Tales from the Trail

Congress playing chicken in lame duck session

What’s going to fly?

That’s the question on Capitol Hill where Republicans and Democrats are engaged in a game of chicken over what legislation gets approved in  the final stretch for this Congress.  PANAMA/

Everyone wants to extend middle class tax cuts, but when it comes to extending tax cuts for wealthier Americans feathers get ruffled. Republicans are demanding all of the Bush tax-cuts be extended, but Democrats cry fowl, saying the tax cuts for the wealthy are too expensive to continue.

The House of Representatives, which is controlled by Democrats until the new Congress with a Republican majority is seated in January, will vote Thursday to extend only the middle-class tax cuts that are set to expire at the end of the year.

But in the Senate, which will still be controlled by Democrats in the next Congress, the squawking is the loudest.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell sent Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid a letter signed by every Senate Republican that pledged to block all legislation until the Senate acts on the tax cut extension and a measure to temporarily fund the government. The House passed a short-term spending bill on Wednesday and the Senate was expected to take it up this week.

Can Obama launch “peace talks” with Republicans at Camp David?

Camp David may be getting ready for another round of peace talks – of the domestic variety.

President Barack Obama is emphasizing bipartisanship after the midterm election shellacking dealt by Republicans and today decided to wave a olive branch — the possibility of a summit wiith congressional leaders early next year at the presidential retreat. OBAMA/
    
He offered the invite at a White House meeting with leaders of both parties where they discussed tax cuts, the START treaty, and other issues Obama wants to see resolved during the remainder of the “lame duck” session of Congress.

An invitation to Camp David is considered an honor. In fact, Obama said Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid mentioned to him that despite 28 years in Congress, he had never been to Camp David.

Pence in Detroit: A campaign prelude?

Prominent House Republican Mike Pence has been frequently mentioned as a potential 2012 presidential candidate. On Monday, he played the part.

In a speech to the Detroit Economic Club, a favorite campaign stop for many aspiring White House contenders, Pence pushed the idea of a flat tax, a rollback of regulatory standards and a constitutional amendment to limit spending to 20 percent of GDP. USA/NRA

“We must have a mechanism that forces Washington as a whole to make the hard choices necessary to reform our nation’s addiction to big spending and unsustainable entitlements,” Pence said, according to a prepared text of his speech.

Obama: “I don’t think about Sarah Palin”

President Barack Obama says he’s focusing on his job and not thinking about whether he might be going head-to-head with Sarah Palin when he’s up for re-election in  2012.

“I don’t speculate on what’s going to happen two years from now,” Obama told ABC’s Barbara Walters in an interview taped  Tuesday at the White House.

“You will not tell me that you think you can beat Sarah Palin?” Walters asked.

Barbara Bush says Sarah Palin should stay in Alaska

barbaraFormer President George W. Bush has carefully steered around the subject of Sarah Palin during interviews about his memoir. But his mother, Barbara Bush, aka the “Silver Fox,” is showing no restraint.

“I sat next to her once,” Mrs. Bush told CNN’s “Larry King Live” in an interview that also included her husband, former President George H.W. Bush. “Thought she was beautiful. And I think she’s very happy in Alaska — and I hope she’ll stay there.”

Palin is weighing a run for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination,telling ABC’s Barbara Walters last week that she thinks she could defeat President Barack Obama. She has a book, “America by Heart,” coming out Tuesday and is starring in a reality TV show, “Sarah Palin’s Alaska.”

Washington Extra – No Refuge

Not only does Barack Obama face a united and hostile Republican Party at home, he cannot easily take refuge in foreign policy in the second half of his term. From Afghanistan to Russia and the Middle East, from climate change to nuclear weapons, there are more problems than easy solutions out there.obama1

But if all that wasn’t bad enough, the president is facing a few problems even keeping his fellow Democrats on side. As we report today, the Dems are in disarray about what to with the expiring tax cuts, and there is a distinct feeling of post-election disappointment with the president. As one aide told Reuters, many congressional Democrats felt they got their fingers burned for backing Obama’s healthcare plan and are wary of getting hurt again.

“Our guys aren’t sure what comes next,” the aide said. “Will Obama help them in 2012, or will just be focused on getting himself re-elected?”

Washington Extra – A late start

obama_gmIt must be more than a little frustrating to win the Nobel Peace Prize for your best intentions — ridding the world of nuclear weapons – and then struggle to even get the START Treaty ratified this year. Not surprising, then, that President Barack Obama told his deputy to work “day and night” to get this thing through.

But whatever the temptation to throw a little egg on the president’s face, many security analysts still find it amazing to see Republicans blocking a treaty that the U.S. military so strongly backs. Welcome to bipartisan Washington, again, I guess.

Despite the uneven start to the week, Wednesday was not a bad day for Obama by any means.

For Biden, it’s START “day and night”

Instead of counting sheep to fall asleep at night, we imagine Vice President Joe Biden may be counting votes.

OBAMA/That’s because President Barack Obama just announced that he has told Biden to focus “day and night” on getting the START treaty ratified by Congress. (That’s what happens when you let the boss “drop by” one of your meetings.)

Obama said ratifying the nuclear arms treaty with Russia was the single most important national security issue for the lame duck Congress. “It is a national security imperative that the United States ratify the New START treaty this year.”

How did Murkowski win? Go figure

RTR2FWVX_Comp-150x150Lisa Murkowski is the first to win a write-in campaign for the U.S. Senate in more than half a century. But that’s not the important part.

The Alaska Republican is also a moderate who sounds determined to defy the hardline GOP  ‘defeat Obama’ drumbeat in Congress and the uncompromising politics of the Tea Party.

Why? Because, she says, that’s what the general election voters who enabled her to triumph over the Tea Party – and her home-state nemesis Sarah Palin – want her to do.

Washington Extra – Stood up

Welcome to the new bipartisan Washington, where Obama and the Republicans are not only at odds over tax cuts, they can’t even agree when to have dinner. OBAMA/

Republicans apparently pulled out of the November 18 meeting called by President Barack Obama because of “scheduling conflicts.” Which is about as convincing a reason for not going to dinner as “I have to stay in and wash my hair.”  Apparently some Republican aides had been grumbling that Obama had called the meeting without consulting with their bosses.

In this sort of atmosphere, it wasn’t entirely surprising today to learn that Republican Senator Orrin Hatch poured cold water on the Democrats suggested compromise on taxes, a permanent extension for the middle class and a temporary one for wealthier Americans. Still, there is an element of brinksmanship about all of this, and Washington Extra still wouldn’t bet against a deal before year end.