As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Monday, August 03, 2009

Going Into Overtime

The successful Cash for Clunkers program is coming down to the wire in the Senate. They have until the end of the week to pass the bill before they head into an August recess. But if they try to change the bill from what the House passed already - which was just a straight extension - the bills would have to be reconciled, and that would require the House coming back from its recess. Otherwise, it'll get signed into law too late for the program to stay in business. What will Sen. Reid do?

The $2 billion cash infusion granted Friday by the House to the overwhelmed cash-for-clunkers program must be accepted by the Senate this week without amendments — or it won’t be signed into law until September.

The House has adjourned for its summer recess, and some Senate lawmakers want to change the bill, which will likely force Reid into a days-long cloture process.

And that's in addition to trying to move the Sonia Sotomayor confirmation, which will probably take multiple days of floor debate, even though the outcome is assured. There's simply no way the Senate can plow through all that by the deadline of Thursday night. It's not possible.

Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) said his party will push a go-slow approach on cash-for-clunkers so that the program’s solvency and effectiveness can be examined. Without knowing how many claims are still in the pipeline, Kyl suggested a similar mistake could be made again.

“We need to have a time-out to see how much money was spent,” Kyl said. “Before you authorize more money, wouldn’t you like to know how much you’ve spent and how it took to spend it, and what kind of things you might want to do to modify it?” [...]

The GOP staffers pointed to Democrats like Dianne Feinstein of California, Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Mark Warner of Virginia, who in recent days have all expressed skepticism about the program. However, Feinstein and GOP Sen. Susan Collins (Maine) indicated on Monday evening they will support the measure. Warner wants the program to have higher mileage requirements while McCaskill has sounded skeptical about how it will be funded.

But other Democrats strike a common refrain: The sudden demand on the cash-for-clunkers program proves it is working.

With Feinstein and Collins singing off after seeing the unexpected increases in fuel efficiency coming from this program, it's safe to say that this has a good chance of passage. But Republicans will obstruct, and slow down, and gum up the works, and try to add amendments and poison pills, all the while saying that they just have to get home for the August recess. And so a program with demonstrable success that has led to the highest light vehicle sales in a year might get scrapped because of the old stopwatch.

What a wonderful political system we have.

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