Morning Briefing: December 9, 2011

Anti-incumbent sentiment toward members of Congress has reached a 19-year high, with three out of four voters saying most lawmakers do not deserve to win re-election, according to a new Gallup poll out today.

After Senate Republicans successfully filibustered the nomination of former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray to be the first director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, President Obama denounced congressional Republicans for not standing up for ordinary Americans. “This makes no sense,” Obama said during a press conference.

House Republicans on Thursday linked the payroll tax cut extension to approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, creating a package President Obama has already vowed to veto. The veto threat pushed the GOP to link the two, Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) said: “The president’s veto threat did more than anything to ensure passage of the bill. It stirs up the competitive nature.”

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) rejected an invitation to Donald Trump’s debate yesterday evening after Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) had done so earlier in the day.

Yesterday, Wells Fargo and regulators announced a $148 million agreement to settle accusations that a subsidiary conspired with other banks in a bid-rigging scheme that hurt local and state governments. It’s the fourth major bank to settle with a group of 26 state attorneys general who charge they colluded to defraud local governments.

A new Gallup poll finds that Americans consider a $150,000 annual income to be “rich.” The survey asked Americans to name income levels they consider to be rich.

A corporate tax holiday looks increasingly unlikely to pass Congress this year, as it faces opposition from members of both parties. The tax repatriation holiday is supported by the major corporations who benefit from it, and their GOP allies made a last-ditch attempt this week to attach it to a bill extending the payroll tax holiday.

European leaders agreed to a new treaty Friday that requires them to “enforce stricter fiscal and financial discipline in their future budgets,” but Germany’s desire for unanimity failed when Britain and Hungary didn’t sign on. The 17 countries that use the Euro as currency, plus six that hope to transition to the Euro in the future, all agreed to the deal.

The Air Force apologized to surviving military families for dumping partial remains of service members into a landfill. While noting that “many families of the war dead ask not to be told if more remains are found,” Air Force officials said, “We regret any additional grief to families that past practices may have caused.”

The EPA declared yesterday that natural gas fracking “may be to blame for groundwater pollution,” noting that fracking chemical compounds were detected in the water beneath a Wyoming community. Though gas companies continually deny that contamination occurs, the EPA findings “could have a chilling effect in states trying to determine how to regulate the process.”

And finally: “Only you,” Smokey, can survive the GOP budget axe. House Republicans considered slashing the U.S. Forest Service’s conservation-education budget, but even Republicans didn’t have the heart to cut Smokey the Bear. The cautionary bear and his friend Woodsy the Owl managed to duck the axe.

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