Tales from the Trail

Republicans seek more “skin” to tax

When it comes to reaching a deal to reduce the nation’s $14.3 trillion debt, Republicans say they won’t go along with raising taxes — except maybe for the 50 percent of Americans who they say pay no federal income taxes.

Two senior Republicans said this week that those folks on the lower end of the income scale need to have “skin in the game” and should pay their fair share of federal income taxes.

“I would not impose a significant tax on the lower half or certainly not the lower 10 percent,” explained Senator Jon Kyl in a Senate speech. “But I think it’s important for all Americans to know that we all have a stake in this and that more than half of the people can’t just expect the so-called wealthy to bear all of the burdens of government.”

House Republican Leader Eric Cantor said House Republicans plan to push for tax reform that lowers rates for corporations and individuals, reduces a number of tax breaks and broadens the tax base.

“We have got nearing 50 percent of the people in this country who don’t pay income taxes,” Cantor told reporters. “I think most people would say everybody should have some skin in the game and pay their fair share.”

Budget-cutters take aim at nuclear modernization funds

In hardball negotiations over the START nuclear arms treaty last year, Senate Republicans wrested a commitment from the White House to redouble work to overhaul the nation’s nuclear infrastructure.

USA/President Barack Obama agreed to spend an additional $5 billion over 10 years on the effort, including some $650 million in the 2011 fiscal year.

The funds would be used to refurbish facilities and upgrade technology to provide safer and more secure devices, for example by making it impossible for them to be detonated if they are stolen by extremist groups. Obama and Senate Democrats even agreed that if it became necessary to cut discretionary spending in the future, the funding for nuclear modernization would be considered on the same basis as defense spending, making it harder to trim.

Napolitano says no to running for Senate seat in Arizona

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has ended the political speculation on whether she will leave President Barack Obama’s Cabinet to run for the U.S. Senate in the 2012 elections.

USA/Napolitano, a former governor from Arizona, told Democratic Party leaders earlier this week that she would not seek the open Senate seat.

“She cares deeply about Arizona, but the secretary intends to continue doing the job that the president asked her to do — protecting the American people from terrorism and other threats to our country,” her spokesman Sean Smith said in a statement on Friday.

Washington Extra – Wave goodbye

Might be time for a remake of an old classic film, with a contemporary twist: Mr. Smith gets out of Washington (or should that be Dodge?)

More and more lawmakers are deciding it’s time, enough is enough, see ya. The Number 2 Republican in the Senate, Jon Kyl, today announced he won’t seek reelection next year, with a quaint “my heart says it is time to go.”  USA-COURT/SOTOMAYOR

While not an elected official, Federal Reserve Governor Kevin Warsh said today he was stepping down from the central bank’s powerful board.

Arizona sheriff sees others like Loughner

RTXWCIT_Comp1-150x150Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik sounds worried about the possibility of other attacks on elected officials like Gabrielle Giffords.

Not that he’s got evidence of another shooter or anything. But Dupnik says there are thousands of people like Jared Lee Loughner, the shooting suspect described as a mentally disturbed loner.

“These people are very susceptible to emotions like anger and paranoia and so forth, and I think that the tone of rhetoric that has occurred in this country over the past couple of years affects troubled personalities,” he tells NBC’s Today show.

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.”

Washington Extra – jumpSTART

There are 11 days to Christmas, time for Congress to do the end-of-session roll in which proposals that grew cobwebs for months and months are now heading through the chambers at breakneck speed.

Tax cuts are closing in on the finish line — House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer signaled that resistance was waning among Democrats when he said there were “compelling reasons” to back the measure.

USA/Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid today is holding out the possibility that the START treaty will be ratified before lawmakers wrap up the lame duck session. Debate could start as early as Wednesday, and Reid says he’s got the votes.

Senate Republicans keeping powder dry on START treaty

There appears to be no rush among Senate Republicans to finish what President Barack Obama STARTed when he signed the new arms reduction treaty recently with Russia’s Dmitry Medvedev.

NUCLEAR-SUMMIT/At a closed-door meeting Wednesday on Capitol Hill, Senate Republicans listened to arms experts and leaders in their caucus discuss the deal, a follow-on to the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty.

But the general feeling in the room was that it was way too early to decide whether the new START merited a thumbs-up or thumbs-down from the Senate, some participants said.

Senator Kyl: show me the money to modernize U.S. nukes

Where’s the money?

A key senator says the Obama administration needs to commit to more funding for modernizing the U.S. nuclear weapons complex if it is to convince him that the new START nuclear arms reduction treaty with Russia is a good idea. USA-COURT/SOTOMAYOR

Republican Senator Jon Kyl said that in any case it’s debatable whether the new START treaty signed recently by President Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev “is in the best interests of the United States.”

The new START treaty, which cuts the arsenals of deployed nuclear warheads in both countries by about 30 percent, must be approved by the Senate as well as the Russian parliament before it can go into force.

Republican party chief says he’s staying put despite spending furor

Under fire for the Republican National Committee’s  free-wheeling spending on posh hotels, private jets and a party at a Los Angeles nightclub, committee Chairman Michael Steele said Monday he will not resign despite the controversy.

“No,” he said flatly on ABC’s “Good Morning America” when asked whether he would step down. It was his first television interview since the controversial spending came to light. “When I first heard about this behavior going on, I was very angry and we dealt with it.”

Steele has been excoriated over the last week, including by some members of his own party, for spending that included $2,000 at a sex-themed nightclub as well as tens of thousands of dollars spent on luxury hotels, private  planes and limousines in the month of February.