Washington Extra – Some explaining to do

March 28, 2011

Critics say President Barack Obama has some explaining to do.

OBAMA-BRAZIL/So tonight he plans to do just that in a speech on U.S. military involvement in Libya at the National Defense University.

One question clearly on people’s minds is when will it end? But clarity on that question is unlikely since Obama himself probably doesn’t know right now.

It’s turned into a NATO operation, which means more countries have more say in decisions — although obviously the United States remains a key player.

Republicans have plenty of questions for Obama. For example, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell wants to know: “What is the role of our military and military alliance in providing support to an opposition that we are only now beginning to understand?”

But most of all, members of Congress want Obama to state clearly that he will consult them on any future military operations.

We’ll see at 7:30 p.m. whether Obama’s speech offers answers or raises more questions.

Here are our top stories from Washington…

Obama faces challenge of defining Libya strategy

President Obama faces the challenge of convincing Americans he has clear aims and an exit strategy for U.S. forces in the Libya conflict as he seeks to counter growing criticism from Congress. He will try to define the mission’s purpose and scope in a televised address at 7:30 p.m. Coalition allies will be listening closely. The speech comes on the eve of a 35-nation conference in London billed as a discussion of political strategies to end Gaddafi’s 41-year rule of his oil-exporting North African nation.

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

Democrats offer deeper cuts in U.S. budget fight

Democrats have moved beyond previous proposals to cut spending in an attempt to revive stalled budget talks that would avert a government shutdown. The latest plan would trim $20 billion from current spending, on top of the $10 billion that has already been cut from the current budget. That would split the difference between their initial proposal to keep spending flat and a Republican plan that would cut $61 billion from the current fiscal year, which is nearly halfway over. Republicans said they hadn’t seen the plan yet.

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

Big commodity traders mount last stand on U.S. curbs

A global push to damp down wild swings in oil and other commodity prices reached a pivotal point as big traders mounted their last attack on a plan to limit the role of speculators. Many of the world’s biggest commodity market participants, such as agribusiness giant Cargill, are resisting new rules that would cap how many futures and related swaps contracts any one company can control.

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

For a timeline of the CFTC’s push to implement derivatives reforms, click here.

For a factbox on the position limits rule, click here.

Consumer spending up, energy prices dent growth

U.S. consumers increased spending for an eighth straight month in February, but much of the gain went to cover rising food and energy costs, providing only a modest lift to the economy. Though the report from the Commerce Department was the latest to suggest the rising cost of living would dent growth in the first quarter, the recovery from the worst recession since the 1930s remains intact.

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

Top court considers Arizona campaign finance law

The Supreme Court considered its first campaign finance case since ruling last year that corporations have the free-speech right to spend freely to support or oppose federal candidates. The justices appeared divided in hearing arguments about a law that gives extra money to publicly funded candidates who face privately funded rivals. Democrats have criticized, while Republicans have praised, the court’s 5-4 decision in January last year that overturned long-standing limits on corporate spending in federal elections.

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

From elsewhere…

Jimmy Carter starts Cuba visit, to discuss ties

Former President Jimmy Carter, returning to Cuba for the first time since a groundbreaking 2002 trip, began a three-day visit to discuss troubled U.S.-Cuba relations and is likely to talk about the fate of imprisoned aid contractor Alan Gross. Carter is the only president, former or sitting, to visit the communist-ruled island since a 1959 revolution toppled a U.S.-backed dictator and put Fidel Castro in power.

For more of this story, read here.

Photo credit: Reuters/Jason Reed (Obama announces limited U.S. military operations against Libya, March 19, 2011)

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