Archive for December, 2009

So What Could be Next? Immigration Reform

December 31, 2009 Leave a comment

All quiet on the immigration front but that may soon end with 2010 looming around the corner.  The White House is telling immigration activists that they plan to tackle the issue in 2010:

Senior White House aides privately have assured Latino activists that the president will back legislation next year to provide a path to citizenship for the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants living in the United States.

The person in charge of immigration reform in the Senate is Sen. Schumer (D-NY) who is working with Sen. Graham (R-SC) to hammer out a bipartisan compromise.  According to El Diario translated by Irish Central, the outlines of this compromise looks to be stepped up interior enforcement mandating employers hire only authorized workers through the use of employee biometric cards, a fine for undocumented workers to register and get right with the law, a streamlined immigration system, and increased border enforcement.

Still, the issue of a guest worker program might be a sticking point in these negotiations.  Sen. McCain (R-AZ) is insisting on a guest worker program for his vote for the bill, but it doesn’t look to be part of an upcoming immigration bill according to a McCain spokesperson

“From everything that we hear right now, the temporary guest-worker program won’t be addressed in immigration reform. And unless that is an essential part of the reform program, it’s something that Sen. McCain can’t work on,” said Brooke Buchanan, a spokeswoman for the Arizona lawmaker.

After a year long focus on enforcement, immigration reform just might get its moment in the sun with the Senate immigration bill expected to be unveiled in February.  We’re still awaiting word on the time line for the Judiciary Committee mark up of the bill but we’ll probably get hints once the bill is unveiled.

One suggestion I would like to make for the immigration bill is to add a provision where the government would appropriate whatever portion of the Earning Suspense File (ESF) that undocumented immigrants paid into the Social Security Administration and reroute it to the Social Security trust fund or to pay down the deficit.  The ESF is Social Security money that is not tied to any one person due to an error or the taxes came from an unauthorized Social Security number.

As of 2005, the ESF contained $516 billion dollars and undoubtedly many of those billions come from the work of undocumented immigrants.  More than $6 billion dollars in Social Security taxes are added every year into the ESF by undocumented workers.


So What Could be Next? Financial Regulatory Reform

December 30, 2009 1 comment

Sen. Dodd (D-CT) is in charge of shepherding the financial regulatory reform bill in the Senate and on this issue, it looks like he’s making some progress.  The Huffington Post reports that Sen. Dodd’s negotiations with Sen. Shelby (R-AL) are going well, and the bill seems to have bipartisan legs with an unveiling of a bipartisan bill by the end of January and markup possibly coming shortly thereafter.  If negotiations are fruitful, that will virtually assure quick passage of this highly needed bill in order to prevent what happened back in late 2008 when the financial system was in near collapse requiring (unpopular) federal TARP bailouts to prop up the major financial houses.

Still, there are points of contention including the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Agency, a priority for President Obama.  We’ll have to wait and see what a compromise (if any) will look like in late January.

So What Could be Next? The Climate Bill

December 29, 2009 Leave a comment

The prospects of a far reaching climate bill took a hit when moderate to conservative Senate Democrats are pushing to hold off on a climate bill in favor of a jobs bill.

At a meeting about health care last month, moderates pushed to table climate legislation in favor of a jobs bill that would be an easier sell during the 2010 elections, according to Senate Democratic aides.

“I’d just as soon see that set aside until we work through the economy,” said Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.). “What we don’t want to do is have anything get in the way of working to resolve the problems with the economy.”

A smaller energy bill that would include energy efficiency initiatives could take cap and trade’s place if it is indeed postponed for the time being.  Then again, Sen. Cantwell (D-WA) and Sen. Collins (R-ME) did introduce a “cap and dividend” bill that could serve as a basis for a new bipartisan bill.  The main problem is still over the skittishness of coal state Democrats like Sen. Byrd and Sen. Rockefeller of West Virginia and those Democrats who come from states extremely dependent on fossil fuel power e.g. Sen. Bayh of Indiana.

If cap and trade is postponed this year, either this agenda item is off the table, a smaller energy bill will be discussed in its stead, or elements of the climate bill could be absorbed into the jobs bill.

This Week in the Senate

December 28, 2009 Leave a comment

The Senate will not be in session since they are in their holiday recess.  Once the Senate does go back in session, it’ll be the second session of the 111th Congress.  For now, I don’t know if there’s going to be a lot of Senate news this week, but all this week I’ll look at the next items on the agenda and see what their current state is.  Stay Tuned!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

December 25, 2009 Leave a comment

Categories: Misc. Tags: ,

Senate Passes Historic Health Care Reform

December 24, 2009 Leave a comment

The ayes have it 60-39 with all Democrats and virtually all Republicans voting for or against respectively.  Sen. Bunning (R-KY) did not vote.  This was the final vote on health care reform and only a majority of 51 Senators was needed to pass this historic legislation.

(They were laughing because Sen. Majority Leader Reid accidentally said Nay instead of Aye, which he promptly corrected)

It’s not the best bill and much work needs to be done to make it better, but the bill does put in a framework for universal coverage in place.  That, in itself, is a major milestone.  The bill now heads to conference in order to unify the House and Senate bills.

Sen. Roland Burris’ Version of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas’

December 23, 2009 2 comments

Text of Poem

It was the night before Christmas, and all through the Senate
the right held up our health care bill, no matter what was in it.

The people had voted a mandated reform
but Republicans blew off the gathering storm.

“We’ll clog up the Senate,” they cried with a grin.
“and in the midterm elections, we’ll get voted in.”

they knew regular folks needed help right this second
but fund-raisers lobbyists and politics beckoned.

So try as they might Democrats could not win
because their majority was simply too thin

Then across every state there rose such a clatter,
the whole Senate rushed out to see what was the matter.

All sprang up from their desk and ran from the floor,
straight through the cloakroom and right out the door.

And in what in the world would be quite so raucous,
but a mandate for change from the Democratic caucus.

The president, the speaker, of course leader Reid
had answered the call in our hour of need.

More rapid than eagles, the provisions they came
and they whistled and shouted and called them by name:

better coverage, cost savings, a strong public plan
accountable options, we said “yes, we can.”

No exclusions or changes for preexisting conditions.
let’s pass a bill that restores competition.

The Democrats all came together to fight
for the American people that Christmas eve night.

And then in a twinkle, I heard under the dome
the roll call was closed, and it was time to go home.

Despite the obstructionist tactics of some,
the filibuster had broken, the people had won

And a good bill was ready for President Obama,
ready to sign and end health care drama.

Democrats explained as they drove out of sight,
better coverage for all, even our friends on the right.

And I say to all of my colleagues in this season, merry Christmas and a happy, happy new year.