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Inside Politics

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FEDERAL RESERVE

Bernanke urges GOP to support raising debt ceiling

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke on Tuesday urged Republicans to support raising the nation's borrowing limit. He said threatening to block the increase to gain deeper federal spending cuts could backfire and worsen the economy.

Even a short delay in making payments on the nation's debt would cause severe disruptions in financial markets, damage the dollar and raise serious doubts about the nation's creditworthiness, Mr. Bernanke said.

It wasn't Mr. Bernanke's first warning to Republicans, who are vowing to block an increase that doesn't include a deal to slash government spending by the same amount. But it was his most explicit in terms of the consequences.

The nation reached its $14.3 trillion borrowing limit last month. Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner has said the U.S. could default on its debt if it doesn't raise the limit by Aug. 2. The debt limit is the amount the government can borrow to help finance its operations.

SOCIAL SECURITY

Agency makes billions in improper payments

The Social Security Administration made $6.5 billion in overpayments to people not entitled to receive them in 2009, including $4 billion under a supplemental income program for the very poor, a government investigator said Tuesday.

In all, about 10 percent of the payments made by the agency's Supplemental Security Income program were improper, said Patrick P. O'Carroll Jr., the inspector general for Social Security. The program has strict limits on income and assets, and most of the overpayments went to people who did not report all their assets, Mr. O'Carroll said.

Error rates were much smaller for retirement, survivor and disability benefits, which make up the overwhelming majority of Social Security payments, Mr. O'Carroll told a congressional panel.

"By any standard, the scope of these problems is considerable," said Rep. Charles W. Boustany Jr., Louisiana Republican and chairman of the House Ways and Means oversight subcommittee. "Regardless of whether a payment occurs because of simple error or outright fraud, improper payments harm Social Security programs in the long term, jeopardizing benefits for those who may need them in the future. They also cost taxpayers billions of dollars each year."

Social Security also made nearly $1.5 billion in underpayments in the 2009 budget year, Mr. O'Carroll said.

SCANDAL

Senate Democrats mum on Rep. Weiner

While an increasing number of high-profile Democrats have suggested - or outright demanded - that embattled Rep. Anthony D. Weiner resign, Senate Democrats largely have ducked the issue.

Sen. Charles E. Schumer, the third-ranking Senate Democrat, who formerly held Mr. Weiner's New York City House district, on Tuesday again declined to say if he thinks Mr. Weiner should step down.

"Look, as I said this weekend, those of us who have been friends of Anthony Weiner for a very long time view his wrongful behavior as distressing, saddening, as heartbreaking," Mr. Schumer told reporters at the Capitol. "It's clear he needs professional help; that's what he's sought, and that's all I'm going to say."

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, also refused to weigh in on the issue when asked Tuesday.

House Democrats have been less shy about pressing Mr. Weiner to quit, including House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, who is chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, has called on the House Ethics Committee to investigate Mr. Weiner's sexually charged online relationships with several women. President Obama has said if he were the New York lawmaker, he would resign.

NRC

IG: NRC chief 'wrong' to mislead commissioners

The chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission was unprofessional and "wrong" as he repeatedly misled fellow commissioners about his efforts to stop work on a disputed dump for high-level radioactive waste, an agency watchdog said Tuesday.

Inspector General Hubert T. Bell told Congress that NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko manipulated the panel's four other commissioners by selectively withholding information on a crucial safety review of the proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste dump in Nevada. Mr. Jaczko's actions allowed him to shut down the review last year without a vote of the full commission.

Mr. Bell told members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee that Mr. Jaczko's conduct was not criminal, but "It's not an upfront way to do business."

HOUSE SPEAKER

Boehner inducted into burger hall of fame

House Speaker and hamburger lover John A. Boehner was inducted into White Castle restaurants' Cravers Hall of Fame Tuesday.

The Columbus, Ohio-based fast-food chain said it was honoring the Ohio Republican because of his lifelong penchant for its iconic tiny burgers affectionately known as "sliders."

"Speaker Boehner has shared with us his fond memories of eating White Castle as a kid in southwestern Ohio," said Jamie Richardson, vice president of government and corporate relations.

White Castle, during a marketing event at the Capitol to celebrate the company's 90th anniversary, gave Mr. Boehner a plaque engraved with a 1963 image of White Castle's Cincinnati restaurant No. 11, which he frequented as a young boy.

Mr. Boehner is the first 2011 inductee in what the company calls a "prestigious club of die-hard White Castle fans."

"White Castle employs many people in Ohio, and the speaker was pleased to show his support by participating in the event today on Capitol Hill," Boehner spokesman Kevin Smith said.

OBITUARY

Hospers, first Libertarian presidential nominee, dies

LOS ANGELES — John Hospers, the Libertarian Party's first presidential candidate, died Sunday in Los Angeles, according to the party's website. He was 93.

Running on a platform of limited government and individual rights, Mr. Hospers and vice-presidential nominee Theodora Nathan were on the ballot in two states in 1972 and received 3,671 votes and a single electoral vote. The election sent Richard M. Nixon to the White House for a second term.

Mr. Hospers taught philosophy at the University of Southern California.

According to his website, he was born in Pella, Iowa, near Des Moines, and earned a doctorate at Columbia University. The Libertarian Party was founded in Colorado in 1971.

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