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Obama’s shifts complicate debt limit negotiations

The roller-coaster debate over raising the nation’s debt limit has forced the White House to explain away, brush aside or even ignore declarations by President Barack Obama and his top aides that no longer served much purpose in the unpredictable negotiations. First, the White House wanted the debt ceiling vote separated from spending cuts. Now the administration likes them linked. Then, Obama adamantly vowed to reject any short-term deal to raise the borrowing limit. Now the White House says he could make an exception. And Obama pledged to meet with congressional leaders every day until a deal was reached. But
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Crunch time on debt limit talks

Efforts to avoid an unprecedented U.S. default enter crunch time on Friday, with President Barack Obama and top lawmakers engaged in a sometimes chaotic drive to strike a sweeping deficit-reduction deal. With the clock ticking toward an August 2 deadline to raise the U.S. debt ceiling, Obama and the senior Republican in Congress, House Speaker John Boehner, worked toward a plan that could include up to $3 trillion in spending cuts but might leave tax reform for later, congressional aides said. The main obstacle remained the issue of tax increases that Obama’s Democrats demand and Republicans vehemently oppose. There were
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House budget plan faces defeat in Senate

The Senate is moving to cast away a budget cutting plan passed by the Republican-controlled House, clearing the way for increasingly urgent government talks over raising the nation’s debt ceiling. President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner searched once more for an ambitious $4 trillion grand bargain, but officials said wide differences remained. Less than two weeks from an Aug. 2 deadline that could precipitate a first-ever government default, the continuing Obama-Boehner talks kept alive the possibility of substantial deficit reduction that would combine cuts in spending on major benefit programs like Medicare and Medicaid and revenue increases through
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Panetta set to end gay military ban

Pentagon chief Leon Panetta has decided to end the ban on gays serving openly in the armed services and certify that repealing the 17-year-old prohibition will not hurt the military’s ability to fight, officials said Thursday. His decision, which was expected, comes two weeks after the chiefs of the military services told Panetta that ending the ban would not affect military readiness. Dismantling the ban fulfills a 2008 campaign promise by President Barack Obama, who helped usher the repeal through Congress and signed it into law late last December. But the move also drew vehement opposition from some in Congress
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Obama’s tattered legacy: A withered American Dream

Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign trumpeted hope for the future, but his legacy may include presiding over the withering of the American Dream. Belief that the American Dream is possible has dropped by nearly 20 points since his election, falling just below one-half of U.S. adults. My research since 1998 about the American Dream has shown its definition evolving away from material wealth and toward spiritual happiness (both secular and religious.) So this drop in belief hints that our economic and political problems are shaking American confidence about the future and even our way of life. This should be an enormous
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New debt plan targets favored tax deductions

A new bipartisan plan to reduce government borrowing would target some of the most cherished tax breaks enjoyed by millions of families — those promoting health insurance, home ownership, charitable giving and retirement savings — in exchange for lowering overall tax rates for everyone. Many taxpayers would face higher taxes — a total of at least $1.2 trillion over the next decade, and perhaps more. The details and impact of the plan, released this week by the bipartisan “Gang of Six” senators, emerged as President Barack Obama called congressional leaders to the White House on Wednesday to determine, in separate
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Bachmann: Migraines ain’t no big deal

Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann sought on Wednesday to reassure voters that her migraines are not debilitating, releasing a doctor’s statement that said she is able to manage them. A report on The Daily Caller website said Bachmann, a deeply conservative member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Minnesota, suffers from stress-induced severe headaches that occur about once a week and can “incapacitate” her for days at a time. Bachmann rejected the report and said she controls her migraines easily with prescription medication. Seeking to put the matter to rest, Bachmann’s campaign released a letter by Brian Monahan, the
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‘Gang of Six’ breathes new life into debt talks

For the first time in a long, bitter fight over budget deficits and raising the U.S. debt limit, Democrats and Republicans have found a big idea they both might like: a “Gang of Six” proposal that unexpectedly burst onto the scene on Tuesday. After two months of dormancy, the bipartisan group of six senators outlined a plan to tame annual $1.4 trillion budget deficits in a way that could put the United States onto a fiscally sound path and assuage edgy global financial markets that were heartened by the possible progress. President Barack Obama quickly embraced it, saying it was
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Senate Republicans more flexible in debt standoff

Senate Republicans are showing far more flexibility than their tea party-backed House colleagues as Washington policymakers seek to steer the government away from a first-ever default on its financial obligations. As the House doubled down on a symbolic vote to condition any increase in the government’s borrowing authority on congressional passage of a balanced budget constitutional amendment and a fresh wave of spending cuts, the warm reception by many Senate Republicans to a new bipartisan budget plan revealed a thawing in GOP attitudes on new tax revenues. President Barack Obama also lauded the deficit-reduction plan put forward by a bipartisan
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The magic number: 217

The terms “billions” and “trillions” are tossed around in the nation’s debt ceiling debate. Probably no number, however, is more important than 217. That’s how many votes are needed in the 435-member House, with two vacancies, to pass any measure to raise the nation’s debt limit and avert economic convulsions in about two weeks. Interviews with more than a dozen key players Tuesday suggest it’s possible, but not easy. The Senate, with its competing proposals from the “Gang of Six” and Republican leader Mitch McConnell, has dominated public attention so far. But the GOP-controlled House is the tougher challenge for
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