Tales from the Trail

A Senate Christmas tale

(UPDATES with new Reid comments).

Christmas bells are ringing. But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid doesn’t seem to be listening. Much to the chagrin of staffers and more than a few senators, Reid is threatening to keep the Senate in session until Christmas Eve and beyond to finish all the legislative work that Congress failed to complete before the November elections.USA/

That amounts to just about a whole year’s worth of lawmaking. Congress never got around to passing any of the 12 spending bills that fund the government. So the Senate is expected to take up a $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill after senators voted to extend Bush-era tax cuts by two years and extend jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed for a year.

Reid earlier this week said “…we are going to complete our work, no matter how long it takes, in this Congress.”

Republican Leader Mitch McConnell vowed to fight the spending bill and Senator Jon Kyl suggested a Christmas reality check.

“It is impossible to do all of the things that the majority leader laid out … frankly, without disrespecting the institution and without disrespecting one of the two holiest of holidays for Christians and the families of all of the Senate, not just the senators themselves but all of the staff,” Kyl said.

Washington Extra – Time for a change, Take two

For the second time in two years, the American people have delivered a message of change, a message that they think Washington is broken. In 2008, Barack Obama took that message into the White House but has, at least according to these polls, failed to deliver change that most Americans readily believe in.

Now, the conservative Tea Party movement is riding what Kentucky’s new Senator-elect Rand Paul called a “tidal wave” right into the halls of power to “get our government back.”

USA-ELECTIONS/The change the Tea Party is proposing is, of course, very different from the agenda that Obama pursued. The question is whether the new kids on the block will be any more successful in handling the power they have now been granted.

Washington Extra – Gridlock and the fiscal deficit

summit

The term gridlock may have first entered the vocabulary during the 1980 New York transit strike, reportedly coined by “Gridlock Sam” Schwartz, chief traffic engineer in the city’s transport department.  In those days it was definitely not something to aspire to. It is a different story in 2010.

“Gridlock’s not all bad,” Republican Senator Richard Shelby told the Reuters Washington Summit today, citing the need to “slow things down” politically.  His fellow Senator and Tea Party champion Jim DeMint would probably go even further.

But is that really what lies in store after the midterm elections?

Republican and Democratic speakers on the first day of the summit agreed on one thing above all else: that the other party is to blame for the lack of bipartisanship in Washington.

Tea Party Express names its election-year ‘heroes,’ ‘targets’

U.S. Representative Joe Wilson — the South Carolina Republican who last year screamed at President Barack Obama, “You lie!” — is on its list of “heroes.”

So is Republican Senator Jim DeMint, also of South Carolina, who’s leading a charge to repeal Obama’s landmark overhaul of the U.S. healthcare system.

USA-TAX/The Tea Party Express, one of the most prominent groups in the conservative Tea Party movement, on Thursday wrapped up a 20-day nationwide tour with an event in Washington, D.C., where it formally announced its 14 “heroes” as well as 13 “targets.”

Amidst the shivering in Washington, the case for global warming

WEATHER/OK, it’s cold in Washington. It’s really cold. And snowy. And blizzardy. It’s hard to recall that long-ago moment — what was it, six days ago? — when you could go for a walk without cross-country skis and a flask of brandy. But just because it’s winter doesn’t mean global warming is a myth.

But the storms gave conservatives fresh fodder for mocking former Vice President Al Gore and his efforts on global climate change.  Senator Jim DeMint tweeted “It’s going to keep snowing in DC until Al Gore cries ‘uncle’,” Politico reported.

For decades, scientists have struggled to explain the difference between weather, which changes in the short term, and climate, which changes over the long term. There’s a good explanation at the new government Climate Service Web site called “Short term cooling on a warming planet.” The new site went up this week, between blizzards, and is supposed to guide consumers and businesses so they can adapt to climate change. The Climate Service itself is expected to be up and running by the start of the next U.S. fiscal year that begins on October 1.

Bomb plot thrusts Obama into political storm

President Barack Obama is weathering a political storm over last month’s suspected al Qaeda plot to bomb a Detroit-bound plane, particularly from Republicans who say he dropped the ball on security while pursuing healthcare and climate reforms. But how much substance there is behind the allegations may depend on who’s talking.

Republican Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina told NBC’s Today show that he believes Obama just woke up to the gravity of the al Qaeda threat. SECURITY-AIRLINE/OBAMA

“A lot of us have been concerned over the last year that the president did seem to downplay the threat of terror. He doesn’t use the word anymore. He hesitates to say that there is a war on terror,” DeMint said.

Republican senators call for ending era of ‘permanent politicians’

Don’t expect the U.S. Congress — packed with old men and women who have been in office for decades — to embrace a proposal to term limit themselves.

Republican senators Jim DeMint, Tom Coburn, Kay Bailey Hutchison and Sam Brownback offered such a measure on Tuesday, saying it would be good to get fresh blood on Capitol Hill. USA/

“Americans know real change in Washington will never happen until we end the era of permanent politicians,” DeMint said.

Republicans seek economic wisdom from Greenspan

Alan Greenspan may have retired as chairman of the Federal Reserve, but his insight is still in hot demand, so much so that Senate Republicans invited him to be their guest speaker at their weekly policy lunch.

FINANCIAL/Per his normal practice, Greenspan declined to tell reporters what he told the lawmakers behind closed doors, but that did not stop a few senators from spilling the beans.

New Hampshire Republican Senator Judd Gregg said the former Fed chief talked mostly about the need to address the long-term budget deficit, specifically the Medicare healthcare program for the elderly and those with disabilities. The U.S. deficit is expected to crest at more than $1.8 trillion in fiscal 2009 which ends Sept. 30.