Tales from the Trail

Washington Extra – hello goodbye

She says goodbye and he says hello.

The House Speaker’s (HUGE) gavel changed hands today, symbolizing the transfer of power to Republicans. Outgoing speaker Nancy Pelosi, attacked by Republicans as a symbol of Democratic excesses, took the high road as she repeatedly congratulated new House Speaker John Boehner and his Republican majority.

Boehner started off with some levity and humility — “It’s still just me.” And he didn’t disappoint those watching for his now trademark show of emotion when he dabbed his eyes with a white handkerchief while standing behind Pelosi before the handover. Reuters photojournalist Kevin Lamarque captured the moment, you can see it on our politics blog at http://blogs.reuters.com/frontrow/ OBAMA/STAFF-GIBBS

There were goodbyes emanating from the White House too. President Barack Obama’s spokesman Robert Gibbs is stepping down from the White House press room podium. “What I’m going to do next is step back a little bit, recharge some … I will have an opportunity I hope to give some speeches. I will continue to provide advice and counsel to this building and to this president.”

And another unannounced goodbye to come from Paul Volcker. In an exclusive, White House correspondent Caren Bohan reports that Volcker plans to leave as head of the President’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board.

Now we just have to watch for who will be saying hello at the White House.

Here are our top stories from Washington today…

Republicans take over U.S. House, soften cuts

Republicans took power in the House of Representatives with promises of a leaner, more accountable government but softened a pledge of deep and immediate spending cuts that helped them win November’s election. The Republican takeover sets up potentially fierce battles in the coming months with President Barack Obama and his fellow Democrats on spending, debt and healthcare.

U.S. value-added tax still a pretty toxic idea

White House Economic Economic Advisor Paul Volcker stirred up debate over the United States possibly adopting a European-style value added tax to help bring federal deficits under control, saying recently that it “was not as toxic an idea” as it has been in the past.USA-FED/

Well the idea is still pretty toxic in the U.S. Senate.

The Senate on Thursday voted 85-13 to adopt an anti-value-added tax resolution sponsored by Arizona Republican John McCain as part of its consideration of legislation that would restore lapsed jobless benefits.

The resolution has no force of law, but it gives a pretty clear sense that senators don’t like the idea of a value-added  tax.