Wonkbook: Day two of the repeal fight
The House will vote tonight on repealing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The repeal law will likely pass, only to die in the Senate. But if the vote itself hasn't won't have much impact, what about the two days of debate that preceded it? Any minds changed?
Didn't look like it to me. The minute-long, rapid-fire statements from various members of Congress proved predictably partisan, with Democrats extolling what they consider to be the bill's considerable virtues and Republicans painting a grim picture of what they see to be its fatal flaws. If anything, it seems the two sides are more locked into their original positions than they were a few months ago, not less. Which means though no one will decisively win today, neither will anyone admit defeat. The two parties are going to grind this one out over the course of months, or even years. Regulators will be hauled before committees by Republicans who don't want the bill implemented. Funding will be zeroed out. Legislation reforming the shortcomings that both sides see in the bill, or doubling down on the strengths both sides see in the bill, isn't likely to get very far. There's simply no consensus in favor of implementation, repeal, or revision. And there's certainly no talk of a compromise.
David Herszenhorn and Robert Pear summarize the first day of health-care debate: "As the fight over health care returned to the House floor on Tuesday, the debate could largely be stripped down to four questions that are relatively simple to ask, if not to answer: Will the health care law, approved last year by Democrats with no Republican support, increase or reduce future federal deficits? Will the law lead to the elimination of jobs by overburdened employers as Republicans assert, or will it create jobs as Democrats maintain? Will the law raise or lower the cost of medical care for individuals and families, employers, and state and federal governments? And, will the law achieve President Obama’s goal of providing coverage to more than 30 million uninsured Americans?"
Most Americans oppose health care reform, but also its repeal, reports Jon Cohen: "Republican claims that the new health-care law will hurt the country's fragile economic recovery and inflate the deficit resonate with the public, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll. But few opponents of the law advocate an immediate, wholesale repeal of the legislation...Despite the relative popularity of the detractors' arguments, there is still little consensus among opponents about the right approach to amending the legislation. Those who do not support the law are split about evenly between advocating for its complete repeal (33 percent), a partial repeal (35 percent) and a wait-and-see approach (30 percent). Fully two-thirds of all Republicans say they want the law repealed, at least partly."
Health-care reform and FinReg will be largely exempt from Obama's regulation reforms, reports Jared Favole: "President Barack Obama's government-wide review of federal regulations will have little effect on two of the president's major regulatory victories: an overhaul of Wall Street and the health-care market, according to a White House budget official. The review focuses on old, outdated regulations so new ones written as part of the health-care and financial overhaul likely won't be affected, an official at the White House Office of Management and Budget said. Mr. Obama wants agencies to take a fresh look at old regulations to determine whether they are outdated or unnecessary. 'New regulations will not be priorities for the lookback,' the official said."
Regulators have approved a blueprint for implementing the Volcker rule, reports Neil Irwin: "In a key step in the implementation of the financial reform legislation signed into law last summer, the Treasury Department and bank regulators approved an 81-page study Tuesday of how to implement the 'Volcker Rule,' the provision of the legislation that aims to keep banks that benefit from a federal government backstop from undertaking risky trading and other investment activities. The document calls for "robust" enforcement of the law, first proposed by former Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker as a step to try to prevent banks from making irresponsible bets that could ultimately necessitate a federal bailout."
Cats and guitars interlude: Best Coast's "Crazy for You".
Got tips, additions, or comments? E-mail me.
Still to come:David Leonhardt says American workers need more power; most Americans oppose health care reform and its repeal; Democrats are still trying to get a bipartisan deal on filibuster reform; the EPA doubts Obama's regulation crackdown will affect it; and the world from the point of view of a flying arrow.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor says significant cuts are needed for an increase in the debt limit to pass: http://nyti.ms/e5MAN0
Business lobbyists and Republicans support Obama's regulation move, reports Lori Montgomery: "President Obama on Tuesday ordered every federal agency to conduct a systematic review of existing regulations, a concerted effort to banish red tape at a time when the administration is eager to promote economic growth and to repair its fractured relations with the business community...Thomas J. Donohue, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said the move was a positive first step...He said the review should include the recently enacted health care and financial reform laws...'Today's Executive Order from President Obama shows that he heard the same message I did in the last election - that Americans are sick and tired of Washington's excessive overreach and overspending,' House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said in a statement."
Elizabeth Warren is facing her first Congressional inquiry: http://politi.co/icjpBg
By the way: Elizabeth Warren for Senate?
Inadequate funding is hurting the SEC's enforcement efforts, reports Kara Scannell: "US regulators have postponed investigative trips and abandoned examinations of money managers who are more than a day’s travel away to cope with a restricted budget, say officials at the Securities and Exchange Commission. The SEC has tightened its purse strings and redirected staff to take on new assignments. Funding constraints have led enforcement lawyers to ask potential defendants to travel to the agency’s offices for interviews. When the defense has objected, the SEC has resorted to taking testimony over the phone or postponed the deposition. The SEC’s actions come as it prepares for a fight on Capitol Hill, with House Republican lawmakers threatening to cut the agency’s budget."
The US can learn from Chinese industrial policy, writes Steven Pearlstein: "With its state-controlled economy, China can force its companies to act collaboratively to achieve the country's strategic economic objectives. And that gives it a tremendous advantage in negotiating the terms of trade with a country like ours, where China can strike deals that may provide short-term profits to one company and its shareholders but in the long run undermine the competitiveness of the other country's economy...Americans are uncomfortable with the idea of industrial policy. But when competing against countries that practice it skillfully and aggressively, we may have no choice but to respond in kind - if for no other reason than as a way to negotiate a more level playing field for American firms and American workers."
Obama's new regulatory policy is more of a shift in tone than substance, writes David Wessel: http://on.wsj.com/f3rXEs
A lack of worker power is keeping unemployment high, writes David Leonhardt: "This jobless recovery, after all, is the third straight recovery since 1991 to begin with months and months of little job growth. Why? One obvious possibility is the balance of power between employers and employees. Relative to the situation in most other countries -- or in this country for most of the last century -- American employers operate with few restraints. Unions have withered, at least in the private sector, and courts have grown friendlier to business. Many companies can now come much closer to setting the terms of their relationship with employees, letting them go when they become a drag on profits and relying on remaining workers or temporary ones when business picks up."
Point-of-view interlude: The world as seen through a moving arrow.
This is the single best article you'll read on the legal fight over the individual mandate: http://bit.ly/fmFP3N
My comparison of a world with the health-care law and a world where the law is repealed: "The choice Congress is debating today is not between the vision of progress in the Affordable Care Act and some other vision for how we move forward. It's the progress in the ACA or the status quo. And when you compare those two, there's no contest: Under the ACA, coverage is more universal, deficits are lower, cost control experiments are more numerous, and the insurance market is more competitive and humane than under the status quo."
The House debate has stayed collegial: http://wapo.st/gdMcz6
Jared Loughner's murders reflect a failure of the mental health system, writes Steve Luxenberg: "The mental health system performed much as we have designed it over the past 40 years, ever since the courts and state legislatures adopted 'a danger to themselves or others' as the standard for taking action against those showing signs of a mental illness that might lead to violence...The overriding question in the reports was a legalistic one: Had he violated the school's code of conduct? If school officials wrestled with whether and how to refer him for a psychiatric evaluation, there's no evidence of that in the records released thus far. The mental health system can't fail someone it never sees."
Health care lobbyists are staying quiet on health care reform repeal http://politi.co/gc4x8z
Bipartisan negotiations on the filibuster are still ongoing, reports Scott Wong: "Democratic and Republican leaders have been working through the January recess on a non-binding compromise to improve the way the Senate does business. And New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, who heads policy and messaging for Democrats, said he’s continued to hold talks with Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander, the No. 3 Republican in the Senate...But if both parties fail to reach a deal before senators return to Washington next Tuesday, the chamber likely will take up a rules reform package offered by Harkin and fellow Democratic Sens. Tom Udall of New Mexico and Jeff Merkley of Oregon. Even in the middle of the two-week recess, the trio of Democrats was on a conference call with reporters trying to build support for their plan."
Rep. Carolyn McCarthy's gun control bill will limit magazine sizes, reports Jennifer Steinhauer: "Seizing on the shooting in Arizona that killed six and critically injured Representative Gabrielle Giffords, Representative Carolyn McCarthy of New York, a long-time gun control advocate, said Tuesday she would introduce a bill next week that would ban high-capacity ammunition magazines. The bill would be carried in the Senate by Senator Frank Lautenberg. The bill would limit such magazines to 10-round-maximums and close a loophole in the expired assault weapon ban, in which magazines manufactured before the law went into effect could still be sold or transferred."
Reversing Citizens United requires a constitutional amendment abolishing corporate personhood, writes Katrina vanden Heuvel: http://wapo.st/gkHpgf
Aging on federal courts is causing problems, writes Joseph Goldstein: "Today, aging and dementia are the flip side of life tenure, with more and more judges staying on the bench into extreme old age. About 12 percent of the nation's 1,200 sitting federal district and circuit judges are 80 years or older, according to a 2010 survey conducted by ProPublica. Eleven federal judges over the age of 90 are hearing cases--compared with four just 20 years ago. (One judge, a Kansan appointed by President John F. Kennedy, is over 100.) The share of octogenarians and nonagenarians on the federal bench has doubled in the past 20 years... Sometimes, when judges stay on the bench longer than they should, no one questions their fitness. And most courts have no systemic way to deal with judges with age-related cognitive problems."
Stock phrase supercut interlude: Movies featuring the line, "Now, if you'll excuse me."
The EPA doubts Obama's new regulatory policy will affect it, reports Andrew Restuccia: "The Environmental Protection Agency is 'confident' it will not have to alter current or pending environmental regulations, including upcoming climate rules, as part of the new regulatory review framework President Obama outlined Tuesday. 'EPA is confident that our recent and upcoming steps to address GHG emissions under the Clean Air Act, comfortably pass muster under the sensible standards the President has laid out,' an EPA official told The Hill in a statement Tuesday. The official said this includes EPA’s current rules, including tighter fuel economy standards, as well as upcoming greenhouse gas standards for power plants and refineries."
A California light bulb program is showing lackluster energy savings results, reports Rebecca Smith: "California's utilities are spending $548 million over seven years to subsidize consumer purchases of compact fluorescent lamps. But the benefits are turning out to be less than expected. One reason is that bulbs have gotten so cheap that Californians buy more than they need and sock them away for future use. Another reason is that the bulbs are burning out faster than expected. California's experience is notable because energy experts have placed high hopes on compact fluorescent lamps. Often spiral-shaped, they screw into existing light sockets and offer energy savings of about 75% over traditional incandescent light bulbs."
Pricing carbon is more important than creating "green jobs", writes Ryan Avent: http://econ.st/hMDkqr
Green energy can't fuel job growth, writes Edward Glaeser: "America has had many high-tech breakthroughs over the last half-century, but those innovations rarely provided abundant employment for the less educated workers who need jobs most. The Devens closing reminds us that even when ideas are 'made in America,' production is almost always cheaper in China. Failed public investments, like the money spent in Devens, reflect the fact that public officials are rarely skilled venture capitalists and that governments pursue many objectives that lead them away from solid investments. It’s easy to see why any governor would be excited about a green-energy manufacturing plant in a less prosperous area of his or her state. But the same forces that made Devens political catnip meant that it was unlikely to be a long-term success."
Closing credits: Wonkbook is compiled and produced with help from Dylan Matthews, Mike Shepard, and Michelle Williams. Photo credit: White House.
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