Washington Extra – No Refuge

November 20, 2010

Not only does Barack Obama face a united and hostile Republican Party at home, he cannot easily take refuge in foreign policy in the second half of his term. From Afghanistan to Russia and the Middle East, from climate change to nuclear weapons, there are more problems than easy solutions out there.obama1

But if all that wasn’t bad enough, the president is facing a few problems even keeping his fellow Democrats on side. As we report today, the Dems are in disarray about what to with the expiring tax cuts, and there is a distinct feeling of post-election disappointment with the president. As one aide told Reuters, many congressional Democrats felt they got their fingers burned for backing Obama’s healthcare plan and are wary of getting hurt again.

“Our guys aren’t sure what comes next,” the aide said. “Will Obama help them in 2012, or will just be focused on getting himself re-elected?”

Here are our top stories from Washington today…

US seeks trust, not caps, in Cancun climate talks

The Obama administration, weakened by political setbacks, will likely limit its role in global climate talks this month to building trust with other big polluters rather than blazing an ambitious path on binding carbon emissions cuts. The Senate failed to pass a climate bill this summer and Republicans won control of the House, putting out of reach any big moves by President Obama to tackle global warming until at least 2013.

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

Obama’s Democrats in disarray over expiring tax cuts

President Obama’s Democrats in Congress, many upset with him for election losses, are in disarray over what to do about tax cuts for millions of Americans that are set to expire on Dec. 31. With high political and economic stakes, Obama is pushing leaders to determine if they can win an acceptable extension of the cuts, which he could sign into law. “How the hell should we know when we will figure this out?” said a senior Senate Democratic aide. “This is the Democratic Party.”

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

NATO wants Afghan security handover by the end of 2014

The head of NATO said the alliance would start turning security over to Afghan forces next year by the end of 2014. Some officials have expressed doubt that the 2014 deadline can be achieved because of the rising threat posed by Taliban insurgents to Afghanistan’s weak government. But NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said he believed it was a realistic goal and one that would allow the military alliance to focus on training Afghan troops.

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

US regulators part curtain on swaps, hedge funds

Regulators moved to bring more transparency to the sprawling derivatives market, hedge funds and private equity, all dimly lit corners of the financial world getting more scrutiny. Proposed rules issued by the CFTC and the SEC showed regulators stepping cautiously as they implement hundreds of new regulations mandated by Congress. Shining a brighter light on derivatives was one of the key goals of the landmark Dodd-Frank reforms.

For more of this story by Christopher Doering and Rachelle Younglai, read here.

EPA to delay decision on E15 in 2001-06 cars

The EPA will delay a decision expected in December on whether gasoline blended with up to 15 percent ethanol is safe for vehicles built during the 2001 to 2006 model years, a source told Reuters. The EPA wants up to one more month of testing on the effects of the so-called E15 gasoline on engines. The agency could announce as soon as Friday that it will delay its decision on E15 in older vehicles.

For more of this story by Tom Doggett, read here.

What we are blogging…

Is deficit debate a new political dawn?

Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles think it may be a new day in American politics, one where politicans who hike taxes and alter Social Security stay in office. Simpson told MSNBC that he sees evidence of change at the airport: “I can tell you, we used to get lots of signals. I get more thumbs up now than other digits.” The kinds of measures the two proposed have been a presciption for political suicide up to now, although the recommendations call for lower tax rates overall.

For David Morgan’s full post, click here.

From elsewhere…

Chinese activist sentenced for Twitter post

Chinese authorities have handed out a year-long labor re-education sentence to an online activist for posting on Twitter a satirical message urging people to attack Japan’s pavilion at the Shanghai Expo. Cheng’s message poked fun at Chinese who smashed up Japanese goods.

For more of this story, read here.

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

Photo Credit: REUTERS/Jim Young (Obama arrives back at the White House after stepping off Marine One)

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