Wonkbook: Judge strikes drilling moratorium; Hoyer proposes deficit deal; energy meeting delayed

Ezra Klein
Wednesday, June 23, 2010; 7:21 AM

A federal judge ruled that that the Interior Department could not impose a moratorium on deep-water drilling, surprising the White House and throwing off their response. Meanwhile, the McChrystal hubbub (and other factors) caused them to cancel a hotly-anticipated meeting with a few dozen senators where they were expected to make their preferences on energy legislation clear. Or at least clearer.

In a speech to Third Way, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer got specific on an aggressive set of measures to fight the deficit. He called for spending cuts and tax increases, and asked Republicans to endorse a similarly balanced approach. Speaking of which, Americans don't think the stimulus worked...but they want more of it? Oh, and keep an eye out for the Business Roundtable to release its "CEO Economic Outlook" today, and the Commerce Department to give up the numbers on May housing sales.

I hope everyone enjoyed the New Pornographers show last night. Welcome to Wonkbook.

Top Stories

A judge has issued an injunction lifting the moratorium on deep-water drilling, reports Steven Mufson: "U.S. District Judge Martin L.C. Feldman said in issuing his injunction that the Interior Department had failed to show that the oil spill triggered by the Deepwater Horizon rig blowout in April meant that there was imminent danger on all deep-water drilling rigs in the gulf. By contrast, he said, the 'blanket, generic, indeed punitive, moratorium"'has clearly harmed the industry and region."

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer got specific on deficit reduction in a speech to Third Way: "On the spending side, we could and should consider a higher retirement age, or one pegged to lifespan; more progressive Social Security and Medicare benefits; and a stronger safety net for the Americans who need it most. We also need the in-depth scrutiny of defense spending that Secretary Gates has demanded...Raising revenue is part of the deficit solution, too. When President Clinton did so in 1993, he faced predictions of disaster-but he helped to unleash historic prosperity and budget surpluses for our country, and he did it without raising spending. So I'm glad that President Obama has made clear that everything, revenues included, should be on the commission's table."

The White House delayed a meeting with Senators on energy, report Carol Lee and Darren Samuelsohn: "A White House official said the meeting was canceled for 'scheduling reasons' and has been rescheduled for early next week.--Democrats had been looking forward to the meeting with Obama as a key signal of what he's interested in accomplishing as the weeks tick away before the election."

Americans don't think the stimulus worked, yet want more, writes Daniel Indiviglio: "According to a new poll from Pew, they overwhelmingly believe that the fiscal stimulus spending didn't work. Yet, it remains the most popular method for government intervention in the economy going forward to create more jobs."

Maryland folk rock interlude: Wye Oak play "Warning".

Still to come: Senate Democrats are beginning to question Obama's pledge to hold tax rates on everyone making less than $250,000; the Business Roundtable is ending its cozy relationship with the administration; and have you heard about the worst-case scenario for the Gulf ocean floor?

Economy/ FinReg

Democratic legislators reject the White House's rejection of tax increases on those making less than $250,000 a year, reports Alexander Bolton: "'You could go lower, too - why not $200,000?' said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.). 'With the debt and deficit we have, you can't make promises to people. This is a very serious situation.' Sen. Byron Dorgan (N.D.), chairman of the Senate Democratic Policy Committee, concurred, saying, 'I don't think there's any magic in the number, whether it's $250,000, $200,000 or $225,000.'"

After two months of growth, housing sales are falling again, reports Dina ElBoghdady: "The National Association of Realtors reported Tuesday that sales of existing single-family homes, townhouses, condominiums and cooperatives fell 2.2 percent, to a seasonally adjusted rate of 5.66 million units, in May from April, snapping hopes of a robust housing recovery anytime soon. Analysts surveyed by Bloomberg had expected an increase of 6 percent."

The decline is blamed on delays in mortgage applications, and uncertainty over a federal flood insurance policy: http://nyti.ms/dpi0ci

Verizon chief executive Ivan Seidenberg accused the White House of creating a "hostile environment" for investment and job growth, report Elizabeth Williamson and Darrell Hughes: "Mr. Seidenberg's comments are particularly notable because he heads the Business Roundtable, a group encompassing the chief executives of the nation's largest listed companies whose members have enjoyed frequent access to the president and his top aides.--Where the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the other big business group in the capital, has been openly confrontational with the administration, the Roundtable has until now been reluctant to criticize its policies in public."

Negotiations on the jobs bill focus on limiting aid to state Medicaid programs: http://bit.ly/c4dd7y

Tim Geithner and Larry Summers outline their agenda for the G-20 summit: "Countries must put in place credible plans to stabilize debt-to-GDP levels and set a pace of consolidation that reinforces the momentum of growth. We must demonstrate a commitment to reducing long-term deficits, but not at the price of short-term growth. Without growth now, deficits will rise further and undermine future growth."

Peter Orszag made health care cost control sexy. Christopher Beam wants his successor to do the same for deficit reduction: http://bit.ly/bYajJb

David Leonhardt notes that Ben Bernanke's caution about spurring further growth carries its own risks: "In effect, Mr. Bernanke and his colleagues have decided to accept an all-but-certain downside - high unemployment, for years to come - rather than risk an even worse situation - a market panic, a spike in long-term interest rates and yet higher unemployment. As the last few years have shown, market sentiment can change unexpectedly and sharply. Still, you have to wonder if the Fed is paying enough attention to the risks of its own approach. They do exist. The recent data on jobless claims, consumer spending and home sales have been weak."

Canadian power pop video interlude: The New Pornographers' "Use It".


The BP leak may have sparked leaks on the ocean floor, reports Joel Achenbach: "The most disturbing of the worst-case scenarios, one that is unsubstantiated but is driving much of the blog discussion, is that the Deepwater Horizon well has been so badly damaged that it has spawned multiple leaks from the seafloor, making containment impossible and a long-term solution much more complicated. Video from a robotic submersible, which is making the rounds online, shows something puffing from the seafloor. Some think it's oil. Or maybe -- look again -- it's just the silt blowing in response to the forward motion of the submersible."

The House will vote on a bill giving the committee investigating the oil spill subpoena power: http://nyti.ms/cV3UBh

The White House is endorsing a bill providing $6 billion to electric car development, reports Josh Mitchell: "The proposals include more spending for research and development of car-battery technology, aid to utilities and homeowners to build recharging outlets, and consumer tax credits to offset the higher costs of battery-electric vehicles. A bill drafted by Sens. Byron Dorgan (D., N.D.), Lamar Alexander (R., Tenn.) and Jeff Alan Merkley (D., Ore.) calls for the additional spending, and includes a provision that would establish up to 15 'development' communities to receive funds for infrastructure and other programs for plug-ins."

Documents show BP's frantic reaction to the initial rig explosion: http://nyti.ms/a4ArjZ

Mark Schmitt explains a plan to avoid regulatory failures like that in the BP spill: "After reviewing the disgraceful recent history of the Minerals Management Service, and the well-recognized phenomenon of 'regulatory capture' -- where government agencies become pawns of the industries they are supposed to regulate -- [Sheldon Whitehouse] suggested that the attorney general be given the authority to take temporary control of any government agency that has lost sight of its mission. The attorney general would be able to hire and fire, rescind or replace existing contracts, set up a plan to make sure the agency was no longer subject to 'undue corporate influence,' and then would step back."

Wake up feeling like Scottie: A Star Trek/Ke$ha mashup.

Domestic Policy

Obama is chastising health insurers for using health care reform as an excuse to raise premiums, reports Janet Adamy: "The president met with 13 insurance industry executives, including officials from Aetna Inc., WellPoint Inc., Humana Inc. and several BlueCross BlueShield plans, as well as seven state insurance commissioners. In remarks afterwards, the president said he told the attendees he understood insurers weren't the only ones responsible for sharply rising premiums. But he said insurers should justify rate increases and shouldn't use the law to drive up rates in an 'unreasonable' way, citing a proposed 39% rate increase by WellPoint's California subsidiary that was rejected."

The DISCLOSE Act could lose Mike Castle, its only Republican cosponsor, due to the NRA deal: http://bit.ly/bSYHim

The National Labor Relations Board is finally fully staffed, reports Martin Vaughan: "Brian Hayes, a top staffer on labor issues for Senate Republicans, and Mark Pearce, a veteran lawyer representing unions in employment law disputes, were confirmed to the board. Mr. Pearce has already been sworn in to the NLRB, having been appointed by Mr. Obama earlier this year in a maneuver to bypass the Senate confirmation process. With Mr. Hayes's confirmation the NLRB's five-member board will be fully staffed."

Obama wants to add 1,000 Border Patrol officers and use unmanned drones on the US-Mexico border: http://nyti.ms/ai8QrG

Eight former Solicitors General of both parties are endorsing Elena Kagan, reports Abby Phillips: "Former Solicitors General Paul Clement from the last Bush administration and Seth Waxman from the Clinton administration told reporters on a conference call Tuesday that Kagan's experience as solicitor general gives her a working knowledge of the Supreme Court, especially important since she's never been a judge."

Howard Kurtz argues that coverage of regulatory failures do not correct them: "Yes, the Enron and other accounting scandals of the early 2000s led to legislation, but even after the great banking collapse and the charges against Goldman Sachs, Congress is still debating legislative fixes. A series of mine collapses doesn't seem to have changed much. The Toyota accelerator deaths don't seem to have changed much. Candidates continued to run against Washington. Who, after all, trusts government anymore?"

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

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