Wonkbook: WH talks climate compromise; meet the anti-stimulus; return of the Superfund tax
Monday, June 21, 2010; 7:22 AM
Rahm Emanuel said over the weekend that the White House would "welcome" an energy bill with limited emissions reduction. Unsurprisingly, environmentalists are starting to voice their displeasure with the administration. The Senate has finally passed a "doc fix" restoring Medicare payments to their previous level, though the House insists their approach falls short. The federal stimulus may be struggling against the drag created by state and local cutbacks, and Joe Lieberman wants to give Barack Obama the power to turn off the internet.
Isn't that just so Wonkbook?
Rahm Emanuel is open to an energy bill that only limits emissions from utilities, reports Jonathan Weisman: "'The idea of a 'utilities only' [approach] will also be welcomed,' he said, emphasizing that 'a wide range of ideas will be discussed.'--The utilities-only idea is anathema to many environmentalists, who see it as an inconsequential half measure. But to pragmatists, it may be the best the Senate can do on climate change -- and even then, it would be a heavy lift."
A growing rift is emerging between environmentalists and the White House, report Peter Wallsten and Eliza Gray: "'I've been disappointed,' said Kyle Ash, a lobbyist for the activist group Greenpeace. 'This really is just a slightly better version of what I would have expected a Republican White House to do if there was a disaster like this in the Gulf.'"
Meet the anti-stimulus, writes some punk named Ezra Klein: A multiple choice question for you: Did the stimulus a) work; b) fail; c) end up locked in an unexpected battle with the massive anti-stimulus that's ripped through the states? ... Some 46 states are facing budget gaps that will require them to cut spending or raise taxes. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that in 2011, the states will have to come up with a total of $180 billion. These budget shortfalls are the equivalent of a massive anti-stimulus, which some experts believe has overwhelmed the $787 billion stimulus passed by the federal government in 2009.
The Senate unanimously passed a "doc fix" on Friday, but Nancy Pelosi is dismissing it as "inadequate": http:/
Obama and the EPA want to resurrect a tax on oil and gas companies to pay for Superfund cleanups, reports Juliet Eilperin: "For 15 years, the government imposed taxes on oil and chemical companies and certain other corporations. The money went into a cleanup trust fund, which reached its peak of $3.8 billion in 1996. But the taxes expired in 1995, and because Congress refused to renew them, the fund ran out of money. Now the Obama administration will push to reinstate the so-called Superfund tax. The Environmental Protection Agency, which rarely urges passage of specific bills, will send a letter to Congress as early as Monday calling for legislation to reimpose the tax."
Folk-hop interlude: Lissie covers Kid Cudi's "Pursuit of Happiness".
Still to come: BP's team of superlobbyists; a labor leader and Fortune 500 executive are teaming up to tackle the deficit; Joe Lieberman wants Barack Obama to have a "kill switch" for the internet; and new limits on overdraft fees could raise bank charges in other areas.
BP and Transocean have put together first-rate lobbying teams, reports Dan Eggen: "BP--has assembled a formidable team of Democrats for its Washington lobbying and public-relations offensive. There is Tony Podesta, who heads one of the District's leading lobbying firms; Jamie Gorelick, a top Justice Department official in the Clinton administration now at the law firm WilmerHale; Hilary Rosen, a former recording-industry lobbyist who heads the Washington office of the Brunswick Group, a public-relations consultancy; and Michael S. Berman of the Duberstein Group, who was a longtime aide to former vice president Walter F. Mondale before becoming a lobbyist."
The effort to drill relief wells at the Transocean rig is proceeding slowly: http:/
The White House is targeting Joe Barton publicly, reports Carol Lee: "Emanuel tore into the GOP over Barton's apology for the government's treatment of the company responsible for the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, saying on ABC's 'This Week,' that 'in case you forgot what Republican governance was like, Joe Barton reminded you.'"
Tony Hayward has handed off day-to-day management of the Gulf cleanup: http:/
Robert Samuelson argues the White House should stop "villifying" oil and gas companies: "Obama has made vilification of oil and the oil industry a rhetorical mainstay. This is intellectually shallow, if politically understandable. 'Clean energy' won't displace oil or achieve huge reductions in greenhouse gas emissions -- for example, the 83 percent cut by 2050 from 2005 levels included in last year's House climate change legislation. Barring major technological advances (say, low-cost 'carbon capture' to pump CO2 into the ground) or an implausibly massive shift to nuclear power, this simply won't happen. It's a pipe dream."
140 character interlude: Sportswriter Buzz Bissinger explains why he tweets.
Former SEIU head Andy Stern and Honeywell CEO David Cote are putting together a plan to close the deficit, report Edmund Andrews and Erin Pianin: "They have teamed up and are working closely together toward what they hope will be a politically viable, long-term plan for reducing the deficit, which last year totaled $1.4 trillion. They talk and e-mail at least once a week, swapping ideas and information. They sit together at commission meetings and arranged a field trip for a tutorial with experts on the tax code. Cote tries to soften his peers on the Business Roundtable. Stern is pressing union officials about ways to tinker with Social Security."
Companies are issuing more bonds: http:/
A rising yuan could make it costlier for the US government to borrow, reports Mark Gongloff: "History suggests that a freer-floating Chinese yuan could push Treasury yields higher at an inconvenient time for the U.S. government-although it also suggests that the effects should be short-lived. The 10-year Treasury note yield has been well below 3.5% for the past month, as investors flock to safe Treasurys over doubts about the financial health of some European countries and the strength of the economic recovery in the U.S. Such relatively low interest rates have made it less painful for the U.S. government to borrow trillions of dollars to fight the effects of the financial crisis and recession."
Industrial areas are starting to see real job growth: http:/
Great moments in film criticism interlude: Keith Phipps eviscerates "Jonah Hex".
Joe Lieberman wants to give the president emergency powers over the Internet, reports Deborah Solomon: "Lieberman (I., Conn.) is a co-sponsor of a bipartisan bill introduced in the Senate last week that would give the president authority to implement 'short-term emergency measures' to protect U.S. Internet networks from attack. Critics, including bloggers, some privacy advocates and some technology executives, have lashed out at the bill, saying it would essentially give the president a 'kill switch' to shut down the Internet."
The DISCLOSE Act's NRA carve-out has united groups from the Chamber of Commerce to the AFL-CIO to the Sierra Club in opposition to it: http:/
Former boss Bill Clinton has spoken out in favor of Kagan's nomination: http:/
The Senate looks poised to end secret holds, reports Ashley Southall: "Senator Claire McCaskill, Democrat of Missouri, announced Saturday that she has enough Senate support to overturn members' ability to anonymously delay confirmation proceedings for nominees and legislation requiring Senate confirmation. Republican Senators Kit Bond of Missouri and Sam Brownback of Kansas provided the 65th and 66th signatures on a letter sent to Majority Leader Harry Reid requesting a vote to end the so-called secret holds. Mr. Reid also supports the ban."
NY Times reporters defend their criticism of the Dartmouth Atlas health care study: http:/
Supreme Court justices need to be more than impartial "umpires", writes Donald Ayer: "In nearly all the high court's cases, doubt exists not because the half or so of judges who decided the issue are stupid, don't get it or otherwise made some identifiable mistake. Rather, doubts exist because there are substantial persuasive arguments on both sides that cannot be dismissed as invalid or wrong. These cases must be resolved by deciding which collection of arguments is the more compelling; the justices make decisions by choosing to give priority to one set of contentions or another."
A much bigger doc fix is necessary if health care reform is to work, writes Michael Newman: "The bottom line is that physicians have been underpaid by Medicare for almost two decades. A further 21 percent reduction will make it prohibitive for many physicians -- internists, geriatricians and family practitioners in particular -- to continue caring for their Medicare patients. Congress's annual moves to postpone further cuts in reimbursement amount to budgetary cosmetics that convince no one of the system's soundness. The 'doc fixes' are a disincentive to physician participation in Medicare."
The Onion interlude: "Congressmen Submit Emergency 3 AM Bill Demanding IHOP Stay Open All Night".
New overdraft rules could bring additional bank fees to recoup losses, reports Ylan Mui: "Starting July 1, the rules will prohibit banks from automatically charging overdraft fees. Instead, consumers can decide whether they want to use the service or would rather simply have their debit cards declined.¿Banking experts and even industry groups have warned that banks will need to replace the revenue they have long collected in overdraft fees. That means people might find that the fees have disappeared, only to resurface elsewhere in the form of a maintenance fee on their checking accounts, for example."
The European Central Bank may sell off bonds to a stabilization fund meant to lend to governments in crisis: http:/
Businesses that use derivatives are fighting FinReg, report Damian Paletta and David Wessel: "Caterpillar Inc., Cargill Inc. and the municipal utility of Sacramento, Calif., were largely bystanders in the financial crisis. Yet as Congress moves this week toward a sweeping rewrite of the rules of finance, they are major players: One of the most contentious issues is whether organizations like these should be subject to a net being readied by the Obama administration.¿For a year, users have been fighting furiously to fend off changes in how the securities are bought and sold, and have had considerable success in the House. Then, this spring the tide turned against them in the Senate."
The FinReg endgame is threatened by legislative fatigue, report Damien Paletta and Victoria McGrane: "Across the rectangular arrangement of tables for the House-Senate conference committee, Sen. Christopher Dodd, the Connecticut Democrat, slowly moved his hand to his head, created an imaginary gun, and pulled an imaginary trigger. So it goes as the 111th Congress limps into summer. Lawmakers and their aides are suffering from legislative languor, felled by 18 months of nonstop bickering over the stimulus, health care and climate legislation. Now, a handful of lawmakers will spend two weeks sprawled among coffee cups, water bottles and stacks of scattered paper as they finalize likely the last big bill before the November elections, one that could govern U.S. financial markets for decades to come."
Mortgage lenders are fighting to soften lending restrictions in FinReg: http:/
Sebastian Mallaby argues we need hedge funds to make FinReg work: "If hedge funds have healthy incentives, is Congress doing what it should? Unfortunately, it isn't. The bills under consideration require hedge funds with more than a paltry $100 million in assets to register with the Securities and Exchange Commission, and they threaten other burdens that will be especially onerous for smaller funds lacking armies of lawyers. This is an absurdity. Congress is creating obstacles for entrepreneurial boutique financiers -- precisely the players who must absorb the risks that were appallingly mishandled by too-big-to-fail behemoths."
Investors expect a mediocre stock market for the foreseeable future: http:/
Closing credits: Wonkbook compiled with the help of Dylan Matthews.