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Wonkbook: FinReg hits 60; Congress abandons 99ers; new well cap and drilling ban

Ezra Klein
Tuesday, July 13, 2010; 7:31 AM

With Olympia Snowe's and Scott Brown's support, FinReg probably has enough votes to beat a filibuster. Remember, though, that Russ Feingold is a "no," Ben Nelson is a "maybe," and Robert Byrd's seat is unoccupied. Meanwhile, the Obama administration has issued a differently worded version of the deepwater drilling moratorium to get around a federal judge's opposition; BP placed a new cap with an awesome name -- "the 3 ram capping stack!" -- on the well; a large chunk of the long-term unemployed will be left out even if Congress does extend benefits; and Obama is writing a lot of policy that he may not be around to implement.

I wish I had a leftover bowl of this sitting in the fridge for breakfast. Welcome to Wonkbook.

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With at least three Republicans on board, FinReg passage is all but assured, reports Brady Dennis: "If Democrats remain united and win votes from Brown, Cantwell, Collins and Snowe, they will eclipse the filibuster-proof 60 votes needed to send the bill to Obama. If necessary, they could wait until the Democratic governor of West Virginia names a replacement for Sen. Robert C. Byrd, who died last month."

Congress is abandoning the long-term unemployed, reports Michael Fletcher: "In the coming weeks, the Senate is expected to resume its debate about whether to extend the emergency jobless benefits that were passed in response to the steep increase in unemployment caused by the recession. But people like Frazee, who have suffered the longest in the downturn, will not be part of that conversation. They are among the 1.4 million workers who have been unemployed for at least 99 weeks, according to the Labor Department, reaching the limit for the insurance. Their numbers have grown sixfold in the past three years."

The recent legislative history of jobless benefits, or how we got to a place where the Senate is letting two million people lose their checks: http://bit.ly/93ECoj

BP's new oil spill cap has been installed but still needs to be tested, report Joel Achenbach and Mary Pat Flaherty: The new chimney enabled BP to deploy a huge structure known as the '3 ram capping stack.' It has three valves that can be used to close the flow of oil. First it had to be installed -- no slam-dunk in the cold, dark, highly pressurized deep-sea environment, where ice-like methane hydrates can quickly form and clog openings. With the new cap in place, oil and gas still flow out a perforated pipe at the top of the stack. Next will come the critical 'integrity test.' It's really a pressure test. How the well performs in the test will shape everything that follows."

LONG BALL: Many of Obama's policies aren't set to take effect until he's long gone, report Chris Frates and Ben White: "Health care reform cracks down on insurers right away but won't force people to buy insurance until 2014. A new consumer financial protection agency kicks in almost immediately under the Wall Street reform bill, but banks won't feel its full force for more than 10 years. And even Democrats' nascent immigration reforms include at least an eight-year wait before illegal immigrants can apply for permanent residency -- after Obama leaves office."

Fuzz-pop interlude: Best Coast's "When I'm With You".

Still to come: Environmentalists are reduced to fighting for a utilities-only carbon cap in the climate bill -- and they may not even get that; Harry Reid will focus on jobs legislation before the August recess; doctors losing influence; Hank Paulson hearts FinReg; and a corgi who really loves the Beatles.

Energy

Environmentalists are fighting for even a utilities-only cap in the climate bill, reports Andrew Restuccia: "In an effort to maintain a cap on carbon -- even a significantly scaled-down one -- in energy and climate legislation, environmentalists are working with electric utilities and manufacturers to try to find middle ground that would center on a utility-only cap on greenhouse gas emissions, a source at a leading environmental organization tells TWI."

Obama officials think spending on energy research and green jobs is the best they can do: http://bit.ly/9U1GoY

The Obama administration has issued a revised deepwater drilling moratorium, reports Steven Mufson: "The six-month moratorium announced in May in the wake of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill barred drilling in waters more than 500 feet deep. The moratorium announced Monday doesn't mention water depths, but it bars drilling by the types of rigs and drilling technology typically used in those waters...The Justice Department said that the new order supersedes the earlier one and renders the legal challenge to the moratorium moot."

In lieu of a climate bill, the EPA is set to keep rolling out greenhouse gas regulations: http://politi.co/cStONx

The race for natural gas is prompting environmental worries, reports Kate Galbraith: "At issue is a procedure known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, which has been adopted widely in the United States over the past 10 years to extract gas trapped in shale formations. It is just starting to spread to other parts of the world, including Europe, China and Australia. Fracking involves shooting a mixture of water, sand and chemicals deep underground, to break up rock and release the gas."

Great moments in political advertising interlude: The Elect Mike Weinstein song.

Economy/ FinReg

Harry Reid says Senate Democrats will focus on jobs legislation before the August recess, reports Meredith Shiner: "The majority leader highlighted the Democrats' intentions to pass before the long August recess a fully paid-for small jobs bill that would enact tax incentives and increase loan limits for small businesses, as well as create a small business lending fund to give smaller banks more capital."

Russ Feingold still believes FinReg does not go far enough, will oppose it: http://politi.co/avU9VL

Andrew Ross Sorkin writes that Hank Paulson is a fan of FinReg: "Mr. Paulson said that even more than the resolution authority, he saw the legislation's creation of a systemic risk council as perhaps the most important aspect of the bill and crucial to preventing the next crisis. The council would give the various parts of government insight into what was going on elsewhere and the power to shut firms down or change practices that might put the system at risk."

Six practical ways, and one impractical way, that Congress could improve the economy before November: http://bit.ly/9gklrF

David Brooks argues that capitalism runs on social isolates: "The social butterflies at the banks got swept up in the popular enthusiasms. The contrarians at the hedge funds made money betting against them. The well-connected bankers knew they'd get bailed out if anything went wrong. The solitary hedge fund guys knew they were on their own and regarded their trades with paranoid anxiety. In finance, as in other realms of business life, social polish doesn't always go with capitalist success. Often it is the most narrow, intense, awkward people who start the best companies, employ the most people and create the most value.

Keith Hennessey argues that the budget deficit wasn't Bush's doing: http://bit.ly/aUFfdW

Adorable animals being adorable interlude: This corgi suffers from Beatlemania.

Domestic Policy

The American Medical Association is losing influence on Capitol Hill, report Jennifer Haberkorn and Sarah Kliff: "The AMA's most prominent lobbying failure has been its inability to repeal the obsolete formula governing payments for Medicare patients -- a method that has for years required regular temporary 'fixes' to avoid big pay cuts for doctors. Determined to win repeal, which would have cost upward of $240 billion, the group refused to support an alternative five-year 'fix' proposed last month, alienating Democrats already under fire in an election year for the ballooning deficit."

Poor areas undercounted in the Census are worried they'll lose federal funds for another cycle: http://bit.ly/dyarXj

Local Medicaid cuts are running up against the Affordable Care Act, reports Janet Adamy: "by cutting eligibility for enrollees, states risk losing their remaining Medicaid funding from the federal government, which pays for about $2 out of every $3 spent on Medicaid, the federal-state program that provides health insurance to people below or around the federal poverty level. The health-care overhaul signed into law in March imposes eligibility requirements for federal funding."

Republican opposition to Kagan's confirmation will focus on admiration for Thurgood Marshall, Israeli judge Barak: http://politi.co/bzlcg2

Gabriel China and Kevin Johnson write that Supreme Court precedent support the Arizona immigration law: "In a 1975 case regarding the Border Patrol's power to stop vehicles near the U.S.-Mexico border and question the occupants about their citizenship and immigration status, United States v. Brignoni-Ponce, the high court ruled that the 'likelihood that any given person of Mexican ancestry is an alien is high enough to make Mexican appearance a relevant factor.' In 1982 the Arizona Supreme Court agreed, ruling in State v. Graciano that 'enforcement of immigration laws often involves a relevant consideration of ethnic factors.'"

Supporting the compromise DISCLOSE Act is proving as costly for the NRA as for House Democrats: http://politi.co/9C8WKw

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