Morning Briefing: November 22, 2011

President Obama blamed Republicans’ intransigence for the super committee’s failure yesterday, and vowed to veto any attempt to circumvent the automatic cuts that have been triggered. Obama said Republicans refused to “listen to the voices of reason” and “simply will not budge from their position” on taxes while Democrats offered concessions like entitlement cuts.

The Wall Street Journal editorial board is thanking Grover Norquist for the failure of the super committee. Norquist and Republicans claim the lobbyist is not that influential, but the conservative paper writers, “Not to enhance this Beltway fable, but thank you, Mr. Norquist” for “reminding Republicans of their antitax promises.”

Media organizations are speaking out against police harassment of journalists covering the Occupy Wall Street protests in New York City, sending a letter to the NYPD Monday asking for a meeting about the police’s use of force against and arrests of journalists. An NYPD spokesperson said he’d be “happy” to “iron out” the misunderstandings.

The U.S. and other Western powers announced major news sanctions yesterday targeting Iran’s financial system. “The measures, a response to a recent United Nations report warning about Iran’s nuclear activities, tighten the vise on Iran but still fall short of a blanket cutoff.”

The insurance industry is worried the Supreme Court will strike down the individual mandate when it rules on the Affordable Care Act, but leave the rest of the law intact. An amicus brief filed by America’s Health Insurance Plans argued that striking down the mandate while leaving the rest of the law untouched would lead to “widespread…instability in the insurance market and, over time, would substantially reduce access to affordable coverage.”

Bank of America could face public enforcement action if it doesn’t take steps to strengthen the bank, federal regulators have told the company’s executives. Regulators warned the bank severe public action could be taken if the bank doesn’t take steps to shed problems tied to its takeover of Merrill Lynch during the financial crisis.

President Obama signed a bill on Monday aimed at helping unemployed veterans find work while putting more cash in the hands of companies with government contracts — a piece of legislation that passed with rare bipartisan support.

A new survey by the Pew Forum on Religious and Public Life finds that religious lobbying groups on Capitol Hill have increased fivefold since 1970, and now spend hundreds of millions of dollars each year influencing lawmakers on issues from abortion to school vouchers. The survey identifies 212 groups that spent $390 million last year, the largest of which are the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and social conservative groups.

Indiana Republicans in the state legislature say they will push for a right-to-work law, in a reversal from their position earlier this year. “There’s already a huge disparity between the rich and the poor, and this would only exacerbate it,” said House Democratic leader Rep. B. Patrick Bauer.

And finally: Call it Karma: Steven J. Baum P.C, a New York foreclosure mill law firm that earlier this year had its employees dress as homeless people during Halloween, is closing down. The firm is also reportedly under investigation by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

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