Morning Briefing: October 13, 2011

Former pizza magnate Herman Cain is atop the latest Republican presidential primary poll, released yesterday by NBC and the Wall Street Journal. Twenty-seven percent of respondents chose Cain as their first choice, a 22-point bump since August. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Texas Gov. Rick Perry finished with 23 and 16 percent, respectively.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is planning to have Zuccotti Park cleaned on Friday, which would require Occupy Wall Street protesters to temporarily move out. The move, which is also accompanied by a proposed ban on sleeping bags and other camping gear, is being resisted by many protesters who have pledged to clean the park themselves.

Federal regulators issued the first citations related to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill yesterday, accusing BP and its two contractors, Transocean and Halliburton, of breaking several rules. It’s unusual for contractors to be charged in addition to the primary operator, but the move “reflects the severity of the incident,” officials said. Associated fines will be imposed later.

After a five-year impasse, Congress passed three long-awaited trade deal with a bipartisan vote yesterday. The approval of the agreements with South Korea, Colombia, and Panama is a victory for President Obama and the first trade deal Congress has passed since 2007. While the economic benefits are expected to be marginal, the agreements solidify relationships with important allies.

Billionaire investor Warren Buffett released his tax returns to House Republicans as requested, revealing he made over $62 million last year while paying $15,300 in payroll taxes. Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-KS) who requested the returns still insisted that his response is “inadequate” and now demands to see his “voluntary contributions” if Buffett “is truly concerned about paying his ‘fair share’ to the government.”

A Center for Public Integrity report released today reveals that the Pentagon, which has promised to publish a report on how it spends its funds by 2017, will “have to spend billions of dollars in coming years to make its financial accounting credible” because of poorly kept financial ledgers. Though having already spent $6 billion to develop new financial systems, “the effort has been plagued by significant added overruns and delays.”

Congressional leaders on the Agricultural Committee are close to a deal to cut farm subsidies by $23 billion. A bipartisan leadership team met Tuesday, and while the cuts are about a third less than what President Obama had proposed, they still represent a significant change. The committee is expected to make the recommendation to the congressional super committee charged with reducing the deficit.

Disabled Navy veteran Carmen Cardona is “challenging the constitutionality of two federal laws that define marriage as being between opposite-sex partners,” saying that she was denied benefits because she’s married to a woman. “These challenges are bubbling up all over the place,” said Michael Allen, a law professor at Stetson University College.

Human rights group Amnesty International has called on Canadian officials to arrest former President George W. Bush when he visits British Columbia next week, accusing Bush of “crimes under international law including torture.” The Canadian government dismissed the calls, saying Amnesty International “cherry picks cases to publicize based on ideology.”

And finally: The guy who comes up with bill names for Senate Republicans must be on vacation because yesterday the GOP revealed their job creation plan, dubbed, “Real American Jobs Act.” The name is, of course, what we’re assuming is a tribute to President Obama’s “American Jobs Act,” introduced last month.

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