KPCC's Kitty Felde talks about the measures moving through Congress that would tax the executive bonuses of companies that received federal bailout money; Kitty also talks about the grassroots effort by President Obama to urge support for his budget.
Steve Julian: We talk with Kitty Felde now, who's our Washington, D.C. correspondent. Kitty, what's up on the Hill this week?
Kitty Felde: Well, Steve, you might say it's week two for "spank the executives" around here.
Julian: That's a headline!
Felde: (laughs) Well, I don't know what else to call it. I mean, last week, the House passed a 90 percent tax on bonuses that executives of AIG and other companies that received federal bailout money would have to pay, income taxes.
This week, the Senate takes up a similar measure, although those bonuses would only be taxed at 70 percent. Now, the White House is backing away from saying outright it would back this, either one of these measures, or whatever comes up for a compromise, and the reason for that is exactly what's going on at this very moment.
Tim Geithner, the Treasury secretary, is outlining what the White House wants to do with all these toxic assets, and executives may not want to get involved, and people may not want to invest if there's all of these restrictions attached, so everything is sort of up in the air. We'll probably know more after the president's press conference tomorrow.
Julian: It's gonna be interesting to see, also, whether members actually heard from constituents.
Felde: Oh, my goodness. This weekend was Knock On Doors Day. Barack Obama sent out all of those people who went out and campaigned for him. They all got e-mails saying go knock on your neighbor's door, and do you want to support the president's budget proposal?
Well, it's not exactly the question you usually get. These people were asked to sign a petition, and they were asked to go to a Web site to get the contact information to contact their congressperson. So I'm going to be knocking on congressional doors to see if they actually got any phone calls or messages from constituents way back home.
Julian: Don't knock the knockers. Anything else going on?
Felde: Oh my gosh. It's so busy around here. Everyone says, now this is new for me, but everybody says it's never been this busy. This week, there's gonna be, as a matter of fact, today, a hearing on card check – and that is whether or not workers can just unionize by signing secret cards versus taking an open vote.
There's also gonna be preliminary hearings and meetings on health care issues, immigration. And last week, there was a border conference with Mexican and U.S. experts on this topic, including a very familiar face.
Geraldo Rivera: Call off these raids. They do nothing. They accomplish nothing. All they do is upset communities, they leave women and children abandoned because the husbands are incarcerated, and how much does it cost to keep a federal prisoner? And what's their crime again? To work $7 an hour plucking chickens? It's preposterous.
Felde: Well that, of course, is the well-known immigration expert Geraldo Rivera.
Julian: He's been doing a series of reports for Fox on the border. Kitty, has D.C. become Hollywood East?
Felde: It sure seems like it. I mean, it is very odd to walk down the halls of Congress and literally brush shoulders with Geraldo Rivera. But you've got Brad Pitt here, George Clooney.
People are not just here to testify before Congress. They're getting meetings with the White House, and with policy directors. If you have an issue and you have a name, it seems the door's open here. It's very odd.
And you know, and speaking of stars, this weekend was the great big Gridiron Dinner. Not that I was there, but this is the annual time when reporters get up and act like idiots in skits and poke fun at the administration. And the president was not there.
He spent the weekend at Camp David with his kids, who were on spring break, and this is the first time that a president has ever skipped the event in his first year of office since Grover Cleveland. So guess who the star was of the evening?
Felde: Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Felde: (laughs) He was supposed to present the rebuttal, the Republican rebuttal, but there was nothing to rebut because, of course, the president wasn't there. So that's the news from Washington. It's all California, all the time, apparently.
Julian: All right, Kitty. Every Monday we'll talk with you from Washington, D.C. Thanks very much.
Felde: You bet.