Tales from the Trail

Washington Extra – Mistakes were made

Anyone in public office for more than a nanosecond is likely to have words and deeds come back to haunt them. New political realities sometimes demand a new world view 180 degrees from the old one. And then comes the explanation.

President Barack Obama, who is urging Congress to raise the debt ceiling, is finding his 2006 Senate vote against raising the debt limit when George W. Bush was president has come back to bite him. OBAMA/

The White House has decided to confront the discrepancy head-on.

Asked about the five-year-old vote, White House spokesman Jay Carney said the president “now believes it was a mistake.”

And then Carney proceeded to inject the fear of calamity into the debate, saying failure to raise the debt limit would be “Armaggedon-like,” “devastating,” “dangerous,” “catastrophic,” and let’s not forget “calamitous.”

In 2006, Obama said: “Increasing America’s debt weakens us domestically and internationally. Leadership means that ‘the buck stops here.’ Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better.”

Who are you calling non-essential? Revelations of a government shutdown

There’s always been a lot of talk about the haves and have-nots.

These days in Washington it’s about the essentials and non-essentials. USA/

The two classes of federal workers would be starkly revealed by a government shutdown if Congress and the White House fail to reach an agreement on spending by midnight Friday.

Those deemed to be non-essential, an estimated 800,000 federal workers, would be furloughed if the government shuts down as it did 15 years ago.

Here are some comments from “non-essential” workers on CNNMoney.com and the Huffington Post.

As Tea Party cranks up heat on Congress, poll shows public support waning

The Tea Party is coming to Washington to turn up the heat on the Congress — just as a new poll finds that public support for it has waned.

Members of the conservative Tea Party movement plan to hold a rally on Thursday outside the U.S. Capitol, urging Republicans to stand firm in their showdown with Democrats over proposed spending cuts.

While the Tea Party helped Republicans win power in last year’s elections, nearly half of all Americans now have an USA-POLITICS/unfavorable view of it, according to CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released on Wednesday.

And today’s word from Washington is … stalemate

BRITAINCongress has it. Gaddafi wants it. And President Obama is trying to figure out how best to avoid it. What is it?  The answer: stalemate (noun \ˈstāl-ˌmāt\) … that unsatisfying state of affairs in which there can be no action or progress.

Admiral Mike Mullen, the four-star U.S. Joint Chiefs chairman, conceded the possibility of a stalemate in Libya way back on March 20, a day after U.S. forces and their allies started raining high explosives on Muammar Gaddafi’s military infrastructure and ground forces.

The acknowledgment raised worries that a stalemate would allow Gaddafi’s government to live to fight another day — in perpetuity – while delivering an embarrassing defeat to the U.S. and its allies.

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.

Washington Extra – Let’s talk

Members of Congress have been complaining all week (while out of town on a weeklong break) that they weren’t given enough information when President Barack Obama moved ahead with military action on Libya.

OBAMA-LATINAMERICA/What is the goal in Libya? How will the goal be achieved? Explain, explain, explain! they demanded (while Obama was on a Latin America trip).

So today, Obama held a conference call with leaders of Congress from both parties to consult on Libya, and he plans to address the public in the “very near future” (although not today), White House spokesman Jay Carney said. “We take the need to consult very seriously,” he said.

Petraeus says budget delays not affecting Afghan war… yet

The commander of international forces in Afghanistan is keeping a wary eye on budget battles in Congress these days.

General David Petraeus says failure to pass a budget this year has noUSA/t yet complicated the war effort against al Qaeda.

But there’s a point at which it will begin to have an impact, he told an event  sponsored by the National Journal on Friday at the Newseum.

Washington Extra – Same page

Alarm over Japan’s nuclear crisis prompted a slumping stock market to slump some more in a third day of selling.

The United States and Japan weren’t quite on the same page in terms of advice to the public. The State Department recommended that Americans living within 50 miles of the Fukushima nuclear plant evacuate or stay indoors, while Japan asked residents within 18 miles to do the same.

USA-BUDGET/Republicans and Democrats are still not on the same page as far as spending cuts go, which means back to the drawing board with a three-week reprieve from the sixth stopgap spending bill expected to pass Congress by Friday. Talks will get an added kick when the latest temporary funding bill is passed, but in a divided Congress bipartisan deals become a fairly lofty goal.

Boehner confident on getting budget deal, but admits it won’t be easy

House Speaker John Boehner, facing somewhat of a revolt in Republican ranks, says “it is not going to be easy” to craft and win passage of a bipartisan deal to cut spending and fund the government for the rest of this fiscal year.

USA-POLITICS/REPUBLICANSBut the top U.S. Republican said he remains confident that it will be done — somehow, some way.

“We never thought it was going to be easy,” Boehner said a day after the House passed a short-term funding bill that 54 of his 240 House Republican colleagues opposed.

from Summit Notebook:

Ag committee chair says new faces mean new dynamic on Capitol Hill

They are new, enthusiastic and changing the environment on Capitol Hill.

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas says "do not underestimate the effect" of the large number of freshmen lawmakers on his committee, which will sit down to overhaul U.S. farm subsidies next year. USA/

"This session of Congress is a little different from the ones I've participated in previously. A huge number of new members," Lucas said at a Reuters Global Food and Agriculture Summit. "I've got a very enthusiastic bunch of new faces."

It turns out that half of the House Agriculture Committee is new -- 16 of 26 Republicans and 7 of 20 Democrats.