Washington Extra

July 21, 2010

It was two years in the making, runs to 2,300 pages, took three Republicans to pass it, and 11 pens to sign it into law. President Barack Obama put the seal on a drastic overhaul of the rules governing Wall Street and the banking industry today, using a separate pen for each letter of his name. FINANCIAL-REGULATION/OBAMA

Behind him, Joe Biden chatted throughout the signing ceremony, often with his back to the camera, so we just have to assume the vice president thinks this particular legislative victory is also a “big … deal”.

Influential business groups lined up with Republicans to criticize the new law for the 533 new regulations they say it imposes, while Obama’s one-time friend, JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon, was not even invited to the signing ceremony. No sign of a rapprochement in the relationship between the presidency and Big Finance, as Obama used the occasion to take another swipe at “unscrupulous” lenders and the “abuse and excess” that lay behind the financial crisis.

It was Obama’s second major legislative victory of the year, confounding all those obituaries of his presidency written in the wake of Scott Brown’s Massachusetts victory in January. But there was one other set of numbers today that the president may find particularly uncomfortable reading.

Another poll, this time from Quinnipiac, showed the president’s approval ratings falling to a new low, and independents continuing to desert the Obama cause. More voters are now saying they would pick an unnamed Republican over Obama in 2012, although at this early stage the president still comes out ahead when pitted against Sarah Palin.

For Ross Colvin’s account of the financial regulation signing ceremony, click here and for on the Quinnipiac poll, see our blog.

Here are our other top stories from today:

Bernanke says Fed to act if soft recovery falters

The Federal Reserve stands ready to ease monetary policy further if the budding U.S. economic recovery stumbles, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke said. Bernanke said the outlook remains muddled, but that policymakers still expect economic growth to be sustained despite a recent softening evident in economic data.

For this story by Pedro da Costa and Glenn Somerville, read here.

Plumes, politics and the sultan of spill

It is a Thursday morning in early July and Thad Allen is ready to start his day. There are three states to visit, an oil company to challenge, and a cleanup process to inspect — all in less than 12 hours. It is, in other words, business as usual for the former Coast Guard boss, the unlikely face of an Obama administration that has been pilloried by critics for a tepid response to the worst oil spill in U.S. history — a perception the White House and Allen vehemently dispute.

For the rest of this special report by Jeff Mason, click here.

Long road to implement U.S. financial reform bill

The landmark financial reform legislation that President Barack Obama signed into law will take years to implement, with hundreds of new rules to be written and dozens of authorities transferred between agencies – some of which must be created from scratch.

For a rough timeline for benchmarks in the implementation of the legislation, click here.

Senate panel backs more electric cars, solar

Millions of electric-powered vehicles that would slash America’s dependence on foreign oil and cut its carbon emissions would be put on the road under legislation approved by a Senate committee. The legislation, passed 19-4 in favor, was one of several bills cleared by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee that might be folded into a broader energy and climate bill Democrats are struggling to bring to the Senate floor.

To get Tom Doggett’s full story, click here.

U.S. announces new sanctions against North Korea

The United States announced new sanctions against North Korea, targeted against its leadership, and warned of serious consequences if it again attacked the South. Relations across the divided peninsula have turned increasingly hostile after South Korea accused the North of sinking one of its warships in March, killings 46 sailors.

For the story by Andrew Quinn and Phil Stewart in Seoul, click here. For some questions and answers on the sanctions, click here.

Lawmakers demand tough action on China piracy

Lawmakers called for tough new measures to punish China for its failure to stop widespread piracy and counterfeiting of U.S. goods ranging from music CDs to manufactured products.  “I think we ought to consider this economic terrorism,” Representative William Delahunt said, reflecting the frustration of many Democrats and Republicans at a House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee hearing.

For Doug Palmer’s story, click here.

What we are blogging today:

Republicans create caucus ‘to listen’ to Tea Party

There are scores of U.S. congressional caucuses that focus on specific issues — including ones to combat hunger and cancer, advance the arts, protect the environment and promote the rights of black, Asian, Hispanic and other Americans. The conservative Tea Party movement scored a milestone in its drive to be heard in Washington when two dozen Republican members of the House of Representatives held the first meeting of the new Tea Party Congressional Caucus. Like many Tea Party-related events, this one drew more members of the news media than participants.

For Thomas Ferraro’s full Front Row Washington blog, click here.

And our favorite stories from elsewhere in the world…

Romantic comedies affecting off-screen love lives

Romantic comedies might provide 90 minutes of light-hearted fun but the happy-ever-after movies are also impacting people’s real love lives, according to an Australian survey. A poll of 1,000 Australians found almost half said rom-coms with their inevitable happy endings have ruined their view of an ideal relationship.

Check out the full story, here.

Harum Scarum! Autopsy tools used on Elvis go up for sale

Autopsy tools used to embalm and prepare Elvis Presley’s body for his funeral in 1977 and a toe tag used on the singer for identification purposes are set to go under the hammer at a Chicago auction house. The instruments up for sale at Leslie Hindman Auctioneers on Aug. 12 include rubber gloves, forceps, lip brushes, a comb and eye liner, needle injectors, an arterial tube and aneurysm hooks, all of which the auction house say were used only once.

Read it to believe it, here.

or more stories from our Washington correspondents visit www.reuters.com and stay informed.

Photo credit: Reuters/Larry Downing (Obama signs Wall Street reform into law)

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