Washington Extra – Braving the weather

January 20, 2011

President Barack Obama quipped that Chinese President Hu Jintao was brave for going to his hometown at this time of year. But what about the visit to Capitol Hill today?

Between the warm reception at the White House and the chilly weather in Chicago, Hu met lawmakers who were quite cool in their welcome. They brought up China’s currency, human rights, the Chinese Nobel Peace Prize winner who wasn’t allowed to attend the ceremony, Tibet, the economy and trade. USA-CHINA/

“The U.S. and China do not share values and principles as some have claimed in recent days,” House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry summed up the uneasiness that still accompanies the U.S.-China relationship: “It’s critical that leaders in both countries don’t allow mutual suspicions to degenerate into fear-mongering and demagoguery.”

Vice President Joe Biden, caught in the hallway by our senior congressional correspondent Tom Ferraro, told Reuters the Chinese understood they needed to work on the currency dispute. “They indicate that they understand that — that they have to work on it,” he said.

When asked whether Hu had made any commitments, Biden replied: “Nothing specific.”

Here are our top stories from Washington today…

Lawmakers press China’s Hu on N.Korea, rights

Lawmakers pressed Chinese President Hu Jintao on North Korea and human rights, while Vice President Biden said the Chinese understand they must work on the currency dispute that is a major irritant between the world’s top two economies. “Chinese leaders have a responsibility to do better and the United States has a responsibility to hold them to account,” John Boehner, Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives, said. Analysts have called Hu’s visit the most significant by a Chinese leader in 30 years given China’s growing military and diplomatic clout.

For more of this story by Thomas Ferraro and Chris Buckley, read here.

For a factbox on five things Hu should know about Chicago, click here,

China knows yuan move in its interest, Biden says

China understands a stronger yuan is in its best interest although President Hu Jintao made no specific commitment to let the currency rise more rapidly, Vice President Biden told Reuters. “It needs to be more,” he said. “We had significant discussions about that in our bilateral meetings. And it is being worked hard.” Separately, a Treasury Department official said the administration does not expect China to switch overnight to a freely floated currency but should let the revaluation process proceed more rapidly than it has done.

For more of this story by Thomas Ferraro and Glenn Somerville, read here.

White House not ready to agree Afghan force buildup

The U.S. is putting off endorsing a plan to train tens of thousands of new Afghan security forces because of concern about the costs and the quality of recruits. Afghan and foreign officials in Kabul had been expected this week to endorse a plan to increase the Afghan security force from a target of about 305,000 for the fiscal year ending in October to up to 378,000 by October 2012. But a White House official said the White House was not ready to support a plan to increase the force that quickly.

For more of this story by Missy Ryan, read here.

House Republicans launch healthcare law push

Republicans in the House of Representatives launched a plan to replace President Obama’s healthcare overhaul “branch by branch” with measures they say would bring down soaring costs. “The tree is rotten, you cut it down. If we can’t cut it down and succeed doing that all at once, we’ll prune it branch by branch,” said Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp. His remarks came one day after the House moved to repeal Obama’s healthcare law. The repeal is unlikely to be considered by the Senate.

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

House Democrat under fire in health debate

A Democratic lawmaker came under fire for remarks linking Republican attacks on President Obama’s healthcare law to Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels. Representative Steve Cohen is accused of upsetting what John Boehner had called a “respectful debate” over repealing the healthcare law.

For more of this story, read here.

SEC approves asset-backed securities disclosures

Securities regulators gave investors a closer look before they buy asset-backed securities with the adoption of two new rules. The first rule, approved unanimously by the SEC, aims to give investors a way to review the track record of asset-backed issuers such as Bank of America. The second rule would require issuers of asset-backed securities to conduct a review of the loans underlying the securities and disclose it to investors.

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

CFTC unveils plan to treat ag swaps like others

The futures regulator has unveiled a plan that would treat agricultural swaps just like other over-the-counter derivatives, a move that would open up the market to a wider range of participants.  Under the plan, the CFTC would remove existing requirements that traders of agricultural swaps — used by buyers and sellers of farm goods to protect against the risk of price movements — have a net worth of at least $10 million.

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

Rep. Markey seeks immediate review of BP-Rosneft

Representative Edward Markey asked Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner to launch an immediate investigation into a $16 billion share-swap plan between BP and state-owned Russian oil firm Rosneft. In a letter to Geithner, Markey, a leading House Democrat on energy and environmental issues, cited “several” national security concerns over the deal. “I believe that there is clearly sufficient evidence that this deal may pose an unacceptable threat to U.S. national security,” he said.

For more of this story, read here.

US probing seizures reported after Sanofi flu shot

Health officials are investigating a rise in reports of a type of seizure following vaccination with a Sanofi-Aventis SA flu vaccine, the FDA said. The seizures, related to a fever, have primarily been reported in children younger than 2. The FDA said 42 cases had been reported as of December 13, and it and the CDC were investigating if they could have been caused by the vaccine, called Fluzone, or if other factors were involved.

For more of this story by Lisa Richwine, read here.

What we are blogging…

Panda diplomacy: the remix

The latest chapter in the long story of panda diplomacy was written at National Zoo, where the Chinese government agreed to lengthen the “loan” of popular panda pair Mei Xiang and Tian Tian. Actually, the loan is conditioned on whether they produce a new heir or heiress to the cuteness of panda-dom in the next two years.

For Deborah Zabarenko’s full post, click here.

Photo credit: Reuters/Jim Young (Chinese President Hu Jintao speaks to business group in Washington)

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