Tales from the Trail

Washington Extra – It’s genetic

January 6, 2011

Forget about the branch. President Barack Obama offered the whole olive tree to the business community today with the appointment of JP Morgan Chase executive William Daley as White House Chief of Staff.

OBAMA/STAFF-DALEYDaley also knows something about politics. He comes from Chicago where politics has a history of being played bare-knuckled style. Oh, and his brother is the Daley who is stepping down as Chicago mayor, which opened the way for Rahm Emanuel, Obama’s former White House chief of staff (whom Daley is replacing), to run for that office.

Plenty more dots to connect — Daley was also former President Bill Clinton’s commerce secretary, and Clinton has come to Obama’s aid on more than one occasion (even before the press).

Obama said Daley “has a smidgen of awareness of how our system of government and politics works. You might say it is a genetic trait.”

The Chamber of Commerce did not even try to contain its glee. “This is a strong appointment,” said Thomas Donohue, president of the business group.

Looks like the scene is set for an administration-business rapprochement.

Here are our top stories from Washington today…

Obama names JP Morgan’s Daley as top aide

President Barack Obama named JPMorgan Chase executive William Daley as his chief of staff, bringing a politically seasoned businessman into the White House to help trigger job growth as he grapples with resurgent Republicans. Obama said he hoped Daley would help energize the economy. Reducing America’s 9.8 percent jobless rate is Obama’s biggest challenge ahead of his 2012 re-election bid. “He possesses a deep understanding of how jobs are created and how to grow our economy,” Obama said at the White House.

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

Geithner presses Republicans to lift US debt limit

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner stepped up pressure on Republican lawmakers to raise the nation’s $14.3 trillion debt limit, warning failure to act would lead to an economic catastrophe. “Even a short-term or limited default would have catastrophic economic consequences that would last for decades,” he said in a letter to Senate Majority leader Harry Reid.

For more of this story by David Lawder and Glenn Somerville, read here.

Budget antics more theater than reality show

Hours after taking control of the House of Representatives, Republican lawmakers were Hours after taking control of the House of Representatives, Republican lawmakers were already rolling back pledges to slash spending — a rollback that may actually be the best thing they can do for the economy. One giant-but-remote risk remains that the newly empowered Republicans will make good on threats to block the Treasury Department from issuing any more bonds once it hits a debt ceiling. But so far, in their first few hours of power, Republicans have eased concerns that their attempts to shrink the government — and a $1.3 trillion deficit — will inadvertently derail a still-vulnerable economic recovery.

For more of this analysis by Pedro da Costa and Emily Kaiser, read here.

Republican bid to scrap healthcare hits snags

Republican efforts to scrap President Obama’s healthcare reform hit new trouble when budget analysts put the cost of repeal at billions of dollars and Senate Democrats promised to defend the law. The nonpartisan CBO estimated overturning the reform would add about $230 billion to the deficit by 2021 and result in 32 million fewer people having health insurance. “I don’t think they expect, certainly they shouldn’t expect the Senate to go along with this kind of wholesale repeal,” Senate Democrat Dick Durbin told reporters.

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

CFTC’s Sommers expects limits plan to move forward

The CFTC likely has enough votes to advance a proposal to limit speculative positions in commodity markets to the next stage, said Jill Sommers, a Republican commissioner. The CFTC introduced its long-awaited plan to quell speculation for the metals, agriculture and energy markets on Dec. 16, but postponed a vote on releasing it for public comment because of internal dissent among the agency’s five commissioners.

For more of this story by Christopher Doering and Roberta Rampton, read here.

Jobless claims up, underlying trend still down

New claims for jobless benefits moved higher last week, but a decline in the four-week average to a nearly 2-1/2-year low suggested the labor market continues to improve. Initial claims for state unemployment benefits increased 18,000 to a seasonally adjusted 409,000, the Labor Department said, above economists’ expectations for 400,000.

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

Bacteria gobbled methane from BP spill -scientists

Bacteria ate nearly all the potentially climate-warming methane that spewed from BP’s broken wellhead in the Gulf of Mexico last year, scientists reported. Nearly 200,000 tons of methane — more than any other single hydrocarbon emitted in the accident — were released from the wellhead, and nearly all of it went into the deep water of the Gulf, a researcher said in a telephone interview. Bacteria managed to take in the methane before it could rise from the sea bottom and be released into the atmosphere.

For more of this story by Deborah Zabarenko, read here.

What we are blogging…

And on the second day, they read…

Day Two of Republican control of the House was highlighted with a reading of the 223-year-old Constitution. It’s often a raucous scene on the House floor. Today, it was raucous in the visitors’ gallery, when a woman calling herself “Theresa” disrupted the recitation of the Constitution at the exact point in which a lawmaker read that the president must be a “natural born citizen.” “Except Obama,” Theresa inserted as her own 28th Amendment to the Constitution, invoking Jesus. It may have been the most prominent performance so far by “birthers,” who claim Obama has no right to be in office because they believe he was born in Africa and not Hawaii.

For Richard Cowan’s full post, click here.

Bachmann for president? Tea Party darling blames media

Minnesota Republican Michele Bachmann, champion-in-chief of the House Tea Party caucus, blames the media for all the recent chatter about her status as a potential presidential candidate. “I’m not concerned about my own personal ambition,” she tells NBC News. “Right now, too many people in the media are concerned about who will be the nominee in 2012.”

For David Morgan’s full post, click here.

From elsewhere…

Mass bird deaths rare, not apocalyptic-experts

Birds falling out of the sky in the United States and Sweden are freak examples of the kind of mass animal deaths, from beached whales to deluges of frogs, that have unusual but not apocalyptic causes, experts say. Storms, hail or lightning can kill birds while tornadoes or waterspouts may suck up small fish or frogs and drop them far away. Human causes, such as fireworks, power lines or a collision with a truck, may explain avian deaths. “Science is struggling to explain these things. These are examples of the surprises that nature can still bring,” said Nick Nuttall, spokesman of UNEP. “More research is needed.”

For more of this story, read here.

Photo credit: Reuters/Jason Reed (Obama listens as Daley accepts White House chief of staff position)

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