The House this week voted to empower the FDA to regulate tobacco, just in case people still smoke even after new taxes push the cost of cigarettes to over $9 per pack and the recession bankrupts everyone. Under the measure, which passed 298-112, the FDA would be able to set nicotine levels, control cigarette advertising, and require companies to provide a full list of cigarette ingredients. As usual, the killjoys in the Senate may force the House to smoke a light version of the cigarette bill…
Following up on the multiple Obama nominees who’ve had tax troubles, Politico asked the 99 members of the Senate whether they’ve ever had mistakes on their tax returns or filed back taxes. Yes and yes.
Senate approves $838 billion economic stimulus bill 61 to 37. C-Span says three Republicans broke ranks to vote for it: Senators Susan Collins, Olympia Snowe, and Arlen Specter.
We know there’s salmonella story fatigue setting in, but this new overview from yesterday’s Senate hearing is the best yet as far as piecing together exactly how salmonella-tainted peanut butter made it into our food supply for such a long period of time, and why it took so long to trace it back to a single rotten peanut plant in Georgia. Ultimately the blame lies with Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) for failing to maintain its factory and for not destroying lots that tested positive for salmonella, but both the FDA and the CDC had a role in it, too. One example: the FDA didn’t even know the plant produced peanut butter or peanut paste until 2007.
The Senate’s Sergeant at Arms, Terry Gainer, joined Facebook to deliver a picture perfect apology to the survivors of the so-called Purple Tunnel of Doom, a group of several thousand people who were kept out of President Obama’s inauguration even though they had tickets. It takes a superior apology to address a colossal failure, and Gainer certainly delivered. The sincerity and completeness of the apology easily make it one of the best mea culpas we’ve ever seen.
After failing to get the required two-third majority on Wednesday, the House is expected next week to pass legislation delaying the digital television transition to June 12, according to White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs. The Senate has already voted to extend the deadline, and President Obama has indicated he will sign the bill.
Congress may soon help the 1.76 million consumers anxiously waiting for their $40 digital TV converter coupons. According to Congress Daily, Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) is drafting legislation to push back the February 17 digital television transition deadline as requested last week by both Consumers Union and the incoming Obama Administration.
Ever heard of a cramdown? It’s when a bankrupcty court splits a home loan into two parts: a secured loan that’s equal to the current value of the home, and an unsecured loan that covers the rest of the outstanding debt. The secured loan is paid, and the unsecured isn’t. It can result in lower monthly payments (if the new loan amount is amortized over the course of the loan), but the important part is that it helps guarantee that a significant part of the loan will still be paid off.
The Auto Bailout Bill passed House yesterday, but is expected to encounter strong Republican resistance in the Senate.
It looks like the auto industry bailout doesn’t have the votes. [NYT]
Congressional negotiators agreed in principle last night to a $700 billion bailout package. The bill is currently being transformed into draft legislation that can be voted on
CNN says that a deal has been reached — sort of. A bipartisan counterproposal to Bush’s $700 billion bailout plan has been drafted. The plan calls for caps on executive pay, and provides oversight on the Treasury’s actions.
Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. was not warmly received at today’s bailout hearing when he stared down an angry and disenchanted Senate Banking Committee. Federal Reserve chairman, Ben S. Bernanke, who appeared with Mr. Paulson, warned that unless Congress gave Mr. Paulson $700 billion that “inaction could lead to a recession.” Oooh, they said the “R” word….
Following up on yesterday’s story about a disgruntled computer technician who turned over the bank records from the LGT Bank of Liechtenstein, ABC News says that UBS Bank may have helped set up the secret accounts and been responsible for hiding as much as $20 billion dollars of U.S. money.
U.S. law allows whistleblowers to collect 30 percent of any taxes recovered as a result of their information, and it seems that one disgruntled computer technician is taking advantage of the program. Meet Heinrich Kieber, a nefarious criminal-type turned “good guy” who will be testifying in front of the “Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations Thursday via a video statement from a secret location,” according to ABC News. Mr. Keiber is from Liechtenstein, a tiny country with very secretive banking laws. He stole banking information that showed how the world’s super-rich were skirting their countries tax laws. Keiber then sold the information to tax authorities in 12 countries, including the U.S, hence the whole “secret location” thing.