TUESDAY, MARCH 27, 2012
Bernanke says U.S. needs faster growth
The U.S. economy needs to grow more quickly to bring the unemployment rate down further, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said on Monday, defending the central bank’s policy of very low interest rates.
While he offered no indication the Fed is keen to embark on a third round of bond purchases, Bernanke also made clear the central bank is in no rush to reverse course after responding aggressively to a deep recession.
House conservatives to unveil budget which balances books faster
House conservatives on Tuesday morning will tack to the right and unveil an alternative to the House GOP leadership’s 2013 budget plan that balances in five years.
The new Republican Study Committee (RSC) spending plan has deeper cuts than the group’s budget for last year, which would have balanced the budget in nine years. The leadership budget, authored by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), takes until nearly 2040 to balance.
EPA Takes Aim at Coal Plants
The Environmental Protection Agency is set to introduce new rules Tuesday that take aim at greenhouse-gas emissions from coal-fired power plants, an administration official said.
The long-awaited action will sharply limit the emissions allowed from power plants built in the future, but will allow existing coal plants to keep operating for years.
U.S. Agency Seeks Tougher Consumer Privacy Rules
The government’s chief consumer protection agency said on Monday that it intended to take direct aim at the vast industry that has grown up around the buying and selling of information about American consumers.
The agency, the Federal Trade Commission, called on Congress to enact legislation regulating so-called data brokers, which compile and trade a wide range of personal and financial data about millions of consumers from online and offline sources. The legislation would give consumers access to information collected about them and allow them to correct and update such data.
EDITORIAL: Getting to the Merits
Before ruling on whether Congress has power to require Americans to obtain health insurance, the Supreme Court must decide whether it is barred from taking up that question by the federal Anti-Injunction Act, which prohibits courts from hearing lawsuits that seek to block a tax before the tax is actually paid.
During an hour and a half of oral arguments on Monday, the justices showed their interest in addressing the merits of the case and their skepticism that the Anti-Injunction Act posed an insurmountable hurdle to doing so. That instinct seems right.
Medicare’s billion-dollar headache
It’s not easy to get lawmakers interested in an obscure and complex part of the Medicare law, especially when their minds are clearly on other topics, like the upcoming election.
But a loose coalition of K Street types that includes trial lawyers, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and advocates for seniors wants to breathe life into a congressional effort to pass legislation that would streamline the Medicare secondary-payer process — a tedious name for a billion-dollar headache.
ALSO IN HEALTHCARE: Supreme Court Hears Oral Arguments on Individual Mandate (10AM-12PM): Same-Day Audio on C-SPAN before 2PM
Senate votes to debate bill that would kill oil breaks
As promised, Senate Republicans gave the green light Monday to debating a Democratic bill that would repeal billions in oil industry tax incentives — the latest twist in the parties’ struggle to seize the high ground on gasoline prices.
The 92-4 cloture vote allowing the Senate to proceed to the bill belies the fact that the legislation itself is doomed: In all likelihood, it ultimately won’t get the 60 votes it needs to pass the Senate, and in any case it would be dead on arrival in the House.
Planned Pipelines to Rival Keystone XL
Two major energy companies are planning to build new pipelines that will move as much as 850,000 barrels of crude oil a day from Canada to refineries along the Gulf Coast by mid-2014, in the latest effort to cope with a surge of oil production in North America.
The separate projects, planned by Houston-based Enterprise Products Partners LP and Enbridge Inc. of Calgary, will compete with TransCanada Corp.’s proposed Keystone XL pipeline, a massive project to move crude from the oil sands of Alberta to U.S. refineries. The Keystone project was delayed late last year after pressure from environmental groups and has become a hot-button topic in the U.S. presidential campaign, with critics of the Obama administration contending that the delay will contribute to high gasoline prices in the future.
Latest NCLB Waiver Hopefuls Learned From First Round
In the latest round of applications for waivers under the No Child Left Behind Act, states seem to have learned lessons from their predecessors and dodged pitfalls that triggered some big revisions from first-round states.
The second-round group of 26 states, plus the District of Columbia, did a better job explaining how they will help English-learners and special education students succeed. And they are not straying as far from the 2002 law’s original emphasis on holding schools accountable for the performance of small groups of students deemed at risk.
Support in U.S. for Afghan War Drops Sharply, Poll Finds
After a series of violent episodes and setbacks, support for the war in Afghanistan has dropped sharply among both Republicans and Democrats, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.
The survey found that more than two-thirds of those polled — 69 percent — thought that the United States should not be at war in Afghanistan. Just four months ago, 53 percent said that Americans should no longer be fighting in the conflict, more than a decade old.