Washington Extra – (Blue) dog days

October 20, 2010

In the immortal words of  Jonathan Swift (paraphrasing Erasmus and Hamlet) “Every dog must have his day.”

According to our correspondent Andy Sullivan, Blue Dog Democrats may have had theirs already. His report from Vermillion, South Dakota suggests the Blue Dogs may be a dying breed, their centrist brand of conservatism in danger of being swept away by the Republican tide in the midterms. PARADE MACY'S

The original Dogs were actually yellow, of course, from a Southern nickname for party loyalists who would vote for a yellow dog if it were on the ballot as a Democrat. The Blue Dog Coalition took its name from the view that members’ moderate-to-conservative ideas had been “choked blue” by the party in the run-up to the 1994 election. (Suggestions for alternative color schemes gratefully received at the Democratic National Committee.)

Centrist Republicans have also been under pressure from the rise of the Tea Party. While that will likely make the next Congress more fiscally conservative, it will not necessarily translate into a bipartisan deal to reduce the budget deficit, former Congressional Budget Office director Rudolph Penner warned today.

“A real problem here is that the Tea Party is going to scare the bejeebers out of any Republican that is talking about compromise, for fear of what will happen in the next primary,” Penner told a Chamber of Commerce forum. “There is no way we’re going to get out of this problem without a compromise between the two parties.”

Here are our top stories from Washington today…

Are “Blue Dogs” a dying breed in U.S. elections?

In the conservative farm state of South Dakota, Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin’s best chance of winning re-election rests on her ability to remind voters just how often she disagrees with her fellow Democrats. That might not be enough to save her job.

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

Despite midterms, Obama may have it easier in 2012

Democrats may be headed for a train wreck on November 2, but the president’s re-election bid in 2012 would face a brighter path if a grindingly slow economic recovery picks up steam. Washington politics will likely get more difficult for Obama after the congressional elections, with Republicans seemingly poised to take control of the House of Representatives and cut the Democratic majority in the Senate.

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

For a factbox on potential 2012 Republican presidential candidates, click here.

U.S. small bank execs fear Washington influence wane

Community bank executives, fearing a loss of influence in Washington, will start pressing members of Congress personally rather than relying on their lobbyists, part of an industry effort to roll back parts of the recently enacted Wall Street reform law. “Political engagement is a job requirement for every banker,” Arthur Johnson, chairman and CEO of United Bank of Michigan, told fellow bankers. “Political advocacy is not a seasonal sport.”

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


Republican gains may foil terrorism trials in U.S.

Expected Republican gains in next month’s elections will further stymie President Obama’s efforts to try terrorism suspects in criminal courts and make it harder to close the U.S. military prison at Cuba’s Guantanamo Bay. “I personally think (Democrats are) going to lose the House and once they do that, I think that’s the end of their hopes of criminal trials rather than the military courts,” said Larry Sabato, a politics professor at the University of Virginia. “I just don’t know how they move forward.

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

Midterm vote to influence Mideast peace

Next month’s midterm elections might do more than just redefine the political landscape in Washington. Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, launched with gusto by President Obama in September, have fallen into limbo ahead of the vote as both sides bide their time and wait to see how the U.S. leader emerges from the campaign.

For more of this story by Crispian Balmer in Jerusalem, read here.

U.S. economy grew sluggishly in recent weeks – Fed

The economy grew sluggishly in recent weeks with scant inflation pressures, and employers were reluctant to hire or invest amid economic and policy uncertainties, the Federal Reserve said.

For more of this story, read here.
Obama admin: Mortgage troubles not “systemic”

The Obama administration said it found no sign of “systemic” troubles so far with home mortgages, as banks sought to play down a crisis over accusations of shoddy foreclosure practices. But Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan insisted the government would “take every action” to press banks to fix paperwork problems at the core of a foreclosure crisis that has put major financial firms on the hot seat. 

For more of this story by Jeff Mason and Ross Colvin, read here.

U.S. wants G20 commitment to let currencies rise

The United States wants G20 countries to reduce global economic imbalances by committing to curb trade surpluses or deficits and by letting currencies rise more freely, a senior U.S. official said: “When large economies with undervalued exchange rates act to keep their currencies from appreciating, that compels other countries to do the same, setting off a dynamic of competitive nonappreciation.”

For more of this story by Glenn Somerville and Doug Palmer, read here

Confusion as gays attempt to join US military

Dan Choi, a former Iraq war veteran discharged in July for being openly gay, returned to a New York City recruiting station to complete his application to re-enlist in the Army. But at the Pentagon, U.S. officials are warning that Choi and other gay veterans now applying for the armed forces may never be called to duty

For more of this story by Phil Stewart, read here

For a story on the fight over gays in the military moving to the appeals courts, read here.

CIA acknowledges “missteps” led to officers’ deaths

The CIA acknowledged “missteps” and “shortcomings” that allowed a would-be informant to enter a U.S. base in Afghanistan and blow himself up on December 30, killing seven CIA officers.

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

Pentagon seeks tight ties with cyber contractors

The Defense Department aims to tighten ties with cybersecurity contractors to help thwart mounting threats to sensitive networks. 

For more of this story by Jim Wolf, read here

Key health insurance group to weigh in on spending

A seven-month-long process for determining how much insurers must spend on medical care comes to a head on Thursday when a key group of state insurance commissioners meets to issue final recommendations for the multibillion-dollar industry. The rules will set how much insurers allocate on medical costs as opposed to profits and administrative expenses starting next year.

For more of this story by Susan Heavey, read here.

Study points to possible gene therapy for depression

Researchers have identified a gene that can cause symptoms of major depression and said it may be possible to use gene therapy to counteract its effects. “We potentially have a novel therapy to target what we now believe is one root cause of human depression,” Michael Kaplitt of Cornell Medical College said in a statement. 

For more of this story by Maggie Fox, read here

Water concerns grow over Canada-U.S. mega oil pipe

Nebraskan officials are urging the State Department to ensure a proposed $7 billion pipeline that plans to send Canadian crude to refineries along the Gulf of Mexico would avoid a massive water reservoir that irrigates agriculture in the nation’s breadbasket.

Calgary-based TransCanada Corp had hoped to start building the 2,000 mile Keystone XL pipeline next year.

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

What we are blogging…

Barack and Jon, together again, on The Daily Show next week

First he gave an unexpected endorsement to Jon Stewart’s upcoming “Rally to Restore Sanity.” Now President Obama is giving the host of the satirical talk show the ultimate television “get” — himself as a guest. Obama will appear on Oct. 27, in the middle of a week of special episodes taped in Washington called “When Grizzlies Attack: A ‘Daily Show’ Midterm Teapartyganza.”

For Patricia Zengerle’s full post, read here.

Clinton to gay youth: “hang in there”

Hillary Clinton has joined a growing list of celebrities and politicians reaching out to gay, lesbian and transgender youth following a rash of suicides prompted by bullying. “I have a message for all the young people out there who are being bullied, or who feel alone and find it hard to imagine a better future:  First of all, hang in there and ask for help,” Clinton said in a video message available on YouTube.

For Andrew Quinn’s full post, read here. 

From elsewhere… 

Merkel settles dispute over dressing room visit

German chancellor Angela Merkel has ironed out differences with the country’s soccer federation (DFB) following her surprise visit to the national team changing room after a win over Turkey. Merkel went to see the players after their 3-0 victory in a Euro 2012, upsetting DFB chief Theo Zwanziger, who said politicians should stay out of sport. Official pictures showed Merkel chatting with bare-chested players alongside German President Christian Wulff and his daughter.

For more of this story, read here.

 Photo credit: Reuters/Jeff Christensen (Blue Dog balloon floats during a Macy’s Thanksgiving parade in New York)

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