Beltway Briefing

The top stories from US politics today.

1. Congress races for solution as debt ceiling looms

Senators resumed talks today on the possibility of raising the federal government's debt ceiling. Congressional leaders remain divided as to what proposals should go through to allow an increase on the current $14.3 trillion ceiling. Republicans are refusing to go along with an increase unless it is coupled with deep spending cuts, while Democrats are trying to minimise the impact of cuts on public services. Officials have warned of potentially catastrophic consequences is the ceiling is not raisedby2 August, at which point the budget could default.

2. Dearth of questions for Obama's Twitter meeting

President Obama is dues to hold his first Twitter town hall meeting on Wednesday, but so far the event has suffered from a lack of pick-up on the social networking site. With just under a day to go, the hashtag #AskObama is still only attracting a trickle of tweets. Among the policy questions from Republicans and Democrats alike, there have been several tongue-in-cheeck tweets, such as this one from @whateversusan:

"#AskObama My first question is: Twitter? REALLY? You do realize this is the place where Justin Bieber trended for two years straight, right?"

3. Mitt Romney misspeaks on Congressional approval in Libya

 

The Republican presidential candidate mistakenly refers to to No Fly Zone in Libya as being Congressionally approved, which is was not. A Romney source has replied by saying that he was merely drawing attention to Obama's "muddling" of the Libyan mission:

"The Governor is pointing out that Obama is pursuing a mission in Libya that is different than the one he presented to the nation in his March 28th speech. When he announced his humanitarian mission, many members of Congress - both Democrats and Republicans - were calling for a humanitarian mission that included a no-fly zone."

4. Tim Pawlenty trumpets Minnesota's 2005 budget fight in new TV ad

In the first really bizarre campaign video of the election, Tim Pawlenty boasts about putting Minnesotans through one of the longest transit strikes in history, and bringing the Minnesotan government to a shuddering halt in order to stop Democrats increasing taxes. In some political cultures, boasting about bringing government to a halt or putting voters through months of strikes would be odd. Amid the climate of near-suicidal political and financial brinkmanship that has gripped the Republican party, however, Pawlenty's boasts make sense.

Emanuelle Degli Esposti is the editor and founder of The Arab Review, an online journal covering arts and culture in the Arab world. She also works as a freelance journalist specialising in the politics of the Middle East.

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The Brexiteers' response to John Major shows their dangerous complacency

Leave's leaders are determined to pretend that there are no risks to their approach.

Christmas is some way off, but Theresa May could be forgiven for feeling like Ebenezer Scrooge. Another Ghost of Prime Ministers Past in the shape of John Major is back in the headlines with a major speech on Brexit.

He struck most of the same notes that Tony Blair did in his speech a fortnight ago. Brexit is a blunder, a "historic mistake" in Major's view. The union between England and Scotland is under threat as is the peace in Northern Ireland. It's not unpatriotic for the defeated side in an electoral contest to continue to hold to those beliefs after a loss. And our present trajectory is a hard Brexit that will leave many of us poorer and wreck the British social model.

But, as with Blair, he rules out any question that the referendum outcome should not be honoured, though, unlike Blair, he has yet to firmly state that pro-Europeans should continue to advocate for a return to the EU if we change our minds. He had a note of warning for the PM: that the Brexit talks need "a little more charm and a lot less cheap rhetoric" and that the expectations she is setting are "unreal and over-optimistic".

On that last point in particular, he makes a point that many politicians make privately but few have aired in public. It may be that we will, as Theresa May says, have the best Brexit. France may in fact pay for it. But what if they don't? What if we get a good deal but immigration doesn't fall? Who'll be blamed for that? Certainly we are less likely to get a good deal while the government passes up pain-free opportunities to secure goodwill from our European partners.

As with Blair, the reaction says more about British politics after Brexit than the speech itself. Jacob Rees-Mogg described it as "a craven and defeated speech of a bitter man". Iain Duncan Smith, too, thinks that it was "strangely bitter".

There is much to worry about as Britain leaves the European Union but the most corrosive and dangerous trend of all is that section of the Leave elite which requires not only that we implement Brexit but that we all pretend that there are no risks, no doubts and that none of us voted to Remain on 23 June. That Blair and Major's speeches - "You voted for it, so we'll do it, but it's a mistake" - are seen as brave and controversial rather than banal and commonplace statements of political practice in a democracy are more worrying than anything that might happen to the value of the pound.

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.