Sen. Shelby Not Budging on Filibuster Threat of CFPB Nominee

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- One day after the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) opened its doors, Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., doubled down on his resolve to block the appointment of the agency’s first leader.

“We fought it last year.  We’re going to continue to fight it,” Shelby told ABC News.

“This puts so much power, too much power, in one person, and we should never have done that,” he said of the Dodd-Frank law, which created the agency and its directorship last year.

“This is about accountability, and what we’re asking for is...not to change the mission, but of governance,” he said.  “And the president can do this.  If he doesn’t do it, I believe we’re not going to budge and we shouldn’t.”

This week, Obama nominated Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray to head the new agency, but his appointment must be confirmed by the Senate.

Shelby said he doesn't oppose Cordray personally, but opposes any single person to head the agency.

He and 42 Republican colleagues have written to President Obama demanding a “structural change” to the bureau that would replace the director with a board of managers and subject it to the Congressional appropriations process.  The White House opposes the changes.

On the debt and deficit debate, Shelby took an equally firm stand against the prospect of a U.S. default, which has been raised by some House Republicans.

“I don’t believe we will default.  We should never think about defaulting,” he said, predicting there will be a temporary resolution before Aug. 2.

“If we don’t do something serious -- and I don’t believe we can do it in the next two weeks, in the next few months about spending -- we’re going to have a bigger can to kick down the road,” he said.

Shelby responded warmly to the $3.7 trillion deficit reduction framework drafted by the bipartisan "Gang of Six" Senators, but he suggested it’s too early to offer a full-fledged endorsement.

“We are looking at the details,” he said.  “I hope it is more than smoke and mirrors.  I hope it is no smoke and no mirrors.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Democratic Officials: Still No Debt Deal, Not Even Close

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Democratic officials familiar with the ongoing debt talks said on Thursday night that they do not have a deal to reduce the deficit, and aren't even on the cusp of an agreement.

President Obama continues to push for the biggest deal possible and believes there is still time to reach an agreement to raise the debt ceiling and reduce the deficit before the Aug. 2 default deadline, but the difficulties remain the same.

According to officials, the president hopes for a balanced deal that includes deficit reduction, entitlement reforms and revenue increases.  Any deal would have immediate cuts to discretionary spending, paired with a commitment to make entitlement cuts and enact tax reforms.

However, Democratic officials said that major disagreements persist over both entitlement and tax reforms.

Some of the big issues left to tackle include the scope of the changes and how to enact mechanisms that ensure a deal is balanced.  For instance, negotiators must determine how much to raise revenue through tax reform and how to make sure Congress follows through with entitlement cuts.

While both sides will have to compromise, this deal may cause more turmoil for Democrats who expressed outrage Thursday at the possibility that Obama would accept a deal that does not include immediate tax increases.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


John Edwards Campaign Owes US Government $2.3 Million

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- John Edwards’ fall from grace took a financial hit Thursday when the Federal Election Commission ruled his 2008 presidential campaign owes the federal government $2.3 million.

The FEC says an audit shows the John Edwards for President Committee needs to pay back $2.1 million in government matching funds it wasn’t entitled to receive.

The commission said the remainder of the money owed comes from so-called “stale-dated checks.”   Those are checks the campaign sent back to donors that were never cashed.  The FEC says those checks were refunds to contributors who had made donations early in the campaign that were intended strictly for general election use, not primaries.

According to FEC regulations, any money not recollected by the original donor must be forwarded to the government.

After the FEC votes to approve a final audit report, the Edwards campaign will have 90 days to pay up or 60 days to request a review.  Audits are required as part of the government’s matching funds program and, according to the Los Angeles Times, it’s not uncommon for campaigns to pay back a portion of money received in error because of accounting mistakes.

Last month, in an unrelated matter, Edwards was indicted on six felony charges for allegedly using some $900,000 in campaign contributions from two supporters to keep his then-pregnant mistress, Rielle Hunter, out of the public eye during his 2008 run for the White House.  A criminal trial is set to get underway in October.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Pawlenty Runs into Trouble with 'Miracle on Ice' Footage in TV Ad

Scott Olson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- In his new TV ad "The American Comeback," Tim Pawlenty hoped to position himself as a tenacious underdog by using footage of the famous U.S. hockey victory in the "Miracle on Ice," but so far he's only run into problems.

ABC, which owns the footage, reportedly will send the Pawlenty campaign a cease-and-desist letter, demanding that they stop using the footage.

Pawlenty spokesman Alex Conant says in a statement: "All of our campaign television advertising is carefully reviewed by the campaign's lawyers to ensure compliance with the copyright laws, the federal election laws, and other legal provisions.  The campaign's "Miracle on Ice" advertisement was carefully reviewed for legal compliance and we believe fully complies with the "fair use" doctrine.  We respect ABC's concern and look forward to responding to their inquiry."

According to a statement issued by ESPN: "Neither ABC nor ESPN has asked the Pawlenty campaign to remove any footage from their video, although neither ABC nor ESPN licensed the video to them or authorized its use."

In addition, Pawlenty's ad features the U.S. team's captain Mike Eruzione.  Eruzione, though, doesn't support Pawlenty -- he supports Mitt Romney.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Obama Pens Editorial, Makes Case for 'Big' Debt Deal

The White House/Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) -- The president is continuing his push for a “grand bargain” to reduce the deficit through spending cuts and revenue increases, writing in a USA Today editorial that “we have the opportunity to do something big and meaningful.”

“People in both parties have suggested that the best way to take on our deficit is with a more balanced approach.  Yes, we should make serious spending cuts.  But we should also ask the wealthiest individuals and biggest corporations to pay their fair share through fundamental tax reform,” Obama writes.  “A balanced deficit deal that includes some new revenues isn't just a Democratic position.  It's a position that has been taken by everyone from Warren Buffett to Bill O'Reilly.”

Once again, Obama makes clear that he’s been willing to make tough decisions to raise the debt ceiling and reduce the nation’s $14.3 trillion deficit.

“I'm willing to cut historic amounts of spending in order to reduce our long-term deficits.  I'm willing to cut spending on domestic programs to the lowest level in half a century.  I'm willing to cut defense spending by hundreds of billions of dollars.  I'm willing to take on the rising costs of health care programs like Medicare and Medicaid, so we can meet our obligations to an aging population,” he writes.

But the president warns, “If we tackle our deficit with spending cuts alone, it will likely end up costing seniors and middle-class families a great deal.”

With less than two weeks to avert default, Obama says the debate shouldn’t just revolve around avoiding the “catastrophe of not paying our bills.”

“That's the least we should do.  This debate offers the chance to put our economy on stronger footing, restore a sense of fairness in our country, and secure a better future for our children. I want to seize that opportunity, and ask Americans of both parties and no party to join me in that effort,” he writes.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Sen. Warner Will Support 'Any Deal' to Raise Debt Ceiling

United States Senate(WASHINGTON) -- As one more sign of what the debt ceiling negotiations have come to, Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., said on Thursday that he would support “any plan” as long as it raised the debt ceiling, at this point.

“I’m going to support any deal that actually gets us to the debt ceiling, that’s the most important thing,” Warner said on a conference call Thursday evening.  “I’m going to vote for virtually anything that extends the debt ceiling.  I’d even vote for a clean debt ceiling extension.  Because I don’t think we should be playing, you know, Russian roulette with our country and, indirectly, the world’s economy.”

The senator, a member of the "Gang of Six," was briefing citizens on a conference call hosted by the group “No Labels” to update the public on the Gang's progress and the work they might do even after a debt deal is reached.

Warner said that everything with the debt talks is changing in “real time” and that the viability of the Mitch McConnell-Harry Reid plan to give President Obama power to raise the debt ceiling was on tap to be discussed at the White House discussion Thursday night.

The Gang of Six continues to work on its plan to reduce the deficit by $3.7 trillion over 10 years, even as other aspects of the debt ceiling negotiations rage on.

Warner expressed regret that the group was not able to get its proposal out months ago so that the group's members could have earlier answered all the questions and challenges the group is facing after its proposal was unveiled Tuesday, rather than trying to answer them at the 11th hour of the debt talks.

He echoed the sentiment on the Hill that the Gang of Six’s plan could influence the debt talks, but that the proposal is best left for consideration after the debt ceiling is raised.

“We never thought of our deal as a debt ceiling-related issue,” Warner said.  “We always thought of it as a longer-term process of action.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Timing Is Everything: Reid Forces a Vote Early on Cut, Cap & Balance

US Senate(WASHINGTON) -- Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced on the Senate floor that he will force a “motion to table” --  i.e. a motion to kill -- the Cut, Cap and Balance Act on Friday, after a cloture vote had been set for Saturday.

“I think this piece of legislation is about as weak and senseless as anything that has ever come on this Senate floor,” Reid said on the Senate floor Thursday evening. “I am not going to waste the Senate's time day after day on this piece of legislation.”

The motion only needs 51 votes for it to be approved. If the motion is approved, Cut, Cap & Balance would be tabled.  This move is important in the overall schedule as leaders scramble to not only broker a final deal to raise the nation’s debt ceiling but also procedurally get a deal before the Aug. 2 deadline for action.

Democrats have railed against the act, which passed in the House on Tuesday, all week, saying that it is a waste of time for something that has no chance of passing in the Democrat-controlled Senate and that the president has said he will veto. So Reid has pushed the vote one day early.

“I feel confident that this legislation will be disposed of one way or the other,” Reid said.

Knowing that Senate Republicans have fought this week just for the opportunity to debate this act, Reid said that they can “debate it to their heart's content” Thursday night and into Friday for a period of time. But that’s it -- there will be a vote at some point Friday.

Senator Mike Lee, R-Utah, likened the argument that an act that could fail doesn’t deserve debate to questioning holding the Super Bowl “when you’ve got one team that’s expected to beat the other one.”

“But it's even worse, because what happens is that when we vote, we're held accountable.  If we don't vote, we can't be held accountable,” said Lee.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Rick Perry Accuses Obama of Leaving Astronauts to 'Hitchhike into Space'

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- As America bids farewell to the space shuttle era on Thursday, likely presidential candidate Rick Perry appears none too pleased with the Obama administration, accusing the president of “leaving American astronauts with no alternative but to hitchhike into space.”

In a sharply worded statement issued by the governor of Texas -- the state is home to the Johnson Space Center -- Perry charges that the Obama administration “continues to lead federal agencies and programs astray, this time forcing NASA away from its original purpose of space exploration, and ignoring its groundbreaking past and enormous future potential.”

Thursday marked the final flight of the space shuttle as the Shuttle Atlantis landed before dawn at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Shuttles flew 135 flights over the last three decades. Americans will still live on the International Space Station, but they will have to use Russian craft and private companies for transportation to and from space.

The International Space Station is expected to remain in use until 2020.

Near the end of the statement from Perry’s office is a note that the Johnson Space Center employs 3,000 people and draws in the business of about 50 outside companies and 12,000 contract positions. “An estimated 4,000 contract positions will be lost due to the end of the shuttle program," according to the statement.

Perry, who appears to be laying the groundwork to enter the 2012 presidential race, did not mention President George W. Bush's role in the end of the space shuttle era. In 2004 at a speech at NASA headquarters, Bush laid out what the White House called his "New Vision For Space Exploration," which called for the retirement of the space shuttle.

Back then, Bush called for the space shuttle to be taken out of service in 2010.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Buddy Roemer Announces He's Running for President, N.H.) -- Charles Elson “Buddy” Roemer announced his candidacy for president at Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H., Thursday afternoon. With the addition of the former Louisiana governor, there are now 11 contenders in the 2012 presidential race.

In his announcement speech, Roemer said, “I run to prepare America to grow jobs again, beginning with the elimination of our tolerance for unfair foreign trade practices and the use of our own tax code to ship jobs overseas. I run to reveal and challenge the control of the special interest over our nation’s capital, and demonstrate the freedom to lead that can only come from refusing their money.”

Roemer is pledging that he'll take no money from political action committees and no donation more than $100.

But with his self-imposed fundraising limitations, low-name identification outside of Louisiana, and late start, Roemer is unlikely to compete for the nomination.

Roemer served four terms as a Democratic congressman from Louisiana, then became governor of the state in 1988. He switched affiliations to the GOP in his third year as governor and lost re-election for a second term.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Obama, Boehner Nearing Budget Deal?

MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- A report that President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner are nearing a major budget deal is incorrect, sources on both sides of the debate tell ABC News.

“It’s wrong,” a White House official who spoke on condition of anonymity told ABC News on Thursday in response to a report by the The New York Times.

Boehner’s office also shot down the Times report, saying, “While we are keeping the lines of communication open, there is no ‘deal’ and no progress to report.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio