Today in Washington, December 8, 2010

Today is check the box day in the Senate.  Votes scheduled on one labor issue, one gay rights issue, one immigration reform issue, one 9/11 health care issue and one Social Security issue.  None of the bills dealing with these issues are expected to pass, because all 42 Republican Senators are expected to vote against cloture on all legislative items until the tax issue is resolved and the unfinished appropriations measures are approved. 

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is declaring Martial Law in the House so she can quickly pass bills without any opportunity for members to see the legislation.  To paraphrase Pelosi — “We have to pass legislation, so we can know what is in it.”

This morning, the Senate voted unanimously to convict Louisiana federal judge G. Thomas Porteous of charges relating to a recusal and voted to remove him from office by a 96-0 vote.  The Senate will be busy today with cloture votes on S.3991, the Firefighters Collective Bargaining Act;  S.3985, the Emergency Senior Citizens relief Act;  S.3992, the DREAM Act; H.R.847, the 9/11 Health and Compensation Act and the Defense Authorization bill for the purposes of voting on repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” 

The House is voting on a Continuing Resolution funding the government into next year and the Martial Law rule.  The House will consider H.Res. 1752, the Same Day Consideration Rule, also known as “Martial Law.”  This new rule waives all transparency requirements in the House so the liberals can sneak legislation quickly through the House without anybody knowing what is in it.  The rule waives one transparency provision of clause 6(a) of rule XIII with respect to consideration of certain resolutions reported from the Committee on Rules.  This will grant the liberals in the House the discretion to bring up bills without any notice to the minority party.  Clearly, the Pelosi lead House will go down in history as not the most transparent and ethical in Congressional history –like they promised. 

The House may take up the food safety bill and the DREAM Act, but no votes have been locked in on those issues.  The negotiations are expected to continue on what to add to the Obama Tax agreement to sweeten it up for liberal Democrats.  Expect Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) to add a laundry list of liberal items to the bill to buy just enough Democrat votes to get the bill passed in the House and Senate. 

Conservative Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) is joining forces with socialist Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) to filibuster the President’s tax agreement.  DeMint believes that this is a bad deal for conservatives and Sanders is opposed to any tax relief for job creators.  

Politico reports that it is expected that this bill will pass the Senate, because of some last minute horse trading.

In the Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) told reporters the votes weren’t there for the president’s package – right now. But three senior Senate Democratic aides conceded that Reid would ultimately find enough Democrats to break a filibuster, if they are able to add a few more tax proposals targeted as the middle class and as long as Republicans continue to stand behind the deal.
The bill is already a non-starter for many conservatives, yet the liberals are expected to load up the legislation to make it even more unpalatable for conservative Republicans.  Ezra Klein of the Washington Post agrees with DeMint and argues that Republicans got snookered in the original deal:
If you look at the numbers alone, the tax cut deal looks to have robbed Republicans blind. The GOP got around $95 billion in tax cuts for wealthy Americans and $30 billion in estate tax cuts. Democrats got $120 billion in payroll-tax cuts, $40 billion in refundable tax credits (Earned Income Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit and education tax credits), $56 billion in unemployment insurance, and, depending on how you count it, about $180 billion (two-year cost) or $30 billion (10-year cost) in new tax incentives for businesses to invest.  But that’s not how it’s being understood. Republicans are treating it as a victory, and liberals as a defeat. Which raises two separate questions: Why did Republicans give Obama so much? And why aren’t Democrats happier about it?
Liberal Democrats will test the limits of Republicans to see how much more they can get before Republicans cry uncle and start to peel off the deal.