Morning Briefing: December 20, 2011

A new Gallup poll reveals that Congress’ approval rating has hit a new record low at 11 percent, with independents giving Congress a 7 percent approval rating. This month’s disapproval rating of 86 percent is “the highest in Gallup history, beating the 84 percent-high recorded in August of this year.”

Meanwhile, President Obama’s approval rating is at its highest in months, according to a new Washington Post/ABC News poll, which shows the president with 49 percent approval among voters and 47 percent disapproval.

Today, House Republicans are expected to reject a bipartisan Senate bill to extend the federal payroll tax holiday for two months. If they vote down the bill, House Republicans risk allowing a tax holiday to expire for 160 million American workers. But at a two-hour closed-door meeting last night, members congratulated themselves for killing the measure and “compared themselves to the underdog, principled Scots in the movie ‘Braveheart.'”

AT&T canceled its deal to purchase T-Mobile, which would have created the nation’s largest wireless company, after facing strong resistance from the Justice Department, the Federal Communications Commission, and consumer activists.

Army investigators provided the first evidence linking Army Pvt. Bradley Manning to hundreds of thousands of classified documents leaked to Wikileaks’ founder Julian Assange last year. In his pre-trial hearing yesterday, they said they found an email in which Manning claimed to have leaked a video to the site and a message in which he boasted of the documents that were “possibly one of the more significant documents of our time.”

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Monday the U.S. hopes North Korea will work with the international community after the death of Kim Jong-Il. “It is our hope that the new leadership of the DPRK will choose to guide their nation onto the path of peace by honoring North Korea’s commitments, improving relations with its neighbors, and respecting the rights of its people,” she said.

The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on President Obama’s health care reform law on March 26, 27, and 28 in 2012. The court will consider arguments on different aspects of the law on each of the three days, including two hours on the constitutionality of the individual mandate.

Bank of America stock fell below $5 a share Monday amid concerns that the European debt crisis will continue to plague lenders and investors. BofA stock has dropped 63 percent this year, but a sustained drop below $5 could cost it investors, as many financial managers are prohibited from buying stock priced below $5.

The Shiite-dominated Iraqi government yesterday ordered the arrest of Vice President Tariq al Hashimi, a Sunni, after he was implicated in the assassinations of top Shiite military and government officials. Tensions between the two sects could jeopardize the country’s multi-party coalition.

And finally: Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) is such an outsider that she’s probably never even heard of Congress. “I am not a politician. I am a real person. I don’t even know how to be a politician,” she said in a news conference in Iowa.

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