Washington Extra – Whose bipartisanship?

December 17, 2010

The feeling appeared mutual when President Barack Obama shook hands with Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell after signing the tax cut bill. It looked like the picture of what Obama called a “bipartisan effort.”  OBAMA/TAXES-SIGNS

McConnell tried not to grin too much over the Republicans winning the war in their efforts to extend tax cuts to the wealthy.

But when it came to Capitol Hill Democrats, there wasn’t much display of unity with even Obama, let alone bipartisanship with the Republicans. Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid were no-shows at the bill signing.

(Lawmakers don’t miss bill signings if they can help it, it gives them a chance to show accomplishment… and get one of those presidential pens).

Vice President Joe Biden got the first mention in Obama’s remarks, McConnell and the Republican leadership in the Senate were second. Then Obama mentioned House Republican Dave Camp, followed by the Democrats on stage, starting with Senator Dick Durbin.

Obama said there were elements of the tax-cut bill that he, Democrats and Republicans each didn’t like, but, “that’s the nature of compromise, yielding on something each of us cares about to move forward on what all of us care about.”

Tackling the deficit will likely be even more difficult than the tax cut bill, Obama said, and he will be looking for more bipartisanship on that.


Here are our top stories from Washington today…

Obama signs tax bill into law

President Obama signed into law a bill extending Bush-era tax cuts and other benefits based on a deal he brokered with Republicans that angered liberals. “This is real money that is going to make a real difference in peoples’ lives,” he said at a White House ceremony to sign the bill.

For more of this story, read here.

Tax deal offers slim hopes on cutting U.S. deficit

The $858 billion tax deal is “all candy and no spinach,” but at least it shows that President Obama and Republicans can cooperate on fiscal issues. The tax deal makes the deficit bigger — just the opposite of what bond markets want — and threatens to move taxes off the bargaining table in next year’s struggles over federal spending and raising the government debt ceiling. At the same time, it was expected to give the economy a boost, and if that gets more Americans working, meaningful deficit reduction could be a little easier.

For more of this analysis by Kevin Drawbaugh, read here.

Obama may get political boost from tax-cut deal

President Obama gained an important political advantage from a tax-cut compromise with Republicans — if it gives the economy a needed boost. As a result, experts believe Obama helped his own prospects with independent voters as he prepares to set up his re-election campaign next year and look ahead to 2012.

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

For analysts’ views on the tax package, click here.


Grab bag of goodies in Obama’s $858-bln tax plan

President Obama’s $858 billion tax package is a grab bag of goodies for investors, the affluent and workers, but the richer you are the more you get. There is something in the bill for virtually every taxpayer. Low and moderate income workers see a payroll tax cut, and expansion of a tax credit for working families — priorities trumpeted by Obama. The farther you are up the income ladder, the bigger bite you get from the deal. The top 20 percent of taxpayers will see a 5.7 percent boost in after-tax income, while the bottom 20 percent get a 3.7 percent boost, according to the Tax Policy Center, a think tank.

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

SEC sends more subpoenas in mortgage probe-sources

Regulators have opened a new line of inquiry in their mortgage foreclosure probe and are asking big banks about the beginning stages of mortgage securitization. The SEC launched the new phase of its investigation by sending out a fresh round of subpoenas last week to big banks like Bank of America, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs and Wells Fargo. The subpoenas focus on the earliest stage of the mortgage securitization process, said two sources, who requested anonymity because the probe is not public.

For more of this story by Matthew Goldstein and Rachelle Younglai, read here.

Ivory Coast president offered exile in Africa: U.S. official

African nations have promised embattled Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo a “soft landing” in exile if he agrees to step down, but there is no indication yet he will accept the offer, a senior U.S. official said. William Fitzgerald, the State Department official in charge of West African affairs, said the United States was ready to impose travel sanctions on Gbagbo, his inner circle and their families within days if Ivory Coast’s political crisis remains unresolved. “There is at least one African offer of a soft landing, but it is up to him to take it,” Fitzgerald told Reuters in an interview.

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

Growth prospects look firmer as year end nears

The economy is gathering steam as the year draws to a close, boosting optimism about prospects in 2011, according to measures published by two separate economic research firms. The Conference Board’s measure of leading economic indicators jumped 1.1 percent in November, the biggest rise since March and the fifth straight monthly gain. Separately, the Economic Cycle Research Institute said its gauge of future growth rose to its highest level since May.For more of this story by Pedro Nicolaci da Costa, read here.

U.S. faces tough future without Build America Bonds

State and local governments face a surge in borrowing costs after lawmakers refused to renew the federally subsidized Build America Bonds program. The $2.8 trillion municipal bond market also faces depressed prices and greater volatility due to the loss of taxable BABs, which made up more than a quarter of all new municipal debt sold this year and which have been largely attributed with restarting stalled municipal credit markets. “Taxpayers starting next year are going to have to pay more for making needed investments in infrastructure,” said a spokesman for California State Treasurer Bill Lockyer.

For more of this story by Lisa Lambert, read here.

Comcast-NBCU deal would create minority networks

Comcast Corp will offer new programming targeted at African- and Asian-Americans if it is allowed to buy a majority stake in General Electric’s NBC Universal. The decision to boost diversity efforts comes as the company awaits approval from the Justice Department and FCC for its proposed merger, which would create a combined broadcast, cable, movie studio and theme parks business.

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

Democrats target prepaid debit card fees

Fresh off a victory in their efforts to crack down on the debit card “swipe” fees that banks charge retailers, Democrats are now setting their sights on the prepaid card market. A group of Senate Democrats introduced legislation that would limit the type of fees that could be charged on prepaid cards.

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

What we are blogging…

 Palin dislikes “lousy” tax deal – ABC

Add Sarah Palin to the list of politicos who are not happy about the tax cut package President Obama crafted with Republican lawmakers. “I think it’s a lousy deal and we can do better for the American people,” the former Alaska governor said on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

For JoAnne Allen’s full post, click here.

On the 8th day before Christmas, Congress…

‘Twas eight days before Christmas and all through the Hill, lots of legislative stirring…All these weighty issues are enough to make any politician on Capitol Hill reach for something easier to decide. So, it’s official: Mark Twain is one of America’s most famous literary icons. It says so in House Resolution 1733.

For Tabassum Zakaria’s full post, click here.

From elsewhere… 

Retailers focus on convenience as Christmas nears

U.S. retailers are focusing on convenience in the holiday season’s home stretch. Some stores will offer 24-hour shopping or help you make sure the item you want is in the store before you even get into the car. Others are trying to rectify eBuy Co Inc made a bad merchandise bet and watched sales fall as shoppers looked past pricey 3D and Internet television technologies this year.

For more of this story, read here.

Photo credit: Reuters/Jim Young (McConnell arrives for tax cut bill signing)

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