Morning Briefing: January 23, 2012

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"Morning Briefing: January 23, 2012"

More than a year after being shot in the head, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) announced Sunday that she would step down from Congress this week in order to continue focusing on her recovery. “I have more work to do on my recovery, so to do what is best for Arizona, I will step down this week,” she said in a YouTube video about her decision.

The European Union banned new imports of Iranian oil Monday and joined the U.S. in imposing other sanctions aimed at preventing Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. One Iranian politician responded by threatening to block the Strait of Hormuz, another called for Iran to cut off the E.U. completely.

According to a new poll, Newt Gingrich is leading the GOP field in Florida. After his decisive victory in South Carolina’s primary on Saturday, Gingrich now claims the support of 34 percent of likely GOP voters in Florida, compared with 26 percent for Mitt Romney, 13 percent for Ron Paul, and 11 percent for Rick Santorum.

Nearly two-thirds of voters say it is harder to move up from one economic class to another than it used to be, according to a poll conducted by The Hill. Among them, 33 percent said it was “somewhat harder,” and 33 percent said it was “much harder.” Only 21 percent think it is somewhat or much easier to move up in economic class.

Congressional Democrats are expected to keep urging a federal housing regulator to write down mortgage principal for government-backed loans if a settlement with banks doesn’t help enough homeowners. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan said the government is “very close” to an agreement with mortgage servicers, which could help 1 million homeowners and require the nation’s five largest banks to pay up to $25 billion to help borrowers.

For the second year in a row, K Street’s biggest lobbying firms reported flat or negative revenue in 2011. After experiencing a boom in the mid-2000′s, lobbyists are suffering from a stagnant economy and stalemates on Capitol Hill. They also have to compete with more modern tactics that involve media, the Internet and grassroots activism.

In his third State of the Union address tomorrow, President Obama will outline a “blueprint for an economy” with a focus on manufacturing, energy, education, and middle-class values. The address will highlight new proposals including job training for the long-term unemployed and veterans, as well as programs “to prepare American workers and student for the jobs of the future.”

The Citizens United ruling has given birth to the “super super PAC,” new third-party groups that “can not only raise mega cash to promote candidates, but give money to candidates’ campaigns.” By taking advantage of the federal rules that allow a traditional PAC and a Super PAC to operate under one roof, 11 of these “hybrid” super super PACS have already emerged and that number “will explode during the next year.”

And finally: Political memorabilia collection is a common practice in American life, but this may go too far. The iconic white hearse that carried the body of President John F. Kennedy was put up for auction this weekend in Arizona, selling for $160,000.

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