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Posted at 6:44 AM ET, 01/ 4/2011

Wonkbook: Bill Daley as CoS?; House will vote on HCR repeal Jan. 12th; a very long day for filibuster reform

By Ezra Klein


Personnel may be destiny, but it's also, as the White House is finding out, a pain in the neck. The last week has been dominated by rumors that Gene Sperling would succeed Larry Summers as director of the National Economic Council. Sperling, who served in that same role for the latter half of the Clinton administration, is certainly qualified, but his consulting work for Goldman Sachs and a handful of other Wall Street players has led in news stories, even though it's been a very small part of his career.

Now there are reports that Bill Daley, a former Commerce Secretary and the current Midwest chairman of JP Morgan and Co., might succeed Rahm Emanuel as chief of staff. Daley's experience in the banking industry is vastly more significant than Sperling's, but that's sort of the point: The White House has felt the need for a CEO-type, and Daley is as close as any of the obvious candidates come. Among the arguments for him is that he can repair relations between the administration and business -- but the cost of that private diplomacy will be the spectacle of a banker taking the top administrative job at the White House.

The whole process, however, has been a lesson in how difficult it is to please anyone with personnel decisions. There's a strong preference for outsiders, for CEOs, for people who aren't connected to the banking industry, for people who are respected by the political establishment in Washington, for people who won't have to learn on the job. The problem is that there just aren't many people like that. And even if there were, they wouldn't matter for more than a news cycle or two. The reality is that the administration and its members will be well-liked if the economy is turning around and the president is popular a year from now. If neither condition is met, no amount of positive introductory press will save their reputations. Which suggests the best people for these jobs are not, in the end, the people who will look the best taking them. They're the people who have the best chance of succeeding in them. And that's harder to evaluate based on biographies.

Top Stories

Obama may tap former Commerce Secretary Bill Daley as Chief of Staff, report Anne Kornblut and Karen Tumulty: "White House officials are considering tapping William Daley, the former commerce secretary and brother of Chicago's mayor, for a senior administration position, most likely chief of staff, people familiar with the situation said Monday...Daley, 62, is a political heavyweight who would command immediate respect from the Washington establishment. He led the Commerce Department during President Bill Clinton's second term and now is the Midwest chairman of JPMorgan & Co...Still, by appointing Daley - a free-trade stalwart who helped secure passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1993 - Obama could risk further aggravating liberals already wary of the president."

Noam Scheiber doubts it:

The House will vote on repealing health-care reform on January 12, reports Paul Kane: "House Republicans have set Jan. 12 as their day to vote on a repeal of President Obama's health-care law, after a midterm election in which they campaigned against the landmark legislation as a government takeover of the health industry. The announcement Monday sets up the attempted repeal of the health-care law as the first significant legislative action by House Republicans in the 112th Congress. With 242 members on their side, Republicans expect to pass the legislation easily, but they privately acknowledge that the measure faces a high hurdle in the Democrat-controlled Senate... The repeal legislation will be a brief document that simply revokes the law."

Senate Democrats are welcoming a debate on repeal:

Filibuster reform could wait until January 24th, reports Sam Stein: "Operatives leading the lobbying effort for Senate rules reform said Monday that they expect Democrats to delay consideration of the issue until late January in hopes of crystallizing final support for a package of fixes...In a brief interview with The Huffington Post, Shane Larson, the legislative director for the Communications Workers of America and a key player in a progressive coalition pushing for rules reform, said that the date for that drama could be pushed back until Jan. 24. 'We don't expect them to vote on this Wednesday or Thursday,' said Larson. 'They will not adjourn. They will recess, so when they return on the 24th it will still technically be the first day of the legislative session.'"

How a single legislative day can last for weeks:

A quick history of past attempts to reform the filibuster:

John Boehner promises to give the minority more power in the House, report Naftali Bendavid and Patrick O'Connor: "On Wednesday the new speaker of the House of Representatives plans to offer a package of rule changes that, he says, will give minority-party members more of a say and decentralize power. In short, Ohio Republican Mr. Boehner is promising he'll be a different figure from many speakers throughout history--from Republican Joseph Cannon a century ago to his immediate predecessor, Democrat Nancy Pelosi--who kept a tighter leash. But there's a reason so many speakers try to keep close control: It works. 'New speakers always say they want to have a more open process,' says Rep. Anthony Weiner, a New York Democrat. 'Then the sheer demands of making the trains run on time and getting things passed requires that you change your mind.'"

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British music video interlude: Kate Nash's "Later On".

Still to come: House Republicans are scaling back the size of proposed budget cuts; Ron Bloom may get a broader portfolio focused on manufacturing; House Republicans have announced their planned investigsations; the administration has given the green light for more deepwater drilling; and someone skis down Madison Avenue.


Congressional conservatives are halving the size of proposed budget cuts, reports Richard E. Cohen: "Republicans responsible for their daunting campaign promise to slash federal spending had their load cut in half on Monday. The incoming House majority has touted their plan to cut the federal budget back to pre-Obama era levels since the mid-term elections, a feat that would involve slashing $100 billion, they’ve said. But Monday, House Republicans suggested their budget challenge might a cut of only $50 to $60 billion. That initial target was based on President Obama’s fiscal 2011 spending request, which the Democratic-controlled Congress never approved--or even seriously considered. Instead, Democrats agreed to put the government on auto-pilot until March, passing a continuing resolution, which makes the actual required cuts in the lower range, said a senior Appropriations Committee aide."

Obama's auto czar is getting a promotion, reports Jonathan Weisman: "President Barack Obama is considering naming one of the architects of the Detroit auto industry bailout, Ron Bloom, to a new manufacturing policy post at the White House. The position would report to the White House chief of staff and to the director of the National Economic Council, according to people familiar with the deliberations...Mr. Bloom has deep ties to both labor and Wall Street. He spent nearly two decades as a top adviser to union leader Leo Gerard, currently president of the United Steelworkers, and was an investment banker at Lazard Freres & Co. He helped build a bridge between labor and private-equity firms as they worked together to restructure the ailing U.S. steel industry."

Yet more economic data suggests a recovery, reports Neil Irwin: "The Institute for Supply Management's index of activity at manufacturing firms rose to 57 in December, from 56.6, indicating the strongest pace of expansion at the nation's factories since May... A separate report released Monday by the Commerce Department showed that U.S. construction spending rose 0.4 percent in November, better than the 0.2 percent gain that economists had forecast. Construction spending has now risen for three straight months following a long, steep decline, and economists take that as evidence that building activity may have bottomed out, though few think that a steep rebound is in the cards given the glut of residential and commercial buildings built during the past decade."

Dodd-Frank will spur a black market in lending, writes Todd Zywicki: "Nontraditional financial products serve an important role in the marketplace for the millions of consumers who count on them. Even pawn shops and loan sharks are more palatable and less expensive than the bounced checks and utility shut-offs that would result in their absence. Still, low-income consumers aren't better off when they have to rely on such lenders because paternalistic regulations have deprived them of a credit card. And just wait until the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau comes on line, increasing costs and further restricting credit for low-income consumers."

We shouldn't want big or small government, but effective government, writes David Brooks: "The best way to measure government is not by volume, but by what you might call the Achievement Test. Does a given policy arouse energy, foster skills, spur social mobility and help people transform their lives? Over the years, America has benefited from policies that passed this test, like the Homestead Act and the G.I. Bill. Occasionally, the U.S. government has initiated programs that failed it. The welfare policies of the 1960s gave people money without asking for work and personal responsibility in return, and these had to be replaced. The welfare reforms of the 1990s involved big and intrusive government, but they did the job because they were in line with American values, linking effort to reward."

Urban winter sports interlude: Skiing down Madison Avenue.

Health Care

Democratic Rep. Peter Welch plans to make Republicans vote on popular provisions of health care reform, reports Greg Sargent: "Dem Rep. Peter Welch -- last seen leading the charge on behalf of House liberals against the Obama tax cut deal -- is circulating a letter among Dems vowing to introduce amendments to the GOP's repeal bill forcing votes directly on the Affordable Care Act's most popular provisions... Rep. Welch is circulating a letter among colleagues vowing to introduce amendments that will preserve 'the elimination on lifetime limits, coverage of individuals up to age 26, the requirement that individuals not be denied coverage for pre-existing conditions and the requirement that preventive care be provided free of charge.' The game plan, his office says, is to force Republicans to go on record voting specifically on the provisions themselves."

Democrats should welcome a fight over health care reform, writes Eugene Robinson:

Domestic Policy

House Republicans have announced their planned investigations for this Congress, reports Philip Rucker: "House Republican leaders announced plans Monday for congressional investigations into a wide range of issues, from corruption in Afghanistan to Washington's regulation of private industries, using the power of their new majority to launch probes that could embarrass the Obama administration. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), who will become chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee when the 112th Congress is sworn in Wednesday, said he would lead six major investigations in the first three months of the year. This is an ambitious undertaking by conventional standards, as congressional investigations often take months to bear fruit."

House Republicans could force a fight over financing the just-passed food safety bill:

Rep. Darrel Issa is asking businesses to tell him what regulations to block, reports Darren Goode: "Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) wants the oil industry, drug manufacturers and other trade groups and companies to tell him which Obama administration regulations to target this year. The incoming chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee - in letters sent to more than 150 trade associations, companies and think tanks last month - requested a list of existing and proposed regulations that would harm job growth...A partial list obtained by POLITICO includes ones sent Dec. 13 to Duke Energy, the Association of American Railroads, FMC Corp., Toyota and Bayer."

Both parties should support an up-or-down vote on executive nominees:

Filibuster reform isn't a partisan issue, writes Sen. Tom Udall: "Ultimately, such changes will not reward one political party over another. Instead, reform will pull back the curtain on those who obstruct the Senate's business for no reason other than to score political points. Rules reform is about restoring good-faith legislating for the betterment of the country. We need to take the backroom deals out of the legislative process and rein in rampant obstruction from individuals; this means no more secret holds and endless delays by threat of filibuster. With reform, we will ensure that all senators have a full and fair opportunity to debate legislation, offer amendments and evaluate nominees. We will respect the Senate's unique history of unfettered debate and ensure that the minority's voice is heard."

Life imitating CGI interlude: A baby penguin shows off his dancing skills.


A new policy could allow for more offshore drilling, report Ben Casselman and Dan Gilbert: "Deep-water drilling in the Gulf of Mexico could resume within weeks under a policy announced Monday by the Obama administration, which has come under increasing criticism from the oil industry and politicians in the region over the impact of the drilling halt...The administration said Monday that it would clear the path for 13 companies, including Chevron Corp. and Royal Dutch Shell PLC, to resume work on a handful of wells that were already approved and under way when the moratorium took effect. The 16 projects must still comply with strict new safety rules announced after the Deepwater Horizon disaster, but in most cases won't be subjected to new environmental reviews."

The White House has a new top environmental economist:

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

By Ezra Klein  | January 4, 2011; 6:44 AM ET
Categories:  Wonkbook  
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Next: What was incumbency worth in 2010?


interesting to note what's MISSING in Wonkbook (and on the rest of the blog) the last two days. Unless i've missed it i've seen nothing about Governor elects Brown and Cuomo championing reducing the size of government or freezing state workers pay. I seem to remember a lot of screaming and hollering from many around here when Governor Christie suggested teachers unions freeze pay for a year during the depths of the recession.


Posted by: visionbrkr | January 4, 2011 7:44 AM | Report abuse

The delay for filibuster reform is not a good sign. The link says they need time to build stronger support from Dems.

Huh, I thought EVERY DEMOCRATIC SENATOR was already on board with this? Guess not.

Sounds to me we were either lied to or else the Dems made some secret deal with the GOP to eliminate or weaken this reform.

Another possibility is that Dems are simply quaking in their boots because they were actually going to something that involved bravery, and now they are second guessing themselves.

Or could it be they are intentionally sabotaging their own efforts by handing the GOP a technical reason to claim that reform is no longer possible (because it wasn't done on the first REAL day)?

Like I said, a bad sign. With this news, smart money says filibuster reform doesn't happen if this delay goes thru (or gets seriously weakened).

Posted by: lauren2010 | January 4, 2011 8:00 AM | Report abuse

Boehner's lying.

"John Boehner promises to give the minority more power in the House, report Naftali Bendavid and Patrick O'Connor"

Posted by: grooft | January 4, 2011 8:59 AM | Report abuse

But you won't find the headline "Boehner lied" when it becomes obvious that the minority did NOT get more power in this Congress.

Ezra, would you care to unpack the new rules that purport to give the minority more power?

Posted by: grooft | January 4, 2011 9:02 AM | Report abuse

Another thing health care wonk Klein ignores:

"Section 6001 of the health care law effectively bans new physician-owned hospitals (POHs) from starting up, and it keeps existing ones from expanding. It has already halted the development of 24 new physician-owned hospitals and forced an additional 47 to struggle to meet the deadline to complete construction, according to the Physician Hospitals of America (PHA)."

Politico noted that last Friday was the cutoff for physician owned hospitals to be certified under the new laws. As of now, no more new physician owned hospitals in the country.


Posted by: msoja | January 4, 2011 9:38 AM | Report abuse

"The least surprising event of 2010 was that, in the wake of new federal limits on how credit-card issuers can price risk and adjust interest rates, more Americans had to go to payday lenders, pawn shops and local loan sharks in order to get credit...Nontraditional financial products serve an important role in the marketplace for the millions of consumers who count on them. Even pawn shops and loan sharks are more palatable and less expensive than the bounced checks and utility shut-offs that would result in their absence."

So people with bad credit are going back to loan sharks. But hey, at least they won't have to pay high fees to those awful credit card companies, and Obamacare will provide "free" wheelchairs after the loan sharks break their legs!

Posted by: justin84 | January 4, 2011 10:23 AM | Report abuse

So by 'recessing' instead of adjourning they can have the simply up or down vote by saying it is a new congress? Why then haven't they done this previously when they had more Senators? Will it be the 113th Congress at that point?
This stinks to high heaven. Nothing like using a cheap parliamentary maneuver to try and fix something so important to kill public support for it.
If Reid can't get 50 votes for something this fundamental, he should be removed as leader; period.

Posted by: rpixley220 | January 4, 2011 10:34 AM | Report abuse


LOL Remember when the new fin reg was considered an achievement of the administration?

Posted by: 54465446 | January 4, 2011 11:48 AM | Report abuse

Wonkbook sounds like a book Ezra Klein could read, provided it's less than 100 years old.

Posted by: kbarker302 | January 4, 2011 11:52 AM | Report abuse

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