TPM News

Hmmm, Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) is lucky that her tough re-election battle came last year and not in 2010. Collins had pushed for $1 billion in stimulus money for LIHEAP, the government's program to provide home heating money for low-income residents -- and a major Maine priority, given the state's chilly winters.

But LIHEAP looks zeroed out, according to the summary of the final stimulus deal that we've received (read here). Did Collins lose a battle over heating money, or just not pursue one?

Late Update: N.B. Until legislative language is formally filed on the bill today, there's always the possibility that these numbers could change. What we're bringing you are the freshest details.

The House's original stimulus bill, as we've reported for several weeks, gave mass transit the short end of the stick in favor of $30 billion for highways with no requirement that repairs be prioritized over new road-building.

But according to a confidential summary of the final stimulus deal that we've just been passed (view it here), mass transit got some more attention in the end. Amtrak and high-speed rail programs got $9.3 billion, an increase of about $6 billion from the Senate's version of the stimulus.

Still, environmentally sustainable transportation didn't completely win the day. A $5.5 billion transit-modernizing grant program eagerly anticipated by environmental advocates, which senators at first wanted to open up to highways, was removed entirely from the final stimulus deal.

Congress did agree on $8.4 billion for general public transportation grants, however. Vice President Biden (D-Amtrak), if you had any role in this: thanks.

Late Update: N.B. Until legislative language is formally filed on the bill today, there's always the possibility that these numbers could change. What we're bringing you are the freshest details.

Late Late Update: The sun has set in Washington, but the town is still on pins and needles over the actual text of the stimulus deal. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) has issued a statement promising that the language "will be filed this evening, giving members enough time to review the [stimulus] conference report before voting on it tomorrow afternoon."

That means most rank-and-file lawmakers in both parties will have about 12 hours -- including slumber time -- to digest the bill, which is likely to run past the 300-page mark, before debate begins at 9am tomorrow.

We'll let you know first thing about the fate of executive pay limits and other remaining unknowns in the final stimulus, which is likely to be signed into law by President Obama before Monday. In the meantime, check out the details of the tax and health care provisions that made it in.

Thanks to a reader who sent us the final numbers on what's in and out of the final stimulus bill, we can finally start digging into the substance of the deal that's headed for approval by this weekend. (We have the charts of those internal numbers for you right here.)

Here's the first thing I noticed: Remember when we told you about the Senate's attempt to sneak in a $2 billion earmark for FutureGen, the Illinois "clean coal" plant? That's been zeroed out in the final stimulus pact.

As strange as this sounds, score one for Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK).

Late Update: N.B. Until legislative language is formally filed on the bill today, there's always the possibility that these numbers could change. What we're bringing you are the freshest details.

House Democratic aides haven't formally released the details of the stimulus deal yet, but we've got the information -- thanks to the reader who sent it in.

Note that the school-building fund sought by House Democrats, which sparked an internal tussle between Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), is nowhere to be found in the final stimulus. Instead, school repairs will be paid for using part of the states' $54 billion "stabilization fund," which was brought up $15 billion above the Senate's original number.

But no matter how you slice it, the Senate won that fight.

Michael Steele has a new op-ed posted at USA Today, promoting the GOP's continuing assertion that their stimulus plan has numbers to back up its superiority over the Dem bill:

Republicans have a better solution: an economic recovery plan that lets families and small businesses keep more of what they earn. By our analysis, the Republican plan would create 6.2 million jobs, twice the number created under the Democrats' plan, at half the cost.


Again, it needs to be asked where they got this from. As we've previously reported, this came from altering the base numbers in an economic analysis that Christina Romer, who is now serving as chair of the Council of Economic Advisers, wrote a year ago -- well before the current crisis of a deflationary economy had come into play.

There are two problems here. First, that paper didn't actually examine tax cuts, but instead looked at the negative effects of tax increases under normal circumstances. The Republicans' predictions about tax cuts come from flipping the numbers around and assuming the mirror-image effects.

And furthermore, they've totally ignored the fact that we are in an abnormal scenario right now, with different fundamental underlying assumptions.

But hey, never let that stop you from some good political spin.

Late Update: Hmm, Eric Cantor is doing it, too.

A new Rasmussen poll suggests that support for the stimulus plan has picked up again, after it had previously fallen last week.

The numbers: 44% favor the package, 40% oppose it, and the remainder are undecided. The margin of error is ±3%.

Last week, Rasmussen showed support at an upside-down 37%-43%, a number that was immediately pushed hard by Republicans. For example, Karl Rove cited Rasmussen just this morning in his Wall St. Journal column, as a sign of how support had fallen.

Also consider that Rasmussen has consistently shown lower support for the plan than other firms have charted, but the positive movement is clear.

And so here's the problem with hanging your hopes on this week's poll. It remains to be seen whether this new survey will also be promoted by the GOP to the same degree that last week's was.

As we're thinking about President Obama's quest for "post-partisanship," and discussing Congress' habit of legislating in a messy rush, it's worth asking: Has Washington always been plagued by feuds over access and transparency?

Here's one answer: Can you guess the year that this Senate coverage was published in the New York Times?

No conclusion of any kind regarding the tariff bill was reached, although the Republicans said they hoped to be able to report the bill to the full committee on Monday. ... [T]he Democrats would not agree to fix a date, saying they wanted a reasonable time to consider the bill, and there would be no undue delay. The Democrats were not shown a copy of the bill, nor did they receive any information regarding its character.

Read More →

It's worth taking a second to knock down a piece of rapidly emerging spin about those "very generous" "retention payments" that Morgan Stanley announced for its financial advisers last week, (as well as those of Smith Barney, with which its soon to merge) according to audio obtained by the Huffington Post.

The New York Times reports:

James Wiggins, a Morgan Stanley spokesman, said that such payments were necessary and would come out of operating revenue, not government bailout funds.


Wiggins gave Huffington Post the same line yesterday.

But Dean Baker, of the Center for Economic and Policy Research dispenses with this quickly, writing on his blog at the American Prospect:
Since money is fungible, this comment doesn't make any sense.


Incidentally, a Morgan Stanley spokeswoman gave us the same line about operating expenses when we called about the payments yesterday. But, given that, as Baker says, money is fungible, it didn't seem worth reporting.

During the first six years of the Bush administration, when Republicans controlled both the White House and Congress, they were rightly infamous for ramming through controversial bills without giving Democrats time to read the legislation -- let alone provide any input or offer amendments.

The tales of abusive and aggressive GOP behavior are legion, from one chairman cutting off Democrats' mikes when he grew tired of a hearing on the Patriot Act to another chairman's snide crack that House-Senate conference talks were only open to members of Bush's "coalition of the willing."

John Cole, at Balloon Juice, references the latter episode to argue that GOPers should stop complaining and be grateful that Democrats allowed them into a televised conference meeting yesterday. He misses the point entirely. Here's why the most loyal Democrat should be concerned -- not angry, not ready to write off the Obama administration, but concerned -- about what happened.

Read More →

So is it really just a fringe, loony-left view that the former Bush Administration should be investigated? Not at all, according to a new Gallup poll -- but there isn't a clear verdict on what exactly should be done.

A significant plurality favor outright criminal probes, though they are not a majority. Another portion prefer an independent investigation by a special panel:

Possible attempts to use Justice Dept. for political purposes:
Criminal investigation, 41%; Investigation by independent panel, 30%; Neither, 25%

Possible use of telephone wiretaps without a warrant:
Criminal investigation, 38%; Investigation by independent panel, 25%; Neither, 34%

Possible use of torture in terror interrogations:
Criminal investigation, 38%; Investigation by independent panel, 24%; Neither, 34%


As you would expect, majorities of Democrats favor criminal probes, Republicans largely oppose doing anything, and independents correspond pretty closely with the top-line numbers.

Gallup leads in their analysis with the criminal-probe response being a minority, but this seems to miss the larger point: A majority clearly favor doing something to investigate the Bush Administration -- though exactly what the something should be is a whole other argument. But if there is any kind of option that can be characterized as way out there, it's the position that we should do nothing.

(Via Greg Sargent)

TPMLivewire