Morning Briefing: October 25, 2011

GOP lawmakers are starkly divided over President Obama’s plan for a final withdrawal of American troops from Iraq. Several Republican presidential candidates and senators have denounced the decision, while other House Republicans have reacted with praise. The split reflects tension between foreign policy hawks and constituents who have grown weary of the war.

In a speech today in South Carolina, GOP candidate Gov. Rick Perry (TX) will announce his plan to “scrap the current tax code” and introduce a new flat tax of 20 percent. Called “Cut, Balance, Grow,” Perry’s plan will also eliminate the estate tax to benefit the wealthy, get rid of the Alternative Minimum Tax, and includes a Balanced Budget Amendment and a cap on federal spending.

U.S. banks are awash in cash as consumers continue to shy away from risky investments and park their money in bank accounts. But despite sitting on a pile of cash, banks have been reluctant to lend or invest.

BP PLC profits more than doubled in a year, raking in a total of $97.59 billion. The sharp increase is due to the $7.66 pre-tax charge BP paid for the Gulf spill in the third quarter of 2010, and BP has made “regulatory progress in resuming drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.”

Former Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi was buried in a secret location today after his bloody corpse sat on display to the public for four days. According to representatives of the transitional government, Qaddafi was buried in an unmarked grave “somewhere in the desert” so as to prevent it from being either desecrated or turned into a pilgrimage site for his loyalists.

A new Quinnipac University poll finds that most Ohioans want to repeal the state’s anti-union law. The poll found that 57 percent of Ohioans are for repeal; they will be going to the polls next month to decide the fate of the law.

Tunisia’s elections concluded with the victory of a moderate Islamist party. Liberal parties will form a coalition with the Islamist Ennahda, and work together to write a constitution.

The modest federal expansion of a mortgage financing program announced by President Obama yesterday will likely do little to help fix the housing market, analysts said, even as it lowers the monthly payments of roughly 1 million homeowners. Economists have argued that plans should focus on reducing how much borrowers owe rather than monthly payments.

Funding for projects like bike paths is in the cross-hairs in the congressional budget debate. Rep. John Mica (R-FL) has promised to zero out funding for the federal transportation enhancement program — making up about 2 percent of the $40.2 billion highway budget — but it is only the beginning. The 2012 transportation budget likely will be far less than $134 billion needed to fix crumbling transportation infrastructure.

And finally: Twitter is a buzz with GOP presidential hopeful Herman Cain’s strange new campaign ad, which features a close up of his chief of staff smoking a cigarette while staring intently at the camera. But as Tim Murphy at Mother Jones points out, it’s only the third weirdest campaign ad Cain has put out, with a cinematic Western taking the cake.

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