"Morning Briefing: August 9, 2011"
Today, Wisconsin voters will head to the polls for a recall vote on six Republican state senators and, if turnout is high, Democrats may “win control.” The level of spending “has been unprecedented” with $28 million from outside groups on both sides of the aisle and about $5 million spent by the candidates. As of now, two seats are leaning Democrat, two are tossups, and two are leaning Republican.
The Senate Banking committee could soon launch an investigation into Standard & Poor’s, the credit rating agency that recently downgraded the U.S. from its sterling AAA rating. An aide to the committee confirmed yesterday that they are gathering information for what could become a hearing. S&P has come under fire in recent days not only for downgrading the U.S. but for a glaring accounting error that overstated national debt projections by $2 trillion.
A new poll finds that less than 25 percent of Americans think most members of Congress deserve re-election, “the lowest number ever found in the 20-year history of Gallup/USAToday polling.” The low approval could spark the possibility that “2012 could be another wave election in Congress — similar [to] 1994 when the GOP seized the House.”
Breaking with the White House, “the Democratic leaders of Congress told the Supreme Court on Monday that President Obama was pursuing a misguided interpretation of federal Medicaid law that made it more difficult for low-income people to obtain health care.” The position they take is also opposite to Gov. Jerry Brown (D-CA), who has sought to block Medicaid lawsuits.
Congressional Republicans have been “nearly silent” on new rules that will make health insurers cover birth control and other women’s health services without cost sharing. Republicans in leadership have declined to comment, likely because, as one expert put it, they “don’t want to be portrayed as anti-woman.”
Yesterday, the Justice Department and four states filed a lawsuit against the nation’s second-largest for-profit college company for falsely certifying that it was eligible for the $11 billion in state and federal financial aid it had received from July 2003 through June 2011. The expanding for-profit college industry is facing more scrutiny than ever, but this case against Education Management Corporation is the first in which the government is backing whistle-blowers’ claims that a company consistently violated federal law.
President Obama today will unveil the first federally-mandated fuel efficiency standards for heavy-duty trucks in an effort to cut dependence on foreign oil and reduce air pollution. Obama, who announced similar plans for cars and smaller trucks in July, will argue that the plan will provide major economic benefits to the struggling economy.
And finally: While Italy’s economy is on the brink of collapse, the mayor of Pisa has more pressing concerns: Phallic representations of his city’s famous leaning tower. Vendors in Pisa caught selling erotic souvenirs can now face fines of up to $700 after Mayor Marco Filippeschi banned the trinkets. “This material is offensive to public decorum and should be banned from souvenir stalls.”