Morning Briefing: January 13, 2012

The housing crisis is the first item on the agenda of new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau head Richard Cordray as the agency released guidelines for how it will regulate the mortgage lending industry this week. It also launched its first investigation, a probe into kickbacks paid to a private mortgage lender.

Nearly 40 people were arrested protesting the Guantanamo Bay prison camp and indefinite detention outside the gates of the White House yesterday. The protesters were from the grassroots group Witness Against Torture, which is calling for the closure of the prison camp.

The U.S. has identified all four marines who urinated on the corpses of Taliban fighters and may charge them with “a war crime,” said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The Marines were part of a sniper team in a 1,000 man battalion that recently returned from Afghanistan to Camp LeJuene, North Carolina, where the men “apparently started showing the video around as a war trophy.”

To avoid a second embarrassing defeat for Republicans over payroll tax cuts, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) will work around Tea Party-aligned lawmakers to reach a deal, according to congressional aides. “I think Boehner will seek a more accommodating approach to get a good percentage of Democrats to vote for it — even if it costs him a lot of House Republican freshmen,” a House Republican leadership aide told Reuters.

President Obama will ask Congress for the authority to merge six federal agencies, shrinking the size of the federal government. The agencies handle trade and commerce, so Obama will argue today that the overlap causes confusion for Americans.

Yesterday, Obama officially requested that Congress raise the debt ceiling by $1.2 trillion over the objection of several House Republicans. Obama’s formal request was part of the debt ceiling compromise agreed to months ago by both sides.

The U.S. government is on track for a smaller deficit in 2012 than the year before. The Treasury Department announced yesterday that the deficit for the first three months of budget year was $47 billion less than the same time last year. The Congressional Budget Office estimates the government will run a $973 billion deficit for the year, lower than last year’s $1.3 billion.

D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray wants the National Park Service to relocate OccupyDC protesters from McPherson Square to “allow for elimination of the rat infestation, clean up, and restoration” of the downtown park. Gray has proposed moving the protesters, who have occupied McPherson since October, to Freedom Plaza.

Iran “agreed to host a high-level team of United Nation’s nuclear inspectors later this month, Western diplomats said, a surprise development that could help to curb building tensions with the West.” The inspectors will arrive on January 28.

After a Article 32 hearing, an investigating military officer recommended that Pfc. Bradley Manning face a court-martial yesterday. If Manning, who leaked military information to Wikileaks, is convicted on all charges which include “aiding the enemy,” it is “recommended he face a maximum of life in prison.”

And finally: GOP presidential hopeful Rick Santorum finally admitted this source of his strength: his sweater vest. “It sort of took a life of its own,” he told voters after a campaign event, “and the vest gave me this power.”

For breaking news and updates throughout the day, follow ThinkProgress on Facebook and Twitter.