Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Holder In, Daschle Out, Gregg Picked, Stimulus Woes, What Are the Rules of a Bailout?

Holder In at Justice
The Senate voted on Monday by an overwhelming 75-21 to confirm Eric Holder as Attorney General, the head of the Justice Department. That he was going to be confirmed was not in much doubt and the margin was on the favorable end of my projections (see my prior post, projecting 20-30 nay votes.) Every Democrat and the 2 Democrat-leaning Independents supported the nomination as did slightly less than half of the Republicans including notable conservatives like Bob Bennett, Kit Bond, Saxby Chambliss and John Kyl as well as almost all of the moderate Republicans such as John McCain, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins.

Holder will make a fine AG, a vast improvement over the last 8 years of Ashcroft and Gonzalez. The questions surrounding his nomination centered primarily around his role in the Mark Rich pardon. I've written previously about the unfairness of those criticisms.

Good luck, Mr. AG. The Justice Department needs some credibility after 8 years of erosion.

Daschle Out
Tom Daschle's nomination has been withdrawn as HHS Secretary. Good. I stated Saturday why I felt Daschle should withdraw. I'm sure he wasn't taking my advice, but I'm glad he came to the same conclusion.

I must say it was very refreshing to hear President Obama say in a CNN interview "I screwed up" by putting in the Daschle nomination. Can anyone tell me a single time that President Bush said this in 8 years? It doesn't mean it wasn't a bad nomination, but it sure is nice to hear a President be candid, introspective and realistic.

Gregg Picked, Balance of Power Maintained
As I suspected in my Sunday post, Republican Senator Judd Gregg of New Hampshire has been picked as Commerce Secretary, replacing Bill Richardson who withdrew in the midst of a pay-for-play investigation. Also, as I reported, an agreement was struck prior to the nomination to maintain the balance of power in the Senate by pre-agreeing to a Republican appointment to backfill Gregg.

Gregg will make a great Commerce Secretary and a good counterbalancing voice to some of the more liberal members of the administration.

Let's face it -- this has not been the smooth process for Obama's cabinet that one would have envisioned when he picked what seemed to be an all-star team in November and December. All in all, it has been a rough few weeks for the President. Let's hope things get better from here.

Stimulus Woes
Moderate Democrats and Republicans are flexing their muscles in the Senate, pushing for the removal of what they consider pork (funding for STD research, the NEA, etc.) and pushing for more tax cuts and mortgage relief.

The liberals and the President will have to give some ground to get a bi-partisan bill. Mortgage relief is something that everyone should be able to agree on. The pork that has been publicized is very small relative to the size of the bill and is largely symoblic -- it should be cut out as quickly as possible to move the bill forward.

President Obama hoped to sign a bill by mid-February. This looks unlikely at this point. There is considerable work to be done just to get a bill out of the Senate, then there will be a conference committee, then a vote on the final bill in both houses of congress.

If Obama gets a bill by March 1st that has at least some bi-partisan support, it will be a big win.

As I wrote back in December, Obama's first 100 days (and he still has 85 left before he gets there) should be judged by:
(1) His Cabinet in Place (okay, I didn't actually say this, but it's a given)
(2) A sensible stimulus plan signed into law
(3) An auto industry solution (remember this is still out there!)
(4) Improved management of the bailout / a meaningful change in the capital markets
(5) Extra points for anything else he gets done

He's got a lot of ground to cover to get an A on these 5 points.

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