Wonkbook: So. Much. News.
Anyone getting a sense of deja vu? Gene Sperling, Clinton's NEC director, will be returned to that position later today. William Daley, Clinton's Commerce Secretary, was named chief of staff. Head over to OMB, and Jack Lew, who did the job for Clinton, is doing the job for Obama. At least when it comes to management and economic policy, the president's recent personnel decisions have, consciously or not, called back much of the team Clinton had in place once he found his rhythm in dealing with the Republican Congress. Engaging with Republican lawmakers who want to undo most of the White House's accomplishments isn't something Obama himself has much experience with, but it is something, at this point, that his administration has a lot of experience with.
And they'll need it. The fight over health-care reform has already begun, with the Congressional Budget Office scoring the GOP's repeal bill as increasing the deficit by $320 billion and the GOP dismissing the score and lifting their own rules so the repeal legislation doesn't need to be paid for. Secretary Timothy Geithner and Speaker John Boehner traded letters yesterday over the debt ceiling, with Geithner emphasizing the need to raise it and Boehner emphasizing the need for sharp budget cuts before Republicans will give the Treasury the authority to raise it. These fights may not be new, but their outcomes are incredibly consequential. It's somewhat comforting that at least a couple of participants will know what they're doing.
Obama has selected former Commerce Secretary William Daley as his new Chief of Staff, report Anne Kornblut and Peter Whoriskey: "William M. Daley has the deep political experience one would expect in a top White House hire: scion of a Chicago political dynasty, adviser to numerous presidential candidates, former Cabinet secretary who also relishes exerting influence behind the scenes. But in turning to Daley as his new chief of staff on Thursday, President Obama was looking as much at the other pages of his resume. With extensive experience as a businessman and Wall Street executive, Daley comes to the administration positioned to help the president rebuild his frayed relationship with the corporate world."
Carol Felsenthal profiled Daley in 2005: "Daley, 56, has played politics at such a high level that his career virtually tracks the roller-coaster history of the Democratic Party through the past quarter of a century. He started small—working in the Jimmy Carter campaign for President, advising Walter Mondale in 1984, then Joseph Biden in his aborted Presidential run in 1988. He became such a favorite of Bill Clinton’s that he sometimes had to decline when the President asked him to play golf or to watch a movie at the White House. Commerce Secretary Bill Daley, appointed by Clinton in 1996, had too much work to do. And he was at the center of the great Democratic disappointment of 2000, serving as the chairman of Al Gore’s race for the Presidency. Today, Daley’s friends say, he can pick up the telephone and call almost anyone, from Arizona Republican senator John McCain to the Citigroup chairman, Sandy Weill. At the peak of the election-night chaos in 2000, Daley called his friend Tom Brokaw, the NBC anchor, to trade the latest news on the Florida returns. Many of his best friends are tough-guy players in the mold of Dan Rostenkowski, once considered the most powerful man in Congress. Danny and Billy, as they call each other, share a love of golf and results; they are what Daley calls results rather than process Democrats—people who want to “get something done,” not people who go to Washington “and it’s all about the purity of the process.”"
James Downie bemoans Daley's career as a lobbyist: http://bit.ly/fMQzaA
I wonder at Daley's many backers: "How is it that a centrist banker who opposed the Obama administration's signature initiatives has such a large constituency among liberal political types both inside and outside the White House?..Howard Dean wanted more a vastly more progressive administration, but he likes the guy who wanted a vastly less progressive administration. The administration likes its own record but appears interested in hiring someone who doesn't. There's a widespread perception that the White House is too close to Wall Street, but the leading candidate for chief of staff is a top executive at J.P. Morgan...The particular theory of politics he espouses seems woefully detached from the realities of the modern partisan environment -- as Jon Chait says, it effectively means 'allowing extreme positions to redefine the parameters of the debate.' But you can certainly read this post as evidence that Daley is a singular political talent, and the Obama administration would be well served by hiring someone able to sustain these sorts of contradictions."
President Obama will name Gene Sperling as NEC Director later today: "This won't be Sperling's first tour of duty in that spot: He held that position from 1996 to 2000, making him the longest-serving NEC director in history...Obama's personnel decisions have shown a strong preference for prior government experience. William Daley, who was named chief of staff earlier today, is a former Secretary of Commerce. Jack Lew, who replaced Peter Orszag as head of the Office of Management and Budget, held the same position under President Clinton. Robert Gates, who leads the Defense Department, was a holdover from George W. Bush. Larry Summers, who Sperling is replacing, was Treasury Secretary under Clinton."
Sperling's return wasn't really predictable, reports John Maggs: "In June 2008, few Democrats in Washington seemed more out of luck than Gene Sperling, the new director of President Barack Obama’s National Economic Council. Back then, Hillary Clinton had just conceded the party’s presidential nomination to Obama and loyalists on her team wondered if the train back to the White House had passed them by... The first step in his White House return happened in 2009, when Obama tapped him to advise Geithner on his oversight of the financial rescue, the auto industry bailout and the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Sperling became a versatile utility player -- participating in meetings at all levels, acting as Geithner’s deputy on nonfinancial matters and slowly amassing many responsibilities, including helping with Treasury’s effort to aid small businesses."
Gene Sperling isn't Wall Street's friend, writes David Corn: http://bit.ly/gckv7q
Repealing health care reform will increase the deficit by $230 billion, reports Amy Goldstein: "Rescinding the federal law to overhaul the health-care system, the first objective of House Republicans who ascended to power this week, would ratchet up the federal deficit by about $230 billion over the next decade and leave 32 million more Americans uninsured, according to congressional budget analysts. The rough estimate by the Congressional Budget Office also predicts that most Americans would pay more for private health insurance if the law were repealed. The 10-page forecast was delivered to House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), installed a day earlier to shepherd the new GOP majority. He immediately dismissed it."
Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner has sent a letter to Congress urging it to raise the debt limit early: "Never in our history has Congress failed to increase the debt limit when necessary. Failure to raise the limit would precipitate a default by the United States. Default would effectively impose a significant and long-lasting tax on all Americans and all American businesses and could lead to the loss of millions of American jobs. Even a very short-term or limited default would have catastrophic economic consequences that would last for decades. Failure to increase the limit would be deeply irresponsible. For these reasons, I am requesting that Congress act to increase the limit early this year, well before the threat of default becomes imminent."
House Speaker John Boehner responds that the limit will be raised only if the administration agrees to budget cuts: "I’ve been notified that the Obama Administration intends to formally request an increase in the debt limit. The American people will not stand for such an increase unless it is accompanied by meaningful action by the President and Congress to cut spending and end the job-killing spending binge in Washington. While America cannot default on its debt, we also cannot continue to borrow recklessly, dig ourselves deeper into this hole, and mortgage the future of our children and grandchildren. Spending cuts - and reforming a broken budget process - are top priorities for the American people and for the new majority in the House this year, and it is essential that the President and Democrats in Congress work with us in that effort."
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Music video interlude: Avi Buffalo's "What's In It For Me?"
Still to come: Paul Volcker is leaving; Mexican trucks are coming; Harry Reid will go ahead with filibuster reform with or without Republican backing; House Republicans are already trying to block EPA climate regulations; and Michael Caine does an impression of Michael Caine.
Paul Volcker is leaving his post as a White House advisor: http://wapo.st/g0qwMY
Obama is pushing to allow Mexican trucks into the US, reports Sewell Chan: "The Obama administration offered a proposal on Thursday to allow long-haul Mexican trucks to move cargo in the United States. The proposal, which the Mexican government greeted as a positive step, was the latest sign of a new willingness by the Obama administration to support free-trade measures backed by Republicans and by businesses despite objections from labor unions and other liberal constituencies. The United States has effectively barred Mexican trucks from operating on American roads since March 2009... Under the plan, Mexican long-haul trucking operators could seek permits to operate in the United States so long as they agree to safety, insurance and other monitoring requirements."
Democrats allege Republican rule changes will add $1 trillion to the deficit: http://politi.co/fFyyqQ
Texas' budget woes reflect a failure of conservative governance, writes Paul Krugman: "Data from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities suggest that the Texas budget gap is worse than New York’s, about as bad as California’s, but not quite up to New Jersey levels. The point, however, is that just the other day Texas was being touted as a role model (and still is by commentators who haven’t been keeping up with the news). It was the state the recession supposedly passed by, thanks to its low taxes and business-friendly policies...Oh, and at a time when there’s a full-court press on to demonize public-sector unions as the source of all our woes, Texas is nearly demon-free: less than 20 percent of public-sector workers there are covered by union contracts, compared with almost 75 percent in New York.
Complaints of "job-killing" regulation are GOP canards, writes Steven Pearlstein: "What's particularly noteworthy about this fixation with 'job killing' is that it stands in such contrast to the complete lack of concern about policies that kill people rather than jobs. Repeal of health reform, for instance, will inevitably lead to thousands of unnecessary deaths each year because of an inability to get medical care. Although lack of effective regulation led directly to the death of 78 coal miners last year in West Virginia, Republicans continue to insist that any reform of mine safety laws is bad for miners' employment... There is an unmistakable redbaiting quality to the 'job-killing' rhetoric, a throwback to the McCarthy era. It reflects the sort of economic fundamentalism better suited to Afghan politics than American."
Meta-impersonation interlude: Michael Caine impersonates Michael Caine.
GOP governors are planning Medicaid cuts: http://on.wsj.com/g2CwMo
Health care reform is hurting insurance brokers, reports Kate Nocera: "Pay for health insurance brokers will be slashed by more than 50 percent in some cases because of new health reform rules, according to documents obtained exclusively by POLITICO. New insurance commission schedules show that brokers who were used to making 15 or 20 percent on plans they sold will now typically make between 4 and 10 percent. Brokers are contractors who help individuals and small businesses buy health insurance in the large and difficult-to-navigate market. The medical loss ratio, a provision of last year’s health care reform law that went into effect Jan. 1, specifies that insurance companies must spend at least 80 percent of premiums on medical expenses. With brokers’ fees categorized as administrative costs, insurance agents stand to see their commissions gouged."
Millions of Americans will lose employer health care and move to health care reform's exchanges, writes David Brooks: http://nyti.ms/fCQUUB
Harry Reid will pursue filibuster reform even without Republican backing, reports Michael O'Brien: "The Senate's top Democrat vowed to push ahead with filibuster reform with or without Republican support. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said it's 'very clear' that members of his party want to change Senate rules to weaken the filibuster. 'They believe, as I believe, that the rules have been abused,' Reid said at the Capitol after a caucus meeting with Senate Democrats. 'We hope that Republicans see the light of day and would work with us,' Reid added. 'If not, we'll do it on our own.'...Reid's expected to make some sort of proposal later this month in preparation for the first formal day of the new session in the Senate."
The GOP is already breaking its new House rules, reports Jake Sherman: "Just hours after taking control of the House, Republicans passed a sweeping set of rules promising transparency and reform. But the new majority is already showing these promises aren’t exactly set in stone. After calling for bills to go through a regular committee process, the bill that would repeal the health care law will not go through a single committee. Despite promising a more open amendment process for bills, amendments for the health care repeal will be all but shut down. After calling for a strict committee attendance list to be posted online, Republicans backpedaled and ditched that from the rules."
The filibuster should be abolished, not reformed, writes Matt Miller: http://wapo.st/ggXENk
The stimulus kept 4.5 million people out of poverty, writes Arloc Sherman: "On Tuesday, the Census Bureau released several new poverty figures for 2009 that rely on alternative, broader poverty measures -- ones that include tax credits and non-cash benefits. Under almost all of these alternative measures, the safety net as a whole, including the Recovery Act expansions, prevented any rise in poverty in 2009, despite the deep recession and very high unemployment...We examined the Census data to see how much of that poverty-reducing impact came from the Recovery Act expansions. We found that they kept more than 4.5 million people out of poverty in 2009."
Stand up interlude: Maria Bamford performs on the Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson.
House Republicans are already moving to block anti-emissions action, reports Juliet Eilperin: "Three Republican House members -- Marsha Blackburn (Tenn.), Shelley Moore Capito (W. Va.) and Ted Poe (Tex.) have each introduced separate bills aimed at blocking EPA from regulating carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act. The three measures hamstring the agency's authority in different ways: Blackburn's would 'amend the Clean Air Act to provide that greenhouse gases are not subject to the Act,' even though the Supreme Court ruled in 2007 that they are; Capito's would delay EPA from regulating carbon dioxide and methane for two years; and Poe's would prohibit any agency funding 'to be used to implement or enforce a cap-and-trade program for greenhouse gases.'"
Energy companies dominate the list of corporations asking Rep. Darrel Issa for help with regulations: http://bit.ly/ii2TSz
Sen. Barbara Boxer is pledging to block legislation stripping the EPA's power to regulate greenhouse gas emissions: http://bit.ly/hv18MC
Closing credits: Wonkbook is compiled and produced with help from Dylan Matthews, Mike Shepard, and Michelle Williams.
| January 7, 2011; 6:39 AM ET
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