Top Stories for Thursday, December 11, 2014

House Republicans Still Searching for Votes for Funding Bill

From The Washington Times, “Spending bill in doubt as Democrats desert Obama, GOP searches for votes”: “President Obama had to plead with fellow Democrats on Thursday night to try to avert a looming government shutdown after his troops in the House rejected the $1.1 trillion spending deal to fund the government

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi delivered a stunning public rebuke, saying Mr. Obama and Senate Democrats were trying to “blackmail” her caucus. She urged Democrats to stand firm in their opposition, offering a hint of the divisions that threaten to rend their party over the next two years as they become the minority in Congress and the president’s lame-duck status is cemented.

“Here we are in the House, being blackmailed — being blackmailed — to vote for an appropriations bill,” she said.

Republican leaders, meanwhile, were facing their own rebellion from conservatives who thought the GOP gave up too much, cutting a deal now even though when their power and leverage will only increase beginning in January…

Previous shutdown showdowns involved a stand-off between House GOP leaders on the one hand and Senate Democrats and Mr. Obama on the other.

But in Thursday’s fight all three of those forces were aligned, and it was House Democrats who were the chief obstacle, objecting to a bill that had been negotiated by their own party leaders at the White House and in the Senate.

Indeed, even as Mr. Obama was making phone calls in the afternoon to try to win supporters, Rep. Maxine Waters of California, the ranking Democrat on the Financial Services Committee, was making calls urging Democrats to hold firm in their opposition.

Mrs. Pelosi also seemed to add to the obstruction when she released a letter urging the liberal rebellion to hold firm, saying they believed they were the “leverage” she needed to force Senate Democrats and House Republicans to rewrite the bill.

“I’m glad President Obama is on the phone talking to Democrats. I wish Pelosi and the president would get on the same page,” said Rep. Robert Pittinger, North Carolina Republican, as the recess dragged into early evening.”

From The Washington Post, “Warren leads liberal Democrats’ rebellion over provisions in $1 trillion spending bill”: “Congressional liberals rebelled Wednesday against a must-pass spending bill that would keep the government open past midnight Thursday, complaining that it would roll back critical limits on Wall Street and sharply increase the influence of wealthy campaign donors.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), a popular figure on the left, led the insurrection with a speech on the Senate floor, calling the $1.01 trillion spending bill “the worst of government for the rich and powerful.”…

Under the 2010 Dodd-Frank overhaul, banks are prohibited from using taxpayer-insured depositor funds for particularly risky derivative transactions.

Derivative trades are basically a bet on the future value of things such as commodities. For example, major airlines use derivatives to hedge against future price changes for jet fuel, as a way to keep ticket prices stable. These are broadly considered vanilla transactions — with relatively little risk.

But before the 2008 financial crisis, Wall Street firms used more complicated derivative formulas to place risky bets on the mortgage market. American International Group (AIG) nearly fell into bankruptcy in 2008 because of its use of derivatives known as credit-
default swaps.

Since the passage of Dodd-Frank, banks have pushed for exceptions to the regulations so they can use their deposits to underwrite some derivative trades. The new language would bow to this demand by effectively repealing portions of the “push-out” provision of Dodd-Frank, which requires banks to push some derivatives trading into separate units that do not have access to deposit insurance.

On the Senate floor, Warren said the changes in the spending bill “would let derivatives traders on Wall Street gamble with taxpayer money and get bailed out by the government when their risky bets threaten to blow up our financial system.” She added: “These are the same banks that nearly broke the economy in 2008 and destroyed millions of jobs.””

UVA Students Dispute Jackie’s Account of Alleged Rape in Rolling Stone

From The Washington Post, “U-Va. students challenge Rolling Stone account of alleged sexual assault”: “The scene with her friends was pivotal in the article, as it alleged that the friends were callously apathetic about a beaten, bloodied, injured classmate reporting a brutal gang rape at the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity. The account alleged that the students worried about the effect it might have on their social status and how it might reflect on Jackie during the rest of her collegiate career and that they suggested not reporting it. It set up the article’s theme: That U-Va. has a culture that is indifferent to rape.

“It didn’t happen that way at all,” Andy said.

Instead, the friends remember being shocked. Although they did not notice any blood or visible injuries, they said they immediately urged Jackie to speak to police and insisted that they find her help. Instead, they said, Jackie declined and asked to be taken back to her dorm room. They went with her — two said they spent the night — seeking to comfort Jackie in what appeared to be a moment of extreme turmoil…

Curious about Jackie’s date, the friends said that they tried to find the student on a U-Va. database and social media but failed. Andy, Cindy and Randall all said they never met the student in person. Before Jackie’s date, the friends became suspicious that perhaps they hadn’t really been in contact with the chemistry student at all, they said.

U-Va. officials told The Post that no student with the name Jackie provided to her friends as her date and attacker in 2012 had ever enrolled at the university.”

Sony Executive Caught Making “Insensitive” Remarks in E-Mail Exchange About Obama

From Variety, “Sony’s Amy Pascal Apologizes for Obama Emails”: “Sony Pictures co-chairman Amy Pascal has apologized for racially insensitive remarks made by her and producer Scott Rudin about President Obama in a series of stolen emails that were published online Thursday.

“The content of my emails were insensitive and inappropriate but are not an accurate reflection of who I am,” she said in a statement, adding that “although this was a private communication that was stolen, I accept full responsibility for what I wrote and apologize to everyone who was offended.”

Buzzfeed published a story late Thursday containing personal emails in which Pascal and “The Social Network” producer Scott Rudin joked about Obama’s favorite movies, suggesting he would prefer those about African Americans.

“Would he like to finance some movies,” responded Rudin, when Pascal sought his advice on what she should say to the President at a Hollywood fundraiser.

“I doubt it. Should I ask him if he liked DJANGO?” said Pascal, with Rudin replying “12 YEARS.”

“Or the butler. Or think like a man?” continued Pascal, who is a major donor for the Democratic party and President Obama.

“Ride-along. I bet he likes Kevin Hart,” said Rudin.”