Obama Trade Mission to Asia
On Friday, President Obama landed in Japan, the last leg of his 10-day, four-nation trade mission which included previous stops in India, Indonesia, and South Korea. The most recent stop in Seoul was marred by negotiators’ failure to finish a long-delayed U.S.-South Korea free trade agreement and squabbling at a G-20 summit over U.S. monetary policy. In Japan, Obama will attend an Asia-Pacific economic summit in Yokohama, which will set the stage for the next APEC summit scheduled for 2011 in Hawaii. He will also meet with Japan’s new prime minister, Naoto Kan, to discuss Japan’s potential membership in the U.S.-backed Transpacific Partnership free-trade initiative. However, Kan faces opposition from Japan’s politically powerful farm groups who oppose Japan’s membership in the trade measure.
Axelrod on Taxes and Healthcare
On Wednesday, White House Senior Advisor David Axelrod acknowledged during an interview that President Obama might agree to extend the Bush tax cuts for all income brackets. In the interview with the Huffington Post, Axelrod said ” we have to deal with the world as we find it. The world of what it takes to get this done. There are concerns that Congress will continue to kick the can down the road in the future by passing temporary extensions for the wealthy time and time again. But I don’t want to trade away security for the middle class in order to make that point.” Axelrod also said that President Obama would veto repeal of the recently passed health care reform law, which was the first time that a top Administration figure had issued such a threat on the record.
Deficit Commission Releases Preliminary Report
On Wednesday, Deficit Commission co-chairs former Clinton White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles and former Sen. Alan Simpson (R-WY) unveiled their preliminary report that would cut $200 billion in spending by 2015, raise taxes by $100 billion, and continue deficit cutting until 2020. However, Bowles and Simpson did not bring the report to a vote of the 16 other members of the commission because they acknowledged its passage was unlikely. The 18-member commission appointed by President Barack Obama earlier this year was supposed to produce a 14-vote majority around a deficit reduction plan – a margin that would have required Congress to vote on the package unchanged. But the commission was dominated by current Members of Congress who staked out inflexible partisan positions. The seven Republicans office-holders, including Sen. Judd Gregg of New Hampshire and Rep. Jeb Hensarling of Texas said they would not support a plan that raises taxes. The Democratic lawmakers on the commission, including Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said they would not agree to Social Security adjustments or Medicaid benefit cuts.