Washington Extra – New guy

February 16, 2011

The crowds, the anticipation, the time checks…

Jay Carney’s first appearance behind the podium in the White House press room as President Barack Obama’s new press secretary had all the markings of a mini-movie premiere… Beltway style. USA/

As the hands on the clock passed 12:30 p.m. the tweeting began — he’s late! On the first day!

No detail was too small to note. “Thanks for retiring the pastel ties. No offense to Robert, but it’s nice to see a dark tie,” one reporter said. We think the color was either plum, maroon, or a combination of both.

Carney is the new guy in that job, but far from a new guy to this town. In fact he once used to sit in the reporter seats in the White House briefing room.

“I’m glad to be here. I really appreciate the turnout. I’ve never seen this room this crowded,” Carney began.

It was a steady performance — no highlights, no lowlights, and probably most important: no gaffes.

House  puts spending-cut knife to Pentagon

Republicans pressed ahead with legislation to immediately slice more than $61 billion from domestic spending but found their budget-cutting unity shaken in a House of Representatives vote to kill a big weapons project. After refusing on Tuesday to trim other military spending for this year, the House voted 233-198 to deny immediately $450 million for the continued development of a second engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

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

Obama wants all three trade pacts passed: Geithner

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner gave the Obama administration’s clearest statement yet that it wants to work with Congress to approve three long-delayed trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama this year. “We’d like to pass all of them, alongside trade adjustment assistance, and we want to do it this year,” Geithner said at a Senate Finance Committee hearing.

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

Deeper defense cuts could be ‘tragic’: Gates

Defense Secretary Robert Gates warned Congress against making deeper spending cuts than those already proposed, telling lawmakers “we still live in a very dangerous and often unstable world.” Defense is one of largest chunks of the budget but Republicans, who made big gains in November’s congressional elections with a message of austerity, so far have shown little appetite for paring back military spending at a time of war in Iraq and Afghanistan.

For more of this story by Phil Stewart and Susan Cornwell, read here.

Producer prices up, inflation still seen muted

Core wholesale prices rose in January at their fastest rate in more than two years, raising some concerns about inflation, but economists said the recovery was too weak for a big spike in consumer prices. The core producer price index, which excludes food and energy costs, increased 0.5 percent, the biggest advance since October 2008, the Labor Department said. Economists had expected a 0.2 percent gain.

For more of this story by Lucia Mutikani, read here.

Fed more confident in recovery, unhappy on jobs

Federal Reserve officials are increasingly confident of the economic recovery but remain unsatisfied with the healing of the job market, minutes of their January meeting showed. "Participants generally expressed greater confidence that the economic recovery would be sustained," the Fed said.

For more of this story by Mark Felsenthal and Pedro Nicolaci da Costa, read here.

Lawmakers blast Obama’s energy budget

Energy Secretary Steven Chu came under fire from Democrats and Republicans for his department’s plan to seek a sharp rise in funding for clean-energy projects while paring research on fossil fuels. Chu told a congressional committee that a nearly 12 percent increase in the Energy Department’s new budget was necessary to make the United States competitive against other countries, create thousands of jobs and enhance national security.

For more of this story by Tom Doggett, read here.

Investor groups slam proposed SEC, CFTC cuts

Investor and consumer advocacy groups launched an assault against Republican efforts to slash funding for market regulators, saying the cuts will kill investor confidence. The campaign aims to engage both institutional and retail investors in the debate by asking them to write to their members of Congress in support of greater funding for the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and the Securities and Exchange Commission.

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

Afghanistan violence to rise in 2011-U.S. military

Violence in Afghanistan will rise this year from the record levels seen in 2010, the top U.S. military officer said. The prediction by Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, signals an escalation in the nearly decade-old conflict even as the United States prepares to start withdrawing troops in July.

For more of this story by Phil Stewart and Susan Cornwell, read here.

Republicans hit financial crisis panel for disunity

Republican lawmakers criticized the commission that investigated the 2007-2009 financial crisis for not producing a report that all of its members could endorse. The Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission was set up by Congress in May 2009 and it issued its final report on January 27. The hope was that its work would rip the lid off the crisis in the comprehensive way that the Pecora Commission did in the 1930s during the Great Depression.

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

New Jersey governor rules out 2012 White House run

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said on Wednesday he sees an opportunity to run for the Republican U.S. presidential nomination in 2012, but is not going to take it. Christie, a brash, blustery politician who scored an improbable Republican victory in a largely Democratic state a little over a year ago, has been under pressure to join what is expected to be a crowded field of Republicans aiming to deny President Barack Obama a second four-year term as president.

For more of this story by Steve Holland, read here.

What we are blogging…

New White House press secretary sounds a few familiar notes

President Barack Obama’s new press secretary, Jay Carney, took a few phrases out of his predecessor’s playbook during his first stint at the White House podium. It turns out that he, like Robert Gibbs, is not an economist. And he doesn’t want to speculate. And he refers you to the (insert relevant department here) for further details on questions that were not entirely on his radar.

For Jeff Mason’s full post, click here.

From elsewhere…

Zinc will help your cold, at least a little bit

A new look at the medical evidence shows zinc supplements may take the edge off the common cold. But not a whole lot. Although the precise estimate is still uncertain, researchers found that people who started taking zinc-loaded lozenges or syrups within 24 hours of showing symptoms — a sore throat, say, or runny nose — shortened their cold by one day. By comparison, a normal cold lasts about a week.

For more of this story, read here

Photo credit: Reuters/Jim Young (Carney at his first press briefing)

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