Tales from the Trail

Washington Extra – Sharp tongues

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.

As Obama speaks, Democrats target GOP’s Ryan

RTXCDYH_Comp-150x150President Barack Obama may grab all the headlines with his State of the Union address. But Democrats want the GOP’s chosen responder, Paul Ryan, to share the spotlight — as poster boy for politically unpopular ideas that could be used against Republicans in 2012.

Here’s New York Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer’s take on Ryan on that electorally tender topic, Social Security. “What Paul Ryan suggests — privatization — is really a dismantling of Social Security,” he tells MSNBC’s Morning Joe.

More than that, Schumer says Ryan epitomizes policies that are straight out of the 1920s, those heady days of flappers, speakeasys and laissez-faire good times that preceded the Great Depression.

Senator Coburn’s waste line — $11.5 billion in 2010 spending

Republican Senator Tom Coburn has released his “Wastebook 2010″ report, a list of government spending that adds up to over $11.5 billion which he considers wasteful.

It includes burping cows, Vidalia onions, a 2,500-year-old mummy, and finding love on the Internet. USA-TAXES/

“Even those lucky enough to have jobs have had to tighten their belts.  Yet, Congress continues to find new and extravagant ways to waste tax dollars,” Coburn said in a statement.

Washington Extra – Goldilocks Geithner

Not too hot, not too cold, just right.geithner18

U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner performed a delicate balancing act on the Hill today. On the one hand, Geithner had to tell an increasingly angry Congress that he was serious about trying to persuade China to revalue its currency, the yuan. On the other, he wanted to head off the kind of unilateral action from Congress that could provoke a trade war, and endanger the administration’s efforts to engage Beijing on a whole slew of issues.

Democratic Senator Charles Schumer raged that “China’s currency manipulation is like a boot to the throat of our recovery,” and accused Geithner of being the only person in the room who did not believe China was manipulating its currency.

“I share your frustration,” was the first part of Geithner’s message to Congress, acknowledging that the pace of the yuan’s appreciation had been too slow. But leave the response to us was the other, unspoken part of the message today. The administration would use the upcoming G20 summit in Seoul in November to try to mobilize other world powers to pressure China for trade and currency reforms, Geithner vowed, adding officials were looking at all the tools at their disposal to “encourage” the Chinese to move more quickly.

Geithner tells Congress: calling China names doesn’t get you anywhere

U.S. lawmakers are mad and want Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner to step in and call China a name – ”currency manipulator” — which may not sound like much on city streets but can be quite an insult in world financial circles.

“At a time when the U.S. economy is trying to pick itself up off the ground, China’s currency manipulation is like a boot to the throat of our recovery. This administration refuses to try and take that boot off our neck.” That’s not a Republican raging against President Barack Obama’s Treasury Secretary, it’s Senator Charles Schumer, a Democrat from New York (where Wall Street happens to be located). USA/

“Mr. Secretary, although there may be some modest disagreement about what to do, I’m increasingly coming to the view that the only person in this room who believes that China is not manipulating its currency is you,” Schumer said.

Senate honors Ted Stevens with moment of silence, summer recess

The Senate honored Ted Stevens, the former Senator from Alaska who was killed in a plane crash this week, with a moment of silence, a resolution and an end-of-summer recess.

Stevens, who served in the Senate for 40 years until he lost the 2008 election amid a corruption scandal, was on a fishing trip with a small group of  friends when their small plane crashed in a remote area of Alaska.

The Senate returned to session on Thursday to give final approval to legislation to provide $600 million to strengthen security along the border with Mexico in the latest measure aimed at fighting illegal immigration, a highly politically sensitive issue in this midterm election year.

Schumer vs. Facebook

schumerCharles Schumer, the senior senator from New York, is concerned about the protection of  private information people give to Facebook and other social networking websites. And the Democrat wants new federal guidelines to help members of  these online communities keep control over how their personal details “can be shared or disseminated to third parties.”

Schumer (or someone posting on his behalf) says so on his Facebook page. He also posted a press release on his page and echoed concerns about privacy on social networking sites on Sunday at a news conference in his Manhattan office.

Schumer told reporters he wants to make sure private information isn’t given away without the user’s permission.

Most Americans want Republican input on healthcare – poll

Most Americans want President Obama and the Democrats to jettison the healthcare bill they almost got together before USA-HEALTHCARE/WELLNESSthis week’s political earthquake in Massachusetts and instead look for something Republicans can support.

That’s according to a new USA Today/Gallup poll which says 55 percent of Americans want work stopped on a House-Senate compromise between Democrats, while 39 percent want the Democrats to press on.

In fact, a sizable minority — 46 percent of the 1,010 adults surveyed — say healthcare reform is important but should not be Obama’s top legislative priority. Nineteen percent say healthcare shouldn’t be a major priority at all.
USA-POLITICS/BROWN
The poll was conducted the day after Republican Scott Brown won Ted Kennedy’s dyed-in-the-wool-Democratic-blue Senate seat in Massachusetts. The findings have a 4 percentage point margin of error.

Schumer calls foul on Adidas’ NBA uniform plan

nbaNew York Senator Chuck Schumer has called a foul on German sports equipment giant Adidas AG and its plans to shift production of official National Basketball Association uniforms to Thailand from a factory in upstate New York.

In a statement, Schumer said the shift could cut some 100 jobs at American Classic Outfitters in Perry, New York, which has made official NBA gear for about 40 years.

“It is flat wrong for Adidas to move the production of the jerseys worn by NBA players outside the United States when there are U.S. companies that have done this work so well for so long,” the Democratic lawmaker said in a statement.

The First Draft: US healthcare reform as a tale of two cities

“…it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way…”
    
Charles Dickens never met U.S. senators Chuck Schumer of New York and Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas. But he may have inadvertently captured the partisan spirit of the U.S. healthcare reform debate when he published his novel, “A Tale of Two Cities,” with its famous introduction, 150 years ago.
    
Democrat Chuck and Republican Kay made clear on NBC’s Today show how many in their respective parties see the sweeping overhaul legislation that reached the U.S. Senate floor over the weekend. And by the sound of things, Washington could be two different cities. 
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Chuck seemed to present healthcare reform as a vehicle for economic salvation: “The future of the country depends on getting something done or the government will go broke, private businesses will go broke and people will go broke.”  

Or could reform lead in that other direction?    

Here’s Kay: “We are in a jobless situation in our country, an economic crisis. You are going to put taxes and mandates on business that are going to make that situation even worse. One in 10 people in America today do not have a job. Now you’re putting mandates and taxes on every individual who doesn’t have healthcare and every business that we want to ask to hire people. And yet you’re putting taxes and mandates on them that makes this unaffordable. This is a terrible idea at this time.” CONGRESS JUDGES
    
Of course, partisan differences will mean little if Democrats can retain the same 60-vote, Republican-filibuster-proof sense of community that got the bill to the floor in the first place.
    
Chuck seems confident: “We will come together for this reason. The healthcare system is broken in this sense: Medicare will be broke in seven years, private insurance doubles every six years (and) tens of millions will lose it. If we don’t do anything, that is the worst situation. And we have a good bill that cuts costs, reduces the deficit and covers more people.”
    
Either way, it’s bound to be one dickens of a debate. 

Photo credits: Reuters/Chip East (Schumer); Reuters/Jonathan Ernst (Hutchison)