It’s a tale of two cities, Washington D.C. versus Chicago.
With President-elect Barack Obama holding frequent news conferences in Chicago to appoint members of his cabinet and lay out his plans for the future and President George W. Bush keeping a low profile in Washington, Americans could be forgiven for thinking they have a new executive capital.
Today the focus will be on both Washington, where a $14 billion bill to bail out the United States’ struggling automakers will be debated in the Senate, and Chicago, where Obama will announce former Senate leader Tom Daschle as the country’s next health secretary.
Obama is due to hold a news conference at 11 a.m. EST (600 GMT) to name Daschle, a Democrat from South Dakota, and give more specifics about his plan to provide affordable healthcare to all Americans. Daschle faces the Herculean task of revamping America’s ailing healthcare system.
A new Wall Street Journal/NBC news conference poll found that 73 percent of adult Americans approve of the way Obama has handled his preparations for becoming president on Jan. 20, while 38 percent say they have a more favorable impression of him since the Nov. 4 election.
Obama is likely to face more questions at the news conference on the scandal involving Democratic Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who was arrested on Tuesday and charged with attempting to sell Obama’s Senate seat. Obama has called on the governor to resign.
Illinois’s Lieutenant-Governor Pat Quinn told NBC’s Today breakfast television show that Blagojevich would be impeached if he did not resign. Quinn, who is next in line to replace Blagojevich, said he had not spoken to the governor since the summer of 2007.
In Washington, the Senate is due to debate a proposal giving $14 bln in emergency loans to struggling auto-makers after it was passed in the House of Representatives by 237-170 votes on Wednesday night. But it is expected to face stiff opposition from skeptical Republicans who want greater accountability from the carmakers in exchange for the loans.
Democrats in Congress and the White House want the measure passed urgently, fearing that the collapse of the auto industry would fuel unemployment and deepen the recession.
The U.S. Labor Department reported on Thursday that the number of workers filing claims for jobless benefits jumped to a 26-year high last week. Data last week showed employers cut half a million jobs in November, the largest number in 34 years.
But it was not all doom and gloom on the morning TV shows, which perhaps not surprisingly, found time to show pictures of the January 2009 cover of men’s magazine GQ. The cover shows a naked Jennifer Aniston wearing just a necktie.