The ostensible purpose of the operation was to track the weapons in order to combat the drug cartels, but many political rivals of the Administration see the operation as cynical ploy to push a domestic gun control agenda, and point to numerous instances of left wing commentary before the Fast and Furious story broke that claimed a connection between lax U.S. gun laws and gun violence in Mexico. Others on the opposite side of the spectrum claim that these operations were the work of “rogue” elements within the ATF and that the gun running operations originated under the auspices of the Bush Administration.
What is clear is that William Newell, the ATF special agent in charge of the Phoenix area where most of the straw purchases occurred, has admitted in sworn testimony that “the DHS, IRS, DEA, ATF, ICE and the Obama Justice Department were all involved” in the Fast and Furious operation. President Obama says he knew nothing about Fast and Furious, even though $10 million in stimulus funds were set aside for the operation in February of 2009 and he referred to “gun tracing” and “gun enforcement policies” in a joint press conference with Mexican President Felipe Calderon in April 2009.
The media’s reluctance to report on this story lends credence to the claim that the media is largely compliant and partisan, but as more facts come to light that illuminate trails leading high up into the Justice Department, the media can no longer ignore the story, and Operation Fast and Furious may become the singular issue of the 2012 Election.
Ongoing debates in Washington over how to remedy the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling are getting closer and closer to the August 2nd deadline. If both Democratic and Republican party members cannot come to an agreement by the deadline, the United States will have exceeded its legal borrowing limit and will not be able to satisfy its financial obligations.
Normally, the nation responds to reaching its borrowing limit by raising the debt ceiling and going about business as usual. Republicans are calling for a hike in the debt ceiling to be offset by trillions in spending cuts. On the other side, the Democrats say that the Republicans need to accept some tax increases to support the spending cuts. In keeping with their usual stance on the issue, Republicans refuse to support tax increases.
Washington is looking for changes in the tax code affecting hedge funds, private equity firms, and real estate partnerships as a way to make new revenue. If these changes were made, it’s estimated that $20 billion could be raised over 10 years.
House Republican Majority Leader Eric Cantor has earned some of his own celebrity on this subject. He has been very vocal about his opposition to the changes in the tax code affecting the financial industries. He also is staunchly against any tax increases. This anti-tax sentiment is blamed on the tea party movements but some Democrats say that the long standing relationship between managers in the financial sector and House Republicans is where the sentiment actually comes from.
People against Cantor’s viewpoint are quick to point out where his campaign funds originate from. Cantor has been supported greatly by real estate, securities and investment sectors; their support has doubled within 2 years to over $1.8 million.
With the deadline looming and the debate growing increasingly partisan, the debate has been heating up. Majority Leader Cantor and President Obama have exchanged spats during debates.
Timing of the plans, beside the looming deadline, is also affecting the negotiations because the timing of the plans are very different.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat from Nevada, proposes a plan that would raise the debt ceiling enough so that it wouldn’t have to be considered again until 2013. Not having to reconsider it until 2013 is beyond the elections of 2012 and demanded to be so by President Obama.
Reid’s plan will include over $1 trillion in spending cuts of governmental agencies operating budget and another $1 trillion in savings from minimizing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
House Speaker John Boehner, with the support of Majority Leader Cantor, proposes a Republican plan enough to get through the August 2nd deadline, but would only last about six months. The White House has already vowed to veto this plan if it makes it to President Obama.
With both parties in a headlock over plans to fix the debt ceiling, it is unknown yet if they will reach a bi-partisan agreement by their deadline.
Supreme Court Justice, John Paul Stevens announced last week that he would retire from the Supreme Court at the end of the court’s current term. This is important news for both the Supreme Court and for President Obama considering that now the search begins for the President to find Stevens’ replacement. The longest serving and oldest member of the court (Stevens is 90 years old) will step down this summer as he stated in a letter to the President last week.
Named to the court in 1975 by then President Gerald Ford, Stevens has been the foundation of the court when it comes to follow the ideas of the constitution and liberal ideology for decades. Stevens hopes that his views on abortion rights, protection for homosexuals, and defending the rights of average citizens over big interests stands as his legacy – outlasting his retirement. Yet, as big as the news that Stevens is retiring happens to be, the bigger story may be the President’s search for the new justice.
President Obama stated that Stevens’ successor would be in place for the senate to vote on by the beginning of the new term for the court in October. He also went on to say that the nominee would be an “independent mind” who would have a record of excellence in dedication to law and how the law affects the American people. Some names that have been swirling around on the short list for potential nominees have been Solicitor General Elena Kagan, Judge Merrick Garland of the U.S. Court of Appeals, Judge Ann Claire Williams, and even current Secretary of State Hilary Clinton.