- - Monday, December 12, 2011


Study: Gingrich plan would worsen deficit

A new independent study says the tax plan by GOP presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich would provide big tax breaks to the rich and blow a huge hole in the federal budget deficit.

The analysis by the Tax Policy Center says households making more than $1 million a year would see their taxes drop by an average of 62 percent. The study says federal tax revenues would drop by an estimated $850 billion in 2015 and worsen the budget deficit unless it is offset by unprecedented spending cuts.

Under Mr. Gingrich’s plan, taxpayers could stay in the current system or switch to a 15 percent flat tax on income. Mr. Gingrich also wants to eliminate taxes on capital gains, dividends and interest.


Bachmann plans push through Iowa’s 99 counties

ST. PAUL — Each of Iowa’s 99 counties is likely to hear from Republican presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann by the end of December.

Mrs. Bachmann’s campaign said Monday that she plans to spend 10 days crisscrossing the state and will begin Friday in northwest Iowa. With a break for Christmas, Mrs. Bachmann’s bus tour is expected to stop in every Iowa county by Dec. 28.

The Minnesota congresswoman is hoping to pull off a surprise win in the first caucus state.

Mrs. Bachmann won a nonbinding Iowa GOP straw poll in August, but her standing has slipped since then. Polls show former House Speaker Newt Gingrich leading his rivals in the state.

Iowa opens the GOP nominating push with its precinct caucuses in about three weeks, on Jan. 3.

Rick Santorum’s presidential campaign blasted out a fundraising email Monday that assures potential donors that the former Pennsylvania senator “isn’t liberal with his money like Mitt Romney.”


Perry going for broke with three weeks to go

AMES — Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry is fighting for his political life in Iowa.

Four months ago, the Texas governor was seen as conservatives’ national savior. But with three weeks before Iowa’s leadoff caucuses, Mr. Perry is retooling his message from the strict jobs focus he started with in August to one promoting himself as a conservative outsider who will fight “special interests.”

He has also fallen back on his Christian faith, with two recent ads promoting Christian themes. The bulk of his recent Iowa campaigning has been at forums sponsored by conservative evangelical groups.

The strategy change is a sign of the pressure he faces to revive his faltering campaign.


Pipeline-safety bill passed by voice vote

The House passed a bill that doubles the maximum fine for pipeline-safety violations, but ignores several key recommendations arising from investigations of deadly natural-gas explosions and high-profile oil spills over the past two years.

The compromise bill was passed Monday by a voice vote. Senate action is expected this week, perhaps as early as Tuesday.

The bill extends federal safety oversight of 2.3 million miles of gas and oil pipelines through 2015. It also doubles the maximum fine for safety violations to $2 million and authorizes the hiring of 10 more federal safety inspectors. That’s far fewer new inspectors than most safety experts say are needed.

The bill also doesn’t include several safety recommendations made by investigators in response to a 2010 gas-pipeline explosion in California.


Romney dismisses $10,000 bet with Perry, criticizes Obama

Mitt Romney is dismissing his offer to make a $10,000 bet with Rick Perry as merely “an outrageous number to answer an outrageous charge” namely, Mr. Perry’s claim that Mr. Romney made changes to parts of his book.

Mr. Romney said Monday that he made the offer in the weekend GOP presidential debate because Mr. Perry erroneously claimed that he deleted parts of his book, “No Apology” that referred to Mr. Romney’s support for a health care mandate.

Mr. Romney told Fox News that his bet offer was meaningless hyperbole, akin to saying “I’ll bet you a million bucks.”

The bet sparked charges that Mr. Romney, a wealthy businessman, is out of step with economic challenges facing ordinary Americans.

Mr. Romney said what the American people are tired of is President Obama deflecting blame for his failed economic policies.


Boehner will nominate new sergeant at arms

House Speaker John A. Boehner said Monday he will nominate former Secret Service official Paul D. Irving as the chamber’s 37th sergeant at arms.

Mr. Irving, if his nomination is approved, would replace House Sergeant at Arms William “Bill” Livingood, who will retire in January after 17 years as the chamber’s chief law enforcer.

A vote on Mr. Irving’s nomination is scheduled for Jan. 17 - the opening day of the second session of the 112th Congress.

“Paul Irving’s 25-year career in the U.S. Secret Service earned him the strongest possible recommendations for this important post,” Mr. Boehner said. “His high-level federal law enforcement experience, including a number of assignments working closely with the Congress, will be invaluable to the House.”

Mr. Irving, 54, joined the Secret Service as a special agent in 1983. He rose to a supervisory position on the Presidential Protective Division and served as deputy assistant director for congressional affairs and assistant director for government and public affairs.

In 2003, he was detailed to the White House as a member of the transition team responsible for assembling the Homeland Security Department. He retired from the Secret Service in 2008 as assistant director for administration, a position responsible for overseeing the agency’s budget.


First lady’s effort helps break record for most jumping jacks

Michelle Obama now holds part of a world record.

The first lady announced in an email Monday that her October bid to break the record for the most people doing jumping jacks in a 24-hour period succeeded. Mrs. Obama says 300,265 people participated, shattering the old record.

In order to achieve her goal, Mrs. Obama led about 400 elementary and middle-school students from Washington in jumping jacks on the South Lawn of the White House. Other jumping jacks events were held around the world on Oct. 11.

The effort was organized by National Geographic Kids magazine in support of the first lady’s Let’s Move initiative to promote physical fitness and healthy eating for children.


Senate blocks Obama envoy for El Salvador

Senate Republicans on Monday blocked President Obama’s nominee to be ambassador to El Salvador, drawing a sharp rebuke from the White House, which accused them of playing politics with the nation’s interests.

On a vote of 49-37, the Senate refused to move ahead with the nomination of Mari Carmen Aponte, a Washington lawyer and Hispanic activist. She has served as ambassador in San Salvador since September 2010 after the president, facing Republican opposition, made her a recess appointee. Her temporary tenure is to run out at the end of the year.

“Today’s filibuster is one more example of the type of political posturing and partisanship the American people are tired of seeing in Washington,” press secretary Jay Carney said.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, left open the possibility of trying to vote again at a later date.

Republican opposed Miss Aponte over unfounded rumors that her boyfriend of years ago was a Cuban spy and new conservative anger over a summertime Op-Ed column on gay rights to mark Mr. Obama’s proclamation. Democrats argued that she was an immensely qualified nominee who has accomplished a great deal in her short time in the diplomatic post.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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