The Night Beat: 70 Nominees Being Held Up by ... Labor?

Good evening.

A DEAL WITH A HITCH: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell have reached a deal that would allow as many as 70 stalled Obama administration nominees to be confirmed by voice, along with one Democrat and one Republican each appointed to the National Labor Relations Board. But there's a hitch: labor does not trust Republicans to keep their end of the bargain, and unions, led by Sen. Tom Harkin, are refusing to back the deal, much to the frustration of the White House and to Senate Democratic leaders. Labor thought they had a similar deal in February until Republican Mike Enzi broke the deal.  When Obama used his recess appointment power to add two Democrats to the board, he pointedly left out the Republicans' preferred nominee, Brian Hayes, a member of Enzi's staff. Labor doesn't want to bend here; they don't want Republicans to use the NRLB as a way to bargain for other nominees. Labor-backed Senators would agree to a deal wherein recess-appointed NRLB member Craig Becker is formally confirmed in exchange for Hayes's confirmation, with nothing else on the table.

NOT TAKING A SIDE: The FCC has a big net neutrality vote scheduled for tomorrow: a "yes" vote would be the first major step toward a revision of broadband regulation that would designate the service a common-carrier entity (as opposed to a service that transmits information, which would make it easier for the FCC to regulate). Basically, forget all that: it's a big vote; pay attention to it; watch the trade publications for a better explanation.

FUNDING KID SOLDIERS? The New York Times reported Sunday that money the U.S. is paying the Somali Transitional Federal Government might be used for training, equipping, and fielding child soldiers. Today, Sen. Dick Durbin, a long-time legislative warrior against kid armies, is demanding that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton look into the matter. ... Did you know? The U.S. is a signatory to the Optional Protocol for the Rights of Children in Conflict -- along with 120 or so other nations. The U.S. is NOT a signatory to its parent treaty -- the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The only other country in the WORLD who has not ratified that treaty? Somalia.

GEN. RASHOMON: Does Gen. David Petraeus support deescalation from Afghanistan beginning in July 2011? "It's important for July 2011 to be seen for what it is, the date when a process begins based on conditions, not the date when the U.S. heads for the exits," Petraeus said today. There is a Rashomon quality to this statement, and deliberately so. Democrats seemed to hear him say, "the process begins;" Republicans seemed to focus on "the conditions."

TOIL OVER OIL: The Senate Democratic caucus discusses next steps on energy and climate change legislation tomorrow at 12:45 p.m. Sens. Kerry, Bingaman, and Cantwell will make presentations. ... Say what you will about the President's speech, but he got what he wanted today: A $20 billion BP fund without a cap, a chastised company, little or no Republican response, and good headlines to that effect. The White House was frustrated by criticism of the speech but reasons that it was not written for members of the political press corps. Was it what people sitting at home would want to hear and need to know from their President? Arguably, it was. Did it check the boxes of those in the media (myself included) who set the narrative? Arguably, it did not.

DEFICIT WORRIES d. WORKERS: Congress Daily's summary of the new tax-extenders bill from Sen. Max Baucus: "...[it would]  postpone Medicare physician payment cuts only through November, down from 19 months, [soften]  tax increases affecting U.S. corporations and investment fund managers ... private equity fund managers would pay higher taxes, as in the House-passed bill, as gains on assets sold within five years would be subject to 75 percent ordinary income tax treatment. Baucus said more than half of the bill is offset, giving deficit-conscious senators a reason to vote for it. The amendment also removes $25 a week in extra unemployment compensation laid-off workers have been receiving since the stimulus was enacted last year."


--Rep. Jane Harman and Rep. Steve King will introduce the House's version of the Lieberman/Collins cyber security act by the end of the week. The White House does not support the provisions of the bill restructuring the government's cyber security capacities but has yet to formally say so because its lawyers are still working through the bill and its implications. The White House prefers the cyber power language introduced by Sens. Rockefeller and Snowe on the Commerce Committee.

--The key graph from Joshua Green's latest column in the Boston Globe, about the strange subway-fellows coalition of defense-budget-cutters: "One way of getting this done is through the  president's Deficit Reduction Commission, which will recommend a package of cuts to Congress in December for an up-or-down vote. The Sustainable Defense Task Force is lobbying the commission to do what Obama wouldn't: consider military cuts, and in the
context of the entire federal budget. Members like Frank and Paul say they'll vote against any package that doesn't, and encourage congressional colleagues to do likewise."

--Next week, the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) will release what it calls the U.S.'s first comprehensive strategy to prevent and end homelessness. The initiative has been little noticed since public field hearings first began, but I'm told it will be ambitious. It will be unveiled by three cabinet secretaries.

--And Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has reached a deal with several of his state's largest unions that would prevent the state's pension guarantees from spiking 2000 percent next year.