- Created on 24 January 2013
As residual excitement from the second inauguration of President Barack Obama continues to flow through Black America, or rather the 95 percent who voted for him in the 2012 election, there are a growing number of Black conservatives quietly strategizing on the most effective methods to broaden a...
- Created on 23 January 2013
(CNNMoney) -- The House on Wednesday passed the "No Budget, No Pay Act," a Republican bill that would effectively defuse the debt ceiling threat for several months.
The bill would let the Treasury Department borrow new money until mid-May. In exchange, the legislation would require lawmakers in both chambers of Congress to pass a budget resolution or have their pay withheld until they do.
The vote was 285 to 144, largely on the back of Republican support.
Most House Democrats spoke out against the bill. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called the salary provision a "joke" and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer called the bill a "political gimmick" that perpetuates uncertainty.
But other leading Democrats said they would support the bill because it takes the immediate threat of default off the table and divorces the debt ceiling from Republican demands for spending cuts.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said the Senate would pass the House bill.
President Obama will not oppose the bill if it reaches his desk, even though he would prefer a longer term debt ceiling increase, the White House said Tuesday.
House Republicans have said for the past two years that they would not raise the debt ceiling unless the increase is matched by a comparable amount of spending cuts. But the bill passed on Wednesday notably doesn't include that quid pro quo.
Here's how the bill would work:
The proposal would suspend the debt ceiling until May 18. And Treasury could continue to borrow for payments that have to be made during the suspension period and nothing else. "In short, no funny stuff," Donald Marron, a former Congressional Budget Office, noted in his blog.
The debt ceiling would then be restored at its current level of $16.394 trillion plus however much Treasury borrowed during the suspension period.
After May 18, Treasury likely could once again use "extraordinary measures" to stave off the prospect of default for up to two months, giving Congress a little more time to raise the debt ceiling, said Pete Davis, a former Hill budget staffer who now runs Davis Capital Investment Ideas.
The bill would also open a path to a longer term increase: It would require the House and Senate to each agree by April 15 to a budget resolution for fiscal year 2014. And such a measure, which is intended to set spending and revenue levels for the next five to ten years, can include debt ceiling increases, Davis said.
If the House and Senate don't meet the April 15 deadline, lawmakers' pay would be withheld until they pass a budget resolution or until the current Congress ends in January 2015, whichever comes first.
So it's not that lawmakers won't get paid if they miss the deadline. Their salaries would be held in escrow and paid out at some point later.
It's also noteworthy that the bill doesn't actually require Congress to enact a budget, just that each chamber pass a budget resolution, Marron noted.
House Republicans, in coming up with the temporary debt ceiling solution, are in essence conceding that the debt ceiling fight is not their best shot at securing spending cuts and substantive deficit reduction.
Two make-or-break opportunities loom for negotiations over the budget. Unless Congress act by March 2, the pending sequester would trigger close to $1 trillion in defense and non-defense spending cuts that no one in Congress likes.
And if they fail to act by March 27, federal funding will expire entirely and the government would be shut down until lawmakers can find some way to agree on spending and taxes for the next year or at least another few months.
- CNN's Ted Barrett and Deirdre Walsh contributed to this report.
- Created on 22 January 2013
As crowds descended and the inauguration unfolded, a few museum curators in Washington kept watch for symbols and messages that would make history.
The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture will open during P...
- Created on 23 January 2013
(CNN) -- At times angry and choked with emotion, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Wednesday took on Republican critics of her department's handling of the September terrorist attack in Libya that killed the US ambassador and three other Americans, but repeatedly distanced herself from a direct role in specific situations.
"As I have said many times since September 11, I take responsibility," Clinton told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at the first of two long-anticipated congressional hearings Wednesday on the attack that became a major issue in the November presidential election.
Conservative Republicans challenged Clinton on the lack of security at the diplomatic compound in Benghazi, where Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three others were killed, as well as the erroneous account given days later by U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice that the attack grew spontaneously from a protest over an anti-Islam film produced in the United States.
Sen. Ron Johnson, a tea party backed Wisconsin Republican serving his first term, persistently questioned Clinton about he called Rice's "purposely misleading" the American people. In response, Clinton shouted in exasperation that with four Americans dead and the focus now on preventing future security breakdowns, "what difference, at this point, does it make?"
She acknowledged the "systemic breakdown" cited by an Accountability Review Board she appointed and noted she had accepted all 29 of its recommendations, adding her department was taking additional steps to increase security at U.S. diplomatic facilities around the world.
However, Clinton also told the committee she had no direct role in requests by Stevens and other diplomats for increased security in Benghazi and elsewhere, saying: "I didn't see those requests. They didn't come to me."
Another conservative Republican, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, told Clinton she should have been fired her for not reading cables from Stevens and others in Libya.
The independent report from the review board said it did not find "that any individual U.S. government employee engaged in misconduct or willfully ignored his or her responsibilities" leading up to the attack. However, one State Department official resigned and three others were placed on administrative leave after the report was released in December.
Later at Wednesday's hearing, in reference to the erroneous talking points by Rice that were aired on September 16, Clinton said she was focused at that time on ensuring the safety of U.S. personnel at other facilities where protests were taking place.
"I was pretty occupied about keeping our people safe, doing what needed to be done," Clinton said, adding "I wasn't involved in the talking points process."
In her opening statement, Clinton said the Benghazi attack didn't happen in a vacuum but was part of a "broader strategic challenge in North Africa and the wider region."
She defended her department's response, saying there was I"timely" and "exceptional" coordination between the State Department and the Pentagon on the night of the attack
"No delays in decision making. No denials of support from Washington or from the military," Clinton said. The review panel's report "said our response saved American lives in real time -- and it did," she added.
Clinton also said she directed the response to the attack from the State Department that night and "stayed in close contact with officials from across our government and the Libyan government."
In addition, Clinton said she immediately took steps to beef up security at U.S. posts around the world and to implement the review panel's 29 recommendations.
Clinton made clear that the security situation in North Africa and the Middle East remained threatening in the wake of the Arab Spring upheaval, with longtime leaders ousted in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya.
The fledgling Libyan leadership turned out to be unable to fulfill traditional security commitments to the U.S. diplomatic compound, she said.
"What I found with the Libyans was willingness but not capacity," she said.
Clinton also warned that weapons from Libya have turned up in Algeria and elsewhere, adding that "this Pandora's Box if you will of weapons coming out of these countries in the Middle East and North Africa is one of our greatest security threats."
The appearance in the Senate and, later Wednesday, before a House committee, was one of the last acts for Clinton before she leaves her post as long planned.
"For me, this is not just a matter of policy," she said. "It's personal."
In reference to the return of remains of the four slain Americans, Clinton said in voice choked with emotion: "I stood next to President Obama as the Marines carried those flag-draped caskets off the plane at Andrews. I put my arms around the mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, sons and daughters."
Democrats on the panel made a point of praising Clinton's service and noted that House Republicans have voted to cut funding for diplomatic security.
Clinton was originally scheduled to testify last month but postponed her appearance as she was treated for illness, a concussion and a blood clot near her brain. The country's top diplomat returned to work just over two weeks ago.
CNN's Jake Tapper, Elise Labott and Ted Barrett contributed to this report.