Washington Extra – Cold shoulder

December 7, 2010

It’s a chilly day in Washington, and we’re not just talking about the weather.

Democrats on Capitol Hill are giving President Barack Obama the cold shoulder after he blinked first in the stand-off with Republicans over extending tax cuts. USA/

“We will continue discussions with the President and our Caucus in the days ahead,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said. (Translation – House Democrats are not on board with this yet.)

Another sign of which way the wind is blowing: Republicans have been uncharacteristically silent since the compromise was announced. As is often the case in Washington, those who talk loudest fear they are losing most, and those who are quiet don’t want to rock the boat that’s headed their way.

Obama said he had no choice because Republicans weren’t going to budge from their “Holy Grail” of tax cuts for the wealthy, and it would be more difficult to reach a deal in the next Congress when they have more seats.

And then he proceeded to dish it out.

Republicans were likened to hostage-takers in the tax fight. “I think it’s tempting not to negotiate with hostage-takers, unless the hostage gets harmed,” Obama said. “In this case, the hostage was the American people. And I was not willing to see them get harmed.”

For liberals who criticized compromise, Obama’s message was that nothing would ever get accomplished by sticking to hardened positions. “People will have the satisfaction of having a purist position and no victories for the American people,” leaving them able to feel “sanctimonious” in the purity of their intentions, but with nothing achieved, he said.

Here are our top stories from Washington today…

Democrats question Obama’s tax deal

President Obama’s plans to extend tax cuts for all Americans ran into trouble when fellow Democrats questioned whether he had been too quick to compromise with Republicans. While analysts believe Congress will probably approve the deal, Obama faced a rift with many in his party who worried about its impact on the federal budget.

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

Obama’s tax deal a sign of more compromise to come

President Obama’s tax deal is a clear sign he will make policy compromises that could boost his chances of re-election in 2012 despite leftwing fury that he is giving up too much. Obama dropped his steadfast opposition to allowing tax breaks for the wealthy and made concessions, bowing to the new political reality after Republicans made big gains in last month’s congressional elections. Analysts said acting as a bipartisan president should win Obama support from the center.

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

Testy Obama fires back at Democrats over tax deal

A testy President Barack Obama on Tuesday expressed frustration at his own Democrats for attacking him over his tax-cut deal with Republicans, who he called uncompromising “hostage takers.” Obama found himself in an unusual position a day after sealing a major tax-cut agreement — praised by Republican opponents and denounced by liberal Democrats who felt he violated a pledge that helped get him elected in 2008.

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

Tax deal to boost growth, buttress Fed policy

The economy stands to get a much-needed boost from the tax deal struck by the Obama administration and Republican lawmakers, which could lift growth next year by as much as a full percentage point. By putting more money in consumers’ pockets and curbing uncertainty about taxes, economists say the plan should help breathe new life into the sluggish recovery. It will also further swell an already bloated budget deficit. “In all likelihood, the recovery would have made it through next year without backtracking into recession, but this deal improves those odds significantly,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics.

For more of this analysis by Lucia Mutikani, read here.

Fears of STDs sparked case against WikiLeaks boss

The two Swedish women who accuse WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange of sexual misconduct were at first not seeking to bring charges against him. They just wanted to track him down and persuade him to be tested for sexually transmitted diseases, according to several people in contact with his entourage at the time.

For more of this special report by Mark Hosenball, read here.

Americans strongly oppose proposed gas tax hike

Americans by a wide margin oppose a proposal to raise the U.S. gasoline tax by 15 cents a gallon to help cut U.S. budget deficits and support cutting the federal work force, a Reuters/Ipsos poll showed on Tuesday.

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

Lawmaker eyes early-2011 votes on trade pacts

Republicans in the House of Representatives want to work with President Obama to pass long-delayed free-trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama in the first six months of 2011. “There’s a lot of discussions due obviously with the White House and the Senate as well, but that is our goal,” said Representative Kevin Brady, a Texas Republican, in a speech at the Chamber of Commerce.

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

Google nips Microsoft as government moves to the cloud

Google won a federal government contract last week that the company hopes will give it a boost over rival Microsoft as they race to convert government agencies to cloud computing.  Google and Unisys will transition the GSA, which basically serves as the back office for federal agencies, to a secure cloud-based platform that includes Google’s Gmail, Calendar, Docs and Sites applications. GSA is the first U.S. federal agency to make an agency-wide “move to the cloud.”

For more of this story by Jasmin Melvin, read here.

Judge dismisses targeted-kill program lawsuit

A judge has dismissed a lawsuit seeking to halt the Obama administration’s program to capture or kill American citizens who join militant groups abroad, a case involving a Muslim cleric in Yemen. The ruling was a defeat for civil liberties groups that brought the lawsuit on behalf of the father of Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S. citizen who joined al Qaeda in Yemen and has been tied to plots against the United States.

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

What we are blogging…

Rising above politics … in Washington

President Obama seems to want to rise above politics in the tax debate. Good luck with that. When he announced the White House’s tentative tax deal with Republicans, he said he had agreed to compromise rather than “play politics” at a time when Americans want problems solved. But whether voters are grateful enough to reward his thoughtfulness in 2012 is another story.

For David Morgan’s full post, read here.

Reuters/Ipsos poll: Obama steady, Republicans get higher marks on economy

President Obama’s approval rating held steady at 45 percent since late October despite last month’s “shellacking” of Democrats in the midterm elections, a Reuters/Ipsos poll showed. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton scored the highest favorability rating on a list of prominent officials and politicians, followed by former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, a potential Republican presidential contender, and General David Petraeus. At the bottom of the list were conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh with the lowest favorability rating, followed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

For Tabassum Zakaria’s full post, read here.

Photo credit: Reuters/Molly Riley (Artisan finishing ice sculpture of U.S. Capitol, Nov. 14, 2009)

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