Tales from the Trail

Washington Extra – Get out of town

September 29, 2010

Like schoolchildren gazing out the window on a sunny June day, Congress can’t wait for that final bell to ring. But lawmakers still need to hand in a final term paper before they can skip out the door. Instead, they’re asking the teacher for an extension. USA/

Before lawmakers head home on Wednesday or Thursday to campaign for reelection, they must pass a temporary spending bill to make sure the government can keep its lights on for the next several months.

Beyond all the speechifying, the basic job of Congress each year is to pass 12 spending bills that cover government operations for the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1. Each year, pretty much, they get the job done several months late. That plays havoc with federal agencies, which must continue to operate on last year’s budget while implementing this year’s operations.

This year in Congress has been even more dysfunctional than usual. The House has only approved two of the 12 spending bills, and the Senate hasn’t approved any. Lawmakers could roll them all into one unwieldy “omnibus” bill when they return for a lame-duck session in November, but that work could easily slip into the new year.

Lawmakers may get an extension on that term paper, but they’ll have to hand it in eventually. And it won’t be any easier to write it in December than September.

Here are our top stories…

House set to pass bill aimed at Chinese yuan

The House of Representatives began debate on legislation to put pressure on China to let its currency rise faster, fanning the flames of a long-running dispute over trade and jobs. The bill, expected to be passed on Wednesday with heavy support from Democrats but a mixed reaction from Republicans, treats China’s exchange rate as a subsidy.

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

For more on Obama’s comments about China’s currency, click here.

Obama faces voter policy doubts in backyard meeting

President Barack Obama defended his economic policies as he faced tough questions from skeptical Americans less than five weeks before congressional elections that threaten his fellow Democrats’ grip on Congress. Holding the latest in a series of backyard meetings with middle-class voters, Obama heard one small businessman’s fears that his tax plans could “strangle job creation.”

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

Deficit commission vows tough choices; markets yawn

A U.S. commission looking for ways to balance the federal budget talked tough about fiscal discipline at its fifth meeting but offered few clues about the potential solution it might recommend. The commission met for less than three hours amid growing worry about government debt problems in Europe.

For more of this story by Kevin Drawbaugh and Donna Smith, read here.

For a factbox on the wide range of options for the bipartisan panel, click here.

Thrifty New Hampshire weighs Republicans deficit pitch

If Charlie Bass is going to get back to Washington, he will have to convince voters the Republican Party is serious about getting the tattered U.S. balance sheet in order. As Republicans look to regain control of Congress by winning over Americans worried about trillion-dollar budget deficits, Bass is eager to remind voters of his frugal ways during his 12 years in the House of Representatives before he was defeated in 2006.

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

Congress funding fight may delay Wall Street reforms

The Obama administration may have to wait several months to implement parts of the landmark Dodd-Frank financial reform law because Congress has yet to approve funds necessary for its implementation.  Requested funding increases for financial regulators are not likely to be included in a stopgap spending bill to fund government operations through early December, complicating efforts to put the sweeping law in place, according to congressional and regulatory sources. The delay is likely to last through early December and could stretch into 2011.

For more of this story by Andy Sullivan and Roberta Rampton, read here.

U.S. targets eight Iranian officials over abuses

The United States named eight senior Iranian officials — including the commander of the Revolutionary Guards and several cabinet ministers — as participants in human rights abuses including killings after disputed presidential elections in June 2009.

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

US business groups sue SEC over proxy access rule

Business groups sued the top securities regulator, seeking to overturn a newly adopted rule that gives shareholders greater power to influence corporate decision-making. The Chamber of Commerce and Business Roundtable called the rule “arbitrary and capricious” and asked the Securities and Exchange Commission to delay implementing the rule pending the outcome of the legal challenge.

For more of this story by Rachelle Younglai, click here.

McCain gives $1 million to Senate Republican candidates

Republican Senator John McCain is donating $1 million left over from his 2008 presidential campaign to help Senate Republican candidates ahead of the November 2 elections, aides said. McCain’s donation to the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which distributes funds for Senate Republican candidates, was described as the biggest transfer of funds by any Republican lawmaker to the committee this election cycle.

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

What we are blogging… 

Obama campaigning tactic: bash Bush years

President Barack Obama has apparently decided that the way to win voters’ hearts is to warn them against a return to the Bush years. He’s been in campaign mode this week trying to drum up enthusiasm for Democrats worried about losing their majority in Congress with just one month left until the Nov. 2 election.

For Toby Zakaria’s full blog, click here.

Bill Clinton emerges as leading U.S. political favorite – poll

Nearly a decade after his presidency ended in scandal and disgrace, Bill Clinton has emerged as the most popular figure in the U.S. political firmament, according to a new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll. Except he’s not running for office.

For David Morgan’s full blog, click here.

Simpson gets delivery from NOW

High drama at President Barack Obama’s deficit commission meeting. Members of the bipartisan panel were about to settle in at the Senate Budget Committee hearing room to discuss the weighty issues of performance objectives and the merit of one-year vs. two-year budgeting, when the unscheduled happened.

For Donna Smith’s full blog, click here.

Special relationship? How quickly they forget…

So much for “Hilly-Milly” Just last year Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gushed to Vogue magazine about former British Foreign Secretary David Miliband, calling the young diplomat a dashing addition to the international scene.

For Andrew Quinn’s full blog, click here.

For more Front Row Washington, click here.

From elsewhere…

Coordinated militant attack plot disrupted: sources

A militant plot to stage coordinated attacks in Europe has been disrupted in its early stages by drone strikes in Pakistan, but it is not clear if the threat has been completely eliminated, security sources said. Germany said it knew of information pointing to possible al Qaeda attacks in Europe and the United States, and intelligence sources said security agencies had disrupted plans by Pakistan-based militants for simultaneous strikes in London, as well as in major cities in France and Germany.

For the full story, click here.

PepsiCo CEO named top US businesswoman for 5th year

PepsiCo Inc chief Indra Nooyi is the most powerful woman in U.S. business for the fifth year in a row, but Yahoo Inc boss Carol Bartz is the highest paid, Fortune magazine said. Bartz earned more than $47 million in 2009 and was ranked No. 10 on the 2010 most powerful women list, while Nooyi was the 10th highest paid with a salary of more than $14 million last year, Fortune said.

For the full story, click here.

Photo credit: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst (squirrel on the grounds of U.S. Capitol)

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