Monday, January 26, 2009

Geithner Takes Office, Rove Subpoenaed, Sean Hannity Has an Intelligent Thought

Cabinet Update -- Geithner Confirmed, Takes Treasury Post
The Senate this afternoon confirmed Timothy Geithner to the Treasury Secretary Post by a vote of 60-34. 49 Democrats and 1 Independent joined 10 Republicans to confirm his confirmation, overcoming opposition by 30 Republicans, 3 Democrats and 1 Independent. This is by far the closest confirmation vote of any of Obama's cabinet picks so far, with 8 of his picks winning confirmation without opposition and Hillary Clinton garnering only 2 "nay" votes.

Republicans Voting in Favor of Geithner were: Corker (TN), Cornyn (TX), Crapo (ID), Ensign (NV), Graham (SC), Gregg (NH), Hatch (UT), Shelby (AL) and Snowe (ME) and Voinovich (OH)

Independnets Voting in Favor: Lieberman (Independent Democrat -- CT)

Democrats Voting Against Geithner: Byrd (WV), Feingold (WI) and Harkin (IA)

Independents Voting Against Geithner: Sanders (Socialist -- VT)

Of note are the party defectors. While moderates like Snowe supported Geithner, so did conservatives like Cornyn, Crapo and Graham. Of the opposition, Feingold and Sanders are among the more liberal in congress. Also, Robert Byrd, who probably has the best command of the history and traditions of the Senate, speaks volumes in his opposition.

To me, this one is a close call. Geithner is incredibly capable and qualified to run Treasury and his appointment was initially roundly praised. But his failure not only to initially pay income taxes on foreign-earned income, but his subsequent use of a statute of limitations loophole to dodge paying all of the back taxes when he was caught until his appointment is troubling. I understand and respect the perspective of those who voted against his nomination. I wish Obama had ruled him out when this defect was discovered in the vetting.

One final note on this appointment -- John McCain (R-AZ) and Arlen Specter (R-PA) both voted "nay" after saying that would support confirmation over the weekend. I'm not sure their reasons, but these are odd departures for these two moderate Senators. Specter may be trying to secure his base as he is always a primary target. McCain's motives are less clear.

The fights still to be had in the Senate: Solis for Labor, Holder for Justice and Daschle for HHS as well as Obama's ultimate pick for Commerce. It will be interesting to see if Solis or Holder get as many "nay" votes as Geithner does. I personally don't have any of the same reservations about any of them that I did about Geithner, but Republicans are still making hay about Holder's role in the Mark Rich pardon and Solis' very liberal views on labor are sure to draw ire.

In total, Obama's cabinet is actually moving at an historically slow pace. George W. Bush had all but 1 of his cabinet picks (John Ashcroft) approved on his first day. Republicans have been using a lot of holds to slow down the process. It appears the spirit of bipartisanship isn't lasting long. It would be hard to argue that Bush's cabinet was more clearly qualified than Obama's (in fact, I could argue the reverse.) But, no matter, Obama will get all his picks and a couple of weeks won't cost him that much.

Karl Rove Subpeonaed
A House subcommittee headed by Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) has subpeonaed Karl Rove for his role in the firing of US Attorneys during the Bush administration.

I have a piece of advice for congressional Democrats: LET IT GO!

Yes, it might be good theater to dredge up the sins of the Bush administration, but what constructive purpose does it serve? Bush is gone, the damage is done. We have too many time-critical problems facing our nation to waste time with an investigation that has a 0% chance of leading to prosecutions.

I Guess If You Say Enough Random Things....
It's rare that Sean Hannity has a thought that I would define as intelligent, but he made one today. He pointed to the size of the economic stimulus package ($825 billion) and the promise of job creation (3 million new jobs) and noted that this translates into spending $275,000 per new job created.

Let's say the average cost of a middle class job with benefits is $75,000 (about $50,000 in salary and $25,000 for a good benefits package.) This means, if we used the $825 billion to directly hire workers, it would be worth 11 million new jobs.

So, what gives?

Part of the problem is that the plan has too many multi-year components. If you spend the money over two years, it halves the effectiveness in terms of near-term job creation. Part of it is Obama hedging. Another part may be all the pork that is getting rammed into this thing. While some pork is necessary for passage and should be accepted (as I've said in the past), we should at least ensure that it is pork that can be spent quickly and will employ people. Congressional Democrats and the Obama Administration need to ensure that this bill doesn't turn into an ineffective lightning rod. Republicans are already crying that is a socialist power grab and not a stimulus package. In the light of this criticism, Democrats need to ensure that spending in the bill is: a. immediate and b. job-creating

Next Up:
First Look at 2010 Senate Races
The Republicans face a huge structural challenge in 2010 and have no plausible path for re-taking the Senate, even though mid-term elections historically favor the party out of power. We'll analyze their chances to make in-roads.

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