Washington Extra – Sharp tongues

March 29, 2011

Democrats are trying a bit of divide-and-conquer strategy on Capitol Hill.

CHINAAs another budget showdown looms, they are employing a tactic of trying to turn the Tea Party and the rest of the Republican ranks against each other.

It was made starkly clear when Senator Charles Schumer told fellow Democrats to portray Republican House Speaker John Boehner as boxed in by the Tea Party, and to criticize his spending cuts as extreme — “I always use the word extreme,” Schumer said, according to The New York Times’ blog “The Caucus.”

That strategy is not going to work very well now that its cover is blown.

Republicans were not about to let that slide. They accused Democrats of secretly wanting a government shutdown. “With No Plan to Force Washington to Live Within Its Means, Democrats Dig In With ‘Extreme’ Rhetoric to Mask Tacit Support for a Government Shutdown,” blared the headline on a National Republican Congressional Committee email.

Another kind of sharp-tongued creature is on the loose in New York City — the cobra at the Bronx Zoo that has turned into quite the silver-tongued tweeter of its essssssscapades….

Here are our top stories from Washington…

Outlines of “Obama doctrine” in sight, details fuzzy

President Barack Obama may have seized the initiative with his lofty defense of military action in Libya but he has left more questions than answers about his emerging “Obama doctrine” and what it means for other crises in the Middle East. Embedded in Obama’s televised response to critics of his Libya policy on Monday night was an attempt to set forth his rationale for intervening militarily in some conflicts but not in others.

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

Intelligence on Libya rebels shows hints of Qaeda

Intelligence on the rebel forces battling Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi has shown “flickers” of al Qaeda or Hezbollah presence but there is still no detailed picture of the emerging opposition. “We are examining very closely the content, composition, the personalities, who are the leaders of these opposition forces,” Admiral James Stavridis, NATO’s supreme allied commander for Europe and also commander of U.S. European Command, said during testimony at the U.S. Senate.

For more of this story by Missy Ryan and Susan Cornwell, read here.

U.S. top court questions big Wal-Mart sex-bias suit

Supreme Court justices sharply questioned whether more than a million female employees can join together against Wal-Mart in the largest class-action sex-discrimination lawsuit in history. The justices seemed sympathetic to Wal-Mart. Justice Anthony Kennedy, a moderate conservative who often casts the decisive vote on the nine-member court, said, “I’m just not sure what the unlawful policy is.” Potentially liability could reach billions of dollars.

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

Tea Party fears cloud budget talks, Democrats say

With time running short on a deal to keep the government operating, Democrats accused Republicans of catering to a conservative base rather than working toward a compromise. Democrats said that Republicans had backed away from a possible deal to cut roughly $30 billion because they are afraid of angering grass-roots Tea Party activists. “We were right on the verge of a potential breakthrough and they moved the goalposts,” Democratic Senator Charles Schumer said. “At this point the only hurdle left to a bipartisan deal, the only obstacle in the way, is the Tea Party.”

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

Senators ask nuclear regulators about U.S. risk

Lawmakers, expressing concern and frustration with events unfolding at Japan‘s stricken nuclear plant, pressed nuclear regulators on what steps the United States was taking to prevent a similar disaster at the country’s aging fleet of reactors. “I think we’re all frustrated with the various kinds of information that’s often contradictory coming out of Japan,” said Senator Mark Udall, a Democrat from Colorado.

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

Senate showdown looms over EPA carbon rules

The Senate is moving toward a showdown vote over legislation that would block the EPA from regulating greenhouse gas emissions. Congress failed last year to forge a broad energy policy that included battling greenhouse gas emissions blamed for global warming. The White House has long said the EPA was bound to begin restricting emissions in the absence of legislation.

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

U.S. regulators define “safe” home loan

Lenders would have to offer mortgages with at least a 20 percent down payment if they want to repackage the loan to sell to other investors without keeping some of the risk on their books, according to a new proposal. The FDIC board and the Federal Reserve agreed to seek public comment on the proposal. But the rule is expected to have little near-term impact because not many investors are yet eager to buy repackaged mortgages and because it would not include loans sold to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

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

US consumer morale ebbs, home prices near 2009 lows

Consumers turned gloomy in March as rising energy prices ignited fears of inflation, which could dent consumption and economic growth. A closely watched survey on the housing market showed home prices fell for a seventh straight month in January. While the reports were the latest to suggest a loss in growth momentum early in the year, the impact of high energy prices on the economy should be temporary. Analysts see underlying growth fairly strong, with an improving labor market lending support.

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

Toyota curtails certain parts in N. America

Toyota Motor Corp told North American dealers to curtail orders of replacement parts to ensure an adequate supply due to overall disruptions in Japan. Toyota’s action is the latest response to the March 11 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis in northern Japan, which has left the global auto industry struggling to manage a ripple effect across its production and supply base. About 13 percent of worldwide auto output has been lost due to parts shortages.

For more of this story by John Crawley and Deepa Seetharaman read here.

U.S. Muslims face rising discrimination: official

American Muslims face a rising tide of religious discrimination in communities, workplaces and schools, a congressional committee heard. Evidence of growing anti-Muslim bigotry poses a challenge for President Obama as his administration works to foster good relations with American Muslims and secure their help against the threat of home-grown terrorism. But the challenge is compounded by remarks by public officials and others that have inflamed public debate and threaten to facilitate discrimination.

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

Erin Brockovich pushes for disease cluster law

Erin Brockovich, a U.S. consumer health advocate whose life story was the basis for an Academy Award-winning film, urged senators to pass a law to document disease clusters in the United States. A disease cluster is an unusual number of health events, such as reports of cancer, grouped together in a time and location, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

For more of this story by Deborah Zabarenko, read here.

From elsewhere…

Alleged escapades of Bronx Zoo’s missing Cobra posted on Twitter

It may be weeks before the escaped cobra from New York’s Bronx Zoo is found, but the highly poisonous snake has seized the pop-culture moment with a fake Twitter account of her sightseeing adventures around Manhattan. @BronxZoosCobra, purportedly posted by the female adolescent Egyptian cobra that went missing from the zoo’s Reptile House on Saturday, had 30,000 followers by midday Tuesday. “Holding very still in the snake exhibit at the Museum of Natural History,” read one message. “This is gonna be hilarious!”

For more of this story, read here.

Photo credit: Reuters/China Photos (worker performs with cobra in China, Aug. 7, 2004)

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