Washington Extra – The finer things in life

September 22, 2010

lamarIf I come back in my next life as an American, I am thinking that a career in the Senate might be a better way to go than in the administration or the military. Whatever you think of their political views, the senators who have visited our offices for the Washington Summit this week have not just been charming and interesting to talk to, they also seem to have time for the finer things in life. Take Senator Lamar Alexander, who not only has the time to watch Tennessee football pretty regularly, but also likes to play classical piano and has a date on center stage with the Jackson Symphony at the end of next month. “I try to keep a balanced life,” he said.

gibbsNo such luck for hard-pressed administration types, working at a pace that White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs says “is and has been grueling for a long period of time,” especially if you take two years of campaigning into account. Take Austan Goolsbee, who used to compete in the triathlon, but now has no time to train and jokes he is so out of shape he can’t walk up the stairs without gasping for breath. Or General David Petraeus, who is already at work by 5:30 in the morning, and when he goes to bed around 10 or 11 at night, only manages a couple of pages in whatever book he is reading “before it falls on the floor.”

That grueling pace is one reason, Gibbs argued, why many members of Obama’s economic team and political inner circle are on their way out, to spend a bit more time “with their family and their friends.” It is not, as Goolsbee insisted, an acknowledgment that the administration has made mistakes, or that it needs to change direction.

goolsbeeThe president sets direction and has always been focused on improving the economy, Goolsbee told the summit today. “And I don’t see that changing at all. Whoever comes in and goes out, I anticipate very much that the president is going to identify people who aspire to stick on that same course.” And presumably, people who don’t mind long hours.

Finally, some great stories from the summit today, including Goolsbee warning against any premature “belt-tightening” next year, Petraeus on plans to gradually withdraw troops from Afghanistan, Democratic Senator Jim Bingaman basically admitting defeat on climate change legislation, and various Republicans on their plans to chip away at healthcare and financial reform legislation after November’s elections. Plus our exclusive Reuters/Ipsos poll from Arkansas.

Here are our top stories from today…

Petraeus identifies areas for Afghan transition

General David Petraeus said on Wednesday he has completed a draft plan to start thinning NATO forces in parts of Afghanistan next year, but cautioned that the transition process would be slow.

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For more of this story by Phil Stewart and David Alexander, read here.

Obama aide warns against quick fiscal pullback

A senior aide to President Barack Obama warned against moving too quickly toward a more austere budget policy, saying it could harm the economy and rattle financial markets. “If you try to tighten the belt right now, I think you would spook markets in a substantial way,” Austan Goolsbee, chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, said in an interview at the Reuters Washington Summit.

For more of this story by Caren Bohan and Jeff Mason, read here.

Bingaman: Climate bill prospects dim

President Barack Obama’s dream of passing a big bill to battle global warming is likely dead for the rest of his term, according to a leading Democrat and long time backer of climate legislation. “I don’t see a comprehensive bill going anywhere in the next two years,” Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman told the Reuters Washington Summit.

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

Bank laws, health on Republican post-vote agenda

Chipping away at the Obama administration’s biggest legislative achievements — healthcare and Wall Street reform — will be the top goal for Republicans after the November 2 congressional election, three of the party’s senior senators said.

For more of this story by Kevin Drawbaugh and Thomas Ferraro, read here.

Deficit panel to focus on spending: Sen. Gregg

A commission tasked with reducing the country’s huge budget deficits is likely to emphasize spending cuts over tax increases, a key Republican senator on the panel said. Despite skepticism by some analysts that the 18-member panel will reach consensus, Senator Judd Gregg said at the Reuters Washington Summit that he is confident the commission will agree on an outline by its early December deadline.

For more of this story by Andy Sullivan and Caren Bohan, read here.

Rep. Van Hollen: Job creation priority for Democrats

Democrats will make President Barack Obama’s $180 billion proposal to spur the economy and create jobs a top priority if they keep control of the House of Representatives on November 2, a party leader told the Reuters Washington Summit.

For more of this story by John Whitesides and Thomas Ferraro, click here.

For more highlights from the Reuters Washington Summit, click here.

Summers successor to set tone on economic policy

Republicans urged President Barack Obama to pick a more business-friendly successor to economic adviser Larry Summers, a move that would signal a shift to the center. But a decision on Summer’s replacement is months away, a White House official said.

For more of this story by Caren Bohan, click here.

Emanuel still mulling whether to leave – Obama aide

White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel has yet to decide whether he will leave to run for mayor of Chicago, a senior administration official said, despite mounting speculation he could step down as early as October. Emanuel, President Barack Obama’s right-hand man who has long expressed interest in the Chicago job, has left little doubt that he may resign to enter the race to replace longtime Mayor Richard Daley, who is retiring.

For more of this story by Matt Spetalnick, read here.

Democrat Lincoln far behind in Arkansas Senate race

Democratic Senator Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, a key player in U.S. financial regulation legislation, remains far behind in an uphill battle for re-election on November 2, a Reuters-Ipsos poll found. Republican John Boozman, a member of the House of Representatives, holds a hefty 14-point lead among likely voters of 53 percent to 39 percent for Lincoln.

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

Lawmakers gird for battle on tax cuts

Lawmakers are far from a deal to renew lower tax rates that expire at the end of this year as divisions inflamed by the congressional election in November stand in the way of compromise.

For more of this story by Kim Dixon, read here.

Geithner: Banks can meet capital rules with profits

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said U.S. banks should be able to meet new higher capital rules through future profits without crimping lending in a way that would harm the recovering economy.

For more of this story by Dave Clarke, read here.

U.S. official says security threat harder to tackle

Authorities are having a harder time detecting terrorism threats on American soil, top U.S. officials said, more than nine years after the September 11 attacks thrust the United States into a global struggle with Islamist militancy.

For more of this story by David Morgan, read here.

Timing of Goldman case suspicious: SEC watchdog

The timing of the Securities and Exchange Commission’s case against Goldman Sachs Group Inc is “suspicious,” a federal watchdog said, raising the specter that the SEC was trying to downplay a damning report about its Allen Stanford probe.

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

White House tries to give healthcare a human face

President Barack Obama launched a new attempt to convince Americans of the advantages of his healthcare overhaul, just six weeks before an election in which the plan has proved more of a liability than a benefit for his fellow Democrats.

For more of this story by Patricia Zengerle, read here.

House panel votes Friday on China currency bill

A key panel in the House of Representatives has scheduled a business meeting on Friday to vote on legislation pressuring China to revalue its currency, according to a committee notice.

For more of this story by Doug Palmer, read here.

Government shouldn’t force single model on lenders: Warren

White House consumer adviser Elizabeth Warren said the government should not force a single business model on lenders, addressing concerns that the new consumer agency she is charged with creating will be heavy-handed in mandating financial products.

For more of this story by Dave Clarke, read here.

Pentagon signs F-35 fighter contract with Lockheed

The Pentagon said it reached a “fixed-price” agreement with Lockheed Martin Corp for a fourth batch of F-35 fighter jets, wrapping up months of negotiations.

For more of this story by Andrea Shalal-Esa, read here.

U.S. seen loosing renewable energy race to Asia

Several Asian countries in addition to China could soon challenge the United States in the race to build a renewable energy industry if Washington doesn’t provide more incentives for its domestic business, venture capitalists and others told a Congressional hearing.

For more of this story by Timothy Gardner, read here.

Senators question lack of Wall Street prosecutions

Senators pressed investigators on a lack of prosecutions of top Wall Street executives, in the wake of the most severe financial crisis since the Great Depression.

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

What we are blogging…

Rumors of our demise exaggerated, Van Hollen says

Representative Chris Van Hollen likes to paraphrase Mark Twain when talking about the Democratic chances in the November mid-term election. “News of the Democratic demise is greatly exaggerated,” the man in charge of the House Democrats’ election effort told the Reuters Washington Summit. “I think the pundits have been wrong before and they’ll be wrong again. Democrats will retain a majority in the Congress. I’m very confident of that.”

For Deborah Charles’ full blog, read here.

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

Photo Credits: Reuters/Hyungwon Kang (Alexander); REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque (Gibbs);

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