Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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August 4, 2010

SENATE PASSES KEY LEGISLATION ON STATE AID, TEACHERS' JOBS.... This morning was a key test -- of the Senate's ability to address a public need, of policymakers' commitment to the American economy, of Republican moderates' willingness to take "yes" for an answer.

In a pleasant surprise, they passed the test.

At issue was a state aid package, including $10 billion to save school teachers' jobs, and $16.1 billion in state Medicaid funding (FMAP). The measure was financed through a combination of cuts -- including cuts to food stamps in future years -- and closing foreign tax credit loopholes. For Republicans who claim to want to improve the economy, but not at the expense of the deficit, there were no excuses -- Dems offered a modest, sensible bill, which would save jobs, help struggling states, all without adding to the deficit.

Indeed, Senate Democrats practically wrote the bill to the specifications of Republican Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine. Fortunately, they acted in good faith -- after getting the provisions they wanted, at the cost they wanted, Snowe and Collins voted with Democrats. The vote this morning was 61 to 38. Every other Republican in the chamber voted to kill the legislation -- there's money for the wars and tax cuts, they said, but not for teachers and health care.

This morning was not, by the way, a vote on final passage, but rather, to end a Republican filibuster (which, for the first time in American history, is applied to literally every bill of consequence). The legislation itself will be approved by majority rule by tomorrow night, at the latest.

The bill now heads to the House, which won't return from its August recess for several weeks. There have been some unconfirmed rumors that the House may return in emergency session to approve the FMAP/EduJobs bill before the recess formally ends, but that remains to be seen.

Regardless, this morning offers something of a relief. As many as 140,000 school teachers' jobs were on the line, and much-needed Medicaid funding needed to pass. For those who were beginning to think nothing could ever pass the Senate again, regardless of merit, today offers a glimmer of hope.

Steve Benen 11:20 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (20)

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If the teachers were furloughed, and the kiddies couldn't go back to school, and their parents had to find sitters/day care/whatever, who would they blame? The Senate Republicans? Or the teacher's UNIONS?

Posted by: DAY on August 4, 2010 at 11:23 AM | PERMALINK

Just passed, same vote.

Now resuming Kagan debate.

Posted by: CSPAN2 watcher on August 4, 2010 at 11:29 AM | PERMALINK

"Indeed, Senate Democrats practically wrote the bill to the specifications of Republican Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine."

This is one of the things that is so galling about this supposedly Democratic Congress. Every single bill that I'm aware of (and most especially the HIR bill) has been written to Republican specifications. The republicans sit back and say no, while the dems do their work for them. The gopers have the best of both worlds: they can legitimately say they were responsible for the bill while at the same time saying they voted against it. And the Dems just lamely go about the business of the republican party.

Posted by: CDW on August 4, 2010 at 11:29 AM | PERMALINK

When the goal posts have been narrowed by 10% it is much more greatly difficult to kick the policy-ball through the uprights!

Boy that Republican party knows how to rig America's game! Republicans need a personal foul 15 yd. penalty this fall at the ballot box! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on August 4, 2010 at 11:35 AM | PERMALINK

"And the Dems just lamely go about the business of the republican party."

Maybe because - like in this case - they care for the kids and not want to be like kids themselves.

Posted by: Vokoban on August 4, 2010 at 11:35 AM | PERMALINK

This is important at the state level. Our governor was on the verge of calling for an immediate, 5 percent budget cut in the absence of federal action. That may not sound like a big cut to you, but it is given that the low-hanging budgetary fruit had already been picked. Most states are in a world of hurt, so I'm glad to see at least the beginnings of rational thinking at the federal level.

Posted by: Dr Lemming on August 4, 2010 at 11:37 AM | PERMALINK

cdw: Every single bill that I'm aware of (and most especially the HIR bill) has been written to Republican specifications.

Jesus Christ. Just keep writing stupid things like this and the rethugs will have an even better chance of taking congress in november.

Do you understand cloture? Can you count to sixty? How the fuck to you expect to pass ANYTHING without at least one republican vote? Are you really that stupid? Or just intentionally trying to make all democrats look bad?

The senators from Maine are the most liberal of the republican senators. We need their votes to do anything. The bill was written to get their votes. Is that so difficult to understand?

Posted by: cr on August 4, 2010 at 11:49 AM | PERMALINK

And so this 'passed' on the back of poor people who rely on food stamps: cutting them even more. How may of us realize that, currently, a four person family can receive a total of $540.00 per month for their food on food stamps ? And now this is going to be cut more ? Meanwhile the Estate Tax for millionairs has expired that costs the government 23 Billion this year. Boy what a victory for the Dems.

Posted by: stormskies on August 4, 2010 at 11:49 AM | PERMALINK

TPM reported yesterday that the Senate would either vote on or attempt to pass by unanimous consent the settlement money from the USDA discrimination case, "after" the state aid vote. Any idea if that is still happening and if so when?

Storm: My understanding is that the money was taken from food stamp funding allocated to future years, meaning no food stamp benefits will be cut so long as congress finds new funding for SNAP before the remaining money runs out. Have you seen anything saying otherwise?

Posted by: mcc on August 4, 2010 at 11:58 AM | PERMALINK

"Money for wars and tax cuts, none for schools and health care." VOTE GOP 2010

Perfect Bumper sticker.


Posted by: goalkeeper on August 4, 2010 at 12:02 PM | PERMALINK

The food stamps cuts will start in April of '14. By which time, hopefully, the economy will have righted itself sufficiently so that fewer people need them. If that happens, then there'd be no cuts, since the same amount of money would be spread over a smaller pool of recipients. Closing tax loopholes on foreign companies, OTOH, will be put into effect immediately (or whatever "immediately" translates to, in congressional terms. A year? Two?)

Posted by: exlibra on August 4, 2010 at 12:09 PM | PERMALINK

mcc.........no i have not .. for me it's the simple fact to get this done they had to cut .. in the future .. ANYTHING FOR POOR PEOPLE...while still aiding and abetting the rich. and, think about it, $540 bucks a month for a family of four ? this millionair pigs spend 540 bucks for a bottle of wine at their country clubs ....

Posted by: stormskies on August 4, 2010 at 12:10 PM | PERMALINK

exlibra: and what if the economy is not better then, and there are even more people that need them ? what then ?

Posted by: stormskies on August 4, 2010 at 12:13 PM | PERMALINK

Is it just me, or does Congress spend more time in recess than they do actually working?

It's bad enough that they generally only work three-day weeks...now they're taking the whole month of August off?

Posted by: mfw13 on August 4, 2010 at 12:31 PM | PERMALINK

"Do you understand cloture? Can you count to sixty? How the fuck to you expect to pass ANYTHING without at least one republican vote? Are you really that stupid? Or just intentionally trying to make all democrats look bad?"

There's no need. They do that all by themselves! Those 98lbs weakling Democrats are ALWAYS letting Republicans kick sand in their faces!

Why don't the bastards eliminate the filibuster by the Nuclear Option, and just ram bills through?

That's EXACTLY what Republicans will do the INSTANT they gain control of Congress again! Day 1 they will eliminate the filibuster! And they won't care a damn about any Democratic whining about "institutional rules."

Republicans would NEVER tolerate the amount of obstructionism that Democrats in their weak-kneed stupidity swallow.

Republicans would simply howl with indignation about Democrats "flouting the will of the majority" and immediately ram through a procedural change to eliminate the problem.

They MIGHT agree to allow Democrats to keep the filibuster IF they all agree that NO Democrat EVER filibusters ANYTHING and ALL bills supported by the leadership are allowed to be voted on (i.e. exactly the pathetic "compromise" the "Gang of 14" came up with when Republicans last threatened to get rid of the veto).

Posted by: Cugel on August 4, 2010 at 1:32 PM | PERMALINK

exlibra: and what if the economy is not better then, and there are even more people that need them ? what then ?
Posted by: stormskies on August 4, 2010 at 12:13 PM

Depends, entirely, on who's holding the WH and the Congress, don't you think? Because if it's the "R is for reverse" bunch, they won't even try doing anything to ease the pain; it'll be "survival of the richest" in its purest form. What Dems are producing may not be a "security blanket"; its more like like a "security hankie" but, can you honestly say it's not better than the alternative?

Posted by: exlibra on August 4, 2010 at 1:50 PM | PERMALINK

cugel: Why don't the bastards eliminate the filibuster by the Nuclear Option, and just ram bills through?

1) There is no guarantee that it would work as planned. The Supreme Court has taken cases involving Senate rules in the past, and certainly could rule against Dems on this one.

2) Finding fifty senators willing to vote against 200+ years of Senate tradition could be very difficult, for Reps as well as Dems.

cugel: That's EXACTLY what Republicans will do the INSTANT they gain control of Congress again! Day 1 they will eliminate the filibuster!

I'd be willing to make a substantial wager that your prediction is incorrect.

Posted by: cr on August 4, 2010 at 1:51 PM | PERMALINK

CR@11:49

Can you say filibuster? - Make them do a real, true filiibuster. At least they would be trying. These bills are compromised before they even reach the floor and then watered down some more. The least the dems can do as look like they're trying.

Posted by: CDW on August 4, 2010 at 2:27 PM | PERMALINK

cdw: Make them do a real, true filiibuster.

This article has been posted here before; it's worth reading:

http://www.congressmatters.com/storyonly/2010/2/18/2108/-What-stands-in-the-way-of-forcing-a-filibuster

Posted by: cr on August 4, 2010 at 2:49 PM | PERMALINK

I wonder if the House would still insist on taking its scheduled recess in the face of a national emergency. Extending unemployment benefits for those with nothing to live on certainly didn't keep the senate from sailing off.

These matters affect people directly and personally and should not be delayed just to suit a vacation scheduling conflict. House members are well paid to endure a little inconvenience occasionally to make sure important matters directly impacting people's livelihoods get done right away.

btw...the senate is still broken. What should be business as usual is now seen as miraculous due to its rarity. The senate still holds to the tyranny of the minority. Dems need to stop pretending these obstructionists will ever act in good faith.

If they refuse to get rid of this abused filibuster rule then they should at least limit its use. Until then the senate remains unconstitutional and anti-democratic.

Posted by: bjobotts on August 4, 2010 at 4:59 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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