Ahead of the curve: The next 7 days
December 12th, 2010
07:00 PM ET

Ahead of the curve: The next 7 days

Will Congress this week pass the tax deal that he and Republicans struck? After getting major push-backs from members of his own party, Obama will face a tough time trying to sell the deal - which includes a two-year extension of Bush-era tax cuts for all Americans - before the Bush cuts expire at the end of the year. Here's a look at this and some of the other stories we plan to follow this week:

Obama fighting for tax package

Though House Democrats revolted against the deal last week, Obama appears ready to show he's serious about seeing it through. On Wednesday, the president is expected to meet with business leaders to try to win their support for the plan, which also calls for extended unemployment benefits, tax breaks and a payroll tax holiday intended to bolster a sluggish recovery from economic recession.

House Democrats said last week they opposed the package because it would extend the lower Bush-era tax rates for millionaires. They want to extend the current lower tax rates only for those earning up to $200,000 a year, or families earning $250,000, while letting rates for higher incomes return to 1990s levels. With the tax cuts expiring at the end of the year, and Republicans able to block any legislation in the Senate, Obama and Democrats face a fast-approaching deadline to reach a deal or see tax bills increase for everyone.

One of the House Democrats’ leaders, Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, said Sunday his party will allow a vote on the deal but will try to change it, especially an estate tax provision they believe is beneficial to the wealthy. White House senior adviser David Axelrod, meanwhile, ruled out any major changes to the tax package, saying although the White House would like to limit the extended tax cuts to working-class Americans, it is more important to provide certainty on tax bills and unemployment benefits.

The lame-duck session of Congress also is running of time to deal with a number of other issues, including a possible repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” law prohibiting openly gay and lesbian people from serving in the military. Such issues could be addressed later, but Democrats are pushing the repeal and other things they favor now because Republicans will control the House and will have a stronger minority in the Senate in January.

White House report on Afghanistan strategy due this week

The White House is expected to release a major review of U.S. strategy in Afghanistan on Thursday. The review comes a year after Obama ordered additional U.S. troops to the country as part of a strategy that could bring some forces home as soon as July and end U.S. combat operations in Afghanistan in 2014. The review should shed light on how much progress the U.S. thinks it has made. Gen. David Petraeus, the commanding general of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, recently refused to be boxed in during an ABC interview for “Good Morning America” about whether he is confident Afghanistan’s army will be able to take over from U.S. forces in 2014.

Bloomberg joining group looking for nonpartisan solutions

A new group of Democratic, Republican and independent political leaders aiming to find nonpartisan solutions to the country's problems is set to launch on Monday. The organization, known as No Labels, kicks off in New York with a series of panels discussing some key political problems in America. Participants in Monday's event will include New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg; Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Indiana; Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-New York; Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia; Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Connecticut; Reps. Mike Castle, R-Delaware; and Rep. Bob Inglis, R-South Carolina.

Who was behind explosions in Sweden?

Swedish investigators will be trying to determine who was behind two weekend explosions that they believe were acts of terrorism, and they say they’re trying to learn whether any other attacks are planned. The two blasts happened in a pedestrian shopping area in Stockholm on Saturday, killing one person and injuring two others. A regional police chief said that “no innocent people were seriously hurt.” A different security official said Sunday he could not confirm whether the man who died blew himself up. A threat e-mailed to authorities and a news agency 10 minutes before the explosion mentioned the presence of Swedish troops in Afghanistan and a Swedish cartoonist who depicted the prophet Mohammed, according to TT, a Swedish news wire.

Is this the end for Italy’s prime minister?

The political survival of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi will be on the line Tuesday when the Italian parliament will take votes of confidence. Should he lose, he will have to resign, even though his term is not supposed to end until 2013. Pressure was piled on Berlusconi, 74, last month after a former ally called on him to resign, accusing him of a lack of attention to an economic crisis and structural reforms. Berlusconi survived a vote of confidence at the end of September, but the ex-ally’s supporters backed the prime minister at that time. Italian unemployment was running at more than 8% last month, the highest level since 2003, the Italian statistical office said, and public debt is 120% of the country’s gross domestic product.

Assange faces bail hearing; a rival prepares to launch

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is scheduled to have a bail hearing in London on Tuesday. He is fighting extradition to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning about allegations of sexual assault. Assange has denied any wrongdoing, and supporters have called the charges an attempt to strike back at him and his organization, which is known for leaking official secrets.

Meanwhile, WikiLeaks' release of sensitive U.S. diplomatic cables is entering its third week. The site so far has released more than 1,300 of what it says will be more than 250,000 documents.

And a new rival to WikiLeaks says it will launch Monday. The founders of Openleaks.org say they are former WikiLeaks members unhappy with the way WikiLeaks is being run under Assange. Openleaks says its goal, like that of WikiLeaks, is to help people deliver material to news outlets and other organizations without being identified.

Federal Reserve to decide on interest rates

The Federal Reserve will announce whether it will change interest rates after its meeting on Tuesday. The central bank is widely expected to keep rates steady near zero, where they’ve been since December 2008. Investors will be looking to the Fed statement for clues as to when rates might start rising, and they’ll also look for any changes to the Fed’s plan to purchase Treasury bonds to stimulate the U.S. economy.

Investors this week also will be expecting retail sales numbers for November, including results from the Black Friday holiday shopping weekend.

Unique gifts and the new hungry

Looking for unique gifts that will keep on giving months after you’ve thrown out your Christmas tree? Our Living section this week will have a gallery of fun gifts you can send your friends for the holiday.

Also this week, Living writer Stephanie Chen will look at a growing group of middle- and working-class people who are having difficulty feeding one or more of their household members because of a lack of money.

CNNHealth tackles Santa Claus and aspirin

CNNHealth.com this week will highlight opinions from child development experts about whether there is an age too old for belief in Santa Claus. Also, following last week's news that taking aspirin may prevent some cancers, CNNHealth will take a look at the history of the drug.

It's beginning to look a lot like awards season

It's time to find out which movies, TV shows and performers were the best of 2010 and then begin guessing what everyone will wear on the red carpet.

Nominations for the 68th annual Golden Globe awards will be announced on Tuesday morning. Beginning at 8 a.m., you can watch the nominations for best film and TV live on CNN.com.

The Screen Actors Guild will announce its nominees on Wednesday morning, also airing live on CNN.com.

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Filed under: Ahead of the curve
soundoff (38 Responses)
  1. Sagebrush Shorty

    I thought for a while last week that Democrats had actually grown some backbone. Guess Harry Reid proved me wrong.

    December 12, 2010 at 10:12 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Nathan Steele

    Why is the headline at the top of this page also a link that takes me to this same page I'm already looking at? Isn't that a little odd? While you're at it why don't you start an airline with daily direct flights from Chicago to Chicago or a taxi service that takes you from 5th and Main to 5th and Main!

    December 12, 2010 at 10:44 pm | Report abuse |
  3. stinley

    Hows all that hope and change working out ?

    December 12, 2010 at 10:51 pm | Report abuse |
  4. JT

    You do know that the surplus happened under a GOP-controlled congress in the 90's, right Tiller?

    December 13, 2010 at 2:38 am | Report abuse |
  5. USMC Ret.

    My gut tells me the big corporations are holding us all hostage. Once congress votes to extend their tax cuts they will release some hostages as a sign of good faith. In other words they'll once again fund their campains for re-election. After they reverse Obama-care they will release the rest of the country and hire again. I know I sound crazy but unemployment went up in November??? I thought retail stores hire their seasonal employees at this time. I wonder why this year is different???

    December 13, 2010 at 10:02 am | Report abuse |
  6. Andreas Moser

    I still don't like Christmas: http://andreasmoser.wordpress.com/2010/12/13/why-i-hate-christmas/

    December 13, 2010 at 4:43 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Cesar

    @Moser. U Scrooge.

    December 14, 2010 at 6:48 am | Report abuse |
  8. Cesar

    @Moser. You have an interesting blogg about how you hate Xmas. Nice pic though. Merry Christmas Moser.

    December 14, 2010 at 6:54 am | Report abuse |
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