Wall Street reform passes, Boehner's Republicans immediately call for repeal

The Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform bill just passed the Senate, 60-39. It now goes to the President for his signature. The new law won’t do nearly enough to prevent another Lehman Brothers or Bear Stearns – for instance, there’s no practical way to break up too-big-to-fail – but it improves the status quo at least somewhat and was worth passage.

And yet, the man who would be Speaker if voters choose Republican this fall is already calling for the bill’s repeal. That’s right; John Boehner thinks the government should leave Wall Street in exactly the same regulatory position that allowed it to double unemployment and seize up credit.

I understand the politics of demanding repeal of the health insurance bill. The thing’s unpopular. But voters actually care about the economy; they don’t want to lose their jobs, and they understand that the financial industry is to blame for the economic collapse. What the hell is Boehner thinking?  

“I think it ought to be repealed,” Boehner said at his weekly press conference. “There are commonsense things that you should do to plug the holes in the regulatory system that were there, and to bring more transparency to financial transactions, because transparency is like sunlight. Sunlight is the best disinfectant.”

Boehner doesn’t get it. Transparency works when we’re talking about politicians. If we don’t like what we see, we can vote them out. That’s not true of private corporations. If setting up the economy to fail isn’t illegal, it doesn’t matter how transparent it is; there’s nothing the public can do other than yell louder and louder about completely legal activities. If ever there was an industry that screamed for regulation, it’s the financial sector. Under no circumstances can John Boehner be permitted to become Speaker of the House.

And yet, he’s not alone. Senators Thune, Shelby, and LeMieux:

“If we were in a position to do something, maybe [Boehner] is right," said GOP Policy Chairman Sen. John Thune (S.D.). "We'll see if we can do something about it after the next election."

Sen. Richard Shelby (Ala.), the top Republican on the Banking Committee, said he “absolutely” agreed.

"If you vote against it, you know it should be repealed. It's the wrong bill. It's not reform. It ignores Fannie and Freddie. It's not going to create any jobs. It's going to create a huge bureaucracy,” Shelby said.

Sen. George LeMieux (R-Fla.) said he would look to repeal parts of the legislation.

Also Senators Graham, McCain, and Corker:

South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham called the bill a "missed opportunity" to control spending and set priorities. And Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) was similarly underwhelmed, calling it "business as usual."

"No one can make a convincing argument that this legislation indeed prevents any institution from being too big to fail. You can't make that argument," he told reporters at the Captiol today. McCain's amendment, which would have mandated an end to government support of the failed companies within two years failed, 43 to 56.

Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, a top Republican player in the financial reform debate, slammed the Democrat-backed bill... One reporter noted that Corker had helped to craft the legislation, negotiating several provisions with Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd, and Corker acknowledged his role but quickly pivoted back to his talking points.

(McCain is right that the bill doesn't end TBTF, but mandating that the government ignore rather than break up such institutions wouldn't solve the problem either.)

Senator Alexander and possible presidential candidate Rep. Mike Pence:

TPMDC asked Lamar Alexander (R-TN), the third ranking Republican in the Senate, whether Republicans would make a concerted push to repeal the financial reform bill.

"Well, that's a good -- that's a good, that's a good question," Alexander said. "We're very disappointed with this...If we have a Congress with a majority of Republicans, and there are ways to improve it or fix it, I imagine there'll be an effort to do that."

Pence suggested much the same... What elements of the law would need to be dismantled?

"There's several aspects of that, but I can break that down for you. Let's jump off that bridge when we come to it," Pence said.

What a message. I think Democratic chances this fall just got a lot better.

Climate Bill's Delay May Be A Good Thing

As Charles mentioned, the the long-awaited Kerry-Graham-Lieberman (KGL) energy and climate bill will NOT be unveiled on Monday as expected. Now that Harry Reid plans to move immigration legislation first, Graham is threatening to walk and Kerry has put the bill on hold. With the midterms looming, putting immigration first already virtually assured that climate legislation wouldn’t move this year; Graham’s stunt all but guarantees it.

I’m shocked to hear myself saying this, but: good.

I’ve spent the past year pushing hard for this bill both on MyDD and in my professional life, but over the past few days I have come to believe that a delay might actually be a good thing. That belief may run counter to conventional wisdom – Kerry said this year is the “last and best shot” for passing a bill and Politico’s tone echoes that sentiment – but KGL has deteriorated so much that waiting for a better bill after next January’s filibuster reform might actually be worth it. Once the rules for the next Congress are written, we may be able to get not just a stronger bill but an infinitely stronger bill than what could pass now.

Generally in politics I’m a fan of an incremental, something-is-better-than-nothing approach, and I started out that way on KGL. I hate to say it, but tipping point or not, the goal isn’t to write perfect legislation but to write passable legislation. To this end I was willing to swallow the KGL oil give-aways in exchange for the first carbon price in history and new subsidies for clean energy.

On Friday, however, it was reported that the bill would remove “the states' authority to set tougher emissions standards than the federal government.” And that’s beyond even the most pragmatic pale. So much of current federal energy and environmental laws originated with the states, particularly California. Banning the states from taking tougher action than the federal government would by itself turn this bill from a first step to a last step. It would stymie innovation and destroy our best tool for continuing to move the ball forward. I can swallow imperfection if it allows room for further improvement, but it appears that KGL was going to block such improvement for ever and always.

It now looks like this might be a non-issue. I feel sorry for the three negotiators who have been stabbed in the back, but maybe it’s best this way. The bill contained its many poison pills because of the 60-vote threshold the Repubs have for the first time in history imposed on nearly all Senate business. Come January, however, I am confident that Democrats will still control at least 53 seats and that some sort of filibuster reform will be reality. 

We can get a better bill with fewer votes then than we can with 60 votes now. KGL has sunk so much that the difference between those two bills might actually be enough to make flirting with the tipping point worth it.

There's more...

Christian Coalition Declares Support For John Kerry’s Climate Efforts

It’s official: the religious right no longer dominates evangelical politics. The movement has outgrown its narrow focus on school prayer, abortion, and homophobia. Evangelicals have been trending this way for several years, but concrete change came today as the Christian Coalition endorsed John Kerry and Lindsey Graham's efforts to pass a major clean energy and climate change bill. (If you’re unfamiliar with the Christian Coalition, it’s the organization formed out of the remnants of Pat Robertson’s 1988 presidential campaign and brought to prominence by Ralph Reed – what Democracy for America is to Howard Dean, and the backbone of the religious right in the early 1990s.)

I have long been intrigued by the changing nature of evangelical politics. It was the subject of my undergraduate thesis: evangelicals never cease their political involvement, but every few decades, the nature of that involvement changes. Since the mid-1970s, evangelical politics have been in the era of the “religious right,” but that era is coming to a close. Evangelicals aren’t abandoning their positions on the aforementioned wedge issues, but they are changing their rhetoric and beginning to care about justice issues. All the evidence, though, has been circumstantial, with plenty to counter it: Individual megachurch pastors, like Rick Warren, call for a more civil discourse and a focus on more than just two or three issue, but always meet with sharp rebukes from the likes of James Dobson. A poll showed young evangelicals, while as pro-life as their parents, are also pro-civil-unions, but there’s no sign of political action to back it up. The Christian Coalition elected a president concerned with creation care (climate change) and poverty in 2006, but ousted him before he took office.

So while thousands of evangelical churches are “greening” their congregations, whether or not personal commitment to “creation care” would translate to political action has always been a slippery question. Today, I think, we finally have a solid answer. This isn’t just a generational shift like in the above poll; it’s the old guard seeing the light and braodening their focus. The current leader, Roberta Combs, took over as president for Pat Robertson in 2001 and led the aforementioned ouster of her 2006 replacement, but says the following in a new radio ad:

President Bush was right: our addiction to foreign oil threatens our national security and economic prosperity. America spends almost a billion dollars a day on foreign oil and a lot of that goes to countries that do not like us and harbor terrorists. Washington's failure to act puts our national security at risk, and drains our economy. I've heard from so many Christian Coalition supporters that energy is one of the most important issues we face today. America is a can-do country. We've got to take the lead to explore energy alternatives and protect our national security. We have to make our country safer by creating jobs with the made-in-America energy plan. I would like to ask you to call Sen. Lindsey Graham and encourage him to continue fighting for our families.

Evangelical politics are same-old same-old on abortion and, for now, gay rights. They are and always will be fundamentally conservative, but that doesn’t mean the progressive movement should reject a strong partner on specific issues such as the fight against climate change. With the forced ouster of James Dobson at Focus on the Family, the movement’s rhetoric and willingness to cooperate seems to be changing, and that’s an outstretched hand I say we take where we can. Assuming the KGL bill doesn’t give too much away to coal, we need to do whatever it takes to pass it. This just might be the “change” voters were looking for: not just in policy outcomes, but in rhetoric and advocacy as well.

Lindsay Graham Supports Kerry's Climate Change Bill

John Kerry has done for climate change what Max Baucus was unable to do for health care: he has found bipartisan support.

Kerry and Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC) co-wrote an op-ed for today's New York Times in support of the Kerry-Boxer climate change bill:

We refuse to accept the argument that the United States cannot lead the world in addressing global climate change. We are also convinced that we have found both a framework for climate legislation to pass Congress and the blueprint for a clean-energy future that will revitalize our economy, protect current jobs and create new ones, safeguard our national security and reduce pollution.

Our partnership represents a fresh attempt to find consensus that adheres to our core principles and leads to both a climate change solution and energy independence. It begins now, not months from now -- with a road to 60 votes in the Senate.

It's true that we come from different parts of the country and represent different constituencies and that we supported different presidential candidates in 2008. We even have different accents. But we speak with one voice in saying that the best way to make America stronger is to work together to address an urgent crisis facing the world.

Say what you will about bipartisanship, but this is great news. With luck, John McCain and Lamar Alexander will follow suit. Climate change legislation must pass this year - this is the one issue where Jack Bauer's ticking time bomb actually exists. To pass a bill before that bomb goes off, we will need Republican votes - there is no budget reconciliation for the environment, but there are Democratic nay-saters. For every Evan Bayh, we will need a Lindsay Graham.

On a related note and in the interest of disclosure, I will be starting a part-time job with Repower Nebraska - the local affiliate of the climate change advocacy group Repower America - later this week. They won't be paying me any money, but I will be working there as part of another program (the Episcopal Service Corps) that does pay me. I will stick such a disclaimer after the jump on all future environmental posts.

There's more...

A Christian, a Jew and a Homosexual get on an airplane . . .

No, this is not a bad homophobic joke from the 60's that your dad would hear at a 'stag party'.

Actually, it's a bad joke from campaign 2008.  

Why do John McCain, Joe Lieberman and Lindsay Graham always seem to be traveling somewhere together?

Seriously, every time McCain gets on a plane, it seems he's with both of the two other Stooges.  

I can't help but wonder what they'd each shout as each one in turn put on their parachutes and jumped off the plane.  

There's more...

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