Tales from the Trail

Washington Extra – Let’s do lunch

Mending fences is clearly the White House play of the week.

USA/First a visit to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, now lunch with Republican leaders from Capitol Hill. What next?

President Barack Obama at 12:30 p.m. tomorrow will host House Speaker John Boehner and his lieutenants Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Republican Whip Kevin McCarthy (that’s two of the three “Young Guns” of Capitol Hill).

Discussion will be heavy on the economy and spending. But if the Republicans are hoping for a heads-up on Obama’s budget proposal, they will be disappointed. “We will save that for them and for you for Monday,” White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters.

(So who’s going to be pumping whom for information at that table?)

They will break bread at lunch, but it’s not exactly a tea party…

Take a look at today’s story by Corbett Daly, Rachelle Younglai and Margaret Chadbourn in which they obtained from sources details about the administration’s proposal to reduce government support of the mortgage market.

Here are our top stories from Washington today…

US plans to raise cost of govt backed mortgages-sources

The Obama administration will propose raising the cost of loans backed by the Federal Housing Administration as part of a plan to reduce government support of the mortgage market to below 50 percent, sources said. The White House is considering shrinking Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s $1.5 trillion mortgage portfolios within 10 years. The plan would give the private sector a dominant role in the housing market and reduce the government’s support to below 50 percent within five to seven years after the plan is adopted.

Washington Extra – Fruitcake diplomacy

If only he’d sent fruitcake…

USA/President Barack Obama is clearly trying to make nice with the business community and he promised the Chamber of Commerce a new friendly era after two years of coldness.

The White House and U.S. Chamber of Commerce can see each other across a park, but until recently acted like the other was on the wrong side of the tracks.

But it’s never too late to make-up in Washington, where yesterday’s enmities are often tomorrow’s alliances.

Feds unlikely to launch campaign finance probe anytime soon

For weeks, leading Democrats have castigated pro-Republican special interest groups involved in the current election campaign for what they describe as secretive fundraising practices. USA/

In an effort to call further attention to the activities of groups like American Crossroads GPS, a political fundraising committee which GOP guru Karl Rove helped to set up, some prominent Democrats and non-partisan election watchdogs have written law enforcement agencies demanding official investigations.

But there is little indication that any relevant agency is going to launch an  in-depth probe anytime soon.

Washington Extra -Soothing business, suing business

President Barack Obama had some soothing words for business leaders at the White House today, telling them that, despite some impressions to the contrary, he was really on their side after all. Financial regulatory reform was necessary, but “it is important now that there is a period of healing and consolidation and implementation that is less disruptive.”

Presumably the head of American Express was not invited to the meeting, on the day that the Justice Department decided to sue the company, saying its rules preventing merchants from encouraging consumers to use cheaper, rival cards violate antitrust law.amex It is the latest salvo in the administration’s battle with credit card companies, who it accuses of scalping consumers. Amex typically charges higher fees to merchants than rival cards, with the justification that its clients are richer and spend more.

Advocates of the government’s action say credit cards cost significantly more in the United States than abroad, and tough measures are required to open up the market and protect consumers. But the American Bankers Association expressed some valid doubts that merchants would actually pass on any savings from the Justice Department’s action to those consumers.

Obama seeks help, Clinton (Bill) to the rescue?

In the latest twist in the Obama-Clinton family drama, the current president has enlisted the past president to help shore up sagging confidence in his economic leadership and repair his tattered relationship with business.  OBAMA/

Barack Obama has asked Clinton to come to his meeting with business leaders today to discuss job creation and investment. That is a day after he also enlisted the help of long-time Clintonista Jack Lew to be his budget director after he presided over surpluses during Bill’s tenure.

It is quite a transformation in the Obama-Clinton relationship, from bitter foe with a dash of alpha male rivalry during the primaries (when the other Clinton was running for president), to rock solid partners in the Democratic cause.

Can Obama keep Democrats in line on healthcare to the end?

So President Barack Obama goes to Capitol Hill over the weekend and late Tuesday Senate Democrats reach a healthcare compromise on a public insurance option (Republicans oppose the legislation so every Democrat vote is needed to move it along). OBAMA/

Lots of day-after grumbling from both sides of the political spectrum: The Chamber of Commerce still opposes it and liberal activist group MoveOn.org said senators had “bargained away the heart of healthcare reform.”

Well, for critics it’s not likely to get any better on the public option front.