Wonkbook: Orszag out in July; swipe fee deal reached; a "Hoover moment"

Tuesday, June 22, 2010; 7:16 AM

Budget chief Peter Orszag might become the first member of President Obama's cabinet to resign, which means it's time for Washington to play its favorite game: Guess the replacement! Meanwhile, House and Senate conferees have reached a deal on regulating debit card fees, and for all the talk about how the U.S.'s fiscal policy is too tight, we're the ones begging the rest of the world to loosen up a bit.

It's Tuesday, if you know what I mean. Welcome to Wonkbook.

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OMB director Peter Orszag will likely resign in July and move to a think tank, reports Hans Nichols: "Among the potential replacements under consideration are Laura Tyson, a former director of the National Economic Council under President Bill Clinton, and Rob Nabors, who served as OMB deputy director under Orszag before moving to the White House to work under Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, said one of the officials."

Ed O'Keefe names and flash-profiles seven possible successors for Orszag: http://bit.ly/a8bqkU

House conferees have mostly agreed to the Senate's strict limits on debit card fees, reports Binyamin Appelbaum: "The agreement largely preserves the Senate's language, telling the Federal Reserve to limit the fees that banks collect from merchants when customers swipe debit cards. That is expected to save merchants billions of dollars, some of which could be passed on to customers in the form of lower prices."

U.S. plans to argue against global austerity measures at the G-20, report Bob Davis and Marcus Walker. The U.S. plans to press its economic partners at a summit to move cautiously with plans to tighten their fiscal policies while the global economic recovery remains uncertain, for fear of producing a "Hoover moment."

Cineaste interlude: A Kubrick/Scorsese mashup.

Still to come: Ken Salazar renames the Mineral Management Service; Americans want to move beyond oil but they oppose policies that would get us there; and a Wendell Primus profile. Did you hear that? I said a Wendell Primus profile!


A New York Times/CBS poll has good news and bad news for environmentalists, report John Broder and Marjorie Connelly: Overwhelmingly, Americans think the nation needs a fundamental overhaul of its energy policies, and most expect alternative forms to replace oil as a major source within 25 years. Yet a majority are unwilling to pay higher gasoline prices to help develop new fuel sources."

The panel charged with investigating the oil spill will not recommend lifting the offshore drilling moratorium before year's end, reports John Broder: "The co-chairman, William K. Reilly, who served as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency under the first President George Bush, also said it was unlikely that the panel would recommend the lifting of the six-month moratorium on deep-water drilling before it completed its report. Such a move would require profound changes in industry practice and government oversight that could not be done that quickly, Mr. Reilly said in his first extensive remarks on the commission's work."

Ken Salazar has renamed the Minerals Management Service the Bureau of Ocean Energy: http://bit.ly/9JlD4F

R&D neglect is holding back energy innovation, reports Peter Coy: "Energy companies worldwide are far less science-oriented than one might expect from an industry that is heavily dependent on technology for safety and profit. In the U.S., energy companies' spending on research, development, and deployment amounts to just 0.3 percent of sales. That's barely more than a tenth what the auto industry spends as a share of sales and is dwarfed by the pharmaceutical industry, which spends nearly 19 percent of sales."

Utilities are split on supporting a utilities-only carbon cap; most support an economy-wide cap: http://politi.co/cxCKwZ

Deep-water drilling will likely continue, reports Steven Mufson: "Willie Sutton robbed banks because that's where the money is. And oil companies venture into deep waters for exploration because that's where the oil is.┬┐Within five years, global deep-water production is expected to rise by two-thirds, to 10 million barrels a day, according to Cambridge Energy Research Associates. That's equivalent to the amount of crude oil that the world's largest exporter, Saudi Arabia, produces."

Bad weather threw a dent in the Gulf cleanup efforts: http://bit.ly/bHELV3

Historians are ranking the Gulf spill with the largest disasters in US history, report David Fahrenthold and Ylan Mui: "The Dust Bowl of the 1930s caused more social upheaval. The Exxon Valdez spill had a higher wildlife death toll. The pesticide DDT affected a wider swath of the country. But just asking the question reveals a depressing truth about the current catastrophe. It has a great deal in common with the others: private interests that took risks in search of a payoff; a government that wasn't trying hard enough to stop them."

Alternative hip/hop interlude: Blackalicious' "Blazing Arrow".

Economy/ FinReg

With China's currency floating, the focus at the G-20 conference will be on Europe's problems, reports Sewell Chan: "Officials said on Monday that the pace and path of European fiscal consolidation was likely to be the main topic of discussion, along with three critical questions relating to regulatory reform: how tough to make new capital requirements for banks, how best to oversee the trading of derivatives, and whether to impose a tax on giant banks, which is favored by the United States and most European economies. Canada, Japan and Australia oppose the bank tax."

Nonetheless, Chuck Schumer is pressing forward on legislation targeting the yuan: http://politi.co/dt7I2L

Making Home Affordable is rejecting more homeowners, reports Renae Merle: "A growing number of borrowers are failing to move from the program's initial stage into a permanent loan modification. Lenders have said that many homeowners are failing to make the reduced loan payments and others have not been able to prove they qualify for mortgage assistance. The number of borrowers dropped from the program, about 436,000, eclipses those who have been helped, according to Treasury Department data. More than 100,000 borrowers lost their mortgage aid in May."

The G-20 conference is drawing attention to the success of Canada's banking system: http://bit.ly/cY6ST4

Barney Frank and House negotiators will push for auto dealers to be exempt from FinReg, reports Carrie Budoff Brown: "Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), the lead House negotiator, released a proposal Monday to not only maintain the exemption for auto dealers from oversight of a new consumer protection agency but also expand it to include dealers that finance the purchase of motorcycles, boats, recreational vehicles and motor homes."

New reports predict that FinReg is expected to cut bank profits 10-20%, trim bonuses slightly, and shut down no banks: http://politi.co/cTIGqB

Banking lobbyists are targeting the Volcker rule in the FinReg home stretch, report Eric Dash and Nelson Schwartz: "The three main changes under consideration would be a carve-out to exclude asset management and insurance companies outright, an exemption that would allow banks to continue to invest in hedge funds and private equity firms, and a long delay that would give banks up to seven years to enact the changes."

'80s confirmation battle flashback interlude: Gregory Peck was not fond of Robert Bork.

Domestic Policy

The Senate is fighting over would-be Medicare/Medicaid administrator Donald Berwick's nomination, reports Robert Pear: "The Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, describes Dr. Berwick as an 'expert on rationing.' Senator Pat Roberts, Republican of Kansas, calls him 'the perfect nominee for a president whose aim has always been to save money by rationing health care.'--Asked about such statements, Reid H. Cherlin, a White House spokesman, said: 'Rationing is rampant in the system today, as insurers make arbitrary decisions about who can get the care they need. Don Berwick wants to see a system in which those decisions are transparent, and the people who make them are held accountable.'"

The White House and Chris van Hollen are pushing forward with the DISCLOSE Act: http://bit.ly/aRx9N0

House Dems are preparing a vote on a budget alternative that would eschew a deficit vote, reports Walter Alarkon: "House Budget Committee Chairman John Spratt (D-S.C.) said the alternative would be the 'functional equivalent' of a full-fledged budget. But because it won't be a traditional budget resolution, it will be silent on future deficits, which are expected to average nearly $1 trillion for the next decade."

The FCC is in negotiations with AT&T, Verizon, Google, and Skype on its proposed Internet regulations: http://bit.ly/akjEdf

Nancy Pelosi's chief policy advisor, Wendell Primus, pushed the White House left on health care, reports Mary Ann Akers: "As Pelosi's point man during the epic health-care effort, Primus routinely clashed with Emanuel, the White House chief of staff. When Primus orchestrated a meeting at the height of negotiations, to challenge the White House's position on Medicare payments to doctors, 'Rahmbo' went quintessentially ballistic.┬┐The tension between the two dates to the Clinton administration, when Emanuel was a top White House policy adviser and Primus, a big cheese at the Department of Health and Human Services, resigned in protest over President Bill Clinton's signing of the 1996 welfare reform bill."

HHS community health centers administrator Mary Wakefield explains how she plans on implementing health care reform: http://bit.ly/a8WS8S

Closing credits: Wonkbook compiled with the help of Dylan Matthews and Mike Shepard.

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