The Senate is expected to vote very late tonight/early Monday morning “on the first of three motions to close off debate” on the health care bill and proceed to an expected Christmas Eve vote on final passage. Speaking against the health care bill on the Senate floor just moments ago, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) expressed his hope that a Senator of the majority caucus would not be able to make the vote:
What the American people ought to pray is that somebody can’t make the vote tonight. That’s what they ought to pray.
Just a few minutes later, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) interrupted while Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) was speaking to issue a challenge to Coburn:
I have been trying to reach Sen. Coburn. … This statement troubles me, and I’m trying to reach him come back to the floor and explain exactly what he meant about a senator being unable to make the vote tonight. … I’m reaching out to Sen. Coburn. I’ll be on the floor for the next 45 minutes, and I hope that he will join me there.
In the New Year, I hope that some enterprising subcommittee chairman will bring David Mayhew and others down to DC to clear up this point about the history of the filibuster. A lot of people seem to think the Senate was always a supermajority body. The real history of the filibuster, however, is that the authentic historical tradition was that the filibuster gave the white South a veto over civil rights bills and was not otherwise used. Then there was a transitional period in the seventies and eighties, and it’s only very recently that the idea of a routine supermajority requirement emerged.
The Washington Post editorialized today that the Copenhagen Accord, “however imperfect, should prod the U.S. Senate to take up climate-change legislation. Even if China hadn’t moved, reducing America’s dependence on foreign sources of energy and tackling domestic pollution are strong enough reasons to pass a bill.” Guest blogger Daniel J. Weiss, Senior Fellow and Director of Climate Strategy at CAPAF, explains why.
The 15th United Nations climate summit has just ended in Copenhagen after a tense two weeks of negotiations between the developed and developing world. An “environmental Woodstock” to some, a high stakes diplomatic showdown to others, the meeting led to some critical but incomplete agreements.
Now that it’s over, the world’s attention will focus on the United States Senate as it plans to consider clean energy and global warming legislation in 2010. The newly inked Copenhagen Accord, along with other factors, increases the odds for Senate passage of clean energy jobs and global warming legislation.
The Copenhagen Accord should form the basis for future negotiations that hope to culminate in an international agreement to reduce global warming pollution in levels sufficient enough to prevent a 2 degree centigrade (3.6 Fahrenheit) warming. The Accord should also contribute to passage of a Senate clean energy and global warming bill. The Accord includes two provisions that address some undecided Senators’ concerns about pollution reductions from China and India. In advance of the summit, these two nations made their first commitment to reduce the rate of pollution compared to their economies. Obviously, these two emerging economic powers could do more to reduce the rapidly rising emissions, but these levels of reductions are a good start.
This morning, Howard Dean walked back from earlier statements encouraging Democrats to “kill” the Senate health care bill. On Thursday, Dean wrote that “this bill would do more harm than good to the future of America,” but during his appearance on Meet The Press, Dean argued that yesterday’s manager’s amendment significantly improved the legislation. “I would let this thing go to conference committee and let’s see if we can fix it some more,” Dean said:
Well, let’s start with the positive things. Over the last week, there were things that were improved. There were some cost containment mechanisms that were gutted. They got restored. I would certainly not vote for this bill if this were the final product, but there are, the House bill is quite a good bill. This bill has improved over the last couple of weeks, I would let this thing go to conference committee and let’s see if we can fix it some more…so there are a lot of things that need to be fixed, but if they are fixed you may actually get the foundation of a bill, coming out of the House. If most of the House provisions survive, then we can have a bill that we could work with….I hope this isn’t the compromise that’s been achieved. I think we have yet to see the compromise that we could achieve.
Watch a compilation:
Dean didn’t advocate for pushing the bill through the reconciliation process or restarting reform after the midterm elections, as he had suggested several days earlier. Instead, the former Vermont governor expressed optimism that the bill could be improved in conference, going so far as to say that some of the goals of the public option could be accomplished through regulatory means.
“Here is the major problem,” Dean said. “We have committed to go down a path in this country where private insurance will be the way that we achieve universal health care. That means we’re going to have a 30-year battle with the insurance industry every time we try to control costs and try to get them to do things.” “My position is let’s see what they add to this bill and make it work, if they can make it work without a public option, I’m all ears. I don’t think that’s possible,” he said.
DailyKos founder Markos Moulitsas, who strongly opposed the Senate bill, also appeared to soften his position. “This, this is not a done deal, we still have reconciliation to go to,” he said during a round table following Dean’s appearance.
Brittany Murphy has reportedly passed away. She was 32. And while she’d seemed to have lost her way as an actress in recent years, her performance as Tai in Clueless is absolutely iconic. I don’t mean that in a big, Grace Kelly way, or anything like that. But she was the epitome of cute awkwardness. We may have all wanted to be Cher, but at heart, most of us were really Tai. So sad.
As President Obama brokered a last-minute deal with China, India, and other nations to jointly fight global warming, American conservatives continued their assault on reason when it comes to climate science. All through the week, right-wingers from Rush Limbaugh to Fox News highlighted the fact that Copenhagen, the site of the international climate negotiations, received snow at Christmastime, which they falsely characterized as a “blizzard.” Now the Drudge Report and others are highlighting the real blizzard sweeping up the East Coast as a supposed contrast to “global warming.”
For Drudge to call the dusting Copenhagen received last week a “blizzard is, of course, laughable. To suggest it is ironic to get a little snow in mid-December in Denmark during a climate conference is doubly laughable (see “Snow in Copenhagen: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly“).
As for the East Coast storm, my home in DC did get 18 inches of snow — although if this had been a true blizzard, I doubt my flight from Copenhagen on Saturday would have been allowed to land in Dulles airport and I wouldn’t of been able to get home 12 hours after I left Denmark. Certainly temperatures in the DC area have been in the normal range over the past week — it’s only the precipitation that has been very anomalous (for actual data on recent warming trend in the U.S., see “Record high temperatures far outpace record lows across U.S.“).
If having snow around the holidays on the East Coast were strange, I doubt the song “White Christmas” would have been written. Ah, but what about record snow? Capital Climate reports that the DC snowstorm has set multiple records (previous in parentheses):
Faced with Republican resistance that many Democrats saw as driven more by politics than policy disagreements, Senate Democrats in recent days gained new determination to bridge differences among themselves and prevail over the opposition.
Lawmakers who attended a private meeting between Mr. Obama and Senate Democrats at the White House on Tuesday pointed to remarks there by Senator Evan Bayh, Democrat of Indiana, as providing some new inspiration.
Mr. Bayh said that the health care measure was the kind of public policy he had come to Washington to work on, according to officials who attended the session, and that he did not want to see the satisfied looks on the faces of Republican leaders if they succeeded in blocking the measure.
Not really sure why he thinks a bipartisan deficit commission is going to work, given his (correct) analysis of the health care landscape.
There’s no real precedent for such a major piece of social policy legislation as this health care bill being enacted into law on a party-line vote. That naturally raises the issue of the sustainability of this legislation. What happens when the Republicans run things?
One thing to note is that it’s hard to imagine the GOP getting to 60 Senators any time soon. The more-disciplined Republican Party has more trouble putting together supermajorities. Indeed, there have never been sixty Republican Senators at any time in American history. The last time the GOP controlled over 60 percent of the Senate (59 out of 96, specifically) was the 67th Congress of 1921-22.
But the larger reason I don’t think this will get repealed is that a staggering quantity of opposition to this bill is fake. It’s fake in two ways. In part, people have been pretending to believe things they don’t believe. For example, lately Chuck Grassley has been pretending to oppose an individual mandate to buy health insurance. In the past, however, he’s supported such a mandate. And insurance companies will want the mandate to be made stronger, not weaker. Then there are people opposing the legislation over provisions that they’re pretending exist. Grassley, for example, is very worried about death panels but since there are no death panels he can’t actually repeal them.
Related to the opposition based on fake things, there’s a lot of opposition based on hypotheticals and vague slippery slope claims. People think this will lead to price controls or to mandate creep or that IMAC spending guidelines won’t be enacted. Once the bill is signed, however, none of that points in the direction of repeal—it points in the direction of opposing price controls, of opposing mandate expansions, and of favoring stringent cost-controls.
Last, for the past fifteen years Republican domestic policy has, in practice, consisted pretty overwhelmingly of seeking lower taxes on rich people without any offsetting spending cuts. I see no sign of that changing. I think the safe prediction is that when Republicans have more political power in the future, they’ll try to make taxes on rich people lower. Linking that agenda to lower subsidies for people to buy insurance would be politically disastrous, so they won’t do it.
But leverage is everywhere, not just on Wall Street. If you buy a house with 20% down, you’re employing leverage of 4:1. At 10% down it’s 9:1. At 5% down it’s 19:1. At the FHA minimum of 3.5%, it’s 27:1. [...]
We should limit leverage everywhere: in the real banking system, in the shadow banking system, in hedge funds, and where it’s baked into derivatives. But we should also do it at the individual level: mortgage loans, car loans, and credit card loans. The point is not to cut off credit, but to do what we can to ensure that it grows steadily and sensibly, not catastrophically. A minimum 10% down payment to buy a house is a place to start.
I think a minimum downpayment on mortgages would be a sensible idea. I’d even be happy to go all the way up to a 20 percent minimum. We started encouraging mortgage lending standards to slip as a way of encouraging homeownership, but there’s no reason encouraging homeownership should be a policy goal. If anything we should be trying to encourage deeper, richer rental markets.
But I don’t think this is actually the right general way to think about consumer-side leverage. The key thing there isn’t the level of the downpayment, it’s different kinds of funny-business with balloon payments and so forth. Some consumers really should be leveraged. Kevin Durant is going to earn $4.8 million in salary this year and $6 million next year, but the odds are overwhelmingly that after that his salary will explode to north of $15 million. And beyond salary, he has a lot of potential income upside in terms of endorsement deals. So for Durant to do something like buy a house where the payments are low for the first three years but then reset upwards makes a ton of sense.
Obviously, though, very few of us are NBA superstars on rookie contracts. Students at elite law schools are in a basically similar situation, but again that’s not that many people. The vast majority of people shouldn’t be making purchases that implicitly involve counting on large increases in salary or asset values to make sense. That, however, is a different issue from the how much money down question. A fixed rate self-amortizing mortgage with only five percent down is a risky loan from the point of view of the bank, but if the payments are reasonable relative to the borrower’s income don’t really involve a ton of leverage. It’s the resets and balloon payments that build leverage in.
Senior administration official: “Well, no, no, no, no. We weren’t crashing a meeting; we were going for our bilateral meeting.”
The White House Office of the Press Secretary has now released the remarkable details of how Obama achieved the Copenhagen Accord.
The point CAP Senior fellow Andrew Light made in his summary analysis of the deal is that it represents “a move away from developed vs. developing countries to major emitters and everyone else” (see “Obama Hits the Reset Button on the Foundations of International Climate Agreements“). Indeed, Obama’s key meeting to cut a deal at the Bella Center was with the big developing country emitters: Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, South African President Jacob Zuma and Chinese premier Wen Jiabao.
The White House backgrounder reveals how this meeting – a Shakespearean Comedy of Errors style “wrong door” escapade — came about. It is quite long, but the must-read story defies paraphrasing, and indeed, would defy belief if it came from any other source.