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Financial Reform Bill Will Exempt Payday Loans

March 10, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

Some of the most absurd lending and borrowing happens in the payday loan industry. According to the Center for Responsible Lending (.pdf), the average payday loan borrower pays $800 for each $325 they borrow. That's an absolutely absurd interest rate, but according to the New York Times, the senators who are designing financial reform legislation are going to include a special carve-out so the industry can keep on dealing in these abusive loans:

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Airport Funding Bill Grounded By Union Issue

March 10, 2010 - by Eric Naing

A measure that would provide billions to fund the Federal Aviation Administration and modernize airport infrastructure is being held up over a provision that would allow FedEx workers to unionize as easily as UPS workers.

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Democrats Announce Corporate Earmarking Ban

March 10, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

The long-standing congressional tradition of directing federal money to corporations in your state or district, often in exchange for campaign contributions, may be coming to an end. Well, at least in appropriations bills.

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Wall St. Profiting From Stimulus Provision

March 10, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

A couple weeks ago, as Congress was debating whether or not to reauthorize the "Buy America Bonds" program that was created in the stimulus bill to help struggling state and local government borrow money more cheaply and create new jobs, Goldman Sachs ran an ad in the print edition of Politico pushing for the reauthorization to pass. That got some members of Congress thinking -- just how much taxpayer money are the big bailout banks keeping as profit from selling the bonds?

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As House Democrats struggle to round up the votes to pass the Senate health care bill, they're considering using more and more obscure parliamentary rules to help them. Politico reports: "Party leaders have discussed the possibility of using the House Rules Committee to avoid an actual vote on the Senate's bill, according to leadership aides. They would do this by writing what's called a "self-executing rule," meaning the Senate bill would be attached to a package of fixes being negotiated between the two chambers -- without an actual vote on the Senate's legislation."

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Treasury Dept. Opposes Fed Transparency

March 9, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

You would think the White House would get behind a proposal that is sponsored by a full 3/4ths of the House of Representatives, but they're not.

Ryan Grim of Huffington Post reported today from a briefing with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and a couple Treasury officials that they are "intensely opposed" to the Ron Paul-Alan Grayson bill to require a full audit of the Federal Reserve. The bill has  already passed the House as a part of the broader financial reform package (H.R.4173) and it is immensely popular with the public as well as Members of Congress -- the stand-alone version of it has 317 co-sponsors in the House and 33 sponsors in the Senate. According to sponsorship statistics, it's the most popular bill in Congress right now.

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Sources are telling The Hill that the Democrats have decided to add a bill to eliminate government subsidies to student loan companies to the budget reconciliation bill that will iron out the differences between the Senate and House health care bills.

Senate Democratic leaders have decided to pair an overhaul of federal student lending with healthcare reform, according to a Democratic official familiar with negotiations.

"It's going in," said the Democratic source, in reference to the student lending measure.

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Congress Links

March 9, 2010 - by Eric Naing

Here are a few articles and blog posts from today that you probably should check out:

  • Our colleague Paul Blumenthal at the Sunlight Foundation explains how energy industry donations tie into Sen. Blanche Lincoln's [D, AR] opposition to Environmental Protection Agency regulations of greenhouse gases. (The Sunlight Foundation)
  • Disgraced and outgoing Rep. Eric Massa [D, NY-29] was embraced by some conservatives for opposing President Obama's health care reform bill. The Weekly Standard warns that this will have consequences when the full details of Massa's actions comes to light. (The Weekly Standard)

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McCain Backs Away From His Own Vitamin Bill

March 9, 2010 - by Eric Naing

After receiving pushback from Sen. Orrin Hatch [R, UT], Sen. John McCain [R, AZ] has pulled his support for his own bill regulating vitamin supplement manufacturers. Some of Hatch's biggest donors, of course, are in the vitamin supplement industry.

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Highlighting Deficit Spending

March 9, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

Every politician loves an easy way to show their support for "transparency" and "fiscal responsibility." The Hill

In a rare 100-0 roll call vote, the Senate adopted an amendment offered by Sen. Tom Coburn [R, OK] that would create a running tally on the secretary of the Senate's website of any new mandatory spending that isn’t paid for through offsetting spending cuts or tax increases.

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The Senate health care bill already has language to let individual states opt out of the federal system and set up their own health care system. If a few changes were made to the language using the budget reconciliation sidecar, the provision could help shore up liberal votes in the House.

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Bennet Joins The Filibuster Reform Effort

March 9, 2010 - by Eric Naing

Freshman Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet [D, CO] has joined a handful of his Senate colleagues in the effort to reform the filibuster. The filibuster has long been used by both parties when they were in the minority to prevent the Senate from acting on certain measures. But starting with the 110th Congress, when Democrats took control of the House and Senate, the number of filibusters launched by the GOP has skyrocketed to historic levels.

Bennet last week introduced a Senate resolution (S.Res.440) that would not only limit a senator's ability to place anonymous holds, but would also make it easier for a majority party to break a filibuster. The Huffington Post's Sam Stein explains the rather byzantine way Bennet's resolution works:

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The Stupak 12

March 8, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

Rep. Bart Stupak [D, MI-1] is threatening to keep the House from passing the Senate health care bill (H.R. 3590) and potentially sink the whole health care reform process unless its language regarding abortion is amended to match the language he added to the House health care bill. The Senate bill already blocks federal funding from going towards abortion services, but Stupak wants it to prevent anyone buying insurance through the new Exchanges from purchasing a plan that covers elective abortions, even if they are buying the insurance plan entirely with their own money.

Stupak says that he has 11 Democrats who will vote "no" with him on the Senate bill if the abortion language isn't changed. That's enough to sink the bill. The names of the "Stupak 12" haven't been released, but Brian Beutler of TPM has whittled down various roll call and whip lists to produce a list that seems like it could be pretty accurate:

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Congress Links

March 8, 2010 - by Eric Naing

Here's is today's look at a few articles and blog posts of note from around the web:

  • A New York Times op-ed features a chart debunking the claim that budget reconciliation is an “arcane” procedure that has never been used “to adopt major, substantive policy change.” (The New York Times)
  • When California-based health insurer Anthem Blue Cross raised premiums by up to 39 percent, Democrats pounced. The Los Angeles Times explains how the premium hikes may have helped a derailed health care bill get back on track. (The Los Angeles Times)

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Should Congress Go Paperless?

March 8, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

Currently, when a bill is introduced into Congress, the Government Printing Office prints five copies of the text for each co-sponsor. That means that for H.R. 3962, the House's health care bill, which is 2,070 pages long and has 7 total sponsors, the GPO printed out a total of 72,450 pages. That's 151 reams.

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