Washington Extra

August 3, 2010

In the name of equal opportunities, after featuring Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell on Monday, today’s newsletter leads on his Democratic counterpart Harry Reid.
Reid, our Reuters-IPSOS poll reveals, has two big problems as he aims for re-election in recession-hit Nevada in November. The first is the economy, the overriding concern of three out of every four registered voters – a proportion way higher than the national average.

The second is the enthusiasm gap, a problem for Democrats all over the country, with Reid’s supporters significantly less likely to vote than the Republican rank and file. Reid is comfortably ahead of Tea Party darling Sharron Angle among registered voters, by 52 to 36 percent. Among people who said they were likely to vote, the gap narrowed sharply, with Reid leading by just 48 to 44 percent.

One of the Democrats biggest problems has been convincing voters that the economic stimulus enacted last year actually helped. Ratcheting up the war of words, Republican leaders Tom Coburn and John McCain sent out a list of 100 spending projects they said were “stupid and inappropriate.”

Our favorites:

– $554,000 to replace the windows in a visitors center at Mount St. Helens in Washington state that was closed in 2007

– $2 million to send researchers to the Southwest Indian Ocean Islands and east Africa to capture, photograph and analyze thousands of exotic ants.

– and $89,298 for a quarter-mile stretch of sidewalk in Boynton, Oklahoma. The senators say the sidewalk, which will replace another one built just five years ago, fronts no homes or businesses and leads directly to a ditch. (Not the same one Republicans accuse Obama of driving the economy into, we hope.)

In fairness, we should include the White House rebuttal. Robert Gibbs swiftly pointed to a study out last week saying the economy would have lost another 8.5 million jobs in the recession if the administration, Congress and the Fed had not acted. One of the study’s co-authors – Mark Zandi, chief economic advisor for the presidential campaign of none other than John McCain.

Here are our top stories from today…

Democrat Reid holds narrow edge in Nevada

Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid holds a narrow edge among likely voters in his re-election bid in recession-lashed Nevada, a Reuters-Ipsos poll said. The struggling economy is paramount in voters’ minds as they look ahead to the Nov. 2 election in Nevada, with 74 percent citing the economy as their top concern, the poll of 600 Nevada voters done July 30-Aug. 1 found.

For the full story Steve Holland, click here.

Republicans detail wasteful U.S. stimulus spending

An election-year war of words over the effectiveness of President Barack Obama’s $862 billion economic stimulus law ratcheted up as Republicans detailed spending projects they said were wasteful and failed to achieve the main goal of job creation. “If we’re going to have stimulus bills, it ought to be truly about stimulating the economy, it ought to be creating real jobs and it ought to be … giving us the best bang for our buck,” said Senator Tom Coburn.

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

Conviction grows at Fed on need for more easing

Federal Reserve officials are increasingly worried about the economy’s health, making it likely the central bank will soon take further steps to try to lower borrowing costs. The Fed’s policy-setting panel meets next week, and while that may be too early for any concrete steps, it might offer a good place to plant the first seeds of a directional shift — away from any exit strategy and towards further easing.

For more of this story Pedro da Costa and Mark Felsenthal, click here.

US consumer, housing data fan recovery worries

U.S. consumer spending and incomes were flat in June while home purchase contracts tumbled to a record low, implying an anemic economic recovery for the remainder of this year. The reports showed the recovery assumed a decisively sluggish tone in the last month of the second quarter, setting up the July-September period for a lackluster performance just as lawmakers hit the hustings before November elections.

For more of this story by Lucia Mutikani, read here.

Senate Democrats delay action on oil spill bill

Senate Democrats postponed this week’s test vote on alternative energy legislation that also would have clamped down on offshore energy drilling in the wake of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s decision to take the bill off the Senate’s schedule until at least mid-September, when Congress returns from a long summer break, dealt a blow to Democrats’ efforts to hold BP fully responsible for the economic damage from the Gulf oil spill.

To read the rest of Richard Cowan and Tom Doggett’s story, click here.

U.S. aims to tighten sanctions grip on Iran

The Treasury Department sought to further tighten curbs against Iran’s nuclear ambitions and its support for terror groups by naming Iranian-controlled companies and forbidding dealing with them. In addition to naming the 21 companies, Treasury cited leaders of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF) for providing financial support to the Taliban and other groups.

To read the rest of Corbett B. Daly’s story, click here.

U.S. still undecided on joining landmines treaty

The United States has still not decided whether it will sign a 1997 global treaty to ban land mines but said it has invested heavily to help mitigate the impact the weapons have around the world.

For more of this story by Deborah Charles, read here.

And some stories from elsewhere in the country…

King Tut’s chariot on view at NY exhibition

A royal chariot thought to have been used by Egypt’s boy king, Tutankhamun, who died in around 1324 B.C. was unveiled in New York on Tuesday — the first time it has been seen outside of Egypt.

Check out the full story, here.

Breath test required for vending machine wine sales

Pennsylvania residents can buy wine from vending machines but first they must pass a breath test to prove they haven’t been drinking..

Check out the full story, here.

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

Photo Credits: REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque (Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid listens to President  Obama speak at a fundraiser for his campaign in Las Vegas July 8, 2010.)

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