- - Wednesday, July 27, 2011

SENATE

Lawmakers confirm Mueller for new term as FBI head

The Senate has voted unanimously to extend the term of FBI Director Robert Mueller, who took over the agency just days before the Sept. 11 attacks.

The vote to confirm Mr. Mueller for up to two more years came a day after President Obama signed legislation making a one-time exception of the 10-year limit to how long an FBI director may serve. Mr. Mueller’s term was set to expire on Tuesday.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Democrat Patrick J. Leahy said Mr. Obama asked Mr. Mueller to stay on the job to ensure continuity at a time when the nation was getting a new defense secretary and a new director of the CIA.

ELECTION

Palin to speak in Iowa, stoking bid speculation

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin is booked to speak in Iowa in September, stoking speculation she might join the presidential race.

Tea Party of America founder Ken Crow said Wednesday the 2008 vice presidential nominee will speak at his group’s Sept. 3 rally near Des Moines. Iowa holds the lead-off nominating caucuses, and her Labor Day Weekend trip there comes as Mrs. Palin weighs whether to mount a White House campaign.

She has said she will decide on a presidential bid in late August or early September.

Mrs. Palin made headlines for a campaign-style bus tour from Washington to New England during Memorial Day weekend.

News of Mrs. Palin’s trip to Iowa was first reported by Real Clear Politics.

HOUSE

Catholic bishops seek tax increases, fewer cuts

Weighing in on the debt talks, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops this week said it fears the House Republicans’ plan to reduce spending and raise the government’s borrowing limit would cut essential services, and the group urged Congress to instead look at tax increases and military spending cuts.

“A just framework for future budgets cannot rely on disproportionate cuts in essential services to poor persons. It requires shared sacrifice by all, including raising adequate revenues, eliminating unnecessary military and other spending, and addressing the long-term costs of health insurance and retirement programs fairly,” the bishops stated in their letter, dated July 26 and addressed to members of the House.

In their letter the bishops adopted the same rhetoric President Obama used, calling for “shared sacrifice” as Congress struggles to raise the government’s borrowing limit.

The House Republicans’ bill actually allows for ever-increasing spending over the next decade, but those increases would be less than current projections, to the extent of $840 billion in lower spending authority and $710 billion in lower actual payouts, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

The bishops’ letter specifically targets the House bill.

IRS

Watchdogs: Rules help mask political groups

Two watchdog groups filed a complaint with the IRS on Wednesday, arguing that loose federal regulations are allowing political groups to operate as tax-exempt organizations and exacerbating the problem of secret money in elections.

The petition, filed by Democracy 21 and the Campaign Legal Center, charges that lax IRS rules allow not-for-profit “social welfare” organizations to operate as political groups that don’t have to reveal their lists of donors. The petition asks the IRS to cap campaign activities by such groups called 501(c)(4) nonprofits after a provision in the tax code to 5 percent or 10 percent of the total they spend each year.

These organizations engage in far more campaign activity than the IRS allows and court rulings allow, Democracy 21 President Fred Wertheimer said.

An IRS spokeswoman declined to comment on the petition.

The complaint is intended to curb activities by nonprofit groups like the GOP-aligned Crossroads GPS and the Democratic-tilting Priorities USA, which are active in the 2012 presidential and congressional campaigns.

OHIO

Romney blames Obama for economic uncertainty

PATASKALA | Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney says businesses can deal with bad news it’s uncertainty that they struggle with.

The GOP front-runner Wednesday said policies from the past two years under President Obama have contributed to more uncertainty and deepened the effects of the recession.

Mr. Romney made the comments on a manufacturer’s factory floor. The stop in Pataskala is part of his broader strategy to focus more on the General Election race and Mr. Obama than the GOP primary contest.

While there, Mr. Romney declined to comment on the debt limit negotiations in Washington, only saying that he favored a “cut, cap and balance” approach to federal spending, which means cutting and capping spending and passing a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution.

ELECTION

Huntsman blames slow start on summer ‘dog days’

Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman Jr. is blaming his slow start on “the dog days of August,” saying he’ll do better when the election season hits high gear.

Asked about relatively poor polling numbers, the former Utah governor replied, “If the election were next month, I guess that would be a cause for concern.”

Mr. Huntsman told CBS’ “The Early Show” that “it’s going to take a little while” to hone his message of “moving this country to a position of competitiveness and job creation.” He said “we’ve got a terrific presence in the early states” and that he expects an even stronger organization on the ground by this fall.

Mr. Huntsman was the choice of just 4 percent of the respondents in a recent Suffolk University poll in New Hampshire.

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