Tales from the Trail

Washington Extra – Immigration and more

July 28, 2010

A victory for the administration, but another pyrrhic one?

USA-IMMIGRATION/ARIZONAA judge in Phoenix blocked key parts of Arizona’s immigration law just hours before it was to take effect today, supporting a legal challenge from the Justice Department. The decision is likely to boost Obama’s standing among Hispanics, who have been disenchanted by his failure to keep his promises on immigration reform. But just like the president’s victories on healthcare and financial reform, this looks like another triumph which may take some selling to the American public. Not only will Obama’s Republican and Tea Party foes be further energized, but opinion polls show Arizona’s law was supported by most Americans.

Elsewhere, New Jerseyites in the newsroom were disappointed today that Obama only ordered half a Super Sub at Tastee’s famous sandwich shop in Edison. “When I was 20, I could order a 12-inch,” the president said. “I’m turning 49 next week, which means just a half.”

But I am reassured by my colleagues this is not another arugula moment, when Obama was called elitist for complaining about the price of the salad green at upmarket store Whole Foods to an audience of Iowa farmers. Nor does this match John Kerry’s ridiculed attempt to order Swiss cheese with his Philly cheesesteak in 2003.

Obama, let’s not forget, took Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to Arlington institution Ray’s Hell Burger in June, and he did at least take his sub today “with everything” because he heard that “is the way to go.” Given his wife’s public campaign against obesity, maybe this was one compromise the president was right to make.  

Here are our top stories from today:

Key parts of Arizona anti-immigration law blocked

A judge blocked key parts of Arizona’s tough new immigration law hours before it was to take effect, handing a victory to the Obama administration as it tries to take control over the issue.

For more of this story by Tim Gaynor, click here.

For Steve Holland’s analysis, click here.

For key provisions of Judge Susan Bolton’s decision, click here.

Watching grass grow in the Gulf, and cheering!

Marsh grasses are the tough guys of the plant world. Left alone, they dominate coastal marshes from Texas to Newfoundland. Burn their stems and leaves, and they come back bushier than ever. But let oil get into their roots and underground reproductive systems, and they can wither and die. If the grasses go, they could take parts of Louisiana’s fragile wetlands with them, which means thousands of acres of productive and protective marsh could turn into open water.

To read Deborah Zabarenko’s special report from the Gulf, click here.

New Senate energy bill draws wide criticism

Republicans and some moderate Democrats in the Senate began picking apart a new energy bill that they complained goes too far in holding oil companies responsible for accidents like the massive Gulf of Mexico spill. “I think people who are very serious about responding to the spill in the Gulf should be offended by what has been presented,” said Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski.

For more of this story by Richard Cowan, click here.

Senator calls for probe of BP tax plans

A senator from Florida called for a congressional inquiry into BP Plc’s plan to use losses from the Gulf oil spill to reap $10 billion in tax benefits. Senator Bill Nelson said he wants a probe into whether BP, which announced on Tuesday a $32 billion charge linked to the clean-up, will be deducting legal expenses related to nondeductible fines and penalties, and whether BP should deduct the full cost of its $20 billion clean up fund.

For the full story by Kim Dixon, click here.

Aviation bill prospects dim in Congress

Prospects that Congress would enact a measure to overhaul aviation programs dimmed significantly as the House of Representatives moved to attach critical safety provisions to separate, must-pass spending legislation. The action, by Transportation Committee Chairman James Oberstar and aviation subcommittee Chairman Jerry Costello, signaled that negotiators remain deadlocked on other proposals in the larger bill, with time to act dwindling.

For more of John Crawley’s story, click here.

IMF split in China yuan exchange rate debate

The IMF has softened its criticism of China’s currency regime in recognition of Beijing’s efforts to free up its exchange rate but the move showed a split among the Fund’s member countries. A summary of an annual review of China’s policies described the yuan as “undervalued,” a change from “substantially undervalued,” which was used by International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn as recently as June.

For more of this story by Alan Wheatley and Lesley Wroughton, click here.

Senate panel backs Yellen, Raskin, Diamond for Fed

The Senate Banking Committee approved the nomination of three new members to the Federal Reserve’s board, including Janet Yellen for vice chairman, clearing the way for a final vote by the whole Senate. If the nominees, which also include Maryland regulator Sarah Raskin and MIT professor Peter Diamond, are approved by the full Senate as expected, it would bring the central bank’s board up to full strength — with all seven members in place — for the first time since early 2006.

To read Pedro Nicolaci da Costa’s story, click here. For brief profiles on the nominees, click here, and some questions and answers on the confirmation process, click here.

US durable goods orders fall, business spending up

New orders for manufactured goods like cars and planes fell unexpectedly for a second straight month in June, posting the largest drop since August, in a sign economic recovery cooled in the second quarter.

For the full story by Lucia Mutikani, click here.

Democrats tie Republicans to Tea Party agenda

With memories of last year’s bitter town hall meetings still fresh, Democrats vowed to go on the offense during the August congressional recess and aggressively link Republicans with the conservative Tea Party movement. Democratic leaders said the Republican Party had moved out of the mainstream to adopt Tea Party goals like privatizing the Social Security retirement program, extending tax breaks for the rich and abolishing some federal agencies.

To read more of this story by John Whitesides, click here.

Advisory panel backs AstraZeneca blood thinner merit

Advisers urged approval of a potential blockbuster blood thinner from AstraZeneca, a victory for a company seeking new drugs to offset expiring patents on some of its older medicines.

For the full story by Lisa Richwine, click here.

What we are blogging today…

Lawmakers wonder, where did our love go? with Turkey

It almost sounded as if U.S. lawmakers felt jilted by Washington’s long-time NATO ally Turkey. “How do we get Turkey back?” demanded Representative Gary Ackerman at a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing exploring “Turkey’s New Foreign Policy Direction.”

For the full blog by Susan Cornwell, click here.

And some stories from elsewhere in the country…

Voters favor better looking candidates

Campaign managers and strategists are often given credit for a political candidate’s election victory, but stylists and image consultants should receive the praise, according to new research. A study by political scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) shows that good looks boost a contender’s chances at the polls in the United States and other countries.

Researchers use Twitter tweets to measure moods

Twitter is for more than just tweeting. Using millions of Twitter messages, or tweets, from the popular social networking site, researchers at Northeastern University in Boston have created a Twitter Mood Map to measure the moods of the nation. People are happiest in the morning and in the evening, with happiness peaking on Sunday morning and dipping Thursday night, they found.

For the full story, click here.

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

Photo credit: Reuters/Henry Romero (demonstrators protesting Arizona immigration law)

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