[Marxism] Black Congressional Caucus frustrated with inaction over jobs

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Nov 20 07:35:48 MST 2009

Angry Congress lashes out at Obama
House Republicans call on Geithner to resign

By Brady Dennis, Zachary A. Goldfarb and Neil Irwin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, November 20, 2009

Growing discontent over the economy and frustration with efforts 
to speed its recovery boiled over Thursday on Capitol Hill in a 
wave of criticism and outright anger directed at the Obama 

Episodes in both houses of Congress exposed the raw nerves of 
lawmakers flooded with stories of unemployment and economic 
hardship back home. They also underscored the stiff headwinds that 
the administration faces as it pushes to enact sweeping changes to 
the financial regulatory system while also trying to create jobs 
for ordinary Americans.

President Obama's allies in the Congressional Black Caucus, 
exasperated by the administration's handling of the economy, 
unexpectedly blocked one his top priorities, using a legislative 
maneuver to postpone the approval of financial reform legislation 
by a key House committee.

Two buildings away, at a session of the Joint Economic Committee, 
Republicans escalated their attacks on Treasury Secretary Timothy 
F. Geithner, including a call for his resignation.

"Conservatives agree that as point person, you failed. Liberals 
are growing in that consensus as well," said Rep. Kevin Brady 
(R-Tex.). "For the sake of our jobs, will you step down from your 

Rep. Michael C. Burgess (R-Tex.) took a different tack. "I don't 
think that you should be fired," he told Geithner. "I thought you 
should have never been hired."

Even Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), a friend of the 
administration, suggested that Geithner had been inconsistent in 
addressing China's practice of keeping its currency low against 
the dollar.

And Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) said Wednesday on MSNBC that he 
thinks Geithner should step down, pointing to his handling of the 
aftermath of American International Group's meltdown.

Across Capitol Hill, senators signaled their opposition to rushing 
regulatory reform. While some Democrats voiced reservations about 
parts of the bill, Republicans went further, faulting Sen. 
Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.) for pushing ahead before the roots 
of the crisis were understood.

Perhaps most troubling for the administration was that one of the 
few measures to succeed Thursday was an amendment by Rep. Ron Paul 
(R-Tex.) that would subject the Federal Reserve to unprecedented 
scrutiny. The amendment, which won bipartisan support in the House 
Financial Services Committee despite the reservations of 
administration officials, would allow the Government 
Accountability Office to audit all of the Fed's operations, 
including its decisions on interest rates and its transactions 
with foreign central banks.

Paul and allies in both parties -- more than 300 members of 
Congress have endorsed the measure -- are looking to increase 
oversight of an institution they consider partly to blame for the 
financial crisis. Federal officials and many private economists 
worry that the amendment could make future central bank 
policymakers reluctant to take unpopular steps to prevent 
inflation or support the economy for fear of second-guessing by 
Congress and government auditors.

The House committee had been set to vote to send the final piece 
of its regulatory reform package to the House floor after months 
of debate. That is, until the committee's chairman, Rep. Barney 
Frank (D-Mass.), told a shocked committee room that passage of the 
bill would be delayed until Dec. 1 because the Congressional Black 
Caucus wanted the administration to do more to help African 
American communities suffering in the economic decline.

Frank told committee members that black lawmakers were "frustrated 
by the response to the economic situation by the administration." 
He said the caucus had no issues with the legislation itself. 
"They want obviously to continue to have some bargaining power 
with the administration," he said after the hearing.

The caucus itself did not publicly detail its concerns Thursday, 
but one member, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), issued a statement: 
"The recession has created a unique systemic risk that threatens 
all parts of the African-American community, including the poor 
and the middle class."

The caucus began discussing its concerns with Frank and the 
administration several weeks ago. Frank hosted a meeting Monday 
night between caucus members, Geithner and White House Chief of 
Staff Rahm Emanuel.

"You're talking about people whose constituents have been badly 
hammered by this," Frank said. "Given the nature of this 
recession, there needs to be some more conversations."

Frank said the caucus had concerns about whether minorities were 
being fairly represented in helping carry out Treasury's bailout 
programs and other federal efforts to resolve the financial 
crisis. The government has contracted out much of the work to Wall 
Street firms.

Congressional aides said the caucus's concerns are similar to 
those of the Democratic Party's liberal wing. Caucus members are 
pushing for legislation that would directly lead to new jobs by 
providing tax benefits, for example, that would provide incentives 
for home renovations and funding for new infrastructure projects. 
They also want to extend health-care and unemployment benefits.

Meanwhile, Geithner was taking a beating as he urged Congress to 
pass regulatory reform as quickly as possible, arguing that delay 
would create uncertainty for businesses across the country. 
Lawmakers sharply criticized him for his role in the crisis during 
the tense Joint Economic Committee meeting. They were particularly 
critical of his involvement in the decision, as president of the 
New York Fed, to bail out AIG.

But Geithner pressed forward: "To ensure the vitality, the 
strength and the stability of our economy going forward, we must 
bring our system of financial regulation into the 21st century. 
Nobody in my job should ever be in the position again of having to 
come into a crisis like this without those basic authorities."

Dodd, chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, chose the marbled 
Caucus Room in the Russell Senate Office Building -- site of past 
hearings on Watergate, Pearl Harbor and the Wall Street abuses 
during the Great Depression -- to open debate on a massive draft 
bill designed to achieve the most ambitious reworking of the 
financial system in decades.

"This is one of those moments in our nation's history that compels 
us to be bold," Dodd said.

But soon, ranking committee Republican Richard C. Shelby (Ala.) 
took the floor, and for 18 uninterrupted minutes he opined that 
nearly every element of Dodd's bill was misinformed, uninformed, 
unnecessarily rushed or just plain flawed. "This committee has not 
done the necessary work to even begin discussing changes of this 
magnitude. Nevertheless, you have laid a bill before the 
committee," Shelby said. "I will be opposing this legislation. Not 
because we disagree on its ends, but rather on its means."

Shelby said Dodd was wrong not to conduct an investigation into 
the causes of the recent financial crisis before pushing forward 
with legislation. He said rather than ending the problem of 
institutions that are "too big to fail," the current bill expands 
the government's ability to bail out big banks. Shelby apologized 
for the length of his critique, expressed his hope that the two 
men might "yet find some common ground," and yielded the floor.

"Well," Dodd said in the morning's only moment of levity, "I thank 
you for the endorsement."

Staff writer David Cho contributed to this report.

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