Morning Action: Crony Capitalism in the Obama Era

CRONY CAPITALISM.  Heritage President Jim DeMint and Heritage Action CEO Mike Needham penned an op-ed on crony capitalism and big government in the Obama era:

Five and a half years into the Obama era, a healthy conservative movement would be well positioned to highlight the link between big government and corporate cronyism. President Obama’s stimulus package, supposedly passed to address unemployment, functioned primarily to line the pockets of well-connected unions and firms like Solyndra rather than to build a foundation for a broad-based recovery. Obamacare, professedly designed to reduce costs, has served instead to increase premiums, limit choice, and guarantee insurers a steady stream of revenue. The Dodd-Frank reform, billed as a measure that would protect consumers from future financial collapses, has only exacerbated the problem of too-big-to-fail, and Wall Street profits have soared in subsequent years. Corporate friends of the Obama administration and the Democratic party have done quite well in the Obama era, even as the economy has stagnated. Being well-connected does wonders.

There’s nothing wrong with soaring profits, as long as they don’t come at the expense of the public weal. Irving Kristol once observed that big business “straddles, uncomfortably and uncertainly, both the private and public sectors of our ‘mixed economy.’ ” The discomfort is disappearing. In the Obama era, big business seems to prefer sure profits guaranteed by government to the risks of competition.

Read the whole thing here

COAL.  Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) 9% says the Obama administration is sending mixed signals about its position on coal’s place in the U.S. energy portfolio (sub. req’d):

The Energy Department has been a huge help for companies interested in advancing carbon capture and storage technologies (CCS) technologies, which isolate carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants before they can escape into the atmosphere, Heitkamp said at the Coal Utilization Research Council’s Advanced Coal Technology Showcase. But, she said, the administration needs to focus more on the future of coal as agencies carry out President Barack Obama’s climate agenda.

“We have to have a clear statement from this administration, beyond the Department of Energy, that they truly do believe that there is a future for coal in our generation mix, and if we don’t get that statement – if they don’t accept that as a principle of our energy policy – we will continue to fight this battle.”

Administration officials have long said that coal will continue to be a significant portion of the domestic energy mix, even with the recently proposed carbon limits on new and existing power plants.

TRANSPORTATION.  House lawmakers are still grappling with what steps to take to pay for a short-term extension of the Highway Trust Fund (HTF), and it remains unclear which direction new leadership will take transportation policy (sub. req’d):

House Republicans still need to find a way to pay for a short-term extension of the Highway Trust Fund before the summer recess. As lawmakers and aides point out, Virginia Republican Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) remains Majority Leader until July 31, and a funding patch will have to have to be enacted by then.

More broadly, though, what does new House leadership mean for transportation policy for the remainder of this Congress and the next?

For Wisconsin Republican Rep. Reid Ribble (R-WI) 70%, a member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, the key is not to see who becomes the next Majority Leader or the next Majority Whip, but rather what happens in the Ways and Means Committee, which will presumably be headed by current Budget Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) N/A%.

“The reality is if we want to have a long-term highway reauthorization, we’re going to have a long-term funding stream,” he said. “We’re trying to fund a 21st-century infrastructure with a 20th-century pricing system, and we can’t do that.”

No matter who wins the leadership races next week, Ribble said the person ultimately in charge has not changed. This is still John A. Boehner’s show.

OBAMA.  Republicans are reportedly prepared to hammer President Obama on foreign policy, and the situation in Iraq gives them more to attack:

With an arsenal that includes Bowe Bergdhal, Benghazi, and now the unfolding events in Iraq, House Republicans are digging in for a relentless multifront, election-year messaging siege against the White House over foreign policy.

“I’m sure Democrats will try to blame Republicans for going too far,” Rep. Jason Chaffetz said.

But pointing to Iraq, where Islamic rebels have taken wide swaths of territory and major Iraqi cities, Chaffetz said it will be difficult to suggest political exploitation in Republican efforts to highlight concerns over the administration’s foreign policy failures or inactions.

OBAMACARE.  Republicans are putting up resistance to voting on a funding bill for Obamacare:

The chairwoman of the Senate committee responsible for a bill funding implementation of “Obamacare” has canceled a vote on the measure after Republicans signaled they would force a series of politically painful votes on endangered committee Democrats.

Wednesday’s move by Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., came after several committee Democrats expressed reservations about voting on amendments related to President Barack Obama’s health care law.

The measure in question is a $158 billion measure funding the departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education. The bill’s author, Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, had said Tuesday that the Appropriations Committee would debate and approve the measure on Thursday. But the session was never scheduled by Mikulski, whose spokesman said the schedule was “under review.”

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