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Wonkbook: Jobs bill fails again; DISCLOSE Act passes House; Reid's climate strategy

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Ezra Klein
Friday, June 25, 2010; 7:17 AM

Rough day yesterday for Senate Democrats' -- and for the unemployed -- as the $100 billion bill extending unemployment insurance and supporting state budgets once again failed in the Senate. The bill, though mostly paid for, would've added about $30 billion to the deficit, which gave Republicans all the excuse they needed to block it. Looking forward to other legislation that Republicans would like to avoid voting for, Harry Reid is expected to try and pass a climate bill by wrapping it in legislation meant to address the BP oil spill.

Meanwhile, the House did its normal thing and continued to pass legislation: Yesterday, the compromise version of the DISCLOSE Act squeaked through, complete with the NRA-exemption. Watch also for a final deal on financial reform today, and a GDP revision from the Commerce Department.

It's Friday, which means we've only got three more days till Monday!

Welcome to Wonkbook.

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Republicans and Ben Nelson successfully filibustered the latest version of the Senate jobs bill, reports Lori Montgomery: "Emergency jobless benefits, which provide up to 99 weeks of income support, expired June 2. Since then, more than 1.2 million people have had their checks cut off, according to estimates by the Labor Department. That number is expected to rise to more than 2 million people by the time Congress returns from its week-long break. Unless Congress acts, the program would phase out entirely by the end of October."

John Kerry: "This is one of the worst moments I've seen in 25 years in the United States Senate. In times of economic trouble, our country expects Democrats and Republicans to pull together and do the basics. Now, after eight weeks of debate and after every effort to make changes and find common ground, the Minority Leader has again found a way to unify his caucus to block legislation that extends unemployment benefits, creates jobs and provides hundreds of millions of dollars in desperately needed assistance for states...The Senate has to do better than this."

Scott Brown: "Increasing the deficit and raising taxes is not what Americans are looking for from their elected leaders in Washington. I cannot support the debt extenders bill because it still includes tens of billions in tax increases and still includes tens of billions in deficit spending."

The House voted 219-206 for the NRA-exempting version of the DISCLOSE Act, with three dozen Dems voting no: http://bit.ly/dzbi38

Harry Reid will tack the climate bill onto bipartisan legislation overhauling offshore drilling oversight, report Coral Davenport and Darren Samuelsohn: "Reid plans to build the floor package around a bill fast-tracked for approval next week in the Energy and Natural Resources Committee that would impose new safety and environmental rules and increase oversight of oil companies doing offshore exploration. Sens. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), chairman and ranking member on the committee, respectively, introduced the legislation together on Monday, with plans to amend it next week with more oil spill ideas from Sens. Menendez, Mark Udall (D-Colo.) and Scott Brown (R-Mass.)."

Noam Scheiber says the race to replace Peter Orszag is down to Gene Sperling and Laura Tyson: http://bit.ly/bEq6mq

Music tinkering interlude: An app to give any song a swing tempo.

Still to come: Halliburton and Transocean try to squirm away from BP; some Senators want to jack up estate tax rates; an immigration reform backer throws in the towel; and a bear chills in a hot tub. Oh, and Wonkbook has a new section!

Energy

No one knows Lindsey Graham's real reason for pulling support for a climate bill, reports Darren Samuelsohn: "Some see GOP leadership pulling Graham's strings, essentially yanking him back just days before he planned to introduce a bill with Kerry, Lieberman and a large coalition of energy companies, environmentalists, retired military brass and religious leaders. Others see tea party politics back in South Carolina, where incumbent Republicans are losing their jobs and Sarah Palin is anointing a new face for the party in gubernatorial nominee Nikki Haley."

Non-BP participants in the oil spill are trying to limit their liability, report David Hilzenrath and Kimberly Kindy: "Halliburton, a project contractor, says it followed instructions from the well owner, a group led by BP. Transocean, which leased the rig to BP, says it was liable only for surface spills -- not those emanating from the sea bottom. Anadarko Petroleum, a venture partner, implies that it may be off the hook because BP likely engaged in 'gross negligence or willful misconduct.'"

BP's Bob Dudley is taking on the task of repairing the company's image: http://bit.ly/dtCTSl

The administration is citing a study purporting to show that climate skeptics aren't respected in their fields. It shows no such thing, writes Michael Levi: "The authors of the paper are right that the world is running dangerous risks with the climate system. They are right to be angry at those who claim that climate change is a hoax, and at those in the media who give them a platform to confuse the public. But the way to confront those skeptics is to show that they're wrong-as many dedicated climate scientists have done, again and again. Hyping this paper, instead, simply reinforces the dangerous perception that climate activists will credulously push any news that might further their case."

Muppets interlude: OK Go has a staring contest with Animal, while Zach Galifianakis and Ira Glass watch.

Economy/ FinReg

Bernie Sanders, along with Tom Harkin, Sherrod Brown, and Sheldon Whitehouse, is proposing a more steeply progressive estate tax, reports Laura Sanders: "Under the proposal, as in 2009, the exemption would be $3.5 million for an individual, or as much as $7 million for a couple, with a tax rate of 45%. But estates with taxable assets between $10 million and $50 million would pay a 50% rate, and estates valued above $50 million would pay 55%. A further 10% surtax would apply to assets above $500 million."

Obama's economic policy team runs on conflict, reports Caren Bohan: "Blunt, brash, brainy and occasionally self-mocking. Larry Summers, the White House economic adviser, is all of these things. In a career spanning academia, government and finance, he has rubbed some people the wrong way and infuriated others. So when President Barack Obama named him director of the National Economic Council, skeptics could be forgiven for wondering how Summers would fit in with the 'No Drama Obama' management style. Eighteen months later, the question persists."

Housing experts are denouncing Fannie Mae's new rules on mortgage defaults as needlessly cruel: http://nyti.ms/awcZjZ

Even before FinReg passes, new state and federal laws are upping consumer financial protections, reports Sudeep Reddy: "On July 1, Arizona will force changes on the state's 595 payday-loan stores-outfits that make high-interest loans against future paychecks-that could effectively put them out of business. Wisconsin banned small loans backed by car titles that led many people to lose their vehicles. Arkansas, Maine and New York joined other states in putting curbs on tax preparers who offer costly loans against expected tax refunds. The federal government, meanwhile, is for the first time requiring that lenders verify a borrower's income and assets before issuing a home loan."

Mortgage rates are at an all-time low, with no lending bump to show for it: http://bit.ly/cTP1SI

Blanche Lincoln is blocking attempts at a compromise on derivatives, report Meredith Shiner and Carrie Budoff Brown: "At a leadership meeting, top Democrats told her the language was causing vote problems in the House, but she had no plans to budge, Lincoln told POLITICO Wednesday night. 'I like what we got,' Lincoln said. 'I'm always open to listening to people in terms of what their concerns are and suggestions are, but I do want to see a strong bill.'"

Grassley is backing Lincoln on derivatives reform, reports Victoria McGrane: http://bit.ly/azjTn5

Bears, bears, bears interlude: A bear hangs out in a hot tub.

Domestic Policy

Rep. Luis Gutierrez, a major backer of immigration reform, has conceded the votes aren't there this Congress, reports Molly Hooper: "'There are an insufficient number of Democratic votes to pass this in the Senate or in the House. I've said it. There are an insufficient number. We are 102 strong, we are 102 commitment, but we are insufficient,' Gutierrez said."

Michael Bloomberg is leading a group of mayors and businesspeople pushing for immigration reform: http://bit.ly/9OwhNk

Utah is moving forward with health care reform even as it sues to stop it, reports Anna Wilde Mathews: "Yet, on Thursday, Gov. Gary R. Herbert announced a step towards its implementation: Utah will join 29 other states and the District of Columbia in running its own insurance pool to cover high-risk people. Other states let the federal government handle the program, concerned they would have to pay for it if they exhausted their federal funding."

The House has sent the "doc fix" to the White House: http://politi.co/ac15DG

Tom Harkin is hinting card check legislation may come up for a vote during the lame duck session of Congress: http://bit.ly/bnlUZy

Analysis

Noah Feldman argues that the Supreme Court needs a new liberal philosophy that takes economic changes seriously: "The great economic and political challenges of our present decade - salvaging and fixing financial institutions, delivering health care, protecting the environment - have major constitutional dimensions. They require us to determine the limits of government power and the extent to which the state can impinge on collective and individual freedoms. Progressive constitutional thinkers, so skilled in arguing about social and civil rights, are out of practice in addressing such structural economic questions."

Howard Gleckman writes that the home buyer's tax credit failed exactly as it was predicted to fail: "The hardest bit to swallow is not so much that the homebuyer tax credit is a boondoggle. It is that it was a totally predictable waste of money. Economists warned Congress in 2008 that the credit would do little more than shift timing decisions by a few months. But lawmakers ignored the advice again and again. Remarkably, the Senate may be about to give buyers still more time to close on homes they put contracts on before April 30. That way, they can squeeze the last few dollars out of a failed credit."

Daniel Gross wonders why Ben Bernanke doesn't seem to care about unemployment: "First, it could be that Bernanke and the Fed are simply exhausted.¿The Fed used up all its resources saving the system. Now it's time for the political system and the private sector to do their thing. Second, it could be a failure of imagination. In recent years, Bernanke and the Federal Reserve have proved themselves to be poor predictors of how big macroeconomic trends-low interest rates, unregulated subprime lending, the rampant use of derivatives-can have negative social, economic, and political impacts."

Health care reform will change the health care you have - and that's okay, writes Kate Pickert: The new regulations, after all, are designed to protect consumers. If job-based plans have to change - and are not dropped by employers - they will do so in ways that limit what workers have to pay out of pocket and what insurers can refuse to cover.¿Plus, it's not as though the employer-based insurance market is reliable and stable in its current form. Most employees don't have any control over the structure of their health insurance."

Ethanol may not have much environmental benefits, reports Erica Gies: "Corn farming is the biggest source of pollution associated with ethanol production. Corn requires vastly more fertilizer and pesticides than soybeans or other potential biofuel feedstocks, such as perennial grasses, according to a 2007 report from the National Academy of Sciences. 'Per unit of energy gained, biodiesel from soy requires just 2 percent of the nitrogen and 8 percent of the phosphorous needed for corn ethanol,' and the differentials in pesticide use are similar, the report said."

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


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