Tales from the Trail

Washington Extra – Chicken and ducks

USA-HEALTHCARE/The wrangling continues over the Bush-era tax cuts. President Barack Obama said he was confident Democrats and Republicans could break the deadlock and reach a deal soon. But with time running out, there is something of a game of chicken being played by the two sides. Each is watching to see who blinks first, and with the economy still struggling, both know the stakes are high.

 

Texas Republican Congressman Jeb Hensarling warned of the risks of failure:  “In a lame duck session, a lame duck Congress should not turn our economy into a dead duck economy.”

 

Let’s just hope they don’t duck the issue.

 

Here are our top stories from Washington today…

 

White House memo outlines new anti-leak measures

The White House has set up a special anti-WikiLeaks panel after the embarrassing flood of State Department cables leaked by the website, and its proposals include teams of inspectors who would prowl government agencies looking for ways to tighten security. A four-page draft memo circulated by the White House says President Obama’s national security staff has created an “Interagency Policy Committee for WikiLeaks.”

 

For more of this story, read here.

 

Geithner, lawmakers debate Bush-era tax cuts

President Obama’s top economic advisers and key leaders in Congress haggled over how to extend low Bush-era tax rates on Wednesday, seeking to break a political deadlock and prevent taxes from rising next year. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, who is leading negotiations for the White House with budget director Jack Lew, said participants had a “civil, constructive discussion” but he would not talk about where those talks were heading.

 

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

 

U.S. sees big costs for banks to fix foreclosures

Banks will have to cope with big costs to clean up their foreclosure practices, with some lenders also facing “significant exposure” to investor demands that they buy back faulty mortgages, a top official said. Fed Governor Daniel Tarullo was hesitant to put a number on the potential costs and told a Senate hearing regulators are trying to get a handle on the threat to the financial system.

Recycled newspapers, “Bo-Zilla” deck the White House halls

OBAMA/

The White House sometimes may not know what to do with reporters’ questions, but it appears to have made good use of their work this holiday season - using old magazines and newspapers to help deck the halls. The recycled publications were used to make sparkling golden wreaths and trees adorning the “Green Room,” which is decorated with the theme of recycling and reusing ordinary materials.

This year’s decorations at the executive mansion – with an overarching theme of “Simple Gifts” — include 19 trees. One  is covered with red, white and blue ornaments commemorating the branches of the U.S. military, and topped with a hand-made dove, symbolizing peace. Beside the tree is a basket filled with cards on which visitors can write messages, and a mailbox to send the messages to troops serving overseas.

A large figure of Bo, the Obama family dog, wearing a picture of himself on a red collar, is the focal point of an area decorated to depict “A Child’s Joy.”   A tree showcases gingerbread ornaments decorated by 300 children of members of all branches of the U.S. military. Nearby is the figure of the shaggy family pet, made of 40,000 black and white pipe cleaners.  “It’s pretty, pretty shocking,” first lady Michelle Obama told children attending a preview of the decorations. “But it’s very cool and he’s very soft.”

Congress playing chicken in lame duck session

What’s going to fly?

That’s the question on Capitol Hill where Republicans and Democrats are engaged in a game of chicken over what legislation gets approved in  the final stretch for this Congress.  PANAMA/

Everyone wants to extend middle class tax cuts, but when it comes to extending tax cuts for wealthier Americans feathers get ruffled. Republicans are demanding all of the Bush tax-cuts be extended, but Democrats cry fowl, saying the tax cuts for the wealthy are too expensive to continue.

The House of Representatives, which is controlled by Democrats until the new Congress with a Republican majority is seated in January, will vote Thursday to extend only the middle-class tax cuts that are set to expire at the end of the year.