Tales from the Trail

from Summit Notebook:

U.S. Commerce Secretary doesn’t like ring of Shanghai Silicon Valley

U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke says one thing he doesn't want to see is a Shanghai Silicon Valley develop from China's investment in clean energy.

He warned that if the United States doesn't move forward on clean energy, it risks falling behind China where the government is spending almost $100 billion a year to support renewable energy and clean energy efficiency.

And China is not doing it just to address climate change issues, but because it sees an economic opportunity. "They're really focusing investing in the clean energy field to serve the needs of the world," Locke said at the Reuters Washington Summit.

"And so that's why it's very important that we pass clean energy legislation because there's so many investors, entrepreneurs, venture capitalists who are sitting on the sidelines waiting for that certainty," he said. "They just want to know what the rules of the game are, what the tax incentives are, what the tax rules and regulations are before they commit."

The longer the U.S. government takes to pass comprehensive energy legislation, "the farther ahead the Chinese will be and we certainly do not want 10 years from now Shanghai and other parts of China to be the Silicon Valley of the clean energy field," Locke said.

Obama’s 3rd Commerce pick makes rounds in Senate

President Barack Obama’s third pick to head the Commerce Department, former Washington Governor Gary Locke, made the rounds in the U.S. Senate on Wednesday hoping to win support to be confirmed for the job.

OBAMA/NOMINEE LOCKEApparently escaping notice by most reporters, Locke waited with aides outside the Senate chamber as lawmakers cast votes on the $410 billion fiscal 2009 spending legislation which includes the Commerce Department.

He is the president’s third nominee for the position. Obama’s first choice, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, withdrew because of an inquiry into a company that did business with his state government. His second pick, New Hampshire Republican Senator Judd Gregg pulled out after discovering intractable political differences with the new administration.

The First Draft: “Nobody messes with Joe”

One decent laugh line in President Barack Obama’s address to Congress had to do with Vice President Joe Biden and his new assignment in the financial crisis. Obama gave Biden the task of overseeing the recovery process. The Capitol Hill audience broke up when the president announced Biden’s new task:

“With a plan of this scale comes enormous responsibility to get it right and that’s why I’ve asked Vice President Biden to lead a tough, unprecedented oversight effort, ’cause nobody messes with Joe.”

That was last night. This morning, Biden made the rounds of the morning talk shows. On NBC’s “Today” program, he said his wife Jill — shown in the gallery during Tuesday’s nationally televised speech — was skeptical about the “nobody messes with Joe” line. But then he got down to business, telling the “Early Show” on CBS television that his first move is to meet with Cabinet members “to make sure I know specifically … what resources they have available, how they’re going to distribute those resources, how we’re going to follow the money.”

First draft: commerce conundrum

How many people does President Barack Obama have to nominate before he finally gets a Commerce Secretary? He himself doesnt seem to know — he even suggested reaching back in time and tapping Abraham Lincoln for the job.

But for live candidates, so far it’s two and counting. One close ally (Bill Richardson), one RepublicaUSA/n who seemed — initially —  willing to work with the Democratic president (Judd Gregg). At least until yesterday when he changed his mind.

That left Obama, who was visiting the land of Lincoln in Springfield, Illinois, on Thursday, to muse that the 16th president might be sitting somewhere “maybe wondering if someone might call him up and ask him to be commerce secretary.”

Feingold calls pick of Gregg replacement ‘undemocratic’

OBAMA/GREGGWASHINGTON — Senate Democrat Russ Feingold denounces as “alarmingly undemocratic” the apparent deal-making that went into picking a Senate successor to U.S. commerce secretary-designee Judd Gregg.

Feingold sees the selection as fresh ammo in his drive to amend the U.S. Constitution to require that vacant Senate seats be filled by a special election rather than a gubernatorial appointment.

President Barack Obama nominated Gregg, New Hampshire’s three-term Republican senator, as commerce secretary on Tuesday. Democratic New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch named a Republican, Bonnie Newman, as Gregg’s Senate replacement — if Gregg is confirmed, as expected, by the Democratic-led Senate.

New Hampshire governor indicates he will replace Gregg with a Republican

5WASHINGTON — New Hampshire Governor John Lynch appears to have cleared the way, at least politically, for Democratic President Barack Obama to name Republican Senator Judd Gregg as U.S. commerce secretary.
Lynch, a Democrat, indicated in a brief statement on Monday that he would yield to Gregg’s demands and appoint a Republican to replace him in the Senate if Obama, as anticipated, picks the 61-year-old New Hampshire senator as head of the U.S. Commerce Department.
A Senate Democratic aide wrote in an e-mail to Reuters that if Obama picks Gregg, Lynch will indeed replace him with another Republican in order not to upset the balance of power in the Democratic-led Senate.
If Gregg was replaced by a Democrat and Minnesota’s Al Franken survived a court challenge of his apparent victory, Democrats would have 60 seats in the 100-member Senate, enough to ram through Republican procedural roadblocks.
Gregg did not want to do that to his fellow Republicans.
“I have had conversations with Senator Gregg, the White House and U.S. Senate leadership,” Lynch said in the statement issued by his office.
“Senator Gregg has said he would not resign his seat in the U.S. Senate if it changed the balance in the Senate. Based on my discussions, it is clear the White House and Senate leadership understand this as well.”
Without specifically saying he would replace Gregg with a Republican, Lynch said: “It is important that President Obama be able to select the advisors he feels are necessary to help him address the challenges facing our nation.
“If President Obama does nominate Senator Gregg to serve as Commerce Secretary, I will name a replacement who will put the people of New Hampshire first and represent New Hampshire effectively in the U.S. Senate.”

Photo credit: Senator Gregg’s website (http://gregg.senate.gov/public/)

Obamas narrow choices on family dog

USA/WASHINGTON – U.S. President-elect Barack Obama says his family’s decision about a family dog has been more difficult than choosing a new Commerce secretary, but he, his wife and daughters are getting closer to a decision.
“We’re closing in on it,” Obama said in an interview with ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos”. He said his daughters, Malia, 10, and Sasha, 7, had decided they wanted a medium-sized dog and were looking closely at a labradoodle or a Portuguese water hound.
Obama also said the girls wanted a shelter dog.
The president-elect promised his daughters during the campaign that whether he won or lost the election, he would grant their wish for a dog.
Their choices of dog breeds are limited because they need to pick one that is hypoallergenic because of Malia’s allergies.
“This has been tougher than finding a Commerce secretary,” Obama said. His initial pick for that post, Bill Richardson, withdrew from consideration saying a legal inquiry in his home state would have complicated his Senate confirmation for the job.
The Obamas, who are staying at the posh Hay-Adams hotel across from the White House and will move into the executive mansion in just over a week, are also looking at local Washington churches.
The Obamas used to attend the Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, but left after a controversy developed over controversial comments by Trinity’s former pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright.
“One of the things that Michelle and I will be doing is probably visiting some churches and seeing what’s comfortable,” Obama said.
“It is tougher as president,” adding that visiting churches can be difficult because of security involved when he goes anywhere within Washington.
“You don’t want to subject your fellow church members, the rest of the congregation, to being magged (walking through metal detectors) every time you go to church. And so, we’re going to try to be balancing, not being disruptive to the city, but also saying we want to be part of Washington D.C.,” Obama said.

For more Reuters political news, click here.

- Photo credit: Reuters/Jim Young (Obama family visits the Lincoln Memorial on Jan. 10.)