Tales from the Trail

Washington Extra – Laundry list

January 24, 2011

The White House is promising that tomorrow’s State of the Union address will be something different.

And by that, they apparently mean it will not be a dry recitation of all the things that need to be done. “I don’t think you’ll see a laundry list of issues,” White House spokesman Robert Gibbs declared. OBAMA/

Well then, how will President Barack Obama get his points across about all that’s on the plate for this year and all the help he’s going to need from a politically divided Congress?

And where is Obama supposed to look during his speech to Congress when trying to emphasize a point, now that lawmakers are promising to mix it up with Democrats and Republicans sitting side-by-side?

One of the best headlines about the match-ups was on a RedState.com blog post — “congressionalmatch.com”.

It may end up looking a bit like a playground full of see-saws as Democrats rise to applaud their points and Republicans stay seated to make their disapproval heard.

It should be an interesting sight.

Here are our top stories from Washington today…

Clash over spending looms with Obama speech

Democrats and Republicans are gearing up for a clash over what is likely to be a central theme of President Obama’s address to Congress: deficit reduction and spending cuts. Republicans have called for $100 billion in cuts. Democrats are fearful that large cuts could stifle the still-fragile economic recovery and jeopardize hopes of reducing the 9.4 percent unemployment rate. “He’s got to get on the road to fiscal sanity, and I’m not sure we’re going to hear that,” said Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions in an interview with Reuters Insider.

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

For a Q&A on potential tax-reform themes in the State of the Union, click here.

For a Q&A on how the looming debt limit will play into the speech, click here.

Republicans face juggling act in US spending cuts

Republicans in Congress will be under pressure from all sides as they try to live up to campaign promise to slash domestic spending. Democrats, meanwhile, are eager to point out that the proposed cuts could cost thousands of jobs at a time when unemployment is still hovering near 10 percent. And lawmakers from both parties will be scrambling to protect favored programs or minimize the impact on their home districts.

For more of this analysis by Andy Sullivan, read here.

Key Obama aide on Iran sanctions steps down

President Obama’s point person cracking down on financial flows to Iran resigned, marking the loss of a key player in the effort to pressure Tehran over its nuclear program. The departure of Stuart Levey from his role as the Treasury Department’s undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence could leave a hole in the effort to discourage foreign companies and governments from doing business with Tehran. As a holdover from George W. Bush’s administration, Levey had built up personal relationships with officials in foreign capitals, and the Obama administration had viewed his efforts as highly successful.

For more of this story by Glenn Somerville and Caren Bohan, read here.

Vampire Squid? Big Gov’t? US crisis reports murky

Three competing tales of the financial crisis will emerge this week. The Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission has failed to produce a consensus explanation of the 2007-2009 banking debacle, as it was asked to do in May 2009. Instead, the 10-member panel has fractured along the same ideological fault lines that divide much of political Washington. One person called the Democrat report the “vampire squid” view, referring to a memorable 2009 description of Goldman Sachs as “a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money.”

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

US high court rules for JPMorgan on credit cards

The Supreme Court ruled that JPMorgan under an old federal regulation did not have to provide written notice before raising credit card interest rates to account holders who defaulted on a payment. The justices unanimously overturned a ruling by an appeals court in California that a class-action lawsuit filed against the bank in 2004 could go forward.

For more of this story by James Vicini, read here.

Small firms not spared in US SEC say-on-pay rule

Small publicly traded companies will not be exempt from a rule securities regulators are poised to adopt giving shareholders an advisory “say-on-pay” vote. The rule is expected to stir concerns among the Republican commissioners at the SEC, as well as some small publicly traded businesses that have urged the SEC in their comment letters not to burden smaller companies with additional say-on-pay requirements.

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

Questions remain after SEC study on brokers

Investors who rely on professional advice will not see any immediate impact from the SEC’s weekend recommendations that brokers be subject to the same fiduciary standard as investment advisers. The study, written by staff and opposed by two of the SEC’s five commissioners, faces a long and uncertain road to implementation and enforcement.

For more of this analysis by Linda Stern, read here.

Abbott’s Acculink stent trial met goals-FDA staff

Abbott Laboratories’ RX Acculink carotid stent appears to work as well as surgery in opening clogged neck arteries in patients who are not at high risk for complications from the surgical procedure, FDA staff concluded. The device is already approved for patients who need to have their neck arteries opened up but would face greater risk of side effects if they underwent a procedure to scrape off built-up fatty deposits that can cause strokes. Abbott is seeking FDA approval to market its carotid stent for less-risky patients.

For more of this story by Susan Heavey, read here.

From elsewhere…

Court tosses Rahm Emanuel off Chicago mayoral ballot

A state appeals court has thrown the Chicago mayor’s race into turmoil by ruling that front-runner Rahm Emanuel did not qualify for the February ballot. Emanuel immediately responded that he would appeal the ruling to the state Supreme Court and urged quick consideration. The ruling overturned decisions by a lower court and a Chicago elections board that allowed him on the February 22 ballot. “I have no doubt that, in the end, we will prevail,” Emanuel said at a news conference held at a downtown restaurant.

For more of this story, read here.

Photo credit: Reuters/Larry Downing (Obama announces efforts to support military families)

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