Hey, Republicans: Bruce Braley can multitask

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee confirmed yesterday that Representative Bruce Braley will co-chair the DCCC’s “Red to Blue” program this year. Red to Blue candidates are Democratic challengers seeking to win Republican-held House districts. DCCC Chairman Chris Van Hollen noted this week that even in a “tough cycle for Democrats,”

The DCCC is focused on not only protecting our threatened incumbents, but also staying aggressively on offense. The talented leadership of our battle-tested Red to Blue chairs Bruce Braley, Allyson Schwartz, Patrick Murphy, and Donna Edwards will ensure Democratic candidates have the infrastructure and support they need to be successful.

The Republican Party of Iowa responded with a boilerplate statement accusing Braley of being loyal to “San Franciscan Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi” instead of the citizens of Iowa’s first Congressional district. Their attacks on Braley’s record could hardly be more misleading.  

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Braley outlines Populist Caucus "Blueprint for Recovery"

Representative Bruce Braley advocated a four-point “Blueprint for Recovery” in Politico yesterday. The House Populist Caucus, which Braley formed last year, has endorsed these proposals to “require Wall Street to pay for economic development on Main Street and to pay down our nation’s deficit.”

Compensation. We need to change the culture of limitless bonuses by passing the Wall Street Bonus Tax Act (H.R. 4426). America’s middle-class families saw their savings wiped out by Wall Street’s gambling addictions and then watched as their tax dollars went to save troubled banks. The targeted tax would apply only to executives at banks that received Troubled Asset Relief Program funding who took bonuses in excess of $50,000. The Bonus Tax Act would generate billions of dollars of new revenue that would be directed exclusively to reward small businesses that are investing in new jobs.

Speculation. We need to stop excessive and risky speculation on Wall Street by passing the Let Wall Street Pay for the Restoration of Main Street Act (H.R. 4191). This legislation would reinstate a tiny transaction fee on speculative stock transactions by Wall Street traders, creating $150 billion annually in new revenue that would be dedicated to job creation and reducing the deficit.

Job creation. A “jobless recovery” is not a recovery for the middle class. With a national unemployment rate hovering around 10 percent, it’s clear America’s middle-class families are still struggling to make ends meet.

That’s why we need to take the following two-pronged approach to creating good-paying jobs that can’t be outsourced: We need to pass the National Infrastructure Development Bank Act (H.R. 2521), which would establish a wholly owned government corporation to prioritize infrastructure improvement projects that would create good-paying jobs. We also need to pass the Buy American Improvement Act (H.R. 4351) to eliminate loopholes in existing domestic sourcing laws and ensure that taxpayer money is used to purchase American-made products and support American jobs whenever possible.

Click here for more details on the Wall Street transaction fees the Populist Caucus supports. The idea is worthwhile, but I am skeptical that the current economic team in the Obama administration would get behind it.

I’m not clear on why a new government corporation on infrastructure projects needs to be created (as opposed to just appropriating more funds for existing agencies to spend on high-speed rail, affordable housing or other infrastructure needs). I asked Braley’s office for comment on that part of the blueprint and received this reply:

The Populist Caucus believes we need a National Infrastructure Bank (NIB) now to invest in merit-based infrastructure projects-both traditional and technological-by leveraging private capital. In recent years, the private sector has raised more than $100 billion in dedicated infrastructure funds, but most of that money is being invested overseas.  We need an NIB to attract those funds into a U.S. market for infrastructure development.

It’s notable that the Populist Caucus is not backing broader populist measures, such as tax hikes for corporations and the top 1 percent of individual earners. Then again, Braley’s caucus prepared and approved this “blueprint” before Oregon residents approved two tax-raising ballot initiatives this week.

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Iowans split on party lines over jobs bill

The House of Representatives approved the Jobs for Main Street Act yesterday by a vote of 217 to 212. No Republicans supported the bill; the nay votes included 38 Democrats and 174 Republicans (roll call here). Iowa Democrats Bruce Braley, Dave Loebsack and Leonard Boswell all voted for the bill, while Republicans Tom Latham and Steve King voted with the rest of their caucus. (This year has been a refreshing change from 2005-2007, when Boswell was often among 30-some House Democrats voting with Republicans on the issue of the day.)

More details are after the jump.

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Braley wants "Buy American" provisions in jobs bill

President Barack Obama announced more details today about provisions he wants in the jobs bill Congress will take up soon:

Obama proposed new spending for highway and bridge construction, for small business tax cuts and for retrofitting millions of homes to make them more energy-efficient. He said he wanted to extend economic stimulus programs to keep unemployment insurance from expiring for millions of out-of-work Americans and to help laid-off workers keep their health insurance. He proposed an additional $250 apiece in stimulus spending for seniors and veterans and aid to state and local governments to discourage them from laying off teachers, police officers and firefighters.

Making homes more energy efficient would not only create jobs, but would produce huge collateral benefits, as A Siegel explains at the Get Energy Smart Now blog. Money that homeowners and business owners save on utility bills is money they can spend on other goods and services.

Populist Caucus Chairman Bruce Braley (IA-01) and House Trade Working Group Chairman Mike Michaud (ME-02) wrote to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer today, urging them to make sure the jobs bill contains a strong “Buy American” provision. From a press release Braley’s office issued:

“Recently, as America has suffered the worst economic recession since the Great Depression, unemployment has risen and is now around 10 percent,” the letter reads. “We believe that the shipment of American jobs overseas is a factor in this rising unemployment.  If we are going to pass a strong job creation bill then it only makes sense to include strong Buy American provisions, to further ensure that the jobs created as a result of this legislation are created within the United States.

“We have an obligation to create jobs in America. While some would argue that Buy American is nothing more than a trade protectionist label, it is clear that these provisions would equate to greater investment, and greater job-creation, within the U.S.  In addition, Buy American provisions are perfectly legal under current trade agreements and many other nations use similar mechanisms to protect their domestic manufacturers.  Therefore, we feel that it is entirely appropriate that this language be included in any upcoming job-creation measure, and we believe that this provision is essential to creating and retaining American jobs.

The stimulus bill Congress approved in February contained “Buy American” language despite a massive corporate lobbying effort.

If the upcoming jobs bill contains aid to state and local governments, as the stimulus bill did, that could help Iowa legislators close the gap in the fiscal year 2011 budget. Republicans keep complaining about Iowa Democrats using federal transfers to balance the state budget, but they ignore the reality that deep cuts in state budgets are themselves a drag on the economy. State employee layoffs have a ripple effect in the private sector. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has estimated that without additional federal fiscal relief, “states will have to take steps to eliminate deficits for state fiscal year 2011 that will likely take nearly a full percentage point off the Gross Domestic Product. That, in turn, could cost the economy 900,000 jobs next year.”

UPDATE: Meteor Blades has a good post up at Daily Kos on the jobs bill.

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Braley ready to roll out House Populist Caucus

Representative Bruce Braley (IA-01) announced plans to form a Populist Caucus in December. According to the Huffington Post, Braley plans to roll out the new caucus this week. (Hat tip David Sirota.)

Huffington Post lists most of the 21 founding members, who come from all over the country. There are moderates like Leonard Boswell (IA-03) and Phil Hare (IL-17), progressives like Keith Ellison (MN-05) and Jan Schakowsky (IL-09), and netroots heroes like Eric Massa (NY-29) and Pete DeFazio (OR-04). According to Huffington Post, Braley would be open to having Republicans join the caucus, although only Democrats have signed up so far.

Braley’s letter inviting colleagues to join the caucus listed these key points of the Populist Caucus agenda:

1. Fighting for working families and the middle class through the establishment of an equitable tax structure, fair wages, proper benefits, a level playing field at the negotiating table, and secure, solvent retirement plans.

2. Providing affordable, accessible, quality health care to all Americans.

3. Ensuring accessible, quality primary education for all American children, and affordable college education for all who want it.

4. Protecting consumers, so that Americans can once again have faith in the safety and effectiveness of the products they purchase.

5. Defending American competitiveness by fighting for fair trade principles.

6. Creating and retaining good-paying jobs in America.

Huffington Post also had this encouraging news:

The Populist Caucus will make its first major play by advocating for the inclusion of a “Buy American” provision in the stimulus package.

Bring it on. The “Buy American” provision is important if we want the stimulus to create jobs in the U.S. rather than taxpayer-funded outsourcing.

Though only starting his second term in Congress, Braley is rising fast. He landed a seat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee after aggressively advocating for Henry Waxman to replace John Dingell as its chairman. He is also one of three vice-chairs of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

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