Tales from the Trail

First draft: Wall Street CEOs, Geithner head to Hill for grilling

When Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner made his long-awaited speech on Tuesday to unveil the administration’s bank rescue plan, the stock market tanked. Traders said the nearly five percent drop was caused by a lack of specifics in Geithner’s announcement that the government would spend up to $2 trillion to mop up bad bank assets and revive lending.USA/

The main newspapers had banner headlines about the biggest one-day drop for Dow industrials since Dec. 1.

So what will happen today when Geithner heads to Capitol Hill to testify before the Senate Budget Committee? The market will also be watching as top Wall Street CEOs appear in a hearing with the House Financial Services committe to defend their use of $176 billion in taxpayer funds.

President Barack Obama continues his push for the $800 stimulus bill outside of Washington, traveling today to nearby Springfield, Virginia to talk about how jobs will be created with the new plan.

Meanwhile, his emissaries push forward in their efforts to help lawmakers on Capitol Hill hammer out a compromise agreement between the House and Senate versions of the stimulusLIFE-DOGS/ bill. Obama wants to have the final version on his desk by Feb. 16.

First draft: Spin after the news conference

OBAMA/White House press secretary Robert Gibbs made the rounds of the morning television talk shows today to reiterate what his boss said last night in his first presidential news conference: Congress must pass an economic stimulus package to help avoid dire consequences.

Gibbs said on NBC’s “Today Show” that Obama was willing to “do whatever it takes, with Democrats or Republicans to make sure that he gets something on his desk quickly that gets help to the hands of the American people.”

Obama continues his road show today, traveling to Florida where he is expected to focus heavily on the home foreclosure crisis that’s hit the United States — particularly hard in Ft. Myers, Florida .

The First Draft: roller coasters

JAPAN/All eyes will be on Capitol Hill today as the Senate moves closer to a vote on the massive $900 billion stimulus bill. Lawmakers added expanded help for home buyers late last night in a bid to attract much-needed Republican support, but it’s still unclear whether Democrats have enough votes to pass the measure.

In a Washington Post opinion piece, President Barack Obama urged Congress not to strip out ambitious efforts to upgrade schools, boost energy effiency and upgrade crumbling bridges and highways.

Voters “have no patience for the same old partisan gridlock that stands in the way of action while our economy continues to slide,” Obama wrote.

First Draft: rough patch

The first presidential apology — “I screwed up”  — making the rounds today.

Apparently President Barack Obama does not subscribe to the rules of Gibbs in the TV drama NCIS (not to be confused with the White House spokesman also named Gibbs) who drills into his minions that saying you’re sorry is a sign of weakness.

The Daschle drama is over and there appears to be a certain sense of relief that the former health secretary nominee’s tax tribulations are not going to dominate the news for much longer.

First Draft: cooling off

Let it snow. Why should London have all the fun? Washington weather calls for a few inches, just enough for a snowball fight for hearty Midwesterners like President Barack Obama.

But guard that snow gear. The New York Times says reports of stolen snowplows are up in cold-weather states as the economy declines.

USA-OBAMA/Speaking of the declining economy, Obama doing separate interviews this afternoon with just about every TV channel in the vicinity of the White House — ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, and FOX.

First draft: Now back to the economy

After a day of foreign policy, attention returns to the economy on Friday.

President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden will meet with Democratic and Republican congressional leaders to talk about the economy. They will also hold a budget meeting and Obama will meet with Treasury Secretary-designate Timothy Giethner who won backing from the Senate Finance Committee on Thursday.

One of Obama’s concerns has been to make sure CEO pay stays in check. A big item in the news today is that former chief executive of Merrill Lynch John Thain — once a darling of Wall Street for selling Merrill to Bank of America — was ousted from the bank, which has been promised a $20 billion captial injection from the government.
MERRILL/US
Many of the morning television shows focused on Thain’s rampant spending decorating his office. News organizations are calling “corporate pig out” for spending more than one million dollars on redecorating. One example: an $87,000 rug. He also speeded up the payment of bonuses to Merrill executives just before the merger closed with Bank of America.

For more Reuters political news, click here

- Photo credit: Reuters/Punit Paranjpe (Thain at news conference in Mumbai in May)

The First Draft: tax torture

The second round of Barack Obama‘s cabinet picks undergo their Capitol Hill hazing today. Who else screwed up on their taxes? Our elected representatives are sure to find out.

USA-OBAMA/ANNOUNCMENTConfirmation hearings today: Tom Vilsack for Agriculture Secretary; Lisa Jackson for the Environmental Protection Agency; Peter Orszag at the Office of Management and Budget; and Erik Shinseki at Veterans Affairs.

Keep an eye on Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley. He’s the one who revealed that Timothy Geithner, who as Treasury Secretary would oversee the IRS, made a hash of his tax returns. Will Grassley make the issue more than simply an embarrassment for the Obama administration’s top money man?

The First Draft: Hillary on the hot seat

Obama’s dream team faces its first test on Tuesday as the Senate holds confirmation hearings for Hillary Clinton and several other Cabinet picks.

The hearings will provide a sneak peak at relations between the Obama administration and Congress. Obama’s fellow Democrats control both chambers, but that’s no guarantee of smooth sailing.

USA/Clinton, nominated for Secretary of State, will have to answer some pointed questions about hubby Bill’s globe-trotting activities, but observers expect her to win confirmation easily. The fun begins at 9:30 EST.

The First Draft: Friday, Jan. 9

FINANCIAL/

Who gets the billions?

The incoming Obama administration is preparing a major overhaul of the $700 billion financial bailout amid rising complaints in Congress that the payouts are not going to the right people.

The Washington Post reports that Treasury Secretary nominee Timothy Geithner and top Obama economic adviser Larry Summers have been looking at ways to broaden the bailout to include more help for homeowners facing foreclosure as well as to generate loans for municipalities, small businesses and consumers — and not just the financial giants that helped to create the mess.

Obama, meanwhile, is expected to formally announce his picks for top intelligence posts at a news conference around 10:45 a.m. EST. Obama’s choice to head the CIA, former chief of staff in the Clinton White House Leon Panetta, has drawn fire from some security insiders who complain that he lacks experience on intelligence matters.

The First Draft: Tuesday, Jan. 6

MALAYSIA

On a dark and drippy Washington morning, President-elect Barack Obama meets with his economic advisers to discuss the 2010 budget.

At the White House, President George W. Bush will create the biggest protected marine area on the planet, a trio of national monuments in the Pacific.

The new U.S. Congress convenes today, with clouds hanging over two Democrats: Roland Burris of Illinois and Al Franken of Minnesota.