Washington Extra – You win some, you lose some

December 22, 2010

capitol_domeDemocrats scored some noteworthy wins today. They pushed the nuclear arms treaty with Russia past a Republican hurdle. They adopted Internet rules that Republicans and some big media companies called unwarranted, excessive and maybe even illegal.

But it’s hard for Extra to call this a good day for Dems. Republicans have promised to unravel everything from Tuesday’s net neutrality decision at the FCC to Dodd-Frank and Obamacare. They’ve pushed the fight over government spending into 2011, when they’ll run the House and have more leverage in the Senate. That means regulators won’t get the extra funds they’ve requested to tighten oversight of Wall Street, as Mary Schapiro lamented to Reuters today.

Lest you think Extra’s too short-sighted, too focused on 2011, consider what could be the most politically significant news of the day — new Census data. Democrats cannot be anything but bummed by the Census showing a population shift from blue states to red ones. It means a redrawing of congressional districts that will likely add Republicans to the House. We won’t bog you down with the details, but just remember it’s the number of House seats that determines a state’s representation in the Electoral College

and it’s the Electoral College that picks the president.

Here are our top stories from Washington today…

Republican-leaning states gain clout from Census

Republican-leaning states in the South and West will gain political clout from new population figures, dealing a blow to President Obama and Democrats that could linger for years. The Census estimates show a population shift from Democratic-leaning states in the Northeast and Midwest to Republican strongholds like Texas, Utah and South Carolina, giving those states more seats in the House of Representatives. The release of the figures kicks off the once-a-decade, state-by-state fight over redrawing congressional lines to ensure each House district represents roughly the same number of people.

For more of this story by John Whitesides, read here.

For a factbox on states that gained clout, click here.

Divided U.S. FCC adopts Internet traffic rules

Communications regulators adopted Internet traffic rules that prevent providers from blocking lawful content but still let them ration access to their networks. The FCC approved the “Open Internet” order after Chairman Julius Genachowski’s plan got the support of fellow Democrats Michael Copps and Mignon Clyburn. The rules aim to strike a balance between the interests of Internet service providers, content companies and consumers, but some industry analysts think a court challenge is still likely.

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

For a graphic of the top online video providers, click here. For a graphic of smartphone market share, click here.

Senate postpones spending fight

The Senate has approved a compromise bill to fund the government for several months as Congress moved to postpone a struggle over spending and the deficit until next year. The bill to fund the government through March 4 would give Republicans the chance to try to push dramatic budget cuts when they take control of the House of Representatives early next year. The bill would deny Obama the budget increases he has sought to implement his signature reforms of healthcare and financial regulations.

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

Inside AIG’s tortuous turnaround

AIG has come a long way, rebounding far faster and more dramatically than nearly anyone inside or outside the company expected. As a result, the Treasury Department, which will own more than 90 percent of the company, is likely to hold two large stock sales next year and aims to offload the rest in 2012. A big profit from the AIG rescue and the government’s disentanglement would be a boost for the Obama administration. But the remarkable reversal of fortune has taken a tortuous path, and the way ahead is not without risks.

For more of this special report by Paritosh Bansal, Kristina Cooke and David Lawder, read here.

For a graphic of profit scenarios for Treasury’s stake in AIG, click here.

For a newsmaker story on Treasury’s ‘AIG fix-it man,’ Jim Millstein, click here.

Lack of funds will restrict SEC plans: Schapiro

Budget shortfalls will hurt the SEC even as it desperately needs funds to bolster equity markets and adopt new rules required by the Dodd-Frank financial overhaul, its chairman said. Congress is set to reject the Obama administration’s plan to boost funding for the SEC and CFTC by millions of dollars. “We will have to take some more steps to cut back,” SEC Chairman Mary Schapiro said in an interview. “At this stage it will impact our work.”

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

START appears to have support for US Senate passage

President Obama’s strategic nuclear arms treaty with Russia appears to have enough Republican support to win passage in the Senate when it comes to a final vote expected this week. At least 10 Senate Republicans have said they back the accord — which should be enough to give Democrats the needed two-thirds majority. All 58 members of the Senate Democratic caucus are expected to support the treaty.

For more of this story by David Alexander and Thomas Ferraro, read here.

CFTC fines, bans natgas traders for fraud scheme

The U.S. futures regulator said it has fined two natural gas traders for a fraudulent trade allocation scheme and permanently banned them from trading.

For more of this story, read here.

Go ‘long on women’ for profits, BofA Merrill says

Recession wounds are healing faster for women than for men, so there is money to be made for companies that cater to women, economists at Bank of America-Merrill Lynch said.

For more of this story, read here.

What we are blogging…

This lame duck sure can fly

Congress seems to work better under deadline pressure (like journalists). Democrats are racing to cram as much through the post-election lame duck session as possible, before their majority turns into a pumpkin when Republicans take control of the House of Representatives in January. The lame duck session of Congress has produced — tax cut extensions have been signed into law, the repeal of “Don’t Ask , Don’t Tell” to allow gays to serve openly in the military will be signed into law tomorrow, and the START treaty is moving toward ratification.

For Tabassum Zakaria’s full post, read here.

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

Photo Credit: REUTERS/Hyungwon Kang (U.S. Capitol Dome after the first significant snowfall of the season)

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