On Saturday the Democratic National Committee Rules and Bylaws Committee will meet to decide the fate of Florida and Michigan's delegates to the Democratic National Convention. As DNC members, the 30 rules committee members are all superdelegates and also have a vote at the convention. Between them, 13 have endorsed Hillary Clinton, eight have endorsed Barack Obama and nine are uncommitted. They also include one DNC member from Michigan (uncommitted) and one from Florida (endorsing Hillary), who are unable to cast a vote concerning their home states. (See the full membership here.) The committee will hear challenges to its earlier ruling that Michigan and Florida's delegates would not be seated at the national convention, with their votes thus not counting towards the presidential nomination. Bringing the challenges are Florida superdelegate and DNC member Jon Ausman (undeclared for either Clinton or Obama) and a representative from Michigan's state democratic party. Other representatives from the two state parties and the presidential campaigns will also make their case to the committee. The committee will hear three specific challenges:
It was a busy last week in Congress, as major deals were reached on the Farm Bill and Congress' response to the mortgage crisis. The stalled nominations process for the Federal Elections Commission received a new twist with big ramifications for the 2008 presidential election, the Senate Ethics Committee cleared Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), Rep. Vito Fossella (R-N.Y.) got into trouble with the law, Barack Obama picked up 24 superdelegates, Hillary Clinton picked up 7, and North Carolina and Indiana had their congressional primaries.
On Thursday the House passed a new, catch-all housing bill that combines several bills already passed by the House and Senate by a 265-153 vote. The House bill's most remarkable feature is a program championed by Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), the powerful head of the House Financial Services Committee. Under the program, the government would offer banks a deal: taxpayer-backed insurance on the mortgages of homeowners likely to default in exchange for making the terms significantly easier for the homeowners to make. While this would cost banks substantial amounts of money versus what they would receive if the mortgages were all paid off, it would also reduce the number of homeowners who default on their mortgages, keeping them in their homes and theoretically saving the banks money in the long run.
Homeowners who are behind in their payments and whose home values have fallen below the amount of their mortgage (thus creating an incentive for them to walk away from the loan) would be eligible for the program. The FHA would offer to insure their mortgages if the bank lowered the amount of the loan to no more than 90 percent of the current market value of the home (thus giving the homeowner positive equity in the home) and reducing the monthly payments. If the value of the insured homes rise and the homeowners sell or refinance at a profit, a portion of that profit goes back to the FHA. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that up to 500,000 homeowners would qualify for the program.
For more on the week's legislation and other developments, click through.
The big action in Congress this week was on bills with big price tags: the $290 billion Farm Bill and a new $300 billion housing crisis bill. It also passed a law banning employers and insurers from using your genes to discriminate against you. And, of course, the race for Democratic superdelegates continues between Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, with both picking up several endorsements.
The 2007 Farm Bill looks like it might be ready for a final vote as the House and Senate negotiate between themselves and with President Bush to find a bill that hits all the right political constituencies and has the right price tag. The latest version of the bill, which at $290 billion over ten years is $10 billion over the congressional budget rules and $4.5 billion more than President Bush wants, contains most of the usual subsidies and conversation programs of years past but adds several key provisions. Bush is pressing Congress to lower the income limits on farmers who can receive subsidies from the current $1.95 million to $200,000, well short of Congress' currently proposed $500,000. But Bush also supports keeping $5.2 billion in direct subsidy payments to farmers despite record crop prices, so he's not exactly uniformly thrifty. Also included in the current version of the bill is a $5 billion trust fund for farmers hit by disasters including floods, droughts and fires, a key demand of farm state Democrats and Republicans alike.
However, Bush has taken a hard line on the total price tag for the bill, and has raised a veto threat that Democrats say may be designed to bolster Sen. John McCain's anti-spending credentials. While it remains to see who will blink first, the extension that funds the farm programs is running out and some type of vote is imminent in the next week or two.
For more on this week's legislation and an update on Superdelegate endorsements, click through
By Avelino Maestas
As more and more states hold their primary elections and caucuses in the Democratic presidential nominating contest, we've seen the importance of superdelegates grow. These individuals will undoubtedly help decide the nomination, and they're now the focus of intense scrutiny: for who will the vote, and why?
The Superdelegate Transparency Project on Congresspedia is picking up steam as it looks more and more likely that the superdelegates will decide the Democratic presidential nominee. Our citizen journalist-generated list of superdelegates is being covered by everyone from the New York Times to CNN (video link).
But as the pressure on them picks up, many superdelegates are switching sides or hedging their bets. We need your help to figure out who these "wobbling" superdelegates are.
The motley crew of citizen journalists, activists, bloggers and transparency advocates that make up the Superdelegate Transparency Project (STP) have produced the best, most transparent and highly detailed reporting on the Democratic superdelegates - anywhere. Through collaborative research with nearly 300 citizen journalists, the folks at DemConWatch, LiteraryOutpost, the HuffPost's OffTheBus project, OpenLeft and CMD's Congresspedia have produced a tally that rivals or bests those of the major media outlets. The STP even breaks the numbers down by state and congressional district with ever-expanding bios of hundreds of superdelegates AND we now have a wicked-cool live-updating widget.