Morning Briefing: October 4, 2011

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) blasted Bank of America’s new debit card fee and urged its customers to take their business elsewhere during a floor speech Monday. Durbin said, “Bank of America customers, vote with your feet. Get the heck out of that bank. Find yourself a bank or credit union that won’t gouge you for $5 a month and still will give you a debit card that you can use every single day.”

The Occupy Wall Street movement has spread across the country to dozens of cities, including D.C., Los Angeles, Chicago, Memphis, Minneapolis, and Boston, and is even going international to places in Europe, Canada, and Japan. When asked about the movement, the White House said, “to the extent that people are frustrated with the economic situation, we understand.”

The White House is threatening to veto two House GOP bills that would delay key EPA air-pollution regulations, saying they are needed to “protect American families from a range of harmful pollutants including mercury and other toxic metals, as well as smog and soot.” “It’s the second veto threat of House legislation to roll back EPA air regulations in as many weeks,” according to the Hill.

The Senate voted 79-19 yesterday to move forward a bill to the floor that would authorize “punitive tariffs on a country with misaligned currencies,” a response to the charge that China is undervaluing its currency. The bill has drawn charges from Chinese government officials that it could set off a trade war.

After presidential candidate and Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) said on Saturday that he would send American troops to Mexico to fight the drug cartels, Mexican officials fired back at Perry, firmly rejecting the idea. Mexican Ambassador Arturo Sarukhan said his country has long opposed having U.S. troops in Mexico and that the idea “is not on the table.”

The White House sent the South Korea, Colombia, and Panama trade agreements to Congress yesterday, saying they would boost U.S. exports by $13 billion annually. President Obama said the trade deals will “support tens of thousands of jobs across the country for workers making products stamped with three proud words: Made in America.”

Fannie Mae knew about foreclosure abuses by law firms it hired as early as 2003 but did almost nothing to address the firms’ practices, according to a report released Tuesday. Only after news reports broke in 2010 did the Federal Housing Finance Agency attempt to end the abuses. The report is the second in two weeks outlining lapses at FHFA, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac.

Foreign aid funding is facing significant cuts from both parties as Congress focuses on reducing the national debt. The House and Senate have both proposed slashing funding for the State Department, threatening its ability to provide humanitarian aid like food and medicine for Africa and disaster relief for Japan and Pakistan.

In the wake of last week’s watershed decision by a federal judge allowing Alabama’s harshest-in-the-nation immigration law go into effect, frightened immigrant families have begun fleeing the state and withdrawing their children from school. The exodus began just hours after the decision, with families leaving homes and pets behind. Almost 2,000 Hispanic students were absent from school on Friday.

And finally: GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain referred to himself as a “black walnut” yesterday, saying his poll numbers show that “Black walnut isn’t a flavor of the week.”

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