Tales from the Trail

Congress gets ready for lame duck, and it’s not even Thanksgiving

Congress returns next week for that peculiar order of business known as a lame-duck session. It’s a post-election gathering where lawmakers who lost re-election get to take any final votes, while newcomers who won in the Nov. 2 midterms have to sit it out.

The hot item to watch will be whether extending the Bush-era tax cuts will fly, but don’t expect any Peking duck, as legislation on China’s currency is unlikely to be on the menu. (Hey, it’s Friday).

All the duck talk got us to revisit the origin of the phrase “lame duck.”

It’s British! And it wasn’t even about politics.

NORTHERN IRELAND/The phrase originated in the London Stock Market, referring to investors who couldn’t pay their debts. The following are some citations at The Phrase Finder.

– In Horace Walpole’s Letters to Sir Horace Mann, 1761, there is: “Do you know what a Bull, and a Bear, and a Lame Duck are?”

from Reuters Investigates:

How to make friends and influence people

White House correspondent Caren Bohan's special report out today examines President Barack Obama's testy relationship with the business community.

OBAMA/After Tuesday's election, Obama was faced with the prospect of legislative gridlock. Republicans pushed Democrats decisively from power in the House of Representatives and strengthened their ranks in the Senate as voters vented frustration over the economy.

Now that the election is over, one idea that could gain traction is a payroll tax holiday to give consumers and businesses some extra cash. Obama had considered proposing it before the election but rejected it because of its cost. There is some openness at the White House to it now but much would depend on whether it seemed likely to gain bipartisan support.

Clinton sees diplomats of the future in cargo pants as well as pinstripes

CONGO-DEMOCRATIC/

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has urged Congress to finance a major new U.S. push on overseas development aid, arguing that only by building up a global middle class will the United States increase its own national security.

Clinton, in an article in Foreign Affairs magazine which previews a pending State Department report on diplomacy and development, says it is essential for Congress to keep the money flowing even as the United States grapples with its own financial problems at home.

“The American people must understand that spending taxpayer dollars on diplomacy and development is in their interest,” Clinton wrote, saying it was time to put to rest “old debates on foreign aid.”

Republican, Democratic party chiefs see victory in battle for the House

In dueling appearances on the Sunday morning news shows, the heads of the Democratic and Republican parties made the same  prediction — After the Nov. 2 elections, our guys will control the House.

mike_sarahRepublican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele says his party’s going into the final campaign stretch on a winning combination of momentum, excitement and energy.

“There is a vibration out here that is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before, Steele said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Ben Quayle’s famous last name a double-edged sword in Arizona House race

David Schwartz takes a look at the latest Quayle seeking to go to Washington.

Ben Quayle knows how to spell potato.

The son of former vice president Dan Quayle also knows that his famous last name is a double-edged sword when running for elected office.

“You get name recognition right off the bat,” said Quayle, vying to represent the Third Congressional District in Arizona. “It also opens you up to more scrutiny and immediate ridicule. Some people enjoy picking on Quayle again.”

In his first run for office, the 33-year-old is regarded as the front-runner when voters in his Republican-heavy district go to the polls Nov. 2 to replace veteran GOP Rep. John Shadegg. Quayle faces Democrat Jon Hulburd.

Pelosi takes on Chamber of Commerce over campaign spending

The phrase “Buy American”  may be taking on a new connotation in the rough-and-tumble battle over corporate financing and the midterm congressional elections.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has been pumping lots of cash into the campaign, received multimillion dollar donations from some major companies as it fought against government policies, the New York Times reported Thursday.

pelosi“They give new meaning to the term “Buy American”…  they want to buy these elections,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said when asked about the article in an MSNBC interview.

How about an Ovaltine Latte with that doughnut Mr. Obama?

Trying to get out the vote for Democrats in danger of losing one or both houses of Congress on Nov. 2, President Barack Obama is pouring it on with up-close campaigning reminiscent of 2008 as he visits coffee shops and works rope lines.

USA/On a five-state Western tour, Obama began his morning on Thursday with a stop at the “Top Pot” doughnut shop in Seattle, which featured such delectables as Ovaltine Latte, honey-glazed doughnuts and assorted pastries.

“Hi guys. How are you? Good to see you,” Obama told the servers before placing an order for two dozen doughnuts that he shared with his staff and traveling reporters. (Those who sampled them gave rave reviews).

Are Obama’s approval ratings that bad? Maybe not, relatively speaking

USA-ELECTIONS/OBAMA

President Obama’s approval rating has been below 50 percent for most of 2010. But are things really so bad? Gallup suggests they’re not, relatively speaking.

In fact, Democratic incumbents who’ve shunned or tried to avoid associating with Obama may have denied themselves the chance to firm their own party base for an election contest that’s all about turnout.

The Obama approval rating, at the moment, stands in the mid- to low-40s and foreshadows stiff losses for congressional Democrats on Nov. 2. 

Reuters-Ipsos Poll: Obama approval drops to 43 pct driven by Democrats

President Barack Obama’s poll numbers keep going down, and it’s not the Republicans who are to blame.

USA/Obama’s approval rating fell to a new low of 43 percent since he took office, down from 47 percent last month, according to a Reuters-Ipsos national poll.

Ipsos pollsters say it appears that much of that drop comes from Democrats whose approval of Obama fell to 70 percent from 78 percent last month.

Washington Extra – Get out of town

Like schoolchildren gazing out the window on a sunny June day, Congress can’t wait for that final bell to ring. But lawmakers still need to hand in a final term paper before they can skip out the door. Instead, they’re asking the teacher for an extension. USA/

Before lawmakers head home on Wednesday or Thursday to campaign for reelection, they must pass a temporary spending bill to make sure the government can keep its lights on for the next several months.

Beyond all the speechifying, the basic job of Congress each year is to pass 12 spending bills that cover government operations for the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1. Each year, pretty much, they get the job done several months late. That plays havoc with federal agencies, which must continue to operate on last year’s budget while implementing this year’s operations.