Blanking Deals: Running in place, but fueling momentum

By Jonathan Blakely

Apr 28, 2010 8:00am

By Rick Klein: Is this another kind of deal that rhymes with “pretty”? For a third straight day, senators will convene on Wednesday to consider financial reform, and Democrats appear likely to lose another round. Yet Republicans are playing some defense at the moment. And they may not ultimately like taking the sides that leave them unified. For all the heady optimism of 2010 — as a new poll shows vast disaffection with incumbents, and even as a pair of special elections may allow them to start their winning streak a bit early… The signs are there from Arizona to Florida — in primaries and tea parties and filibusters alike. Some of the GOP’s leading lights are struggling with a new immigration law in Arizona that’s not likely to help the party with minority voters. In Florida, Gov. Charlie Crist stands on the precipice of going his own way — writing a story he’ll tell through the fall. And the Democrats are laying plans for November…. Meet the “Results Party.” DNC Chairman Tim Kaine, in remarks he’ll deliver to reporters at a luncheon in Washington Wednesday, previewing the fall strategy: “At a time when many Americans doubted the capacity of government to tackle and solve big problems, we have shown that we are the Results Party. We act decisively to solve problems that confront Americans in their homes, businesses, schools and communities. And, most of what we have done has been in the face of Republican obstruction trying to protect a special interest status quo that has not worked for the American people. So, voters will have a clear choice between continued progress and a return to the failed policies that created the biggest period of economic decline since the Great Depression.” “Republicans have obstructed the president and worked to defeat his and the Democrats’ agenda for one primary reason – political calculation. They have placed their own politics above progress on our nation’s most pressing issues.” More from Kaine: “Increasingly concerned about a demoralized base, Democratic Party leaders are accusing opponents of trying to delegitimize President Barack Obama and of preparing to suppress the votes of minority and poor voters in the November election,” The Wall Street Journal’s Jonathan Weisman and Peter Wallsten report. Kaine plans to say: “We know the Republican Party still seeks to suppress the vote and initiate arbitrary challenges, particularly challenging minority and low-income voters.” From the new DNC ad launching Wednesday on DC and national cable — to run through next week: “When it came to Wall Street reform that would protect consumers and prevent future bailouts… every Senate Republican voted no,” the ad states. “Republicans stood by as Wall Street ran wild. Tell Republicans — if they side with Wall Street over Main Street, you won’t be siding with them.” As things churn on the Hill — with a 12:20 vote on proceeding to the financial regulatory reform bill, the third such vote in three days… Goldman Sachs Chairman and CEO Lloyd Blankfein, to ABC’s Claire Shipman, on whether the firm shoulders some blame for the financial crisis: “Yes, we do. The financial system failed, and Goldman Sachs is a very influential member of the financial system. We have our share of the burden on that.” On the need for action: “Washington has a responsibility to respond to the events of the last several years by enacting some kind of financial reform.” Democrats are building on Blankfein — and what side would you want to be on? “Politicians like nothing more than a convenient foil, and Democrats locked in a stubborn impasse with Republicans over new rules to govern Wall Street believe they have found a gold-plated one in Goldman Sachs,” Carl Hulse reports in The New York Times. “The hearings were the culmination of a Democratic strategy to take full advantage of the opportunity created by the S.E.C. civil case.” “Obama aides are practically giddy about the turn of events,” The Washington Post’s Michael D. Shear reports. “The White House and Democratic allies are relishing the rhetorical gift that Republicans have given them. They have once again described the GOP as the party of “no.” And they have sought to paint them as the defenders of greedy and irresponsible Wall Street moguls.” President Obama, in Ottumwa, Iowa: “I’m not even asking them to vote for the bill. I just want to let them debate it,” he said, per ABC’s Jake Tapper and Sunlen Miller. “That’s the case that Democrats will be making over and over,” Tapper reported on “GMA.” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid: “Republicans will have more opportunities to show whose side they are truly on.” Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Bob Menendez, D-N.J.: “This is political dynamite, and I think Republicans have lit the fuse,” he said, per Bloomberg’s Lisa Lerer. The gamble: “Republicans are voting ‘no’ so that some of them can get to ‘yes’ on tightening the reins on Wall Street,” the AP’s Jim Kuhnhenn reports. “Democrats scheduled another vote for Wednesday to sustain pressure on Republicans in the expectation that some incremental changes to the pending bill ultimately would force several Republicans to relent and back the legislation.” “Senate Democrats think they have figured out how to go on offense against a united GOP intent on watering down and frustrating their agenda: Make them vote. Again, and again, and again, if need be,” Roll Call’s Steven T. Dennis and Jessica Brady report. Stop wondering why people don’t get Washington: “Both sides were posturing with an eye on November’s congressional elections,” McClatchy’s David Lightman reports. “Still, at the same time, Senate negotiators continued cordial private talks aimed at reaching a bipartisan deal.”  How many of these stories with the GOP want to take? “President Obama went to the heartland to pitch financial reform Tuesday, but unimpressed Senate Republicans blocked the overhaul for a second straight day,” The New York Daily News’ Kenneth R. Bazinet and Michael McAuliff report. (But — as a savvy GOP aide points out — The Washington Post story is on A12 Wednesday, after leading the paper Tuesday.) While the waiting continues: “Rifts are developing among Senate Democrats over regulating the multitrillion-dollar market for financial derivatives,” The Hill’s Silla Brush reports. “Some Democrats are concerned it might go too far and suffocate the market. Others, meanwhile, are starting to eye even stronger provisions.” About the senator from Nebraska: “Senator Ben Nelson owned with his wife as much as $6 million worth of stock in Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. and supported an exemption to proposed derivatives rules sought by the Omaha, Nebraska, company,” Bloomberg’s Jonathan D. Salant and James Rowley report. Out of Goldman’s day: “The firm appeared to avoid major setbacks in its legal fight against regulators’ charges that it defrauded investors in one big subprime-mortgage deal. Goldman’s stock was slightly up on a day when the European debt crunch hit other financial shares,” The Wall Street Journal’s John D. McKinnon and Susanne Craig report. “But the political and public-relations damage for Goldman — and Wall Street more broadly — might have been more extensive.” Who wins, exactly? Maureen Dowd: “Luckily for Goldman, greed may trump ethics. The firm’s stock closed higher Tuesday. Wholesale olive oil closed higher as well.” ABC’s Jonathan Karl, on “Good Morning America” Wednesday: “We finally found something that unites Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill: They don’t like Goldman Sachs.” More on the day’s hearing, from Karl, Alice Gomstyn, and Matthew Jaffe. Glimpse of your landscape: “A third of registered voters are inclined to reelect their representatives in Congress, the fewest since the Republican Party rode voter discontent to control of the House and Senate 16 years ago, according to a new ABC News-Washington Post poll,” ABC Polling Director Gary Langer writes. “The finding is one of a variety of challenges for President Obama and his party in the current political climate, ranging from the tactical, such as weak support among senior citizens, to the thematic, including long-running economic anxiety and the hazardous big-government label he now wears. But the Democrats push back on other measures, including an improved lead in trust to handle the country’s problems overall; Obama’s continued majority job approval, now 54 percent; and an advantage for the president over the Republicans specifically on three heavy-hitter issues, the economy, health care and financial regulations.” A bounce, perhaps? “Those polled also say they trust Obama over Republicans in Congress to deal with the economy, health care and, by a large margin, financial regulatory reform,”the Post’s Dan Balz and Jon Cohen report. “And the president continues to get positive marks on his overall job performance, with, for the first time since the fall, a majority of independents approving.” Meanwhile, out there: “Obama’s two-day trip through Iowa, Missouri and Illinois is an opportunity for him to showcase his efforts on behalf of rural America, but it is also a chance for him to try out a populist message intended to rally his base in time for the fall campaign,” The Washington Post’s Scott Wilson reports. “On Tuesday, Obama shucked his tie, drank old coffee and told audiences that his principal motivation is to ‘restore the sense of security to the middle class.’ ” Tying it all together: “President Barack Obama told Iowans Tuesday that Senate Republicans’ opposition to a financial regulation bill was standing in the way of an accelerating economic recovery,” the Des Moines Register’s Thomas Beaumont and Jason Clayworth report. Obama, on the new Arizona immigration law: “Now suddenly if you don’t have your papers and you took your kid out to get ice cream, you’re going to be harassed, that’s something that could potentially happen.” The pushback: “Here’s a phrase you’ll be hearing from GOPers more going forward: ‘Credibility gap,’ ” The Plum Line’s Greg Sargent writes. “On the House floor [Tuesday], John Boehner uncorked a harsh attack on Obama and Dems, using the phrase multiple times, and a GOP staffer confirms it will be gaining currency among Republicans in the days and weeks ahead.” And you want to talk jobs? The US Chamber of Commerce is hosting its own bipartisan jobs summit Monday in Washington. From the release going out Wednesday: “As part of its Campaign for Free Enterprise, the U.S. Chamber is bringing together eight leading governors next Monday for a discussion on job creation and the release of its ‘Enterprising States’ study, an in-depth look at state-specific policy efforts to foster job growth. Chamber President Thomas Donohue and Margaret Spellings, former Education Secretary and executive vice president of the National Chamber Foundation, will host Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota, Haley Barbour of Mississippi, Bill Richardson of New Mexico, Donald Carcieri of Rhode Island, Phil Bredesen of Tennessee, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Jack Markell of Delaware, and Rick Perry from Texas for a day-long discussion and press briefing.” Unpacking some immigration politics: “The immigration flare-up that has engulfed Washington has emerged as a political challenge for Republicans and Democrats alike as they struggle to deal with the complexities and emotions of an issue that is scrambling party and geographic lines,” Adam Nagourney writes in The New York Times. “On Tuesday, two prominent Republicans in Florida, another state with a big immigrant population — Jeb Bush, the former governor, and Marco Rubio, a candidate for the Senate — expressed reservations about the Arizona law, even as other Republican lawmakers supported it.” Rubio: “Throughout American history and throughout this administration we have seen that when government is given an inch it takes a mile.” Jeb Bush: “It’s difficult for me to imagine how you’re going to enforce this law. It places a significant burden on local law enforcement and you have civil liberties issues that are significant as well,” he tells Politico’s Jonathan Martin. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.: “Good people are so afraid of an out of control border that they have to resort to a law that I think is unconstitutional.” Breaking down the races… “In the House, Democrats appear to have more to lose from revisiting immigration reform, since many of the party’s most vulnerable members hail from culturally conservative districts,” Politico’s Josh Kraushaar reports. “At the same time, there are a number of targeted Democratic members representing Hispanic-heavy districts who could benefit from Republican overreaching on immigration, which could have the effect of energizing Democratic turnout.” Boycotts… “San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom announced [Tuesday] a moratorium on official city travel to Arizona after the state enacted a controversial new immigration law that directs local police to arrest those suspected of being in the country illegally,” the San Francisco Chronicle’s John Cote reports. “On Tuesday, seven members of the Los Angeles City Council signed a proposal for a boycott, calling for the city to “refrain from conducting business” or participating in conventions in Arizona,” the Los Angeles Times’ Anna Gorman and Nicholas Riccardi report. USA Today’s Kevin Johnson: “Mexico issued an unusual alert Tuesday to Mexican citizens in Arizona. The country warned that the state’s adoption of a strict immigration enforcement law has created ‘a negative political environment for migrant communities and for all Mexican visitors.’ ” Full speed? “Three days after climate change legislation lost its top Republican supporter, Senator John F. Kerry declared yesterday that he was nonetheless moving ‘full speed ahead’ on the bill. His efforts got a potential boost as Senate majority leader Harry Reid said that he would accommodate a Republican demand by putting Kerry’s bill ahead of immigration legislation on the agenda,” The Boston Globe’s Matt Viser and Susan Milligan report. White House Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton, aboard Air Force One: “I think there’s wide agreement that more progress has been made on energy.” Any wonder about why this is going to be tough? “President Obama said Tuesday that ‘everything has to be on the table’ for a new commission examining the federal deficit, a position that raises the possibility that he could revisit the most expensive provisions of his new health-care law or backtrack on his pledge not to raise taxes for the middle class,” The Washington Post’s Lori Montgomery reports. In Florida, the wait is almost over: “I sort of imposed a deadline on myself of Thursday, so I look forward to coming to a conclusion by then,” Gov. Charlie Crist, R-Fla., told reporters Tuesday. Chris Cillizza — who adds a title on Wednesday, as managing editor of the newly launched “Conversations with Florida Republicans — those close to Crist and those not — reveal a broad consensus that some time either today or, more likely, tomorrow, he will announce that he is switching parties to become an independent. According to multiple Republican sources, Crist conducted a poll on Monday and Tuesday to test his viability as an independent and got numbers back that encouraged him that there was a path to victory running without any major party affiliation.” SCOTUS positioning… Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., ready to press the nominee on the Obama agenda: “It’s pretty clear to me that President Obama sees judges as allies in an effort to promote an agenda he thinks is best for the country,” Sessions told ABC News. “And it’s a poison in our legal system, and the American people are not happy about it. They see it for what it is, and they don’t think that courts ought to be there to rubber-stamp President Obama’s or anybody’s agenda.” Your must-read book of the spring: “Laura Bush has finally opened up publicly about the mysterious car accident she had when she was 17, a crash that claimed the life of a high school friend on a dark country road in Midland, Tex.,” Anahad O’Connor reports in The New York Times. “In her new book, ‘Spoken From the Heart,’ Ms. Bush describes in vivid detail the circumstances surrounding the crash, which has haunted her for most of her adult life and which became the subject of questions and speculation when it was revealed during her husband’s first presidential run.” “Ms. Bush also suggests, apparently for the first time, that she, Mr. Bush, and several members of their staff may have been poisoned during a visit to Germany for a G8 Summit. They all became mysteriously sick, and the president was bedridden for part of the trip. The Secret Service investigated the possibility they were poisoned, she writes, but doctors could only conclude that they all contracted a virus.” Wait — nobody got fired? “None of the Securities and Exchange Commission employees caught using government computers to view pornographic images has been fired, according to the agency,” The Washington Post’s Ed O’Keefe reports. “The SEC inspector general investigated 28 employees and five contractors for accessing inappropriate images and Web sites. … Of the employees, eight resigned and six were suspended for periods lasting one to 14 days, the inspector general, H. David Kotz, said in an letter Tuesday to Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa). Five were issued formal reprimands, six were issued informal counseling or warning letters, and three are currently facing disciplinary action.” Wednesday night in Washington — from the Atlantic Council: “U2 lead singer and ONE founder Bono and President Bill Clinton will receive top honors at the Atlantic Council’s annual leadership awards event at the Ritz Carlton on Wednesday evening. Other honorees include Deutsche Bank chief executive Dr. Josef Ackermann, French Air Force General Stéphane Abrial and U.S. Marine Corps General James Mattis.
National Security Advisor General James Jones, Sen. John McCain, Sen. Chuck Hagel and Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Atlantic Council president and CEO Fred Kempe will be among those sharing the stage.”
The Kicker: “If your question is ‘Can I beat you in HORSE?’ the answer is yes.” — President Obama, loving Iowa. “Do you think it was a sh**ty deal?” — Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., getting a colorful day rolling.
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