Congress looting the Commons

SUBHEAD: Spending bill to continue government to have FDIC cover Big Bank gambling and ponzi schemes.

By Heidi Przybyla on 11 December 2014 for Bloomberg News -

[IB Publisher's note: This bill passed the House late 12/11/14 and is in the hands of the Senate. The Banksters are in the driver's seat but many passengers are jumping off the bus about to plunge.]

Image above: Bankers looting Main Street illustration by Victor Juhasz. From (

The U.S. House is set to pass a $1.1 trillion spending bill that includes a banking provision opposed by many Democrats as a giveaway to large institutions.

Current funding for the government ends today, and the measure would finance most of the government through September 2015. The House also plans to pass a two-day stopgap spending bill to give the Senate until Dec. 13 to vote on the measure and avoid a government shutdown.

The banking language, insisted upon by Republicans, would ease rules enacted to protect taxpayers against bank losses after souring derivatives trades helped cause the 2008 financial crisis. The dispute over the banking rule is a preview of Republican plans to roll back other business regulations when they take control of both chambers in 2015.

The provision would put “taxpayers back on the hook for Wall Street’s riskiest behavior,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, said yesterday.

Though Pelosi opposes the banking provision, she stopped short of urging fellow House Democrats to vote against the bill, said a leadership aide who sought anonymity.

A deal on the measure was announced Dec. 9 after Senate Democratic negotiators accepted the banking rule changes and Republican demands on other policy provisions. Republicans oppose changes to the measure and said they’re not reopening negotiations.

Democratic Votes 

House Republicans say they will have the votes to pass the bill without support from Pelosi because other Democrats, including retiring Representative Jim Moran of Virginia, are willing to back it.

House Speaker John Boehner told reporters yesterday he looks “forward to it passing with bipartisan majorities in the House and the Senate in the coming days.”

Senate opponents led by Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts aren’t threatening to hold the bill up. Chief negotiator Barbara Mikulski of Maryland, the Senate Appropriations chair, is standing by the deal.

The banking provision would let JPMorgan Chase & Co., Citigroup Inc. and other lenders keep swaps trading in units with federal backstops.

“This is about reckless behavior,” Warren said at a news conference. “It’s about a giveaway to the largest financial institutions in this country.”

Horrible Choice
Second-ranking Senate Democrat Richard Durbin of Illinois said he didn’t know if he would vote for the spending bill with the banking changes.

“It is just an invitation for another financial disaster,” Durbin said. “It is a horrible choice between a bill of over a trillion dollars in spending, with a lot of very important provisions in it, and some absolutely awful language put in by special interests in the House.”

Though Democrats including Mikulski aren’t pleased about the policy changes, they said they beat back dozens of other provisions that Republicans had sought. Those proposed revisions focused on environmental and labor protections.

While President Barack Obama will maintain the power of his veto pen, Republicans are likely to try to force anti-regulation measures by attaching them to must-pass spending bills and other legislation.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said yesterday, “We are going to give this piece of must-pass legislation the thorough attention and review it deserves.”

“The president does have a veto power,” Earnest said.

Immigration Fight

The deal puts off a confrontation over immigration until early 2015. The Department of Homeland Security, responsible for immigration policy, would be financed only through Feb. 27. Republicans want to use the agency’s spending bill to block Obama from easing deportation rules for millions of undocumented immigrants.

Last year, Republican efforts to defund Obama’s health care law led to a 16-day partial government shutdown.

In addition to the Dodd-Frank measure on swaps trading, the funding measure would allow exceptions to clean-water laws for agricultural refuse, and block the District of Columbia from spending money to legalize marijuana following a voter-approved measure allowing possession of as much as 2 ounces for personal use.

The plan would roll back safety rules on rest for truck drivers, ignoring the pleas of consumer activists and Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.

Congested Roads

The provision would temporarily suspend rules while a study is conducted about the number of trucks driven on congested roads. Under the change, truckers would be able to work as many as 82 hours a week.

The spending bill would allow a tenfold increase in donations that individuals can make to national political parties each year, to $324,000 from $32,400, according to a statement by Fred Wertheimer, president of Democracy 21. The group advocates for changes to campaign finance laws.

Donors would be able to give $97,200 a year to each of three party committees for conventions, to pay for building funds and to finance the expenses for recounts and legal challenges to election results, Wertheimer said in a statement.

The bill would bar the Department of Housing and Urban Development from starting a program to reduce mortgage-insurance premiums for borrowers who attend housing counseling sessions. It would stop HUD from funding increased oversight of mortgage originations by charging a new fee to lenders.

Gun Manufacturers 

 The plan includes a proposal sought by the National Rifle Association that lets gun manufacturers use lead to produce ammunition, and a labor provision exempting claim adjusters from overtime requirements during major disasters.

The measure would seek to shore up the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. by allowing some underfunded multiemployer pension plans to reduce benefits. The provision reflects an agreement by House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline, a Minnesota Republican, and senior Democrat George Miller, a California Democrat.

The measure also includes an extension until Oct. 1, 2015, of a ban on taxing Internet access. It would provide $5.4 billion in emergency funds to respond to the Ebola outbreak.

The bill would require the Postal Service to continue delivering on Saturdays and to keep all post offices open.

Export-Import Bank

The Export-Import Bank would be allowed to continue financing overseas coal-fired power projects. As part of Obama’s effort to combat climate change, Ex-Im had revised its guidelines to bar such funding for plants that lack carbon-capture technology.

Republican proposals omitted from the bill include revisions to District of Columbia gun laws and six other Dodd-Frank-related policy proposals, according to a Democratic aide who sought anonymity.

The aide said Democrats also headed off 25 changes to environmental regulations, including those governing greenhouse gases, fish and wildlife and ceiling fans as well as one blocking climate research.

Congress puts coal in your stocking

SUBHEAD: Congress makes subsidizing coal plant construction overseas to goose coal production in US.

By Kate Sheppard on 10 December 2014 for Huffington Post - 

The 1,000-page omnibus spending package released Tuesday night is reigniting a fight over rules for U.S. financing of coal plants abroad.

In October 2013, the Treasury Department announced that it would stop providing funding for conventional coal plants abroad, except in "very rare" cases. And in December 2013, the Export-Import Bank announced a new policy that would restrict financing for most new coal-fired power plants abroad. The bank, often called Ex-Im, exists to provide financial support to projects that spur the export of U.S. products and services. The change in coal policy aligned with President Barack Obama's June 2013 call to end U.S. funding of fossil fuel energy projects abroad unless the products include carbon capture technology.

But the language in the omnibus blocks both Ex-Im and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), the U.S.'s development finance institution, from using any funds in the bill to enforce these new restrictions on coal projects.

Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), chair of the House Committee on Appropriations, touted this prohibition in his statement on the spending package. He said the measure would help "to increase exports of U.S. goods and services." Rogers told The Hill that coal exports "are just about the only bright light in the coal business these days."

Environmental groups have fought for years to get the government's financial institutions to stop funding fossil fuel projects abroad, including a number of coal-fired power plants, mines, pipelines and natural gas export terminals. Friends of the Earth President Erich Pica said in a statement that including this rider in the omnibus "undercuts one of the most important contributions President Obama has made to climate policy internationally."

"This continued desperate attempt by Republicans to prop up the moribund coal industry is a fools errand," Justin Guay, associate director of the international climate program at the Sierra Club, told The Huffington Post. "The coal industry is a dead man walking; it's time to align our economy with an industry that actually has a future."See also:
Ea O Ka Aina: Derivative Losses 12/9/14


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