Congressional leaders and the White House worked to corral the 216 House members needed to pass health care reform. After decades of struggle, a vote to send the measure to President Obama is expected in the week ahead. In the Senate, the focus on the floor was on jobs legislation to address stubbornly high unemployment. The economy and ways to help middle class Americans and small businesses also was the subject of a letter sent Friday to President Obama from Senator Bernie Sanders and others.
The Fed With three openings on the Federal Reserve board, Sanders and several other senators on Friday urged President Obama to name individuals "who will fight to protect the interests of the American middle class and small businesses." Instead of the Fed doing the big banks' bidding, the letter drafted by Sanders called for a cap credit card interest rates, increased lending to small businesses that create jobs, curbs on outrageous executive pay, and the breakup of banks deemed "too big to fail." To read the senators' letter to the president, click here.
Financial Regulation The chairman of the Senate Banking Committee announced Thursday that he had given up on getting the support of even a single Republican senator for reregulating the bankers and traders whose reckless and illegal conduct caused the Great Recession. On financial reforms, as on health care, "we have wasted month after month after month negotiating with people who are not interested in serious reform," Sanders told a Progressive Media Summit on Capitol Hill. "You cannot underestimate how furious the American people are at the greed and recklessness of Wall Street, and how much they want us to take these guys on. We lose faith with ordinary Americans when we have not yet done that, and that's an issue we've got to deal with."
Health Care The legislation likely to go before the House in coming days is the same health care bill that the Senate passed with 60 votes late last year. It includes a Sanders provision to dramatically expand community health centers that provide primary care, dental care and low-cost prescription drugs to millions of Americans. The measure also would let states set up systems to provide universal, comprehensive affordable care that could become models for the nation. On deck in Congress is a separate bill making more improvements to the country's health care system. Fifty-one senators could pass those revisions using a majority-rules process called reconciliation. "Of the 22 times that reconciliation has been used since 1980, 16 of those 22 times were done by Republicans," Sanders told a progressive media conference on Wednesday. "And when people say, ‘Well, you can't get a comprehensive bill through.' Do not forget that the Contract with America - a 2,400-page bill which covered almost every aspect of American life - was passed by reconciliation. So I think the understanding has got to be, ‘I think we've got 50 votes to do something serious, let's do it.'"
Solar Power At a Capitol Hill press conference on Tuesday, Environment America released a report highlighting the potential of solar energy and the many ways that solar power can enhance energy security and reduce pollution. The report also identifies the obstacles to wider use in the United States and indentifies a combination of policies that could boost solar enough to meet 10 percent of America's energy needs. The chairman of the Senate's green jobs subcommittee, Sanders has introduced legislation to encourage the installation of 10 million solar systems on the rooftops of homes and businesses over the next decade. To watch excerpts from the press conference, click here.