Tales from the Trail

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Alarm over Japan’s nuclear crisis prompted a slumping stock market to slump some more in a third day of selling.

The United States and Japan weren’t quite on the same page in terms of advice to the public. The State Department recommended that Americans living within 50 miles of the Fukushima nuclear plant evacuate or stay indoors, while Japan asked residents within 18 miles to do the same.

USA-BUDGET/Republicans and Democrats are still not on the same page as far as spending cuts go, which means back to the drawing board with a three-week reprieve from the sixth stopgap spending bill expected to pass Congress by Friday. Talks will get an added kick when the latest temporary funding bill is passed, but in a divided Congress bipartisan deals become a fairly lofty goal.

“I understand the world we live in right now,” House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas told us in an interview. “I’m going to attempt to work in a very bipartisan way” to slow down the implementation of Dodd-Frank, the Republican said about the financial reform measure named after two Democrats.

House Speaker John Boehner knows it won’t be easy, but he’s confident a bipartisan deal will be found to fund the government for the rest of this fiscal year — somehow, some way — congressional correspondent Thomas Ferraro blogs.

Boehner confident on getting budget deal, but admits it won’t be easy

House Speaker John Boehner, facing somewhat of a revolt in Republican ranks, says “it is not going to be easy” to craft and win passage of a bipartisan deal to cut spending and fund the government for the rest of this fiscal year.

USA-POLITICS/REPUBLICANSBut the top U.S. Republican said he remains confident that it will be done — somehow, some way.

“We never thought it was going to be easy,” Boehner said a day after the House passed a short-term funding bill that 54 of his 240 House Republican colleagues opposed.

Spending cuts an arrow through the heart of cowboy poets

Mean. That’s what Democrats say about Republican efforts to cut spending. They even want to rope in the cowboy poet.

OBIT AUTRYDemocrats have decried a spending bill passed by House Republicans that would slash money for education, heating and food assistance for the poor, community health centers, public television and alternative energy sources.

Most people are familiar with federal spending in those areas.

But who knew that federal funding for the arts and humanities helped provide a spotlight for cowboy poets. 

Obama, lawmakers may lose own paychecks in government shutdown

President Barack Obama and members of Congress may soon have added incentive to reach a budget deal and avert a possible government shutdown: their own six-figure salaries.

OBAMA-SPEECH/The Democratic-led Senate unanimously passed a bill on late Tuesday to deny pay to the president and U.S. lawmakers during government shutdowns. The measure now goes to the Republican-led House for final congressional approval, which would clear the way for Obama to sign it into law.

“If we fail to keep the government operating, which is our basic responsibility, then we don’t deserve a paycheck,” said Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer, a chief sponsor of the bill.

Would Congress swing its spending ax at the war in Afghanistan?

AFGHANISTAN/You’d think the war in Afghanistan would be the sacred cow of  federal spending. The Republicans now in charge of the House have always embraced “Support Our Troops” and “Defeat Terrorism” as two of the most serious ”Thou Shalts” of their political playbook.

But could the times be a-changing? Two influential conservative voices suggest they might be, as lawmakers search for the right balance between spending cuts and their own job preservation.

Grover Norquist, the influential political hierophant at Americans for Tax Reform, says in a Newsmax interview that the time has come for a serious cost-benefit discussion about Afghanistan.

Bachmann for president? Tea Party darling blames media

RTXQELN_Comp-150x150Minnesota Republican Michele Bachmann, champion-in-chief of the House Tea Party caucus, blames the media for all the recent chatter about her status as a potential presidential candidate.

“I’m not concerned about my own personal ambition,” she tells NBC News. “Right now, too many people in the media are concerned about who will be the nominee in 2012.”

That’s a wee bit odd given that the speculation began after her office announced a trip to the presidential field of frolic known as Iowa, with guidance that a White House run is not off the table.

Bejeebers! A scary fiscal outlook and Tea Party politics

Tackling huge budget deficits and growing debt is essential for the United States to avoid a financial market crisis that would push interest rates higher and severely damage the U.S. economy, many economists have warned.

Compromise and statesmanship will be needed to cut spending and raise revenues to narrow the budget gap, and that might not be possible inUSA-ELECTIONS/TEAPARTY the current political environment, says at least one experienced budget expert.

“We’re certainly going to have a more fiscally conservative Congress next year,” Rudolph Penner, a former Congressional Budget Office director told a U.S. Chamber of Commerce forum.  “The Tea Party, if nothing else, has certainly moved both the Republicans and Democratic Party to the right.”