Merry Christmas, America: Uncle Sam isn't going to Default on His Debt

Yes, That's Your Present

When Senate Republicans and Democrats reached a compromise on Tuesday to allow a final health care vote earlier than planned on Christmas Eve, they also made room to finish off the year with a vote to raise the nation's debt limit temporarily.

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Blackwater/Xe, the Company You Can't Get Rid of

Blackwater, Go Home

Yesterday, Justin Elliot at Talking Points Memo published an interesting piece on the never-ending saga that is the government's relationship with the company formerly known as Blackwater. Despite the scandals, investigations and indictments that have recently plagued Xe – and the resultant loss of a license to operate in Iraq and the cancellation of several security contracts overseas – the company continues to perform work for the State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Pentagon in Afghanistan and Iraq.

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EPA Seeking Comment on Disclosing Pesticide Ingredients

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced today that it will begin accepting public comments on its proposal to require pesticide manufacturers to label pesticide ingredients. Currently, pesticide makers must label the "active" ingredients in a pesticide, but they are not required to identify the so called inert ingredients. "Inerts" often are toxic or otherwise harmful substances in their own right.

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A Busy Year for EPA’s Air Office

As the Washington Post reports today, EPA is temporarily delaying a decision to regulate coal ash, a toxic byproduct formed when smokestack scrubbers capture pollutants otherwise destined for the air. Today is the one-year anniversary of a major coal ash spill that sent a billion gallons of toxic goo cascading across hundreds of acres of land in eastern Tennessee.

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OMB Releases New Last-Minute Recovery Act Jobs Guidance

While most of the nation's attention seems to have been focused on health care and budget issues as of late, the Office of Management and Budget has been hard at work on the Recovery Act recently. With the start of the second recipient reporting cycle rapidly approaching, on Friday OMB put out a new Recovery Act guidance, this one specifically addressing job creation estimates and data quality issues. These two areas have been huge problems for OMB and the Recovery Act in general, with many of the story lines from the last cycle focusing on terrible data quality and suspect job creation estimates. With the new guidance, OMB is hoping to head off some of these stories for the coming reporting cycle.

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Bernanke Endorsed by Senate Banking Committee, Supports Limited Fed Audit

Yesterday, in a bipartisan vote, the Senate Banking Committee approved Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's nomination to a second term as Federal Reserve chairman. The vote wasn't in any doubt, although the closeness of the margin, 16 to 7, does indicate the contentiousness of Bernanke's nomination. The nomination now heads to the Senate floor, where, barring some crazy unforeseen calamity, he will be nominated to another four year term in January.

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This Week in Deficit Hawks

Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT)

On Thursday, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), in an attempt to become more "relevant," held a hearing in search of fiscal remedies to the country's growing $12 trillion debt. Rather than provide a platform for exploring different options, though, Lieberman lined up witnesses to trumpet a special congressional commission that could railroad budget "solutions" through Congress. Lieberman, along with several of his hearing witnesses, has joined a small but vocal choir of deficit-hawk-converts that are demanding the government address budget shortfalls immediately, seemingly without regard to current fiscal circumstances.

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FEC Proposes Rules to Comply With EMILY’s List Decision

On Dec. 17, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) proposed rules that would limit donations to some nonprofit groups that engage in campaign activity after the Justice Department announced that it would not appeal the EMILY’s List decision.

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Is the Senate Going to Allow the Estate Tax to Die?

R.I.P, Estate Tax...For Now

According to a Wall Street Journal article published this morning, efforts to pass some sort of estate tax extension in the upper chamber broke down late Wednesday afternoon. It seems the Democratic caucus can't agree on whether to permanently or temporarily extend 2009 estate tax levels. Though legislators are already promising to address the issue as soon as they return from the holidays, there is still time left to pass something. OMB Watch and a host of other organizations have submitted a letter to the Senate urging them to take action. Ironically enough for those who would champion the tax's death on Jan. 1, the consequences of inaction for small businesses and farms are costlier than extension.

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In Drinking Water, What’s Legal Can Be Poisonous

In another of The New York Times’ startling articles on the state of U.S. waters, Charles Duhigg reports on the myriad chemicals polluting drinking water supplies and regulators’ inability to manage them.

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