Archive for January 31st, 2008

by jhwygirl

No one around here (or there) was happy when we found out that Baucus removed the income caps on the subprime buyout stimulus checks….but Roll Call (subscription required) paints a dire picture of the precarious position that the current bill has in the Senate.

Let’s frame it:
First – Bush, together with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Minority Leader John Boehner have warned the senate that any any changes to the House version threatens to derail or delay the package.
Second – Republicans have 23 Senate seats to defend in what is shaping up to be a very hostile election cycle. Given that, several are jockeying to make their marks on the bill when it comes to debate.
Third – the ‘Filibuster Factor’, meaning that the Senate must, if it amends, seal the deal with 60 votes to keep it from going back to the House for conference.

That leaves Baucus with a tough challenge – leave the bill as it is (the House’s version) – which wasn’t going to happen – or strike some compromise that includes stuff that most from both sides can agree to and stave off the filibuster by picking off 9 to 12 GOP Senators.

Then there’s this:

Senate Chief Deputy Minority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.) said GOP leaders’ objective in the coming floor debate will be to make sure the finance stimulus package does not get a filibuster-proof 60 votes. He declined to detail how Republicans planned to do that.

Baucus and ranking Senate Finance member Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), working on a Senate compromise package before it even hit their door, originally ironed out a proposal that removed the income cap, but expanded unemployment benefits an additional 13 weeks and added stimulus checks (slightly reduced from $600 to $500) to 20 million seniors and $250,000 disabled veterans.

Keeping in mind the vulnerability of Senate Republicans, there was no shortage of people willing to seek politically popular additions. Senator Norm Coleman (R-Minn.) faces a tough re-election and a state with unemployment moving upwards (currently 4.9%). “I haven’t seen the package,” he said, but “I would be open to adding a few targeted things to the package,” including unemployment aid, as the Finance package would do.

Maine Republicans Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins (Collins also facing re-election) also sought the addition of low-income heating assistance. Democrats are more than happy to oblige on both, with that amendment expected to come from that side of the aisle.

Baucus himself had to face concessions in the Senate-facing-re-election realm: Max initially removed the income cap, which raised the ire of Senate Democrats…while on the other side, Senate Republicans pushed for no cap. That’s how we’ve come to the (ridiculous) $150,000 income cap.

In the end, only two Republicans joined the Grassly-Baucus compromise – Snowe and Senator Gordon Smith (OR).

Senator Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) explains: “If we bring the Finance Committee bill to the floor and start adding to it, we’re going to be in a lot of trouble. But if they bring the Finance Committee bill to the floor and don’t let us amend it, they’ll be in trouble,” he said.

Like I said – Baucus is between one big rock and one hard place.

by Jamee Greer

I have to say that I’m not surprised by two things on the front front page of today’s Montana Kaimin –

1.) That the Babs Building on 4th Street SW is possibly turning into condominiums, and

2.) That the Kaimin broke this story.

The staff at The University of Montana’s student paper have really earned their fee increase this year, covering (and breaking stories) on everything from queer rights at UM to student renters displaced by gentrification.

I’m not going to offer much commentary on the possible conversion, other than to say it’s too bad to see yet another affordable housing option disappear in a city with a ridiculous vacancy rate – at least for rentals. First there was the Wilma (with its 25 units), then the Montaigne-slash-“Historic Penwell” (with it’s, I believe, 47 units), and now (maybe) the Babs – coming in at an additional 14 units.

Update: I was mistaken in saying the Montana Kaimin has “earned their fee increase this year” – while I knew that students voted against the fee increase (the only increase to fail the student ballot in ’07) – I was under the impression that the Board of Regents went against student wishes and funded the paper anyway.

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