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Dispatches from Capitol Hill and the executive branch

Obama says he's willing to compromise on debt deal

President Obama said he is willing to compromise with congressional Republicans over the budget if he were to get a second term, but said they must be willing to meet him half way.

“There are still programs that don't work, there are still ways we can make (government) leaner and more efficient,” Obama said on CBS’ Face the Nation. “So I'm more than happy to work with the Republicans.”

The president, however, went after his opponent for what he said was an unwillingness to agree to a compromise that would involve a combination of spending cuts and revenue increases.

“The problem is the math, or the arithmetic as President Clinton said, doesn't add up,” Obama said. “You can't reduce the deficit unless you take a balanced approach that says we have to make government leaner and more efficient but we also have to ask people like me or Gov. Romney, who have done better than anybody else over the course of the last decade, and whose taxes are just about lower than they've been in the last 50 years, to do a little bit more.”

Obama continued, saying he was willing to “make some adjustments...

Play of the Day -- The Conventions Have Ended

The late-night hosts all weighed in on the impact of President Obama's speech on the final night of the Democratic National Convention, and Jimmy Fallon gave a very unique convention review of both the Republican and Democratic conventions.

Today's Must See Moment -- Fast forward to 2:05 to see how President Obama's speech was like an M. Night Shyamalan movie.

Consumer groups pounce on senators' regulatory relief effort

Bipartisan legislation to require independent agencies to submit new rules for enhanced cost-benefit review has drawn attacks from several consumer groups, which warn of politicization of health and safety issues.

The Independent Agency Regulatory Analysis Act (S. 3468), introduced in early August by Sens. Mark Warner, D-Va.; Rob Portman, R-Ohio; and Susan Collins, R-Maine; would adopt a recommendation from the President’s Jobs Council for minimizing the burden of regulations on the economy.

Government Accountability Office data show that of 17 major final rules that independent agencies issued in 2011, none was based on a complete cost-benefit analysis, according to the senators. From 1996 and 2011, 200 major regulations from those agencies were exempt from the cost-benefit framework that applies to other federal agencies.

Under the bill, agencies such as the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, the National Labor Relations Board, the Federal Communications Commission and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau would for the first time be required to submit proposed rules to the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.

“It is important to strike the right balance between protecting vital public safeguards and imposing costly regulations,” Warner said. “However, we all agree that...

What Japan's government can teach us about fighting fat

The well-known statistics on American obesity were anecdotally confirmed for me on a recent layover in Canada, when I was struck once again by how easy it is to tell Canadians from Americans. Those who headed for the "American passport holders" line looked lumpy in all the wrong places. Those who headed for the "Canadian passport holders" line, on the other hand, were of a very different breed. One might hazard to call their appearance "healthy."

You would be wise and correct to point out that my observation suffers from both sample size bias - a passport line is not a statistically significant cross-section of anything - and confirmation bias, since Americans have a well-known reputation for plumpness. But this is a case where casual observation reflects a fundamental truth: Americans are remarkably fat and getting fatter, even though we are obsessed with asking ourselves, why?

The scale of our bigness -- 34 percent of Americans are obese, compared to 24 percent of Canadians -- is made more striking by the scale of our efforts to combat it. America spends more money per person than any other country on "health care" (yes, I put that in quotes), while achieving worse outcomes than most of...

Republicans rap White House silence on sequester report

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, blasted the White House for giving no sign of the impending delivery of a report detailing planning for across-the-board budget cuts as called for in the Sequester Transparency Act signed by President Obama on Aug. 7.

The law (P.L. 112-155) gave the president 30 days to report to Congress on the estimated impact of the 2011 Budget Control Act’s sequestration threat on discretionary and mandatory spending.

“House Republicans have already offered, and passed, a plan to protect our troops by replacing the ‘sequester’ with common-sense spending cuts and reforms,” Boehner said in a press release. “Now it’s time for President Obama to obey the law he signed and tell the American people how he plans to implement (or replace) these devastating cuts.”

The White House has declined comment. There has been some confusion on the law’s exact deadline. Boehner’s statement said the 30-day deadline expires on Sept. 7. A Congressional Research Service report by an analyst put the deadline at Sept. 6. An analysis by the Professional Services Council, a contractors trade group, set the deadline at Sept. 8.

The Sequester Transparency Act was introduced by Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas...

What's new in Obama's second-term goals?

In his speech at the Democratic convention in Charlotte on Thursday, President Obama laid out a list of goals for his second term, some of which represented new policy ideas and some which were repackaged goals that his administration had announced previously.

Here’s a look at Obama’s second-term goals:


Create 1 million new manufacturing jobs by the end of 2016.

While this particular number is new, President Obama’s plans have previously included ideas about creating a more favorable environment for companies to create manufacturing jobs in the U.S. In his “Blueprint for an America Built to Last,” Obama included proposals to lower tax rates for “companies that manufacture and create jobs in the United States” and create a new tax credit that would support companies seeking to finance factories, equipment, or production in communities “that have been hardest hit by a company choosing to relocate or a military base shutting down.” The Bureau of Labor Statistics has projected about 357,000 new manufacturing jobs over the next decade. Meanwhile, the Boston Consulting Group has forecast that 2 to 3 million new manufacturing jobs will be created by 2020.

Double exports by the end of 2014...

Senior Democrats spar over maximizing fiscal-cliff leverage

Current and former Obama and Clinton administration advisers and Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., squared off on Thursday over how to work with Republicans to forestall a looming fiscal crisis.

At an economic event at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, the Democrats also sparred over how to use the leverage of the impending fiscal doom of tax increases and spending cuts set to go into effect in January that could drag the economy back into a recession, as well as how to achieve Democratic goals of maintaining investments for the future and how to carry out Obama’s second-term agenda.

Durbin argued that lawmakers will probably vote for a six-month extension during the lame-duck session of Congress to give negotiators more time to reach a deal. But Robert Rubin, a former Treasury secretary under President Clinton, and a former Citigroup executive, argued that such a long extension will give lawmakers a false sense of security about staving off the fiscal cliff and increase the temptation to seek additional extensions to get through the 2014 elections.

“It’s very hard to look at the way Congress has functioned and not think there is going to be a tremendous...

Van Hollen to GOP on debt: You built that

It did not take Chris Van Hollen long after taking center stage in Charlotte to engage his Republican counterpart on the Budget Committee, vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan.

Van Hollen, a Maryland Democrat and the ranking member on the Budget Committee, used a central theme of the Republican convention, "We built that," and the GOP's running debt clock to criticize the party.

"Paul told America, 'If you elect Republicans, we can fix that.' But, if Paul Ryan was being honest, he would have pointed to that debt clock and said: 'We built that.'

Van Hollen said on Wednesday during an event hosted by National Journal and The Atlantic that he gets along with Ryan personally, but they "have these very deep policy differences."

Play of the Day -- Michelle Obama's Speech, DNC Diversity, and Twins

The late-night hosts were fixated on a two things from the first night of the Democratic National Convention: Michelle Obama and Diversity. Apparently, the first lady's speech was memorable and the Democrats had so much diversity that it boggled the mind.

Today's Must See Moment -- Fast forward to 2:42 to find out the secret behind the appeal of Tammy Duckworth.

Issa is not finished with Fast and Furious just yet

Congress will be headed back to work next week, and if you thought Republicans were done pressing hard over the Fast and Furious gun-running scheme, you thought wrong.

House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa announced that Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz will be testifying on the case before his committee on Sept. 11. Horowitz will testify following the release of his report on the Fast and Furious gun running scheme. 

The House voted in June to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress for his refusal to turn over requested documents related to the case, and the House Oversight Committee filed a civil lawsuit against Holder during the August recess as part of an effort to get him to turn them over.

In a statement released Tuesday, Issa continued to press on Holder:

"For a year and a half, Attorney General Eric Holder has cited the ongoing Inspector General investigation as his reason for declining to hold those responsible for reckless conduct in Operation Fast and Furious to account.  Next week, this excuse for delaying action ends."