It seems that House Democratic leaders have settled on an interesting compromise in the debate over whether to use budget reconciliation rules to pass health care reform -- effectively shielding any future bill from a Senate filibuster.
The House budget will include a filibuster-proofing rule that only kicks in if Dems and the GOP cannot reach a health reform compromise by the time Congress breaks for its month-long August recess, the WaPo reports this morning.
That means that if Republicans can make good on their kumbaya rhetoric and reach common ground with the president's party by August, a longer debate and the ability to attempt a filibuster would be within their reach. But the House's intriguing plan might be a moot point if the Senate doesn't agree, since both chambers need to agree on a budget plan by next month.
And with Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-ND) openly pooh-poohing the reconciliation option, that agreement on filibuster-proofing is anything but a foregone conclusion.
Obama Reaches Out To Iran In New Video
President Obama has posted this new video, reaching out to the people of Iran in celebration of Nowruz, the Iranian New Year:
"So on the occasion of your New Year, I want you, the people and leaders of Iran, to understand the future that we seek," Obama says. "It's a future with renewed exchanges among our people, and greater opportunities for partnership and commerce. It's a future where the old divisions are overcome, where you and all of your neighbors and the wider world can live in greater security and greater peace."
Obama's Day Ahead: Discussing Stimulus With Top State And Local Officials
President Obama and Vice President Biden are speaking at 12:35 p.m. ET today to representatives from the National Conference of State Legislatures, about oversight and transparency in the implementation of the stimulus program. At 2:15 p.m., Obama will be meeting with Arnold Schwarzenegger, Ed Rendell and Mike Bloomberg. At 2:45 p.m. ET, the President and First Lady will attend a reception of the National Newspaper Publisher Association, where they will be presented a Newsmaker of the Year award.
President Obama has just released this statement on the House's passage of the bonus tax:
"Today's vote rightly reflects the outrage that so many feel over the lavish bonuses that AIG provided its employees at the expense of the taxpayers who have kept this failed company afloat. Now this legislation moves to the Senate, and I look forward to receiving a final product that will serve as a strong signal to the executives who run these firms that such compensation will not be tolerated.
In the end, this is a symptom of a larger problem - a bubble and bust economy that valued reckless speculation over responsibility and hard work. That is what we must ultimately repair to build a lasting and widespread prosperity."
Jim Tedisco, the Republican candidate in the March 31 special election for Kirsten Gillibrand's former House seat, is upping his populist appeal against the AIG bonuses: He's not just endorsing the 90% bonus tax, but he's calling for Tim Geithner to be fired -- and challenging his Democratic opponent Scott Murphy to join him.
Murphy has responded with a press release declaring that he's ideally for a 100% tax on the AIG bonuses -- though he would have voted for the 90% tax, too.
When asked about Tedisco's call for sacking Geithner, Murphy spokesman Ryan Rudominer told TPM: "Scott trusts President Obama's judgment. Tedisco is just trying to distract from saying no to creating or saving 76,000 jobs Upstate and the largest middle class tax cut in history."
Rudominer is referring here to the stimulus bill, which Tedisco said on Monday he would have opposed. And since Tuesday, Tedisco has been using the stimulus bill as a foothold to accuse Murphy of supporting the bonuses.
We now have an illustrious addition to the ranks of Republican governors turning down stimulus money: Sarah Palin.
Palin has announced that she is rejecting $416 million, out of $930 million originally headed to her state. "We are not requesting funds intended to just grow government," Palin said in a statement. "We are not requesting more money for normal day-to-day operations of government as part of this economic stimulus package. In essence we say no to operating funds for more positions in government."
Freshman Democratic U.S. Senator Mark Begich has already called on the legislature to override Palin on this.
This is notable for two reasons. First, Palin is widely seen as a potential presidential candidate, and a move like this can help her build up credibility with conservatives. Second, this might actually be the first time that Alaska rejected federal dollars for anything.
Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner has confirmed that his department did press Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) to water down the executive-bonus limits included in last month's stimulus bill, delivering a boost to the beleaguered Dodd -- but at a greater potential cost to his own damaged credibility on Capitol Hill.
In an interview set to air later today on CNN, Geithner took "full responsibility for the situation" and said "calls for resignation are part of the job," according to an early report on the network's website.
Late Update: The full exchange between CNN's Ali Velshi and Geithner is posted after the jump. It's notable how rapidly the media has become fixated on this change to the Dodd amendment ... considering that most mainstream news outlets were fudging the truth on it just days after it became law.
During the debate over mass-transit funding in the stimulus bill, TPMDC highlighted the puzzling disconnect between the Obama administration's calls for investment in sustainable transportation and its low level of actual money to modernize the system.
Now that modernization debate has moved into its next phase, with Congress poised to take up its five-year transportation authorization bill later this spring. The prospect of kick-starting a true greening of U.S. transportation policy has prompted lawmakers to introduce two bills that form a progressive marker for that coming debate.
The first is known as Complete Streets, offered last week by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Rep. Doris Matsui (D-CA). It would ensure that federal transportation spending is apportioned to benefit not only auto drivers but pedestrians and bike riders as well. Complete Streets initiatives have been launched at the state and local level in Minnesota, New York, Washington, California, and elsewhere.
The second green-transit marker bill, known as CLEAN TEA, highlights a growing schism over the distribution of revenue from a possible cap-and-trade climate change regulatory system. CLEAN TEA would ensure that 10% of the revenue from auction of carbon emissions permits goes toward green transportation projects.
The Obama administration has suggested that as much as 20% of auction proceeds could go towards green transit, but Republicans are mounting an early pushback to that effort by insisting that 100% of the proceeds from the system be given back to taxpayers. Look for this question to become a flashpoint during the climate change debate, if and when it finally occurs later this year.
1. How closely have you followed news stories about bonuses paid to executives at American International Group, the firm know as AIG that received a $170-billion government bailout?
55% Very closely 33% Somewhat closely 8% Not very closely 2% Not at all 2% Not sure
The poll also finds that 76% of adults believe the AIG executives should be required to give the money back, to only 17% against the idea. And 65% say the bailout will benefit Wall Street more than the U.S. taxpayer, compared to only 18% who say the taxpayer is the greater beneficiary.
And the narrative in this story has clearly gotten through, with this question: "Is most of the bailout money going to the people who created the economic crisis?" This one comes up as Yes 68%, No 18%.
Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA), a senior member of the House Financial Services Committee, just pointed out the potential for loopholes to be opened in the AIG-inspired bonus taxation bill that his party is about to push to passage today.
Sherman, who warned TPMDC early on that executive-pay limits in the stimulus bill would be watered down, called today's bonus taxation bill "a step in the right direction" -- but noted that it would allow companies to still pay lavish bonuses while merely changing the terminology used to describe them.
But the most nagging question Sherman raised in his statement this afternoon relates to language in the Democratic bill that limits any bonus taxation to firms getting "capital infusions under the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008." Sherman interprets this language as applying to the preferred-stock purchases that were authorized under that law, which provided the first round of bailout funds nearly six months ago.
So would today's AIG-inspired bill apply to Citigroup, which last month converted its preferred stock to common stock and a "trust preferred security" with the government's blessing? And if 18 other banks follow Citigroup's lead by trading in their preferred stock -- they're all eligible to do so, as Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said last month -- would that exempt those banks from today's bill as well?
Given the vaunted skill of internal counsels in the financial industry, one suspects they're working on making that potential loophole larger. You can read Sherman's full statement after the jump.