Goobergunch Political Report

30 July 2011

Ceiling Updates

Goobergunch @ 14:50 PT
Posted in: Education, Money and Finance

Yesterday, the revised Boehner bill passed the House, 218-210, and was immediately rejected by the Senate, 59-41. Surprise, surprise.

House Republicans then put the current Reid bill up for a vote today. A 2/3 supermajority was required for passage, so this vote—173-246—was just for show. The House then adjourned for the weekend. The next House votes are expected at about noon EDT on Monday.

The Senate remains in session and is scheduled to have a cloture vote on the Reid bill at 1 AM EDT tonight. 43 Republicans have signed a letter opposing the current bill. Since 60 votes are required to invoke cloture and bring the bill to a vote, that dooms the Reid bill unless changes are made.

The House and Senate bills really aren’t that far apart, but at this point I’m not detecting any hints of compromise from Republicans. Two and a half days to go…

UPDATE [21:31 CDT by Goobergunch]: That cloture vote got postponed until 1 PM EDT tomorrow, to buy Sen. Reid a bit more time to negotiate.

29 July 2011

Constitutional Blackmail

Goobergunch @ 12:26 PT
Posted in: Education, Money and Finance

The good news is that it seems the reports about Pell Grant cuts being required to raise the debt ceiling were wrong.

The bad news:

In section 301, in the matter proposed to be inserted as section 3101A(a)(2)(A) of title 31, United States Code, strike “is greater than $1,600,000,000,000” and insert “is greater than $1,600,000,000,000 and the Archivist of the United States has submitted to the States for their ratification a proposed amendment to the Constitution of the United States pursuant to a joint resolution entitled ‘Joint resolution proposing a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution of the United States’”.

The primary reason I refused to talk about the “Cut, Cap, and Balance Bill” was that it’s blatantly unrealistic to expect a constitutional amendment—which requires a 2/3 vote by both houses—to be approved as a precondition for raising the debt ceiling. With this amendment, the current House bill has been dragged down to that bill’s level.

As previously noted, this bill will die as soon as it hits the Senate. But if House Republicans only accept a debt ceiling increase if a constitutional amendment is approved by the Congress, then we’re screwed. The Constitution should only be amended after due deliberation, not as an emergency measure at the demands of a Congressional minority.

At this point, I really don’t know whether Speaker Boehner can bring a debt ceiling bill—any bill—that can pass both Houses. Such a bill would have to pass with substantial Democratic support, and would probably put John Boehner’s Speakership in major jeopardy. And at this point, there’s no sign that Boehner has even been talking to House Democrats.

Three and a half days to go…

28 July 2011

House Republicans in Disarray

Goobergunch @ 23:00 PT
Posted in: Education, Money and Finance

People taking pleasure in your pain!

The Boehner bill can’t pass the Senate, as every Democrat there has pledged to vote against it.

I may have neglected to add one failure state.

House Republican leaders have postponed indefinitely a vote on Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) debt-limit bill after they could not persuade enough Republicans to support the measure.


House conservatives who have stalled legislation to raise the national debt limit are angry that it includes $17 billion in supplemental spending for Pell Grants, which some compare to welfare.

The bill was already unacceptable to every single Democrat in Congress. I’m sure that making it harder for poor children to go to college will raise the number of Democratic votes from 0 to 0. Which means that the bill still dies as soon as it arrives in the Senate.

But policy aside, the big news story is that Speaker John Boehner can’t control his own caucus. Say what you want about Nancy Pelosi, but she could count votes. The inability of the House Republican leadership to pass the bill today is a huge embarrassment and doesn’t speak well for Boehner’s political future.

So where do we go from here? The House Rules Committee just approved a “martial law” rule, which permits same-day consideration of further Rules Committee measures. The “martial law” authority will run through 2 August, so any bill to raise the debt ceiling can be called up at short notice. The House convenes at 9 AM EDT tomorrow morning, and the Republicans will have a conference meeting at 10 AM. I’ll update when we know more.

If any of you thought the Republican pledge from the last election to hold an open and transparent legislative process was serious, I encourage you to kindly refrain from voting in the future. This is the exact “writing bills in the Speaker’s office” that Republicans campaigned against last fall.

And of course, even when this gets through the House, everything I said in my previous post holds. Four days left…

27 July 2011

Actually, Screw It

Goobergunch @ 23:00 PT
Posted in: Education, Money and Finance

The Boehner bill can’t pass the Senate, as every Democrat there has pledged to vote against it.

The Reid bill is liable to be filibustered to death in the Senate.

Even if it passes the Senate, the Reid bill won’t go to the House floor without changes.

At any rate:

The constant disagreements over the various proposals have masked a broader agreement on the need for an extended period of deficit reduction — “an era of austerity,” as Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi declared Monday. Both John Boehner and Harry Reid have proposed slashing $1.2 trillion in federal discretionary spending over the next 10 years and arming a bipartisan commission with procedural protections if they can agree on a plan with an even larger suite of cuts.


Similarly, authorities such as the International Monetary Fund have dismissed (pdf) the idea that austerity measures would help an economy such as the United States’ in the short term, pointing out that few cases exist where sharp cuts led to fast growth in countries where employment was robust, interest rates were high (so the monetary authorities could compensate for the cuts), and exports were strong — conditions that don’t apply to the United States. More normally, they concluded, “a fiscal consolidation equal to 1 percent of GDP typically reduces GDP by about 0.5 percent within two years and raises the unemployment rate by about 0.3 percentage point.”

This entire debt ceiling “crisis” is so infinitely stupid that it’s really not worth much of my mental energy. Of course, by no means is it the final crisis that we’ll see this Congress. There’s the new fiscal year that begins in October, just for starters.

Five days left…

26 July 2011

Countdown to Political Crisis

Goobergunch @ 23:00 PT
Posted in: Education, Money and Finance, Ways and Means

NITE OWL: Rorschach…? Rorschach, wait! Where are you going? This is too big to be hard-assed about! We have to compromise…
RORSCHACH: No. Not even in the face of armageddon. Never compromise.

I was going to write something up on the Boehner proposal for raising the debt ceiling (as embodied in the House Amendment to S. 627), because it’s the first actual legislative text that I’ve seen on this subject. (There are some specific provisions regarding student loans that I haven’t really seen discussed anywhere, for instance.) However:

Moments after the Congressional Budget Office released an analysis finding that the House Republicans’ debt limit bill falls far short of one their key goals, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) decided to rewrite the legislation, and according to GOP leadership, an expected Wednesday floor vote on the package will be delayed until Thursday at the earliest.

At this point it seems entirely possible that there are enough Republican hard-liners in the House to prevent any serious Republican-only proposal from passing that body, which will make the negotiations even more silly. It’ll be a bit harder for Boehner to take a hard line when he can’t get anything through his House. Of course, given that it’s looking like the bill will see large spending cuts and absolutely no tax increases in the name of deficit reduction (while unemployment remains high), I’d say the Republicans already won the policy battle. It’s just a question of how complete the victory will be.

One week to go. I’ll have a post on any bills that actually get written. We can only hope they look like this:

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That subsection (b) of section 3101 of title 31, United States Code, is amended by striking the dollar amount contained therein and inserting “$14,894,000,000,000″.

22 July 2011

The Hostages Begin To Fall

Goobergunch @ 22:00 PT
Posted in: Transportation, Ways and Means

The big political story, of course, continued to be the ongoing negotiations (or lack thereof) over the debt ceiling increase, now needed within eleven days. With the “Cut, Cap, and Balance Bill” vote being brought forward (surprise surprise, it failed 48-51), Congress won’t be back in session until Monday. But there’s another provision of law that expires today.

The Federal Aviation Administration faced a partial shutdown Saturday morning as Congress adjourned Friday without approving a routine stop-gap funding measure amid partisan acrimony.

More than 4,000 FAA workers, 1,000 of them in the Washington region, and tens of thousands of airport construction workers under FAA contract faced immediate furlough. The nation’s air travel system will not be affected, with air traffic controllers remaining on the job and airline operations continuing as normal.

While partisan wrangling continues regarding the full FAA reauthorization, House Republicans decided to insert a couple of the more contentious provisions (i.e. cuts to the Essential Air Service program) into the short-term extension. Senate Democrats balked, demanding a extension without policy changes. As no agreement could be made by today, the partial FAA shutdown begins at midnight.

I’m sure this news item will reassure everybody that a debt ceiling deal will be reached by 2 August.

20 July 2011

To Conference: Military/Veterans Appropriations

Goobergunch @ 17:00 PT
Posted in: Appropriations, Veterans' Affairs, War and National Defense

I’m as shocked as anybody to report that the Senate actually passed a bill today. Of course, the bill that passed was the Military/Veterans Appropriations Bill for FY2012, which is traditionally one of the least contentious appropriations bills. (The House version passed 411-5.) Today’s vote was 97-2, with only Senators Coburn (R-OK) and Corker (R-TN) voting no.

The House-passed bill would spend $142,032,269,000 on FY2012 military construction and veterans’ affairs, while the Senate-passed bill would spend $142,029,599,000, a difference of only $2,670,000. As I don’t think there are any major policy disagreements between the two bills, I’d hope that this is a favorable sign that Congress might get its first appropriations bill out of the way early. Of course, considering the current levels of Congressional gridlock, there’s no guarantee.

And of course, there are only thirteen days left before default. Surprisingly, the next order of business in the Senate will be the “Cut, Cap, and Balance Bill” (summary) that the House passed yesterday, with a cloture vote on the motion to occur on Saturday morning. As tying the debt ceiling increase to passage of a controversial (and in my opinion, really dumb) constitutional amendment does not constitute a serious proposal to raise the debt ceiling, I continue to wait for something actually real to emerge. In the meantime, I expect the cloture vote to fail.

19 July 2011

And The First Iowa Delegate Goes To…

Goobergunch @ 18:00 PT
Posted in: Election 2012

Yeah, I know, the Iowa caucuses aren’t for several months. But:

Marking the first GOP national committee member from any of the four early-voting states to back a candidate in the presidential race, Iowa’s Republican National Committeewoman will endorse Rick Santorum for president on Tuesday, POLITICO has learned.

So Santorum becomes the third candidate to have a delegate supporting him.

I’ll have something up on the debt ceiling bills when one actually materializes. One that might actually pass. (Sorry, supporters of the “Cut, Cap, and Balance Act”.)

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