Washington Extra

July 23, 2010

The Obama administration admitted today that the economy was facing “strong headwinds” and that government finances were on an unsustainable path. Not a great backdrop as we head into November’s elections, as the White House is only too well aware.

OBAMA-ECONOMY/JOBSBut at least the president is trying to set a good example himself. Yesterday we heard how the Obama family was putting its vacations to work for the good of the economy, visiting the Florida Gulf Coast where tourism has been savaged by the oil spill. Now we learn that the First Daughters are getting lessons in managing their money wisely. Not only do Malia and Sasha have their own savings accounts, but they are nearly ready to start earning money babysitting. While those are valuable lessons for a 12 and nine-year-old girl, I am not sure how the $10 an hour they might earn would cover the costs of their driver and armed guard.

Otherwise, today’s highlights include an analysis of the resurgent fortunes of Sarah Palin and her increasingly influential role in the run up to the November mid-terms. And take a look too at our examination of what might be in store when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid unveils a stripped down energy bill next week.

Here are our top stories from today: 

Heady days for Palin in midterm campaigns

These are heady days for Sarah Palin, who is wielding considerable clout within the Republican Party in the run-up to Nov. 2 congressional elections. The conservative, self-styled “mama grizzly” from Alaska, who loves to pick a fight with Democrats and the news media, is branding herself as a national leader of a Republican Party that currently lacks one.

For the full story by Steve Holland, click here.

US trims ’10 deficit forecast, economy faces headwinds

The Obama administration warned the economy had encountered “strong headwinds” and the country’s fiscal challenge remained grave, but it lowered an estimate for the budget deficit this year. “The economy is still struggling; too many Americans are still out of work; and the nation’s long-term fiscal trajectory is unsustainable,” the White House said in the annual midsession review of President Barack Obama’s budget.

For Alister Bull’s full story, click here.

Possible provisions in US Senate energy bill

With hopes of passing a climate bill this year all but dead, Senators are working to craft a less ambitious package of energy provisions that can quickly pass the chamber with bipartisan support. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he plans to unveil legislation dealing with oil spill liability, energy efficiency, environmental conservation, and natural gas vehicles. A Senate Democratic aide said the scaled-back legislation could be unveiled as soon as Monday.

For some measures that could be included in this bill, click here.

US business urges Pelosi to not push China bill

A coalition of U.S. business groups urged House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi not to include legislation aimed at forcing China to revalue its currency in a pre-election package of bills intended to help U.S. manufacturers. “We agree that China needs an exchange rate that better responds to global trade flows … We strongly disagree that legislation is the best means to achieve that goal,” the U.S.-China Business Council and about two dozen other business groups said in a letter released today.

For Doug Palmer’s full story, click here.

Data doubts hang over AstraZeneca heart drug

Experts studying AstraZeneca’s new heart drug Brilinta face a dilemma: should a pill with clear overall efficacy be approved, even when it fails to show a benefit in North America? Many analysts think the answer is “yes” and that Brilinta, for preventing heart attacks, will be waved through because the regional anomaly may just be a statistical fluke from a relatively small subset analysis. But it is clear AstraZeneca’s biggest new drug hope faces tough questions when a Food and Drug Administration advisory panel reviews it on July 28

To read more of this story by Ben Hirschler and Lisa Richwine, click here.

Whitman sees less as more for California

“Less is more” should be the mantra of the next governor of California, says the Republican candidate for the job, former eBay Inc chief Meg Whitman. The billionaire political novice sees the next governor’s main task as keeping the legislature focused on hauling the most populous state out of its morass of unemployment, overspending and poorly performing schools — and she plans to do so by vetoing any other legislation.

For more of Peter Henderson’s interview, click here.

What we’re blogging today…

Obama girls get their own presidential lecture on fiscal responsibility

Just because they live in the White House doesn’t mean they can’t earn a little pocket money. President Barack Obama says his daughters get an allowance and are nearing an age when they can earn some working capital by babystitting.

(We’re thinking the client’s child would be among the most protected on the planet because the babysitters come with their own bodyguards).

For the rest of Toby Zakaria’s blog, click here.

Boehner says lawmakers should expect to do more reading if he becomes House Speaker

Republican John Boehner wants you to know that if his party wins control of the House of Representatives and he becomes the chamber’s next Speaker, things will be a lot different. For starters, Boehner says lawmakers in both parties will get a better opportunity to actually read bills before they vote on them.

For Thomas Ferraro’s full blog, click here.

And some stories from elsewhere in the world…

“Darth Vader” strikes NY bank

The Force was with a man when he robbed a bank wearing a Darth Vader mask and a cape. Armed with a gun instead of a lightsaber, the man entered a Chase bank branch in Setauket, New York, about 50 miles east of New York City, on Thursday and demanded cash from a teller, police said. He fled through a parking lot with an undisclosed amount of money.

For the full story, click here.

Top Canada court slaps police over “pie conspiracy”

Canada’s highest court ruled that police will have to pay damages to a civil rights lawyer they wrongly accused of conspiring to throw a pie at the prime minister. The ruling capped an eight-year legal battle begun when Vancouver police — acting on an anonymous tip that someone was preparing to pie then-Prime Minister Jean Chretien at a nearby event — arrested Cameron Ward as he walked to work. Ward, who did not have pie with him, was jailed for several hours, subjected to a partial strip search and had his car impounded.

Read more about the “pie conspiracy” here.

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

Photo credit: Reuters/Larry Downing (Obama makes statement about economy)

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