Wonkbook: Bipartisanship -- whether the two parties like it or not
To cadge an opening from NPR's 'This American Life,' the theme of this morning's top stories is bipartisanship -- whether the two parties like it or not. In the House, which is working its way through the 400+ amendments attached to the bill funding the government for the rest of 2011, dozens of Republicans have been joining with the Democrats to beat back some of the more draconian cuts that have come to the floor. In the Senate, three Republicans and three Democrats are working together to build a legislative vehicle out of the Fiscal Commission's recommendations. And plenty of Republicans are begging Obama to work with them -- and, in fact, walk in front of them -- on entitlements. "We need his leadership," Ways and Means Republican Rep. Wally Herger told Politico. "If it’s something this big to get through, it’s very important for the president to lead."
The normal model of how bipartisanship happens is that the two parties want to work together. That model frequently fails, because they often don't. It's not in their interests. A better model might be that bipartisanship happens when they have to work together. That was the case on the tax deal, where inaction would've meant a quick rise in taxes, and it wasn't clear who the public would blame. And it may be the case on some of these budget questions going forward, where key Republicans don't feel they can ignore their base's demands for deficit reduction, but they also don't feel they can do much without Obama's agreement and cover; while key Democrats don't feel they can let the Republicans completely own deficit reduction, but they don't feel they can step out in front of their base and start proposing Social Security reforms.
Republicans still want Obama to make the first move on entitlement reform, reports Jake Sherman: "House Republicans were giddy when President Barack Obama took a pass on entitlement reform in his 2012 budget, ripping him for punting on the future of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. But when they’re pressed for answers about what needs to happen on entitlements, Republicans are punting right back, saying the president needs to take the lead and come up with his own ideas. Before stating their own policy prescriptions, no fewer than a dozen GOP lawmakers and aides Wednesday said that it is Obama’s responsibility to put forth ideas on entitlement reform. 'We need his leadership,' Ways and Means Republican Rep. Wally Herger (Calif.) said. 'If it’s something this big to get through, it’s very important for the president to lead.'"
But it may be a group of senators who actually step out in front, reports Jonathan Weisman: "A bipartisan group of senators is considering legislation that would trigger new taxes and budget cuts if Congress fails to meet a set of mandatory spending targets and other fiscal goals aimed at reducing federal deficits...The plan would break the task of deficit reduction into four pieces: a tax code overhaul; discretionary spending cuts; changes to Medicare, Medicaid and other entitlements; and changes to Social Security, aides said. The Social Security system is on firmer financial footing than other major entitlement programs and raises political sensitivities that lawmakers want to deal with separately...In addition to Mr. Durbin, the second-ranking Senate Democrat, the group include Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D., N.D.), and one of the Senate's most conservative fiscal hawks, Tom Coburn (R., Okla.). Messrs. Coburn and Durbin are personally close to President Obama."
Centrist Republicans are breaking party to help Democrats prevent cuts, reports David Rogers: "House Democrats and more centrist Republicans joined forces in a series of spending votes Wednesday, scoring quick wins and sending the clearest sign yet of second thoughts in the GOP over the depth of reductions demanded by the party’s new tea party supporters...Sixty-eight Republicans backed Democrats in defense of preserving at least reduced funding for legal aid to the poor, for example. Minutes later, 70 Republicans joined 158 Democrats on a 228-203 vote that restored $280 million for the Community Oriented Policing Services or COPS program, a favorite initiative of Vice President Joe Biden. And given the power of the firefighter lobby, the dike seemed to break when as many as 132 Republicans backed an amendment by Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) to restore $510 million for Homeland Security grants for first responders."
The FEC could start allowing corporations to raise money for candidates directly, reports T.W. Farnham: "The fallout from the Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission keeps coming. The case loosened restrictions on corporations that do political campaigning with the proviso that they do it without working with candidates. But in a little-noticed document, three FEC commissioners have said they think corporations should be allowed to raise money directly for candidates. As it is now, corporations are prohibited from helping candidates raise money. The furthest they can go is allowing a candidate to hold fundraisers on their property, and even then, the campaign must pay for the space in advance. But the three commissioners, all Republicans, said those prohibitions are 'at best suspect' in light of Citizens United's protection of free speech for corporations."
Dub interlude: Major Lazer covers Beyoncé's "Halo".
Got tips, additions, or comments? E-mail me.
Want Wonkbook delivered to your inbox or mobile device? Subscribe!
Still to come: House Republicans are looking to take control of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau; the Fed has brightened its economic outlook; regulators think a human life is worth more than it was a few years ago; the White House won't block Arizona's Medicaid cuts; the House GOP is targeting net neutrality rules; the House voted to slash the EPA's climate regulation enforcement budget; and James Earl Jones channels Justin Bieber.
The GOP is gearing up to defund the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, reports Brian Beutler: "A House Republican on the Financial Services committee has introduced legislation that would make it easier for Congress to hamstring, or defund, the newly created Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Once fully erected, the Bureau will be housed within the Federal Reserve and be guaranteed a percentage of the Fed's budget, with the option of asking Congress for more money. Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-TX) proposes keeping it in the Department of Treasury, where Congress would have complete control over its purse strings."
The Fed has upgraded its economic forecast, reports Jia Lynn Yang: "Federal Reserve policymakers expect the U.S. economy to grow as much as 3.9 percent this year, slightly higher than earlier projections, according to minutes of the central bank's latest policy meeting. The officials think the recovery is on 'firmer footing,' the minutes say, but they remain concerned that the pace of growth isn't enough to put a serious dent in the country's 9 percent jobless rate. They expect high unemployment to persist at least through the end of 2013...The minutes noted discussion among committee members over whether to alter the bond-purchase program, given that the economy has been picking up some speed. According to the minutes, a 'few members' said that a strong enough recovery could cause the Fed to pare it back."
The budget shows interest payments on debt quadrupling over the next ten years, reports Steven Mufson: "Interest payments on the national debt will quadruple in the next decade and every man, woman and child in the United States will be paying more than $2,500 a year to cover for the nation's past profligacy, according to figures in President Obama's new budget plan. Starting in 2014, net interest payments will surpass the amount spent on education, transportation, energy and all other discretionary programs outside defense. In 2018, they will outstrip Medicare spending. Only the amounts spent on defense and Social Security would remain bigger under the president's plan. The soaring bill for interest payments is one of the biggest obstacles to balancing the federal budget, pushing the White House and Congress to come up with cuts deeper than previously imagined."
The stimulus worked, write Ethan Pollack and Josh Bivens: "The Recovery Act was enacted at a time when the private economy was contracting by more than a 6% annual rate and losing more than 750,000 jobs a month. In the first full quarter after its enactment, the Recovery Act had cut average monthly private job losses by more than a third and slowed the economic contraction to a -0.7% annual rate. Private job loss fell again, by over half, in the following quarter and then fell by nearly half in the quarter after that, at which point the economy was growing at a 5% annual rate. Clearly, the economy and private job market began to recover right when the Recovery Act began to take effect. EPI analysis shows that by the end of 2010 the Recovery Act had created or saved 3-4 million jobs, and up to 5 million full-time equivalent jobs. It had also boosted gross domestic product by up to $560 billion and reduced the unemployment rate up to 1.8 percentage points."
Regulators are increasing the dollar amount assigned to a human life, reports Binyamin Appelbaum: "The Environmental Protection Agency set the value of a life at $9.1 million last year in proposing tighter restrictions on air pollution. The agency used numbers as low as $6.8 million during the George W. Bush administration. The Food and Drug Administration declared that life was worth $7.9 million last year, up from $5 million in 2008, in proposing warning labels on cigarette packages featuring images of cancer victims. The Transportation Department has used values of around $6 million to justify recent decisions to impose regulations that the Bush administration had rejected as too expensive, like requiring stronger roofs on cars. And the numbers may keep climbing.
The Fed made $13 billion by lending during the crisis: http://bit.ly/hHe4BF
Members of Congress who are enthusiastic about cuts also push for pork, reports Manu Raju: "Furious at the rapid growth of the national debt, members of Congress insist that they’re ready to swing the budget ax anywhere and everywhere to get the country back on a sound fiscal track. Everywhere, that is, except their backyards. So as they bash President Barack Obama’s budget, Sens. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) are upset about his proposed cuts to coal subsides. Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) wants to protect his state’s agriculture interests, and his fellow Nebraskan, GOP Sen. Mike Johanns, is concerned about cuts to airport grants. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) says everyone will need to feel some budget pain -- but he’s weighing how much pain NASA should feel."
Obama should call the deficit hawks' bluff, writes E.J. Dionne: http://wapo.st/g3WT3f
State and local corporate income taxes should be abolished, writes Josh Barro: "Currently, states and localities collect about 14.7 percent of all corporate income tax in the United States in a typical year...Yet, because of a lack of uniformity in tax law and the complications associated with apportioning corporate income among states, state and local taxes account for about 30 percent of large companies' income tax compliance costs. But more important than direct compliance costs are the economic distortions caused by state corporate income tax. Multistate corporations have significant leeway to determine the jurisdiction in which their income will be taxed -- whether by actually moving operations or through accounting shifts -- which had led states to enact beggar-thy-neighbor tax policies aimed at luring the most mobile firms to change states."
Corgis being excellent interlude: A corgi on a swing.
The White House is temporarily exempting insurers in four states from health-care reform's care requirements, reports Robert Pear: "The Obama administration said Wednesday that it had granted broad waivers to four states allowing health insurance companies to continue offering less generous benefits than they would otherwise be required to provide this year under the new federal health care law. The states are Florida, New Jersey, Ohio and Tennessee, the administration told Congress. Lawmakers said that many other states, insurers and employers needed similar exemptions from some of the law’s requirements and would seek waivers if they knew of the option. Steven B. Larsen, a top federal insurance regulator, said the waivers would allow many consumers to keep the coverage they had, a goal often espoused by President Obama."
The White House likely won't block Arizona's Medicaid cuts, reports N.C. Aizenman: "The Obama administration would permit a controversial plan by Arizona's governor to cut an estimated 250,000 impoverished adults from Medicaid, despite a provision in the new health-care law barring states from tightening their eligibility standards for the program, federal officials said Wednesday. Gov. Jan Brewer (R) formally requested a federal waiver from the provision last month to make the cut. But in a letter dated Tuesday, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius wrote that no waiver is necessary, because the provision does not apply to Arizona's somewhat unusual circumstances...Advocates for the poor noted that only about a dozen states have Medicaid programs with the particular set of features that would enable Arizona to trim its rolls."
House Republicans have introduced amendments to defund health care reform: http://politi.co/icTiOR
Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels wants Republicans to get serious about health care reform, writes Peter Suderman: "Besides jettisoning the PPACA and starting over, Daniels says that it is time both parties recognize that Medicare is 'completely unsustainable,' and will need to be pared back accordingly... He argues instead that the GOP should get specific with the public about what the country can and cannot afford to do--and push policy accordingly. For starters, he wants to make Medicaid look more like his Healthy Indiana Program. He also favors 'rigorous' means testing of all entitlement programs and a shift toward 'concentrating resources on people who are the most vulnerable.'...But the biggest change he says he’d make is to delink insurance from employment--a change that has been politically impossible because it would require many individuals to let go of their current health insurance."
Health care reform's implementation is going well but not great, write Jacob Hacker and Carl DeTorres: http://nyti.ms/dQZLeZ
The House GOP is starting to target the FCC's "net neutrality" rules, reports Amy Schatz: "In a contentious hearing, House Republicans attacked new regulations for broadband Internet lines and criticized the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission for adopting them. Republicans are targeting the 'net neutrality' rules, which would bar Internet providers from blocking or slowing Internet traffic and services, as well as new regulations in such areas as health care and the environment, as unnecessary and overly burdensome on industry. 'Why would you put the government in charge of the Internet?' asked Rep. Fred Upton (R., Mich.), who chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee. FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, a Democrat, defended the new rules during the hearing, saying the FCC 'did the right thing' and that it is 'pro-job and pro-investment' for the U.S. economy."
The Department of Homeland Security is conducting the biggest illegal immigration audit in two years: http://on.wsj.com/gtAVLk
The governor of Wisconsin's attempts to break state employee unions is spurring protests, report Kris Maher and Douglas Belkin: "For a second straight day, thousands of Wisconsin public employees converged on the state capitol in Madison to protest Gov. Scott Walker's plan to close the state's projected $3.6 billion budget shortfall by increasing the cost of their pensions and health benefits and taking away their collective bargaining rights. About 10,000 teachers, nurses, city workers and firefighters chanted 'Kill the Bill' and held signs outside that said 'Recall Walker,' while others squeezed shoulder-to-shoulder inside the capitol rotunda as a key legislative panel held hearings on the bill...In exchange for bearing more costs and losing bargaining leverage, the state's 170,000 public employees were promised no furloughs or layoffs."
The House is moving forward on tort reform, reports Brett Coughlin: "The House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday approved a medical malpractice reform bill by an 18-15 party-line vote after turning aside several Democratic attempts to amend it, including one which mirrored the concerns of two Republican members of the panel. The two Republicans, Texans Louie Gohmert and Ted Poe, were noticeably absent from the room when the panel rejected two amendments by Hank Johnson (D-Ga) aimed at striking provisions that would pre-empt state medical malpractice laws or constitutional provisions. Both Texans had raised concerns about those provisions when the markup began Feb. 9, saying they doubted the federal government has the power to do that under the Commerce Clause."
Lyric recitation interlude: James Earl Jones says the words to Justin Bieber's "Baby".
The House voted to slash the EPA's budget for collecting greenhouse emissions data, reports Corey Boles: "House lawmakers voted Wednesday evening to drastically reduce the budget of an Environmental Protection Agency program that collects data on greenhouse-gas emissions from U.S. companies, as part of Republicans' continuing push to reduce the regulatory reach of the agency. Lawmakers successfully reduced funding for the program to $3.2 million from its current funding levels of $16 million. The vote came as an amendment to spending legislation to fund the federal government through the remaining months of fiscal 2011. While compared to the more than $61 billion in cuts to federal spending included in the legislation by Republicans, the amount cut by the vote wasn't significant. But it does signify the latest salvo in the GOP's attack on the EPA."
Greenhouse gas emissions declined in 2009 as well as 2008: http://nyti.ms/iccXIh
Florida's governor is turning down funding for a high speed rail project, reports Timothy Williams: "In the most significant blow yet to the Obama administration’s vision of a national high-speed rail network, Gov. Rick Scott of Florida on Wednesday rejected plans for a high-speed link between Tampa and Orlando, in the process turning down more than $2 billion in federal money. Mr. Scott is the third newly elected Republican governor to turn down a portion of the administration’s national rail system, joining John Kasich of Ohio and Scott Walker of Wisconsin...Mr. Scott’s move comes a little more than a week after Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. called for spending $53 billion on passenger trains and high-speed rail projects over the next six years as part of the administration’s goal of making high-speed rail accessible to 80 percent of Americans within 25 years."
Senate Democrats want to create a "green bank": http://bit.ly/h6wS89
Senate Democrats are preparing a clean energy standard bill, reports Darren Samuelsohn: "Senate Democrats are preparing energy legislation for the floor that includes the 'clean energy' standard sought by President Barack Obama, Majority Leader Harry Reid said Wednesday. Reid said he's looking to Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) and ranking member Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) to hash out details on the plan which would increase the nations' reliance on cleaner burning sources of energy, including solar and wind, and perhaps folding in 'clean coal' and nuclear power. 'There's an agreement as I understand it between Chairman Bingaman and Sen. Murkowski on the standard,' Reid said. 'It's not as high a standard as I'd like.'"
Closing credits: Wonkbook is compiled and produced with help from Dylan Matthews and Michelle Williams. Photo credit: White House.
Posted by: visionbrkr | February 17, 2011 7:51 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: garybrumback1 | February 17, 2011 8:42 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: instanton | February 17, 2011 9:09 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: lauren2010 | February 17, 2011 9:14 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: justin84 | February 17, 2011 9:54 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: SarahBB | February 17, 2011 9:59 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: visionbrkr | February 17, 2011 10:07 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: visionbrkr | February 17, 2011 10:14 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: justin84 | February 17, 2011 11:05 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: krazen1211 | February 17, 2011 11:18 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | February 17, 2011 11:32 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | February 17, 2011 12:30 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: lauren2010 | February 17, 2011 12:45 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: lauren2010 | February 17, 2011 12:48 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: visionbrkr | February 17, 2011 1:01 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | February 17, 2011 1:18 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: MosBen | February 17, 2011 1:25 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: lauren2010 | February 17, 2011 1:26 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: lauren2010 | February 17, 2011 1:32 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: lauren2010 | February 17, 2011 1:40 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | February 17, 2011 1:49 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: visionbrkr | February 17, 2011 1:54 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: nickthap | February 17, 2011 1:54 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: nickthap | February 17, 2011 1:58 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: lauren2010 | February 17, 2011 2:02 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: visionbrkr | February 17, 2011 2:03 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: krazen1211 | February 17, 2011 2:10 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: krazen1211 | February 17, 2011 2:10 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: krazen1211 | February 17, 2011 2:15 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: visionbrkr | February 17, 2011 2:23 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: krazen1211 | February 17, 2011 2:52 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: visionbrkr | February 17, 2011 3:13 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: lauren2010 | February 17, 2011 3:27 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: lauren2010 | February 17, 2011 3:44 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: visionbrkr | February 17, 2011 3:49 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: lauren2010 | February 17, 2011 3:57 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: visionbrkr | February 17, 2011 4:01 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: lauren2010 | February 17, 2011 4:07 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: lauren2010 | February 17, 2011 4:13 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: visionbrkr | February 17, 2011 4:13 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: lauren2010 | February 17, 2011 4:20 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: visionbrkr | February 17, 2011 4:21 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Chippewa | February 17, 2011 4:24 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: visionbrkr | February 17, 2011 4:27 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: visionbrkr | February 17, 2011 4:35 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: justin84 | February 17, 2011 4:37 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: visionbrkr | February 17, 2011 4:46 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | February 17, 2011 4:50 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: visionbrkr | February 17, 2011 4:53 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: justin84 | February 17, 2011 5:37 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: lauren2010 | February 17, 2011 6:58 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: krazen1211 | February 17, 2011 6:58 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: lauren2010 | February 17, 2011 7:02 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: lauren2010 | February 17, 2011 7:08 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: lauren2010 | February 17, 2011 7:11 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: krazen1211 | February 17, 2011 7:16 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: visionbrkr | February 17, 2011 7:19 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: krazen1211 | February 17, 2011 7:28 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: krazen1211 | February 17, 2011 7:32 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Bious | February 17, 2011 7:37 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: justin84 | February 17, 2011 11:43 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: visionbrkr | February 18, 2011 8:29 AM | Report abuse