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Posted at 6:49 AM ET, 01/ 6/2011

Wonkbook: Boehner's new rules; Dems' release filibuster reform proposal

By Ezra Klein

gavelhandover.jpg

I thought Speaker Boehner's speech was quite good. He did not promise too much, which ends up being a common problem for speakers. In fact, he hardly promised anything at all. Insofar as he had an agenda, it was a procedural one: To use the House's rules in an open, neutral way; to work through the "scar tissue" that had built up between Democrats and Republicans in recent years; to administer the House without gimmicks or shortcuts; "to disagree without being disagreeable.".

But so far as the Democrats are concerned, it didn't last very long. Soon after, House Republicans passed a slew of rules on a party-line vote that seem, well, full of shortcuts. Despite promises of an open and participatory process, the rules vest incredible power in the person of Rep. Paul Ryan to set budget decisions without consultation with other legislators. They also set up a new accounting system in which spending increases need to be paid for with spending cuts, and tax cuts don't need to be paid for at all. Both those rules are significant breaks with tradition, and they're breaks with tradition not in service of a more open House, but in service of the Republican agenda.

Moreover, the rules are already being broken so that Republicans don't have to find offsets for their legislation to repeal the health-care law -- legislation that, on the House Rules Committee website, is referred to as "H.R.2: Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act." Again: Shortcut. And speaking of which, there's also "H.Res. 9: Instructing certain committees to report legislation replacing the job-killing health care law." Some Democrats, you'll be surprised to know, find such language to fall under the "disagreeing while be disagreeable" category.

We're still a mere day into Speaker Boehner's tenure, and so the jury is decidedly out. But this is the tension he'll face going forward: Disagreeing without being disagreeable, offering open rules and lots of consultation, working through the scar tissue of recent years -- all of it requires sacrifices. And if you're speaker, the sacrifices are, in general, your sacrifices, on your agenda, and on your rhetoric, which won't make your party very happy. Most speakers throw their commitment to comity and openness out the window when they're really faced with those choices. The question is whether Boehner wants to pay the costs of doing things differently.

Top Stories

The House GOP has passed new rules meant to facilitate spending and tax cuts, reports Lori Montgomery: "After four years out of power, Republicans seized control of the House with gusto on Wednesday, adopting a passel of new rules designed to make it easier to keep their campaign promises to cut taxes, repeal President Obama's health-care law and slash government spending. The rules rewrite, which sailed through the House on a strict party-line vote, will also make it easier to increase the national debt by exempting trillions of dollars in GOP priorities from pay-as-you-go rules put in place by Democrats. For example, House Republicans could extend Bush administration tax cuts for the wealthy past their 2012 expiration or create a significant new tax break for businesses without regard for the holes those policies would blow in the nation's finances."

Read Sens. Tom Udall, Jeff Merkley, and Tom Harkin's filibuster reform proposal: http://wapo.st/hJZW6N (pdf).

Summary: "Motions to proceed can't be filibustered because to do so is filibustering the debate itself. Filibusters themselves have to feature continuous debate and discussion. After a filibuster against a nomination is broken, there will be only two hours of post-cloture debate, as opposed to 30 hours, because nominations don't have amendments that need to be debated. And there are changes to the Senate rules more broadly, too. Holds can no longer be secret, and the minority gets the right to offer at least three germane amendments on every bill (which addresses the Republican complaint that they are often denied the opportunity to offer amendments)."

Harry Reid appears serious about filibuster reform: http://wapo.st/i138I8

Obama and the Senate are moving to ramp up the rate of judicial and executive branch appointee confirmations, reports Abby Philip: "President Obama has resubmitted more than 80 nominations to the Senate, including 42 judicial nominations and the nomination of James Cole, who was named deputy attorney general in a recess appointment last week...And it comes just as Senate leaders Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell announced they would establish a bipartisan commission to address stalled executive nominations. The details of the commission haven’t been fully worked out, but the commission will be led by Senators Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), along with Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.)."

Got tips, additions, or comments? E-mail me.

Guitar heroics interlude: Fang Island's "Daisy".

Still to come: Fed policy is likely to stay the course next year; health care cost growth stagnated in 2009; economics has proven that economists are jerks; not all Dems are on board for filibuster reform; the president's Gulf spill commission blames every corporation involved; and a baby grizzly bear plays with a bucket.

Economy

The Fed will not likely change policy this year, reports Neil Irwin: "After a tumultuous 2010, what is on tap for Ben S. Bernanke and the Federal Reserve in 2011? A lot of watching, a good bit of waiting and some preemptive efforts to help steer the United States away from economic risks it could face in the coming years...'There is a lot of inertia in this policy,' said Peter Hooper, chief economist at Deutsche Bank Securities. 'It would take a pretty big break in the data one way or the other for them to either end the program early or extend it beyond June.' With policy in a holding pattern, Chairman Bernanke and the Fed will be occupied in other ways: primarily monitoring the economy, trying to gauge whether it is recovering and determining what role the Fed's actions played in any improvement."

David Leonhardt presents Gene Sperling 101: http://nyti.ms/g0ZdhQ

Momentum is building for a corporate tax overhaul, report John McKinnon and Elizabeth Williamson: "The White House and congressional Republicans are moving from different directions toward a consensus that the U.S. corporate tax code needs a fundamental overhaul, a goal high on corporate leaders' agenda. Specific proposals for retooling the complex corporate-tax system aren't on the table and the debate over the issue is sure to be lengthy and difficult. But President Barack Obama and Republican congressional leaders are separately sounding the same broad theme that corporate tax rates should be lower...Obstacles to a deal to revamp corporate taxes include the likelihood corporations will fight to keep tax breaks that work to their benefit, and White House concerns that any tax overhaul not result in less revenue."

Bank of America is raising consumer fees, blaming regulation: http://wapo.st/f3aS2m

The IRS' enforcement tactics may actually be reducing revenue, reports David Hilzenrath: "The Internal Revenue Service's increasing use of 'hard-core' collection tactics 'is inflicting unnecessary harm on financially struggling taxpayers,' an in-house critic at the IRS said Wednesday. The IRS routinely imposes liens on delinquent taxpayers, thereby damaging their credit scores and potentially jeopardizing their access to jobs, insurance and even rental housing, National Taxpayer Advocate Nina E. Olson said in an annual report to Congress. By making it harder for taxpayers to get back on their feet, the IRS might actually reduce long-term tax collections, Olson wrote."

State revenue sank 30 percent in 2009: http://wapo.st/hBU6Mf

Reform of government support for homeownership should kill the 30-year mortgage, writes Bethany McLean: "For a homeowner, a mortgage with a 30-year fixed rate (especially one that he can pay off early without a penalty) is a wonderful thing. For lenders and investors, however, it is a financial Frankenstein’s monster, an unnatural product filled with the potential for losses. Absorbing some of the risk of those losses is a large part of what the government does in the housing market. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, for instance, were created by the federal government to buy up mortgages from lenders, thereby enabling them to turn around and issue more mortgages...There’s something perverse about creating companies that would be saddled with exactly the same kind of risk -- credit risk -- that took down Fannie and Freddie in 2008."

Economists have discovered that economists are jerks, reports Annie Lowrey: "There is research, for example, demonstrating economists' occasional lack of what we might call consideration for their fellow man. (Put less gently: The literature describes a profession of amoral Scrooges.) In one paper, for instance, researchers set up simple zero-sum games between students of various disciplines, including economics: One player decides how to divvy up a $10 pool of cash; the other accepts or rejects his portion. When economists did the divvying, they proposed keeping $6.15, on average. Noneconomists proposed keeping $5.44. The verdict? Economists tend to be "self-interested." Another study found that economics professors give less than half what other professors give to charity, even though they make more. Another confirms the bias outside the classroom, describing how economics students are more likely to "free-ride in experiments that called for private contributions to public goods" than other students. In English: They put their own profit first, even when the game calls for the maximization of public value."

Dodd-Frank's "resolution authority", used right, could prevent banks from being "too big to fail", write Thomas Fitzpatrick and James Thomson: http://bit.ly/e68RAO

Adorable animals in small spaces interlude: A baby grizzly bear tries to get into a blue bucket.

Health Care

US health spending didn't grow much in 2009, reports Amy Goldstein: "The nation's expenditures on health care in 2009 grew by 4 percent, the smallest increase in at least a half-century, according to new federal figures that suggest Americans stinted on medical services as they lost jobs and insurance in the recent recession. Although health insurance premiums rose slightly faster than they did a year earlier, overall spending on private health insurance decelerated as the number of people with such coverage fell by 6.3 million. And the out-of-pocket amount Americans spent on health care barely increased, the figures show."

Medicaid rolls are expanding: http://politi.co/gZjrtw

End-of-life care advocates are protesting HHS' rescinding of a regulation, reports Brett Coughlin: " federal regulation to pay for end-of-life counseling -- dubbed “death panels” by critics -- has been pulled by the White House, prompting charges that the administration is flip flopping on a good policy...The New York Times broke the news about regulation, and the reversal, quoting an unnamed HHS official as saying that doctors will still be able to talk with patients about their plans at the end of life. The problem is, say critics, physicians now won’t be paid for that discussion. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), the original sponsor of the House bill’s end-of-life coverage, said he will reintroduce legislation to expand and protect the benefit."

Health care lobbyists made millions in 2009: http://politi.co/gUwME2

Domestic Policy

Some Democratic Senators are hesitant about filibuster reform, report Scott Wong and Manu Raju: "A push by Democrats to overhaul the filibuster and other Senate rules faces tough odds after Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson balked at his party’s approach to making the changes on the first day of the 112th Congress. Several other senior Democrats are wobbling on whether to support their party, as well...When asked about using the so-called 'constitutional option,' Nelson replied, 'I don’t want to do that.'...Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) said he was also undecided on the issue. Meanwhile, Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) seemed concerned about one party trying to 'jam their wishes down the other’s throat,' but said that he expected the issue to be worked out through a compromise."

House GOP members have introduced a bill to end birthright citizenship: http://politi.co/hdJ3Vg

Not all federal employees are affected by the pay freeze, writes Joe Davidson: "President Obama's pay freeze, which Congress approved last month, does not apply to raises negotiated through union contracts, according to guidance issued by the Office of Personnel Management last week...Although union-covered pay raises can be comparatively substantial, a 4 percent or 5 percent increase for example, a compensation agreement doesn't automatically mean covered employees will enjoy the warmth of big increases while their federal colleagues stand cold for two years. In some cases, the wages of covered workers are tied to the pay of those who don't have the same union protection."

The amendments provision of filibuster reform could have unintended consequences, writes David Waldman: http://bit.ly/f2H4BT

Dessert interlude: A South Korean chef turns a honey disk into 16,000 individual strings in 60 seconds flat.

Energy

Lisa Murkowski will continue chairing the Senate Energy Committee: http://politi.co/hCEocw

The White House has ruled out a binding international treaty on emissions, reports Darius Dixon: "The Obama administration remains committed to plowing ahead with international talks to address global warming, although it realizes that a broad, legally binding agreement similar to the Kyoto Protocol isn’t an option, a key State Department official said Wednesday. Jonathan Pershing, the deputy special envoy for climate change, defended the administration’s push for a deal for countries to make voluntary cuts in greenhouse gas emissions with the idea that deeper cuts will develop over time...'Under Kyoto, which is the old model,' Pershing said, “emissions between 1990 and 2007, from [carbon dioxide], climbed on the order of 40 percent. So, if you think that that was a successful model, then you should think again. It didn’t work.'"

Sen. Jay Rockefeller is reintroducing his anti-EPA climate regulation bill: http://politi.co/h3HvLm

Sen. Barbara Boxer thinks a bill blocking the EPA's climate regulations could pass the Senate, reports Andrew Restuccia: "One of the Senate’s most liberal lawmakers signaled Wednesday that there may be enough support there to pass legislation delaying the Environmental Protection Agency’s efforts to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. But Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), one of the strongest advocates in the upper chamber for reducing the country’s greenhouse gas emissions, warned that such legislation, if passed, would likely be rejected by President Obama. She also said attempts to delay EPA’s climate change authority would be met with legal challenges. 'I don’t think they’ll vote to repeal the endangerment finding -- I think what they’ll probably do is say let’s delay the rule,' Boxer said. 'And that would probably become a court case.'"

Obama signed two environmental protection bills into law yesterday: http://bit.ly/huTVyS

Closing credits: Wonkbook is compiled and produced with help from Dylan Matthews, Mike Shepard, and Michelle Williams. Photo credit: Bill O'Leary / The Washington Post.

By Ezra Klein  | January 6, 2011; 6:49 AM ET
Categories:  Wonkbook  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Reconciliation
Next: A very bad year for health-care spending

Comments

You got to admire the GOP's committment to it's own beliefs. Here they are making substantial rule changes even as the Dems balk on even modest filibuster reform.

I don't see these filibuster reforms as substantial. IMO they are designed more to fool the Dem base into believing the filibuster is undergoing serious reform.

In reality the Senate continues to be a body whose main function today is protecting the interests of the wealthy/big-business, and to ensure that any changes that do occur to the entire system protect those interests, or if undesired changes do occur (perhaps because the people are angry enough to demand them, such as health care and finreg) that they are watered down as much as possible.

Posted by: lauren2010 | January 6, 2011 7:54 AM | Report abuse

http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0111/47120.html

As the economy was stuck squarely in the economic doldrums during 2009, people who lost their jobs — and their private health insurance — joined the Medicaid program in droves, driving a 22 percent increase in federal spending on the program, according to the latest National Health Expenditures report.

That is absolutely, utterly disgusting. Did Pelosi pay for this 22 percent increase or just add it to the deficit?

Posted by: krazen1211 | January 6, 2011 8:00 AM | Report abuse

"But so far as the Democrats are concerned, it didn't last very long. Soon after, House Republicans passed a slew of rules on a party-line vote that seem, well, full of shortcuts. Despite promises of an open and participatory process, the rules vest incredible power in the person of Rep. Paul Ryan to set budget decisions without consultation with other legislators."


That is participatory. The guys who matter are participating, and the guys who don't matter don't.

Posted by: krazen1211 | January 6, 2011 8:04 AM | Report abuse

--*Bank of America is raising consumer fees*--

And so will a slew of others, soon.

Thanks, meddling collectivists.

Posted by: msoja | January 6, 2011 8:19 AM | Report abuse

I have a bank that doesn't rob you.

It's called USAA.

If you are unable to join, perhaps because you aren't a veteran, than by all means go join the military and serve your country.

Many banks today, including BofA, have lost their soul. We need to meddle MORE with these cesspools of greed, not less.

For example, we need to limit credit card interest rates, and every time they raise a fee to ridiculous amounts or gouge customers in some new way, we need to immediately enact a new regulation to put a stop to it. Wont happen though.

Still, thanks to various "meddlesome" reforms installed in the last two years, they are gouging us a little less today than when BushJr was letting them run wild.

Posted by: lauren2010 | January 6, 2011 8:38 AM | Report abuse

--*reports Annie Lowrey*-- "[A] long series of notable economists offered opinions or wrote papers pertaining to those events without disclosing major conflicts of interest."

Why not set an example, Lowrey, and have your husband disclose his connections to you when he cites you (and also maybe Gruber's connections to government, once in a while.)

Posted by: msoja | January 6, 2011 8:46 AM | Report abuse

--*[W]e need to limit credit card interest rates*--

And if "we" do, credit card companies will stop offering their cards to people who are riskier (poorer or otherwise less likely to repay) than a capped interest rate justifies.

And then people like Klein and lauren2010 will moan about growing financial inequality, not understanding a thing.

Posted by: msoja | January 6, 2011 9:17 AM | Report abuse

It would be a good thing for the poor of the country if credit card companies didn't "take risk" on them.
The credit industry has only acted as an illusion of lessening poverty, all the while redistributing money upward (at least from honest debtors).
"Let them eat credit" was the nineties/aughts substitute for working social programs and decent wages.

Posted by: RCBII | January 6, 2011 9:26 AM | Report abuse

--*[T]hanks to various "meddlesome" reforms installed in the last two years, they are gouging us a little less today than when BushJr was letting them run wild.*--

Which part of, "Bank of America will begin offering greater rewards to its most affluent and active banking customers but reduce services for its most basic users" do you fail to understand?

Posted by: msoja | January 6, 2011 9:32 AM | Report abuse

--*It would be a good thing for the poor of the country if credit card companies didn't "take risk" on them.*--

So, banks can begin "red lining" again?

I see "liberalism" has come full circle.

Posted by: msoja | January 6, 2011 9:35 AM | Report abuse

Every time the banks punch, we punch back.

Don't be so afraid. We liberals aren't afraid of standing up to big power and big money when they become abusive. We'll protect you as you cower in the shadows, poking your heads out only long enough to utter profanities at those who would deliver you from your masters.

Posted by: lauren2010 | January 6, 2011 10:31 AM | Report abuse

--*We liberals aren't afraid of standing up to big power and big money when they become abusive. We'll protect you as you cower in the shadows, poking your heads out only long enough to utter profanities at those who would deliver you from your masters.*--

We'll be Venezuela in no time.

Posted by: msoja | January 6, 2011 10:37 AM | Report abuse

We already are becoming a third world country, in case you didn't notice.

So clearly your idea of doing nothing and surrendering to whatever the powerful want isn't working too well. Funny how you complain about small things like checking account fees while defending 30% credit card rates.

Posted by: lauren2010 | January 6, 2011 10:47 AM | Report abuse

Now that Mjollnir has been passed to captain dissenti-con I wonder if, after an epic battle with lightsabers, we will find out in Act-II that the ever mechanical McCain is actually Obama's father.

@Chris_Gaun
chrisgaun@gmail.com

Posted by: chrisgaun | January 6, 2011 11:06 AM | Report abuse

"For example, we need to limit credit card interest rates, and every time they raise a fee to ridiculous amounts or gouge customers in some new way, we need to immediately enact a new regulation to put a stop to it."

Because loan sharks are so much better for consumers than Bank of America.

If a person doesn't like what a bank charges, he/she shouldn't use that bank. No need to treat Americans like children.

Posted by: justin84 | January 6, 2011 11:10 AM | Report abuse

"Moreover, the rules are already being broken so that Republicans don't have to find offsets for their legislation to repeal the health-care law -- legislation that, on the House Rules Committee website, is referred to as "H.R.2: Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act." Again: Shortcut. And speaking of which, there's also "H.Res. 9: Instructing certain committees to report legislation replacing the job-killing health care law." Some Democrats, you'll be surprised to know, find such language to fall under the "disagreeing while be disagreeable" category. "

You are correct on this. There's no reason to add the insult to the Democrats in the resolution names. Just do it cleanly: H. Resolution 2: Repeal of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA)of 2010 and the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010.

Posted by: jnc4p | January 6, 2011 11:46 AM | Report abuse

--*So clearly your idea of doing nothing and surrendering to whatever the powerful want isn't working too well.*--

Surrendering to what the powerful want is what the *government* has been doing for decades, and that's what is turning this country into a cess pool. That businesses *want* things may be ill advised, but it isn't until politicians act on what business wants, or against what business wants in the name of various factions, that the country is degraded.

And in the midst of this *obvious* relationship, with its *obvious* failures, all you and Klein can do is call for *more* government involvement, which does nothing but create *more* nexuses for government/business collusion.

Of course, there's the additional fact (far, far beyond your blinkered ken) that government has been busy dislocating markets for so many years that you have no idea what or what is not a free market, anymore. You think the free market was the heavily regulated situation in place just prior to the most recent heavily regulated regime, when it fact the government has been chasing its own ignorantly created unintended consequences for years and years and years, with every step another inch deeper into the sewage, every creeping portion of it taken despite warnings and lessons from the past.

And all the while, your *freedom* is disappearing right along with the loss of innovation and endeavor, an no corporation is taking that away, but still, you don't or won't see it.

Posted by: msoja | January 6, 2011 11:52 AM | Report abuse

www.taxproblem.org

Posted by: killerirscpa | January 6, 2011 2:11 PM | Report abuse

justin

Unfortunately, the world is a little more complicated than idealistic suggestions like yours that people can go somewhere else if they don't like a bank or a business.

Indeed, they can go to different banks, but they can't always go to different banking practices, and once they get trapped in high debt and high interest rates, they really can't go somewhere else.

Posted by: lauren2010 | January 6, 2011 2:19 PM | Report abuse

"Surrendering to what the powerful want is what the *government* has been doing for decades, and that's what is turning this country into a cess pool."

You can't quite connect the dots though you are close.

The gvmt is a tool and has been corrupted by the wealthy elite.

It's the people with $BILLIONS$ who control the gvmt. Not people like Obama who only three years ago who were paying off student loans. though it is possible Obama has, or may soon, join the ranks of the corrupt (as many other Dems and almost all GOPers have).

The gvmt can indeed be a problem. And that's because we let the foxes into the henhouse.

There is NOTHING inately evil or wrong with any gvmt, which is your idiotic position.

No, what's wrong with OUR gvmt is that idiots like you keep electing corporate shills like Bush and McConnell and Cheney and Boehner and Reagan who then corrupt the gvmt and look after their own interests instead of the average person.

For you to be correct, we would have to first believe the poor and middle class have the SAME access and resources (money) to corrupt the gvmt that the powerful do.

It is so patently obvious that the wealthy and powerful control the gvmt, that for you to propose anything else would mean you are a liar.

Several years ago when Congress was debating to weaken the tobacco lobby, Boehner literally ran around the floor of Congress handing out checks to people who were supporting the tobacco industry with votes.

Guess what, ordinary Americans don't have the $100s millions to buy off corrupt politicians the way the powerful and wealthy do. And no party panders to the wealth and powerful the way GOPers do.

Posted by: lauren2010 | January 6, 2011 2:34 PM | Report abuse

"Unfortunately, the world is a little more complicated than idealistic suggestions like yours that people can go somewhere else if they don't like a bank or a business.

Indeed, they can go to different banks, but they can't always go to different banking practices, and once they get trapped in high debt and high interest rates, they really can't go somewhere else."

And this is a problem how? The bank is offering you money if you accept its terms. If you don't want to get trapped in debt, don't take on the debt. Unlike your beloved government, Bank of America doesn't put a gun to your head and require you to do business with it. You aren't entitled to the bank's money on any terms other than what you both agree to. Full stop.

Posted by: justin84 | January 6, 2011 3:38 PM | Report abuse

Very few people knew their rates would go so high.

You seem to think that businesses never engage in predatory practices, and/or that gvmt should not stop such practices. Why don't you just have the honesty to say that instead if trying to pretend you are so informed all the time.

Posted by: lauren2010 | January 6, 2011 6:08 PM | Report abuse

--*[W]hat's wrong with OUR gvmt is that idiots like you keep electing corporate shills like Bush and McConnell and Cheney and Boehner and Reagan who then corrupt the gvmt and look after their own interests instead of the average person.*--

I don't know which country you were educated in, but in this country it isn't the government's job to look after anyone's "interests". Our government was instituted to protect the *rights* of individuals as they looked after their *own* interests. I wonder if you can fathom the distinction.

--*floor of Congress handing out checks to people who were supporting the tobacco industry with votes.*--

How is that an example of the rich controlling... anything?

Was Congress not then attempting (and succeeding!) in taking away the rights of tobacco companies to conduct their own businesses in an ostensibly free country? You're pretending there was some sort of a priori and commonly accepted prohibition against tobacco and that suddenly the tobacco lobby bought a political exemption from Congress at the expense of the American citizenry. That's nonsense. The tobacco industry has instead long been a milk cow for government, and under relentless assault from same over the last several decades. You think they should NOT hire lobbyists to defend themselves against those who would deny them their livelihoods via government action?

I daresay that you would be hard pressed to make a very long list of examples where, as you allege further above, the rich control the government for their own benefit (unless you include union action, of course, which you won't.) Almost all your complaints will instead consist of exemptions that were granted to various entities *as their rights and the rights of others were being taken away from them*, ie., as part of the slippery slope of creeping collectivism.

But do compile a list, if you can, of examples of the rich controlling the country via the political process. Post it below.

Posted by: msoja | January 7, 2011 8:10 AM | Report abuse

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