issue a draft greenhouse gas performance standard for power plants by July 2011 and a final rule by May 2012."
Harry Reid has given up on passing an omnibus lands bill, reports Andrew Restuccia: "Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has abandoned plans to pass omnibus lands legislation consisting of more than 110 land and water bills. But Reid is working to pass certain pieces of the bill before the end of the session. Reid spokeswoman Regan Lachapelle blamed the decision on Republicans, who opposed parts of the legislation, the America’s Great Outdoors Act of 2010. She said Reid was working with lawmakers to pass parts of the legislation this year...By packaging the bills together, Reid had hoped to overcome a Republican filibuster."
T. Boone Pickens is abandoning wind energy for natural gas, writes Robert Bryce: "Two years ago, natural gas prices were spiking and Mr. Pickens figured they'd stay high. He placed a $2 billion order for wind turbines with General Electric. Shortly afterward, he began selling the Pickens Plan. The United States, he claimed, is 'the Saudi Arabia of wind,' and wind energy is an essential part of the cure for the curse of imported oil...Alas, market forces ruined the Pickens Plan. Mr. Pickens should have shorted wind. Instead, he went long and now he's stuck holding a slew of turbines he can't use because low natural gas prices have made wind energy uneconomic in the U.S., despite federal subsidies that amount to $6.44 for every 1 million British thermal units (BTUs) produced by wind turbines."
EIA projections suggest catastrophic climate change is coming, writes Brad Johnson: "This pathway would almost certainly commit the world to catastrophic climate change, including rapid sea level rise, extreme famine, desertification, and ecological collapse on land and sea... The impact of existing global warming on oceans, extreme weather, agriculture, polar ice, and ecosystems is at or exceeding the highest range of past projections...As climate scientists Kevin Anderson and Alice Bows write in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, 'the impacts associated with 2°C have been revised upwards, sufficiently so that 2°C now more appropriately represents the threshold between ‘dangerous’ and ‘extremely dangerous’ climate change.'"
Closing credits: Wonkbook is compiled and produced with help from Dylan Matthews, Mike Shepard, and Michelle Williams.
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