The new year begins on a quiet note in Washington, but lawmakers are preparing to hit the ground running next week when the 111th Congress will be seated.
Tales from the Trail
President-elect Barack Obama’s pecs were gone from the news Wednesday, replaced by Chicago shenanigans.
Newspapers and television covered the Obama team’s report detailing its contacts with Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
Blagojevich is charged with trying to sell the U.S. Senate seat Obama vacated after his November election victory.
The report cleared Obama and his aides of any misconduct. But it revealed for the first time that the president-elect sat for an interview last week with the U.S. prosecutor investigating Blagojevich. So did two of his aides.
President George W. Bush’s holiday pardons also made the newspapers.
Among those receiving pardons was Charlie Winters, who was imprisoned for 18 months breaking a weapons embargo against Israel by ferrying bombers to the new state in 1948, The New York Times reported.
Winters, an Irish protestant from Boston, is viewed as a hero in Israel. He died in 1984 at the age of 71.
Not on the pardons list: I. Lewis Libby, the former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, who was convicted of lying and obstructing justice during an investigation into who leaked the name of an undercover CIA operative.
Bush previously commuted Libby’s sentence.
Data out Wednesday showed new jobless claims jumped by 30,000 last week to a 26-year peak. Consumer spending posted a fifth monthly drop. Stock futures were little changed, pointing to a flat opening on Wall Street.
It’s Christmas Eve. Obama continued his holiday in Hawaii and Bush was at Camp David. Congress was in recess.
Not everyone was on holiday though. The folks at NORAD, the North American Aerospace Defense Command, were hard at work with their traditional Christmas Eve task – keeping an eye on Santa Claus.
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For Detroit’s struggling automakers, the wait continues.
There will be no word on the fate of the struggling industry’s financial bailout at least until President George W. Bush is safely home later on Monday after ducking shoes in Iraq and visiting U.S. troops in Afghanistan, the White House says.
Detroit CEOs drive their hybrid cars over to the House of Representatives for another serving of humble pie this morning. But it’s still not clear if they’ll get the $34 billion bailout they’re looking for, as several senators remained skeptical after yesterday’s testimony on that side of the Capitol.
Testimony before the House Financial Services Committee begins at 9:30 a.m.
President-elect Barack Obama will continue to fill out his Team of Rivals when he names New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson as Commerce Secretary at a press conference scheduled for 11:40 a.m. EST For those of you keeping score at home, that means at least three members of his administration will be former Democratic presidential candidates – Richardson, Vice President-elect Joe Biden, and Secretary of State pick Hillary Clinton.
We can’t wait to see what he has in mind for Dennis Kucinich.
On the Hill, lawmakers will continue to weigh U.S. automakers’ restructuring proposals ahead of hearings later this week. The heads of Ford, General Motors and Chrysler, chastened from their skeptical reception last month, are driving from Detroit this time — and they’re confident they’ll get here in good shape.
“Our cars don’t have car trouble,” GM president Fritz Henderson said on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”
Major indexes dropped to their lowest level since 2003 yesterday and U.S. stock futures are pointing to another plunge today as investors worry about the fate of U.S. carmakers and the spectre of a prolonged economic downturn.
Just how bad is it? Well, here’s another sign of the impending apocalypse: the Labor Department reported at 8:30 a.m. EST that jobless claims are at their highest level in 16 years.
Please sir, can I have some more? CEOs of General Motors, Ford and Chrysler make their case for a $25 billion bailout to the House of Representatives, one day after enduring a skeptical reception in the Senate. A vote could come as early as today, but Senate backers say they might not have the support they need.
Testimony to the House Financial Services Committee gets underway at 10 a.m.
In Chicago, President-elect Barack Obama continues to assemble his administration. Eric Holder, a former Justice Department official under President Bill Clinton, emerged yesterday as a possible pick for attorney general, while the Wall Street Journal reports that Clinton himself offered to submit his future charitable and business activities for ethics review if wife Hillary is tapped for Secretary of State.
The Senate returns to debate a bailout for struggling automakers and consider additional stimulus money to prop up the struggling economy.
Democrats hope to pass both measures in their brief “lame duck” session, but they face opposition from Republicans in the chamber as well as President George W. Bush, who reiterated on Monday morning that any Detroit aid should come from the $700 billion already appropriated to prop up the economy.
In Chicago, President-elect Barack Obama will meet at noon EST with John McCain, his recent rival for the White House. “It’s well known that they share an important belief that Americans want and deserve a more effective and efficient government, and will discuss ways to work together to make that a reality,” Obama’s transition team said on Monday.
Obama and McCain will be joined by their two favorite wingmen — future White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, respectively.
McCain might put in a good word for New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, who is reported to be on Obama’s short list for Secretary of State. McCain and Clinton downed vodka shots together on a trip to Estonia a few years back.
Back in the Senate, the Finance Committee will cross-examine the man who has been nominated to oversee the $700 billion bailout program. Neil Barofsky, the assistant U.S. attorney in the Southern District of New York who has been nominated to be Special Inspector General of the Treasury Department’s Troubled Assets Relief Program, testifies at 2 p.m.
The House is not in session, but new members elected two weeks ago are in town for an orientation session and a class photo. House Democratic leaders say they will quickly pass any bailout packages that clear the Senate.
U.S. stocks are expected to open lower as investors continue to fear a deep and lengthy global recession. According to one group of economists, we’re already there: real GDP is expected to fall 2.6 percent in the final quarter of this year and 1.3 percent in the first three months of 2009, according to a survey of 50 professional forecasters conducted by the National Association of Business Economists.