Washington Extra – Comfort zones

July 5, 2011

Senators are talking. The president is talking. But whether they are talking at or with each other is another question.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid pulled a Libya resolution so that senators could focus on debt issues this week, which after all was the reason why they cancelled recess.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell invited President Barack Obama to Capitol Hill to hear why a debt deal with tax increases won’t fly. And then he accepted an invitation from Obama to meet at the White House on Thursday with other congressional leaders.

Obama updated his schedule to comment on debt negotiations. He urged both parties to get out of their “comfort zones” and to leave ultimatums and political rhetoric at the door.

That’s a tall order, but herding everyone into the same room is at least a step.

Here are our top stories from Washington…

U.S. debt deal not that far out of reach

You would never know it from all the hot air rising out of Washington, but President Obama and congressional Republicans could easily reach a deal to raise the debt limit. Before talks hit a brick wall last weekend, negotiators were tantalizingly close to a $2 trillion-plus deal that would enable Congress to sign off on further borrowing, according to sources. Since then, things have not looked good.

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

Obama to meet Congress leaders Thursday on debt

President Barack Obama rejected proposals for a short-term deal to raise the U.S. debt limit, pressuring congressional leaders to reach a broad agreement within two weeks to avoid a government default by August 2.

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

IMF’s Lagarde signs up to tougher ethics code

Christine Lagarde has signed up for tougher ethical rules than her predecessor as the lender seeks to inoculate itself from further hits to its reputation in the aftermath of Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s resignation. “The contract makes more explicit the higher standards of ethics behavior,” IMF spokesman William Murray said.

For more of this story by Lesley Wroughton, read here.

House Republicans defy Obama on trade bill add-on

Republican lawmakers set the stage for a second showdown with the White House over the Obama administration’s demand Congress pass legislation to help workers hurt by trade as part of a package of long-delayed trade deals. The House Ways and Means Committee said it would meet on Thursday to vote on draft bills to implement trade agreements with South Korea, Panama and Colombia that were each signed more than four years ago.

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

US judge may limit testimony in Clemens trial

The judge in the perjury trial of former baseball star Roger Clemens over alleged steroids use cast doubt on whether he will allow teammates to testify about using performance-enhancing drugs. With the trial set to begin on Wednesday, lawyers for Clemens and prosecutors sparred over who could testify about what and also whether the trial would start on time because of a new complication in obtaining evidence.

For more of this story by Jeremy Pelofsky, read here.

From elsewhere…

Shuttles’ end stirs doubts about U.S. space program

As the clock ticks down to this week’s space shuttle launch, there is a mounting sense of uncertainty about future dominance in space. Friday morning’s launch of shuttle Atlantis to the International Space Station will mark the end of an era in the U.S. manned spaceflight program. But former astronauts say the space program is in “disarray” and fear the end of the shuttles could mean a permanent decline in U.S. space leadership.

For more of this story, read here.

Photo credit: Reuters/Larry Downing (Obama talks about debt negotiations)

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