The Showdown: Bluff-Calling, Backsliding on Road to Bipartisanship

Apr 23, 2010 7:37am

By Rick Klein

Well, that didn’t last. The new day didn’t dawn. The next big legislative item will end with some of the recognizable bluff-calling, just like that, with Washington either moving with unusual alacrity or its usual sluggishness, depending on your perspective. Financial regulatory reform is exceedingly likely to pass the Senate next week. It will do so, in all probability, with decent, maybe even significant bipartisan support. But the end stages of the debate, at least, highlight anew how fleeting this moment is likely to be. This is no health care, but neither is it immigration or energy or tax reform. And the final maneuvering is going to be almost as loud as Rod Blagojevich. President Obama pulled a few punches with his speech on/near Wall Street Thursday. But there’s no ducking that punch called a cloture vote — which may or may not get 60, but almost certainly will move negotiations along. That’s right — definitely not health care: “President Obama's assertive stride into the debate on financial regulatory reform stands in marked contrast to the messy health-care battle that consumed most of the past year. It also represents a crucial part of a political strategy that — at least so far — appears to be moving a bill through Congress more easily,” The Washington Post’s Anne Kornblut and Michael Shear report. “The speech marked the culmination of a month-long acceleration of Obama's involvement with the issue, White House and Treasury Department officials said. And it will be followed by more: Next week, he will embark on a new phase of his ‘Wall Street to Main Street’ tour, begun last winter, by traveling to Iowa, Missouri and Illinois.” Back on the Hill: “Nerves appeared to be fraying among Republicans faced with the increasingly unappetizing prospect of opposing new curbs on Wall Street,” The Wall Street Journal’s Jonathan Weisman and Damian Paletta report. “Republican aides said the party faced a dilemma: It could sign on to a bill that they and many of their constituents won't like, or watch a bill pass with them largely on the sidelines and give Democrats an issue to run on in the fall.” Monday’s scheduled vote marks a deadline, yes, but ultimately a negotiable one — one that’s likely to move talks along through the weekend. Newsweek’s Jonathan Alter: “The longer the negotiations went on with the GOP, the weaker the bill would have become. Unlike health-care reform, where the Republicans were all opposed, this bill was in danger of being watered down by Republicans who were, well, carrying water for the banks. The bill is already weak tea, but at least now it won't get any weaker.” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid: “I’m not going to waste any more time of the American people.” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell: “I don’t think bipartisanship is a waste of time.” Maybe a problem: “I hope that Senator Reid abandons his plan to force a premature cloture vote on Monday,” said Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine. From here: “Mr. Reid scheduled a first procedural vote for Monday evening that will force Republicans to choose between starting debate or blocking the motion. Some Republicans said they expected Democrats to force several such votes before any deal is reached as a way to paint the G.O.P. as obstructionist,” The New York Times’ Peter Baker and David Herszenhorn report. “Reid was eager to test the unity of Republican opposition to the pending legislation, even as bipartisan negotiations continued. Reid conceded that the timetable for a vote could change if the talks bear fruit,” per the AP’s David Espo and Jim Kuhnhenn. No-lose bet? “If no Republican cracks, and the bill goes down, Reid is calculating that would be politically devastating for the GOP, because the party would appear to be standing shoulder to shoulder with the Wall Street bankers many Americans blame for the recession,” Politico’s Carrie Budoff Brown and Meredith Shiner report. Why it’s time to call some bluffs: Republicans “don't want to be tagged in their campaigns with backing Wall Street at the expense of Main Street. And that's our ace in the hole,” Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said Thursday on ABC’s “Top Line.” Among the stakes: “Progress on the bill is more than a test of Obama's ability to achieve his major goals. It also tests Congress' ability to arrest the current epidemic of partisanship and respond to a wave of public anger over Wall Street's role in the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression,” per The Los Angeles Times’ Janet Hook, Jim Puzzanghera and Peter Nicholas. Your next storyline: “The president is on the offensive now; his opponents are scrambling to decide how to react. Obama should thank the misbehaving lords of Wall Street, because they have given him a way to get his mojo back,” Eugene Robinson writes in his Washington Post column. Jill Lawrence, at Politics Daily: “He hasn't changed. But the country that elected him has. We seem to have lost our collective nerve. We've lost our confidence in ourselves, our government, and our institutions. We've lost our taste for boldness, our eagerness to experiment, our openness to the future. Enough of us are in hunker-down or angry-protest mode that Obama faces a struggle for every approval point in public opinion polls and on nearly every issue before Congress.” Coming Sunday on ABC’s “This Week,” with Jake Tapper — all sides of the debate at the table: White House Economic Adviser Austan Goolsbee, Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., and Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio. The roundtable: George Will, Paul Krugman, Cynthia Tucker, and Alexis Glick.   Remember health care? Republicans will want to on Friday: Ready to hit in any state with a competitive Senate race — and just in time for Stephanie Cutter’s new job: “President Barack Obama's health care overhaul law will increase the nation's health care tab instead of bringing costs down, government economic forecasters concluded Thursday in a sobering assessment of the sweeping legislation,” the AP’s Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar reports. “A report by economic experts at the Health and Human Services Department said the health care remake will achieve Obama's aim of expanding health insurance — adding 34 million Americans to the coverage rolls. But the analysis also found that the law falls short of the president's twin goal of controlling runaway costs, raising projected spending by about 1 percent over 10 years. That increase could get bigger, however, since the report also warned that Medicare cuts in the law may be unrealistic and unsustainable, forcing lawmakers to roll them back.” Plus, from the CBO: “Some 3 million middle-class Americans will be required to pay a penalty for not getting health insurance under the Obama administration's new health care law, raising questions about the president's willingness to break a campaign promise by increasing taxes on some families earning less than $250,000,” the Washington Times’ Sean Lengell reports. “A Congressional Budget Office analysis released Thursday said the average cost of the penalty will be slightly more than $1,000 apiece in 2016.” Enter Cutter: “President Obama has chosen Stephanie Cutter, who served as a top aide to Senator Edward M. Kennedy and communications director for Senator John F. Kerry’s presidential campaign in 2004, to be in charge of getting out the word about the benefits of the new health care insurance overhaul,” The Boston Globe reports. “Administration officials said Cutter’s job will be more educational than political. But several Democrats said better messaging on health care is crucial to the party’s election hopes this year.” Among her initial challenges: “The first Kaiser Health Tracking Poll fielded since the passage of health reform last month finds that 8 in 10 Americans know that President Obama signed the legislation into law. But 55 percent say they are confused about the law and more than half (56%) say they don’t yet have enough information to understand how it will affect them personally.” Since everyone loves a good deadline: “Having concluded that talks to advance a bipartisan immigration overhaul are stalled and party lines in the Senate are hardening, Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) has told Sens. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) to strike a deal in three weeks or Democrats will bring their own bill forward, aides and lobbyists said Thursday,” Spencer S. Hsu reports in The Washington Post. Umm, porn? At the SEC? Well beyond the numbers…. “The Securities and Exchange Commission is supposed to be the sheriff of the financial industry, looking for financial crimes like Bernard Madoff's Ponzi scheme. But the new report, obtained by ABC News, says senior employees of the SEC spent hours on the commission's computers looking at sites like naughty.com, skankwire, youporn, and others,” ABC’s Jonathan Karl reports. “The investigation, which was conducted by the SEC's internal watchdog at the request of Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, found 31 serious offenders over the past two and a half years. Seventeen of the offenders were senior SEC officers with salaries ranging from $100,000 to $222,000 per year.” Karl, on “GMA” Friday: “At least some of the major offenders in this report are still on the job.” A few more details, per the AP: “The SEC's inspector general conducted 33 probes of employees looking at explicit images in the past five years… The memo says 31 of those probes occurred in the 2 1/2 years since the financial system teetered and nearly crashed.” Rush Limbaugh, swinging back at Bill Clinton: “The Obama/Clinton/media left are comfortable with the unrest in our society today. It allows them to blame and demonize their opponents (doctors, insurance companies, Wall Street, talk radio, Fox News) in order to portray their regime as the great healer of all our ills, thus expanding their power and control over our society,” Limbaugh writes in a Wall Street Journal op-ed. “A clear majority of the American people want no part of this. They instinctively know that the Obama way is not how things get done in this country. They are motivated by love. Not hate, not sedition. They love their country and want to save it from those who do not.” Star witness? Blago wants Obama to testify: “Just weeks before the start of his federal corruption trial, ousted Gov. Rod Blagojevich sought Thursday to tie his credibility to that of President Barack Obama by asking that the leader of the free world be compelled to testify for the defense,” Jeff Coen, Rick Pearson and Bob Secter report in the Chicago Tribune. “The court filing by the ex-governor's attorneys attempted to protect sensitive details by blacking out references to sealed investigative records. But it became an instant Internet sensation thanks to a computer glitch that enabled people to view the entire document — a mix of new allegations and old details that combined to create fresh intrigue over charges Blagojevich sought to sell the Senate seat vacated by Obama when he was elected in 2008.” Rezko …  “Quoting from a sealed prosecution memo, the defense team aired a previously undisclosed allegation that convicted influence peddler Antoin ‘Tony’ Rezko told investigators he tried to buy Obama's favor with illegal campaign contributions. Rezko, a top fundraiser for Obama and Blagojevich, is cooperating in the case against the former governor,” the Tribune reporters write. Speaking out — Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., goes public with his concerns over the administration’s Israel policies: “This has to stop,” Schumer told the Nachum Segal Show, of the administration's policy of publicly pressing Israel to end construction in Jerusalem, per Politico’s Ben Smith. Added Schumer: “I told the President, I told Rahm Emanuel and others in the administration that I thought the policy they took to try to bring about negotiations is counter-productive, because when you give the Palestinians hope that the United States will do its negotiating for them, they are not going to sit down and talk.” In honor of Earth Day — Biz Markie is out with a remix of a classic (worth it for the Obama Girl cameo alone) on behalf of Repower America. Enemy territory, Friday night: “Sarah Palin could have hardly picked a more crunchy granola town to give a speech in than Eugene,” the AP’s Jeff Barnard writes. “Yet the Lane County Republican party couldn't be prouder of landing the former Alaska governor and Republican vice presidential candidate, who uses ‘granola’ as a term of derision, as the headliner for its Lincoln Day fundraiser dinner Friday night.”
The Kicker: “The defense understands that the President of the United States of America is not a routine witness and would not request his appearance if it did not think he was critical to the liberty of Rod Blagojevich.” — Attorneys for Rod Blagojevich.  ”That's sort of the best thing I ever did.” — Former Vice President Dick Cheney, on having muttered a certain something to Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.
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