Pressure mounting on Republicans to make deal. Investor confidence appears to hold. Senate action expected. Live blog coverage of Congress’ attempt to reopen the US government and steer the world’s biggest economy clear of the default cliff…


Powered by article titled “US pushed to brink of default as hopes hang on bipartisan Senate deal – live” was written by Tom McCarthyin New York, for on Wednesday 16th October 2013 13.26 UTC

The Senate convenes at noon today. The House is scheduled to meet at 10am. President Obama is scheduled to have lunch with vice president Biden and has meetings today with his secretaries of treasury and state.

Good morning and welcome to our live blog coverage of Congress’ attempt to reopen government and steer clear of the default cliff.

Tuesday was a bad day on Capitol Hill. It began with hopes for a bipartisan Senate deal. Then House Republicans announced they were going to make a deal of their own. ”Whatever proposal we move forward will reflect our emphasis on fairness,” majority leader Eric Cantor said. But there was no proposal to follow. The leadership could not bring the hard-right faction on board.

Today begins with hopes for a bipartisan Senate deal. The Wall Street Journal has published an editorial telling Republicans that enough is enough: “Republicans can best help their cause now by getting this over with and moving on to fight more intelligently another day,” the paper concludes. The conservative National Review reports that GOP members indeed are ready to just “get it over with”.

The markets showed a bit of queasiness in yesterday’s tumble-jumble, but declined to panic. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

Published via the Guardian News Feed plugin for WordPress.


Senate leaders join struggle to find passable bill. Stock markets only mildly perturbed. “Reneging on its debt obligations would make the U.S. the first major Western government to default since Nazi Germany 80 years ago,” Bloomberg reports…


Powered by article titled “US shutdown: Congress reconvenes after weekend of choppy talks – live” was written by Tom McCarthyin New York, for on Monday 14th October 2013 15.31 UTC

Texas Senator Ted Cruz, whose quixotic campaign to “defund” Obamacare was the stick in the spokes that got us here, could – could – cause a default all by himself, Joshua Green reports in Bloomberg BusinessWeek:

How could this happen? Because the Senate can move quickly when necessary–but only by unanimous consent. Let’s say Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell strike a deal today (that’s looking unlikely). Cruz surely won’t like it and has said repeatedly, “I will do everything necessary and anything possible to defund Obamacare.” If he’s true to his word, he could drag out the proceedings past Thursday and possibly well beyond. “If a determined band of nut jobs wants to take down the global economy, they could do it,” says Jim Manley, a former top staffer for Reid. “Under Senate rules, we are past the point of no return–there’s not anything Reid or McConnell could do about it.”

Read the full piece here. There’s no indication that Cruz is that crazy?

“Reneging on its debt obligations would make the U.S. the first major Western government to default since Nazi Germany 80 years ago,” Bloomberg reports.


Congress won’t act until markets panic, they say. Comforted by the implication that Congress can and will act, markets don’t panic. But Congress won’t act until markets panic. Comforted by…

Anatomy of a deal

How might an eventual deal look? What are the sticking points?

Congress must decide how long to extend the debt limit and how long to fund the government for. Legislators must also decide the level at which to fund government – whether or not to retain the deep “sequester” cuts that took effect on March 1, and for how long.

Republicans would like a shorter debt limit extension in order to maintain leverage in budget negotiations. Democrats would like a shorter-term funding bill in order to accelerate the end of the sequester, which chunked $85bn off the budget between March and October.

At the end of September, Senate Democrats passed conciliatory legislation that would have funded the government at sequestration levels through November – but the bill was rejected by House Republicans. Token Conservative New York Times columnist Ross Douthat retold the history in a recommended Twitter lecture on Sunday:

But now the “original” potential deal to keep government open over the short term at sequester levels is gone, and everything seems back in play. The distance between the two sides on the debt limit extension and the term of the spending bill is a matter of months, NBC’s John Harwood reports:

The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent sees a possible deal by which Democrats would demand the destruction of the debt ceiling as a counterweight to Republican demands on spending:

So here’s what Dems should do. If Republicans refuse to budge off their insistence on lower spending levels, Dems should call their bluff by demanding a permanent disabling of the debt limit as an extortion tool as part of any short-term compromise. (Yes, Republicans will say No. But bear with me.)

If, somehow, a deal is reached this week in the Senate that involves Republicans giving ground on spending levels, Dems should make the push for a permanent disabling of the debt limit a key goal in the next round of formal, long term negotiations.

In the short term, if Dems accept sequester level spending into early next year in exchange for permanent disabling of the debt limit, it would not be an awful outcome.

Read the full piece here.

Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, a centrist Democrat, offered a relatively optimistic view of the negotiations this morning on CNN. Talking Points Memo caught the spot:

“I think we’re 70-80% there, putting the extra 20-25% to it,” Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) said Monday on CNN.” “When should the (continuing resolution) come due, when should the debt ceiling come due, and does that give that time for the budget conference, the budget committees to sit down and work through this? Those are the details that have to be worked out.”


Leaders of the World Bank and IMF warned at a meeting in Washington DC Sunday of the disastrous consequences of a US default, the New York Times reports. Some damage has already been done, as borrowing costs for the United States – over the short term, at least – are creeping up.

Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, warned of “massive disruption the world over” if the United States plunges into default. At the start of the month she said it is “‘mission-critical’ that [the US default risk] be resolved as soon as possible.”

From the Times report on the Washington meeting:

Participants at the meetings remained on edge, given the gravity of the threat. Ms. Lagarde said “that lack of certainty, that lack of trust in the U.S. signature” would disrupt the world economy.

Wolfgang Schäuble, the German finance minister, issued his own urgent appeal. “The fiscal standoff has to be resolved without delay,” he said in a statement released by the I.M.F.

Read the full piece here.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average opens the day down just a bit, about a half-percent. The bets are still on, for now.

President Obama spoke yesterday with House minority leader Nancy Pelosi, and the two party leaders in the Senate – Democrat Harry Reid and Republican Mitch McConnell – have been holding talks through the weekend that were expected to resume this morning.

Talks between the president and the House Republican leadership – so hopeful as of Friday evening – foundered on Saturday. “No deal” Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan told reporters at the Capitol.

The needle they’re collectively trying to thread is legislation raising the debt ceiling that would be acceptable to both Senate Democrats and House Republicans. The current legislation thought to be under discussion would also provide for reopening government and settle a budget through the New Year.

If a catchall deal proves unworkable, Congress may have to pass the debt limit bill separately. However it may actually be easier to pass a catchall deal, because there are more variables and thus more room for negotiation – and compromise.

Guardian Washington correspondent Dan Roberts (@RobertsDan) is tracking the action:

Democrat majority leader, Harry Reid, appeared briefly in the Senate to say he had a “productive and substantive” discussion with Republican Mitch McConnell and was optimistic about a deal, but suspended public proceedings until 2pm on Monday while his backroom talks continued.

The only outward sign of movement from the White House came in a Sunday afternoon phone call with House minority leader Nancy Pelosi, in which President Obama reiterated his insistence on Republicans agreeing to end a government shutdown and extend the debt ceiling before he would negotiate any budget concessions.

Read the full piece here.

Early Halloween.

Good morning and welcome to our live blog coverage of yet another moment of truth in Washington. If the nation’s legislators can’t cut a deal soon – they have a day or two; just exactly how long is a matter for debate – then we get to find out if Warren Buffett was just being a hysterical ninny when he compared default to “a nuclear bomb”.

Negotiations through the weekend failed to produce a deal, or clear a pathway to a deal. Since Friday, talks between House Republican leaders and the White House have fallen apart, and talks between the party leaders in the Senate have sprung up. The House is scheduled to convene today at noon, the Senate shortly thereafter.

The top priority for Congress is to pass legislation that would raise the debt limit sufficiently to fund the Treasury’s accounts payable. They also need to pass a bill to reopen the federal government, which has been partially shuttered for 14 days now (it closed on 1 October). In the current environment, having the government closed is only Code Orange. The debt limit is the Code Red bit.

Investors are holding their breaths to see what the stock market will think of the weekend’s dithering. Knowledgable analysts have suggested that a stock market crash may be the most likely spur to get Congress to actually act. The bond market is closed Monday for the Columbus Day holiday, but stocks are open. The Dow still was relatively unbothered by the crisis on Friday.

The Treasury has said the “extraordinary measures” it has taken since May to cover expenses will be exhausted Thursday, at which point the government will be operating on about $30bn cash on hand and a prayer, with neither expected to last long

Updated © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

Published via the Guardian News Feed plugin for WordPress.

House and Senate fail to reach deal before deadline. Estimated 800,000 federal workers told to stay at home. National parks and museums closed, Nasa affected. Signs of splits among Republicans over tactics. The President plans to make a statement today…


Powered by article titled “US government shutdown begins as Congress fails to reach deal – live” was written by Tom McCarthy in New York, for on Tuesday 1st October 2013 16.12 UTC

Guardian Washington correspondent Paul Lewis (@PaulLewis) is in the streets of Washington DC, a city in which the government is not just the main employer, but the lifeblood of the city. The impacts of the shutdown were immediately visible, Paul writes:

By mid-morning, downtown Washington DC had the throng of a busy lunchtime, as furloughed workers from all the major government buildings trickled out onto the streets after closing down their offices.

Everywhere from obscure government agencies to the White House was operating on a slimmed-down staff, with all so-called ‘non-excepted’ employees ordered to return home after turning up to work on Tuesday morning.

DC’s mayor, Vincent Gray, immunised many staff working for the city’s government from the shutdown, by declaring them all ‘essential’ workers, a legally contentious measure. But it at least kept the city movement, and guarded America’s capital from less sightly impacts of the last shutdown, in the 1990s, when uncollected trash piled up on the street.

Later we’ll have Paul’s interviews with tourists and federal workers talking about how the shutdown is affecting them.


Veterans of World War II have stormed their own memorial on the National Mall, barricades be damned, reporter Leo Shane III of Stars and Stripes tweets:

Honor flight vets just knocked over the barriers at the WWII memorial to get inside, #shutdown or no.

No sign of folks leaving. The vets have control of the memorial. #shutdown

John McCain may be trying to make a point by publicizing polling showing Americans oppose the GOP strategy of tying the shutdown to health care cuts, but most national polls on who gets blamed are rather useless in understanding what’s going through the mind of the House GOP, Guardian polling analyst Harry J Enten (@ForecasterEnten) writes.

Harry argues that, district-for-district, Republicans really aren’t vulnerable to voter outrage in midterm elections in 2014 because the districts are rigged:

While there are a number of reasons why House Republicans were willing to shut down the government, no answer is probably as satisfying as the fact that majority of House Republicans don’t live in districts that look anything like the rest of the nation. Thanks to urban packing and gerrymandering, Republicans don’t have to worry about losing to a Democrat.

The average vote share for President Obama in 2012 in Republican House districts was only 40.4%. Only 17 members of the Republican House caucus are from districts that voted for Obama in 2012. More than half of Republicans in the House come from districts that are 10 points more Republican than the nation as a whole. The average Republican district is over a 11 points more Republican than the nation.

The thing that most worries most members is likely a primary challenge, not a general election. The fact that more Republicans support a shutdown to stop Obamacare, as Quinnipiac found, is what’s most important for them.

That analysis leaves open the question on whether blowback from the shutdown represents potential damage to a party’s national brand, with consequences for membership, fundraising, turnout, activism, public support in hard policy fights and more.

Shut down: Tweets from Voyager 2. 

Not to be confused with Voyager 1, which recently entered interstellar space. Voyager 2 is only 15.37bn km away, according to the Nasa site that tracks it, which interestingly is still online here.


Shut down: the US Census Bureau online. 

You can’t visit the web site here, but you can read a shutdown notice.

(h/t @kennelliott)


Senator Mike Lee of Utah, who with Ted Cruz of Texas led the charge to tie stopgap spending legislation to changes to Obamacare, is delivering a speech on the Senate floor calling for a focus on people whose livelihoods will be damaged by the government shutdown. “I want to focus our attention in the coming days and hours on those people,” Lee says, gravely.

It turns out however that mostly Lee wants to continue his critique of the Affordable Care Act. “I’d like to turn for a moment to people who are and for a number of months have been already [hurting],” he says. “Obamacare happens to be the No.1 job-killer in the country.”

Threatened by shutdown: airport efficiency(!).

Here’s a question from the comments:

Can someone tell me will airport be affected? Ie will take ages to get through security?

Answer, in short: Yes, expect some delays, but security will remain tight. The Transportation Security Administration, part of the department of Homeland Security, is expected to furlough certain nonessential employees, but those do not include most screeners. Air traffic controllers will report for work as usual.

John McCain, Republican of Arizona, argued Monday against the House Republican shutdown strategy, telling the House to accept fate and pass a “clean” spending resolution.

This morning McCain indulges in a preliminary bit of “I told you so,” directed at Republican colleagues:

From the Bloomberg story:

By 72 percent to 22 percent, Americans oppose Congress “shutting down major activities of the federal government” as a way to stop the Affordable Care Act from going into effect, the national survey from Quinnipiac University found. [...]

A majority of the public, 58 percent, is opposed to cutting off funding for the insurance program that begins enrollment today. Thirty-four percent support defunding it.

Note that the poll featured in the story McCain links to is from last week; while the Bloomberg story is from today, it does not reflect new polling from today.


Here’s the tabloid view, then and now:

Shut down: Freedom of Information Act requests.

The justice department claims it can’t meet FOIA deadlines in an Electronic Frontier Foundation lawsuit over phone metadata collection because of the shutdown, Politico’s Josh Gerstein reports:

Just hours after the partial government shutdown kicked in, Justice Department lawyers filed a motion Tuesday morning with a federal judge in Oakland, Calif. seeking to postpone all deadlines in connection with a suit brought by the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

The motion submitted to U.S. District Court Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers (and posted here) says the government will be unable to continue reviewing documents for release because both DOJ lawyers and intelligence community personnel involved in the process are being furloughed.

Read the full piece here.

Senate minority whip John Cornyn, Republican of Texas, says Democrats are “whistling past the graveyard” in asserting that the Affordable Care Act is not negotiable:

“This is the law of the land. It’s perfect. Couldn’t be better,” Cornyn, on the Senate floor, ridicules his Democratic colleagues as saying. “That’s like whistling past the graveyard.”

Then Cornyn accuses Democrats of engineering the shutdown because polls show Republicans will take the blame:

They’re looking at polls…They’re willing to risk shutdown of the federal government just to gain political advantage… The Democrats have doubled down on their strategy, hoping to gain political advantage at the expense of people hurt.

Part of the difficulty this morning for 2m federal workers is that many did not find out until they showed up for work as usual whether they were part of the “essential” core that would be kept on the job. Some were told to stay. Others were sent home.

The Guardian’s Paul Lewis (@PaulLewis) and Dan Roberts (@RobertsDan) are watching the shutdown unfold in Washington:

Some federal workers were reportedly instructed to switch off their BlackBerry smartphones to prevent them from working remotely, a disciplinary offence.

From 7am, forlorn-looking commuters could be seen heading to government buildings and agencies across Washington DC, where they would learn their fate. The city, where the government is a huge employer, will feel the impact of the federal shutdown more acutely than anywhere else in the US. The White House said it estimates a one-week shutdown would cost the wider US economy $10bn.

Read the full piece here.

Dan also has the inside story of how the shutdown played out in the halls of Congress last night:

Unfortunately, much of Washington acted as if it had seen this movie before. The metaphorical tumbleweed blowing down the corridors of Capitol Hill reflected not a fear of being caught in the crossfire, but a cynical war-weariness that left many lawmakers on the sidelines until it was too late. After three years of similar standoffs over the federal budget that were resolved at the last minute, no one could quite believe that this one would finish with shots fired.

Read the full story here.

The Senate has killed the House GOP request for a budget conference, again along party lines, 54-46.

Senate majority leader Harry Reid is on the floor of the Senate decrying the House request as a cynical 11th-hour ploy meant to portray the GOP as being serious about making a budget deal when in fact the party has, Reid says, ignored six months’ worth of Senate requests for a conference. Here’s Reid:

Sen. Murray [Patty Murray, D-Washington, budget committee chairwoman] has asked to go to conference 18 times. [McCain] has asked eight times himself. This has gone on for six months.

But it’s a clock tick past midnight… Boehner demanded the very conference they shunned us with for six months.

This display I hope would be embarrassing for House Republicans and Senate Republicans… what a deal!

If the House passes the piece of legislation they have over there… to reopen government, we’re happy to go to conference – why wouldn’t we? We’ve been asking to do that for months and months.


Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, sees the shutdown as a boon to the president because it distracts from the administration’s woes elsewhere:

“Obamacare is going to have a lot of problems in its rollout… the president’s poll numbers are falling in every category,” McCain told MSNBC. “Yet the story to the American people is Republicans are fighting Republicans – that’s not helpful.”

The president plans to make a statement today at 12.25pm ET in the Rose Garden, the White House advises.

As the two parties try to reach a spending agreement, they also are trying to pin the blame for the shutdown on the other side. In a statement in the briefing room yesterday afternoon the president said Republican maneuvers resulting in a government shutdown would be the “height of irresponsibility.” Expect the president to expand on that theme this afternoon.

Last time the government shut down, the Republican Congress caught the blame and the Democratic president emerged the stronger. That fact is not lost on the Obama administration, which is using president Clinton’s playbook, Bloomberg reports:

Five administration officials, including Treasury Secretary Jack Lew and budget director Sylvia Burwell, were central figures during the shutdowns of 1995 and 1996. That two-stage battle pitted a House Republican majority against Democratic President Bill Clinton and resulted in a public relations defeat for the Republicans.

Now, Like Clinton, Obama is casting his Republican rivals as partisan warriors willing to put the country’s economic future at risk to score political points with their base.

While Clinton chided Republicans for putting “ideology ahead of common sense” in a 1995 address, Obama told reporters yesterday that “House Republicans continue to tie funding of the government to ideological demands.”

Read the full piece here.


Are you a federal employee forced to stay home because of the shutdown? Is one of your family members an essential employee who has to work without pay? We want to hear from you:

* Where do you work? What is your role?

* What have your supervisors told you to expect in coming weeks? Please be specific. How will furloughs or payment delays affect you and/or your family?

* Is there anything you’d say to members of Congress? to President Obama or House Speaker John Boehner? Do you see the shutdown as necessary? Is there a silver lining?

Please share your views in the comments or reach out to us directly at ruth [dot] spencer [at] theguardian [dot] com. We’ll be featuring your comments here. Thanks for writing!

Welcome to our live blog coverage of the partial government shutdown, which went into effect at midnight. America is waking up to shuttered parks, silent call centers for veterans’ services, empty Pentagon offices and skeleton crews in White House and congressional offices. It’s the first government shutdown in 17 years.

The president signed a bill late on Monday defending against one of the most painful effects of a shutdown: the bill ensured there would be no delay in delivering paychecks to active-duty military personnel. The core services of other big government programs, including Medicare and social security, were expected to operate as usual.

The House and Senate played ping-pong on Monday with stopgap spending resolutions that would have kept the government open if they were able to agree on one. The last House resolution retained delays in the rollout of the Affordable Care Act that the Senate leadership had made clear would be rejected. The resolution was rejected, and at about 11.40pm ET the office of management of the budget sent out a memo ordering agencies to “execute plans for an orderly shutdown due to the absence of appropriations.” Read Jim Newell’s play-by-play of last night’s action here, and Graeme Wearden’s early-morning updates here.

Just before the shutdown, House Republicans made a significant move on the overall budget issue, electing to join a conference with the Senate to cut an actual budget deal, a step the House leadership had been resisting. Senate majority leader Harry Reid said he would not bargain over the current spending measure at a budget conference.

Updated © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

Published via the Guardian News Feed plugin for WordPress.

Fiscal cliff deadline just hours away as Congress returns. No agreement has been reached between White House and Republicans in early morning talks. Latest deal to raise taxes on incomes over $450,000. Harry Reid says: ‘We really are running out of time’…

Powered by article titled “Fiscal cliff deadline looms as talks on a deal continue – live updates” was written by Richard Adams in Washington DC, for on Monday 31st December 2012 17.19 UTC

12.19pm ET

Republican senator John Cornyn of Texas tweets:

11.50am ET

This may be a good sign. Or a bad sign. It’s too soon to say.

Updated at 11.52am ET

11.44am ET

Politico takes a metaphor and mixes it to death:

The last-ditch horse-trading underscored the urgency of the situation….

Old Politico saying: never switch a gift horse in the ditch.

11.22am ET

GOP senator: ‘There has been a lot of progress’

Senate minority whip Jon Kyl is making happy noises to Reuters:

Senator Jon Kyl on Monday said a “lot of progress” has been made in talks to avert the “fiscal cliff” but he cautioned that it is unclear if the progress will spur legislation the Senate can vote on before a midnight deadline when taxes and spending cuts kick-in.

“There is no agreement yet,” Kyl said. “Conversations are still ongoing. There has been a lot of progress.”

Then Kyl has a little joke at Reuters’ expense:

Asked how long talks could go on, Kyl said: “I guess until 11.59.”

Updated at 11.24am ET

11.06am ET

Harry Reid: ‘discussions continue as I speak’

The Senate has just got underway, and here’s the Democratic majority leader Harry Reid:

Discussions continue today, Reid notes:

There are a number of issues on which the two sides are apart but discussions continue as I speak….

We really are running out of time, Americans are threatened with a tax hike in a few hours.

That was short and sweet from Reid. And believe it or not, that tells us a lot, because Reid didn’t bash the Republicans as he has done on every available occasion in the last week.

Equally significant: Mitch McConnell didn’t take the floor after Reid.

So a deal is on the way, is the bet.

Updated at 11.09am ET

11.00am ET

This one is for total US politics geeks only:

If you know what that means, you’ll know what that means. If you know what I mean.

Updated at 11.01am ET

10.57am ET

Deal is on the cards, reports ABC News

Are Joe Biden and Mitch McConnell getting close to a deal? ABC News thinks so:

An emerging tentative agreement would extend current tax rates for households making $450,000 or less; extend the estate tax at its current level of 35% for estates larger than $5m; and prevent the Alternative Minimum Tax from hammering millions of middle-class workers, sources said.

The deal would also extend unemployment benefits set to expire Tuesday and avert a steep cut to Medicare payments for doctors.

Both sides also seem willing to delay by three months automatic spending cuts to defense and domestic programs, the sources said, setting the stage for continued fiscal debate in the next few months tied to the debt ceiling.

Still have to get it through the House, though.

Updated at 10.57am ET

10.48am ET

The ‘dairy cliff’ explained

Bloomberg has some background on the little-known ‘dairy cliff‘, which is triggered by the failure to pass a new farm bill of agricultural support and subsidies, as well as food stamps:

The most recent farm law, enacted in 2008, expired after attempts to pass a new five-year proposal failed. Without that plan, agricultural programs automatically return to rules passed in 1949, the basis of all subsequent legislation.

The effects of that transition have been delayed because of the growing seasons of different crops. Dairy production, a year-round business, is the first major commodity affected. In November, the US Department of Agriculture put the price of a gallon of fresh whole milk at just under $3.54.

Under President Harry Truman’s farm policy, the government bought supplies of a product until its price reached “parity” with the cost immediately before World War I. Adjusted for a century of inflation, the Agriculture Department’s milk-support price today would be $39.08 per hundred pounds, more than double the dairy futures price in Chicago on December 28.

Updated at 10.49am ET

10.41am ET

McConnell and Biden have early talks

There’s a flurry of fiscal cliff stuff going on, as the House starts its session, and the Senate prepares to get going at 11am, with comments expected from majority leader Harry Reid and (presumably) minority leader Mitch McConnell.

Politico is reporting on optimistic signs of a deal emerging:

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Vice President Joe Biden engaged in furious overnight negotiations to avert the fiscal cliff and made major progress toward a year-end tax deal, giving sudden hope to high-stakes talks that had been on the brink of collapse, according to sources familiar with the discussion.

It also says that conversations between Biden and McConnell occurred early Monday morning, at 12.45am and 6.30am, and quotes a McConnell spokesman:

The leader and the VP continued their discussion late into the evening and will continue to work toward a solution. More info as it becomes available.

Updated at 10.41am ET

10.10am ET

‘Dairy cliff’ approaches sell-by date

Aside from the fiscal cliff, what about the so-called “dairy cliff,” the possibility of a sharp hike in the price of milk if a new farm bill isn’t passed quickly?

There was some positive movement over the weekend, when leaders in both parties on the House and Senate agriculture committees agreed on a one-year extension of the previous farm bill.

But hold on, what’s this? Via AP:

A spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner said Sunday that Republican leaders had not decided how they would proceed on the farm extension, though a vote could come as soon as Monday.

Oh well, so much for that outbreak of bipartisanship. It turns out the House GOP is also considering two other extensions: a one-month extension and an even smaller bill that would merely extends the current policy that expires on 1 January.

Update: ‘Diary cliff’? Yes we only have a few hours left to get our 2013 calendars (hat tip: @Mattywills). Anyway, dairy cliff…

Updated at 10.31am ET

9.54am ET

Is Obama caving in to the Republicans?

Is President Obama giving away too much? In New York magazine, Jonathan Chait fears that Obama is caving in to the Republicans on taxes, and wants a stiffer backbone:

[Obama] is allowing Republicans to whittle down the sum by essentially threatening to shoot themselves in the head. And this is the most ominous thing about it. The big meta question looming over Obama’s term is whether he has learned to grapple with Republican political hostage-taking. Hostage-taking is not simply aggressive or even irrational negotiating. It is the specific tactic of extracting concessions by threatening to withhold support for policies you yourself endorse, simply because your opponent cares more about the damage.

9.49am ET

The effects of the budget cuts contained within the fiscal cliff could be felt in short order on the US military, as the Associated Press reports:

A senior defense official said if the sequester were triggered, the Pentagon would soon begin notifying its 800,000 civilian employees that they should expect some furloughs — mandatory unpaid leave, not layoffs. It would then take some time for the furloughs to begin being implemented, said the official, who requested anonymity because the official was not authorized to discuss the internal preparations.

9.43am ET

Deal or no deal? Where the two sides differ

So where are the two sides at this point? Based on various reports, here’s where things stood at the end of the weekend in talks between Senate republicans, Democrats and the White House.

• Income tax: Senate Republicans propose higher taxes on incomes above $450,000. Democrats propose tax rises on incomes over $360,000

• Estate tax: Republicans want to tax inheritances valued above $5m at 35%. Democrats want to tax inheritances above $3.5m at 45%

• Budget cuts: a “pause” before implementing the across-the-board cuts demanded by the sequester – Democrats in favour, Republicans oppose

• Spending: Proposals to avoid a cut in Medicare payments to doctors and extend benefits for the long-term unemployed – Republicans say they should be paid for through budget cuts elsewhere

• Alternative minimum tax: Democrats want any deal to include a permanent revision to stop the AMT hitting middle class taxpayers

Updated at 9.48am ET

9.30am ET

With only hours remaining until midnight, can America’s political system avert the fiscal cliff of tax hikes and sweeping budget cuts before 2013 is ushered in?

Congress reconvenes this morning after hopes of a deal between the Democratic and Republican leaders in the Senate over the weekend, came to naught. The talks faltered after Republicans threw up a string of objections – leading the Republican Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell to open a new line of dialogue with vice president Joe Biden.

Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, left the field yesterday evening, telling journalists “Talk to Joe Biden and McConnell” as his farewell remark.

Congress went home for the night soon after. But there was some progress, based on reports leaking out of the two caucuses. The New York Times reported:

On some of the biggest sticking points, the two sides are now inches apart. Barely a week after House Republicans refused to vote to allow taxes to rise on incomes over $1m, Senate Republicans proposed allowing tax rates to rise on incomes over $450,000 for singles and $550,000 for couples. Democrats countered with a proposal to extend expiring Bush-era tax cuts up to $360,000 for singles, $450,000 for couples. For both sides, that meant major movement. Mr Obama has been holding firm at a $250,000 threshold.

Despite that shift, Republicans first insisted that a new measure of inflation, known as “chained CPI”, be used to calculate future – and slower – increases in social security payments. Democrats rejected that but the Republicans produced a new objection, based on the putative deal’s delay of the severe budget cuts that form one half of the feared fiscal cliff.

President Obama weighed in via an appearance on NBC’s Meet The Press on Sunday morning, blaming Republicans intransigence for their failure to reach a deal:

We have been talking to the Republicans ever since the election was over. They have had trouble saying yes to a number of repeated offers.

We’ll be bringing you all the action or inaction as the clock ticks down. It could be a late night.

Updated at 10.59am ET © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

Published via the Guardian News Feed plugin for WordPress.

Barack Obama wins re-election over Mitt Romney and will continue to be President for a second term. Florida votes still being counted with margins close but leaning toward Obama. Democrats hold Senate majority, while Republicans retain the House…

Powered by article titled “Republicans contemplate Romney loss as Florida tallies votes – US politics live” was written by Tom McCarthy, for on Wednesday 7th November 2012 14.03 UTC


The morning after

Good morning and welcome to our day-after politics live blog. President Barack Obama is still going to be president on January 20, 2013. Here’s a summary of where things stand:

• Republicans are analyzing Governor Mitt Romney’s loss even as the vote-counting continues in Florida. Florida’s secretary of state is named Ken Detzner and the department’s web site is here.

• 538 pollster Nate Silver projected that President Obama would take Florida, if anyone puts any stock in what Nate Silver says. Without Florida the electoral college count stands at 303 Obama, 206 Romney.

Democrats held on to their Senate majority of at least 53 seats, assuming that Maine senator-elect Angus King, a former governor and an independent, caucuses with them. He supports same-sex marriage and opposes drilling for oil in the Arctic.

• For the first time ever, same-sex marriage was approved by an electorate – and not just in one state but in four. Previously same-sex marriage had been sanctioned by state legislatures but had never passed a popular vote. Last night it did in Maryland, Maine, Minnesota (where a ban was defeated) and Washington.

Marijuana legalization initiatives passed in Colorado and Washington. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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U.S. unemployment rate falls below 8% for the first time in 44 months, total of unemployed people tumbles by 456,000. Non-farm payrolls rose by a mediocre 114,000- in line with forecasts and still pointing to a sluggish economy…

Powered by article titled “Unemployment falls to 7.8% in September – US politics live” was written by Richard Adams in Washington DC, for on Friday 5th October 2012 14.06 UTC


According to Fox News, a Jack Welch tweet constitutes a “backlash” against the credibility of the unemployment statistics.

“What do you make of the backlash against these numbers?” Fox News anchor Martha MacCallum asks. “It’s understandable,” says Chris Wallace.

“If it’s true these numbers are exaggerated,” says MacCallum, wandering off on a riff about how the economy is “a very individual experience”.

And with that, we depart to an item about the “Fast and Furious” gun-running debacle.


Alan Krueger, head of the White House‘s Council of Economic Advisors, has the official response from the White House:

While there is more work that remains to be done, today’s employment report provides further evidence that the U.S. economy is continuing to heal from the wounds inflicted by the worst downturn since the Great Depression. It is critical that we continue the policies that are building an economy that works for the middle class as we dig our way out of the deep hole that was caused by the severe recession that began in December 2007.

And it’s important to note, as Krueger does:

As the administration stresses every month, the monthly employment and unemployment figures can be volatile, and employment estimates can be subject to substantial revision. Therefore, it is important not to read too much into any one monthly report and it is informative to consider each report in the context of other data that are becoming available.


The White House breaks its silence on the jobs figures, with senior advisor David Plouffe saying that the drop in the unemployment rate “shows we continue to recover from a horrible recession.”

Appearing on MSNBC, Plouffe says the latest data mean that a total of 5.2 million private sector jobs have been created over the last 30 months.

Meanwhile on Fox News: “There are questions about this latest data release” from a “prominent businessman”. Is it Jack Welch and his nutty tweet, or has Donald Trump woken up?


The Guardian’s Wall Street correspondent Dominic Rushe gives his take on the latest jobs numbers:

The news will be a major boost for Obama, whose re-election campaign has been rattled in recent days by his perceived weak performance in his first debate with rival Mitt Romney. The report contained good news for many of voters in key demographics being targeted ahead of the election: the unemployment rates for adult men is now 7.3%, and for adult women it was 7%. But problems remain: September’s unemployment rate for teenagers was 23.7% and there was little change for African-Americans (13.4%) or Hispanics (9.9%).

There was an increase in the number of people working part time because their hours had been cut back or because they were unable to find a full-time job: up from 8m in August to 8.6m in September.

While Obama can now point to 24 consecutive months of growth, the Republicans argue the rate remains historically weak. An increase of 114,000 barely covers population growth in the US as new entrants come into the job market.


Meanwhile, Republicans are falling back on the “But Obama said things would be better by now!” theme. Here’s Tom Price, chair of the Republican House study group:

The rate of economic growth and job creation remains far below what is needed for the millions of Americans who are struggling through one of the worst economic recoveries since the Great Depression. At this point, the Obama administration predicted their policies would lead to an unemployment rate well below 6%. The gap between their promises and today’s reality is startling.


At least the Republican speaker of the House, John Boehner, grudgingly admits that the job figures may be good news:

While there is positive news in today’s report, job creation is far too slow and the unemployment rate is far too high.

Meanwhile, on Fox News they are still talking about Wednesday’s debate.


Looking at the detailed break-downs of the BLS figures today, we see that government hiring has turned around, with 10,000 new jobs added in September. But most of the jobs growth came in the service sector.

Healthcare employment rose by 44,000 while transportation was up by 17,000. The manufacturing sector was a slight drag, losing16,000 jobs during the month.


The excellent Robin Harding of the Financial Times has a quick look at the latest jobs data and explains the numbers:

Non-farm payrolls – based on a survey of businesses and normally the most reliable part of the monthly jobs figures – rose by a mediocre 114,000. That was broadly in line with expectations and points to a still sluggish economy.

But the separate survey of households found a surge in total employment of 873,000. The household survey is used to calculate the unemployment rate and caused it to plunge.

The sampling error on the business establishment survey is plus or minus 100,000 jobs. The sampling error on the household survey is plus or minus 280,000 jobs.


After the sound of crickets coming from the Romney campaign this morning, there’s the noise of press releases quickly being re-written. Here’s Romney’s first response:

This is not what a real recovery looks like. We created fewer jobs in September than in August, and fewer jobs in August than in July, and we’ve lost over 600,000 manufacturing jobs since President Obama took office.

Is it not what a “real recovery” looks like? Falling unemployment and more jobs? That sounds like a recovery.


Republicans proclaim ‘jobs figures scam’

New York magazine editor Dan Amira is collating some of the most hilarious tweets from swivel-eyed Republicans protesting that the latest jobs data must be a giant conspiracy:

Really? Here’s the response for a former Bush administration White House staffer, Tony Fratto:


So why the big fall in the unemployment rate despite the increase in the overall workforce?

According to the BLS survey figures, the total number of jobs in September rose by 873,000, the highest one-month jump in 29 years.

Why the difference between that and the non-farm payroll figures? Different measures, one being a household survey and the other being a compilation from employers.

There are two other reasons: state and federal government hiring has actually been increasing over the last three months. And the backward revisions.


Today’s non-farm payrolls data isn’t the only recent good news for US job creation:

What this means is that job creation is in positive territory over Obama’s time in office, shooting another Romney campaign fox.


A sign of how these jobs figures have caught even the smartest analysts on the hop: reacting to the fall in unemployment from 8.1% to 7.8%, the Harvard professor and former IMF chief economist Ken Rogoff confidently told CNN that it was because of discouraged workers leaving the labour force.

When Rogoff was told that wasn’t the case, he stuttered that he didn’t know what to say.

When Ken Rogoff is at a loss for words, check to see if Hell has had a cold snap and that the calendar is lacking the days Monday to Saturday.


Here’s the short analysis of the latest jobs figures: great news for the Obama campaign and just the shot in the arm it needed after Wednesday’s debatacle (that’s a debate/debacle mash-up).

It removes the Romney campaign’s talking point about US unemployment being above 8% since Obama took office. Somehow, saying “44 straight months with unemployment over 7.7%” doesn’t have the same ring to it.

And the backward revisions, especially to August’s dismal initial jobs report, removes the suggestions that the economy was stagnating over the summer.

But of course not everyone is impressed:

Expect more of this. If it’s not the opinion polls being rigged, it’s the unemployment data.


Non-farm payrolls and jobs data for September

• US unemployment falls to 7.8%, under 8% for the first time since President Obama took office in January 2009

• US economy added 114,000 new jobs in September

• July jobs total is revised up from 141,000 to 181,000, and August is revised up from 96,000 to 142,000

• Average hours worked edged higher to 34.5 hours, while average hourly earnings increased seven cents to $19.81

• The unemployment rate fell despite growth in the workforce, as 418,000 more looked for work in September

• Healthcare added 44,000 jobs, while transportation and warehousing grew 17,000 and financial services added 13,000

• The biggest losses came in manufacturing, which fell 16,000


Rosy jobs figures for Obama

Hear that hissing sound? It’s the air leaking out of Mitt Romney‘s bounce, as the September jobs report is released, not only showing that 114,000 jobs were added in the month and upward revisions to the August and July figures, but the overall unemployment rate falls to 7.8% – below the 8% mark that has been a running sore for the Obama re-election effort.

More details as they come.


So September was a very good month for the Obama campaign’s fundraising efforts. Initial reports has the total at $150m but there are hints that it may be more, via New York magazine:

Neither the Journal nor CNN sources confirmed the precise amount of the September haul because officials are still counting donations, which don’t have to be reported to the Federal Election Commission until October 20. One Obama campaign aide told the Washington Post that the campaign had its best fundraising month “ever,” while another said only that it was a record for 2012 (previously Obama’s $114 million in August); the difference could be almost $50 million as Obama’s campaign in 2008 set the all-time monthly record with $193 million in September.

No word from the Romney campaign yet.


Jobs, jobs, jobs: the September non-farm payroll report is published for the latest insight into the state of the US jobs market. Will it be a tale of misery and woe, and thus good news for Mitt Romney? Or will the data show signs of the green shoots of recovery, making it a happy end of the week for Barack Obama?

Obama certainly needs the boost after a widely-panned debate performance on Wednesday night. But he did have some good news yesterday: his campaign was reported to have raised a bumper $150m in donations during September.

Romney, meanwhile, took advantage of his post-debate bump to try and kill off the “47% gaffe” that he made in the secret video released last month, by going on the record as condemning his own remarks. That’s a change from his first reaction when the video was released, which was to defend his comments but call them “inelegant”.

Right then: the jobs numbers are out shortly after 8.30am ET. Stand by. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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Tepid economy adds just 80,000 new jobs in June, ‘Not surprised but disappointed’ is market reaction, Slowest quarterly job growth for two years, National jobless rate remains stuck at 8.2%, Spain borrowing costs back above 7% “breaking point”…

Powered by article titled “Disappointment as US economy added 80,000 jobs in June – live coverage” was written by Richard Adams, for on Friday 6th July 2012 13.41 UTC

9.40am: The Dow Jones index falls by 100 points as soon as the stock market opens.

9.37am: One reason why the US labour market remains stuck in a ditch: the drag from continuing cuts in government and public sector employment.

Obviously the Republican party doesn’t agree.

9.35am: By the way, today is exactly four months until election day.

9.31am: Bloomberg News gets some market reaction – “not surprised but disappointed,” says one:

The job market is soft, as is the overall economy,” said David Resler, chief economic adviser at Nomura Securities International, who correctly forecast the jobs gain. “I’d characterize our reaction as much the same way the Fed will react – not surprised but disappointed. It’s just not the kind of growth we need to see at this stage in the business cycle.

9.24am: Mitt Romney is going to comment on the jobs report from a hardware store near his holiday home in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire, at 10am ET.

9.18am: Another sliver of better news in the jobs data: there was a drop in the number of “discouraged workers”, via the BLS:

Among the marginally attached, there were 821,000 discouraged workers in June, a decline of 161,000 from a year earlier. (These data are not seasonally adjusted.) Discouraged workers are persons not currently looking for work because they believe no jobs are available for them.

9.15am: Now the BLS website has recovered, you can find the full jobs data here. Here’s an extract:

Professional and business services added 47,000 jobs in June, with temporary help services accounting for 25,000 of the increase. Employment also rose in management and technical consulting services (+9,000) and in computer systems design and related services (+7,000). Employment in professional and business services has grown by 1.5 million since its most recent low point in September 2009.

Employment in manufacturing continued to edge up in June (+11,000). Growth in the second quarter averaged 10,000 per month, compared with an average of 41,000 per month during the first quarter. In June, employment increased in motor vehicles and parts (+7,000) and in fabricated metal products (+5,000).

Employment continued to trend up in health care (+13,000) and wholesale
trade (+9,000) in June.

Employment in other major industries, including mining and logging, construction, retail trade, transportation and warehousing, financial activities, leisure and hospitality, and government, showed little or no change.

9.10am: Alongside the June jobs report this morning is the latest quarterly household employment survey from the Bureau of Labor Statistics – and that actually shows a much rosier picture of the US labour market.

According to the survey – which talks to actual people rather than employers – the economy added an average of 127,000 jobs a month, rather than the 75,000 recorded in the non-farm payrolls data. (There are various reasons for the difference.)

9.08am: Reaction to the jobs report is predictable along party lines, with Speaker of the House John Boehner saying this proves once again that the Obama administration’s economic policies have failed.

President Obama is out on his bus tour this morning and is expected to speak at 10.45am in Poland, Ohio.

9am: Wall Street has reacted by selling off futures on the Dow and buying US Treasuries, as you’d expect with weak numbers like this – although neither movement has been pronounced.

And for those who are wondering: there are four more jobs reports between now and the election on 6 November – including one on 2 November I suspect.

Meanwhile, the next scheduled meeting of the Federal reserves Open Markets committee – the one that sets monetary policy – starts on 31 July. It can of course act between meetings.

8.57am: The employment data also appears to have some grim news: the jobless rate among black Americans rose to 14.4% in June from 13.6% in May. Meanwhile, the unemployment rate was largely unchanged for whites at 7.4% and Hispanics at 11%.

8.53am: Could the latest employment data encourage the Federal Reserve to take further action to stimulate the economy? Possibly not – and that’s also possibly bad news for the Obama campaign.

Paradoxically, the 80,000 jobs growth in June may not be bad enough for the Fed to take action, given that it has already downgraded its economic forecast for 2012. It predicts growth of just 1.9% to 2.4% for the year and little change in the unemployment rate – and this jobs report may not be enough to shift its current stance.

8.45am: Delving deeper into the June jobs report – while the headline number of 80,000 is on the dismal side, some of the other data is more mixed.

For the April to June quarter in total, the US economy added just 75,000 jobs – far below the 226,000 a month added in the first quarter of the year. There were job losses in retailing, transportation and government sectors.

The good news was that average hours worked grew to 34.5 hours from 34.4 in May – suggesting that there was some higher demand in the pipeline. At the same time, average hourly wages rose six cents to $23.50. That means hourly pay has increased 2% in the last 12 months.

Meanwhile there were signs of improvement elsewhere. The manufacturing sector added 11,000 jobs, its ninth straight month of growth. The healthcare industry added 13,000 jobs, and banking and financial services added 5,000.

8.41am: Here’s the New York Times’s quick take on the June jobs report, describing the labour market as “tepid”:

The nation’s employers created more jobs in June, but not enough to significantly reduce the backlog of nearly 13 million unemployed workers.

The economy added 80,000 jobs last month, the Labor Department reported Friday, after a revised increase of 77,000 in May. The unemployment rate remained at 8.2%.

Economists are expecting similarly tepid job growth of around 130,000 a month — just enough to keep up with the growth in the working-age population — for the rest of the year.

8.35am: Initial reaction to the June jobs report: standing still rather than getting better or worse. While job growth is slow, job losses aren’t as big a factor than they have been.

But it’s not good news for the White House or the Obama campaign – and obviously better news for the Romney campaign, on the headline at least, being lower than expectations.

8.34am: There are also some backward revisions for April and May but they are basically a wash – a net loss of just 1,000 jobs so little change there.

8.31am: Breaking down the numbers – the private sector payrolls rose by 84,000 and the total non-farm payrolls rose by 80,000 – meaning that government job losses remain a small drag on the employment market.

Manufacturing created 11,000 jobs.

Obviously this is bad news for the Obama administration – that makes the second quarter of this year the weakest quarter in terms of jobs growth since the height of the recession.

8.30am: And here we go: the US economy added just 80,000 new jobs in June, and the unemployment rate stays unchanged at 8.2%.

8.18am: While we are waiting for the jobs report, here’s a 2006 clip of Mitt Romney talking about creating jobs as giovernor of Massachusetts.

In it, Romney says it’s “silly” to suggest job growth happened from the day he became governor. He doesn’t take that view these days.

8.12am: The New York Times’s statistical blogger Nate Silver has an interesting thought about how the expectations for today’s jobs report will affect the political climate. “It seems as though we’re at something of an inflection point in terms of the prevailing sentiment about the state of the race,” writes Silver:

If the economy is found to have added 150,000 to 200,000 jobs last month, you may begin to hear talk about how President Obama is on a winning streak. Nobody, I hope, will suggest that Mitt Romney faces insurmountable odds of winning the White House, but the notion that he is at least a moderate underdog may begin to sink in.

A downside miss, however, would mean that hardly any jobs were created in June. That would very probably shift the conversation away from the relatively favorable news stories, like the Supreme Court’s ruling on health care, that Mr. Obama has had over the past few weeks. The election might again come to be viewed as more of a tossup.

8.05am: So what can we expect from today’s jobs report? The latest microeconomic data hints June’s jobs total may be better than expected. Weekly unemployment benefit applications dropped by 14,000 to a seasonally-adjusted 374,000, the fewest since mid- May. And private sector payroll provider ADP said businesses added 176,000 jobs last month – an improvement on the revised 136,000 jobs it reported for May.

Goldman Sachs reacted to the latest data by sharply raising its forecast to a gain of 125,000 jobs for last month, well above its previous forecast of just 75,000. And a more recent CNN survey of economists put the addition at 90,000.

8am: Barack Obama and Mitt Romney will be anxiously awaiting the June jobs report unveiled this morning by the Bureau of Labor Statistics – and another pivotal moment in the 2012 US presidential election campaign.

With the BLS announcement set for 8.30am ET this morning, a survey of economists forecasts that 90,000 new jobs were added to the economy last month. That’s an improvement on the 73,000 added in each of April and May but well below the pace of growth set during the first quarter of the year, when 226,000 new jobs were added each month.

With the 2012 presidential election just four months away, time is running out for the Obama administration to convince voters that it is turning the economy around and making a dent in the 8.2% unemployment rate.

For Mitt Romney’s campaign, any figure below 100,000 bolsters its message that the Obama administration has failed, and that Romney’s successful business background makes him a better bet to put more Americans back to work.

While the Obama campaign has been chipping away at Romney’s business credentials as a corporate financier – labeling him a “pioneer of outsourcing,” as Obama did yesterday – another month of weak job growth puts it back on the defensive and vulnerable to GOP attacks on the White House’s record.

The latest labor market report comes as the Romney campaign has been suffering from stinging criticism of its strategy from Rupert Murdoch and the Wall Street Journal. Romney himself appeared uncertain how to respond to the supreme court’s dramatic decision last week to uphold Obama’s signature healthcare reforms.

We’ll be live-blogging all the latest reaction from economists on Wall Street and politicians in Washington once the numbers are made public. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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