The 2010 Reuters Washington Summit included 4 days of on-the-record interviews with policymakers, congressmen and Obama Administration officials here in the DC bureau. The interviews covered a wide range of topics…from the impact of the mid-term elections to the importance of the Lady Gaga vote.
With less than six weeks to go before the mid-term elections the focus was on what a potential shift in power to a Republican-controlled Congress could mean for policy priorities in the coming year. We heard from Senators’ McCain, Dodd, Gregg and Bingaman. On the House side we spoke with the man responsible for getting Democrats elected…Rep. Chris Van Hollen, Chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. He called this election season a “tough and challenging environment,’ but predicted Democrats would retain control of the House.
From the Obama Administration, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs opened his comments by admitting that early on the administration did not have a “real understanding of the depth of what we were in.” News of Larry Summers’ departure as White House advisor came on the eve of our interview with a man who has worked with Summers, Austan Goolsbee, Chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisors. Goolsbee said he expected that Mr. Summers’ replacement wouldn’t be part of “a dramatic change in direction.” On the economy, Goolsbee noted that he does not see a double dip on the horizon and that “pulling back on current spending programs could spook the markets.”
On the regulatory front, FDIC Chairman Sheila Bair was adamant in her remarks about “ending too big to fail” and said that “the banking system is healing…and there is continuing improvement in low quality loans.” Meanwhile, Treasury’s Special Inspector General for TARP, Neil Barofsky, the man charged with policing the government’s exit from GM and AIG, said his group would begin a probe into the GM IPO after it launches to make sure that it was in the best interest of taxpayers.
On Afghanistan, we heard from Richard Holbrooke, Special Advisor on Afghanistan and Pakistan who was measured in his response to the Obama Administration’s planned timetable for withdrawal.