Wonkbook: Will Wisconsin spread?
A few days ago, Gov. Scott Walker's effort to end collective bargaining for state employees looked almost certain to spread to other GOP-led states. And there has been some interest, notably from Ohio's John Kasich and New Jersey's Chris Christie. But over the last 24 hours, we've also begun to see some pushback from Republican governors. In Florida, Gov. Rick Scott told a radio program that he wouldn't be pursuing a plan similar to Walker's. "My belief is as long as people know what they’re doing, collective bargaining is fine,” he said. In Indiana, where Republican legislators have introduced a bill mirroring Wisconsin's and Democratic legislators have responded by fleeing the state, Gov. Mitch Daniels has asked his allies to table the legislation. "For reasons I've explained more than once I thought there was a better time and place to have this very important and legitimate issue raised," Daniels argued.
There are a couple of possible reasons that this effort isn't spreading further and faster among some of the GOP's gubernatorial class. The unions have made clear that attempting to take collective bargaining rights will be, if nothing else, a huge hassle. The various governors have a lot they want to get done over the next couple of months -- Daniels, for instance, is pushing legislation that'd bring vouchers to Indiana's school system -- and don't see an interminable fight over ending collective bargaining as the best way to spend their political capital. And some might have sensed what a Gallup/USA Today poll found yesterday -- that more than 60 percent of Americans opposed ending collective bargaining, and they're not even that friendly to cutting pay and benefits for state workers.
It's still too early to say what will happen in Wisconsin. The Democrats can't hang out in Illinois forever, and Walker has left himself very little room to negotiate a compromise. But at this point, it seems clear that the unions have, if nothing else, conveyed the message that ending collective bargaining wil be a difficult, exhausting, and polarizing fight wherever it is tried. And that might prove enough to get other governors to think twice before trying it.
Harry Reid has unveiled his stopgap spending proposal, reports Corey Boles: "Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) said he would bring legislation to the Senate floor next week to keep federal government funding at current levels for a month while lawmakers work out a longer-term deal on this year's federal budget. Mr. Reid's strategy instantly ran into difficulty when his Republican counterpart, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.), said the measure was unacceptable because it didn't cut government spending. House Republican leaders also quickly rejected Mr. Reid's proposal...Unless the Democratic-led Senate and Republican-led House can agree to a funding extension, the federal government would be required to shut down on March 5, when the current temporary measure expires."
Indiana lawmakers have followed Wisconsin senators by walking out, report Michael Fletcher and Brady Dennis: "Democratic lawmakers in the Indiana House followed the lead of their counterparts in Wisconsin, refusing to show up at the capitol and thus preventing Republicans from having the two-thirds quorum needed to vote on numerous bills, including a controversial measure that would curtail private-sector union rights. At issue is a 'right to work' bill that would no longer require private-sector workers to belong to a union or pay for union representation. Union officials have called the effort an attempt to weaken workers' collective bargaining power. The bill's author, Republican Rep. Jerry Torr, has said it is an effort to draw employers to the state and create jobs."
But Mitch Daniels, the governor of Indiana, is taking a very different approach than Scott Walker, reports Evan McMorris-Santoro: "Members of the Democratic state House caucus in Indiana have found an unlikely ally in their quest to stop the GOP majority from pushing through a bill that critics say would destroy union organizing in the state. Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) took to the airwaves today to call on members of his party to drop the controversial 'right to work' bill that led to Democrats going AWOL. Daniels' statement: 'I'm not sending the state police after anybody. I'm not gonna divert a single trooper from their job of protection the Indiana public. I trust that people's consciences will bring them back to work..For reasons I've explained more than once I thought there was a better time and place to have this very important and legitimate issue raised.'"
Obama has not met with unemployed people on his economic tours, reports Perry Bacon: "President Obama has traveled across the country since the November midterm elections to tout his economic vision and rebuild relationships with the business community, meeting with executives, community college presidents, students, venture capitalists, plant workers and others. One group has been left out: the nearly one in 10 working-age Americans who are seeking a job but can't find one. In eight trips outside Washington since Election Day, Obama - who frequently says he uses such travel to better understand the lives of Americans - has held almost no formal meetings with groups of unemployed people or organizations that advocate for them."
The earmark ban is causing some lawmakers to rethink their roles, report David Fahrenthold and Philip Rucker: "Is Rep. Harold Rogers the right man to break Congress's addiction to spending? One might ponder that question...during a drive on Hal Rogers Boulevard. Or Hal Rogers Drive. Or Hal Rogers Parkway. Rogers, who chairs the House Appropriations Committee, is the point man for GOP budget slashing...One of Rogers's top committee deputies is Rep. C.W. Bill Young (R). In Florida, his name adorns a drawbridge, a marine science complex and a military depot. Their stories reveal the larger struggle behind the current spending debate in Washington. It's not just about money. It's about Congress's DNA - and changing the definition of what a Congress member is."
Shoegaze interlude: Blonde Redhead plays "Spring And By Summer Fall" live.
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Still to come: We're getting pretty near to the debt limit; a federal judge has tossed out an anti-health care reform lawsuit; the White House is telling agencies to prepare for a government shutdown; the Energy Department is losing staff due to looming budget cuts; and cats who look like Ron Swanson.
We're getting pretty near to the debt limit, writes Pete Davis: "On January 6, Treasury announced it would hit the debt limit no later than May 16, but it modified that to May 31, 2011 on February 2. It will issue another update during the first week of March. Then there's the question of how much leeway Treasury may have to postpone exceeding the debt limit. 'As of August 31, 2010, the extraordinary actions available to Treasury could provide about $147.5 billion in additional borrowing capacity without a DISP and an additional $7.7 billion per month based on the length of the DISP declared.' [Page 10] Treasury could also run down its cash on hand and cash at the Fed. Altogether that might give Treasury an extra month or two."
Credit card reform is showing good results: http://wapo.st/dNSLDY
The Senate will hold a year's worth of hearings on tax reform, reports John McKinnon: "Overhaul of the tax code got off to a strong start in the Senate Finance Committee, with the announcement late Tuesday of a lengthy series of hearings. Still, it remains unclear whether any serious tax changes will get through before the 2012 political silly season begins. And the timetable laid out on Tuesday suggests that lawmakers are in no particular rush. Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D., Mont.) and the committee’s top Republican, Orrin Hatch of Utah, said the first hearing, entitled 'How Did We Get Here?' will look at the economic and policy changes that have occurred since the last big reform in 1986, and how U.S. tax rules have and have not kept up."
The Treasury Department is running out of ways to avoid the debt limit, reports Andrew Ackerman: "The Treasury Department's ability to take 'extraordinary measures' to avoid tripping up against the federal debt limit may not be as effective as in the past because of ballooning federal debt levels, a congressional watchdog warned Tuesday. As a result, Congress will have much less time to debate increasing the debt limit to prevent the federal government from hitting the fast-approaching $14.294 trillion debt cap, the Government Accountability Office said. 'Treasury's past success at managing cash and debt when near or at the debt limit is no guarantee that it can continue to manage successfully in the future and may be misleading,' GAO said in a 55-page report. The Treasury recently notified Congress that the current debt limit could be reached as early as April 5."
Germany's economic miracle isn't looking so good, asks David Leonhardt: "Germany’s economic growth surged in the middle of last year, causing commentators both there and here to proclaim that American stimulus had failed and German austerity had worked. Germany’s announced budget cuts, the commentators said, had given private companies enough confidence in the government to begin spending their own money again. Well, it turns out the German boom didn’t last long. With its modest stimulus winding down, Germany’s growth slowed sharply late last year, and its economic output still has not recovered to its prerecession peak. Output in the United States — where the stimulus program has been bigger and longer lasting — has recovered. This country would now need to suffer through a double-dip recession for its gross domestic product to be in the same condition as Germany’s."
Social Security isn't part of our deficit problem, writes OMB director Jack Lew: http://usat.ly/f9UfQ8
The Republican war on unions is broader than Wisconsin, writes Harold Meyerson: "For a more comprehensive view of the Republicans' war on unions, we need to focus on what Republicans in Washington did last week. In the House, Republicans passed, as part of their continuing resolution to fund the federal government through September, a provision that slashed the funding of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) by one-third. But the truly breathtaking measure was an amendment by Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) to defund the NLRB - closing it down altogether - until the fiscal year ends in September. The measure failed Thursday because 60 Republicans joined every Democrat present in voting no, but three-quarters of House Republicans - 176 of them, including Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Va.) and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) - voted yes. In other words, the House leadership supported abolishing the right of American workers - in the private sector no less than the public sector - to bargain collectively."
Scott Walker is overreaching, writes Steven Pearlstein: "One old trick is to suggest a thought experiment that asks readers to consider the mirror image of what is going on. In this case, you'd be asked what the reaction would be from Republicans and business interests if a newly elected Democratic governor and legislature proposed to deal with a budget deficit by first raising unemployment benefits and then pushing through a big corporate tax increase for all but the Democratic-leaning tech sector. For good measure, the package would also contain a ban on corporations making political donations without getting the permission of each shareholder...This is analogous, of course, to what Gov. Scott Walker has proposed for dealing with Wisconsin's budget gap."
Baking interlude: A playable Angry Birds cake.
A federal judge has tossed out an anti-health care reform lawsuit, reports Nedra Pickler: "A federal judge on Tuesday threw out a lawsuit claiming that President Barack Obama's requirement that all Americans have health insurance violates the religious freedom of those who rely on God to protect them. U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler in Washington dismissed a lawsuit filed by the American Center for Law and Justice, a Christian legal group founded by evangelist Pat Robertson, on behalf of five Americans who can afford health insurance but have chosen for years not to buy it...Kessler is the third Democratic-appointed judge to dismiss a challenge, while two Republican-appointed judges have ruled part or all of the law unconstitutional."
A Supreme Court case on Congressional powers offers limited guidance as to the Court's eventual health care ruling: http://nyti.ms/hMdgit
Budget cuts are ending a Pennsylvania program for low-income adults, reports Jenny Gold: "Pennsylvania's adultBasic insurance was created in 2001 and is one of only a handful of health plans funded entirely by states to provide coverage to low-income adults who do not qualify for Medicaid, the joint federal-state health insurance for the poor. Such individuals will be eligible for either subsidized private coverage or be covered by an expansion of Medicaid under the new federal health law, but those provisions do not kick in until 2014...Shortly after taking office in January, however, Gov. Tom Corbett, a Republican, announced that the program was out of money and coverage for all participants would end Feb. 28."
The White House is telling federal agencies to prepare for a shutdown, reports Ed O'Keefe: "Federal agencies are preparing to operate at reduced levels if a government shutdown occurs, but the Obama administration hopes to strike a deal with congressional Republicans to avoid one, the White House said Tuesday. By March 4, lawmakers must pass a short-term resolution to continue funding the government, or President Obama and congressional leaders can strike a deal on how to fund government operations for the final seven months of fiscal 2011. Failing to do so would prompt at least a partial shutdown affecting various agencies and functions... OMB would not provide details Tuesday of individual agency plans, but most workers might stay on the job if a shutdown occurs.
Senators are still asking for de facto earmarks: http://bit.ly/evxyiX
There is no correlation between unionization and state budget deficits, writes John Sides: http://bit.ly/eiA0Pv
The Democratic party has abandoned the union movement, writes Kevin Drum: "Organized labor requires government support to thrive--things like the right to organize workplaces, rules that prevent retaliation against union leaders, and requirements that management negotiate in good faith--and in America, that support traditionally came from the Democratic Party...As unions increasingly withered beginning in the '70s, the Democratic Party turned to the only other source of money and influence available in large-enough quantities to replace big labor: the business community. The rise of neoliberalism in the '80s, given concrete form by the Democratic Leadership Council, was fundamentally an effort to make the party more friendly to business."
Parks and Recreation interlude: Cats who look like Ron Swanson.
Cuts are spurring heavy turnover in the Department of Energy, reports Stephen Power: " The third-ranking official at the Department of Energy is leaving the Obama administration next month, becoming the latest in a series of high-level departures from an agency whose budget is increasingly at the center of partisan clashes... The DOE is at the center of a growing battle between President Obama and Republicans in Congress involving the agency’s spending levels and priorities. Mr. Obama last week proposed increasing the department’s budget for the fiscal year that begins in October nearly 12%, to $29.5 billion, partly to pay for big increases in spending on wind, solar and geothermal projects at the department. Republicans in the House have proposed cutting support for some of those projects.
Harry Reid will not allow EPA climate rule defunding into the Senate spending bill: http://bit.ly/ei94zy
Closing credits: Wonkbook is compiled and produced with help from Dylan Matthews and Michelle Williams.
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