Given how extreme the failure of Wall Street was that caused the 2008 crisis, the financial reform bill passed by Congress last year, Dodd-Frank, is pretty weak tea. It's riddled with giant loopholes, defers many of the biggest decisions to the same regulatory agencies who failed us in the first place, and, most significantly, allows the banks that needed a $4.6 trillion bailout because they were "too big to fail" to become even bigger. Dodd-Frank was largely an exercise in passing a bill for the sake of appearing to have done something. Unfortunately, Congress seem to have fooled a lot of people out there, especially those who work for popular newspapers, into believing that they have fixed the problems.Read Full Article Comments (5)
The banking industry lost a vote on Capitol Hill yesterday for what seems like the first time since the first TARP attempt was rejected in 2008. The question was if the Federal Reserve's new rules limiting how much banks can charge retailers for debit transactions, as mandated by last year's financial regulatory overhaul bill, should go into effect this summer as scheduled or be delayed for a year, giving banks more time to lobby against it. In the end, a majority of the Senate voted in favor of the delay (54-45) but it wasn't enough to overcome a procedural hurdle and it was ultimately rejected.Read Full Article Comments (3)
Yesterday I wrote about the Senate's latest attempt to actually do something about the unemployment crisis. Majority Leader Harry Reid [D, NV] called on the Senate to proceed to the bipartisan Economic Development Revitalization Act of 2011, which reauthorizes the Economic Development Administration to make grants to struggling communities for the purpose of creating and retaining jobs. Yesterday the Senate did something they rarely do these days -- they actually agreed to drop a pending filibuster and move to debate the bill by unanimous consent. That's progress, but here's the problem. The bill has already been loaded up with dozens of unrelated, controversial amendments, and if senators exercise their right to insist on holding votes on them, there is almost no way this non-controversial, bipartisan jobs bill will survive.Read Full Article Submit a Comment
David and I spent the past couple days in New York City attending the 2011 Personal Democracy Forum. PDF is, in my opinion, the absolute best tech-politics event going. Every year it brings together folks from around the world, from inside and outside of government, and from across political spectrums to talk about how technology is affecting the way people interact with the world and what we should be doing to ensure it is advancing freedom and self governance, not censorship and authoritarianism. This year's theme was "Agents of Change" --- here's video of few of the most memorable moments.Read Full Article Comments (7)
After renewing the PATRIOT Act and taking some time off, the Senate is ready to try again to do something related to the unemployment crisis we are stuck in. In April they spent weeks working on asmall business jobs bill, only to see it filibustered in the end over a controversial amendment. Now they're going to try the Economic Development Revitalization Act of 2011, which would reauthorize and expand the grant-making Economic Development Administration through 2015. Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid [D, NV] has filed for cloture on the bill, but he's hoping to reach a unanimous consent agreement to proceed to it this afternoon.Read Full Article Comments (2)
It looks like another married congressman from New York may have been sending topless pictures of himself to women on the internet. In revelations reminiscent of theRep. Chris Lee [R, NY-26] scandal in February that ended in resignation and ultimately a flip in the party hold of the seat, Andrew Breitbart reports for BigGovernment that Rep. Anthony Weiner [D, NY-9] recently emailed topless pictures of himself to a woman who is not his wife. At the same time, Radar Online is reporting that Weiner had engaged in some pretty heavy sexting and phone sex with a Democratic campaign staffRead Full Article Comments (2)
The House is out of session for the week, as the Senate returns to D.C. from their week off. Because the Senate does a horrible job of making their legislative intentions known in advance, for the most part we can only guess what they'll be up to. First here's what we know for sureRead Full Article Submit a Comment
House Republicans have finally decided on how to deal with the growing discontent over that pesky, probably unconstitutional war in Libya. They're going to put the Dennis Kucinich [D, OH-10] withdrawalresolution that they pulled from the floor earlier in the week because it might have passed back on the calendar for a vote Friday. But they're also going to hold a vote on a new, non-binding resolution, from Speaker John Boehner [R, OH-8], that criticizes that Obama for not go through the proper channels in authorizing the war and requiring him to provide Congress with detailed info about the rationale behind getting involved. The strategy: give anti-war and constitutionalist Reps. something meaningful to vote for, but also give middle-of-the-road Reps. a way to allow Obama to continue his war but still be able to tell their constituents that they voted against it.Read Full Article Comments (8)
More "tough choices" revealed in the latest House appropriations bill:
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House Republicans unveiled a scaled-back $30.6 billion energy and water budget Wednesday that makes deep cuts from energy efficiency and renewable energy programs while trying to stabilize science and defense investments within tighter spending caps. […]
Within the Department of Energy, for example, science programs are held stable at $4.8 billion—just $42 million below the agreed upon 2011 level. And in the defense field, nuclear weapon activities are promised nearly $7.1 billion, a cut from the department’s request but still $195 million over 2011.
By comparison, energy efficiency and renewable energy programs are big losers. Total funding in this sector is set at $1.3 billion, less than half of President Barack Obama’s request and $491 million below current funding.
Yesterday, House Republican leadership pulled Rep. Dennis Kucinich's [D, OH-10] resolution forcing an end to U.S. involvement in Libya from the floor after it became clear that it may have actually passed. The Republicans either don't want to give Kucinich a win, or they don't actually want to get in the way of the expansion of presidential war authority. They do, however, want to take the opportunity to embarrass Obama. And they want to at least appear to defend Congress' constitutional role as the sole war-declaring power. So they're in a bit of a pickle.Read Full Article Comments (1)
The House Republican leadership is worried that Congress might stand up to the Obama Administration and assert its constitutional prerogative as the only branch of government that can declare war. The House was scheduled to vote this afternoon on a a privileged resolution from Rep. Dennis Kucinich [D, OH-10]directing the President, pursuant to the War Powers Act, to remove U.S. armed forces from Libya. But the House leadership has pulled it from the floor because, according to Republican aides who spoke with Fox News, "it became clear that it might succeed."Read Full Article Comments (48)
Last session, one of the few truly bipartisan things Congress accomplished was enacting new food safety legislation, designed to increase the Food and Drug Administration's regulatory authority over the food chain in order to prevent food-borne illness outbreaks. It passed 73-25 in the Senate and 283-142 in the House. But under the House Republicans' proposed budget, the FDA would not receive the extra money authorized by Congress last year to start implementing the new food safety law. In fact, they would see their budget cut below current operating levels.Read Full Article Comments (6)
The House kicks things off this week with a vote on raising the debt ceiling by more than $2 trillion. But don't worry, it won't pass. The Republicans have put the bill on the calendar in order to prove a point. By allowing a vote on it and watching it get voted down, they hope to get more leverage over the Democrats in the battle over attaching spending cuts to the debt bill.
However, the fact that this debt ceiling bill is so clearly symbolic makes it a less effective bargaining move. Or at least it should. The Republicans have put it on the suspensions calendar, which means that it would take a 2/3rds majority to pass. That's just not realistic. Of the 11 times the debt ceiling has been raised since 1997, only once has it had 2/3rds support in the House. Furthermore, the Republican leadership is not whipping this, so there is no reason for anyone to vote for it. Raising the debt ceiling has always been something that the majority-party leadership forces their caucus to do, against the political instincts of individual members, for the common good.Read Full Article Comments (1)
Sen. Rand Paul [R, KY] has introduced several amendments to the PATRIOT ACT reauthorization bill that would add oversight to the government's spying powers and rein in their abuses, but it's his amendment to give gun owners special protections that he seems to care about most. According to reports, Majority Leader Harry Reid [D, NV] and Paul are closing in on a deal to allow a vote on the gun amendment, and another minor one on suspicious activity reports, in exchange for Paul dropping his filibuster of the bill and letting it come to a final vote. All of the amendments to reform the PATRIOT Act for all citizens, from Paul and other senators, will be left out of the deal.Read Full Article Comments (8)
Just as the Senate is about to approve a long-term reauthorization of the PATRIOT Act's surveillance provisions, without any reforms, Sen. Ron Wyden [D, OR] warns that the government is secretly using the provisions to justify surveillance activities that go beyond what we have been told.Read Full Article Comments (1)