D.C. News and Views for Nov. 24, 2014

Heeee’s Back

Yours truly has returned to the helm of the Daley Weekly.

Big thank you and a round of applause for the work well done by Libero Della Piana over the last month filling in on the Daley Weekly.

Immigration

It would have been hard for you to miss the fact that President Obama went on national TV Thursday night to announce his long awaited executive order on immigration policy. Every one of you knows someone who has a parent or an uncle or a friend who just got a reason to smile.

It was interesting to watch the Republicans sputtering about it all Friday morning. The fact is that Obama put them in a box. There probably is not much they can do about it and most of the talking heads on morning TV found it difficult to disagree with the actual policies in the pending Presidential order.

They were left with objections to the process that they suggest should have included them. Why they have waited over 500 days to take up the bipartisan Senate immigration bill and now argue that they should be included in the process has got them twisted around their own axel.

They should have been objecting that the President did not go far enough – no guest worker program for agri-business, no revised visa policy for the high-tech crowd, no big appropriations for the fence builders and the private prison industry – lots of their friends left out of the deal.

And lots of deserving immigrants left out also, so the fight to do COMPREHENSIVE reform will have to go on.

The Perry Saga

The Weekly has reported before on Texas Governor Rick Perry’s criminal indictment for the abuse of power. Even though Perry has been trying to laugh it off, the Republican judge who is presiding at the trial refused to throw the case out on some technicalities that were raised by Perry’s lawyers. The trial will proceed.

The Empty Suit

How long have you been holding your breath awaiting the filing of the House lawsuit against the President? Your long wait at last is over. The suit was filed Friday. It does not actually name the President but sues the Secretaries of HHS and Treasury for unlawfully delaying the Affordable Care ACA employer mandate – a policy that the House itself has included in legislation that it has already passed.

Apparently the House has had some trouble finding a lawyer for their great test of constitutional politics. But last week a fellow named Jonathan Turley agreed to represent the House Republicans. He is a law professor at George Washington University in D.C.

Economics

The U.S. economy kept pumping out jobs last month, even though they continue to offer less than optimum pay and benefits. The jobless rate dropped to 5.8 percent, the lowest since the 2008 debacle.

Lots of fear in economic circles, however, that the austerity policies in Europe may pull everything back into retraction. Europe is on the brink of another recession and there is widespread unemployment.

The European Central Bank has signaled its intention to take additional monetary steps to help the struggling economies that use the Euro. But the Germans, the champions of austerity and the big economic gun, continue to be unwilling to make a break with their failed economic ideology.

Too Big to Jail

The currency-rigging case against some of the world’s biggest banks was partially settled when United Bank of Scotland, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, HSBC, and the Royal Bank of Scotland agreed to pay $4.25 billion in fines. A sixth bank, Barclays, withdrew from the settlement fearing that it would settle only a fraction of its potential exposure and is seeking a separate deal.

Even though none of the traders and none of the bank executives were charged with anything, there still are criminal investigations being conducted by the U.S. Justice Department. We’ll see.

Perhaps we should be taking a clue on all this from Iceland. A gentleman named Sigurjon Arnason, former chief executive of Landsbanki of Iceland was sentenced last Wednesday to a year in jail for his role in the 2008 financial crisis. He is the third of Iceland’s top bank executives ordered to do time.

I don’t know what Iceland’s prisons are like, but could they be any less confining than say the U.S. federal pen at Lompoc?

Appropriations?

There seems to be leadership interest on both sides of the aisle in passing an omnibus appropriations bill. This bill would wrap all of the various appropriations bills into one package and fund the government for a full year. The opposition to doing this comes from folks like Sen. Ted Cruz who wants to hold up the appropriations and to mess with them as retaliation for executive action on immigration.

If there is going to be an omnibus bill, each House apparently has its version ready. Unfortunately, either version of the appropriations bill will cut into discretionary domestic spending, with the Senate doing so somewhat less than the House. The budget caps that were agreed to a year ago force at least some reductions in the value of capped appropriations as inflation increases costs and enrollments in programs change.

An analysis by the Center for Budget and Policy can be viewed here: http://www.cbpp.org/cms/index.cfm?fa=view&id=4231.

Black Friday

As we enter the season of spending and splurging, take a look at “Equity in the Balance” released last week by the Alliance for a Just Society. You are probably going to run into some of the folks mentioned in the report – they will be ringing up your purchases, serving you lunch, cleaning your office or caring for your children or aged parents.

The report documents the many workers who don’t make a living wage – especially women and people of color. Nationally, only 61 percent of all full-time workers earn $15 per hour or more, compared to 57 percent of women, 52 percent of people of color, and 42 percent of Latino workers. That leaves an awful lot of people not earning enough money even working full time to make ends meet.

One way to look at it: government doesn’t subsidize people, government is subsidizing corporations that don’t pay their employees enough to live on – so their executives can take home a bigger share of the profits.

Ad of the Weekly

A Kansas Independent candidate ran an ad accusing incumbent Sen. Pat Roberts of being the problem on immigration. It was a nasty attack and it didn’t work – Roberts overcame a 10 point deficit to win reelection.

We stole this one from a project on political advertising at American University. You can read all about the good, the bad and the inane in a Washington Post story: http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/drew-babb-the-best-and-worst-election-ads-of-the-2014-midterms/2014/11/18/0a3788ba-6e90-11e4-ad12-3734c461eab6_story.html?wpisrc=nl_politics&wpmm=1.

Musical Chairs

Both Sen. Harry Reid and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi were reelected to their leadership positions, in spite of the outcome of the election.

Several Democrats were outspoken in their criticism of Reid’s leadership and apparently voted against him – Sens. Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Tim Kaine and Mark Warner of Virginia

Read more: http://www.politico.com/story/2014/11/claire-mccaskill-harry-reid-opposition-112858.html#ixzz3Jv8fHBvu

Pelosi was reelected also without opposition but lost a “proxy” vote when her caucus rejected her effort to name Rep. Anna Eshoo, California, to be the ranking member on the Energy and Commerce Committee. The Democratic Caucus voted 100 to 90 to name Frank Pallone from New Jersey as Ranking on the Committee.

Here are the House Committee Chairs for the next Congress:

Agriculture – Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Tex.); Appropriations – Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.); Armed Services – Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Tex.); Budget – Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.); Education & the Workforce – Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.); Energy & Commerce – Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.); Financial Services – Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Tex.); Foreign Affairs – Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.); Homeland Security – Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Tex.); Judiciary – Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.); Natural Resources – Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah); Oversight & Government Reform – Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah); Science, Space, and Technology – Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Tex.); Small Business – Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio); Transportation & Infrastructure – Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.); Veterans’ Affairs – Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.); Ways & Means – Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.); Administration – Rep. Candice Miller (R-Mich.); Ethics – Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.); Intelligence – Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.); Rules – Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Tex.).

Senate Chairs are still in the works. Wyoming Sen. Mike Enzi announced last week that he was going to contend for the Chair of the Senate Budget Committee against Alabama’s Jeff Sessions. Enzi actually has more seniority than Sessions. Whoever gets it, and we may not know until January, will have the happy task of dealing with Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders who will be the ranking “Democrat.” Sounds like great fun over at Budget.

Schedule

It looks like the House and Senate, now both in the hands of the Republicans, expect to be busy next year. Tentative legislative schedules were released this week.

Both the House and Senate will kick off work in the 114th Congress on Jan. 6 and neither Chamber has scheduled a “district work week” until President’s Day, the week of February 16.

The current Lame Duck Session is in a break for Thanksgiving and will return December 1 for another two weeks.