In debt drama, voters play key, if overlooked role (AP)

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 31-07-2011-05-2008

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AP – Dear voter: Want to know why Democrats and Republicans in Congress find it so hard to work together to solve tough problems like the debt ceiling, health care and Social Security?

Niceness aside, Huntsman finds fault with rivals (AP)

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 31-07-2011-05-2008

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In this July 26, 2011, photo, Republican presidential candidate, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman speaks during a lecture series Leading Voices in Politics and Policy at Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H. A diplomat to the core, Huntsman is well known in Salt Lake City as a likable guy who prefers compromise to combativeness. Niceness is such a strong part of his persona that the Republican pledged to run a civil campaign for president. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)AP – A diplomat to the core, Jon Huntsman is well known here as a likable guy who prefers compromise to combativeness. Niceness is such a strong part of his persona that the Republican pledged to run a civil campaign for president.

In debt debate, pols drive off metaphorical cliff (AP)

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 31-07-2011-05-2008

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FILE - In this July 28, 2011, file photo House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio speaks at a Capitol Hill news conference in Washington about the debt crisis showdown. The debate has triggered a spiral of rhetorical one-upmanship that has all sides stretching for new analogies and catchy one-liners to sway public opinion. Boehner contributed to the debate when he complained that negotiating with the White House was like 'dealing with Jell-O.' (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)AP – Not too long ago there was lofty talk of doing something big. Of a reasonable path. Of a grand bargain.

Midday open thread

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 31-07-2011-05-2008

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  • A message from the entire Massachusetts Democratic Congressional delegation:

  • This is how we enter the 2012 campaign season:

    Here’s how monumentally screwed up our national priorities are. Just two hours after the government’s Bureau of Economic Analysis released disastrous new figures indicating that GDP growth has essentially flat-lined, the president of the United States gave a brief address to the nation calling for both political parties to come to bipartisan compromise on “how to cut spending responsibly.”

    Obama was responding to Thursday night’s monumental failure by House Republicans to pass their own debt ceiling bill, after a revolt by conservatives who deemed the measure unsatisfactory because it doesn’t cut spending enough. With the default deadline only four days away, and at the end of a week when stock market indexes have already fallen by about 4 percent, when short-term credit markets are showing signs of stress and investors are pulling billions of dollars out of money market funds, the display of Republican incompetence was the last thing a nervous economy needs. A little reassurance that the White House was on top of the situation would have been sorely appreciated.

    Did I mention that this is how we enter the 2012 campaign season?

    Yes, we need a deal that avoids default. But if the GDP data proves anything, spending cuts shouldn’t be part of it. Shrinking state and local budgets are already a significant drag on growth. Consumer spending is weak. And yet everyone seems to agree: Obama, Republicans and Democrats, that the first order of business should be shrinking government even further, subtracting even more demand from the economy, and likely accelerating our economic decline.

    Call it whatever you want, but it is not pragmatic.

  • The Republicans are at war with the Earth itself:

    With the nation’s attention diverted by the drama over the debt ceiling, Republicans in the House of Representatives are loading up an appropriations bill with 39 ways — and counting — to significantly curtail environmental regulation.

    One would prevent the Bureau of Land Management from designating new wilderness areas for preservation. Another would severely restrict the Department of Interior’s ability to police mountaintop-removal mining. And then there is the call to allow new uranium prospecting near Grand Canyon National Park.

    There is little chance that all the 39 proposals identified by Democrats will be approved by the Senate, which they control, or that a substantial number could elude a presidential veto. In fact, one measure — to forbid the Fish and Wildlife Service to list any new plants or animals as endangered — was so extreme that 37 Republicans broke ranks Wednesday and voted to strip it from the bill.

  • Tom Friedman remains Tom Friedman.
  • There has been some good news, in the past couple of weeks:

    Pop the champagne corks. The Texas Board of Education has unanimously come down on the side of evolution. In a 14-0* vote, the board today approved scientifically accurate high school biology textbook supplements from established mainstream publishers — and did not approve the creationist-backed supplements from International Databases, LLC.

    “This is a huge victory for Texas students and teachers,” said Josh Rosenau, NCSE programs and policy director, who testified at the hearings this week. In his testimony, Rosenau urged the board to approve the supplements — recommended by a review panel largely composed of scientists and science educators — without amendments, and to reject International Databases’ creationist submission. The board did just that, and asked for only minimal changes to the approved supplements.

  • There has been violence in Tahrir Square as the Egyptian Revolution continues.
  • The Syrian government has reportedly responded to its people’s aspirations for freedom by disappearing 3000 of them.
  • Bear witness with broken hearts: some faces of the Norwegian dead.
  • The lies of climate denialists are easily revealed.
  • Joe Romm quotes this and then says it’s even worse:

    As the capital’s debt-limit drama enters its final act today, the last two solutions standing — one Democratic, one GOP — would slash long-term energy and environmental spending to a degree comparable with the fiscally austere deal struck to avert a springtime federal shutdown.

    The bipartisan alignment on knifing what is likely to be billions of dollars from U.S. EPA and the Energy and Interior departments’ budgets over the next 10 years is drawing little notice as the debt-limit talks hurtle toward a hectic climax marked by bitter intra-party tensions…

    Those long-term cuts refer to the panoply of domestic agency spending, from EPA air-pollution monitoring to DOE efficiency grants to many other non-energy or environmental programs. But on a more granular level, the 16 percent slice taken from EPA’s budget in the April shutdown deal could well be the shape of things to come for most non-defense federal programs, unless the final debt pact takes a turn toward the left.

    Go read.


Greg Sargent: GOP on verge of huge, unprecedented political victory

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 31-07-2011-05-2008

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Greg Sargent is looking at it the way we are:

By all accounts, it looks like a deal is about to be announced in which the debt ceiling is hiked in exchange for the promise of major spending cuts, including to entitlements, totaling at least $2.4 trillion.

Dave Weigel

Anything can happen, but it apppears the GOP is on the verge of pulling off a political victory that may be unprecedented in American history. Republicans may succeed in using the threat of a potential outcome that they themselves acknowledged would lead to national catastrophe as leverage to extract enormous concessions from Democrats, without giving up anything of any significance in return.

Not only that, but Republicans — in perhaps the most remarkable example of political up-is-downism in recent memory — cast their willingness to dangle the threat of national crisis as a brave and heroic effort they’d undertaken on behalf of the national interest. Only the threat of national crisis could force the immediate spending cuts supposedly necessary to prevent a far more epic crisis later.

Here’s more from ABC:

The agreement looks like this: if the super-committee tasked with entitlement and tax reform fails to come up with $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction that passes Congress, the “neutron bomb” goes off, — as one Democrat put it — spending cuts that will hit the Pentagon budget most deeply, as well as Medicare providers (not beneficiaries) and other programs.

If the super-committee comes up with some deficit reduction but not $1.5 trillion, the triggers would make up the difference.

So it’s a minimum $2.7 trillion deficit reduction deal.

And the debt ceiling will be raised by $2.4 trillion in two tranches: $900 billion immediately, and the debt ceiling will be raised by an additional $1.5 trillion next year – either through passage of a Balanced Budget Amendment, which is unlikely, or with Congress voting its disapproval..

Despite the claim on Twitter from unnamed White House officials that “its better than reported”, and even taking in to account the potential of the Bush tax cuts expiring, it’s hard to celebrate anything about rewarding hostage takers. And yeah, the tea party is hitting its high water mark, with many mainstream conservatives lambasting them.  

Helpful in the long run, but in the long run, as Keynes was fond of saying, we are all dead.


Reid bill defeated, senators await deal from White House

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 31-07-2011-05-2008

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The Hill reports:

The vote to end a GOP filibuster failed 50 to 49. Only Sen. Scott Brown, a centrist Republican from Massachusetts, defied the GOP leadership.

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) voted against Reid’s plan, as did Reid himself in a procedural move that will allow him to bring it back to the floor.

Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) was the only senator to miss the vote.

Yeah, you read that right. Former teabagger darling Sen. Scott Brown is a “centrist Republican.”

Lawmakers say they have been told the president and GOP leaders are closing in on a deal and expect one as soon as this afternoon. […]

Senators will wait for a bipartisan deal to be finalized and then will begin work on advancing it to the House. […]

A Democratic aide said if conservatives filibuster the deal, the soonest it could pass the Senate would be a Wednesday.

A short-term stopgap measure may be necessary to allow the government to pay its bills after Aug. 2. But such a Band Aid would need to receive unanimous consent to pass by Tuesday.

So both chambers of Congress, like the rest of the country, are now in wait-and-see mode, while the White House and GOP leaders try to hammer out a deal that could come as soon as today.

Additionally:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (R-Nev.) instructed senators to stay close to the Capitol Sunday afternoon as a deal was being furiously negotiated among congressional leaders and President Obama.

Stay tuned …


Reid’s bill goes down, compromise plan to be added as amendment

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 31-07-2011-05-2008

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Nate Silver earlier this morning

What happens next, from TPM:

That plan has been outmoded by a new plan hammered out by the White House and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, still being finalized. When it’s completed, it will be attached as an amendment to Reid’s bill (Reid will be able to recall that legislation by voting to filibuster his own plan, knowing it’s doomed anyhow).

And while we wait, here’s a piece from Ezra arguing that the Bush tax cuts are the undiscussed other side of the coin, the shoe that’s yet to drop.

It’s difficult to see how it could have ended otherwise. Virtually no Democrats are willing to go past Aug. 2 without raising the debt ceiling. Plenty of Republicans are prepared to blow through the deadline. That’s not a dynamic that lends itself to a deal. That’s a dynamic that lends itself to a ransom.

But Democrats will have their turn. On Dec. 31, 2012, three weeks before the end of President Barack Obama’s current term in office, the Bush tax cuts expire. Income tax rates will return to their Clinton-era levels. That amounts to a $3.6 trillion tax increase over 10 years, three or four times the $800 billion to $1.2 trillion in revenue increases that Obama and Speaker John Boehner were kicking around. And all Democrats need to do to secure that deal is…nothing.

That, of course, requires some trust in the White House to either stand firm or cut taxes in an election year.

Trust, we’ll note for the record, is currently in short supply.


Reid sees progress toward debt ceiling accord

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 31-07-2011-05-2008

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July 31: David Plouffe says there’s general agreement that deficit reduction will occur in two stages, with the second stage being trickier because of entitlement and tax reform.  (Meet the Press)Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told the Senate Sunday that negotiators were closing in on a debt limit package, but he warned that unresolved questions remained.

Obama: Crackdown in Syria is ‘horrifying’ (AP)

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 31-07-2011-05-2008

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AP – President Barack Obama is stepping up his criticism of Syria’s crackdown on protesters, charging that the Syrian president is “completely incapable and unwilling” to respond to what Obama calls the legitimate grievances of the Syrian people.

Senate in session to debate, vote on Reid debt ceiling bill

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 31-07-2011-05-2008

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(Yuri Gripas/Reuters)

With details of a “tentative agreement” emerging, the Senate is back in session for the cloture vote on Majority Leader Harry Reid’s debt ceiling bill.

The Senate came into session at noon ET for an hour of debate. Reid said he is “cautiously optimistic” but a “number of issues” still have to be resolved and “we’re not there yet.”

He also said, “I am satisfied the compromise being discussed at the White House adopts the Senate’s long-term approach.”

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell also said this morning that “we’re very close” to a deal.

TPM reports:

Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) on his way into the Senate early this afternoon. Coons said Senate Democrats were concerned about not being involved in the negotiations over raising the debt ceiling.

Coons said there are “a lot of rumors” but “nothing confirmed” about the path forward on a debt deal.

Meanwhile, the Progressive Caucus is “sufficiently spooked.”

Of course, the teabaggers aren’t happy either:

Tea party activists are bracing for disappointment as negotiations on the debt ceiling move closer to a deal, but sending a clear signal to congressional Republicans that they are even less willing to tolerate compromise and more likely to seek retribution against anyone who has not fully supported their agenda. […]

“If the final bill is passed by establishment Republicans and House Democrats and does not include a balanced budget amendment as a requirement, it will be completely unacceptable and will be seen as a violation of the mandate that the tea party and likeminded people gave Republicans in 2010,” said Ryan Hecker, the leader of a crowd-sourced tea party effort called the Contract from America.

You can watch the Senate in action on C-SPAN here.

10:28 AM PT: The yeas are 50, the nays are 49. The motion is not agreed to. Reid enters a motion to reconsider.

10:39 AM PT: And the Senate is now in recess.