Tales from the Trail

Washington Extra – Turkey talks

November 22, 2011

The good news? Thanksgiving will not be interrupted by eleventh-hour negotiations by the “super committee” to strike a deal to cut the burgeoning deficit. After months of work, the 11 men and one woman called it quits today. Their statement said “it will not be possible to make any bipartisan agreement.” No mention of the word on everyone’s tongues: failure.

Even in the early days of the super committee, we are learning, hope was in short supply. At one of the early breakfast meetings, members kept saying how hard it would be to reach agreement. South Carolina’s  Democratic Representative James Clyburn said to his fellow panel members: “Do you want to know what’s hard? Desegregating South Carolina in the 1950s. I met my wife in jail.”

Right now, it’s hard to believe this Congress “can build on this committee’s work,” as the committee co-chairs said hopefully in their statement. There seems to be little faith left on the Hill. Just look at the harsh words from Republican Senator Olympia Snowe, who said the panel’s failure “represents yet another regrettable milestone in Congress’s steady march toward abject ineffectiveness.”

As our grade school grammar teachers would remind us, turkeys are done and people are finished. And the super committee? Done. Over. History.

Here are our top stories from Washington…

US deficit panel fails to reach deal
U.S. lawmakers abandoned their high-profile effort to rein in the country’s ballooning debt in a sign that Washington likely will not be able to resolve a dispute over taxes and spending until 2013. Republican and Democratic members of a 12-member congressional “super committee” said they were unable to resolve their significant differences as they ran up against a deadline to deliver a plan that would cut U.S. deficits by at least $1.2 trillion over 10 years.

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

For an analysis of the fallout from the panel failure, read here.

For a summary of experts views on what happens now, read here.

U.S. healthcare cuts minimal, more pain looms
The breakdown of deficit talks in Congress will exact little pain on the U.S. healthcare industry, but it’s a temporary reprieve from steeper cuts that could be put back on the table in 2013. The failure of the congressional “super committee” to reach a deal triggers a 2 percent across-the-board cut to Medicare. That translates into about $123 billion over the next decade — far lighter than the $500 billion to $700 billion in cuts that could have hit hospitals, doctors and beneficiaries, as well as insurers, drugmakers and nursing homes, if the panel had reached a deal.

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

Defense firms prep for fight beyond US super committee
Failure of a special U.S. congressional committee to strike a deficit-reduction deal is expected to unleash desperate lobbying by U.S. arms makers to get lawmakers to block $600 billion in automatic cuts. It would also likely erode the unified front that big weapons manufacturers have tried to present as they fought for months to stave off further cuts to the Pentagon budget. Behind the scenes, these companies have been sharpening their knives to fight each other as each struggles to maintain its share of a shrinking defense budget.

For more of this story by Andrea Shalal-Esa, read here.

Western states step up sanctions on Iran
The United States and European Union are set to impose more sanctions on Iran, with President Barack Obama ordering new sanctions on Iran’s energy and petrochemical sectors, Britain banning dealings with the central bank and France calling for measures on an “unprecedented scale” over Tehran’s nuclear program. The steps come in response to a report by the International Atomic Energy Agency suggesting Iran had worked on designing an atomic bomb and may still be secretly carrying out related research.

For more of this story by Arshad Mohammed and Glenn Somerville, read here.

For the story on new U.S. sanctions on Tehran, read here.

EPA delays carbon limits on oil refineries
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, struggling with an ambitious agenda on clean air regulations, said it will delay proposing the country’s first-ever greenhouse gas limits on oil refineries. The delay is the latest setback for the agency’s new raft of clean air rules on everything from smog to mercury pollution that is heavily opposed by industry.

For more of this story by Timothy Gardner, read here.

From elsewhere…

Gingrich backs privatized US Social Security for young
Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich called for the creation of private Social Security accounts for younger workers as a way to spur economic growth through new investment in stocks and bonds. The former House of Representatives speaker, now one of the front-runners for the Republican nomination to face President Barack Obama in 2012, outlined his ideas for reform of so-called government entitlement programs at St. Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire.

For more of this story, read here.

Insight: Lessons for U.S. from Canada’s “basket case” moment
Finance officials bit their nails and nervously watched the clock. There were 30 minutes left in a bond auction aimed at funding the deficit and there was not a single bid. Sounds like today’s Italy or Greece? No, this was Canada in 1994. Canada’s shift from pariah to fiscal darling provides lessons for Washington as lawmakers find few easy answers to the huge U.S. deficit and debt burden, and for European countries staggering under their own massive budget problems.

For more of this story, read here.

For more stories from our Washington correspondents visit www.reuters.com and stay informed.

Mary Milliken
Washington Bureau Chief

 

Photo Credit: REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst (U.S. Capitol dome in Washington November 21, 2011.)

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