TPM News

Republican lawmakers from the House and Senate gathered on Tuesday to repeat demands that the Treasury Dept shield seniors, soldiers, and bondholders from any ill effects of a default crisis. They've created legislation to this effect as well, which they urged the White House to back. Once again, however, the top sponsors of the measure are silent on what should be cut back instead.

Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) was asked repeatedly by reporters what payments Treasury Department should suspend to make up for the guarantees to Social Security and troop pay. He offered no specifics.

"There's room for other payments to be made," he said. "It is not our intent to specify every last dollar, but rather to identify these vitally important programs and avoid default on our debt."

The Treasury Department has said that Social Security payments may be suspended to deal with a default crisis if the debt ceiling is not raised by August 2. While Social Security, troop pay, and interest payments would not take up all the revenue projected to come into the Treasury on their own, the Bipartisan Policy Center (which Toomey cited in his press conference as well) has warned that the process will be so "chaotic" that "handling all payments for important and popular programs (e.g., Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, defense, active duty pay) will quickly become impossible."

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) says Speaker John Boehner's latest plan to raise the debt ceiling days before the nation defaults on its debts doesn't have what it takes to get her support. Bachmann has said unequivocally that she won't vote to raise the nation's borrowing limit, despite the looming threat of default, and it seems that Boehner's plan to unite his caucus and get the crisis ended hasn't moved her to change her mind.

"This Republican will not vote to raise the debt ceiling," Bachmann told reporters at an Iowa presidential campaign stop, according to ABC News. "My colleagues will have to come to their own conclusion."

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The United States is behind three Asian nations when it comes to the deployment of ultra high-speed internet networks, according to a recent report from a British broadband data analysis firm Point Topic.

The U.S. had paltry 6.9 million subscribers to fiber-to-the-home broadband service in the first quarter of 2011, compared to 28.9 million in China, 20.14 million in Japan, and 9.5 million in South Korea, according to Point Topic's global broadband deployment report, which gathers data from both commercial and government sources.

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Spill victims suing BP in the Deepwater Horizon case have filed a joint brief that claims the oil company is implementing a deeply flawed and deliberately confusing claims process, and is taking advantage of their economic situation by offering a one-time low-figure lump sum from its relief fund in exchange for their signature on releases promising no future claims.

The $20 billion dollar fund headed by high-profile lawyer Kenneth R. Feinberg is under attack by the claimants as an "abject failure" for leaving some 84% of initial "interim" claims unfiled or unpaid, which the brief claims is illegal.

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Even if the debt limit fight is resolved without lasting consequences for the country, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) predicted Tuesday that the country will face more perilous brinksmanship when funding for the federal government expires at the end of September.

In response to a question from another reporter, Hoyer distinguished between the appropriations impasse of 1995, which resulted in a weeks-long government shutdown, and the current fight over borrowing authority, which could result in a debt default, and, which Hoyer noted, is much, much graver. But don't assume that the GOP will lose its appetite for confrontation after this fight's over.

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Speaking to a crowd of union workers on Capitol Hill today, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi unloaded on Republican plans to lower the deficit through deep cuts to government services in exchange for raising the debt ceiling. Frustrations are running high in Congress with the default deadline rapidly approaching, and Pelosi spoke with a fire that suggested the endless debate over the debt ceiling is taking its toll on her patience.

"This isn't just about them saying we should reduce the deficit," she said, adding: "This is an excuse. The budget deficit is an excuse for the Republicans to undermine government plain and simple. They don't just want to make cuts, they want to destroy. They want to destroy food safety, clean air, clean water, the department of education. They want to destroy your rights."

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By John Voelcker

Last week, Toyota said it expects to sell 16,000 or more 2012 Prius Plug-In Hybrid models in the U.S. next year, once the car is launched (in June or before).

For all intents and purposes, it's a standard Toyota Prius hybrid with a larger battery pack that uses lithium-ion cells. The car can be plugged into a wall outlet to recharge the battery on grid electricity.

Still, we wonder whether the 2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In may be the car that gets U.S. car buyers more comfortable with plugging in their cars?

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One of the most influential conservatives in Congress says he's confident his own Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) will lack the votes to pass his plan to raise the debt limit in the House of Representatives.

Complicating matters further for Boehner -- the Dems' top vote counter wryly suggested at a simultaneous press briefing that few, if any, Democrats will vote for the GOP's bill, since there is a preferable Democratic plan waiting in the wings. That suggests House conservatives are holding the line against any debt limit increase that can plausibly pass the Senate -- and that Democrats will have added leverage to muscle their own plan through both chambers.

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