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Obama pitches platform in new two-minute ad

The Obama campaign released a new two-minute television ad, laying out the president’s platform on issues ranging from the national debt to education.

“During the last weeks of this campaign, there’ll be debates, speeches, more ads,” he starts. “But if I could sit down with you, in your living room or around the kitchen table, here's what I’d say.”

Obama describes the shape of the American economy when he took office, saying that he believes the nation is moving forward despite the amount of work that still needs to be done, a theme similar to his Democratic National Convention speech earlier this month.

“Now, Gov. Romney believes that with even bigger tax cuts for the wealthy, and fewer regulations on Wall Street, all of us will prosper,” Obama says. “In other words, he’d double down on the same trickle-down policies that led to the crisis in the first place.”

Obama then lays out a four-point plan for his second term, which includes increasing manufacturing and teaching jobs and reducing both the deficit and the use of foreign oil.

“It’s time for a new economic patriotism, rooted in the belief that growing our economy begins ...

Play of the day -- Madonna campaigns for Romney, Obama goes on the View and Conan loses it

 At a recent concert Madonna inadvertently aided Mitt Romney's campaign, President Obama ignored world leaders so that he could appear on The View, and Conan totally loses it on a question asked Obama.

Today's Must See Moment -- Fast forward to 1:00 to see how Madonna inadvertently supported Mitt Romney's campaign.

Congress clears bill cracking down on purchase card abuse

In the waning hours of its session, Congress on Saturday passed a bill to toughen oversight of agency purchasing cards, codifying new penalties on federal employees who abuse the cards.

The Government Charge Card Abuse Prevention Act resurfaced abruptly, having been introduced in February 2011 by Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, long before the Obama administration began its focused effort to cut waste in agency operations. It cleared the House in July with an amendment requiring Senate approval.

“This bill is about accountability,” said Grassley, who worked on the bill with co-sponsors Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., and Susan Collins, R-Maine. “The public trust has been violated by abusive use of government charge cards. By putting some common-sense controls into the law, we can make certain the federal bureaucracy improves the way it responsibly manages the use of these cards.”

Lieberman said in a statement that the Government Accountability Office and the inspectors general “have identified many examples of fraudulent or illegal use of these charge cards. Even at the General Services Administration, which administers the charge card program for the entire federal government, a high-ranking employee was able to rack up tens of thousands of dollars in personal expenditures on a government ...

Play of the Day -- Ahmadinejad at the UN and candidates on TV

Both Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama have taken to television shows to get out their messages during the final weeks before the election and not surprisingly the late-night hosts found humor in their exploits.

Also, President of Iran Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is visiting the U.N. and his rhetoric has always been prime late-night joke fodder.

Today's Must See Moment -- Fast forward to 2:24 to see all of the television shows President Obama has appeared on in the last week.

The politics of a late-night Senate session

You may have heard that the Senate passed the continuing resolution to keep the government running through March. 

But you might not have caught Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's overnight attempt to bring the defense authorization bill up for consideration at 1:40 a.m. Saturday morning.

"I've been asked on a number of occasions by Senator [Carl] Levin, Senator [John] McCain what we're going to do on ... the Defense Authorization bill. I ask unanimous consent that at a time to be determined by me, after consultation with the Republican leader, the Senate proceed to ... the Defense authorization bill," Reid said. 

Republican Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona, who was one of a few senators still in the chamber, was quick to respond. 

"Mr. President, I am very, very disappointed in this request. Senator McCain has been asking that the leader take up the Defense Authorization bill for weeks," he said. 

Reid's dead-pan reply: "Mr. President?"

The presiding senator: "Is there objection?"

"Yes, Mr. President, I said I had no alternative," Kyl said. 

The question, then, was why did Reid raise the question in the middle of the night?

A Senate leadership aide, who requested anonymity ...

Romney to call for foreign aid ‘reform’ at Clinton confab

Mitt Romney will call for reforms to foreign aid, linking trade policy with development policy, according to a preview of a speech he will deliver today at the Clinton Global Initiative in New York.

Saying that “too often foreign aid programs try to supplant private enterprise,” the campaign is instead unveiling what it terms a Prosperity Pact, which it says will “constitute a bold break from the past.”

“Working with the private sector, the program would identify the barriers to investment, trade, and entrepreneurialism in developing nations," according to a campaign release. "In exchange for removing those barriers and opening their markets to U.S. investment and trade, developing nations would receive U.S. assistance packages focused on developing the institutions of liberty, the rule of law and property rights.”

As president, Romney would also de-emphasize microfinance, according to the campaign.

“A core element of the program will be to support new financing structures for small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs),” the campaign stated. “A lot of work has been done in the area of microfinance. But microfinance is a poverty alleviation strategy and a much greater focus should be placed on SMEs that are too big for microfinance, but are ...

Bipartisan group of senators sounds the sequester alarm

Lawmakers may have left town, but some are already readying the groundwork for lame duck sequester negotiations.

A bipartisan group of six senators sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, saying that a sequestration alternative has to be decided upon before January, and calling for any bipartisan proposals to be scored by the Congressional Budget Office and the Joint Committee on Taxation by November.

The letter, addressed Sept. 21, was signed by Sens. Carl Levin, D-Mich., John McCain, R-Ariz., Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., and Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H. They stress the need to pass a bipartisan, long-term deficit reduction plan to avoid the sequestration and "provide as much certainty as possible for businesses and consumers.

The letter highlights looming cuts such as those to the Defense Department, National Institutes of Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and to federal education funding.

Here it is in full:

Dear Majority Leader Reid and Republican Leader McConnell:

We face a critical challenge in the next few months:  balancing the need to reduce the deficit with the need to safeguard important priorities, particularly protecting our national security ...

Proposal to change poultry slaughter process under renewed scrutiny

More than 30 groups and individuals representing consumer, labor and public health interests urged the U.S. Agriculture Department to withdraw its proposal to alter its poultry inspection process.

USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service wants to expand a pilot program in which inspectors examine 175 birds per minute, rather than the current rate of 35 birds per minute. A federal inspector remains part of the process in the pilot program, but only at the end of the poultry inspection line. Expansion of the program could result in the loss of up to 1,000 federal inspector jobs.

Allowing private poultry inspectors to check and discard carcasses earlier in the slaughter and production process could provide plants greater flexibility to develop their own procedures for condemning contaminated carcasses, the proposal said.

Chicken inspectors represented by the American Federation of Government Employees first complained about USDA’s proposed change last spring on the grounds it would replace federal inspectors and hasten poultry line inspection to unsafe speeds.

A coalition of 16 individuals and 23 groups, including the Center for Food Safety, the Consumer Federation of America and OMB Watch, has joined AFGE in opposition. The petition the group signed cites ...

Bill Clinton games out the lame-duck session of Congress

Former President Bill Clinton predicted that an Obama victory in November would be an “action-forcing” event that would prompt both parties to sit down and hash out their differences on the budget, the debt and taxes and would be good news for Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner.

“I expect the president to win and I think if he does, after this happens, then you will see the logjam beginning to break" in Congress, Clinton said on CNN’s Fareed Zakaria GPS. "I think it will strengthen the hand of, for example, Speaker Boehner, who would make an agreement if the most right wing of his caucus would let him.”

Clinton also had thoughts on Romney's "47 percent" comments, on U.S. foreign policy and on his wife's chances of running for president in 2016, in a pair of wide-ranging interviews on CNN and CBS on Sunday.

In both, Clinton addressed Congress and the pending lame-duck session. "I think you will see the gravitational forces on American politics pushing us toward an agreement on the budget and a number of other things," he said on CNN. On CBS’s Face the Nation, Clinton voiced similar thoughts, saying ...

Ryan lets his inner wonk flag fly

ORLANDO, Fla. – Let Paul be Paul.

The phrase, common among staffers on Paul Ryan's campaign, is parlance for permitting the seven-term Wisconsin congressman to embrace his inner wonk, the side of his personality that led him to become the youngest House Budget Committee chairman in a decade as well as an intellectual force in his party.

And in recent days, as the GOP vice presidential candidate has settled into his role on the Republican ticket, he has delved distinctly more often into policy details. This is from a politician who told Fox News' Brit Hume, "I don't want to get wonky on you," not long after his selection was announced.

It came to a head on Saturday, when he stepped to the podium for a town hall at the University of Central Florida. In addition to a debt clock -- now a must-have prop at Republican political rallies -- Ryan was flanked by two large screens that projected a favorite tool of academics and businessmen: a PowerPoint presentation.

“I’m kind of a PowerPoint guy, so I hope you'll bear with me,” Ryan told the audience as he began clicking through four slides, which showed graphs depicting U.S ...