Morning Briefing: July 19, 2011

RNC Chair Reince Priebus is alleging that President Obama committed a crime for filming a campaign ad in the White House. Republican George W. Bush and Democrat Bill Clinton also filmed ads at the White House. “This letter is an embarrassment to the Republican Party, of which I count myself a part,” said Richard Painter, an ethics lawyer in President George W. Bush’s White House.

Former President Clinton would invoke the 14th Amendment solution to raising the debt ceiling “without hesitation.” “I think the Constitution is clear and I think this idea that the Congress gets to vote twice on whether to pay for [expenditures] it has appropriated is crazy,” Clinton said in an interview, saying he would “force the courts to stop me” from unilaterally raising the limit.

During a meeting with President Obama yesterday, billionaire investor Warren Buffet said the debt ceiling should be completely done away with. Buffet argued the debt ceiling is nothing more than an “artificial limit” that wastes Congress’ time. “All it does is slow down a process and divert people’s energy, causes people to posture. It doesn’t really make any sense,” Buffet said during his White House visit to discuss charitable giving.

The conservative Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission leader Richard Land blasted candidate Herman Cain “for disregarding the constitutional rights of U.S. Muslims” yesterday. Noting “that the First Amendment allows for religious freedom,” Land “reminded Cain that as a Christian and an African American, he should have a special interest” in enforcing the constitution “in all communities.”

GOP senators are vowing to block former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray from heading the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Sens. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Richard Shelby (R-AL) reiterated 44 Senate Republicans’ vow to filibuster any nominee for director until the president “addresses our concerns by supporting” what Shelby called “a few reasonable structural changes.”

Elizabeth Warren, who had been charged with helping set up the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, is reportedly considering running for U.S. Senate against Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA). In a recent MSNBC interview, Warren said she will “think” about challenging Brown but wants to take some time off first.

A year after its passage, the Dodd-Frank financial reform law is still under attack from the GOP, with two dozen bills currently in Congress seeking to dismantle it. While Republicans continue to block parts of the law and criticize it for creating uncertainty, bank profits and the stock market are up, and Dodd-Frank has been praised as “a clear win for investors.”

American mortgage lenders have continued the dubious foreclosure practices they promised to avoid earlier this year. According to a Reuters investigation, loan servicers have filed thousands of documents that appear to be altered or fabricated, and at least six are using robo-signers to sign thousands of documents they haven’t read or checked in order to speed up the foreclosure process.

U.S. officials have told the Wall Street Journal that al Qaeda will be shifting its targets to overseas. The new strategy better fits the “goals of al Qaeda’s leaders in Pakistan and affiliates.”

And finally: There are races for mayor and three commission seats in the small North Carolina town of Tar Heel, but no one is running. Nobody has registered as a candidate for the fall elections, so the ballots will be printed with blank spaces for voters to write in their choices for leadership of the town of 117.

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