Warren huffed and puffed, but the House did not fall down

Warren huffed and puffed, but the House did not fall down

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Elizabeth Warren - Nancy Pelosi | Characters by DonkeyHotey for Flickr
Elizabeth Warren - Nancy Pelosi | Characters by DonkeyHotey for Flickr

WASHINGTON, December 13, 2014 – If you have any question as to whether Elizabeth Warren is running for 2016 they have been answered this week as she took to the Senate floor to decry financial deregulation language tucked into the massive $1.1 trillion Omnibus spending bill passed on Thursday.

Warren asserts the financial group is behind the insertion of a provision in the spending deal that would roll back regulations of the Dodd-Frank bill, which Warren is behind, for trading some derivatives and other securities.

In Warren’s firebrand stump, she makes promises that one might believe. But before you get misty eyed over Warren’s reformation promises, remember that in 2007 then Senator Obama campaigned on the promise to limit the power of lobbyist in Washington – something he never tried to do, much less succeeded at. (Obama Pledges Stronger Lobbying Reforms)

“When I am president, I will make it absolutely clear that working in an Obama administration is not about serving your former employer, your future employer or your bank account — it’s about serving your country, and that’s what comes first,” Obama told supporters at the New Hampshire Community Technical College here.

“A lot of people have told me this is pretty tough, but I refuse to accept the Washington logic that you cannot find thousands of talented, patriotic Americans willing to devote a few years to their country without the promise of a lucrative lobbying job when they’re done. I know we can find them,” Obama said.

So what happened? Warren, and 139 other Democrat Senators dog-nosed Nancy Pelosi in voting against the Omnibus, heightening what Charles Krauthammer calls “a Civil War” among democrats:

Warren and Pelosi are working against the President and other Democrats who are seeking to work with Republicans, decrying Citigroup’s influence in Washington. Warren says she will devote her service to breaking up the big banks to dilute the influence of companies like Citigroup.

The Massachusetts Democrat took on the “reach into Washington” of Citicorp and other Wall Street institutions. She named former Citigroup employees who have found work not only in the Obama administration but also with past presidents.

“Think about this kind of power. A financial institution has become so big and so powerful that it can hold the entire country hostage. That alone is a reason enough for us break them up. Enough is enough,” Warren said. “Enough is enough with Citigroup passing 11th hour deregulatory provisions that nobody takes ownership over but that everybody comes to regret. Enough is enough.”

To many political watchers, Warren’s push to shut down the government by shelving Omnibus is just so much noise. No one, particularly the public, wanted to consider that Congress would “shutdown the government” by not passing the bill.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, a deal-making Senate Republican, called Warren’s bluster, saying that comments Warren made during last year’s shutdown coupled with her Friday comments made the liberal Warren sound like the conservative hardliners who tried, and failed, to defund Obamacare as part of last year’s spending bill.

That GOP vs. Democrat fight resulted in a 16-day Government Shutdown last October over defunding the health care law cost the nation $24 billion, something we don’t need, or want, when faced with the Omnibus bill adding to our debt and a still struggling economy and jobs market.

Senator Lindsay Graham said that they were fighting for a shutdown, warning Warren and other dems not to take path of hard line Republicans in 2013.

“You have every right to vote no and argue to bring the bill down,” Senator Graham mocked to Warren. “If there’s something you don’t like, welcome to democracy.”

“If you follow the lead of the senator of Massachusetts … people are not going to believe you are mature enough to run the place,” Graham said. “Don’t follow her lead. She’s the problem.”

But remember, Republicans did not get what they wanted here either – not getting what you want seeming to be the meaning of bipartisan – as many are unhappy that House Speaker John Boehner did not use the funding bill to mount a challenge to the President’s deferred deportation program nor did it nick away at Obamacare.

Had Warren succeeded in her bid to shut down the bill, it would have also shut down government. Republicans failed to rise to the Warren/Pelosi bait, were able to whip up that last vote and foil their plan to take over, force a shut down and somehow blame the Republicans for the ensuing nightmare that would surely erode any luster on President Obama’s increased job numbers and lowering gas prices.

Warren appears to be taking lessons from consultants and learning how to manage her influence over voting Americans via the media. A Youtube.com channel started just this week showcases video clips of her fiery grandstanding.  All of which are designed to show she has influence over other house members – which unfortunately will not really matter with the swearing in of the Republican majority 114th Congress – and voters, which might in 2016.

Yahoo News lists the following key elements of the bill:

Eliminating a key Wall Street reform. The Democratic-controlled Congress in 2010 approved sweeping changes to the nation’s financial systems, many of them tailored to prevent the kind of crisis that tanked the economy in 2008. One of the centerpieces of the bill was a measure designed to spin off banks’ riskiest activities into subsidiaries, isolating the main functions of banks from those risks and also ensuring that taxpayers would not be on the hook to pay for losses created by those risky trades in the event that they failed. The spending bill approved by Congress eliminates the so-called push-out provision from the Dodd-Frank law, meaning that the trading of derivatives — the risky swaps or bets made against the rise and fall of value in assets — can now once again happen in-house in Wall Street’s largest banks.

Democrats led by Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren are outraged by this return to old ways, and she has said she will oppose the whole bill if the provision remains in it.

Dismantling what was left of campaign finance reform. The Supreme Court since 2010 has repeatedly struck down political donation restrictions approved by Congress in the 2002 McCain-Feingold campaign finance law. With the spending bill approved by Congress this week, lawmakers at the last minute agreed to undo the most significant remaining changes from the law: the limits for individuals on how much they can give to political parties. Before the change, which was inserted in the last few pages of the mammoth spending bill, the most any one person could give to a party group like the Democratic National Committee or Republican National Committee was $32,400 per year. Now any individual will be able to give anywhere from $97,200 to $777,600, depending on the interpretation of the language included in the government-spending bill.

Meddling in D.C. politics. Because the District of Columbia is not a state, it relies on Congress annually to appropriate its budget. And so Washington, D.C., perennially bears the brunt of congressional compromises as Republicans target D.C. programs to highlight social issues they oppose and Democrats acquiesce in the knowledge that the District will vote overwhelmingly for Democrats no matter what Congress does. During the first shutdown threat of Obama’s tenure in 2011, the GOP pushed through a ban on funds for abortion services in D.C. and started a school voucher program.

This year, Democrats agreed to support Republican language targeting a D.C. ballot initiative legalizing recreational marijuana, which voters approved by nearly 70 percent in November. The wide-ranging appropriations bill bars funds from being used for the implementation, regulation and taxation of marijuana and also, adding insult to injury, mandates that no money provided by Congress can be used by D.C. officials to petition for representation in Congress. Instead of a regular congressperson, D.C. has a delegate, Democrat Eleanor Holmes Norton, who does not have voting privileges in the House.

Cutting IRS and EPA funding. Republicans are touting cuts to the budgets of the Internal Revenue Service and the Environmental Protection Agency. The spending deal reduces IRS spending by $345 million in an olive branch to conservatives still miffed over a scandal involving the agency and its targeting of political groups that were using nonprofit loopholes to avoid paying certain taxes. The IRS funding levels in 2015 will now be lower than they were in the 2008 fiscal year.

Republicans have cut the EPA’s budget for the fifth consecutive year. In a press release the day after the deal was announced, Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, touted cuts to the EPA as one of the “Ten Things You Should Know About the Omnibus Appropriations Bill” and the fact that the bill reduces EPA staffing “to the lowest level since 1989.”

Setting up a messy immigration funding fight. A key feature of the deal for Republicans is that it funds most of the government while specifically preventing Congress from filling the Homeland Security department’s coffers. That particular bargain will allow the House and Senate GOP majority in 2015 to fight over how to appropriate overall Homeland Security programs while withholding funds for the implementation of the president’s immigration executive order. As Yahoo News previously reported, it will be difficult for the GOP to defund implementation of the order because the DHS agency that oversees immigration status changes is self-funded through fees it levies on immigration applications. And yet by agreeing to this particular deal, Democrats are setting themselves up for a messy fight with Republicans about the immigration issue at a time when they will have much less leverage to get their way.

Rolling back truck safety regulations. A policy rider added to the bill to sweeten the deal for Republicans will roll back truck safety regulations issued by the Department of Transportation in 2011 to prevent traffic accidents resulting from trucker fatigue. The two basic requirements were that drivers take a 30-minute rest break within the first eight hours of their shifts and take a “restart” period of 34 hours of rest weekly. According to the Department of Transportation, the “net effect of these changes was to reduce the average maximum week a driver could work from 82 hours to 70 hours.” Trucking companies have been lobbying against these changes and now appear to have secured a victory by getting their repeal included in the spending bill.


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