Washington Extra – A vision

April 12, 2011

One thing clear about President Barack Obama’s much-anticipated speech on reducing the long-term deficit is that the White House believes it will be a vision to behold. USA/

“The president will lay out a vision and that vision will be clear,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said. But he refused to provide details and said to stay tuned.

Will there be numbers? Is it a plan? White House correspondents asked seeking clarity.

“I think that you can describe a vision as a plan,” Carney said. “I will not then go from there to get into specifics about what that vision-slash-plan-slash-concept will include.”

Obama will meet with congressional leaders to lay out his vision before delivering the speech tomorrow.

Will they find it simply divine or a mirage?

Here are our top stories from Washington…

Republican firebrand Bachmann fills Tea Party role

In a slow-starting 2012 Republican presidential field that lacks star power, Michele Bachmann is carving out a role as the polarizing Tea Party favorite with a dynamic, take-no-prisoners style. Often compared to Sarah Palin, the three-term congresswoman is still the longest of White House longshots. But her hard-right views and heated rhetoric have won fans among the conservative activists who can influence early Republican nominating contests.

For more of this story by John Whitesides, read here.

Factbox on key issues for potential Republican candidates, click here.

U.S. swaps crackdown looks to spare businesses

Energy companies, airlines and other end-users would be mostly exempt from putting up costly collateral when using uncleared swaps to hedge their business risks, under regulatory proposals. The proposals marked a step forward in a government push, now in its ninth month, to rein in Wall Street speculation in the $600-trillion off-exchange derivatives market, a source of instability in the devastating 2007-2009 financial crisis.

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

For an interactive timeline of the CFTC’s path to reform, click here.

U.S. spending deal gives SEC, CFTC modest increases

Securities and futures regulators would receive modest funding increases for fiscal year 2011 under the spending deal that averted a government shutdown. Both the SEC and the CFTC have said they need big budget increases to implement the Dodd-Frank financial regulation law that Congress enacted in 2010.

For more of this story by Sarah N. Lynch and Christopher Doering, read here.

Budget plan cuts food aid, stewardship programs

Programs that help poor mothers buy food and that share the cost of land stewardship would be cut under government-wide reductions. The cuts are part of an agreement that averted a government shutdown. Cuts totaling $2.6 billion would be made in Agriculture Department funds for this fiscal year. The USDA was expected to spend $108 billion this year, the bulk of it on public nutrition programs, such as food stamps and school lunches.

For more of this story by Charles Abbott, read here.

Tax hike, defense cuts in House Democrats’ budget

Taxes on the wealthy would rise, defense spending would fall and the budget deficit would shrink to a sustainable level by 2018 under a budget proposal outlined by the Democrats’ top budget official in the House of Representatives. The measure has virtually no chance of passing the Republican-controlled House, but it will give Democrats a chance to outline their own vision and deflect charges that they are not fully engaged in a fight over spending and taxation that is likely to shape the 2012 elections.

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

U.S. trade gap falls in Feb as trade contracts

The trade deficit shrank in February as a slowdown in demand both at home and abroad hit imports and exports, prompting analysts to scale back their forecasts for economic growth in early 2011. The trade gap totaled $45.8 billion, down 2.6 percent from January despite another monthly rise in oil prices to their highest since October 2008, the Commerce Department said. The impact of the oil price jump was tempered by a drop in the volume of oil imports to the lowest in 12 years.

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

EPA looks at new rules for natgas ‘fracking’

The EPA is looking at how best to address wastewater discharges produced by natural gas “fracking,” and may revise regulations on wastewater from coal bed methane extraction. Hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking” — an extraction method that involves blasting water, chemicals and sand into shale rock to release trapped gas — has raised concerns about its impact on the environment. Additional scrutiny comes as the Obama administration looks for ways to reduce imports of foreign oil and boost natural gas development.

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

From elsewhere…

Romney’s jobs record to be scrutinized in race

Republican heavyweight Mitt Romney, in a second bid for the White House, is promoting his private-sector business experience to show he could do better than President Obama at creating jobs.  But opponents will find fault in his record as a corporate raider in the 1980s and as Massachusetts governor when his performance on employment was mixed at best.

For more of this story, read here.

Opinion-Romney 2012: Is U.S. ready for its first buyout president?

Mitt Romney’s campaign launch for the Republican presidential nomination predictably avoided mentioning the Obamacare-like health plan he created as Massachusetts governor. But it also gently tiptoed around his financially successful career as a buyout boss. With the financial crisis still raw to voters, selling them on the first president to be drawn from the buyout barony will be tough.

For more of this column from Breakingviews columnist James Pethokoukis, read here.

Photo credit: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque (Obama closes his eyes)

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