Tuesday, June 21, 2011

From sea to shining sea, it's end-of-session legislative madness


LGBT folk and people of a liberal persuasion are discovering that support for modest LGBT legislative progress is the cheapest bone right-of-center Dems can throw us while pursuing their "centrist" agenda. (Meet NYS Gov. Andrew Cuomo.)

by Ken


Some months back, smart people I know were downplaying the risk of a failure to increase the debt ceiling, which could be Armageddon for the People Who Matter, our economic lords and masters. They've been happy enough to cheer on the Teabagger hordes, and even bankroll them, but when we alert the financial markets to the real possibility of a U.S. default on its debt obligations, then those people find themselves sitting on mountains of paper that suddenly stand to plunge in value. And these are not people who take kindly to a plunge in value if its their value in danger of plunging.

The theory was that those folks, if it came to it, would crack the whip. Me, I haven't heard the sound of corporatist whip-cracking. Either those folks have discovered that they can profit enough from whatever the congressional extremists extract in exchange for going along with the debt ceiling increase, or else perhaps they've discovered that controlling your Teabagger stooges, once they've been unleashed, is kind of like trying to get toothpaste back in the tube -- not so easy.

Here's The American Prospect's "Balance Sheet" account"

Setting an early deadline can be a great way to ensure work gets done on time. That's what lawmakers did when they set an early July goal for a deal to lift the debt ceiling, which we aren’t projected to hit until August 2. The catch is that Congress goes into recess at the end of this week. As Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid has said, lawmakers might be forced to stay in town through the recess to hammer one out. Or as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has suggested, lawmakers could come to a short-term agreement for the summer and push off the big stuff until the fall.

There have been a few signals a deal will emerge. House Republicans seem to have accepted the need for tax increases, with Majority Leader Eric Cantor yesterday confirming that "we are not opposed to revenues; we are just opposed to tax increases" (same diff, right?). Vice President Joe Biden and the "Gang of Five" (formerly six) senators say they’re getting close. The group has met with 31 Senators to discuss their tentative plan, which saves $4.7 trillion through spending cuts and revenue increases over 10 years. Meanwhile, Biden says his group is “down to the real hard stuff: I'll trade you my bicycle for your golf clubs." Of course, it's not sports equipment but Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, taxes -- and our economic future -- on the line.

I would just have to disagree with the notion that "setting an early deadline can be a great way to ensure work gets done on time." This is true if you actually have control of the deadline, but when it comes to most negotiations, you don't. Once the Treasury Dept. came up with its early August date by which the matter must be dealt with, that became the deadline, and you can set whatever make-believe deadline you like, if that's the deadline, that's the deadline.

Except of course in the case of congressional recess. Now that's a real deadline. Oh sure, on rare occasions things get so out of hand that Congress is actually forced to remain in session, but it doesn't look as if that's going to happen again anytime soon.


In the interest of concision, I left a couple of points out of my post last Wednesday, "The NYS Senate's day of decision on same-sex marriage: It's a punt!." That, you'll recall, was a deadline that should have been a deadline but turned out not to be, really. 

The key issue I left out is that mostly this logjam isn't about marriage equality at all. It's about what the M.E. opponents and fence-sitters can extract in exchange for even allowing it to come to a vote in the State Senate. At the top of the list is renewal of the state's rent-regulation laws, which in fact have already expired. Again, you'd've thunk that the expiration would be a real deadline, but here in NYS we've played this game of chicken before. When the law slips out of commission, by the time you hammer out an agreement, you can just pound in a little "continuous coverage" clause.

Well, today is the last day of the legislative session, so you'd figure this, surely, is it. Well, maybe yes, maybe no. Here's a Daily News blogpost from early this afternoon:
JUNE 21, 2011 12:34 PM

Breaking: Skelos Says Stalemate Easing In Albany


State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos says a "framework agreement" has been reached on all oustanding major issues except gay marriage.

Our Ken Lovett reports:

Skelos said he, Gov. Cuomo and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver are on board with agreements to extend the rent regulation law, restore a 421-A property tax abatement for city housing developers, SUNY 2020, a local property tax cap, and a mandate-relief package for localities.

Gay marriage, he said, will be conferenced once there is agreed upon language concerning religious protections. "I think we're going to have a real good concluding package," Skelos said.

No details yet on any of the deals. Skelos said bill language is being worked on, "and hopefully we'll conclude by tomorrow."

Uh, tomorrow? But won't the session be over by then?

That's the thing. While we're all looking at calendars and public battles about same-sex marriage, the underground gremlins who hammer out these later-than-last-minute deals are hammering away. Goodness only knows what's going to slip through.


Cynical observers are noting, and people of a liberal persuasion are beginning to grasp, that in areas with strong liberal constituencies, support for some movement toward legislating acceptance of basic rights for LGBT folks is a really cheap way of throwing the us -- both LGBT folk and people of a liberal persuasion -- a bone while pursuing their right-of-center agenda. (Have you met our governor, Andrew Cuomo?)

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At 2:44 PM, Anonymous John Evan Miller said...

If McConnell wants to wait until the fall to really deal with it, he's free to go back to Kentucky, sip mint juleps, and sit out votes that come up between now and then. As for me, I'd prefer the rest of them push through their precious vacation time and get down to business.

At 7:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What's that? the bribery business.


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