News Brief June 30, 2010

NYC mayor, major CEOs lobby for immigration reform – Chief executives of several major corporations, including Hewlett-Packard, Boeing, Disney and News Corp., are joining Mayor Michael Bloomberg to form a coalition advocating for immigration reform ¬including a path to legal status for all undocumented immigrants now in the United States.

REPORT TIME – The House Rules Committee this morning was nearing completion of its hearing into the financial regulatory reform conference report, setting the stage for floor debate and a vote today in that chamber, likely around 5 p.m. Republicans led by Rules ranking member David Dreier were questioning why House Democratic leaders were pushing ahead, suggesting that added time would allow “for things to be discovered” in the report between now and whenever the Senate brings it to the floor. But Financial Services Chairman Barney Frank and Rules Chairwoman Louise Slaughter said a delay in the House was not necessary.

TRY, TRY AGAIN. – Senate Majority Leader Reid said this morning a cloture vote could happen as early as today to extend unemployment insurance benefits through November and give homebuyers three more months beyond today’s closing deadline to qualify for a tax credit. But in an acknowledgement that 60 votes are probably not there for the $34 billion package, of which only $140 million to extend the homebuyer credit closing deadline is offset, Reid said he was also preparing to seek unanimous consent to approve a stand-alone homebuyer credit measure, which passed the House 409-5 Tuesday. A Democratic leadership aide called both measures time-sensitive and said Reid would explore other options to get both approved before the Independence Day break. A vote in the House on an unemployment benefit extension is expected today as well, this time under a rule, after the measure failed to pass on the suspension calendar Tuesday. The path forward for the unemployment piece remains unclear, however, as Republican leaders continue to demand offsets. “Both sides have offered ways to address the programs in this bill that we agree should be extended. The only difference is that Democrats are demanding that we add the cost to an already unsustainable $13 trillion national debt,” Senate Minority Leader McConnell said.

THE NEW MATH. – Federal debt will reach 62 percent of gross domestic product by the end of this year — the highest percentage since shortly after World War II – CBO said today in its long-term budget outlook report. At the end of FY08 that debt equaled 40 percent of the nation’s annual economic output, a little above the 40-year average of 36 percent, the nonpartisan budget office said. But since then, large budget deficits — 9.4 percent of GDP in FY10 — have caused debt held by the public to shoot upward. CBO said the sharp rise in debt stems partly from lower tax revenues and higher federal spending related to the recession and turmoil in financial markets. The growing debt also reflects an imbalance between spending and revenues that predated those economic developments.

FIRST ROUND CHALLENGE. – Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan concluded her responses to the first round Senate Judiciary Committee members’ questions this morning, with the panel hoping to complete her testimony by late tonight. Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Al Franken, D-Minn., used the time to take aim at the jurisprudence of the Supreme Court under Chief Justice John Roberts. Klobuchar asked about Roberts’ balls-and-strikes-calling metaphor for the role of judges, which is, depending on the company, repeated as a mantra or derided as an oversimplified take on a court that decides cases where the law is unclear. “It is correct in several important respects, but, like all metaphors, it does have its limits,” Kagan said. “Judges have to exercise judgment,” she said.

Banks Financing Mexico Drug Gangs Admitted in Wells Fargo Deal Published on 06-29-2010 – Just before sunset on April 10, 2006, a DC-9 jet landed at the international airport in the port city of Ciudad del Carmen, 500 miles east of Mexico City. As soldiers on the ground approached the plane, the crew tried to shoo them away, saying there was a dangerous oil leak. So the troops grew suspicious and searched the jet. They found 128 black suitcases, packed with 5.7 tons of cocaine, valued at $100 million. The stash was supposed to have been delivered from Caracas to drug traffickers in Toluca, near Mexico City, Mexican prosecutors later found. Law enforcement officials also discovered something else. The smugglers had bought the DC-9 with laundered funds they transferred through two of the biggest banks in the U.S.: Wachovia Corp. and Bank of America Corp., Bloomberg Markets reports in its August 2010 issue.

House Democrats have included the collective bargaining legislation in a proposed domestic spending amendment to the Senate war supplemental spending bill (H.R. 4899).

It remains unclear when and how the House will take up the war supplemental and the amendment, and whether they have the votes to do so.  Some of us are working to find that out – it’s not certain that they do!  If H.R. 4899 is successfully amended and clears the House, it would have to be returned to the Senate for re-consideration.  The House and Senate are in recess next week, so no final action would happen on this bill before the week of July 12th. We’ll let you know more as we do.

Know that our opposition continues!

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