Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Boehner didn't have the Nancy Pelosi stepped up and saved his @#$#....

From David Corn:

When the voting began on the controversial—and ugly [1]—debt ceiling bill in the House of Representatives on Monday, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), the Democratic leader, did not know how many votes House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) had for the measure that had been crafted by President Barack Obama and the Republicans. Boehner had not reached out to her to make certain that the crucial legislation designed to prevent a potentially disastrous US default would be approved. When Boehner "went to the table"—brought the bill to a vote—he "had no idea" how many votes he had, Pelosi says.

The speaker, as it turned out, did not have enough Republican votes to pass the bill—only 174—and he had made no arrangement to guarantee its success. When there were minutes left for the vote, and it became apparent that Boehner would fall far short of the 216 votes necessary for passage, Pelosi's Democrats began voting in favor of the measure. "We were not going to let it go down," she told a small group of journalists on Wednesday morning.

In past years, a House speaker and the leader of the opposition would probably confer before such a crucial vote and figure out how to move the legislation through the chamber. (Boehner and Pelosi both were supporting this bill, albeit Pelosi quite reluctantly.) And many outside observers assumed that Boehner and Pelosi had indeed convened prior to this vote, that a conversation such as this had occurred: Nancy, I can get up to 170 or so votes, but not all those tea party guys. John, I can tell you that at least 50 Democrats are going to hold their noses and vote for this stinker. Yet when the final dramatic vote arrived, Pelosi was surprised that Boehner was so short of the magic 216. "When they didn't come to us for votes," Pelosi recalls, "we thought they had the votes on their own."

But Boehner didn't. So the Democrats, having waited to see how many Republicans would back the measure, started filling in the gap. Pelosi didn't have to send any signal. Her Democrats, she says, are a "sophisticated" group, and they could see that without Democratic support the bill would fail.

In a routine situation, if the House speaker were to bring a bill to the floor and only obtain 174 votes of his or her own party, he or she would pull the legislation and then talk to the other side, which would expect concessions or sweeteners in return for the votes necessary to assemble a majority. In this case, Pelosi maintains, there was no time for further bargaining. The measure had to be approved and kicked over to the Senate, for the possibility of default loomed. "I don't know nobody [in the Democratic caucus] who wanted to vote for it," Pelosi notes. But Democrats were committed to forestalling default. In the end, half of her caucus supported the measure, far more than necessary to put it over the top.

Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) was one Democrat who voted against the measure, which mandates deep cuts in discretionary spending and sets up a commission to propose further cuts (and possibly revenue hikes). He argued that the legislation was a lousy deal and could lead to significant cuts in programs crucial to low- and middle-income Americans, without imposing any burdens on the well-to-do. If the Democrats were to balk and vote against it, he contended at the time, Congress would be forced to pass quickly a measure that would raise the debt ceiling (and prevent default) for at least a short period of time. Why didn't Pelosi, who hardly fancied this debt measure, adopt such a course? Frank, she says, was "probably conveying" his own sense of decency upon others—meaning he was granting GOPers the benefit of the doubt, and Pelosi didn't trust the Republicans to forestall default by agreeing to a temporary measure. Default, she notes, "would have been terrible," and blame for it would have landed at the doorsteps of Obama and the Republicans.

So to prevent default, Pelosi held her nose and halfheartedly encouraged fellow Democrats to vote for legislation that she insists will "deter economic growth [5]." This fight, she adds, was not propelled by Republican concern for deficit reduction; it was "about destroying the public space"—that is, the tea party's desire to weaken government. And this battle, she concedes, has reinforced the Republicans' economic message: "Debt is everything." It has demonstrated that the tea party has succeeded, as she puts it, in changing the "arena."

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

TPM: Way to go Liberals, you let the Teabaggers punk you...again.

Once again, according to TPM, the passive among you bear an awesome responsibility for the outcome of the Debt Ceiling Debate:

A telephone poll by the Pew Research Center for People and Press found that Republicans and Tea Party-affiliated respondents both paid more attention to the debt negotiations and were more likely to take action to influence the outcome.

Some 66% of the two groups followed news on the issue closely versus only 34% of those who had different views or did not offer a political opinion. Nor were they passive observers: some 66% of Republicans and Tea Partiers contacted an elected official during the standoff while only 5% of the rest did the same. This despite a direct appeal from President Obama to do exactly that.

As was the case in the midterm election, age was a crucial factor. Only 19% of 18-29 year-olds followed the story closely and 1% contacted an official versus 54% of those over 50 who followed the debate and 16% who contacted an official.

You need to update your FAA/Democratic Cave in meme/story @TPM!

Just after the Debt Ceiling vote, we got this from Talking Points Memo:

With the debt-ceiling crisis now averted (for now), Congress still hasn't settled a lesser, but still quite important, problem: A partial shutdown of the Federal Aviation Administration, which has furloughed thousands of employees and hit the pause button on construction projects.

But fear not, Democrats could be on the verge of resolving the situation in a similar manner as they did the debt ceiling: By accepting Republican conditions.

Well, according to the Washington Post...

A partisan stalemate that has partially shut down the Federal Aviation Administration will continue into September, stopping airport construction projects and depriving federal coffers of potentially more than $1 billion in uncollected ticket taxes, after congressional attempts to reach deal fell through on Tuesday.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., initially told reporters that he would be willing to accept a House Republican bill to restore the FAA’s operating authority even though it contained cuts in subsidies for rural air service that some Democrats oppose. But he later reversed course after a possible deal with House Republicans had fallen through.

President Obama Delivers a Statement on Debt Compromise (VIDEO)

President Obama delivers a statement in the Rose Garden of the White House on the debt compromise passed by both houses of Congress to reduce the deficit and avert a default that would have devastated our economy. August 2, 2011.

"There's no doubt that the Supercommitee will fail..." (VIDEO)

More on the Debt Ceiling deal, which Lawrence is very unhappy about, but the key thing here are Bob Greenstein and Jared Bernstein.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

"The stupidest Deficit Reduction Package in history"... (VIDEO)

Like I said, Lawrence lays out the details, and doesn't seem happy about them. But since I put him up when he was praising the President, I'd best put him up when he's ripping him.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Lawrence O'Donnell with Ari Melber and (more importantly) Jonathan Alter (VIDEO)

Lawrence, like Chris Matthews, isn't happy with the President., now that it's all said and done, but Jonathan Alter had some words of wisdom for him and for us.

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A Washington Post Video containing a little bit of Ezra's interview with Alice Rivlin (VIDEO)

Chris Matthews hates the Debt Ceiling Deal, but wants you to remember this number (VIDEO)

Monday, August 1, 2011

The best thing I've seen in months (VIDEO)

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How to feel about the Debt Ceiling deal, and more detail about what's in it... (VIDEO)

Announcing the deal:

Spinning the deal:

My biggest problem with the deal is that there’s a deal in the first place. The details of the deal don’t matter to me so much as the philosophy behind it. I don’t believe we are in a position to start cutting stuff right now. Virtually the entirety of the Stimulus’s impact (and I thought it was positive) has been blunted by equally heavy budget cuts at the state level

So now, we’ve decided to spread Austerity to the Federal level as well.

And yes, I'm referring to Austerity like a disease...because it is.

So look at what we got, and tell me, does it really matter in the scheme of things? What’s the point when we start to cut at the worst possible time to start cutting?

As for the deal, here’s what we (Democrats) got:

  • A debt-limit increase large enough to provide the government borrowing power to pay bills through 2012.
  • A special congressional committee to consider broad deficit reduction can consider tax reform along with entitlement changes.
  • If the committee's recommendations are not adopted, half of the automatic spending cuts to follow would come from defense.
  • If the committee's recommendations are not adopted, programs for the poor, including Medicaid and Social Security, would be shielded from the automatic spending cuts to follow.

Here’s what we (Democrats) gave:

  • The deal includes immediate spending cuts of about $1 trillion but no tax increases.
  • If the special congressional committee's recommendations are not adopted, consequences include spending cuts but no tax increases.
  • If the special committee's recommendations are not adopted, Medicare provider payments are not shielded from the automatic spending cuts to follow.
This came via the Washington Post. I like the fact that it highlights the Debt Ceiling increase as a Democratic get, even though its supposed to be (and would normally be) an American “get”. Clearly, the Republicans did not give a shit about whether we defaulted or not, just like they don't give a shit about the deficit.

Here’s what they (Republicans) got (also, they produced the slide above):

  • No tax increases.
  • $1 trillion in cuts to discretionary spending over the next 10 years.
  • A special congressional committee to consider broader deficit reduction can consider entitlement changes along with tax reform.
  • The debt-ceiling increase will be matched dollar for dollar in deficit reduction, through adoption of the work of a new congressional fiscal committee or through automatic spending cuts that will occur if the committee's recommendations are not adopted.
  • If the committee's recommendations are not adopted, half of the automatic spending cuts to follow would come from domestic programs.

Here’s what they (Republicans) gave:

  • The immediate deal includes no entitlement reform.
  • The immediate spending are cuts less than the GOP had sought.
  • The special congressional committee could consider tax reform.
  • If the special congressional committee's recommendations are not adopted, half of the automatic spending cuts to follow would come from defense.

I mentioned this last night as a question, but I’ve had a change of heart. I’m starting to feel one of the benefits of this deal might be that it lays the groundwork and terms for the next Budget Fight. What I want to see is if this is voted on, will the Tea Party renege on the deal, and demand even more cuts?  My bet is that they will, and how will America see them then?

Jonathan Bernstein: Addressing Liberal Ire...

To answer that question, Bernstein goes back into our recent history:

[Matthew] Dickinson ends [an earlier referenced piece by] asking a great question:

[M]aybe some of you can tell me why so many very smart people have, since the day Obama was inaugurated, deluded themselves into thinking that this admittedly very smart man, albeit one with limited political experience at the national level, was somehow going to step into office and proceed to rewrite the political laws that have governed presidential politics for the last two centuries?

I have a two part answer.

Part one covers 2009-2010, and is pretty basic: lots of people just don't understand the limitations of the presidency within the political system. There's some of that now, too.

Part two covers this past few weeks, and is much more speculative, but perhaps therefore more interesting.

Here's what I think happened -- and I'm really mainly talking about elite-level Democrats, here.

In 1994, elite-level Democrats were absolutely stunned by the GOP landslide. They believed that it ushered in an era in which conservatives would dominate government for years, reversing most of the gains of the past sixty years. Bill Clinton was certainly toast, and Newt Gingrich was a genius. And then it didn't quite work out that way; Newt imploded, Clinton was re-elected and was very popular for the last five years of his presidency, and Clinton "won" the 1995-1996 showdown. Of course, there's an awful lot of fine print to that, including the GOP holding Congress for another decade, and very real policy gains by the Republicans in the settlement of that showdown.

But then, when history repeated itself in 2008-2010, I think a lot of liberals were a lot less stunned. Instead of expecting huge policy losses, they remembered the Clinton "win" and expected the Tea Partiers to be just as inept as Newt had been. In the event, I think the Tea Partiers were in fact pretty inept, while John Boehner could govern circles around Newt Gingrich...but that's not really what's important. What's important is that liberals in 1995 had unrealistically low expectations and were pleasantly surprised -- which produced liberals in 2011 who had unrealistically high expectations, and were bitterly disappointed.

Or, to put it another way: I think a lot of what's hitting liberals over the last couple of weeks is a delayed reaction to the severity of the Republican landslide of 2010. And I'm not at all convinced that the policy changes so far this year are any worse for Democrats than the policy changes in 1995-1996.

Of course, there's a long way to go with the 112th Congress, beginning with the uncertain votes to actually pass this thing today, and then continuing with FY 2012 appropriations this fall. So perhaps liberals will still turn out to be correct about the overall (lack of) effectiveness of the president. And no question: from a liberal point of view, this turn in policy is basically a disaster, and it's also a disaster from a mainstream economics point of view (although almost certainly not as big a disaster as two more weeks of stalemate would have been). Moreover, there's nothing at all wrong with realistic criticisms of the president's negotiating record. But to be realistic, those criticisms need to take into account the actual bargaining strength and positions of everyone involved, most of which has very little to do with Barack Obama.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

And now, the details (of the Debt Ceiling Deal)...

Via TPM:

The deal works like this:

It guarantees the debt limit will be hiked by $2.4 trillion. Immediately upon enactment of the plan, the Treasury will be granted $400 billion of new borrowing authority, after which President Obama will be allowed to extend the debt limit by $500 billion, subject to a vote of disapproval by Congress.

That initial $900 billion will be paired with $900 billion of discretionary spending cuts, first identified in a weeks-old bipartisan working group led by Vice President Joe Biden, which will be spread out over 10 years.

Obama will later be able to raise the debt limit by $1.5 trillion, again subject to a vote of disapproval by Congress.

That will be paired with the formation of a Congressional committee tasked with reducing deficits by a minimum of $1.2 trillion. That reduction can come from spending cuts, tax increases or a mixture thereof.

If the committee fails to reach $1.2 trillion, it will trigger an automatic across the board spending cut, half from domestic spending, half from defense spending, of $1.5 trillion. The domestic cuts come from Medicare providers, but Medicaid and Social Security would be exempted. The enforcement mechanism carves out programs that help the poor and veterans as well.

If the committee finds $1.5 trillion or more in savings, the enforcement mechanism would not be triggered. That's because Republicans are insisting on a dollar-for-dollar match between deficit reduction and new borrowing authority, and $900 billion plus $1.5 trillion add up to $2.4 trillion.

However, if the committee finds somewhere between $1.2 and $1.5 trillion in savings, the balance will be made up by the corresponding percentage of the enforcement mechanism's cuts, still in a one-to-one ratio.

Democrats say they're confident that the enforcement mechanism is robust enough to convince Democrats and Republicans to deal fairly on the committee -- to come up with a somewhat balanced package of entitlement reforms and tax increases. However, the White House assures them that if the committee fails to produce "tax reform" he will veto any attempt to extend the Bush tax cuts, which expire at the end of next year.

Unclear, though, is what happens if the committee does agree on tax reform, but in a way that produces insubstantial revenue. If such a plan passes Congress, Obama would be hard pressed to veto it, even if it took the expiration of the Bush tax cuts out of the equation.

Basically the Democrats weren't total suckers. Revenue is still on the table for the "Supercommittee", and Medicare and Social Security seem to have been spared the axe.

The question for me now is...does this settle Budget Fight No. 3, which is coming up in September, or are we done for the year?

President Obama Delivers a Statement on Deficit Agreement (VIDEO)

President Obama delivers a statement to the press on announcing that the leaders of both parties have reached an agreement that will reduce the deficit and avoid default. July 31, 2011.