Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Taking Off Again

Even though the the temps are freezing, and the snow is blowing in much of America, if you've begun to notice a certain type of thaw happening, you're not alone. Indeed, as Steve Benen noted yesterday, a remarkable thing has begun to happen in the Senate since Democrats used the so-called 'nuclear option' in late November to warm things up a bit, politically.

Tuesday in the Senate, the nomination of Patricia Millett to become a judge on the D.C. Circuit Court came up for a vote, and with a simple majority, it passed. Likewise, Rep. Mel Watt's nomination to head the Federal Housing Finance Agency came before the Senate, and was also passed by a majority vote.

There was even an announcement by Sen. Patty Murray and Rep. Paul Ryan that a federal budget deal has finally been reached. The details of the deal that have been released are admittedly a mixed bag. There's no extension of unemployment insurance, which is a major problem for many Democrats. The Sequestration cuts are also being partially removed, which is a major problem for Republicans who supported the cuts. In short, the deal is far from perfect - and it's a long way from passage. There are still quite a few things that could derail the budget from passing, and very few Congressional work days between now and January 15th - the next potential government shutdown date.

Still, in keeping with our thawing theme and the positive vibe of the holiday season, we're trying to be optimistic. After all, private insurance enrollment through Obamacare is now surging in states like New York and Kentucky. Even the monsters of Wall Street may have been tamed a bit, with the enactment of the Volcker Rule.

Even if you consider all of the above good news, we have to admit - we're still not sure the skies will be all that friendly for travelers this holiday season, now that fewer carriers are holding all the cards again.

In case you missed it, on Monday, American Airlines officially emerged from bankruptcy, closing their deal with US Airways to become the world's largest airline. As Steve Perlstein noted in the Washington Post earlier this year, the Department of Justice initially blocked the merger because of the airline monopolies in the United States that have already caused issues of pricing collusion and route limitation.

Still, in late November the DOJ waved the merger through, effectively saying that allowing the merger to continue would be less costly to taxpayers than forcing American Airlines to stay in bankruptcy. The deal even had the blessings of the multiple workers' unions - a rarity in airline mergers.

Experts say there will be changes this next year, though thankfully very few changes should be expected during the holiday season for either American Airlines or US Airways passengers and crew. Ticket prices should even stay relatively stable for now, though no one knows where things will stand when the merger is finished at the end of 2015.

The key factor to note in all of the events we've mentioned today - whether you're focused specifically on the Senate, whether you're watching Congress as a whole, or whether you have your eye to the skies - is that things appear to be moving in both business and politics once again.

All that movement has only begun to happen since the Democrats in the Senate stood up for themselves, and nuked the perpetually frozen ideology of the tea party bullies.

If we're all lucky, maybe both business and politics really can take off again, for the better, in 2014.

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