Brown, D-Ohio, said he’s concerned that the New York museum is not ready to host the shuttle, while the National Museum of the United States Air Force, at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, is.
The Dayton-area museum was among the candidates that competed to host the retired space shuttles earlier this year.
Brown has called New York’s revised plans — which include buying new property and going through the zoning process — a “bait and switch.”
[F]irst the Senate must consider the spending package, which is made up of three appropriations bills: Commerce, Justice and science; Agriculture, rural development, and Food and Drug Administration; and Transportation and Housing and Urban Development spending measures.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) signaled on Tuesday that he and other Senate Democrats are looking to advance President Obama's proposal to spend $35 billion to shore up jobs for teachers, police and firefighters in the coming weeks.
Although the White House is pressing for a vote as soon as possible, appropriations legislation stands in the way of immediate action. The Senate will take up a 2012 spending bill at 4 p.m. on Monday. The jobs bill cannot be offered as an amendment to the bill because it raises taxes. The Senate cannot switch to the jobs bill without unanimous consent or by adopting a motion to proceed vote, which requires a super-majority of 60 votes.
...Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) announced Monday that after clearing the spending package, the Senate will move to provide $35 billion in aid for cities and counties to keep teachers, firefighters and police on the job.
If Reid fails, the next chance to vote on the Obama agenda would come after Halloween — a disappointment for the White House.
Last week, after a needlessly-contentious process, Congress approved a two-month extension of the payroll tax break. As part of the agreement, a conference committee will try to come up with an agreement to extend the cut through the end of 2012. I’ve been rather pessimistic about the likelihood of success, and yesterday, the odds got worse. The Senate Republican leader announced Friday that he had chosen three of his colleagues to try to thrash out a bipartisan deal on payroll taxes, unemployment benefits and Medicare. The three Republican senators will join four Democratic senators and 13 House members on a conference committee wrestling with the issues, which tied the Senate in knots for more than two months. The newly named Republican conferees are Senators Jon Kyl of Arizona, Michael D. Crapo of Idaho and John Barrasso of Wyoming. These aren’t three senators you’d appoint to a conference committee if you want to be constructive. These are three senators you’d appoint to a conference committee if you want to be destructive. Kyl, for example, was instrumental in sabotaging the super-committee process, and was described by Democratic negotiators as “walking napalm.” Crapo and Barrasso, meanwhile, are two far-right senators who’ve never demonstrated any willingness to accept concessions on anything.
What’s more, note that the House GOP leadership has already announced its conferees, most of whom have already said they don’t want a payroll-cut extension no matter what concessions Democrats are willing to make. The conference committee will technically have until March 1, when the cut expires, but as a practical matter, they’ll have to wrap up a deal well before then, giving both chambers a chance to debate and vote on an agreement.
Even if Obama chooses to disengage from Congress, there are several potential political land mines littering his playing field. Republicans successfully added a provision to the two-month payroll tax cut extension mandating that Obama make a politically sensitive decision on the Keystone XL oil sands pipeline by the end of February. He had hoped to delay a decision on the project - which Republicans have said will create jobs but environmentalists have said would harm natural resources - until after a federal environmental review is completed in 2013. Also, the Supreme Court is scheduled to rule, before the November elections, on a key provision of Obama's health-care overhaul package, approved in 2010.
President Obama enjoyed a surge in popularity this week — but the bounce proved to be remarkably short-lived. A Gallup tracking poll released Thursday showed that Obama is once again underwater, plummeting to 41 percent approval and 50 percent disapproval, a sharp drop from earlier in the week. A survey released Monday showed the president had a sudden uptick in the opinion poll, with 47 percent of respondents approving of the way he was handling his job and 45 percent disapproving. It was the first time since July that more people viewed him favorably than unfavorably. The bounce in popularity came on the heels of the payroll-tax cut debate, when Senate Democrats and Obama stood firm to force House Republicans into accepting a two-month deal. After emerging as the winner in that debate, the president headed to Hawaii on Friday for a Christmas vacation with his family. Obama, who has spent much of his down time on the golf course and out with his family, has not appeared at a public event since leaving Washington.
Kevin Brady, member of the US House of Representatives and head of the Subcommittee on Trade, said on Tuesday that lifting the Jackson-Vanik amendments would be a complicated task for the US Congress, RIA Novosti reports. He explained that the scepticism is based on human rights violations in Russia and its support for Iran. Russia needs to inform about its private sector, business and agriculture, and explain the benefits of joining the WTO to Obama’s administration to overcome the common mistrust that Congress has. Russia needs to demonstrate its willingness to fulfil its WTO obligations, especially in agriculture. Christopher Wilson, US deputy trade secretary and WTO representative, said that there are congressmen interested in lifting the Jackson-Vanik amendments. He added that it would not happen until Russia provides all the benefits it gets from joining the WTO for US businessmen. The Jackson-Vanik amendments were introduced in 1974, limiting trade with the USSR for lack of migration freedom. An annual moratorium has been introduced for the amendments since 1989.
A vote in the U.S. Congress to repeal the Jackson-Vanik amendment could be held in the first half of 2012 if the Obama administration carries out preparatory work. This was announced on Tuesday by Congressman Kevin Brady who heads the Subcommittee on Trade. He believes that the abolition of the discriminatory Jackson-Vanik amendment and giving Russia the status of permanent normal trade partner of the United States will not be easy. According to Brady, even those members of Congress who favor the expansion of trade relations with other countries, have expressed skepticism about Russia. He referred to concerns about the situation of human rights in Russia and Moscow's cooperation with Iran.
Under the agreement reached in August, lawmakers agreed to raise the debt limit in three increments while also implementing $2.4 trillion in budget cuts. The deal, however, also gave Congress the option of voting to block each of the debt-ceiling increases by passing a "resolution of disapproval." Even if such a resolution were passed, Obama could veto it, and he could be overridden only by a two-thirds vote of each chamber. In September, when the first debt-limit hike was scheduled to take effect, the Republican-led House passed a disapproval resolution, but the Democratic-controlled Senate blocked it. A White House official who requested anonymity to provide procedural details said Obama would veto a disapproval resolution but said the administration did not expect that to happen.
Obama will also make the case for passage of his $447-billion jobs package, most of which Congress has rejected over the last three months. His jobs plan includes money to keep public workers on the job and rebuild the nation's roads, ports and bridges. But it seems doubtful that he'll push Congress on his jobs plan with the same focus that he brought to the payroll tax cut debate. In late December, Congress agreed to extend the payroll tax cut for two months, following a high-stakes showdown with Obama that delayed his Hawaiian vacation for six days. Nothing else on Obama's menu requires congressional action as urgently as the tax cut, the White House said. If Congress were to let the cut expire at the end of February, tens of millions of Americans would be hit with a tax increase, harming the fragile economic recovery, the White House contends. Earnest said that now that Obama was "sort of free from having to put out these fires, the president will have a larger playing field, as it were. And if that playing field includes working with Congress, all the better. But I think my point is that that's no longer a requirement." In pushing his jobs plan — which included the payroll tax cut — Obama often mocked lawmakers who opposed it for fear of giving him "a win" politically. He bristled over such characterizations, saying his aim was not short-term political advantage but a solution for the nation's high jobless rate.
“The status quo benefits the Democrats’ political preferences, which are to let the Bush tax cuts expire — at least for the wealthiest Americans — and to use the increase in revenue to pay off deficit reduction,” Sharp said. “Republicans might actually have more of an incentive to reach a deal earlier as opposed to later, because the later they go, then they’re in a situation where they really don’t want tax cuts to expire and so they have to concede more to get the Democrats to come on board,” he said. Of course, even if both sides want to change the automatic cuts to defense spending, this past week’s payroll tax debate has shown the two parties often find a way to reach an impasse even when they are seeking a similar goal. “I would probably expect leaders to undo sequestration,” Sharp said, “but I think it’s pretty foolhardy at this point to bet on our political leaders reaching a compromise."
There is only one problem: the Republicans are struggling to find anyone to inspire them or unite behind, and now it is too late for any new saviour to ride to the rescue. Tomorrow is crunch time: the Iowa caucuses are the first contest in a Republican battle that could potentially be fought, state by state, all the way to the summer. "A bunch of cranks," says Bob Wessel, an 87-year-old second world war veteran who can remember voting for Eisenhower, of the current candidates campaigning in Des Moines. "If this is all the Republicans have got, I will vote for Obama." Dissatisfaction with the field is a recurring theme on the campaign trail in Iowa. Those turning out for campaign meetings often say they are undecided and make unfavourable comparisons with the calibre of Republicans who canvassed for their support in the past. An estimated 100,000-plus Republicans will gather in community centres, schools and other meeting places tomorrow evening to vote. It is the culmination of weeks - and, in some cases, months - of campaigning; a mind-numbing round of meet-and-greets in pizza parlours, shopping malls and sports bars. Rick Santorum, who has spent more time on the ground than any of the pack, has conducted 363 town hall meetings. Reflecting the unsettled nature of the race, there have been six frontrunners since August, beginning with Tea Party favourite Michele Bachmann. She was followed by Texas governor Rick Perry, who has fought one of the most inept campaigns ever, even in the admission of his own staff. Herman Cain was next up, before being forced to suspend his campaign amid a welter of sexual harassment allegations. Then Ron Paul, from the fringes of the Republican party, and, in the last fortnight, Mitt Romney, who is still most likely to win the nomination. In the latest twist, Rick Santorum, in single digits for the whole of 2011, is making a late surge propelled by endorsements of Christian evangelical leaders. Seven have entered this brutal elimination contest but after Iowa the field may be down to six. Bachmann, at the bottom of the polls and attracting sparse crowds, is the likeliest to drop out, though she insists she plans to continue campaigning. Next week's New Hampshire primary could prompt the withdrawal of Jon Huntsman - the only candidate not to have been a frontrunner, or even enjoyed a surge. The Des Moines Register poll, published on Saturday night and eagerly awaited by the campaigns because of its past reliability, predicts a three-horse race going into the final stretch. Romney polled top with 24%, followed by Paul on 22%, Santorum on 15%, Gingrich on 12%, Perry on 11% and Bachmann on 7%. Huntsman is not competing in Iowa, judging that he has little chance in the socially conservative state where Christian evangelicals make up an estimated 50% of caucus-goers, and is waiting instead in New Hampshire. The surprise in the Register poll is the Santorum surge recorded over the last two days, showing Romney holding on at 24% but with Santorum leapfrogging Paul to take second place on 21%, leaving Paul in third on 18%. The poll findings reinforced the volatility of the race. J Ann Selzer, president of the company that carried out the polling in six of the last seven caucuses, said she had never before seen such a surge. "People who love politics love this kind of surprise battle, where there is a path to victory for a number of candidates," she said. Selzer and political journalists are enjoying the disorderly nature of the race more than a Republican party desperate to get Obama out of the White House. The party controls the House of Representatives, but is hoping to add both the White House and the Senate in November to begin rolling-back healthcare reform, welfare benefits and the other "socialist" policies of the Obama administration. The Democrats, housed in Obama's re-election headquarters in Chicago, are happily watching the fractured Republican race. They will hope it drags out month after month, state by state, leaving the candidates consumed by their own campaigns and with less time to focus on fundraising for the general election. David Axelrod, the mastermind of Obama's 2008 victory, believes Romney will emerge triumphant and is putting together a formidable, well-funded machine he thinks is capable of beating him - especially if the tentative signs of economic recovery prove reliable. Another of Obama's team, Jim Messina, the campaign manager, sent out a video last week to supporters setting out five possible combinations of states that would provide a pathway to victory. Iowa is listed as one of them and the Obama team is already putting its organisation in place. Jordan Oster, 25, one of the young volunteers who formed the backbone of Obama's 2008 victory in Iowa and plans to work for him again, said the president had eight offices in the state - more than all the Republican candidates combined. Obama won Iowa easily last time round, taking 54% of the vote to John McCain's 44%. But current polling in Iowa - his approval ratings are hovering in the mid-40s - shows why, in spite of the riven Republican field, his re-election is in doubt. Wilbur Hutchens, 74, who voted for Obama in 2008, is disillusioned over the state of the economy, high unemployment and healthcare reform. "Why should I be expected to pay for other people?" he said. Hutchens was at the Legends American Grill in Marshalltown, attending a campaign event for Bachmann, but has not yet decided who to support. "I will vote Republican regardless of who gets the nomination," he said. Hutchens is considering voting for Romney on Tuesday night on the grounds that he stands the best chance of beating Obama. "I will decide on electability, on who will beat Obama. That is a major consideration for me," he said. Romney is a better campaigner than he was in 2008 and could soak up anti-Obama votes. He would also have huge financial backing that was not available to any of the candidates in 2008 thanks to a supreme court ruling that has effectively lifted restrictions on political donations. Groups such as Restore Our Future, packed with former Romney campaign staff and business associates, have spent millions demolishing Newt Gingrich, one of his rivals in Iowa. Much more resources will be available to take down Obama, supplied not only by Restore our Future but Karl Rove's American Crossroads and the vast riches of the Koch brothers. Romney's big problem is the reluctance of the party to warm to him. His poll ratings have been stuck at around 24-25%. Although rightwing by the standards of past Republican presidents, he is viewed by the present generation of Republicans as too moderate, too much of an opportunist, and is particularly disliked by the Tea Party movements. Christian evangelicals are suspicious of his Mormonism. But their intense dislike of him may be outweighed by their even greater dislike of Obama.
AMERICA goes to the polls this year with Barack Obama facing an uphill struggle to retain the White House keys. As the clock ticks towards election day on November 6 the incumbent must turn around his re-election hopes amid uncertain economic conditions. Mr Obama's popularity at home has ebbed since becoming president and the country is struggling to keep its fragile economic recovery on course. But many believe that an against-the-odds victory is within his grasp, aided by a potentially weak Republican challenger. The political environment, and Mr Obama's place in it, is far removed from that of 2008 when the then 47-year-old first-time senator was elected on a wave of enthusiasm. Much of that enthusiasm has dissipated in the intervening years. Mr Obama's approval ratings have been low throughout 2011, dipping below the 40% mark in mid-August. They have picked up a little of late, but he still languishes in the low 40s. No post-war president seeking re-election has bounced back from figures that low this late on. Over the Christmas/New Year period before being granted a second term, George W Bush had an approval rating of 63%, while Bill Clinton was on 51% as the Times Square ball dropped to usher in his re-election year. A further delve into statistics does little to instil Obama supporters with much hope.
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