Washington Extra

August 2, 2010

mcconnell1Democrats have been trying to portray Republicans as the “Party of No”. Today Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell visited the Reuters bureau in DC and argued there was no shame in saying no.

Republicans, he said, will be campaigning against many of the policies enacted by President Barack Obama, including healthcare reform, higher spending, bailouts and greater government intervention in the economy, things the party was “proud” to say no to.

“It depends on what you are saying ‘no’ to,” McConnell told Reuters. “If you’re saying ‘no’ to the massive amount of spending and debt and Washington takeovers and things like adding a quarter of a million federal employees with borrowed money like we have in the past year and a half, I think the American people are saying: ‘Please say no to that. We want you to say no to that.'”

McConnell admitted repealing all of the president’s policies would be tough as long as Obama remained in the White House, and added Republicans would be coming up with their own, more constructive ideas by the end of September. In the meantime, if Republicans manage to gain control of one or both houses of Congress, McConnell predicted the president would become a “born-again moderate.” Obama, he said, might end up following in the footsteps of his 1990s Democratic predecessor Bill Clinton, who moved to the center after losing control of Congress. I suspect it is not a comparison the White House would welcome.

While McConnell was busy saying “no”, Obama had his own mini “Mission Accomplished” moment. Seven years after President George W. Bush prematurely declared the end of major combat operations in Iraq, Obama said he was making good on his promise to bring the war to a “responsible end”. He vowed that combat operations would finally come to a halt by the end of August “as promised and on schedule”.

Other highlights today: the first major salvo in what is likely to be a protracted legal battle against healthcare reform, optimistic noises from climate envoy Todd Stern about the administration’s determination to stick to its 2020 emissions goals, and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner in New York trying to assuage doubts on Wall Street over the impact of financial regulatory reform.

Here are our top stories from today…

Top Senate Republican aims for a ‘good day’ Nov 2

Republicans are well-positioned to score solid victories in November’s congressional elections — a result that would move President Barack Obama more to the political center, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell predicted. “If the election were today, we’d have a good day,” McConnell told Reuters in an interview, saying Republicans are now enjoying a reversal in political fortunes after being on the defensive in the 2006 and 2008 election cycles. “We’re on offense,” he said.
For the full story by Richard Cowan and David Morgan, click here.

For McConnell’s views on the likelihood of passage of the small business bill, click here.

For his thoughts on the race to lead the Republican party in 2012 and the chances of ratifying the START nuclear arms reduction treaty with Russia, see our Front Row Washington blog, here.

For his interview with Reuters Insider, click here.

US judge lets Virginia healthcare challenge proceed

A judge ruled that the state of Virginia could proceed with its challenge to President Barack Obama’s landmark healthcare law, a setback that will force the White House to defend its reforms in the middle of a tough congressional election campaign. In the opening salvo of the legal fight, District Judge Henry Hudson refused to dismiss the state’s lawsuit, which argued the requirement that its residents have health insurance was unconstitutional.

For more of this story by Jeremy Pelofsky and Lisa Lambert, read here.

Obama: US combat mission in Iraq to end this month

President Barack Obama vowed to make good on his promise to end U.S. combat operations in Iraq by the end of August, despite a dangerous political deadlock in Baghdad and a recent surge in militant violence. Speaking to the Disabled American Veterans group in Atlanta even as he struggles with waning public support for the war in Afghanistan, Obama sought to underscore his administration’s progress winding down the U.S. role in the unpopular Iraq war.

For more of this story by Steve Holland, read here.

SEC probes BP as it poised to “kill” Gulf well

U.S. regulators were investigating BP Plc for possible insider trading related to its Gulf of Mexico oil spill, dealing a potential blow to the energy giant’s efforts to restore investor confidence. Two sources familiar with the preliminary Securities and Exchange Commission investigation said the alleged insider trading took place after the start of the BP oil spill on April 20.

For more of this story by Rachelle Younglai and Kristen Hays, read here.

Geithner aims to calm Wall Street on rules

The Obama administration intends to quickly put new rules for the financial marketplace into action but won’t swamp Wall Street with red tape, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner assured investors. Amid rising doubt about the recovery’s durability and Washington’s economic stewardship, Geithner traveled to New York to meet Mayor Michael Bloomberg and captains of industry to calm fears that new rules will crimp their competitiveness.

For more of this story by Glenn Somerville, read here.

Bernanke says economy still short of full recovery

The U.S. economy is improving but has yet to recover fully, with high unemployment and a weak housing market leaving consumers unsettled, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said. This means U.S. monetary policy must remain accommodative until the economic recovery is on a sustainable path and job creation picks up, Bernanke said, though he offered no fresh clues about the Fed’s likely next move.

For more of this story by Joe Rauch, read here.

US keeps climate goal despite Senate setback

The United States stands by its 2020 target for reducing greenhouse gas emissions despite the Senate’s failure to pass legislation to fight climate change, the top U.S. climate envoy said. Todd Stern told Reuters a U.S. proposal, made last year ahead of U.N. climate talks, to reduce emissions 17 percent by 2020 compared to 2005 levels or 3 percent from 1990 levels was still on the table.

To read the rest of Jeff Mason’s story, click here.

Ethics panel says Rep. Waters broke House rules

Maxine Waters became the second Democrat in the House of Representatives in two weeks to be accused of ethics violations, an embarrassing blow as the party fights to keep its majority in the Nov. 2 elections. The House ethics panel said it had found evidence of undisclosed ethics violations against California’s Waters, who denied breaking any rules and vowed to contest the allegations in a public trial.

For more of this story by Corbett B. Daly, read here

Study: Could gut germs underlie Western allergies?

Germs living in the gut may cause higher rates of allergies, chronic stomach upsets and even obesity among children living in rich industrialized countries, researchers reported on Monday. They compared intestinal bacteria between European Union children and young villagers in remote Burkina Faso, and found enough differences to help explain disparities in chronic disease and obesity.

For more of this story by Health and Science Editor Maggie Fox, read here.

And some stories from elsewhere in the country…

Past more comforting than future for many-poll

Most Americans think the quality of life for adults under 30 years old, or Generation Y, won’t be as good as it is for their baby-boomer parents, according to a new poll. More than 60 percent of people were pessimistic about the future, and 71 percent of young Americans under 30 said they would rather go back in time than leap to the future.

For the full story, click here.

Lady Gaga touts abstinence to protect creativity

U.S. pop star Lady Gaga is known for her skimpy outfits and sexually-charged performances, but she says she fears having sex with a partner could deplete her artistic energy.

For the full story, click here.

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

Photo Credit: REUTERS/Jim Young ( Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell during an interview with Reuters in Washington August 2, 2010)

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Senator McConnell is filibustering the DISCLOSE Act afer years of demanding campaign finance reform. McConnell’s hometown paper, the Lexington-Herald Ledger, pointed out in its editorial yesterday, the Minority Leader wasn’t always against any attempt to force special interests to disclose their campaign financing. The paper recalls that the senator has a long history of co-sponsoring and championing legislation that would expand campaign finance disclosure.

(Lexington-Herald Ledger)

– In 1987, McConnell lauded “post-Watergate disclosure laws” that help “flush out” politicians who “sacrifice duties or principles to get more money.”

– In 1989, McConnell teamed up with current Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) to introduce a bill that “would have required disclosure of independent groups or individuals who intended to spend more than $25,000 promoting or attacking a candidate.”

– In 1990, the senator promised to “introduce a bill that would require full disclosure of donors to multi-candidate political-action committees.”

– In 1996, while running for re-election, “McConnell supported public disclosure of all election-related spending, including spending by independent groups and contributions to political parties.”

– In 2007, in a “commentary published by the Herald-Leader, McConnell showed his belief in disclosure was not limited to campaign spending by defending an amendment to an ethics bill because it would require organizations filing complaints before the Senate Ethics Committee to disclose their donors so the public could have more transparency.”

But now McConnell is opposed to any sort of campaign finance disclosure, turning his back on a decades-long history of demanding it. Rather than opposing the DISCLOSE Act on policy grounds, McConnell is doing what he always does — committing himself to opposing whatever the Democratic majority suggests, regardless.

G0P= Grandstand, Oppose, and Pretend.

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