Tales from the Trail

Washington Extra – Circle that date

January 11, 2011

Mr. Speaker, the President of the United States accepts your invitation.

The pomp and circumstance that surrounds the president’s annual State of the Union address to Congress has begun with the delivery of the invitation from House Speaker John Boehner to President Barack Obama at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue. (It’s still on paper, not an Evite). OBAMA/

“A new Congress provides us a renewed opportunity to find common ground and address the priorities of the American people,” Boehner said in the invitation for Obama to address a Joint Session of Congress on January 25.

“Recent events have reminded us of the imperfect nature of our representative democracy, but also how much we cherish the ideal that our government exists to serve the people,” he wrote.

At the State of the Union, the president gives Congress a heads-up on his priorities for the year. We imagine boosting  the economy will top Obama’s list. Who can argue with that? Well, everyone. Especially when it comes to the ways and means of accomplishing that goal.

Here’s some trivia about the history of the State of the Union address. The longest was 27,651 words by President William Taft in 1919, and the shortest was 1,089 words by President George Washington in 1790.

The first television broadcast was of President Harry Truman in 1947, the first evening delivery was by President Lyndon Johnson in 1965, and the first live webcast on the Internet was from President George W. Bush in 2002.

Here are our top stories from Washington today…

Spill panel calls for offshore drilling reform

A White House panel probing BP’s massive oil spill called for an overhaul of the regulatory system that was entirely unprepared for the disaster, but the plan was sure to face opposition from Republicans reluctant to expand government oversight. The oil spill commission said in its final major report that the government needs to expand its drilling regulations, as well as set up an independent drilling safety agency.

For more of this story by Ayesha Rascoe, read here.

For a factbox on reactions to the report, click here.

US sees N. Korea becoming direct threat, eyes ICBMs

North Korea is becoming a direct threat to the U.S. and could develop an inter-continental ballistic missile within five years, U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said. Gates detailed the new assessment of Pyongyang’s capabilities during a visit to Beijing, where he praised Chinese efforts to reduce tensions on the Korean peninsula but also stressed the urgency to rein in the reclusive state.

For more of this story by Phil Stewart, read here.

Biden: US could stay in Afghanistan beyond 2014

The U.S. is not in Afghanistan to “govern” but will stay beyond a scheduled 2014 security handover if Afghans want, visiting Vice President Biden told President Hamid Karzai. Seeking to reassure the leader, who has accused Washington of meddling, Biden said Afghans were capable of building their own institutions and the U.S. was not in the war-torn country to “nation-build.” “We are not leaving if you don’t want us to leave. We plan on continuing to work with you and it’s in the mutual self-interest of both nations,” he said.

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

Clinton says militants in Yemen an urgent concern

The U.S. views al Qaeda militants operating from Yemen as an urgent concern, Hillary Clinton said in the first visit to Sanaa by a secretary of state in 20 years. Washington is anxious for Yemen to step up its fight against an al Qaeda wing based in Yemen, where militants have attempted ambitious attacks against U.S. and Western targets.

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

Lawmaker’s condition improves after shooting

Gabrielle Giffords is breathing on her own and doctors were hopeful about her recovery from a head wound suffered in an Arizona shooting spree that killed six people. Giffords is in critical condition at a Tucson hospital but is “holding her own,” responding to simple commands and breathing without aid of her ventilation tube, doctors said.

For more of this story, read here.

Flawed report seen from US financial crisis panel

The final report of a congressional panel on the financial crisis — due to hit bookstores in days — won’t be the blockbuster some hoped for, but it may help point the way toward mortgage market reform. “Whatever it says, it is likely to be too little and too late. The timing was wrong from the start,” said Columbia Law School Professor John Coffee.

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

Watchdog probes SEC handling of Citi settlement

The internal watchdog at the SEC is investigating whether the group’s enforcement director’s friendship with a Citigroup defense attorney led him to drop fraud charges against two of the company’s executives last year. The inquiry by Inspector General David Kotz came after Republican Sen. Charles Grassley forwarded him an anonymous letter alleging that Enforcement Director Rob Khuzami held secret conversations with Citigroup’s attorney without involving other staff and helped protect the company from private litigation.

For more of this story by Sarah N. Lynch, read here.

US sees stronger 2012 world oil demand growth

Global oil demand growth will accelerate next year, while non-OPEC production will remain flat, driving oil prices to a record high average of $99 a barrel, the U.S. said in its first energy forecast for 2012.

For more of this story by Tom Doggett, read here.

WikiLeaks activists may seek to quash US demand for docs

Two prominent WikiLeaks supporters in the Netherlands and Iceland are consulting lawyers about ways to stop the Justice Department getting their Twitter records in a probe into the leak of secret documents. The court order instructed Twitter to turn over to federal prosecutors in Alexandria all account records created by the social media site since Nov. 1, 2009 for two activists, Julian Assange, and Bradley Manning.

For more of this story by Mark Hosenball, read here.

Chamber backs repeal vote on healthcare reform

Corporate America’s biggest lobbying group praised a more business-friendly tone from the White House, but backed Republican efforts to dismantle the Obama administration’s healthcare overhaul. “We see the upcoming House vote as an opportunity for everyone to take a fresh look at healthcare reform,” U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Tom Donohue said.

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

What we are blogging…

Public says Giffords shooting, rhetoric unrelated

Most Americans see no relation between the attempted assassination of congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and the political tactic of lacing vitriolic rhetoric with firearms analogies.

That’s the conclusion of a CBS News poll that found most Republicans (69 pct), most independents (56 pct) and even a plurality of Democrats (49 pct) believe the two phenomena unrelated. Those numbers add up to 57 percent of Americans overall — a true majority though not quite big enough to break a Senate filibuster.

For David Morgan’s full post, click here.

A first at the U.S. Supreme Court

New Justice Elena Kagan’s first written ruling was released, an 18-page opinion in a bankruptcy-tax case, the first arguments in the court’s term that began in October. The ruling was not a blockbuster. In her opinion, Kagan said a debtor who does not make loan or lease payments may not take a car ownership deduction.

For James Vicini’s full post, click here.

From elsewhere…

Facebook-Winklevoss twins case goes to court

Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss found a skeptical audience as they tried to convince an appeals court to let them out of a $65 million settlement over the founding of Facebook. The twins argue that, based on an internal valuation at the time that Facebook did not disclose, they should have gotten more shares in the settlement to a dispute over who had the original idea for the site. A judge pointed out that the twins had several lawyers representing them at settlement talks, and that their father is a business expert.

For more of this story, read here.

Photo credit: Reuters/pool (Obama delivers State of the Union address on Jan. 27, 2010

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