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All against Cain: Upstart targeted in GOP debate

In News, Politics, Republican on October 19, 2011 at 9:02 am
Caricatures: GOP Presidential Debate Participants

Image by DonkeyHotey via Flickr

By KASIE HUNT, AP

Republican presidential contenders attacked upstart Herman Cain‘s economic plan as a tax increase waiting to happen Tuesday night, moving swiftly in a fiery campaign debate to blunt the former businessman’s unlikely rise in the race for the party’s nomination.

Old animosities flared, too, as former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Texas Gov. Rick Perry swapped criticism in unusually personal terms. “You have a problem with allowing someone to finish speaking,” Romney declared as the two men interrupted one another repeatedly in a disagreement over immigration, one of several vigorous clashes they had.

In a bow to Nevada voters, who will be among the first to choose among the candidates early next year, no one said he wanted to open a proposed nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain in a remote part of the state.

The fifth debate in six weeks ranged over familiar and contentious territory — from immigration and health care to the economy and energy, often in antagonistic terms. The candidates engaged each other more directly and sometimes more heatedly than in previous debates.

Romney’s Mormon faith also came up, and Perry said he disagreed with a pastor and political supporter who described the religion as a cult. “I can’t apologize any more than that,” the Texan said.

“That’s fine,” responded Romney.

But Cain’s unlikely rise from asterisk in the polls to contender was clearly on the minds of his rivals on stage in a hotel along the Las Vegas Strip.

Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota led the verbal assault moments after the debate began, saying his call for a 9 percent federal sales tax would only be the beginning, with the rate rising later.

Former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania wasn’t nearly as gentle, citing one analysis that found that taxes would go up for 84 percent of the nation’s households if Cain’s proposal went into effect. “We’re talking about major increases in taxes,” he said, adding that a single person and a couple with children with the same income would pay the same tax under Cain’s proposal.

Undeterred, Cain insisted the charges were untrue. He said he was being criticized because lobbyists, accountants and others “want to continue to be able to manipulate the American people with a 10-million- word mess,” the current tax code.

Cain’s proposal is for a 9 percent personal income tax, a 9 percent corporate tax and a 9 percent national sales tax.

The former pizza company CEO is the latest and unlikeliest phenomenon in the race to pick a Republican rival for President Barack Obama. A black man in a party that draws few votes from Africans Americans, he had bumped along with little notice as Romney sought to fend off one fast-rising rival after another.

That all changed in the past few weeks, after Perry burst into the race and then fell back in the polls. However unlikely Cain’s rise, Tuesday night’s debate made clear that none of his rivals are willing to let him go unchallenged.

“Herman, I love you, brother, but let me tell you something, you don’t need to have a big analysis to figure this thing out,” Perry said to Cain. “Go to New Hampshire where they don’t have a sales tax and you’re fixing to give them one,” he said, referring to the state that will hold the first primary early next year.

The debate was the fifth since Labor Day, and the last scheduled for nearly a month in a race that is fluid in more than one way.

While polls chart a series of rises and falls for various contenders — Romney remaining at or near the top — the schedule is far from set. Florida’s decision to move up its primary set off a scramble as Iowa maneuvered to make sure its caucuses are the first real test of the race and New Hampshire works to protect its half-century distinction as host to the first primary.

It was Perry who instigated the confrontation over immigration, saying that Romney had no credentials on the issue because he had once hired an illegal worker, the “height of hypocrisy.”

Romney denied the charge, saying he had hired a company to mow his lawn and did not know that it had an illegal immigrant on its payroll.

The two men talked over one another, and at one point, Romney placed his hand on Perry’s shoulder.

“It’s been a tough couple of debates for Rick. And I understand that so you’re going to get testy,” he said.

As Perry continued to speak, Romney stopped him: “You have a problem with allowing someone to finish speaking, and I suggest that if you want to become president of the United States, you’ve got to let both people speak,” he said.

On a more substantive level, Perry said he opposed repealing the portion of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution that says anyone born in the United States is automatically a citizen.

Bachmann, Santorum and Rep. Ron Paul of Texas all sidestepped the question.

Cain found himself on the defensive on two others issues during the two-hour debate.

He apologized for earlier remarks about building an electric fence on the Mexico border that could kill people trying to cross illegally.

And he said he wouldn’t be willing to negotiate with terrorists, even though he suggested he might be in an interview earlier in the day.

Foreign policy took a secondary role in the debate, and the new strain of Republican isolationism quickly surfaced.

Paul said U.S. troops should be withdrawn from Korea — where they have been stationed for more than 50 years — and foreign aid to Israel cut.

Perry said it was “time to have a very serious discussion about defunding the United Nations.”

Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman skipped this debate, saying he was boycotting the Nevada caucuses in a dispute over the primary and caucus calendar. He is campaigning exclusively in New Hampshire in hopes of a victory that can move him into the thick of the race.

Not only Republicans, but Obama was also critical of Cain’s economic plan during the day.

In an interview with ABC News, Obama said it would be a “huge burden” on middle-class and working families.

Source:  Associated Press.

 

 
 
 
 
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Cain’s 9-9-9 Plan Gain’s Big-Name Backers

In News, Politics, Republican on October 15, 2011 at 9:10 am

Republican Presidential Candidate: Herman Cain

By: Martin Gould and David A. Patten

Herman Cain’s catchy 9-9-9 tax overhaul system is gathering major supporters as the former pizza magnate consolidates his position at the top of the Republican field in the race for the White House.

House budget committee chairman Rep. Paul Ryan and Ronald Reagan’s economic guru Art Laffer both expressed their support for the plan which would replace the current tax code.

The anti-tax Club for Growth also came out in favor of Cain’s plan which would cut income and corporate taxes to 9 percent and institute a new national sales tax at the same level. Payroll, capital gains and estate taxes would all be eliminated under Cain’s proposals.

Eventually Cain’s plan calls for the complete elimination of income taxes – and the IRS – and the introduction of what he calls the Fair Tax, in which the all Federal revenue would come from a sales tax.

“I love the 9-9-9 plan, it’s a great first step,” Laffer told Fox News’ Bret Baier. “This is a lot better than our current tax laws that are filled with all sorts of ducks, chickens, pigs and turkeys. They’ve just got to be cleaned out and we’ve got to completely revamp the codes.”

Ryan didn’t go quite as far. The Wisconsin congressman did not endorse the plan, but praised it saying he loved “specific and credible” proposals.

Club for Growth president Chris Chocola called the 9-9-9 “an outline for a more prosperous and globally competitive America,” saying it is “both pro-growth and a good starting point on the way to a flat or fair tax.

“Eliminating taxes on capital gains and dividends and combining that with huge rate cuts in both corporate and income taxes would create an unparalleled economic boom,” said Chocola. “9-9-9 also eliminates the regulatory and compliance costs from the current tax code that suck billions out of the economy each year.”

Much of the criticism of the plan has been the idea of a new sales tax, which critics fear would be bound to grow. But Chocola dismissed those fears. “Of course a future Congress could raise taxes above the 9 percent levels, but under our current monstrosity of a tax system, Congress already can raise taxes at any time and often has. It is on a path to do so yet again next year with the expiration of the Bush tax cuts.

“Herman Cain’s proposal might not be the perfect plan, but it is a truly revolutionary tax reform that would amount to a massive job creating tax cut on investments, savings, and income.”

And Chocola issued a challenge to others in the GOP race. “Instead of tearing down ideas that would create economic growth and jobs, the other Republican presidential candidates should produce their own plans to achieve a flatter and more growth-oriented tax code. The American people deserve nothing less.”

Backing for Cain’s plan also came from Kevin Hassett, senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute also praised the Cain’s proposal for moving towards a flat tax. “If someone’s going to attack the 9-9-9 plan, I would say they should be careful because you are talking about the Republican holy grail,” he told the Associated Press.

More equivocal support came from Douglas Holtz-Eakin, the former director of the Congressional Budget Office who advised John McCain during his presidential run. “I don’t think it’s dramatically out of line with reality,” he told Bloomberg.

And Alan Viard, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, which favors smaller government, said the revenue estimates were “in the ballpark in some vague sense.” But Viard said the rates might need to be a little about 9 percent to generate the same revenues as the the current tax code.

As Cain has risen to the top of the GOP field – he is now running neck-and-neck with Mitt Romney at the top of polls –his plan has come under attack. During Tuesday’s GOP debate former Utah Gov. John Huntsman joked that he thought it was the price of pizza while Spirit Airlines have mocked the scheme by bringing in a 9-9-9 plan for certain fares. Texas Gov.Rick Perry’s wife, Anita, said, “When I hear 9-9-9, I want to call 9-1-1.”

Others have even suggested Cain got the idea from the video game SimCity 4 in which citizens live under a tax code of 9 percent for commercial taxes, 9 percent for industrial taxes and 9 percent for residential taxes.

Cain’s case wasn’t helped when he refused to name his advisors, except for “Rich Lowrie from Cleveland, Ohio,” during the Dartmouth College debate. Investigations soon found that Lowrie is a personal tax consultant for a Wells Fargo bank branch in Pepper Pike, an affluent suburb of Cleveland, who has no training in economics.

Lowrie himself defended the plan on Fox News on Friday, claiming, “The economy will expand by $2 trillion, 6 million jobs are going to be created and the unemployment rate will come back down to a more typical or natural rate of 4 or 4 ½ percent.

“Wages are going to go up by 10 percent, businesses investment will go up by a third,” Lowrie added, saying those figures came from former Treasury Department aide Gary Robbins. In an interview with Politico, although Robbins praised the plan, he added, “There’s nothing wrong with the plan, it just wouldn’t be the one I picked.”

Lowrie said Cain had told his advisers he wanted a “simple, transparent, efficient, fair and neutral,” tax code, adding “I want to tax everything once and nothing twice.”

Fox News contributor Stephen Hayes, of the Weekly Standard, said he couldn’t understand why Cain had not mentioned Laffer’s name at the debate instead of Lowrie’s. Despite that, he said Cain’s plan is resonating with the public.

“The most effective line Cain had in the debate the other night was when he said these politicians are all telling you this can’t be done, well I’m not a politician and that’s why I’m making these arguments,” said Hayes.

“He’s really talking to a huge swath of the Republican primary base and Independent voters as well to say the politicians have handled this for years and years and years and that’s why we are where we are.”

Source: Newsmax.

 

Senate GOP poised to scuttle Obama’s jobs plan

In Barak Obama, Democrats, News, Politics, Republican on October 11, 2011 at 10:04 am

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., center, accompanied by Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., left, and Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl of Ariz., talks about President Obama's job bill, Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2011, during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

By ANDREW TAYLOR, AP

 

President Barack Obama’s jobs bill, facing a critical test in the Senate, appears likely to fail because Republicans oppose its spending components and its tax surcharge on millionaires.

Obama has been waging a campaign-style effort to rally public support behind the $447 billion measure, which was expected to be the subject of a Senate vote Tuesday. The plan combines payroll tax cuts for workers and businesses with $175 billion in spending on roads, school repairs and other infrastructure, as well as unemployment assistance and help to local governments to avoid layoffs of teachers, firefighters and police officers.

The key elements of the jobs package reprise parts of Obama’s $800 billion-plus 2009 stimulus measure and a Social Security payroll tax cut enacted last year. Unlike the controversial stimulus bill, the jobs measure would be financed by a 5.6 percent surcharge on income exceeding $1 million, raising more than $450 billion over a decade.

In making the case for the bill, the White House cites economists like Mark Zandi of Moody’s Analytics, who predicts that the measure would add 2 percentage points of growth to the economy, add 1.9 million payroll jobs and reduce unemployment by a percentage point. But Republicans point to optimistic predictions about the 2009 measure that didn’t come to pass; unemployment hovers just above 9 percent nationwide.

Republicans say the 2009 stimulus measure was an expensive failure and say the current plan is just like it.

The president has been struggling in opinion polls, and his crusade for the measure has always been a long shot, given that Republicans control the House and can filibuster at will in the Senate. Obama has nonetheless pressed for the bitterly divided Congress to pass the measure in its entirety rather than seek compromise with his GOP rivals.

“This is not the time for the usual games or political gridlock in Washington,” Obama said in his weekend radio and Internet address. “Any senator out there who’s thinking about voting against this jobs bill needs to explain why they would oppose something that we know would improve our economic situation.”

While Republicans backed the payroll tax cut last year and support elements like continued tax breaks for investments in business equipment, they’re adamantly opposed to further spending and say the tax surcharge would strike at small businesses.

“It’s not a jobs bill. In our view, it’s another stimulus bill,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told Fox News last week. “I don’t think it’ll pass and I don’t think it should.” House GOP leaders say they won’t bring the measure to the floor.

Democratic unanimity is not assured. Moderates like Sens. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., and Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. — both are up for re-election next year in states where Obama figures to lose — may abandon their party, even as oil-state Democrats have been assuaged by a decision to get rid of an Obama proposal to have oil companies give up tax breaks.

“We’re likely to lose two, three, four Democrats,” Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the second ranking Democrat in the Senate, told Chicago’s WTTW-TV Monday. “I don’t know if we’ll pick up any Republicans.”

Tuesday’s vote is on whether to cut off a GOP filibuster on a motion to simply begin debate on the measure. If Democrats fail as expected — they control 53 votes in the 100-member Senate — it will start up a fresh wave of partisan finger-pointing.

Both the House and Senate are then expected to turn this week to approving U.S. trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea, one of the few areas of agreement between Republicans and the administration on boosting the economy.

Source: Associated Press

 

 
 
 
 

SPIN METER: Obama disconnects rhetoric, reality

In Barak Obama, Democrats, News, Politics, Republican on October 10, 2011 at 10:11 am

 

President Barak Obama

By ERICA WERNER, AP

In President Barack Obama’s sales pitch for his jobs bill, there are two versions of reality: The one in his speeches and the one actually unfolding in Washington.

When Obama accuses Republicans of standing in the way of his nearly $450 billion plan, he ignores the fact that his own party has struggled to unite behind the proposal.

When the president says Republicans haven’t explained what they oppose in the plan, he skips over the fact that Republicans who control the House actually have done that in detail.

And when he calls on Congress to “pass this bill now,” he slides past the point that Democrats control the Senate and were never prepared to move immediately, given other priorities. Senators are expected to vote Tuesday on opening debate on the bill, a month after the president unveiled it with a call for its immediate passage.

To be sure, Obama is not the only one engaging in rhetorical excesses. But he is the president, and as such, his constant remarks on the bill draw the most attention and scrutiny.

The disconnect between what Obama says about his jobs bill and what stands as the political reality flow from his broader aim: to rally the public behind his cause and get Congress to act, or, if not, to pin blame on Republicans.

He is waging a campaign, one in which nuance and context and competing responses don’t always fit in if they don’t help make the case.

For example, when Obama says his jobs plan is made up of ideas that have historically had bipartisan support, he stops the point there. Not mentioned is that Republicans have never embraced the tax increases that he is proposing to cover the cost of his plan.

Likewise, from city to city, Obama is demanding that Congress act (he means Republicans) while it has been clear for weeks that the GOP will not support all of his bill, to say the least. Individual elements of it may well pass, such as Obama’s proposal to extend and expand a payroll tax cut. But Republicans strongly oppose the president’s proposed new spending and his plan to raise taxes on millionaires to pay for the package.

The fight over the legislative proposal has become something much bigger: a critical test of the president’s powers of persuading the public heading into the 2012 presidential campaign, and of Republicans’ ability to deny him a win and reap victory for themselves.

“He knows it’s not going to pass. He’s betting that voters won’t pick up on it, or even if they do they will blame Congress and he can run against the `do-nothing Congress,'” said Sherry Bebitch Jeffe, a senior fellow at the University of Southern California‘s School of Policy, Planning and Development.

John Sides, political science professor at George Washington University, said Obama‘s approach on the jobs bill is “more about campaigning than governing.”

“He’s mostly just going around talking about this and drawing contrasts with what the Republicans want and what he wants and not really trying to work these legislative levers he might be able to use to get this passed,” Sides said. “That just suggests to me that he is ready to use a failed jobs bill as a campaign message against the Republicans.”

The president’s opponents aren’t exactly laying it all out, either.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., tried to force a vote on the bill last week, innocently claiming that the president was entitled to one. McConnell knew full well that the result would be failure for the legislation and an embarrassment for Obama.

House Speaker John Boehner, meanwhile, claimed that Obama has “given up on the country and decided to campaign full-time” instead of seeking common ground with the GOP. But Boehner neglected to mention that Obama’s past attempts at compromise with Republicans often yielded scant results, as Obama himself pointed out.

The approach for Obama, who is seeking a second term in a dismal economy, is far different than the one he took when running for president. He criticized the GOP then, but talked about ending blue-state and red-state America, replacing it with one America, fixing the broken political system, and fundamentally changing Washington.

That ended up being change he could not bring about, and now analysts say Obama may have little choice but to campaign more narrowly by attacking opponents rather than trying to bring people together.

Obama’s attempts at compromise with the GOP on the debt ceiling and budget won him little in the way of policy, instead engendering frustration from Democrats who saw him as caving to Republican demands.

The new, combative Obama isn’t looking for compromise. He’s looking for a win. And if he can’t get the legislative victory he says he wants, he has made clear that he’s more than willing to take a political win.

It is, he acknowledges, a result his campaign for his jobs bill is designed to achieve.

Talking up the bill in an appearance last month with African-American news websites, Obama said: “I need people to be out there promoting this and pushing this and making sure that everybody understands the details of what this would mean, so that one of two things happen: Either Congress gets it done, or if Congress doesn’t get it done, people know exactly what’s holding it up.”

Source:  Associated Press.

 

 
 
 
 

Doubtful social conservatives giving Romney chance

In News, Politics, Republican on October 8, 2011 at 9:36 am

Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney speaks to Citadel cadets and supporters during a campaign speech inside Mark Clark Hall on The Citadel campus in Charleston, S.C., Friday Oct. 7, 2011. (AP Photo/Mic Smith)

By PHILIP ELLIOTT, AP

This year, pocketbook issues seem to matter more than pulpit preaching among cultural conservatives and at least some are willing to embrace Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney, who they’ve long looked at skeptically.

“No one’s perfect,” says Larry Smith of Newport Beach, Calif., one of thousands of conservatives gathering in Washington this weekend to hear from the slate of GOP candidates at the annual Values Voters Summit. Smith cast the choice before him as a compromise, and says he’s leaning toward the former Massachusetts governor. Even though Romney has strayed from conservative orthodoxy on some social issues in the past, he still posts a strong record as a businessman.

“He has the skills to help us on this particular issue, at this particular time,” Smith said.

By that, he means the economy, with its stubbornly high 9.1 percent unemployment rate and sluggish growth.

If interviews with conference attendees are any indication, that’s what is giving Romney his best shot at winning over some of the social and Christian conservatives who he failed to attract in his first campaign in 2008 and is trying to make inroads with this year.

Romney was to speak to the group Saturday, a day after his chief rival, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, took the stage to strong applause and criticized Romney for his shifting position on abortion, without ever using Romney’s name.

“For some candidates, pro-life is an election-year slogan to follow the prevailing political winds,” Perry said in a speech that at times felt more sermon than political pleas.

But a pastor who endorsed and later introduced Perry quickly served up a reminder of Romney’s membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, whose members are commonly called Mormons.

“Rick Perry’s a Christian. He’s an evangelical Christian, a follower of Jesus Christ,” said Robert Jeffress, senior pastor at First Baptist Church in Dallas. “Mitt Romney’s a good moral person, but he’s not a Christian. Mormonism is not Christianity. It has always been considered a cult by the mainstream of Christianity.”

Perry made clear that he disagrees with Jeffress.

Asked by reporters Friday night in Tiffin, Iowa, whether Mormonism is a cult, Perry replied, “No.”

The gathering came the same week that former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie both announced they would not run for president, leaving donors and grass-roots conservatives up for grabs — and giving Romney an opportunity to try to cast himself as the candidate who can appeal to a broad swath of the GOP.

It’s a shift from four years ago, when Romney focused his campaign largely on social issues that would play well with this audience. It didn’t work; he couldn’t overcome skepticism of his Mormon faith and his record of reversing himself on issues like abortion rights and gay rights. And these voters aren’t a natural fit for Romney with others like Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum — who have long championed their causes — in the race.

But many of the roughly two dozen interviewed indicated that because the GOP field lacks a candidate that perfectly fits their wish list, they were willing to consider backing someone who doesn’t stack up perfectly but who may have the strongest chance at beating President Barack Obama. Many said Romney may well fit the bill.

“If you go with your gut, that’s fine. But I would lean toward the person who is more electable,” said Johnny Lee, a 57-year-old federal worker from the Washington area. He is considering backing Romney, as well as Georgia business executive Herman Cain and Santorum. Among Lee’s many considerations is who would fare best at the ballot boxes against Obama.

“If you’re going with your values and there aren’t enough people who share those values, you’re not going to win the change in leadership this country needs,” Lee said. “And we need a change.”

At this venue at least, it seems that activists aren’t heeding Bachmann’s warnings not to settle for a candidate who isn’t rock solid on their issues.

“It’s time for the Republican Party to nominate someone who will lead the whole country,” said Chris Balkema, a 40-year-old Caterpillar employee from Channahon, Ill. “We don’t need to settle. But we need someone will lead the left, right and center of this country, while defending the Constitution.”

Balkema said that could be Romney, although he wasn’t ruling out others.

Even so, Bachmann — who is a favorite of tea partyers, home schooling parents and grassroots activists — pitched herself as a pure conservative voters need, and urged them not to choose a moderate candidate who might not share their values.

“Conservatives, we can have it all this year because Barack Obama will be a one-term president,” she said, bringing the audience to its feel late Friday evening. “Let’s finally have one of us in the White House.”

She then hinted at Romney’s changing shape on abortion rights and gay rights.

“You won’t find YouTube clips of me speaking in support of Roe vs. Wade. You won’t find me hemming and hawing when it comes to defining marriage as between one man and one woman.”

Some agree with her.

“We chose someone last time who was willing to cross the aisle on anything,” said Dwayne Owens, a 67-year-old from Southside, Ala., pointing to 2008’s unsuccessful presidential nominee Sen. John McCain. “We can’t nominate someone whose sole message is compromise. We need someone who is willing to get in a dogfight.”

Source: Associated Press

 

 
 
 
 

Shutdown averted, but deep differences linger

In Democrats, Politics, Republican on September 28, 2011 at 9:26 am

 

Senator Mitch McConnell (R) Kentucky

By TOM RAUM, AP

It’s the third time this year a government budget crisis has been averted just in the nick of time. And the public seems plain fed up with the nonstop partisanship that led to the nerve-racking close calls.

Rising public disgust turns up in poll after poll showing Congress’ approval ratings have sunk far lower than those of President Barack Obama, whose own numbers have been weighed down by the teetering economy and dour employment numbers.

Yet the political grandstanding is likely to continue, even grow.

Because at the heart of every major standoff this year is a deep philosophical disagreement between the parties on the size and role of government. It encompasses sharp disagreements on spending cuts and taxes, and on whether deficit reduction or more spending to prod a flailing recovery is a higher priority. And these are arguments sure to reverberate more loudly as the presidential election nears.

“I think this thing continues until next November’s election,” said James Thurber, a political scientist at American University. “With the campaign started, it’s very hard to stop it.”

As to the current state of political polarization, Thurber said: “There are very few people in the middle who are moderate and who can bring about compromises. And that creates an environment where you have this crisis approach to even fairly small issues.”

Some 82 percent of Americans disapprove of the way Congress is handling its job, according to a Gallup poll released this week. It also shows record or near-record criticism of elected officials in general, government handling of domestic problems, the scope of government power and government waste of money.

The poll results may reflect the shared political power arrangement, with Democrats controlling the White House and the Senate and Republicans controlling the House. “Partisans on both sides can thus find fault with government without necessarily blaming their own party,” said Lydia Saad, senior Gallup poll editor.

A budget deadlock that raised the risk of a government shutdown this weekend was apparently broken as the Senate approved a short-term measure to fund the government through Nov. 18, and the House was expected to follow suit.

But it will only get harder from now on.

The most recent fight had been over a relatively small amount of emergency disaster aid money and whether it should be offset — as tea-party influenced House Republicans want — by corresponding cuts in other programs. In November, the entire budget for the budget year getting under way Oct. 1 will be under review. The stakes will be huge.

Also, the budget talks seem certain to be complicated by the shape of any proposal put on the table by a 12-member bipartisan supercommittee, which faces a Nov. 23 deadline for coming up with $1.5 trillion in deficit-reduction measures to take effect in 2013.

Both sides have dug in their heels. Obama’s speeches have taken on more partisan, combative tones in recent weeks. And he has proposed a jobs stimulus program that would be paid for, in part, by raising taxes on the wealthy.

Obama includes the whole GOP field of presidential aspirants in addition to directly criticizing GOP congressional leaders. “I urge all of you to watch some of these Republican debates. It’s a different vision about who we are, who we stand for,” he said earlier this week during a fundraising tour of Western states.

At the same time, House Speaker John Boehner has flatly declared tax increases “off the table.”

Members of Congress have seen their standing tumble in the eyes of the public after their squabbling brought the government to near calamity three times since April.

Then, Boehner and Obama reached a budget deal little more than an hour before a government shutdown was to begin. On Aug. 2, Congress agreed to legislation raising the government’s debt ceiling — its borrowing authority — just hours before Treasury was to run out of cash to pay all its bills, raising the risk of default.

The government continued to operate, but the squabbling cost the U.S. a downgrade in its credit rating anyway from Standard & Poor’s a few days later.

The rating service removed for the first time the triple-A rating the U.S. had held for 70 years. Among other things, it blamed the weakened “effectiveness, stability and predictability” of U.S. policymaking and political institutions at a time of rising economic challenges.

In an Associated Press-GFK poll last month, some 53 percent of all of those surveyed said they would like to see someone else win their congressional district.

The poll found that 46 percent approve of how Obama is doing his job, down from 52 percent in June. But it also showed congressional approval at a new low, 12 percent, with disapproval at 87 percent, a new high.

The core philosophical dispute that has been at the heart of every major domestic-policy standoff this year is the GOP insistence that reducing the deficit is the priority and that it must be done with spending cuts alone, not tax increases. Democrats want shorter-term spending to prop up the sagging recovery combined with a mix of longer-term tax increases and spending cuts to trim deficits.

It’s not only divided the two parties in Washington, “it pretty much splits the country in half,” said Michael Dimock, associate research director at the Pew Research Center. He said that when people were asked “what should be the priority, reducing the budget deficit or spending to help the economy to recover,” Americans were nearly evenly divided with just under 50 percent on each side.

At the same time, “there’s a great deal of frustration in the public right now, and it’s crossing party lines. There’s a sense that neither side is really working toward solving the country’s problems but trying to win some kind of political game,” Dimock said. “I think it’s probably affecting both political parties.”

Source: Associated Press

 

 
 
 
 

GOP candidates assail Obama on Israel

In News, Politics, Republican on September 20, 2011 at 6:53 pm

 

Texas Gov. and Republican Presidential Candidate: Rick Perry

By BETH FOUHY and KASIE HUNT, AP

Republican presidential hopeful Rick Perry on Tuesday criticized the Palestinian Authority‘s effort to seek formal recognition by the U.N. General Assembly and assailed the Obama administration’s broader policies in the Middle East.

In a speech in New York, Perry pledged strong support for Israel and criticized President Barack Obama for demanding concessions from the Jewish state the Texas governor says emboldened the Palestinians to appeal for U.N. recognition.

“We would not be here today at this very precipice of such a dangerous move if the Obama policy in the Middle East wasn’t naive and arrogant, misguided and dangerous,” Perry said in a speech in New York. “The Obama policy of moral equivalency which gives equal standing to the grievances of Israelis and Palestinians, including the orchestrators of terrorism, is a very dangerous insult.”

In a statement before Perry spoke, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney also waded into the tense foreign policy dispute over Mideast policy. He called the jockeying at the United Nations this week “an unmitigated disaster.” He accused Obama’s administration of “repeated efforts over three years to throw Israel under the bus and undermine its negotiating position.”

Perry also criticized Obama’s stated goal that any negotiations should be based on the borders Israel had before a 1967 war that expanded the Jewish state. While the 1967 borders have been the basis for diplomatic negotiations, they have never been embraced before by a U.S. president. Perry called that stance “insulting and naive.”

Perry’s remarks came as the Obama administration has redoubled its efforts to block the Palestinian bid. The U.S. has promised a veto in the Security Council, but the Palestinians can press for a more limited recognition of statehood before the full — and much more supportive — General Assembly.

Perry also expressed support for allowing Jewish settlements to be constructed on the West Bank, a practice Obama has asked the Israeli government to cease. And Perry said that the entire city of Jerusalem should be part of Israel, a move that would make key religious and historical sites part of the Jewish state. Israel captured East Jerusalem from Jordan in 1967.

Perry even suggested he would move American diplomatic personnel out of Tel Aviv and instead recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. “As the president of the United States, if you want to work for the State Department, you will be working in Jerusalem,” he said.

Romney said the policy of limiting Israel’s negotiating flexibility “must stop now.” He called on Obama to unequivocally reaffirm the U.S. commitment to Israel’s security and a promise to cut foreign assistance to the Palestinians if they succeed in getting U.N. recognition.

Both Perry and Romney said the U.S. should reconsider funding for the U.N. itself if the global body votes to recognize the Palestinian Authority.

The GOP presidential hopefuls are intent on standing strongly behind Israel, an effort to appeal to Jewish voters and donors who play a pivotal role in presidential elections. It’s also an effort to reach evangelical Christians, who play a key role in the Republican primary process and who support Israel for theological reasons.

Perry on Tuesday said that his own Christian faith is part of his support for Israel.

“I also as a Christian have a clear directive to support Israel, so from my perspective it’s pretty easy,” Perry said when a reporter asked if Perry’s faith was driving his views. “Both as an American and as a Christian, I am going to stand with Israel.”

Complaints about Obama’s Israel policy helped a Republican, Bob Turner, win a special election in a heavily Jewish and Democratic New York congressional district last week. Turner appeared with Perry at the speech.

“It’s vitally important for America to preserve alliances with leaders who seek to preserve peace and stability in the region,” Perry said. “But today, neither adversaries nor allies know where America stands. Our muddle of a foreign policy has created great uncertainty in the midst of the Arab Spring.”

Obama is also in New York on Tuesday for meetings on the sidelines of the General Assembly. He planned to meet later in the week with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Source:  The Associated Press

Republican Perry says Romney health plan cost jobs

In News, Politics, Republican on September 16, 2011 at 1:32 pm

Republican presidential candidate former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney signs an autograph on a paperback book of his new jobs and plan for the economy after a town hall meeting Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2011, in Sun Lakes, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry said Thursday the health care bill GOP rival Mitt Romney enacted in Massachusetts paved the way for President Barack Obama’s federal health law last year and cost the state jobs.

Perry’s criticism was his sharpest yet of Romney, who led in national polls of Republican voters until Perry entered the race last month.

And it came in the wake of three days of heavy criticism by Romney of statements Perry has made about Social Security.

“I think it’s important that we put as our nominee someone that does not blur the lines between President Obama and the Republican Party,” Perry told about 200 Republican activists in Iowa, where the 2012 presidential nominating campaign begins this winter.

Perry said the Massachusetts health care plan Romney signed in 2006 contributed to the state’s low rank in job growth during his one term as governor from 2003 to 2007.

Perry was referring to a study published by conservative Beacon Hill Institute at Suffolk University which stated that the Massachusetts program has cost the state thousands of jobs, raised health care costs and slowed income growth.

Perry promotes Texas’ job growth as he campaigns for the GOP nomination, casting his efforts to reduce regulations and curb litigation as a model for the nation’s lingering high unemployment. Texas has added more than 1 million jobs during Perry’s decade as governor.

Jobs and the economy are a leading issue in the race for the GOP nomination, and Romney has touted his decades of work as a venture capitalist and investment company founder before serving as governor as expertise he could use as president to guide an economic recovery.

Since Perry’s entry into the race, Romney has criticized the Texan for being too tied to the public sector at a time when a business-minded leader is needed as the nominee.

Perry’s attack cuts directly at the niche in the race Romney has worked to create in his second bid for the nomination.

“The difference between me and President Obama are going to be very, very great,” Perry said. “What we have done will serve as a blueprint for this country.”

Romney has shifted his approach to Perry this month, criticizing instead his statements about Social Security, including that the federal retirement program should be dismantled and run by individual states. Romney raised the issue during a Republican candidates’ debate in Florida on Monday, where Perry also faced criticism from rivals about his support for education benefits for children of illegal immigrants and an executive order he signed requiring school-age girls to be vaccinated against a sexually transmitted disease.

“Gov. Perry was clearly rattled by his poor debate performance in Tampa,” Romney campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul said. “As a result, he is trying desperately to distract people from the very serious questions that were raised about his record.”

Source:  Associated Press

 

 
 
 
 

Republican wins in New York Democratic stronghold

In Barak Obama, Democrats, News, Republican on September 14, 2011 at 8:53 am

 

Anthony Weiner announces that he will resign from the U.S. House of Representatives during a news conference in Brooklyn, New York,

BY Edith Honan

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Republicans won an upset victory in a Democratic stronghold in New York on Tuesday in a special House of Representatives election for the seat vacated by former Representative Anthony Weiner, who resigned after a Twitter sex scandal.

Republican Bob Turner, a retired media executive who had called the election a repudiation of President Barack Obama, defeated Democrat David Weprin, a state assemblyman, by six points, 53 percent to 47 percent, a New York cable television station said.

“We’ve been asked by the people of this district to send a message to Washington and I hope they hear it laud and clear,” Turner told supporters. “We’re ready to say, ‘Mr. President, we are on the wrong track.'”

The district, which includes parts of Brooklyn and Queens, had gone Democrat in every election since the 1920s, and Democrats outnumber Republicans three to one.

Turner’s triumph, and a Republican victory in another special House election — in Nevada — boosted the Republican majority over Democrats in the House to 242-192.

Turner, who said he entered politics because he was “fed up” with overspending in Washington, has called for deep cuts in the federal budget.

Weprin had tried to cast Turner as part of the Tea Party, which wants smaller government and lower taxes and is unpopular with many liberal New Yorkers.

Weprin appeared briefly in front of supporters but declined to concede the race. “It’s not over yet,” he said.

Steve Israel, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, issued a statement playing down the importance of Turner’s victory.

“The results … are not reflective of what will happen in November 2012 when Democratic challengers run against Republican incumbents who voted to end Medicare and cut Social Security while protecting tax loopholes for big corporations and the ultra wealthy,” he said.

Weiner, who served for seven terms, was a Democratic firebrand known for passionate speeches in support of healthcare reform and other issues dear to liberals.

Weprin had raised $500,000 for his campaign, compared with Turner’s $200,000. He ran unsuccessfully in 2009 for New York City comptroller before filling the state assembly seat vacated by his brother.

In recent days, Democrats had rushed to help Weprin, who some said was a lackluster campaigner.

Former President Bill Clinton recorded robo-calls urging Democrats to vote and Charles Schumer, the senior U.S. senator from New York, who used to represent the district, accompanied Weprin on the campaign trail.

In Tuesday’s special election to fill a vacant House seat in Nevada, Republican Mark Amodei won in a largely rural district that has never sent a Democrat to Congress.

(Additional reporting by Thomas Ferraro in Washington; editing by Mohammad Zargham)

Source:  Reuters

 

 
 
 
 

Analysis: GOP debate raises jobs pressure on Obama

In News, Republican on September 8, 2011 at 12:39 pm

 

Republican presidential candidates former Massachusetts Gov, Mitt Romney, left, and Texas Gov. Rick Perry shake hands at the finish of a Republican presidential candidate debate at the Reagan Library Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2011, in Simi Valley, Calif. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

By CHARLES BABINGTON, AP

The Republican presidential debate made two things clear: The 2012 contest is focused more than ever on jobs, and the GOP field is led by two men who can make plausible, though certainly imperfect, claims of experience in job creation.

President Barack Obama, already under pressure to present a compelling new job-expansion strategy in his nationwide address Thursday, will now feel even more urgency. The California forum Wednesday night covered several topics, but above all it helped Rick Perry and Mitt Romney showcase their credentials and proposals on the jobs front.

Unlike Obama, they don’t have to offer detailed plans or confront a hostile Republican-led House. The president, whose popularity is sagging amid 9.1 percent unemployment, must try to craft a plan that can win bipartisan support even as his would-be challengers keep heaping scorn on his record.

The 105-minute GOP debate was Perry’s debut on the national stage, and the Texas governor gave a solid performance that stressed his state’s recent employment growth. Perry mixed red-meat morsels for conservative activists — saying Obama may be “an abject liar” about border security — with efforts to calm the rhetoric on a few issues such as climate change.

Meanwhile, Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, displayed no panic despite polls that show Perry suddenly on top. He jabbed Perry here and there, but came to his defense on a controversial vaccination issue. As he has for months, Romney aimed most of his barbs at Obama, not his fellow Republicans.

The other six GOP candidates, especially Rep. Michele Bachmann, seemed to fade a bit, largely because they don’t have records as job creators. The exception may have been former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, who scored some points but languishes in the polls.

Romney stuck with a strategy of trying to appeal to conservatives where possible, but also keeping an eye on independent voters, who will be crucial in the general election. He hedged on whether he’s a tea party member, and generally maintained an above-the-fray demeanor.

Perry took more risks, especially on Social Security. He repeatedly called its funding mechanism a “Ponzi scheme” and “monstrous lie.”

Romney suggested such rhetoric will invite Obama to paint Republicans as extremists. “Our nominee has to be someone who isn’t committed to abolishing Social Security but who is committed to saving Social Security,” he said.

In the coming days Perry is likely to be pressed for a fuller explanation. Workers and employers pay Social Security payroll taxes that fund benefits for current retirees. The taxes are not set aside and invested, as many taxpayers seem to think. The program is headed for trouble in future years unless revenues and projected benefits are brought into line, a painful truth that Perry says Americans must confront.

As vital as Social Security is, the dearth of U.S. jobs seems likely to dominate the 2012 elections. Perry didn’t wait 15 seconds to tout his record.

“Over the last decade, we created 1 million jobs in the state of Texas,” he said. “At the same time, America lost 2.5 million.”

Romney defended his record as governor, saying it’s misleading to note, without explanation, that Massachusetts ranked 47th in job creation during his time as governor. The state was in “a real free fall” when he took office, Romney said. “We were able to turn around the job losses,” he said, lowering unemployment to 4.7 percent.

The two men traded quick punches that drew laughs from the audience.

“Michael Dukakis created jobs three times faster than you did, Mitt,” Perry said, alluding to a former Massachusetts governor and 1988 Democratic presidential nominee.

Romney shot back, “George Bush and his predecessor created jobs at a faster rate than you did, governor.”

Both men, of course, skated past the shakier details of their jobs records. Massachusetts’ unemployment rate did fall under Romney, but not by a huge amount. Texas has added more than a million jobs during Perry’s decade in office, but many of them pay poorly, and some Texans say the governor has been more of a bystander than engineer.

In fairness, there’s only so much any governor can do to create jobs, and a president arguably has even fewer powers. Economists generally praised Obama’s 2009 stimulus program. But it proved unpopular, and Republicans routinely denounce it, leaving him fewer options.

With GOP activists increasingly convinced that Obama might lose next year, congressional Republicans seem likely to keep opposing him on most major initiatives.

Obama is expected Thursday to call for extending a cut in Social Security payroll taxes, renewing extended aid to the unemployed and spending more on transportation projects.

The Wednesday GOP debate’s focus on jobs made it hard at times for the non-governors to fully engage. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas said a host of federal services, including disaster relief, have made Americans too dependent on the government.

Former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania and others criticized Perry’s 2007 order requiring schoolgirls to be vaccinated against HPV, a sexually transmitted virus that causes cervical cancer. The state legislature overturned the order, and Perry noted that families could opt out of the requirement.

Herman Cain criticized Romney’s health care law that required Massachusetts residents to buy health insurance. He called the mandate unconstitutional.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich accused the debate moderators, from NBC News and Politico, of trying to get Republicans to quarrel with each other.

Huntsman, who has struggled to get traction, tried to turn the focus on jobs to his advantage. “As governor of Utah,” he said, “we were the No. 1 job creator in this country.”

Huntsman told Romney that finishing 47th in the nation “just ain’t going to cut it, my friend, not when you can be first.”

Obama is unlikely to have as much fun with the topic Thursday night.

Source:  Associated Press.

 

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