The Reads You Need: Politics and failing debt talks
Lawmakers leave the Capitol on Friday to go home for Thanksgiving break while the 12-member "super committee" held talks.
November 21st, 2011
10:15 AM ET

The Reads You Need: Politics and failing debt talks

Editor's note: Each day, we'll bring you some of the diverse voices from our site and across the Web on stories causing ripples throughout the news sphere.

The congressional "super committee" charged with coming up with $1.2 trillion in budget cuts appears doomed for failure, with sources saying the panel will be unable to reach a deal before its practical deadline Monday.

The 12-member bipartisan panel's deadline for a final vote is Wednesday, but any blueprint must be made available 48 hours in advance of a committee vote and must be accompanied by a Congressional Budget Office analysis scoring how much it would reduce deficits.

If the panel fails to come up with the required cuts, automatic ones would be triggered in 2013 to reduce $1.2 trillion in spending, something CNNMoney calls the super committee's "escape hatch." Those cuts would be evenly divided between nondefense and defense items. If the cuts go that way,  Defense Secretary Leon Panetta says the U.S. armed forces would be crippled.

Of course, no one in Washington really thinks that will happen as Congress made the law requiring the cuts, and lawmakers can change it however they like before 2013 rolls around.

On Monday morning, pundits on the Web were pointing out that politics still rule in the few months before a presidential election year and the divide between Democrats and Republicans shows no signs of being bridged.

The scientific analogy

A blog on The Economist says the super committee is more atom-smasher than friction reducer.

"The theory behind the super committee was that it would be a superconducting committee, eliminating the frictions caused by hundreds of clashing representatives in the House and Senate and zooming everyone straight along into a $1.2 billion deficit-reduction agreement. Instead, it seems to have become a supercolliding committee, focusing the two parties down into a narrower space so that the impact blasts everything into tiny subatomic particles."

That's because the two parties can't abandon the stances of their base voters, the article continues.

"For Democrats to have any chance of making gains in the 2012 elections, they need to demonstrate to their base that they will fight for higher taxes on the wealthy. They can't walk away from the super committee negotiations without a significant tax hike on the very rich. Similarly, it doesn't look like the Republicans can walk away from the super committee negotiations having allowed that to happen - if anything, they need to show they fought for a cut in the top marginal rate. Hence the supercommittee supercollider."

Read the full story here.

Pulling a victory from failure

Writing for Politico, Manu Raju and Jake Sherman say "both parties are quickly trying to figure out how to turn the committee’s embarrassing failure into a political win for their side."

Democrats will do so by saying they wouldn't OK a deal that didn't protect social programs while in some way increase taxes on the wealthy. Republicans will do that by saying they wouldn't give ground on demands that spending on entitlements take a hit.

Politico quotes senators from each party to show the hard line that exists in the panel.

“I’ve heard this from Republicans in the Senate and in the House who say to me, ‘The calculation politically has been made by many that they think they’re going to win the Senate, win the presidency, and they want to wait until next year and just write their own deal,' " Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) on NBC’s “Meet the Press” said Sunday.

“In Washington, there’s a group of folks that will not cut a dollar unless we also raise taxes,” Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) said tersely Sunday.

Read the full story here.

Winners and losers

Writing on, Jay Newton-Small says "looming primaries - both presidential and congressional - have put bipartisan compromise even farther out of reach."

Newton-Small says congressional incumbents, congressional challengers, Democrats and President Barack Obama stand to gain from the super committee's failure.
Here's what he has to say about incumbents:

"If you’re, say, Senator Jon Tester, a Montana Democrat who has a tough re-election test ahead of him next November, what incentive would you have to vote for entitlement cuts, which would risk the support Native American tribes, seniors, lower income voters - the trifecta of constituents that are pivotal to winning statewide in Montana. On the flip side, if you’re, say, Rep. Paul Gosar, an Arizona Republican freshman of the Tea Party persuasion, voting for increased revenue could leave you open not just to a primary challenge, but also vulnerable to a conservative Democrat in the general election."

But Newton-Small says there is one big loser in all this, the American people:
"Deficits remain a great threat to national security, as Mike Mullen, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, once put it. The committee’s failure risks a stock market dive amid a widening European crisis and another potential downgrade of America’s bond rating status. Small business lending could get tougher because of this debacle, the recession could drag out and unemployment could continue to stagnate. There are probably a dozen more winners and losers that I could name on the political spectrum. But the fact of the matter is, whatever short-term political gains anyone gets out of this, in the long run the American people lose."

Read the full story here.

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Filed under: Congress • Democratic Party • Politics • Republican Party
Overheard on Gerrymandering in American politics
An 1812 cartoon described as a "Gerrymander" lampoons a legislative district drawn by Massachusetts Gov. Elbridge Gerry.
November 18th, 2011
12:57 PM ET

Overheard on Gerrymandering in American politics

Editor's note: Readers have a lot to say about stories, and we're listening. Overheard on is a regular feature that examines interesting comments and thought-provoking conversations posted by the community.

"Even if your vote counts, it comes down to which corrupt one do you want in office. Politics has become so dirty that there is no way the people can win. "

CNN is taking a look at the redistricting process, which takes place every 10 years after each census is complete. In the last 10 years, 78% of the seats in the U.S. House of Representatives did not change party hands even once.

David Wasserman, redistricting expert for the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, says that through redistricting elections can be "almost rigged" in a sense and this can lead to a more polarized Congress. Readers responded to this story by expressing a degree of cynicism about the political process on both sides of the aisle. Some even questioned whether they should vote at all.

Why your vote for Congress might not matter

Commenters largely said politicians are influenced too much by money.

"Republican or Democrat? The candidates we get to choose from at election time are all rich, hand picked and sponsored by special interest and or corporate America," said str8Vision. "Like race-car drivers, politicians should wear uniforms adorned with logos and patches of the corporations, special interest groups and lobbyist who sponsor them."

FrankinSD replied, "What makes you think changing the faces will change the system?" He also said in a different post, "The creation of safe districts does more than just diminish the power of individual voters. It removes the incentive for the parties to nominate someone in the political center. If a seat is safely Democratic or Republican, there is no penalty for nominating an extremist."

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Filed under: Congress • Elections • Overheard on • Politics
On the Radar: Clemency sought, Marine honored, congressmen to be sworn in
Troy Davis faces death by lethal injection on September 21.
September 15th, 2011
06:41 AM ET

On the Radar: Clemency sought, Marine honored, congressmen to be sworn in

Three things you need to know today.

Clemency sought: The NAACP and Amnesty International on Thursday will deliver petitions with thousands of signatures seeking clemency for convicted killer Troy Davis to the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles.

Davis, 42, is set to be executed on September 21 for the murder an off-duty Savannah police officer more than two decades ago.

Since Davis' conviction in 1991, seven of the nine witnesses against him have recanted their testimony. No physical evidence was presented linking Davis to the killing of the policeman.

The rights groups contend there is too much doubt about Davis' conviction to let the execution proceed.

"Troy Davis could very well be innocent," Amnesty International says on its website.

Medal of Honor: Dakota Meyer will receive the Medal of Honor from President Barack Obama at the White House on Thursday, becoming the first living Marine to get the medal for actions in Afghanistan or Iraq.

Meyer repeatedly ran through enemy fire to recover the bodies of fellow American troops during a firefight in Afghanistan's Kunar province in 2009.

Meyer ultimately saved the lives of 13 U.S. Marines and soldiers, and 23 Afghan soldiers, according to the Medal of Honor account on the Marine website. He also is credited with killing at least eight Taliban insurgents.

Swearing in: The two newest members of Congress, Republicans Mark Amodei of Nevada and Bob Turner of New York, will be sworn in on Thursday, two days after they won special elections in Nevada and New York respectively.

Amodei's election was expected. Republicans have represented Nevada's 2nd congressional district - which covers almost the entire state, except the southern tip and the Las Vegas metropolitan area - since it was created in 1983.

But Turner, a former cable TV executive, defeated Democratic state assemblyman David Weprin 54% to 46% in New York's 9th congressional district, giving the GOP control in a district where Democrats have a 3-to-1 voter advantage.

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Filed under: Congress • Crime • Death Penalty • Justice • Marines • Medal of Honor • Military • On the Radar • Politics
Your Take: Obama's job plan was 'more of the same' or 'light' of hope
President Obama told lawmakers that they should quickly pass his plan, the American Jobs Act.
September 9th, 2011
11:08 AM ET

Your Take: Obama's job plan was 'more of the same' or 'light' of hope

In a speech to a joint session of Congress, President Obama told lawmakers to "stop the political circus and actually do something to help the economy" by quickly approving a $447 billion package of measures so he can sign it into law.

"The people of this country work hard to meet their responsibilities. The question tonight is whether we'll meet ours," Obama said to applause. "The question is whether, in the face of an ongoing national crisis, we can stop the political circus and actually do something to help the economy. The question is whether we can restore some of the fairness and security that has defined this nation since our beginning."

In detailing the plan, he noted that there was nothing controversial in the bill and that everything was paid for. He spoke specifically to the need to get the economy up and running, help those who are unemployed, and give incentives to businesses that hire the unemployed and groups that are chronically underemployed.

How did you feel about Obama's job plan? We took a look at widespread reader comments, iReport reactions and Twitter reactions to the speech to see whether Obama presented a plan you liked, that you felt would work, or if he disappointed you. More than 16,000 reader comments (as of this post) came flying in, along with numerous iReports and tweets.

Robert Hallman told iReport that as a teacher a substitute teacher in Fort Worth, Texas, he's going to be looking for jobs once he starts an alternative teaching program.

When the president spoke about his job plans, he specifically referenced jobs for military members and teachers, something Hallman was happy to hear.

"If there will be more teaching jobs, that would be good for me," he said. "I have friends in the military as well as some college friends who might benefit by increased job opportunities."

Hallman praised Obama's speech, especially in comparison to how he felt Obama handled the debt ceiling issue, and was hopeful that this speech and bill would change things around.

"During the Deficit Ceiling negotiations the President was a no show, a non participant. He just let the two parties bicker, fight, and whine just like a room full of Kindergartners. Tonight the President had a strong showing. He told the members of Congress that they NEED to work together because WE the the People demand nothing less," Hallman wrote. "Overall the President showed us something that we haven't seen in a long time. A politician with belief and conviction."


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Filed under: Auto Industry • Barack Obama • Congress • Democratic Party • Economy • Finance • Jobs • Military • Politics • Republican Party • Taxes
August 2nd, 2011
11:40 AM ET

Senate expected to pass debt plan, end crisis Tuesday

The U.S. Senate is scheduled to vote on a last-minute compromise plan Tuesday to raise the nation's debt ceiling while imposing sweeping new spending cuts and narrowly averting an unprecedented national default.

Senators are set to vote on the plan about noon. Although the bill requires a supermajority of 60 votes to clear the 100-member chamber, it is expected to be easily approved.

The measure was approved by the House of Representatives on Monday by a 269-161 vote, overcoming opposition from unhappy liberal Democrats and tea party Republicans.

The measure needs to be signed into law by President Barack Obama before the end of the day. If the current $14.3 trillion debt limit is not increased by that point, Americans could face rapidly rising interest rates, a falling dollar and shakier financial markets, among other problems.

July 26th, 2011
10:28 AM ET

Lawmakers struggle to break stalemate in debt talks

High-level debt ceiling talks dragged on between administration and congressional officials Tuesday as lawmakers struggled to devise a way to overcome deep partisan divisions and avoid an unprecedented national default that could now be little more than one week away.

Publicly, neither Democratic nor Republican leaders indicated a willingness to consider the latest proposal put forward by their counterparts.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, called a plan put forward by House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, a market-rattling "short-term solution" that "really isn't a solution at all." Boehner called Reid's blueprint a "blank check" for more uncontrolled spending that would undermine the economy.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, called Reid's plan "another (Democratic) attempt to pull the wool over the eyes of the American people."

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Filed under: Barack Obama • Congress • Economy • John Boehner • Politics • U.S.
July 13th, 2011
05:19 PM ET

Report: Cramming costs Americans $2 billion a year

Congress needs to pass legislation to protect customers from unauthorized third-party charges on their phone bills because the telephone industry has failed to prevent the practice, Sen. Jay Rockefeller says.

"It's illegal, it's wrong, it's scamming," said Rockefeller, D-West Virginia. "Why haven't you cleaned up your act?"

AT&T, Verizon and Qwest do not have a process to determine if the charges were authorized by their customers.

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Filed under: Congress • Telecom
Roundup: Commentators on the debt talks
How is U.S. President Barack Obama handling the debt-ceiling talks? CNN commentators and newscasters weigh in.
July 11th, 2011
09:19 PM ET

Roundup: Commentators on the debt talks

Negotiations on the federal debt ceiling have started kicking into high gear in recent days with the August 2 deadline to raise the U.S. borrowing limit pressing upon us. The financial markets, global leaders - and the pundits - are parsing every word of the debate that involves trillions of dollars.

On Monday, President Barack Obama ruled out any chance of signing a short-term extension of the debt ceiling. He insisted now's the time to tackle the nation's most pressing fiscal problems comprehensively. He wants  bipartisan compromise on both taxes and cuts to entitlement programs. His push for the largest deal possible is an apparent rejection of a call by House Speaker John Boehner to focus more narrowly on spending cuts agreed to in an earlier round of negotiations.

CNN's team of commentators and newscasters has weighed in on how the negotiations are going, how President Barack Obama is performing and the historical significance of this debate:

David Gergen: Obama joins parties in painting himself into a corner over debt

"It's hard to remember a simmering crisis when America's political leaders have painted themselves into so many corners, but that's where we are as we face a potential default on our national debt. As leaders return to bargaining Monday afternoon, they had better find their way out soon, or we will pay a fearful price. ...


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Filed under: Barack Obama • Budget • Congress • Politics
July 8th, 2011
12:10 PM ET

GOP ties job numbers to anti-tax stance in debt talks

Top congressional Republicans on Friday used the new dismal jobs report to blast Democrats' push for more tax revenue in the ongoing debt ceiling negotiations, arguing that such a move would derail an already shaky economic recovery.

Federal officials reported Friday that the economy added only 18,000 jobs in June - far below the number predicted by most economists. Unemployment inched up another tenth of a point to 9.2%.

"Today's report is more evidence that the misguided 'stimulus' spending binge, excessive regulations, and an overwhelming national debt continue to hold back private-sector job creation in our country," said House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio. "A debt limit increase that raises taxes or fails to make serious spending cuts won't pass the House."


Filed under: Barack Obama • Congress • Democratic Party • Economy • John Boehner • Politics • Republican Party • U.S.
Time grows short for debt-ceiling talks
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, center, and Sens. Dick Durbin and Patty Murray comment on the debt-ceiling talks.
July 1st, 2011
11:01 AM ET

Time grows short for debt-ceiling talks

Time may be tighter for the Democratic and Republican sides to reach an agreement on raising the nation's debt ceiling than the August 2 deadline would suggest, Democratic officials familiar with the negotiations said Friday.

They said they believe the White House and congressional leaders would need to come to a deal before the last week of July to get a bill done and through both houses of Congress to meet the August 2 deadline.

The officials said they are looking at around July 22 as a practical deadline.

June 28th, 2011
04:48 PM ET

Senate committee clears measure backing Libyan intervention

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed a joint resolution Tuesday supporting the limited use of U.S. military force in Libya for one year - a move sought by the Obama administration as it works to win clear congressional backing of the controversial North African mission.

The resolution, which explicitly rejects any introduction of U.S. ground troops, was approved 14-5. It now advances to the full Democratic-controlled Senate.

The Republican-controlled House of Representatives rejected a similar measure last Friday, but also voted down a bill restricting U.S. involvement in the conflict.

Deep congressional divisions over the mission stem from, among other things, a belief among some representatives and senators on both sides of the aisle that the White House has violated the War Powers Resolution.

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Filed under: Congress • Libya • Politics
Friday's live video events
Georgia's Herman Cain is one of many presidential contenders in a crowded GOP field.
June 24th, 2011
07:52 AM ET

Friday's live video events

The House considers future U.S. action in Libya, while President Obama pitches the U.S. economy in Pennsylvania.  Watch Live for the latest on these developing stories.

Today's programming highlights...

9:00 am ET - Casey Anthony trial - Testimony resumes in the trial of Casey Anthony, the Florida woman accused of killing her young daughter.


Filed under: Barack Obama • Casey Anthony • Congress • Courts • Crime • District of Columbia • Economy • Elections • Florida • Jobs • Justice • Libya • Military • NATO • NATO • On today • Pennsylvania • Politics • Republican Party • Tim Pawlenty • U.S. • Uncategorized • War • World
Thursday's live video events
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will discuss the president's planned troop drawdown before a congressional committee.
June 23rd, 2011
07:40 AM ET

Thursday's live video events

How is President Obama's plan for a troop drawdown in Afghanistan resonating on Capitol Hill and around the world?  Watch Live for the latest on this developing story.

Today's programming highlights...

9:00 am ET - Casey Anthony trial - Testimony resumes in the trial of Casey Anthony, the Florida woman accused of killing her young daughter.


Filed under: Afghanistan • Barack Obama • Casey Anthony • Congress • Courts • Crime • District of Columbia • Florida • Justice • Military • New York • On today • Politics • Security • U.S. • War
Thursday's live video events
June 16th, 2011
07:39 AM ET

Thursday's live video events

Rep. Anthony Weiner's future in Congress continues to be a sore spot on Capitol Hill, as House Democrats contemplate this fate.  Meantime, members of Congress are tangling with President Obama over the legality of U.S. involvement in Libya. Live is your home for the latest news and views from Capitol Hill as they happen.

Today's programming highlights...

9:00 am ET - Casey Anthony trial - The defense presents its case in the trial of Casey Anthony, accused of killing her young daughter.


Filed under: Anthony Weiner • Barack Obama • Basketball • Casey Anthony • Congress • Courts • Crime • District of Columbia • Elections • Florida • Justice • Libya • Louisiana • Military • Nancy Pelosi • NBA • New York • Newt Gingrich • On today • Politics • Republican Party • Security • Sports • Technology • U.S. • War • World
May 31st, 2011
07:36 AM ET

Tuesday's live video events

Watch Live for continuing coverage of the devastating storms that hit parts of the United States.

Today's programming highlights...

8:30 am ET - Casey Anthony trial - Testimony resumes in the trial of Casey Anthony, the Florida woman accused of killing her young daughter.


Filed under: Autism • Barack Obama • Casey Anthony • Congress • Crime • District of Columbia • Dollars & Sense • Economy • Florida • Health • Natural Disasters • On today • Politics • Shuttle • Space • Tornadoes • U.S. • Weather
May 25th, 2011
07:46 AM ET

Wednesday's live video events

Watch Live for the latest on the devastating tornadoes in Oklahoma and Missouri.

Today's programming highlights...

9:00 am ET - Casey Anthony trial - Testimony continues in the trial of Casey Anthony, the Florida woman accused of killing her young daughter.


Filed under: Barack Obama • Casey Anthony • Congress • Crime • David Cameron • District of Columbia • Florida • Libya • Natural Disasters • On today • Politics • Security • U.S. • United Kingdom • World
Tuesday's live video events
May 24th, 2011
07:51 AM ET

Tuesday's live video events

Watch Live for continuing coverage of the devastating storms that struck Missouri.

Today's programming highlights...

9:00 am ET - Casey Anthony trial - Opening statements are expected in the trial of Casey Anthony, the Florida woman accused of killing her young daughter.


Filed under: Casey Anthony • Congress • Crime • District of Columbia • Florida • Health • Israel • Natural Disasters • New York • On today • Politics • U.S. • World
Thursday's live video events
May 12th, 2011
07:36 AM ET

Thursday's live video events

Watch Live for continuing coverage of the flooding along the Mississippi River.

Today's programming highlights...

8:30 am ET - Casey Anthony trial - Jury selection continues in the trial of Casey Anthony, the Florida woman accused of killing her young daughter.


Filed under: Barack Obama • Casey Anthony • Congress • Crime • District of Columbia • Energy • Florida • Michigan • On today • Politics • U.S. • World
Wednesday's live video events
May 4th, 2011
07:36 AM ET

Wednesday's live video events

Watch Live for continuing coverage on the fallout to the death of Osama bin Laden.

Today's programming highlights...

10:00 am ET - Prince Charles talks food future - Britain's Prince Charles continues his U.S. trip by delivering a keynote address at a conference on the global food system.


Filed under: Afghanistan • Al Qaeda • Arizona • Congress • Crime • District of Columbia • Elections • Food • On today • Osama bin Laden • Pakistan • Politics • Security • Terrorism • U.S. • United Kingdom • World
May 3rd, 2011
07:36 AM ET

Tuesday's live video events

Watch Live for continuing coverage on reaction and fallout to the death of Osama bin Laden.

Today's programming highlights...

10:00 am ET - Bin Laden death briefing - Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, briefs reporters on the U.S. operation that killed Osama bin Laden.


Filed under: Afghanistan • Al Qaeda • Alabama • Barack Obama • Congress • District of Columbia • Military • National security • Natural Disasters • On today • Osama bin Laden • Pakistan • Politics • Security • Terrorism • U.S. • World
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