Washington Extra – Fruitcake diplomacy

February 7, 2011

If only he’d sent fruitcake…

USA/President Barack Obama is clearly trying to make nice with the business community and he promised the Chamber of Commerce a new friendly era after two years of coldness.

The White House and U.S. Chamber of Commerce can see each other across a park, but until recently acted like the other was on the wrong side of the tracks.

But it’s never too late to make-up in Washington, where yesterday’s enmities are often tomorrow’s alliances.

Obama handled it with humor. “It is good to be here today at the Chamber of Commerce. I’m here in the interest of being more neighborly.”

“I strolled over from across the street, and look, maybe if we had brought over a fruitcake when I first moved in, we would have gotten off to a better start. But I’m going to make up for it,” Obama said.

Perhaps fruitcakes could be the new balm to soothe political spats.

Maybe Republicans should send fruitcakes to their new Tea Party colleagues on Capitol Hill. And the White House could send a fruitcake to new House Speaker John Boehner as a sign of intent on bipartisanship.

Warm and sincere words are nice and everything, but anyone who’s had a fruitcake knows it lasts forever.

Here are our top stories from Washington today…

Obama tries to woo business, assails ‘burdensome’ tax

President Obama stepped up efforts to woo the business community, seeking their help to tackle “burdensome” corporate taxes, but offering no new initiatives. Obama, on a drive to win over business and independent voters before the 2012 presidential election, also repeated a promise to advance trade deals with Panama and Colombia that would help companies. “Another barrier government can remove is a burdensome corporate tax code with one of the highest rates in the world,” Obama told the powerful U.S. Chamber of Commerce, reiterating a pledge from his State of the Union address last month.

For more of this story by Alister Bull and David Morgan, read here.

Senate memo shows hard road for Dodd-Frank foes

The steep uphill climb faced by Republicans in trying to roll back last year’s Dodd-Frank law was made clear by a memo from the Senate Banking Committee pledging to protect financial reforms. The agenda memo, obtained by Reuters, showed the committee will examine much the same issues being targeted by its counterpart panel in the Republican-controlled House — but with different goals. The Senate panel will focus on assuring that “the letter and the spirit of the law are being implemented by the regulatory agencies,” the memo said.

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

Big US banks face delayed bonuses

Regulators made their most forceful attempt yet to clamp down on bank bonuses since the 2007-2009 financial crisis, but the proposals pale in comparison to harsher restrictions already set in Europe. The FDIC proposed that executives at the largest financial institutions have half of their bonuses deferred for at least three years. But the U.S. plan is markedly softer than the EU, which in December set guidelines that top bankers be limited to receiving 20 percent of their annual bonuses upfront in cash, with some exceptions.

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

AOL to buy The Huffington Post for $315 million

AOL will buy Arianna Huffington’s influential website for $315 million, looking to the high-profile liberal pundit to rescue it from the dustbin of Internet history. The move comes at a hefty premium. AOL is estimated to be paying 32 times earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization for The Huffington Post, said Benchmark Co analyst Clayton Moran. “AOL just spent 40 percent of their cash for very little near-term return,” said Moran.

For more of this story by Anthony Boadle and Jennifer Saba, read here.

Obama sees progress in Egypt political talks

President Obama said talks to resolve Egypt‘s crisis were making progress despite few concrete advances between President Hosni Mubarak’s government and protesters demanding his immediate ouster. “Obviously, Egypt has to negotiate a path and they’re making progress,” Obama said while returning to the White House after a speech.

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

Republican governors take on U.S. insurance exchanges

As Republican governors take on the healthcare reform law in courts, they are also challenging it on the administrative side, with 21 registering discontent with insurance exchanges in a letter to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. The reform act “is seriously flawed, favors dependency over personal responsibility, and will ultimately destroy the private insurance market,” the governors wrote in the letter. They added that if Sebelius does not agree with their requests for modifications, then the government “should begin making plans to run exchanges under its own auspices.”

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

FCC looks to revamp rural phone service subsidy

Some 24 million Americans live in areas not served by broadband service, but a modernized, streamlined universal service program could begin to bridge these gaps in infrastructure, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said. He laid out a plan for revamping the $8 billion universal service fund — paid for through fees added to consumers’ telephone bills to subsidize landline phone service for low-income and rural families — in a speech at the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation.

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

Panel OKs final duties on China drill pipe

A trade panel approved combined final duties ranging up to nearly 450 percent on steel drill pipe from China used in oil production. The U.S. International Trade Commission said there was sufficient evidence U.S. companies are threatened with harm by unfairly low priced competition from China.

For more of this story by Doug Palmer, read here.

What we are blogging…

California Democrat Jane Harman plans to step down from Congress

Democrat Jane Harman plans to resign from her congressional seat representing California’s 36th district if she is named to head a Washington think tank. In a letter to constituents, Harman said she had filed paperwork notifying the House that she is in discussions to become president and CEO of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. “This is an excruciating decision because the distinction of representing the smartest constituents on earth will never be surpassed – nor will my relationships with my exceptional staff and colleagues in Congress.  But shaping and leading the Wilson Center is a thrilling new challenge,” she writes.

For Tabassum Zakaria’s full post, click here.

From elsewhere…

Geithner urged Brazil to lobby China on yuan: source

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner urged Brazilian officials to lobby China to let its currency appreciate, a Brazilian official with direct knowledge of the discussions told Reuters. In a meeting with Brazilian Finance Minister Guido Mantega, Geithner argued that the undervalued yuan is just as much as a problem for Brazil as it is for the United States, and urged Brazil “to lobby the Chinese to correct that situation,” the source said on condition of anonymity. Mantega replied: “We’re against manipulating exchange rates,” the source added.

For this story, read here.

Photo credit: Reuters/Jim Young (Obama walks through park to White House after addressing Chamber of Commerce)


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Had he announced pro-business initiatives, the Republicans would’ve greeted them with disdain, sat on their hands, and shout hyperbole ad nauseam about how whatever he’s suggesting is going to kill us. Meanwhile, the only things they’d have suggested would be atrocious deregulation, and tax cuts – which is the farthest thing from a solution of what to do with limited funds. They even go so far as to rail against improvements in infrastructure – THE very thing we need to improve to spur increased capacity for business.

Posted by Cru | Report as abusive

I beg to differ with the “both sides do it” notion in the opening graphs. The Obama administration actively worked to keep capitalism from collapsing. Sure, the Admin also made a small number of mildly chiding comments. But they had a point. Capitalists had danged near destroyed the US economy, and the government was the cavalry.
For Chamber types to get miffed over a few mild rebukes, while their businesses gladly accepted the 100s of billions, seems, shall we say, ungracious?

Posted by RalfW | Report as abusive

Obama continues to make the fatal error of trying to work with people whose only goal is destroying him.

They are succeeding.

Posted by GetpIaning | Report as abusive