Washington Extra – New Year state of mind
New Year often means out with the old and in with the new.
On Capitol Hill, the new 112th Congress will start its 2-year run that will end after the 2012 presidential election. (For numerologists — that’s an awful lot of 2s).
Today was Nancy Pelosi’s last day as the first Madam Speaker. The most powerful woman in American politics and second in line to the presidency turns into House minority leader next. Her exit line: “No regrets.”
Tomorrow will be John Boehner’s first day as speaker when Republicans take control of the House and the new Tea Partiers get seated. We’ll be watching for tears of joy.
Before embarking on something new, Republicans have promised to rehash something old — namely President Barack Obama’s signature health care law.
House Republicans will likely approve scrapping health care reform at a Jan. 12 vote, but a repeal was unlikely to succeed since Democrats still control the Senate and can block it.
President Obama has returned from Hawaii and it’s back to dealing with Congress and world leaders. He meets French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Jan. 10, will they go to Ben’s Chili Bowl for a half-smoke? (It’s the only smoke for Obama these days since he gave up cigarettes).
Here are our top stories from Washington today…
Republicans seek to bleed Obama’s health reform
Although Senate Democrats can probably rebuff any attempt to repeal the president’s healthcare overhaul, House Republicans say they will try to choke off its funding and delay its implementation. “They are not going to get what they want on funding for healthcare. The House is not going to give it to them,” said a senior Republican Senate aide.
For more of this story by Donna Smith, read here.
For a Q&A on the future of the health law, click here.
Tax code overhaul is heavy lift in near term
President Obama wants to revamp it. Some Republicans want to rip it up. But the U.S. Tax Code, more than a million words long, will likely have to wait until after the 2012 presidential election.
For more of this analysis by Kim Dixon, read here.
Military not exempt from spending cuts: Republicans
U.S. military programs will not necessarily be exempt from sharp spending cuts that Republicans in the House of Representatives plan to put forward in coming months, incoming House Republican Leader Eric Cantor said. House Republicans have previously said defense and domestic security programs would be exempt from their efforts to trim $100 billion from the U.S. budget.
For more of this story by Andy Sullivan, read here.
Funding uncertain for food safety overhaul
Even before President Obama signed food safety legislation, congressional Republicans were promising a fight over funding it. HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius calls it “the most significant food-safety law of the last 100 years.” But some Republicans have questioned the necessity and cost of the overhaul — estimated at $1.4 billion over five years — and have warned that the administration could face a tough fight to fund provisions designed to prevent foodborne illness outbreaks.
For more of this story by Emily Stephenson, read here.
Fed sees “fairly high” bar for stopping bond buys
The Federal Reserve felt at its December meeting that the economy still needed help despite signs of strength, according to minutes that showed little appetite to trim bond-buying plans. The rather dovish tone of the minutes suggested anyone thinking the central bank might curtail its controversial bond-buying plans may be getting ahead of themselves. “There is no indication that members are inclined to curtail the program,” said Eric Green, chief economist at TD Securities. “The Fed will follow through with the $600 billion.”
For more of this story by Pedro da Costa and Mark Felsenthal, read here.
Sudan vote tests Obama’s Africa diplomacy
South Sudan’s independence referendum on Sunday marks the start of a new test for U.S. diplomacy in the region, which analysts say could yet present President Obama with his “Rwanda moment” if violence explodes in its wake. U.S. officials are cautiously optimistic about the vote, which is expected to see southern Sudan opt to split off as an independent country in the last step of a 2005 peace deal that ended one of Africa’s bloodiest civil wars.
For more of this analysis by Andrew Quinn, read here.
Air bags, poor economy save road lives: study
Air bags and the economic recession have contributed to the biggest drop in road deaths in the United States since World War II, researchers said. Changes in driving patterns and safety features both contributed to a 22 percent decline in road deaths between 2005 and 2009, according to a report that studied federal data looking for the causes associated with fatal crashes.
For more of this story by Maggie Fox, read here.
What we are blogging…
Regrets? Madam Speaker has none
Nancy Pelosi spent her final full day as speaker of the House of Representatives saying she had “no regrets.” “I don’t really look back. I look forward,” said Pelosi, who as speaker became the most powerful woman ever in American politics. “When our Republican colleagues have positive solutions, again, they will have a willing partner (in Democrats) in solving problems for the American people,” Pelosi said.
For Tom Ferraro’s full post, click here.
New Year ski tweet for Medvedev and Schwarzenegger?
Twitter pals Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger took their chummy online relationship into the New Year with a series of new tweets. “Can’t wait to see you again — maybe skiing?” the actor wrote Tuesday in reply to Medvedev’s wishes for success after Schwarzenegger stepped down from his governor’s post due to term limits.
For more of this story, read here.
Photo credit: Reuters/Gary Hershorn (New Year celebration in Times Square)