The Week Ahead In Washington

Sep 16, 2013

President Obama addressed the shooting at the Washington Navy Yard before speaking on the fifth anniversary of the financial collapse.

In the week ahead, Congress will return to budget talks as the Obama administration considers its choice for who will lead the Federal Reserve.


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And we are following today's shooting at the Washington Navy Yard in D.C. At least 12 people shot and killed, several people wounded. President Obama spoke of the victims from the White House.


YOUNG: Well that - excuse me. That came at the top of a speech that was planned to mark the fifth anniversary of the financial collapse. But as the president spoke about progress since 2008, Congress is gearing up for a new round of budget talks and the crisis in Syria looms in the background.

Joining us now, Ron Elving, NPR's senior Washington editor. So, Ron, how much of today's planned speech was about changing the conversation away from Syria, or is that unfair, given that the budget battle is heating up?

RON ELVING, BYLINE: Surely the president was just as glad to pivot away from the Syria situation. But as you suggest, this was what they had anticipated, talking about September 15th for any number of weeks now, that president needs to get back to focusing on the issues that Americans say they're focused on. That usually starts with jobs and the economy. And, in fact, they've been planning this speech for quite some time.

You know, five years ago, on September 15th, when Lehman Brothers went down and the financial crisis began, the president was actually trailing John McCain in the polls as they came up to the November 2008 election. And after that date, the president steadily moved ahead and stayed ahead and won his first term as president. This is a date that means a lot in the Obama White House.

YOUNG: And maybe, it's not surprising that, today, President Obama spoke about progress made since 2008. Let's listen.


YOUNG: So not a complete pat on the back, Ron Elving. But there are other issues facing the president today. There's Larry Summers, his top pick to lead the Federal Reserve, we just heard, taking himself out of the running. Three Senate Democrats opposing his nomination, he reluctantly withdrew his candidacy. What does it mean for President Obama, that some members of his own party were not going to back his decision?

ELVING: It means those members of his own party had been listening to their constituency groups. This man is not - Larry Summers is not beloved by many Democrats. And the three that you mentioned were all on the Senate Banking Committee, it was going to rob the Democrats of the majority on that committee. This was not a nomination that was going to probably even make it to the Senate floor, so the inevitable was on the wall. And Larry Summers backed off for that reason. But, you know, Democrats see this guy as having been, you know, a deregulator back in the '90s, someone who wanted to let the financial industry have more freedom, and that, to some degree, led to the 2008 crisis.

YOUNG: And just a quick one here, though. We begin by talking about how there was a budget battle. Spending bill has to be agreed on by September 30th. Do you think it will be?

ELVING: No sign of progress right now. Both parties seemed to be very much digging in for a fight. The president has said he won't negotiate over the debt ceiling. The president has said that there's no reason to shut the government down over the implementation of Obamacare. So if the Republicans really do want to have a confrontation on this, on one of those issues, they're going to cause a great deal of disruption either by shutting down the government or by causing a potential partial, at least, default on U.S. obligations.

YOUNG: NPR senior Washington editor, Ron Elving. Thank you as always.

ELVING: Thank you, Robin. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.