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Politics: Daily Briefing: Obama Administration might delay October jobs report

Published by: Clark Barrow on Tuesday October 30th, 2012

Clark Barrow

By CLARK BARROW - Release could be set back until after the election. Hmm.

DAILY BRIEFING - SUMMARY

· SANDY - Economists at Moody’s Analytics predicted Monday that Hurricane Sandy will have a noticeable but temporary impact on the U.S. economy.

o Meanwhile, Hurricane Sandy made landfall in New Jersey on Monday evening with 80 mph sustained winds killed at least 16 people in seven states, cut power to more than 7.4 million homes and businesses from the Carolinas to Ohio, caused scares at two nuclear power plants and stopped the presidential campaign cold.

o President Barack Obama on Tuesday morning signed major disaster declarations for New Jersey and New York, two states that have faced severe flooding and wind damage from Hurricane Sandy.

· JOBS - The U.S. Labor Department said on Monday that no final decision has been made, but the agency isn’t ruling out delaying the release of federal job and unemployment numbers for October, which is currently slated for Friday.

· WHITE HOUSE - In an interview with MSNBC's Mika Brezezinski and Joe Scarborough, Obama said the "first order of business" in his second term would be deficit reduction, and that his administration would also focus on immigration.

· ATTACK - Speaking with MSNBC's "Morning Joe" program on Monday, President Obama said his administration is still investigating the attack on U.S. Consulate in Libya, and is offended at suggestions that it did not do enough to protect American targets there.

· FAST & FURIOUS - U.S. Representative Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) issued their second report on a failed federal gun-tracking operation, detailing an internal management breakdown within the U.S. Justice Department.

· TREND - The number of migrants crossing illegally into the United States from Mexico appears to have risen some in the first half of 2012, while the number of migrants returning to Mexico decreased, a report by U.S. and Mexican researchers said.

NEWS TO WATCH

ECONOMIC NEWS

· SANDY - Economists at Moody’s Analytics predicted Monday that Hurricane Sandy will have a noticeable but temporary impact on the U.S. economy.

o The key for the forecast will be the magnitude of the damage and the length of the disruption. For perspective, daily GDP is about $10 billion in the region most directly in Sandy’s path, including the East Coast from Washington D.C. to greater New York City.

o Economists at Moody’s Analytics said any lost output this week from Hurricane Sandy will be made up in subsequent weeks, minimizing the effect on fourth quarter GDP.

o Meanwhile, Hurricane Sandy made landfall in New Jersey on Monday evening with 80 mph sustained winds killed at least 16 people in seven states, cut power to more than 7.4 million homes and businesses from the Carolinas to Ohio, caused scares at two nuclear power plants and stopped the presidential campaign cold.

o President Barack Obama on Tuesday morning signed major disaster declarations for New Jersey and New York, two states that have faced severe flooding and wind damage from Hurricane Sandy.

· JOBS - The U.S. Labor Department said on Monday that no final decision has been made, but the agency isn’t ruling out delaying the release of federal job and unemployment numbers for October, which is currently slated for Friday.

o The department has already completed survey data for the report, but with power outages and major transportation delays forecasted for the region – not to mention previously unforeseen property damage – last-minute preparations have stalled.

o Federal offices in Washington, D.C. were closed Monday, and could be closed for more of the week depending on damage from the storm. The Census Bureau is also scheduled to release a new construction spending report and factory order data this week, and it is unclear whether those releases could be postponed as well.

· SPENDING - U.S. consumer spending rose last month to its highest level since February, while Americans saved at the weakest pace in nearly a year.

o Personal-consumption expenditures—which measure purchases ranging from goods like cars, clothes and food to services such as health care and travel—increased 0.8% in September compared with the prior month, the Commerce Department said Monday. Meanwhile, personal income rose 0.4%.

o Still, Americans had to spend more to fill up their vehicles last month. Energy prices in September rose 4.8%, following an unrevised 5.8% gain the previous month. However, the national average retail price of a gallon of regular gas fell 17 cents from Oct. 1 through Oct. 22, according to the most recent government data.

o Overall inflation was mild. The price index for personal-consumption expenditures, the Federal Reserve's preferred gauge for inflation, rose 1.7% in September from a year earlier. The Fed targets an annual level of 2%.

· CLOSED - due to Hurricane Sandy, U.S. stock markets will be Tuesday.

o Monday morning futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average were down 29 at 13,025.

o Monday morning futures on the S&P 500 were down 2.4 to 1,405.20.

o Monday morning futures on the Nasdaq 100 index were down 12 to 2,647.25.

COMMODITIES

· GASOLINE - The supply of gasoline, diesel and jet fuel into the U.S. East Coast ground almost to a halt on Monday as Hurricane Sandy forced the closure of two-thirds of the region's refineries, its biggest pipeline, and most major ports.

o Nearly 70 percent of the region's refining capacity was on track to be idled.

o Industry experts fear Sandy's massive storm surge - forecast to be as high as 11 feet - could breach plant defenses and cause damaging flooding, which can sometimes take weeks to repair. Abrupt power outages can also damage refinery equipment.

· The U.S. national average for a gallon of regular gasoline is $3.53.

o When President Obama was inaugurated, in January 2009, the U.S. national average for a gallon of regular gasoline was $1.85. Average gasoline prices are currently 91 percent higher than they were when Mr. Obama became president.

· Crude oil for December delivery increased 65 cents to $86.19 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

· Gold for December delivery increased $2.46 to settle at $1,711.70 an ounce on the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange.

IN THE DISTRICT

· ELECTION - As of today, there are 7 days until the November 2012 presidential election.

· CONGRESS - Ohio's U.S. Senate race has become one of the most expensive in the country in the 2012 election campaign, as money pours into the state to help a young Republican challenger come within striking distance of Democratic incumbent Sherrod Brown.

o Ohio, a key prize in the race for the White House, also could decide which party controls the U.S. Senate.

o Republicans need a net gain of four seats to have an outright majority in the U.S. Senate, and would have effective control with a gain of three seats if presidential candidate Mitt Romney and his running mate, Paul Ryan, are elected.

· WHITE HOUSE - As the U.S. presidential campaign heads toward the November 6 election, it appears the outcome will be decided in eight of the country’s 50 states.

o In these eight states, the polling of would-be voters shows Obama maintaining slight leads in five of them - the midwestern states of Ohio, Wisconsin and Iowa, as well as the northeastern state of New Hampshire and the western state of Nevada. If Obama wins these five states with 44 electoral votes, and holds the ones he is expected to carry, he would have 281 electoral votes, enough to win a second term in the White House.

o Polling shows that Romney appears to have gained a narrow lead in the southern state of Florida, with 29 electoral votes, and is in close contests with the president in the mid-Atlantic state of Virginia and the western state of Colorado with another 22.

· WHITE HOUSE - In an interview with MSNBC's Mika Brezezinski and Joe Scarborough, Obama said the "first order of business" in his second term would be deficit reduction, and that his administration would also focus on immigration.

o Obama said the shadow of across-the-board spending cuts, which are set to begin in January under a deal last summer to raise the debt ceiling, would likely help Congress reach a deal on deficit reduction plans. Both Democrats and Republicans are interested in coming up with an alternative plan to those cuts.

o After deficit reduction, Obama said immigration reform would likely be something his administration would focus on. He said that reducing the deficit during the lame-duck session of Congress, "clears away a lot of the ideological underbrush" to focus on other issues like in immigration, infrastructure and education.

· WHITE HOUSE - President Obama the candidate stepped aside Monday so the commander in chief could take over.

o In the waning days of his re-election bid, the president scrapped two days of campaigning and retreated from the trail. He hunkered down at the White House to oversee the government's response to the East Coast superstorm - and to project presidential leadership.

o Now Obama has the opportunity - and the responsibility - to show the type of command in a crisis that only the president can offer. While Romney can make symbolic gestures, like canceling his own campaign events Monday and Tuesday, he doesn't have the power to provide tangible assistance.

· ROMNEY - Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney curtailed his campaigning Monday as Hurricane Sandy churned closer to the East Coast and urged supporters to donate to the Red Cross or other relief agencies gearing up to help storm victims.

o Romney will not campaign in Ohio and Iowa on Tuesday as planned. His campaign has mobilized campaign staff across Virginia, which was being lashed by the storm, to collect donations for victims and he called on others in the hurricane's path to remove yard signs that could become dangerous projectiles in windy conditions.

o Aides at Romney's campaign headquarters in Boston were scrambling to sketch out political contingency plans. In addition to postponing events, they planned to scale back criticism of Obama to avoid the perception that Romney was putting politics ahead of public safety.

PRESIDENT’S SCHEDULE

· In the morning, President Obama will receive the Presidential Daily Briefing at the White House.

ROMNEY’S SCHEDULE

· During the day, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney will attend a storm relief event at the James S. Trent Arena in Kettering, Ohio.

HAPPENING IN THE U.S. CONGRESS

U.S. SENATE

· The U.S. Senate is scheduled to convene for a pro forma session today.

U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

· The U.S. House is scheduled to convene today.

TOPICS OF INTEREST

NATIONAL SECURITY

· ATTACK - Speaking with MSNBC's "Morning Joe" program on Monday, President Obama said his administration is still investigating the attack on U.S. Consulate in Libya, and is offended at suggestions that it did not do enough to protect American targets there.

o In his Morning Joe interview -- taped Saturday -- Obama pledged accountability if his aides mishandled the response to Benghazi. "If we find out we that there was a big breakdown, and somebody didn't do their job, they'll be held accountable," Obama said.

o Republicans have hammered the Obama administration over its evolving public explanation for the causes of the attack, which claimed the lives of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans in Benghazi. Stevens was the first American ambassador since 1979 to be killed in the line of duty.

o Meanwhile, two days after the deadly Libya terror attack, representatives of the FBI and National Counterterrorism Center gave Capitol Hill briefings in which they said the evidence supported an Al Qaeda or Al Qaeda-affiliated attack.

o The description of the attack by those in the Sept. 13 briefings stands in stark contrast to the now controversial briefing on Capitol Hill by CIA Director David Petraeus the following day -- and raises even more questions about why Petraeus described the attack as tied to a demonstration.

o The Sept. 13 assessment was based on intercepts that included individuals, believed to have participated in the attack, who were celebratory -- as well as a claim of responsibility.

o FBI and NCTC also briefed that there were a series of Al Qaeda training camps just outside of Benghazi, where the attack occurred and resulted in the deaths of four Americans. The area was described as a hotbed for the militant Ansar al-Sharia as well as Al Qaeda in North Africa.

FEDERAL GOVERNMENT

· FAST & FURIOUS - U.S. Representative Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) issued their second report on a failed federal gun-tracking operation, detailing an internal management breakdown within the U.S. Justice Department.

o The 104-page report released on Monday criticizes senior DOJ officials for not being aware of — and not taking steps to stop — the flawed “gun-walking” tactics used in "Operation Fast and Furious" that allowed nearly 2,000 guns to be sold to criminals.

o Issa, chairman of the U.S. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, investigated the DOJ and the flawed operation for 18 months, and successfully led a Republican vote to place Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress for refusing to give the panel internal agency documents and communications.

· FEMA - The U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency has a $14.3 billion budget to coordinate the national response to disaster situations like Hurricane Sandy. Should the sequester take effect, the White House estimates that the agency would lose about $878 million, largely from programs that provide direct relief to disaster victims. And even if Congress averts the sequester cuts, it has already put hard new limits on disaster relief into effect, thanks to the debt-ceiling deal.

o Disaster relief, FEMA’s biggest budget item by far, takes the heaviest hit: It loses 8.2 percent of its budget, which comes out to a $580 billion cut. But other, smaller programs would also lose funds: Under the sequester, the Pre-Disaster Mitigation Fund, which sends states and local communities funds to prepare for disaster situations, would have $3 million cut from its $36 million budget.

o Even if the sequester doesn’t take effect, federal disaster relief already faces new funding limits. Under last year’s Budget Control Act, lawmakers agreed to $917 billion in cuts over 10 years that would occur regardless of what happened with the supercommittee and the sequester. The cuts began in October 2011, and they’re happening through new spending caps on both security and non-security spending.

IMMIGRATION

· TREND - The number of migrants crossing illegally into the United States from Mexico appears to have risen some in the first half of 2012, while the number of migrants returning to Mexico decreased, a report by U.S. and Mexican researchers said.

o It was the first time the net outflow of migrants from Mexico has increased since the 2007 economic slump caused a sharp drop in both migration and the amount of money sent home by Mexicans working in the U.S. as migrants found it harder to find work north of the border.

o The report by Mexico's Colegio de la Frontera Norte and the University of Southern California's Tomas Rivera Policy Institute said the number of Mexican-born people in the United States seemed to have stabilized at around 11.7 million and might grow slightly by year's end. The number included Mexicans who migrated legally and those who crossed over illegally.

HUMAN INTEREST

· HMS BOUNTY - The U.S. Coast Guard rescued 14 of the 16 crew members who abandoned the replica tall ship HMS Bounty off North Carolina in rough seas caused by Hurricane Sandy, using helicopters on Monday to pluck them from life rafts.

o The U.S. Coast Guard rescued 14 crew members by helicopter Monday in the 18-foot seas and winds around 40 mph. Hours later, rescuers found one of the missing crew members, but she was unresponsive. And they were still searching for the captain.

o The ship was originally built for the 1962 film "Mutiny on the Bounty" starring Marlon Brando, and it was featured in several other films over the years, including one of the "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies.

· SPACEX - The first commercial spacecraft to carry cargo to the International Space Station splashed down in the Pacific Ocean on Sunday, completing a three-week mission that was mostly successful though far from flawless. A small California technology company, Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, launched its cargo-carrying capsule atop its Falcon 9 rocket on Oct. 7, 2012.

o Since the retirement of the space shuttle fleet last year, the agency has relied primarily on Russia to send cargo and astronauts up the space station and back. Now NASA is trying to turn over the routine tasks of carrying cargo — and eventually, astronauts — to the space station while it focuses its human spaceflight program on exploration of the inner solar system.

o SpaceX currently has a $1.6 billion contract with NASA to carry out at least 11 more cargo resupply missions through 2016. Another company, the Orbital Sciences Corporation of Dulles, Va., has built a new cargo spacecraft under NASA contract and is preparing for a test flight next year. The best news from this first commercial flight is that the Falcon 9 rocket was able to complete its cargo delivery mission despite the loss of an engine. Although it was not perfect, the outing shows that private companies can carry out relatively mundane tasks like space cargo transport.

FOREIGN POLICY

MIDDLE EAST

· SYRIA - Syrian warplanes bombed rebel positions on the outskirts of the central city of Homs on Tuesday to try to break a siege of an army base housing dozens of soldiers, opposition activists said.

o There was no word on Syrian army casualties in the fighting, which followed a failed four-day truce proposed by peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi to mark the Eid al-Adha Muslim holiday.

o The truce lasted only a few hours and Eid al-Adha ended on Monday with a wave of air strikes on Sunni regions where rebels have slowly made gains. Clashes raged on across the country.

· IRAN - Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) has proposed a resolution calling for the arrest and prosecution of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for calling for the nation of Israel's destruction, which the resolution says is the same as "incitement to genocide."

o The two-page resolution, H.Res. 807, notes that Ahmadinejad has said Israel should be "wiped off the map," and that Jews are "false people" who "cannot continue to exist." The Iranian leader has also said Jews are "like cattle," and has said the Holocaust is a lie and a "myth" that Jews invented.

o The resolution says those comments and others and says they violate the U.N. Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide of 1948. Article 3 of that Convention says conspiracy to commit genocide is a punishable act.

EUROPE

· GERMANY - An official says the share of electricity in Germany produced by renewable energy sources is expected to easily beat the government’s forecast and reach almost 50 percent by 2025.

o Stephan Kohler, who heads the government-affiliated agency overseeing Germany’s electricity grid, said Monday the current strong expansion of wind, solar and other renewable power sources will easily top the official target of 35 percent by 2022.

o But the Federal Network Agency head stresses more and swifter investment is needed to upgrade the electricity grid to cope with the influx of unstable renewable energies.