Washington Extra – Say cheese

January 26, 2011

Civility isn’t all it’s cracked up to be and last night it meant watching lawmakers smile with their teeth but not their eyes.

The day after the State of the Union it has become clear that the forced Kumbaya moment is being shrugged off for a return to the comfort of political sniping. But no one expected that rearranging the deck chairs would lead to a lasting group hug. OBAMA/

Republican Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin — the state President Barack Obama chose for his day-after trip to the heartland — said when Obama mentions investment he means “government spending and government control. And that is the definite wrong direction.”

Obama visited Manitowoc, Wisconsin, to promote his agenda of creating jobs and reining in spending, as the Congressional Budget Office painted a worsening deficit picture.

Obama said he came to Manitowoc “to glimpse the future” and that he had not known beforehand about the city’s own Sputnik moment in 1962. (Coincidence? Fade to Twilight Zone music).

“It wasn’t until I was on my way here that I found out that a chunk of metal came crashing down to the Earth right here,” Obama said. “It turns out that it was part of a satellite called Sputnik that landed right here, and that set the Space Race into motion.”

“So I want to say to you today that it is here, more than 50 years later, that the race for the 21st century will be won.”

Here are our top stories from Washington today…

Obama’s road to divided Congress runs through Biden

As President Obama seeks Congress’ backing for deficit reduction and spending programs, he will rely on Vice President Biden, who has been playing a growing role as the White House’s emissary to Capitol Hill. Biden’s role is expected to grow as the White House jockeys with Republicans over programs Obama outlined in his State of the Union address.

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

Obama takes fiscal balancing act to heartland

President Obama went to the heartland to promote his agenda of investing to create jobs while reining in spending, a recipe Republicans say is unworkable. Underlining the enormity of the task, the CBO said the deficit will reach $1.48 trillion this year. The rise is mostly due to the extension of tax cuts put in place under former President Bush.

For more of this story by Ross Colvin, read here.

CBO sees 2011 deficit of $1.48 trillion

The budget deficit this year will jump nearly 40 percent over prior forecasts, mostly due to the mammoth tax-cut package brokered by President Obama and lawmakers last month, the CBO said. The fiscal 2011 deficit will hit $1.48 trillion, up from last August’s $1.07 trillion estimate, which was crafted before Bush-era tax rates were extended. “The United States faces daunting economic and budgetary challenges.”

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

Fed cautious on recovery, focused on joblessness

The Federal Reserve gave the economy a lukewarm assessment despite recent signs the recovery was strengthening, saying high unemployment still justified its $600 billion bond-buying program. In a statement following its two-day policy-setting meeting, the central bank also said measures of underlying inflation were “somewhat low” although it acknowledged a rise in commodity prices that has fueled global inflation worries.

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

U.S., in shift, bluntly urges Mubarak to reform now
The United States bluntly urged Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to make political reforms in the face of protesters demanding his ouster, marking a pivot in its stance toward a key Arab ally. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivered the message at a news conference with the foreign minister of Jordan, another Arab country that watched the ouster of Tunisia‘s president in a popular revolt two weeks ago.

For more of this story by Arshad Mohammed, read here.

Sudan urges U.S. to look beyond Darfur, restore ties

The United States should look beyond the Darfur issue and quickly normalize ties with Sudan to build on progress from its successful secession referendum, Foreign Minister Ali Karti said. “The Sudanese have fulfilled an essential obligation. As far as world expectations go, we have delivered and thus our commitment to peace should never be in question,” Karti said. “Normalization of relations should not be held hostage by Darfur.”

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

Top congressional cop may probe mortgage servicers

A top congressional cop said he would consider investigating mortgage servicers, which have been accused of shoddy home foreclosure practices. If the House Oversight Committee decides to take on this probe, it will add yet another layer of pressure on top servicers such as Citigroup Inc, Wells Fargo & Co and Bank of America Corp.

For more of this story by Rachelle Younglai, read here.

Panel chair challenges Obama’s defense cuts

A Republican lawmaker criticized the Obama administration’s plan to strip tens of billions of dollars from the Pentagon’s budget and worried that national security considerations were at risk. Howard “Buck” McKeon, the new chairman of the House of Representatives Armed Services Committee, questioned President Obama’s plans to pare $78 billion from the Pentagon’s core, $550 billion-plus spending plan from 2012 through 2016.

For more of this story by Jim Wolf, read here.

Lawmakers vow to pursue oil spill bill

A key lawmaker vowed to introduce bipartisan legislation aimed at strengthening offshore drilling regulations to prevent a repeat of last year’s massive BP oil spill. Senator Jeff Bingaman, chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources committee, said he planned to tackle oil spill legislation during this Congress.

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

CFTC seeks more information from funds, advisors

The CFTC unveiled two proposals that would require funds, commodity pools and commodity trading advisors file reports to regulators on their operations, part of a sweeping series of Wall Street reforms. The proposals mirrored a plan introduced on Tuesday by the SEC, but they go further by seeking to gather more data from some players who had been exempt from filing reports with regulators.

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

Breast implants may be linked to rare cancer-FDA

Women with breast implants may face an increased risk of a rare immune-system cancer near their implants, regulators said. Health officials need more data to tell if the implants are related to the cancer and are asking doctors to report any confirmed cases, the FDA said in a statement. Overall the agency still considers implants safe.

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

What we are blogging…

Salmon ‘chanted evening?

The one word that leaped out of President Obama’s State of the Union address to Congress wasn’t “optimism,” “business,” “teachers,” “economy” or “budget.” To those who listened to the speech on NPR, the memorable term was “salmon,” writ large in a word cloud NPR compiled from its listeners after Obama finished. That kind of makes sense. Without the Punch-and-Judy theater of Republicans and Democrats popping up from their seats to cheer or boo, as they customarily do when they’re seated on opposing sides of the room for a presidential address, it was up to the Commander in Chief to deliver some chuckle-worthy lines.

For Deborah Zabarenko’s full post, click here.

Photo credit: Reuters/Larry Downing (Obama receives autographed Green Bay Packers NFL football jersey in Wisconsin)

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