Morning Briefing: November 17, 2011

The Department of Homeland Security will start reviewing all deportation cases before the nation’s immigration courts, about 300,000 in all, to “allow severely overburdened immigration judges to focus on deporting foreigners who committed serious crimes or pose national security risks.” The department will also launch a training program for agents to speed up deportations of criminals and halt deportations of those with no criminal record.

Several Alabama lawmakers are calling for changes to the state’s draconian anti-immigrant law. As the sweeping consequences of HB 56 have become apparent to all, even Republican supporters have recognized the need for “tweaks.” “The longer the bill has been out, the more unintended consequences we have found,” said one Republican state senator. “All of us realize we need to change it.”

Today, on the two-month anniversary of the beginning of Occupy Wall Street, activists nationwide are planning solidarity actions in support of New York City’s evicted protesters. Many of these actions will focus on “high-profile bridges in order to highlight the problem of America’s crumbling and underfunded infrastructure.”

At least a hundred people were arrested in San Fransisco after taking over and shutting down a local Bank of America branch. It “took about 40 police officers in riot gear nearly four hours to clear the bank.”

The House passed a bill on Wednesday to help unemployed veterans looking for jobs, as well as another modest measure aimed at creating jobs. The veterans legislation, which passed unanimously, “gives employers tax credits of up to $5,600 for hiring veterans who have been unemployed longer than six months.”

Many of the Democratic lawmakers who supported a Balanced Budget Amendment in 1995 are now firmly against it, despite the conservative Blue Dog caucus embracing the measure yesterday. For example, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD), who was a yes vote in 1995, “is unapologetically whipping against the 2011 version of the balanced-budget amendment, which will see a vote in the House later this week.”

In a 272 to 154 vote, the House passed its first pro-gun bill this year, which allows people with a concealed carry permit in one state to carry a concealed weapon in every other state that allows concealed weapons. While Democratic opponents say the bill creates “a situation where weaker state laws become the national law,” Republicans say states should consider concealed carry permits “no differently from driver’s licenses recognized by all states.”

The Environmental Protection Agency has taken tough enforcement action against a copper smelter in Arizona that has drawn complaints about toxic pollution for years, and the “finding of violation,” revealed in an investigation by NPR and a Center for Public Integrity, suggests that the state, which is primarily responsbile for enforcing the Clean Air Act, has not taken meaningful action about the illegal emissions.

It’s looking increasingly unlikely that HARP, the Obama administration’s home mortgage refinancing initiative, will have any significant impact on the housing market. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s announced plans for changes to HARP prices of mortgage bonds increased, reflecting doubt that the plan will cause a wave of refinancings.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) has challenged House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) to a debate about his plan for a part-time Congress. “I am in Washington Monday and would love to engage you in a public debate about my Overhaul Washington plan versus the congressional status quo,” Perry wrote in a letter to Pelosi.

After a four-day search, the Secret Service arrested the man believed to have shot an assault rifle at the White House. The man, Oscar Ramiro Ortega-Hernandez, was reportedly “obsessed” with Obama, even comparing him to the “Antichrist,” according to one acquaintance.

And finally: House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) cried again. He “bawl[ed],” in fact, according to the Huffington post, during an event bestowing astronauts John Glenn, Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Buzz Aldrin with the Congressional Gold Medal.

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