Morning Briefing: July 5, 2011

GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney once again flip-flopped on the economic recovery, offering “conflicting messages within one sentence.” In Amherst, New Hampshire, Romney said, “The recession is deeper because of our president; it’s seen an anemic recovery because of our president.” That statement directly contradicted his earlier argument that Obama “didn’t create the recession.”

The scope of the Exxon Mobil oil spill in the Yellowstone River grew this weekend, extending far beyond the initial section of contaminated river. The company now estimates that up to 42,000 gallons of crude oil have spilled in the famed waterway.

In an effort to strike a compromise with Congressional Republicans to raise the nation’s debt limit before the Aug. 2 deadline, Obama administration officials are offering to cut tens of billions of dollars from Medicare and Medicaid in negotiations, according to the New York Times. The money would be taken from health care providers like hospitals and nursing homes in exchange for Republican concessions that raise revenues.

Democrats are conflicted over what role, if any, the Bush tax cuts should play in discussions. Most Democrats have honed in on provisions that benefit the wealthy but are worth far less in revenue than the Bush tax cuts. Ending the jet tax break would only save around $3 billion over 10 years while ending the Bush tax cuts for income over $250,000 would have brought an extra $700 billion into the Treasury.


The Australian reports that “hundreds of American special forces” will be sent to Afghanistan “to make up for the withdrawal of conventional troops by President Obama.” The special ops surge is intended to “ensure that there is enough combat power to expand covert raids as America withdraws 33,000 troops over the next 15 months.”

Health insurance premiums for people with pre-existing conditions will go down by up to 40 percent in 17 states and DC, thanks to a new administration ruling as part of the Affordable Care Act, which created high-risk pools for people who would otherwise have a difficult time finding coverage.

The Obama administration is proposing mileage rules that require new American cars and trucks to hit 56.2 miles per gallon by 2025, “roughly double the current level” to reduce global warming emissions and cut oil imports. While automakers say the standard is “will ‘cost billions of dollars to develop the vehicles,’ they say the standard — expected in September for public hearings — is “technically achievable.”

And finally: The Dali Lama is apparently friends with Whoopi Goldberg. The Tibetan leader is holding “A Talk for World Peace” event in Washington, DC this week, and Goldberg, famed for playing a nun, will be the emcee. The event coincides with the Dali Lama’s 76th birthday.

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