Courtesy of Greg Kaufmann:
"There are three Republicans in the Senate who are writing this policy," Democratic Rep. Peter DeFazio complained about the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. "They are more powerful than the president of the United States and the Congress combined."
The bill finally passed in the Senate on Friday night when Sen. Sherrod Brown flew in after his mother's memorial service to cast the needed 60th vote. So what exactly did Sen. Collins deign to allow in it?
For a look at all spending items, click here. Some notable provisions: $90 billion added to Medicaid funding; state aid is $54 billion; $7 billion in broadband investment including rural and poor areas; $13 billion towards public housing; $20 billion for electronic medical records; $5 billion for weatherization; $500 million for green jobs training; $11 billion for the energy grid; $6.3 billion for state energy programs; $4.5 billion for green renovation of federal buildings; $4 billion in renewable energy loan guarantees; $100 billion in new funding for education -- including $17 billion to Pell grants; $2.1 billion for Head Start; $20 billion increase for food stamps; $50 billion for transportation, including $9 billion for Amtrak/high-speed rail; $2 billion for affordable community health centers.
Treasury Secretary Geithner made his big debut… and was panned. His description of the new and improved TARP plan was short on details and long on wind. Some chief complaints: how will the Administration get private investors to purchase $1 trillion of these impossible to price toxic assets from banks? Also, no details still on the $50 billion plan for foreclosure relief. Rep. Barney Frank said it's taking too long and he's concerned that $50 billion won't cut it. At a Budget Committee hearing Senate Senator Bernie Sanders asked Geithner why the Wall Street execs receiving the bailout funds aren't being replaced with new leadership instead of receiving bonuses?
Frank also held a hearing with eight bank CEOs to find out what they did with $165 billion in TARP loot. The machers basically said they were doing exactly what they are supposed to do (see Sanders above). Frank asked them to cease foreclosures for three weeks until Geithner announces the new plan -- Friday JP Morgan Chase sent him a letter saying they would.
In confirmation news: Judd Gregg… good riddance. The guy didn't realize he might have some policy differences with a Democratic President? Not exactly ahead-of-the-curve kind of thinking you want in a Commerce Secretary…. Hilda Solis' nomination was finally approved out of committee after an intense push by labor. A vote on the Senate floor is expected soon and then we will have something to cheer loudly about -- in contrast to the confirmation of Former Raytheon exec and lobbyist William Lynn as Deputy Defense Secretary…. Leon Panetta was confirmed to head the CIA after all the hype about his lack of experience…. …
Other news -- yikes -- the Obama Administration invoked the state secrets privilege in a rendition case. Senators Feingold, Leahy and Specter introduced legislation providing guidance to the courts on this issue….
Senators Dorgan and Bayh challenged the conclusions of an Army investigation into the exposure in Iraq of hundreds of US soldiersto the carcinogen sodium dichromate. They want a more thorough investigation and accountability -- including exploring the possibility of criminal negligence on the part of disastrous contractor KBR.
In Congressional Progressive Caucus news… It was a big week for caucus founder Sen. Sanders and his sleepless staff: he fought for $500 million for green job training in the stimulus which was repeatedly threatened; included an amendment so firms receiving TARP money stop laying off workers to hire cheaper guest workers; wrote Fed Chairman Bernanke asking him to identify the recipients and terms of more than $2 trillion in emergency loans; and fought hard for the health center funding (look for him to also introduce major legislation with 20 cosponsors to further expand these needed primary care facilities)…CPC co-chair Congressman Raúl Grijalva asked President Obama to suspend the border fence construction… and Congressman Frank and the Caucus set the date for the Capitol Hill Forum on Reasonable Defense Spending -- Tuesday, Feb. 24 -- open to the public. Stay tuned for details.
Finally, Pelosi and Hoyer announced there will be no pay raise for members this year. They make at least $174,000 so they should be all right.