Senate

Senator Corker (TN-R) introduces legislation to ‘unwind Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac

November 9, 2011

“U.S. Senator Bob Corker has introduced legislation to unwind Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the mortgage companies that have drawn more than $150 billion in taxpayer aid since the 2008 subprime lending collapse.

In a press release, the Tennessee Republican said the bill introduced today is intended to start a conversation about how best to rebuild the U.S. housing market.

“We are no closer to transitioning Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac off government life support than the day the firms were taken under direct government control,” Corker said. “We’re introducing this bill to lay down a marker and get a conversation going that Washington has put off for far too long.”

The legislation is similar to a package of bills being considered by House lawmakers. The Senate Banking Committee has not scheduled a hearing on the bill.”

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Attorney General Holder to the Senate Judiciary Committee: Fast and Furious tactics will not be tolerated

November 9, 2011

“In testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Holder hit hard at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives practice that has tainted his tenure at the Justice Department and led to some Republican calls for him to resign.

“I want to be clear: Any instance of so-called ‘gun walking’ is unacceptable,” Holder said of weapons smuggling, later adding: “This operation was flawed in its concept, and flawed in its execution.”

Holder acknowledged what critics have been saying about the long-term consequences of “gun walking.” “Unfortunately we will feel its effects for years to come, as guns that were lost during this operation continue to show up at crime scenes both here and in Mexico,” Holder said. “We are losing the battle to stop the flow of illegal guns to Mexico.”

Holder defended his own actions, reminding the panel he called for the inspector general to examine the so-called Operation Fast and Furious and issued a directive that “gun-alking” was illegal and should never be repeated. The resulting report may be concluded before the end of the year. However, Holder stopped short of laying blame for the flawed operation.”

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Speaker Boehner: The House has now passed more than 20 bipartisan jobs bills

November 9, 2011

“The House has now passed more than 20 bipartisan jobs bills so far this year. The bills approved tonight will make it easier for small businesses and start-ups to access the resources they need to expand and hire new workers, and will foster a better environment for private-sector job creation and long-term economic growth. I want to thank Majority Whip McCarthy and Congressman McHenry for their work on these common-sense measures.

I urge President Obama to call on the Democrat-controlled Senate to quickly vote on these and the rest of the House-passed jobs bills still awaiting action. We don’t need more ‘stimulus’ spending, higher taxes, or more unnecessary regulations – we need to get Washington out of the way and remove government obstacles to job growth. That’s what these bipartisan jobs bills do, and they deserve an immediate vote by Senate Democrats.” -John Boehner

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Clawson: Republican Filibuster of Infrastructure Bill another example of GOP economic sabotage

November 9, 2011

“A Democratic president proposes an infrastructure bill to create jobs. And every Senate Republican filibusters it. A Democratic president proposal an infrastructure bill that does not increase the deficit. And every Senate Republican filibusters it.”

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Republican Supercommittee member Senator Toomey acknowledges need for more government revenue for debt reduction

November 8, 2011

“No, congressional Republicans haven’t taken up the mantle of tax increases, but as the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction lurches toward its Nov. 23 deadline to cut $1.2 trillion from the nation’s deficit, GOP lawmakers are talking a lot about how to raise revenue and still stick to their no-tax-increase pledge.

It’s a sharp departure from the all-spending-cuts rhetoric, as Republicans realize they have to at least sound like they’re willing to deal with both sides of the ledger to pitch a credible deficit deal that might win over a few Democrats.

Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), a member of the supercommittee, acknowledged the need to include revenue in any proposal, telling POLITICO: “I have said from the beginning that the way to get to a deal is through tax reform that is pro-growth and can generate revenue.”

On Sunday, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said on ABC that he would like to see tax reform that lowers the corporate and personal tax rate to 25 percent, and he would “bring that revenue to the table” if Democrats “are serious about cutting spending.”

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Senate Democrats and Republicans temporarily halt partisan bickering, move to pass agreeable business and veterans ‘parts’ of Obama’s Jobs Bill

November 8, 2011

“The Senate voted overwhelmingly Monday to temporarily set aside its partisan standoff over President Barack Obama’s jobs plan and move toward giving a modest economic spark to two potent interest groups: veterans and businesses.

In a 94-1 roll call, senators voted to start debating a measure repealing a requirement that federal, state and many local governments withhold 3 percent of their payments to contractors. That bill has been lobbied by a wide swath of industry groups large and small and has no significant opposition.

By the time the Senate approves the legislation — perhaps later this week — Democrats planned to add language backed by both parties offering tax breaks to companies that hire veterans and providing vets with employment counseling and other job-hunting services.”

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White House Draft Memo would require federal agencies to reveal special funding requests from members of Congress

November 7, 2011

“In a move that could escalate hostilities with Congress, President Obama may be planning to use his executive authority to publicize special funding requests that lawmakers make for pet projects.
A memo that the White House has floated on Capitol Hill would require executive branch agencies to make public any letter from a member of Congress seeking special consideration for any project or organization vying for government funding.”

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As Obama begins his nine-day trip to visit Asia-Pacific leaders, Washington prepares for a battle over budgets, taxes, spending, and debt

November 7, 2011

“President Barack Obama’s efforts next week to persuade Asia-Pacific leaders of his commitment to the region may be undercut by distractions in Washington, where budget fights may come to a head while he is away.
Obama embarks on a nine-day trip to Hawaii, Australia and Indonesia on Friday that he will use to highlight U.S.-Asian economic ties and the long-standing U.S. role in the region’s security.
His absence from Washington will coincide with a deadline for Congress to avoid a government shutdown and a pivotal stretch of deficit-cutting negotiations that investors and credit rating agencies will be watching closely.
White House officials said Obama has diplomatic goals he hopes to advance at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit that he will host in Honolulu on November 12-13 and during his visits to Canberra, Darwin and Bali.
But there is speculation he could face pressure to cut the trip short to rush back to Washington for the budget crunch-time and to avoid criticism that he failed to step up if the negotiations start to go off track.
“There is pressure here not to do the trip,” said Ernest Bower of the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, who said Obama was facing the political reality that “it’s always better to be in Indiana than Indonesia.”

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Defense Secretary Panetta considering military spending cuts once thought ‘inconceivable’

November 7, 2011

“Under orders to cut the Pentagon budget by more than $450 billion over the next decade, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is considering reductions in spending categories once thought sacrosanct, especially in medical and retirement benefits, as well as further shrinking the number of troops and reducing new weapons purchases.

Panetta, a former White House budget chief, acknowledged in an interview that he faced deep political pressures as he weighed cuts to Pentagon spending, which has doubled to $700 billion a year since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. He said that meeting deficit-reduction targets might require another round of base closings, which could be highly contentious as members of Congress routinely fight to protect military deployments and jobs in their communities.

Among other steps, Panetta said, Pentagon strategists were looking at additional cuts in the nuclear arsenal, with an eye toward determining how many warheads the military needed to deter attacks.

Panetta also held out the possibility of cutting the number of U.S. troops based in Europe, with the United States compensating for any withdrawal by helping NATO allies improve their militaries. That effort would free up money so the United States could maintain or increase its forces in Asia, a high priority for the White House, and sustain a presence in the Persian Gulf after the withdrawal from Iraq this year, he said.

Panetta spoke less than three weeks before a special bipartisan committee is supposed to produce a far-reaching deficit-reduction plan. If the committee deadlocks and fails to find $1.2 trillion in deficit reductions, then automatic cuts go into effect and the Pentagon could face an estimated $500 billion in additional reductions over the next decade.

Panetta has called those additional cuts potentially ruinous. In that view, he has allies in Congress, especially Republicans on the House and Senate Armed Services Committees, who are preparing legislation that would undo the automatic across-the-board cuts for military programs, or exchange them for cuts in other areas of the federal budget. The defense secretary’s stated views could well put more pressure on the committee to come up with a deal.”

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Senate Democrats remove Millionaire Tax from Jobs Bill and instead plan to keep current fees V.A. Home Loans in place

November 6, 2011

“Senate Democrats plan to make veterans the focus of their next jobs bill, providing tax incentives for businesses to hire former members of the military and instructing the Labor Department to find ways to ease their transition to the civilian workplace.

But perhaps most striking is Democrats’ decision to jettison a popular method of paying for pieces of President Obama’s $447 billion jobs bill, which failed in a bipartisan vote in the Senate. The majority is not looking to tax Americans who make more than $1 million to offset the veterans’ jobs provision; rather, they will keep in place current fees for V.A. home loans.

The abandonment of the millionaire surtax is a victory for Republicans, who have, heretofore opposed such a measure, and it also signals a significant compromise by Democrats toward improving the nation’s persistently poor jobless rate. While polls showed the surtax to be popular with a majority of Americans, Republicans have stood uniformly against it, thereby blocking any possible jobs measure.”

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Democratic Senator Blumenthal introduced legislation to allow child care federal block grants to cover diapering supplies

November 3, 2011

“Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) on Tuesday introduced legislation that would allow federal block grants that states now use to subsidize child-care services to also allow for the purchase of diapers and “diapering supplies.”

The bill, S. 1778, would amend the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act of 1990 to allow diapers and related supplies to be bought with grant money provided to states. Under current law, the money is meant to subsidize child-care services to parents who are entering the labor force or are in job training and education programs. It also helps subsidize child-care services for certain eligible families.

Under the law, 4 percent of all funds must be used to improve the quality of child-care. A summary of Blumenthal’s bill indicates that it would allow the purchase of diapers under this provision, as it would “include the provision of diapers and diapering supplies among the activities for which funds may be employed to improve the quality of and access to child care.”

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Democratic Senator and Representative propose transaction tax for financial firms modeled on European Union proposal

November 2, 2011

“Two U.S. lawmakers will introduce measures to impose a transaction tax on financial firms that resembles a proposal released by the European Union.

Senator Tom Harkin, an Iowa Democrat, and Representative Peter DeFazio, an Oregon Democrat, will introduce the bills tomorrow in their respective chambers. The bills will give the United States an increased role in the international debate over a transaction tax, which is likely to be discussed at the Group of 20 summit this week in Cannes, France.”

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