Tales from the Trail

Washington Extra – Modern pursuits

January 18, 2011

Former Vice President Dick Cheney says he’s using modern technology like a BlackBerry and Kindle, when he didn’t even have a cellphone at the White House.

“I’m not totally modern. I still write long-hand and don’t use a computer for that kind of thing,” Cheney said in an NBC interview. “My grandchildren still laugh at me,” he said, and his 3-year-old grandson showed him how to play the Angry Birds game on an iPad. USA-CHINA/

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill, while sticking to their well-trod positions on healthcare, did refrain from aiming big slingshots at opponents. (Angry Birds fans, that’s for you).

Chinese President Hu Jintao arrived to a red carpet welcome at Andrews Air Force Base where Vice President Joe Biden greeted him. Full pomp and circumstance will be on display tomorrow at the White House, symbolizing the importance that the United States places on ties with China.

But there will be plenty of squawking in the background over China’s currency and human rights.

Here are our top stories from Washington today…

Deals, currency spat accompany China’s Hu to U.S.

Chinese President Hu Jintao arrived in the United States on Tuesday for a four-day state visit peppered by U.S. complaints about Beijing’s currency policies but sweetened by a series of business deals. The White House weighed in on the dispute over the level of the yuan hours before Hu flew in, urging China to take more steps to allow its currency to strengthen.

For more of this story by Jeff Mason and Chris Buckley, read here.

For a factbox with details of Hu’s visit, click here.

For a factbox on business deals with China announced around the visit, click here.

For graphics showing major US-China issues, click here.

Obama orders review of U.S. government regulations

President Barack Obama ordered a review of U.S. regulations, both old and new, in a push to blunt criticism from Republicans and businesses that excessive government is hindering economic growth. The impact of the initiative was limited, however, since it excludes “independent agencies” such as the major financial regulators that are implementing most of 2010′s Dodd-Frank reforms for Wall Street and the banking industry. Obama ordered government agencies to consider the costs of regulations and maximize public input in their development, while ensuring they are underpinned by science and that their impact on small businesses is taken into account.

For more of this story by Kevin Drawbaugh and Matt Spetalnick, read here.

Details on Wall St reform offered by US regulators

Regulators may take into account a wide range of factors when drawing the line between market making, a vital role banks play in the financial system, and proprietary trading, a newly banned activity, said regulators. In a move to flesh out the “Volcker rule,” regulators released a study on implementing the rule. The rule is designed to curb risky buying and selling of securities by banks for their own accounts.

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

Obama admin steps up foreclosure prevention efforts

The Obama administration stepped up efforts to make it easier for struggling homeowners to renegotiate the terms of their mortgage, although it could be more than a year before such efforts pay off. The way mortgage servicers — firms that collect loan payments on behalf of a loan’s owner — are paid is fundamentally “broken and should be fixed,” Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan said in a joint statement.

For more of this story by Corbett B. Daly, read here.

Democrat Conrad to retire from Senate in 2012

Democratic Senator Kent Conrad, who has led efforts to get the budget under control, said he will not run for re-election in 2012, a decision that helps Republican efforts to win control of the Senate after a strong showing in 2010. Conrad’s warnings about the United States’ fiscal woes led to a presidential commission that recommended spending caps and a revamped tax code last year in order to head off a Greek-style debt crisis.

For more of this story, read here.

Comcast wins approval for NBC Universal deal

U.S. regulators approved Comcast Corp’s purchase of a majority stake in NBC Universal with the requirement that NBC give up day-to-day control of popular online video site Hulu. The Federal Communications Commission and the Department of Justice approved the deal more than a year after the companies announced it. When it closes, it will create a media powerhouse that will control not just how television shows and movies are made, but how they are delivered to people’s homes.

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

US tax writer: overhaul can’t be piecemeal

An overhaul of the voluminous and complex tax code cannot be tackled piecemeal, the Republican chairman of the tax-writing House committee said. “There is quite a bit of groundwork that needs to be done,” Dave Camp, chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, told Reuters before starting a congressional debate on a tax code revamp with a hearing. “The concern about addressing certain issues that affect larger business is you leave out small businesses or others, which is much of our economy.”

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

House tones down healthcare debate after shooting

The House of Representatives, back to work after the attempted assassination of one of its members, staged a toned-down debate on a bill to repeal President Barack Obama’s overhaul of the U.S. healthcare industry. “In the wake of the recent tragedy in Tucson, we come together in a renewed commitment to civility,” said Democratic House Leader Nancy Pelosi. House Republican Leader Eric Cantor agreed, saying, “We’re going to be about a decency here and engage and promote active debate on policy.”

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

Obama admin. appeals Virginia healthcare ruling

The Obama administration appealed a ruling by a federal judge in Virginia that declared unconstitutional a key part of President Obama’s landmark healthcare law.

For more of this story by Jeremy Pelofsky, read here.

For a factbox on lawsuits challenging health reform, click here.

Supreme Court weighs 20-year fight on warplane

Several Supreme Court justices sharply questioned the government’s arguments in a 20-year-old lawsuit over the Navy’s cancellation of a $4.8 billion fighter jet built by Boeing Co and General Dynamics Corp. Justice Elena Kagan told Acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal that the government’s arguments appeared to amount to “tails you win, heads you win,” giving little recourse to the companies.

For more of this story by Andrea Shalal-Esa, read here.

What we are blogging…

Washington flatfooted by return of Haiti’s “Baby Doc”

He departed Haiti in 1986 aboard a U.S. Air Force plane, winging to stage-managed exile after weeks of pressure from the Reagan administration. Haiti’s infamous “Baby Doc”, Jean Claude Duvalier,  made a surprise reappearance in his homeland this weekend, and Washington’s planners had less than an hour to prepare.

For more of this post by Andrew Quinn, see here.

Photo credit: Reuters/Hyungwon Kang (Flags of U.S. and China fly near U.S. Capitol to mark Chinese President Hu Jintao’s visit)

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