Tales from the Trail

Washington Extra – New Year state of mind

New Year often means out with the old and in with the new.

On Capitol Hill, the new 112th Congress will start its 2-year run that will end after the 2012 presidential election. (For numerologists — that’s an awful lot of 2s).

Today was Nancy Pelosi’s last day as the first Madam Speaker. The most powerful woman in American politics and second in line to the presidency turns into House minority leader next. Her exit line: “No regrets.” USA/

Tomorrow will be John Boehner’s first day as speaker when Republicans take control of the House and the new Tea Partiers get seated. We’ll be watching for tears of joy.

Before embarking on something new, Republicans have promised to rehash something old — namely President Barack Obama’s signature health care law.

House Republicans will likely approve scrapping health care reform at a Jan. 12 vote, but a repeal was unlikely to succeed since Democrats still control the Senate and can block it.

Regrets? Madam Speaker has none

Nancy Pelosi spent her final full day as speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives saying she had “no regrets.”

“I don’t really look back. I look forward,” said Pelosi, who as speaker became the most powerful woman ever in American politics.

USA-CONGRESS/HEALTHCAREAt noon on Wednesday, the new 112th Congress will convene with Republicans in control of the House, ending Pelosi’s four-year reign as the first woman speaker, a position that is second in the line of succession to the U.S. presidency, behind only the vice president.

On the 8th day before Christmas, Congress…

‘Twas eight days before Christmas and all through the Hill, lots of legislative stirring…

A nuclear arms treaty with Russia, gays in the military, avoiding a government shutdown, and even loosening immigration law. All these weighty issues are enough to make any politician on Capitol Hill reach for something easier to decide. 
 
So, it’s official. Mark Twain is one of America’s most famous literary icons.

RTRFGEU_CompIt says so in House Resolution 1733. Congress, with its hands full trying to jam a year’s worth of legislative activity through the days before Christmas, managed to squeeze out the Twain bill giving the writer of “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” recognition on the 175th anniversary of his birth and the 100th anniversary of his death.

Washington Extra – Question of Constitution

Constitutional or unconstitutional? That is the question the U.S. Supreme Court eventually may get to decide on President Barack Obama’s landmark healthcare law.

(By one definition, constitution can also refer to one’s health — just throwing that in.) 

A judge in Virginia declared unconstitutional a provision that requires individuals to buy health insurance or face a fine, backing arguments by the state that Congress exceeded its authority. USA-COURT/KAGAN

What wilderness? Republicans emerge from elections ready to charge

Republicans have emerged from the political wilderness and they’re wasting no time laying down markers.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell particularly sounds like he’s looking for bear, not mincing words in his speech at the Heritage Foundation today.  SAFRICA/

Never mind that his party is still  in the minority in the Senate and would need support from Democrats and the president to get anything enacted, McConnell appears ready to lay down the law.

Election is over, now can they get along?

It’s the day after the election and the big question now is will they play nice?

The Tea Party’s coming to town, Republicans seized control of the House, and Democrats are still in charge of the White House and Senate. 

Soon-to-be House Speaker John Boehner today said he saw no problem with incorporating members of the Tea Party into the Republican Party. And Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said the goal was “how do we meet in the middle?”

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.

In House, bipartisanship is in eye of the beholder

A top Democrat is fed up with House Republican Leader John Boehner citing their work together years ago as an example of Boehner’s commitment to bipartisanship.

Representative George Miller says Boehner — in line to become House speaker if Republicans win the chamber in the Nov. 2 election — is long-time partisan and everyone should know it.

“The fact is, the only bipartisan moment Representative Boehner can point to is working with me nine years ago” on an education bill that Republican President George W. Bush “had made a priority,” Miller said. “Everything since has been partisan opposition to issues of great importance to America’s middle class.” BUSH TAXES

Washington Extra – Storm clouds over Haiti

There was a tremendous outpouring of goodwill and money for Haiti after the quake, which prevented a further humanitarian catastrophe. But so far, nine months after the capital was devastated, progress in “building back better” seems painfully slow. haitiRubble still chokes the narrow streets of Port-au-Prince, and 1.3 million people occupy every available scrap of land in tents awaiting resettlement, or even just a government plan on what to do with them.

Given the mind-boggling scale of the disaster, the weakness of the government and economy even before the earthquake, the lack of land as well as clearly defined land ownership records, it is unfair to expect too much.

But today everyone seems to be asking: What has all this goodwill achieved in terms of lasting benefits to Haiti? One thing that is clear from our interviews this week is the government, local elites and the international community seem to be playing something of a blame game.

Bill Clinton emerges as leading U.S. political favorite — poll

OBAMA/

CLINTON/Nearly a decade after his presidency ended in scandal and disgrace, Bill Clinton has emerged as the most popular figure in the U.S. political firmament, according to a new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll.   Except he’s not running for office.

Fifty-five percent of the 1,000 adults who responded to the survey reported having positive feelings about the Arkansas Democrat, vs. only 23 percent who harbored negative feelings. (When he left office in early 2001, his ratings were 34 percent positive and 52 percent negative.)RACING/

The poll, which has a 3.1 percentage point margin of error, comes at a time when many voters are angry about the country’s economic straits, including high unemployement and an exploding fiscal deficit. Clinton’s two-term presidency was marked not only by impeachment and the Monica Lewinsky scandal but also by buoyant growth and a balanced budget.