U.S. Budget Deficit Narrows to $642 Billion - The U.S. budget deficit will shrink by the end of fiscal 2013 to $642 billion, the smallest shortfall in five years, according to the nonpartisanCongressional Budget Office.
The decline from last year’s $1.1 trillion deficit would mark the first time since 2008 that the gap between taxes and spending slipped to under $1 trillion. It would also postpone the effective deadline for raising the government’s debt ceiling to avoid default until as late as November, the agency said. Bloomberg.com has more here.
Obama: IRS report "Intolerable and Inexcusable" - President Barack Obama on Tuesday called an Inspector General report detailing gross misconduct at the Internal Revenue Service "intolerable and inexcusable," adding that those responsible will be held accountable. TPM.com has the full statement from the White House here.
Holder Under Scrutiny over AP Journalists Phone Records Probe - Although Holder said Tuesday he had recused himself last year from the probe into the leak — he had been questioned by investigators and wanted to avoid a conflict of interest — he has again been caught in the political crossfire. This time, the criticism is coming not only from Republicans but also from Democratic lawmakers and civil liberties groups disturbed by the Justice Department’s actions.
Under vigorous questions from reporters, Holder said Tuesday that Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole has overseen the FBI investigation into the leak and had authorized the seizure of phone records. But Holder also defended his department’s decision, saying he was confident that the officials involved in the investigation had taken the appropriate steps and followed the relevant Justice Department regulations. The Washington Post has more here.
Lawmakers in 2012 Pushed for Agressive Leak Probes - Lawmakers were up in arms Tuesday over the Department of Justice’s decision to subpoena Associated Press reporters’ telephone records for the stated purpose of investigating leaks on a foiled terrorist attempt.
But it wasn’t so long ago that politicians in both parties didn’t think the administration was doing enough to investigate unauthorized disclosures of classified national security material.
In the summer of 2012, Republicans especially were calling for further scrutiny of national security leaks they believed came from the administration to prop up President Barack Obama’s re-election bid. RollCall.com has more here.
House immigration Group Fails to Reach Agreement - The House’s bipartisan immigration group is at a crippling impasse, and top aides and lawmakers are unsure if they’ll ever come to the agreement they’ve sought for four years, according to multiple sources with direct knowledge of the discussions.
With the Senate advancing its own bill this week, the House group’s problems are multifaceted and help explain the long delay in releasing legislation.
The most polarizing disagreement is over a so-called trigger that would eliminate the legalization process for 11 million undocumented immigrants if an employment verification program — called E-Verify — is not in place in five years. Most Democrats consider that trigger too harsh, but Republicans insist on it. Politico.com has more here.
Euro Zone remains in recession - Germany's economy crept back into growth at the start of the year but not by enough to stop the euro zone from contracting for a sixth straight quarter, and France slid into recession.
Falling output across the bloc meant the 17-nation economy is in its longest recession since records began in 1995. Reuters.com has more here.
Syrian Rockets Land in Golan Heights - Several Syrian rockets landed early Wednesday in the Mount Hermon area of the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, on the border with Syria, the Israeli military said.
"Initial reports indicate that the rockets are a result of (the) domestic situation in Syria," a spokeswoman for the Israel Defense Forces said.
"As a result the Hermon side of the mountain will be temporarily closed for visitors."
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