- - Sunday, January 9, 2011


CEO says gas rules ambitious

General Motors CEO Dan Akerson says new fuel efficiency requirements being discussed by the government are “pretty ambitious” and suggested that Congress seek ways of reconsidering the coming standards every few years.

Mr. Akerson met last week with members of Michigan’s congressional delegation. He was named CEO in September and added the GM chairman’s title at the start of the year.

The auto executive raised concerns about fuel efficiency requirements being discussed for the 2017 to 2025 model years. Government regulators have said the fleet of new vehicles may need to meet a standard of somewhere from 47 miles per gallon to 62 miles per gallon by 2025, nearly double the current requirement.

Mr. Akerson said the increases would be difficult to attain and that Congress could consider reviewing the rules every two to three years.


Consumer borrowing up most in 2 years

Consumers increased the amount of money they borrowed in November to buy cars and attend college, marking the first back-to-back consumer credit gains in more than two years.

The Federal Reserve said consumer debt rose $1.3 billion in November after a $7 billion increase in October. The October figure was double the gain that the government initially reported.

The strength came in the category that includes auto loans and student loans. The category that includes credit card debt fell for a record 27th month, although the November drop was smaller than the previous four months.


Two members’ votes are voided

House Republicans had to correct a first-week gaffe by nullifying the votes of two of their members that were cast before they were sworn in.

Democrats pounced on the mistake, saying Republicans violated the Constitution on their first day in the majority by allowing the pair to vote six times before they were sworn in.

The House voted 257-159 to nullify those votes cast by Pete Sessions of Texas, the party campaign chief, and Mike Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania. Retracting their votes didn’t affect any outcomes. The two were at a reception when others took the oath Wednesday. They were sworn in Thursday.

Democrat Anthony Weiner of New York said it also violated the Republicans’ newly approved rule that legislation be made public three days before being put to a vote.


City poised for Asian mayor

SAN FRANCISCO | With a Chinese-American city administrator as the front-runner for interim mayor, San Francisco could become the largest U.S. city led by an Asian-American.

If confirmed next week by the incoming Board of Supervisors, 58-year-old Edwin Lee would be the first Chinese-American mayor in the city’s history. Thirty-four percent of the city’s 815,000 residents is Asian.

Experts said it would be an important first for San Francisco and the latest sign of the rising prominence of Asian-American politicians nationwide. Jean Quan became the first Asian-American woman to lead a major U.S. city when she was inaugurated mayor of nearby Oakland.

But Asians still hold a disproportionate share of elected positions and represent a smaller slice of the electorate than its population figures indicate.

Community leaders hope that will change as politicians like Mr. Lee become role models to the next generation.


Budget deficit narrows slightly

The U.S. budget deficit narrowed slightly in the first three months of the fiscal year as revenue grew at a faster rate than outlays, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated Friday.

The government recorded a deficit of $371 billion in October, November and December, which was $18 billion less than the deficit it recorded in the same period a year earlier, CBO said.


Liberals welcome at legal debates

MINNEAPOLIS | Rep. Michele Bachmann said Friday that liberal commentators and legal experts would be just as welcome as conservatives to participate in a series of constitutional discussions she is organizing for members of Congress.

The Minnesota Republican and founder of the congressional tea party caucus drew criticism after Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, one of the most conservative members of the high court, agreed to appear at the first event Jan. 24. Some legal experts noted that the court could soon find itself wading into contentious political issues, including efforts to strike down President Obama’s health care overhaul, and said justices who appear at events sponsored by a prominent Republican could do damage to their impartiality.

But Mrs. Bachmann said it’s not uncommon for Supreme Court justices to speak publicly about their legal philosophies. In November, Justice Scalia and Justice Stephen Breyer, one of the most liberal members of the court, sparred over various constitutional questions during a rare public debate sponsored by Texas Tech University Law School.

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