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Posts from the "Pete DeFazio" Category

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With a Big Crowd and Bipartisan Support, Bike Summit Gets Rolling

The League of American Bicyclists welcomed a record crowd to the 2012 National Bike Summit this morning. Over 800 attendees filled the basement of the Grand Hyatt Metro Center in Washington to hear remarks from federal lawmakers and officials about the state of bike advocacy in America — so large a crowd that president Andy Clarke said that next year the LAB’s sights are set on the much larger Walter E. Washington Convention Center, just two blocks away.

Secretary LaHood and Rep. Blumenauer, prior to addressing the National Bike Summit. Photo: Ben Goldman

Clarke set the stage for the speakers by pointing out that on the cover of the House transportation bill — “If you can bring yourself to look at it,” he said — there are four photos of different transportation modes, and not a single human being in sight. The advocates in the audience, Clarke said, will be tasked with putting people back in the picture.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer, the Oregon Democrat whose zeal for bicycles is perhaps matched only by his zeal for bow ties, was first to speak. “My goal in working with you, these last 12 years in particular, is to make cycling a political movement,” Blumenauer said to a loud round of applause.

Blumenauer was optimistic about the demise of the House bill, which would have returned national transportation policy to the mid-20th century. “The House bill wasn’t just attacking cycling, it was backed by arguably the most powerful person on Capitol Hill — the speaker. You were a part of a coalition that stopped it dead in its tracks,” he said.

Highlights from the other speakers’ remarks are after the jump.

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Pelosi: Passing a Wall Street Transport Tax Would Require Overseas Buy-in

Any proposal to fund new U.S. infrastructure investment by taxing financial transactions -- such as Rep. Pete DeFazio's (D-OR) bill taxing Wall Street oil speculators -- would require international participation to prevent the trades in question from migrating overseas, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said today.

nancy_pelosi.jpgHouse Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Photo: MoniqueMonicat)

As House Democrats weigh their options for a new job-creation plan, slated for a vote before year's end, infrastructure spending is attracting new support from party leaders. But the question of how much to spend, and whether a new six-year transportation measure could be presented as a jobs bill, is tied up in ongoing uncertainty over where the necessary funding would come from.

DeFazio's recommendation to impose a small per-trade tax on the Wall Street oil futures market has picked up endorsements from progressive economists and writers as well as 29 of his fellow Democrats. Pelosi, however, was cautious in addressing its prospects today during her weekly press briefing.

"One of the concerns that some of us have about it," the Speaker said, "is what it [might do] to us in terms of transactions going offshore."

Emphasizing that the idea "is just something that is on the table," Pelosi added that passing a tax proposal such as DeFazio's would require consultation with and buy-in from other nations: "It would have to be an international rule, not just a U.S. rule."

Barney Frank (D-MA), chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, is among those who have expressed concerns that a Wall Street transaction tax, unless properly structured, would drive financial activity onto foreign commodity exchanges, thus generating lower-than-expected revenues.

Imposing a transaction tax "country by country ... would be a problem," Frank told the Wall Street Journal last month.

Pelosi's response today does not signal a decline in House-side momentum for DeFazio's proposal; she noted that financial regulators in the United Kingdom and elsewhere have spoken favorably of transaction taxes (also known as "Tobin" taxes).

But even if House Democrats ultimately embrace the idea as a revenue-raiser for their jobs bill, the proposed tax is guaranteed to face an uphill battle in the Senate -- where Wall Street has no shortage of powerful allies.

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DeFazio: Summers, Geithner Oppose Using Bailout Money on Infrastructure

As Streetsblog Capitol Hill readers may know, there is no love lost between lawmakers on the House transportation committee and President Obama's economic advisers.

When the Obama administration first pushed to delay the next federal long-term infrastructure bill by 18 months, transport panel chairman Jim Oberstar (D-MN) quipped that "folks in the economic gang at the White House" -- think economic adviser Larry Summers -- "never had a shovel in their hands or a callus on their fingers. And Rep. Pete DeFazio (D-OR), who said in January that Summers "hates infrastructure," offered another no-holds-barred take last night.

In an interview with MSNBC's Ed Schultz (viewable above), DeFazio confirmed that House Democrats are discussing plans to spend unused money from Washington's $750 billion Wall Street bailout on job-creation programs, including infrastructure. But Summers and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner are set against the idea, DeFazio added.

"Unfortunately, the president has an adviser from Wall Street, Larry Summers, and an adviser from Wall Street, Timmy Geithner, who don't like that idea," the Oregonian lawmaker told Schultz.

"They want to keep the money [because] there may be more needs on Wall Street, or maybe we should use it to pay down the deficit."

DeFazio went on to hint that progressive Democrats in the House are discussing a formal suggestion that Geithner and Summers be removed from their posts: "We may have to sacrifice just two more jobs to get millions back for Americans."

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The Wall Street Transportation Tax: Predictably Unpopular On Wall Street

As Congress mulls over solutions to the nation's transportation funding gap, with an eye to passing new infrastructure legislation to reverse the rising unemployment rate, Rep. Pete DeFazio's (D-OR) proposed tax on oil futures is picking up new fans in high places.

Peter_DeFazio_2.jpgRep. Pete DeFazio (D-OR) (Photo: UPI)

DeFazio's legislation would levy a 0.2 percent fee on oil futures and a 0.5 percent fee on oil futures options, and a broader version introduced earlier this year would impose a 0.25 percent tax on all stock trades -- a compelling option for a White House wary of voter frustration with the financial bailout and in need of new revenue-raising ideas.

But DeFazio's broader transaction-tax bill has attracted a flurry of dissent from the investment industry. As the chief lobbyist for the Financial Services Roundtable told the Financial Times in August:

We vigorously oppose a tax on the industry. The financial services industry is a leading sector around the world in producing jobs and providing people with goods and services they demand. A punitive tax would unnecessarily restrict the industry, harm shareholders, and ultimately weaken a key segment in the world economy.

The pension industry is reportedly just as cool on the proposal, and an online petition filed against the broader DeFazio bill lists more than 58,000 signatories. In a pithy summary of Wall Street's perspective on the bill, one investment adviser titled his blog on the issue "Financial Transaction Taxes Would Cause Stock Market Crash."

Of course, it's not surprising that Wall Street would resist the notion of paying more for stock trades, which can be conducted at superhuman rates thanks to computer programs used by banks and hedge funds. But would limiting DeFazio's tax to speculative trades on oil, widely blamed for last year's run-up in gas prices, arouse as much opposition?

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30 House Dems Back Transportation Tax on Wall Street Oil Speculators

More than a month after he first proposed the idea, Rep. Pete DeFazio (OR) -- along with 29 fellow Democrats -- has introduced legislation that would levy a small tax on oil futures trades in order to close the yawning gap in the federal transportation budget.

gas_price_1.jpgOil traders on the New York Mercantile Exchange. (Photo: HowStuffWorks)
DeFazio's bill would set the tax at 0.2 percent for every oil futures contract and 0.5 percent for every option on a futures contract, which he has projected would raise nearly $200 billion for transportation over the next six years.

The prospect of reining in the Wild West world of oil speculators, whom lawmakers and heads of state of all stripes have blamed for creating furious spikes in gas prices, is an irresistible one for many members of Congress.

But DeFazio's bill sets broad exemptions from the tax for businesses that rely on "commercial" oil futures trades to guard against economic downturns or oil price fluctuations

Wall Street firms acting on behalf of those "commercial" traders, which range from oil companies such as Exxon to major trucking companies, would also be exempted from DeFazio's proposed tax -- so long as the firms never held the oil futures for their own profit-making purposes.

It's unclear how much those exceptions would drive down the value of the oil-futures tax. DeFazio's bill does answer skeptics who believe taxing securities transactions could drive business offshore by requiring foreign holders of U.S. oil contracts to deduct and withhold the tax themselves.

The bill's distinction between "commercial" and "non-commercial" oil traders could prove problematic, however, given how murky the distinction is for some financial analysts. Oil companies and banks often work both sides of the equation, making trades connected to legitimate business as well as trades purely to profit from price swings, making enforcement of the rules potentially difficult.

Further complicating the issue, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission could soon pull the rug out from DeFazio's transportation-funding plan by setting its own limits on Wall Street's speculative trading. Still, his proposal is worth watching in the coming days of fiscal uncertainty for infrastructure.

The full list of DeFazio's House Democratic co-sponsors is available after the jump.

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Team Obama’s Transportation Chain of Command: ‘A Bit Complicated’

It's no secret that key leaders of the House transportation panel and the White House economic team don't get along -- from quips about shovel skills to a stimulus "shouting match," committee chairman Jim Oberstar (D-MN) and his top lieutenant, Rep. Pete DeFazio (D-OR), have become two of their party's leading Obama administration skeptics.

Peter_DeFazio_2.jpgRep. Pete DeFazio (D-OR) got a vague but telling response from U.S. DOT on its chain of command. (Photo: UPI)
But the committee is now fighting a two-front battle, against an administration determined to put off a new six-year transport bill and a Senate that yesterday approved a "clean" 18-month extension of existing law.

Undaunted, Oberstar and DeFazio today pressed U.S. DOT undersecretary Roy Kienitz to clear one thing up: If the administration wants policy changes added to the 18-month stopgap, and if Kienitz agrees that the House bill's "goals are very similar" to the White House's, should the Senate be allowed to press on with its "clean" bill?

Kienitz answered carefully: "I don't think it's my place to try to make policy on that." A nonplussed DeFazio then wondered who would make policy on the transportation extension, if not senior DOT officials.

"I'm coming to learn that's a bit complicated," Kienitz said.

That vague admission underscored the hard road ahead as Congress and the administration attempt to bridge their transportation policy divide in the three weeks remaining before D.C. empties out for August and the highway trust fund runs dry.

No House member has introduced a counterpart to the Senate's 18-month stopgap, suggesting a united lower chamber that is prepared to fight for Oberstar's committee.

"I can't believe the short-sightedness of our colleagues across the Hill," Rep. Chris Carney (D-PA) said, "to do something as silly as they did yesterday" in approving the 18-month plan. (The second of three Senate committees will take up the extension on Tuesday.)

House-Senate tension has colored almost every major policy fight since the Democrats took control of Congress three years ago, however, and those clashes often end with the House forced to cede ground.

For this summer's transportation showdown to end differently, a reliable source of revenue to pay for Oberstar's $450 billion six-year bill would have to materialize -- and the administration likely would have to lend its muscle to the winning idea.

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Leading Liberal Economist Endorses DeFazio’s Wall Street Transpo Tax

Few liberal-leaning economists have a higher profile in Washington than Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research. His critiques of the Obama administration's Wall Street bailout as a glorified taxpayer subsidy have made Baker a must-read -- as is his latest column for the Guardian.

Its headline is "Banks own the US government," but Baker's real thesis is transportation-related: Rep. Pete DeFazio's (D-OR) proposed 0.02 percent tax on oil speculation is an affordable, sensible way to rein in Wall Street while paying our infrastructure bills.

I'll let Baker's words take us out for the holiday weekend. Enjoy the Fourth, everyone ...

This tax can best be thought of as a tax on gambling. Gambling is heavily taxed in every state that allows it. DeFazio's [plan] is effectively a tax on gambling in the oil markets. It will not stop it, but it would discourage it, and in the process raise a huge amount of money that could go to productive purposes.

... [I]t is important that people know about the DeFazio bill. First, DeFazio deserves a place on the honour roll for standing up to Wall Street.

Also, it is important for the public to know that there is a relatively low-cost way to make up the shortfall in the highway trust fund. When Congress raises some other tax and/or cuts a useful programme, people should know that there was a better alternative. It just didn't happen because, as we know, the banks own the place.

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Lawmakers Push For Federal Help With Transit Operating: Read the Letter

The House and Senate are racing to reach agreement on a $90 billion bill to keep the Iraq and Afghanistan wars funded, but the legislation also could mark a pivotal victory for transit. 

Peter_DeFazio_2.jpgRep. Pete DeFazio (D-OR) (Photo: UPI)

The Senate version of the war bill contains a provision that would allow transit agencies to use 10 percent of their money they get from the economic stimulus law to pay operating costs. If the House agrees to add that provision to the war bill, it would be a boon to cash-strapped localities that are facing steep cuts in service thanks to the economic downturn.

Rep. Pete DeFazio (D-OR), chairman of the House transportation committee's highways and transit panel, has enlisted 26 colleagues for a letter to congressional leaders urging that the Senate's transit provision be kept in the final version of the war legislation.

CQ reported on the letter on Friday, but we have a complete copy for your downloading pleasure right here. Has your local member of Congress signed on?