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Dispatches from Capitol Hill and the executive branch

Play of the Day -- A review of Mitt Romney's week

Mitt Romney had a difficult week and the late-night hosts felt the need to review the goings-on.

First reports emerged about infighting within his campaign, then the infamous Secret Video and the "47 percent" comment surfaced, next we found out that his campaign is in debt, and the week ended with a poll showing that most Americans have little to no connection with the candidate.

Today's Must See Moment -- Fast forward to 1:10 to find out how Romney's advisors told him that his campaign that they were in the red.

Investigator confirms misconduct by Secret Service personnel in Colombia

A Homeland Security Department investigator confirmed in a letter sent to lawmakers that 13 Secret Service personnel were involved in “personal encounters with Colombian female nationals” prior to a presidential trip to Colombia in April.

Charles Edwards, DHS’ acting inspector general, wrote the findings are part of an ongoing investigation that has included 251 interviews with Secret Service personnel, the results of which will be published in a report. Edwards said in his letter the report will not be made public, although in a statement confirming that Edwards met with Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., the IG office said the report is finished and will be made public on its website.

The inspector general’s office told Government Executive a publication date has not been set as the report is not yet finalized, but confirmed it will be made public.

In the letter, Edwards said his office interviewed 12 of the 13 personnel who had encounters with the Colombian prostitutes. He determined three females left without asking for pay, five females asked for money and were paid, and four females asked for money and were not paid.

The president’s security was never...

OMB sequestration report incomplete, senators say

Two Republican senators on Thursday criticized the Office of Management and Budget for failing to provide what they say is legally mandated analysis in its recent report on the looming spending cuts slated for 2013.
In a letter to acting OMB Director Jeffrey Zients, Sens. John Thune, R-S.D., and Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., accused the office of dragging its feet all year long and for failing in its report to explain the impact the cuts will have at the program, project, and activity level.
"We were disappointed to receive a report that did not provide the level of detail required under the law," they wrote in the letter.
The report, released last week, outlines the impact of the across-the-board spending cuts scheduled to take effect next year, a package Congress committed to last summer as a tactic to force lawmakers to take action before 2013. Republicans had criticized the administration for delaying the report, due out earlier in the month.
"With sequestration scheduled to take effect in just over three months, it is critical that this information be made public," the senators wrote. "We respectfully ask that you inform us when Congress and the American people might expect this information."

Play of the Day -- Romney's video vlog blog, Colbert's 'seeds' of discontent

Jimmy Fallon debuted Mitt Romney's new effort to attract the youth vote last night, an early-2000's style video blog. Check out the segments, including "I'm Just Joshing," interspersed with the best of last night's political satire.

Fast forward to 3:27 to see an old school star swipe transition and Jimmy Fallon as Mitt Romney ranting about why everyone should buy a Zune. Remember those?

Player for posting POTD on GovExec

Lawmakers disagree on whether to cook Big Bird

There has been plenty of discussion over the looming cuts if sequestration actually goes down, and now everyone's favorite yellow winged beast has been pulled into the fray.

The National Institutes of Health could stand to face $2.5 billion in automatic cuts, according to the White House's sequester report. And that has left Rep. Brian Bilbray, R-Calif., none too pleased, saying an event held at National Press Club Thursday, hosted by United for Medical Research and Research!America that the cuts should be prioritized. Then he took a shot at public television's Big Bird.

"Now, I've been a big supporter of public television and public radio for decades. I supported them when I was a young mayor in my 20s. But if there comes a choice between Big Bird or cancer research - look, no matter how much you love Big Bird, Big Bird gets fried and sold for funds for NIH. I know that sounds crude."

Bilbray then went on to say "Wait until my grandchildren hear granddad said that," adding that his grandchildren would benefit more from the federal government investing in medical research.

Later on, Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., showed up to support...

Play of the Day -- The 47 Percent, the Chaos and the Response

Now that pretty much everybody has seen the secret video of Mitt Romney speaking at a $50,000 plate fundraiser in May, it is time for the late-night hosts to catalogue and regale the responses from the Left and the Right.

Today's Must See Moment -- Fast forward to 2:16 to see the latest attack ad from President Barack Obama.

Report clears attorney general, cites 14 others in Fast and Furious operation

Investigators within the Justice Department said an agencywide philosophical failure led to the bungled Fast and Furious gun-tracking operation, according to a new report that also identified employee misconduct.

Justice’s inspector general’s office said the failures were “systemic and not due to the acts of only a few individuals.”

The report absolved Attorney General Eric Holder of wrongdoing, saying that until 2011 he did not know about the program that allowed guns to be trafficked into Mexico and led to the death of a Border Patrol agent. Investigators, however, did cite 14 other Justice personnel for misconduct but left it to agency personnel to “determine whether discipline or other administrative action with regard to each of them is appropriate.”

The report cited Justice’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives for a widespread lack of leadership.

The investigation “revealed a series of misguided strategies, tactics, errors in judgment and management failures that permeated ATF headquarters and the Phoenix field division, as well as the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Arizona,” the inspector general’s report said.

The 471-page report comes after a 19-month investigation and significant congressional and public scrutiny.

House Judiciary Chairman...

Romney wishes some feds weren’t unionized

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney intimated that he would make deeper changes to the government workforce if federal employees weren’t unionized, during secretly taped remarks at a recent private fundraiser in Florida.

Romney, in the now infamous speech obtained by Mother Jones magazine and posted on the publication’s website, was responding to a question that recommended cleaning house in Washington to reduce corruption and cronyism. Specifically, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission are “disaster areas,” the person asking the question said.

“I wish they weren’t unionized, so we could go a lot deeper than you’re actually allowed to go,” Romney responded, before giving his broader view on voter perceptions of President Obama and his policies. It was unclear whether Romney was referring to all federal employees who belong to unions, or only the employees at the specific regulatory agencies mentioned.

The brief exchange is in keeping with the GOP nominee’s public proposals to reduce the federal workforce through attrition and to reorganize government with an eye toward improving efficiency. In a speech to the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in Los Angeles on Monday, Romney said reducing the federal workforce, bringing...

Senate Republicans block vote on vet jobs bill

Senate Republicans effectively killed a measure to find jobs for unemployed veterans on a procedural vote Wednesday, after several attempts by Democrats to keep the bill on the table failed.

Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., raised a point of order against the bill on Wednesday, citing alleged violations of Senate budget rules. Since three-fifths of the chamber did not vote to waive the rules, the legislation cannot move forward.

The point of order was the latest in a string of obstacles designed to derail the bill, which would have created the Veterans Jobs Corps by setting aside $1 billion in federal grants to give veterans priority for jobs that might require military skills, such as in law enforcement or fire safety. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., briefly filibustered the legislation last week in an unrelated attempt to withdraw aid to Pakistan.

Paul's move came after the bill's sponsor, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., agreed to incorporate an alternate version put forth by Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., in a last-minute effort to make the bill as bipartisan as possible.

Veterans issues often enjoy bipartisan support in the Senate, but because this legislation was a major priority for the Obama administration and...

Video: Obama addresses Romney remarks on Letterman

In an appearance on Late Show With David Letterman on Tuesday night, President Obama addresses Republican challenger Mitt Romney's recorded remarks released this week by Mother Jones magazine. Below is a clip from Obama's interview with Letterman in a video that was posted to YouTube by CBS.

Also in the interview, Obama and Letterman talk about the economy and the recent attacks and protests in the Middle East and elsewhere, according to The New York Times .

Watch the full episode of Late Show on CBS' site.