Debt Ceiling Deal Reached To Avert Default (LATEST UPDATES)

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Debt Ceiling Deal Reached To Avert Default (LATEST UPDATES)

Debt Ceiling Deal
AP/The Huffington Post

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama and Republican congressional leaders reached historic agreement Sunday night on a compromise to permit vital U.S. borrowing by the Treasury in exchange for more than $2 trillion in long-term spending cuts.

Officials said Republican Speaker John Boehner telephoned Obama at mid-evening to say the agreement had been struck.

Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid said that both his party and opposition Republicans gave more ground than they wanted to. He said it'll take members of both political parties to pass the measure.

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said that the pact "will ensure significant cuts in Washington spending" and he assured the markets that a first-ever default on U.S. obligations won't occur.

Both the leaders said they will brief their colleagues tomorrow on the details of the agreement.

Check back here for the latest developments.

live blog


Today 9:43 PM White House Fact Sheet Lays Out Deal Specifics

A White House fact sheet distributed to reporters shortly after the president spoke laid down the specific elements of Sunday night's deal to raise the debt ceiling:

  • The president will be authorized to increase the debt limit by at least $2.1 trillion, eliminating the need for another increase until 2013.
  • The first tranche of cuts will come in at nearly $1 trillion. That includes savings of $350 billion from the Base Defense Budget, which will be trimmed based off a review of overall U.S. national security policy.
  • A bipartisan committee with enhanced procedural authority will be responsible for pinpointing $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction from both entitlements and tax reform, as well as other spending programs.
  • The committee will have to report out legislation by November 23, 2011.
  • Congress will be required to vote on Committee recommendations by December 23, 2011.

  • The trigger mechanism -- should the committee's recommendations not be acted upon -- will be mandatory spending cuts. Those cuts, which will begin in January 2013, will be split 50/50 between domestic and defense spending. Social Security and Medicare beneficiaries and "low-income programs" would be exempted from those cuts.

The fact sheet goes on to note that there is another enforcement mechanism that the president possesses.

"The Bush tax cuts expire as of 1/1/2013, the same date that the spending sequester [the trigger mechanism] would go into effect," the fact sheet reads. "These two events together will force balanced deficit reduction. Absent a balanced deal, it would enable the President to use his veto pen to ensure nearly $1 trillion in additional deficit reduction by not extending the high-income tax cuts."

-- Sam Stein

Today 9:39 PM Cleaver: 'If I Were A Republican, I Would Be Dancing In The Streets'

Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.), the leader of the Congressional Black Caucus, who earlier in the day called the emerging debt ceiling deal a "sugar-coated Satan sandwich," stood by his criticism in an interview with MSNBC following Obama's announcement of the deal.

"We lost this early on," Cleaver said. "I came back to Washington at the beginning of the year thinking we were going to create jobs, and we allowed the national discourse to change from jobs to the debt, and so right now there's very little we can do."

"If I were a Republican, I would be dancing in the streets," he said. "I don't have any idea what the Republicans wanted that they didn't get. And I can't tell you anything that Democrats got out of this deal, except that we're probably going to prevent the nation from crashing."

Today 9:26 PM Biden: 'Compromise Makes A Comback'


@ VP :
I'm proud of the President. Persistence. Compromise makes a comeback.—VP

Today 9:14 PM Boehner To GOP Conference: 'This Isn’t The Greatest Deal In The World'

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) spoke with the GOP conference on Sunday evening, telling them, "there’s no agreement until we’ve talked to you."

He was tepidly positive on the deal, saying it is a victory for the small government principles of the party despite being less than ideal.

“Now listen, this isn’t the greatest deal in the world," he said, according to excerpts of the call provided to press by Boehner's office. "But it shows how much we’ve changed the terms of the debate in this town."

Boehner painted the deal as victory for the Republican party because it did not include revenues, which Democrats have long called for as part of a final deal.

"There is nothing in this framework that violates our principles," he said. "It’s all spending cuts. The White House bid to raise taxes has been shut down."

Boehner's office circulated a Powerpoint presentation called a "two-step process to hold President Obama accountable" on Sunday evening that laid out the deal in broad strokes. The presentation touts the absence of tax hikes in the final deal.

Because the "super Congress" will make decisions based on current law, it will be effectively "impossible for Joint Committee to increase taxes," according to the presentation.

View the full Powerpoint presentation here.

-- Elise Foley

Today 8:52 PM Leaders Announce Deal Is In Place

President Obama and leaders of the Senate say they've cut a deal to head off a historic American default.

"Leaders from both parties have come together for the sake of our economy to reach a historic, bipartisan compromise that ends this dangerous standoff," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on the Senate floor Sunday night.

"At this point I think I can say with a high degree of confidence that there is now a framework to review that will ensure significant cuts in Washington spending," said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

"We can assure the American people tonight that the United States of America will not for the first time in our history default on its obligations," McConnell said.

The were followed quickly by President Obama, who declared that Congress should pass the compromise.

House Speaker John Boehner was making that case to his members even as the other leaders spoke.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi was set to talk to her caucus in the morning.

The multiple statement suggested that the deal has enough support in the middle to succeed, but lawmakers on each side could balk at the plan.

"To pass this settlement, we’ll need the support of Democrats and Republicans in both the House and Senate. There is no way either party – in either chamber – can do this alone," said Reid.

"I know this agreement won’t make every Republican happy. It certainly won’t make every Democrat happy, either," Reid added. "Both parties gave more ground than they wanted to. And neither side got as much as it had hoped."

-- Mike McAuliff

Today 8:48 PM Obama Announces Deal

President Obama announced Sunday night that Congress and the White House had reached agreement on a deal to raise the debt ceiling, which would cut about $1 trillion in spending over the next 10 years and create a bipartisan committee to propose further cuts by November.

"Is this the deal I would have preferred? No," the president said. "I believe we could have made the tough choices required on entitlement reform and tax reform right now, rather than through a special congressional committee process." But the agreement does ensure that the U.S. will not default on its debt obligations, the president announced.

"This has been messy, it's taken far too long," the president continued. "Nevertheless, the leaders of both parties have found their way toward compromise, and I want to thank them for that."

"We're not done yet," Obama said. "I want to urge members of both parties to do the right thing and support this deal."


A transcript of his remarks is below:

THE PRESIDENT: Good evening. There are still some very important votes to be taken by members of Congress, but I want to announce that the leaders of both parties, in both chambers, have reached an agreement that will reduce the deficit and avoid default -- a default that would have had a devastating effect on our economy.

The first part of this agreement will cut about $1 trillion in spending over the next 10 years -- cuts that both parties had agreed to early on in this process. The result would be the lowest level of annual domestic spending since Dwight Eisenhower was President -- but at a level that still allows us to make job-creating investments in things like education and research. We also made sure that these cuts wouldn’t happen so abruptly that they’d be a drag on a fragile economy.

Now, I've said from the beginning that the ultimate solution to our deficit problem must be balanced. Despite what some Republicans have argued, I believe that we have to ask the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations to pay their fair share by giving up tax breaks and special deductions. Despite what some in my own party have argued, I believe that we need to make some modest adjustments to programs like Medicare to ensure that they’re still around for future generations.

That's why the second part of this agreement is so important. It establishes a bipartisan committee of Congress to report back by November with a proposal to further reduce the deficit, which will then be put before the entire Congress for an up or down vote. In this stage, everything will be on the table. To hold us all accountable for making these reforms, tough cuts that both parties would find objectionable would automatically go into effect if we don’t act. And over the next few months, I’ll continue to make a detailed case to these lawmakers about why I believe a balanced approach is necessary to finish the job.

Now, is this the deal I would have preferred? No. I believe that we could have made the tough choices required -- on entitlement reform and tax reform -- right now, rather than through a special congressional committee process. But this compromise does make a serious down payment on the deficit reduction we need, and gives each party a strong incentive to get a balanced plan done before the end of the year.

Most importantly, it will allow us to avoid default and end the crisis that Washington imposed on the rest of America. It ensures also that we will not face this same kind of crisis again in six months, or eight months, or 12 months. And it will begin to lift the cloud of debt and the cloud of uncertainty that hangs over our economy.

Now, this process has been messy; it’s taken far too long. I've been concerned about the impact that it has had on business confidence and consumer confidence and the economy as a whole over the last month. Nevertheless, ultimately, the leaders of both parties have found their way toward compromise. And I want to thank them for that.

Most of all, I want to thank the American people. It’s been your voices -- your letters, your emails, your tweets, your phone calls -- that have compelled Washington to act in the final days. And the American people's voice is a very, very powerful thing.

We’re not done yet. I want to urge members of both parties to do the right thing and support this deal with your votes over the next few days. It will allow us to avoid default. It will allow us to pay our bills. It will allow us to start reducing our deficit in a responsible way. And it will allow us to turn to the very important business of doing everything we can to create jobs, boost wages, and grow this economy faster than it's currently growing.

That’s what the American people sent us here to do, and that’s what we should be devoting all of our time to accomplishing in the months ahead.

Thank you very much, everybody.

Today 8:40 PM Senate Republicans To Meet Monday As Well

Mitch McConnell announced that Republicans will hold a conference meeting in Monday morning as well to review the deal: "I can say there is a framework to review that will ensure significant cuts in Washington's spending."

Today 8:37 PM Reid: Democrats Meeting 11 A.M. Monday

Harry Reid, speaking on the Senate floor Sunday evening, announced that the Democratic caucus would meet at 11 a.m. Monday morning to discuss the deal negotiated with Republican leaders and the White House.

"My message to the world tonight is this nation and this Congress moving forward, and we're moving forward together."

"Democrats and Republicans have rarely needed to come together more than today. It won't make every Republican happy. It certainly won't make every Democrat happy either."

Today 8:32 PM Obama To Make Statement

President Obama will make a statement at 8:40 p.m.

Today 7:31 PM McConnell Has 'Not Signed Off On Anything'

ABC News reports:

In a sign we’re not there yet, this evening Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's spokesman told reporters flatly: "Sen. McConnell has not signed off on anything."

Today 7:18 PM 'A Sugar-Coated Satan Sandwich'

Roll Call reports:

Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, said early reports of the new deal appeared to be "a sugar-coated Satan sandwich." The Missouri Democrat said the CBC hadn’t yet made a formal declaration that the group would oppose it, "but this is a shady bill."

Read more here.

Today 7:03 PM Boehner To Speak with GOP Caucus At 8:30 P.M.


@ JakeSherman :
the call has been scheduled: GOP conference call at 830 pm.

Today 6:33 PM Pelosi: Meeting With Democratic Leaders Was 'Constructive'

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said a meeting with Democratic leaders Sunday afternoon was "constructive." But she did not say whether she and other House Democrats will support the current deal.

"We all might not be able to support it -- or none of us may be able to support it," Pelosi said.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) already stated his support for the deal, pending approval of his caucus.

"Of course, he has a lead on me because it was a Senate product," Pelosi said.

-- Elise Foley

Today 6:30 PM Pelosi To Meet With House Democratic Caucus Monday


@ Todd_Zwillich :
Pelosi: I have to meet w my caucus tomorrow to see how we will proceed. / Boehner likely to need many Dem votes


@ Todd_Zwillich :
Pelosi on #debt deal: "We all may not support it, or none of us may be able to support it."

Today 6:11 PM Senate Vote Tonight 'Highly Unlikely'


@ ReutersPolitics :
US Senate vote on debt deal "highly unlikely" before Monday according to senior congressional aide

Today 6:04 PM McConnell Meeting With Boehner


@ ryanjreilly :
Sen. McConnell just took back door into House Speaker Boehner's office. #debtceiling

ABC News' Jake Tapper reports on some of the behind-the-scenes talks taking place this weekend:

McConnell and Biden spoke four times on Saturday and four or five times today. McConnell and his team have been working closely through Biden and Biden’s chief of staff Bruce Reed.

McConnell is negotiating on behalf of both himself and Boehner, both the Senate GOP and the House GOP.

Read more here.

Today 5:55 PM More Calls For Obama To Invoke 14th Amendment

Fox News reports that the Congressional Black Caucus and Progressive Caucus will call on President Obama Monday to invoke the 14th Amendment to raise the debt ceiling.

The CBC sent a letter to Obama Saturday arguing that he has "both the authority and a moral obligation" to invoke the Constitution's 14th Amendment "to avoid an economic catastrophe of historic proportions."

The White House, however, has repeatedly ruled out invoking the 14th Amendment as a solution to the debt ceiling crisis.

Today 5:49 PM Defense Cuts The 'Last Hurdle'


@ BreakingNews :
GOP source: "Last hurdle" to deal due to defense dept. cuts, administration wants larger cuts than GOP - NBC News


@ samsteinhp :
Leiberman puts out statement of concern on defense cuts in deal. doesn't say he will oppose the measure tho


@ jacksonjk :
House GOP aide confirms that House Republicans are still trying to bring down defense cuts in first year from 3 percent to 2 percent.

Today 5:24 PM Harry Reid Tentatively Signs Off On Debt Ceiling Deal

HuffPost's Sam Stein reports:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has tentatively signed off on a deal to raise the nation's debt ceiling, which has been primarily negotiated between his Republican counterpart, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), and President Barack Obama.

"Senator Reid has signed off on the debt-ceiling agreement pending caucus approval," Reid's spokesman, Adam Jentleson, said in a statement on Sunday afternoon.

In coming out in favor of the deal, Reid paves the way for its passage in the Senate. There are likely to be members of both parties who will end up opposing the measure, which would cut $1 trillion in spending over the course of ten years before giving way to a super committee of lawmakers to find $1.8 trillion in additional cuts. But that chamber seems like less of a steep hurdle for passage.

The real question mark is the House of Representatives. On Sunday, Democratic aides suggested that House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was inching towards formally supporting the deal. But no formal word has been issued from her office. Her caucus, which is compromised of more progressives than the Senate, presents a far tougher sell than Reid's.

Click here to read the full report.

Today 4:49 PM Reid: 'I Hope' Senate Will Vote Today

Emerging from a meeting of Democratic leaders in the House and Senate, Senate Majority Leader declined to comment on whether a deal had been reached.

He answered only one question to the mob of press, would the Senate would vote today on a deal.

"I hope so," Reid said.

-- Elise Foley

Today 4:40 PM Meeting Over


@ jacksonjk :
Senate Democratic leaders just left Pelosi's Capitol suite after 1.5 hour meeting.

Today 4:27 PM Dem Leaders Have Reportedly Signed Off On Deal


@ samsteinhp :
breaking: Dem leaders are all in pelosi's office, i'm told. and everyone has signed off on deal. waiting on Boehner.


@ samsteinhp :
Reid spokesman @AJentleson, clarifies in statement to huffpost: "Senator Reid has signed off pending caucus approval."

Today 4:03 PM Progressive Caucus Calls Emergency Meeting

A Democratic source on Capitol Hill tells The Huffington Post that the Congressional Progressive Caucus will hold an "emergency meeting" on Monday to discuss the final deal to raise the nation's debt ceiling.

The meeting will take place at 2:00 p.m. and there will be "a formal vote on the Caucus’ position to the deal." Members have been urged to attend.

Earlier on Sunday, Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), a co-chair of the caucus, put out a statement harshly opposing the deal as it has been described in press reports.

"This deal trades peoples’ livelihoods for the votes of a few unappeasable right-wing radicals, and I will not support it," the statement read. "Progressives have been organizing for months to oppose any scheme that cuts Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security, and it now seems clear that even these bedrock pillars of the American success story are on the chopping block. Even if this deal were not as bad as it is, this would be enough for me to fight against its passage."

How progressive lawmakers come down in the final vote may be the key to its passage. There are 76 members of the CPC, including one senator, Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). Should House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) bleed a good chunk of votes from his party -- a perfectly conceivable outcome -- he will be forced to rely heavily on Democratic votes.

Progressives have swallowed their complaints about major pieces of legislation before, including health care reform and the extension of the Bush tax cuts, but they do hold some leverage going into the debt ceiling vote, which will be held Monday or Tuesday.

-- Sam Stein

Today 3:26 PM Reid: 'We're Not Done Yet'

According to MSNBC, Harry Reid told reporters as he was walking to Nancy Pelosi's office that the details of the trigger in the deal have not yet been worked out:

"I really seriously say, everybody: We don't have that worked out. We don't have the content of what the trigger would be. We have a few things we're still working on, and they're simply not done yet."

Today 3:21 PM A Deal Before The Asian Markets Open?


@ daveweigel :
Reid, Durbin, Murray meeting in Pelosi's office now. Deal bf Asian markets open? Reid: "I sure hope so."

The Asian markets begin to open at 5 p.m. ET.

Today 3:02 PM Deal Largely Done

ABC News' Jake Tapper reports:

Sources from both parties tell ABC News that the major potential roadblock in deficit negotiations-- the triggers -- are now essentially agreed upon. The plan is for the House to vote on this tomorrow, assuming all goes according to plan.

The agreement looks like this: if the super-committee tasked with entitlement and tax reform fails to come up with $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction that passes Congress, the “neutron bomb” goes off, -- as one Democrat put it -- spending cuts that will hit the Pentagon budget most deeply, as well as Medicare providers (not beneficiaries) and other programs.

If the super-committee comes up with some deficit reduction but not $1.5 trillion, the triggers would make up the difference.

So it’s a minimum $2.7 trillion deficit reduction deal.

There are still some sticking points, however. Read more here.

Today 2:49 PM House, Senate Leaders Meeting At Capitol


@ ChadPergram :
House and Senate Democratic leaders meeting soon at the Capitol.

Today 2:41 PM Redstate Rejects The Deal

It's not just progressive groups who have quickly and loudly soured on the latest deal to resolve the debt-ceiling standoff.'s Erick Erickson, who has fairly substantial sway over the more conservative parts of the Republican party, wrote a post for his site on Sunday in which he summarily rejects the reported deal.

What we know about the pending deal is that the Democrats and Republicans are agreeing to a Deficit Commission. Despite the media spin — and the spin of some Republican sycophants — the deficit commission, which will be a super committee of the Congress, will have the power to come up with new tax revenue.

And if the Congress rejects the Commission’s demands for new tax revenue, there will be a trigger that cuts both medicare funding and defense funding.

Except, the defense funding cuts will be much more massive than the medicare cuts. And the GOP, in addition to seeing defense cut, would be hacking off seniors right before an election.

Click here to read the full post.

Today 2:26 PM Reid: Super Congress Cuts Committee Would Have 'No Constraints'

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) focused attention on the last big stumbling block to a debt deal Sunday afternoon -- the full extent of power that would be granted to a new super Congress.

That body, a bipartisan commission with members from both chambers of Congress, would be tasked with coming up with an enforceable budget-cutting plan to slash another $1.8 trillion over 10 years on top of the $1 trillion Congress is getting ready to enact in phase one of a debt deal.

"The 12-member commission will be a key to that effort," Reid said on the Senate floor.

The debate behind closed doors appears to be boiling down to exactly what enforcement mechanism (a penalty) would be written into law to ensure the commission's plan to cut the nation's deficit would be taken seriously.

Democrats want that penalty to include automatic tax hikes -- likely on the wealthy and corporations -- as well as new, mandated cuts. Republicans want the penalty, or trigger, to include only dramatic cuts to entitlement programs, including Medicaid and Medicare, and other programs.

The problem with the GOP vision for Democrats is that Republicans want those cuts anyway and Republicans would have no incentive to try and stave them off if Congress fails to meet the target cuts.

That's why Democrats are insisting there be a revenue-raising element to the penalty to give the GOP an incentive to compromise.

Reid made clear in his opening remarks on the Senate floor Sunday exactly how powerful the super Congress would be -- yet how uncertain its final composition remains.

"It would be a joint committee that would move forward, and there would be a trigger that if they didn't resolve this, then something else would happen," Reid said, using the vaguest of descriptions to explain what the super Congress would do. "Based on past experiences, I think there would be tremendous incentive not to let that certain thing happen when the trigger kicked in."

Yet, Reid is committed to that plan and made clear how powerful he and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) both feel it should be.

"Sen. McConnell and I agree that the commission owns the responsibility to set this country on the path to fiscal responsibility," Reid said, laying out the unprecedented authority of the body. "The joint committee -- there are no constraints. They can look at any program we have in government, any program. ... It has the ability to look at everything."

But in order for Democrats agree to the Super Congress, Reid said Republicans need to accept a chance they may not like some of the decrees it hands down.

"It will be essential to choose members with minds willing to consider every option, even when the options are tough pills to swallow for both parties," Reid said. "Cooperation is the only way forward. Compromise is the only way forward."

-- Michael McAuliff

Today 2:12 PM Durbin: Debt Deal Will Be The Death Of Keynesian Economics

HuffPost's Elise Foley reports:

The Republicans are killing Keynesian economics with their attempt to cut spending as the economy rebounds from a recession, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said in a floor speech on Sunday.

"I would say ... that symbolically, that agreement is moving us to the point where we are having the final interment of John Maynard Keynes," he said, referring to the British economist. "He normally died in 1946 but it appears we are going to put him to his final rest with this agreement."

Keynes argued that aggregate demand was not always enough to spur full employment and that outside structures, such as governments, could influence the economy to create jobs and regulate business cycles. His thinking influenced later New Deal spending by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Durbin said the economy is too weak for major cuts in spending, a view that is shared by many economists.

Click here to read more.


Are more red light cameras about to arrive in Pennsylvania?

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Are more red light cameras about to arrive in Pennsylvania?

By Gil Smart
Lancaster Intelligencer Journal/New Era
As the light turns yellow, you hit the gas. As yellow turns to red, you plow through the intersection, "beating" the light.

If a recommendation by a state panel were to become law -- the light might beat you.

On Monday, the Pennsylvania Transportation Funding Advisory Commission, appointed by Gov. Tom Corbett, will issue a series of recommendations for modernizing the state's infrastructure and generating new money to pay for it.

Proposed changes, most of which would have to be passed by the Legislature before they become law, include increasing registration and driver's license fees and eliminating vehicle registration stickers.

But what might wind up as the most controversial suggestion, officials say, isn't designed to produce new revenues, though it might. But it will, they believe, make Pennsylvania intersections far safer.

Red-light cameras, which automatically snap a photo of motorists who run red lights and which generate citations, could be expanded throughout the state if the commission's recommendation is adopted.

Right now, only Philadelphia has red-light cameras, though they are proliferating throughout much of the country.

Proponents of red-light cameras say they reduce red-light running and save lives. Opponents say they may contribute to more rear-end crashes and are likely to be used as revenue tools.

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, the agency that would implement most of the proposed changes in the commission report, says neither the state nor local municipalities are likely to use red-light cameras simply to raise money.

"It's not a good revenue source [for the state] to build bridges and highways. It's a safety thing," said Dennis Buterbaugh, a PennDOT spokesman.

Lancaster Mayor Rick Gray, a Democrat, believes the cameras could make a considerable difference in the city, where red-light running has long been acknowledged as a big, and occasionally fatal, problem.

"Quite frankly, I would be in favor of it as a way to enforce the red-light law," Gray said.

Crash cutter

Appointed by Republican Gov. Corbett in April, the Transportation Funding Advisory Committee's main goal was to come up with $2.5 billion in annual, recurring revenue that can be used to upgrade the state's roads, bridges and other infrastructure.

The 41-member commission included two from Lancaster County: Dale High, chairman of High Industries, and Elam Herr, assistant executive director of the State Association of Township Supervisors.

"Basically," Herr said, "we were told to bring up anything and everything for discussion except raising the gas tax -- and we did."

Among the recommendations:

Vehicle registrations would be renewed every two years instead of every year. The cost would rise from the current $36 annually to $98 every two years within five years after the change is adopted.

Buterbaugh, the PennDOT spokesman, noted that registration fees haven't increased since the mid-1990s.

The commission believes the change could save PennDOT up to $5 million annually in terms of paperwork.

Driver's licenses would be valid for eight years instead of the current four. Fees also would likely increase. PennDOT could save $500,000 annually.

Annual inspections would no longer be required for vehicles less than 2 years old.

The number of driver's license centers across the state could be reduced from 71 to 60, saving $650,000.

Vehicle registration stickers affixed to license plates could be eliminated, saving $1 million annually.

Drivers caught without insurance would be able to pay a $500 fine and retain their licenses; currently, driving without insurance mandates a three-month suspension.

Other recommendations involve bureaucratic restructuring and technological updates.

The red-light cameras are touted as having proved effective in other states, with studies showing intersection crashes can be reduced by as much as 25 percent. The cameras could also save local municipalities money, as local police would not have to monitor intersections, do vehicle stops or write tickets.

"Study after study supports red-light cameras as an effective way to deter red-light running and subsequently cut down on crashes," said Russ Rader, spokesman for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Rader noted that the institute, which has conducted surveys and analyzed the issue, is funded entirely by insurance companies, "which obviously have an interest in finding ways to reduce claims they pay out." And he noted that even if red-light cameras are posted only at certain intersections, they can cut down on crashes throughout a metropolitan area.

"Communities heavily promote the idea that the cameras are being used, and signs are posted where cameras are located," he said. "When drivers know there's a 100 percent likelihood of tickets, they're less likely to run lights."

But because drivers aren't always cognizant of which specific intersections have the cameras, he said, "they pay more attention at intersections throughout the city."

The cameras, he said, do generate revenue "because a lot of people run red lights. But they are a perfect way of enforcing the law, because the people who violate the law are the ones who fund the program."

About 540 communities nationwide now use red-light cameras, up from just a few dozen in 2000, he said.

Organizations such as the National Motorists Association argue that the cameras can make intersections less safe because more rear-end collisions can ensue as drivers try desperately to stop before a light turns red. "Believing the claims of companies that sell photo enforcement equipment or municipalities that use this equipment is like believing any commercial produced by a company that is trying to sell you something," the NMA asserts on its website.

The organization also believes municipalities are too often tempted to use red-light cameras as a revenue source. Gary Biller, NMA executive director, told the Harrisburg Patriot last week, "We're seeing more and more that conversations about adding red-light cameras all seem to be centered around finding reliable revenue, not about safety."

The cameras have made money for Philadelphia.

Operated by the Philadelphia Parking Authority, the program generated 127,514 tickets between April 1, 2009, and March 31, 2010, according to a report posted on the authority's website. Revenue from the violations totaled just under $11.5 million; the program's expenses were $5.97 million.

Philadelphia's camera revenue is divided equally between the city and the state. Much of the state money is dispensed to neighboring counties in the form of grants for local traffic projects.

PennDOT's Buterbaugh noted that none of the recommendations in the report will be implemented unless Corbett endorses them: "It's really up to the governor, what he sees as something he wants to pursue and what he doesn't want to pursue. And a lot of it would take legislation."

State Rep. Mike Sturla, a Democrat who represents Lancaster city, said that many of the recommendations represent an additional burden for consumers. "We have an infrastructure that's been neglected for years," and in the overall scheme of things, the recommendations "are just a fraction of what we need."

As to the red-light cameras, "ultimately, it'll be a case of safety and revenue," he said, "but it will cost [municipalities] less to police the issue."

For years, local police have cited red-light running as a major safety issue in the City of Lancaster and beyond. Manheim Township police have said that drivers who run red lights have been a major cause of accidents at the Lititz Pike-Route 30 interchange.

In late May, a 23-year-old Ephrata woman was killed in Lancaster city after police said she ran a red light at Queen and James streets and her vehicle was struck by a northbound tractor-trailer.

Nationwide in 2009, 676 people were killed and an estimated 130,000 were injured in crashes that involved red-light running, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

"When I talk to city policemen, anecdotally, they tell me that a very high percentage of accidents are people timing lights and running red lights -- flooring it instead of stepping on the brakes," Lancaster Mayor Gray said.

"And if a camera takes your picture, it's sort of hard to deny you did it."

Gray notes that cameras would require the approval of Lancaster City Council, but if the state authorizes the measure, "I'd certainly recommend we take advantage of it."


Homeless man arrested for squatting in vacant N. York home

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Homeless man arrested for squatting in vacant N. York home

Daily Record/Sunday News
York, PA -
Northern York County Regional say they arrested a homeless man who had been squatting in a vacant North York home after his time at a local homeless shelter expired.

Fahim Sanders, 26, no fixed address, was arrested Thursday afternoon in the home in the 400 block of North George Street.

Upon arrival, police found that the front window of the home had been shattered and that Sanders was inside. Sanders told officers that he had been staying at a local shelter and had no place to go once his time there expired. He told police he had been living in the house, which he said had previously belonged to his sister, for several days.

Sanders was charged with criminal trespass and criminal mischief and was placed in York County Prison in lieu of $10,000 bail, according to York County Central Booking.

Police are continuing to investigate and ask any with information to contact them at 292-3647 or through the department's website,


Harrisburg diocese: Catholic church in Lower Windsor 'not authentic'

The new church is led by a priest told to remove himself from public ministry by the Scranton diocese.

I hate to rain on their parade, but, the whole Catholic Church is 'not authentic'. The authentic Church observers the whole Word of God, not the Catechism!

The Catholic Church is the Synagogue of Satan, and the Anti-Christ is its head!

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Harrisburg diocese: Catholic church in Lower Windsor 'not authentic'

The new church is led by a priest told to remove himself from public ministry by the Scranton diocese.
The Rev. Virgil Bradley Tetherow blesses congregants at the new chapel of St. Michael the Archangel Roman Catholic Church in Lower Windsor Township, which diocesan officials say is not recognized by the Catholic Church. (Daily Record/Sunday News -- Kate Penn)
The Rev. Gabriel Tetherow sits between two altar boys during mass at St. Michael the Archangel Roman Catholic Church last Sunday. (Daily Record/Sunday News -- Kate Penn)
York, PA -
An independent Catholic chapel has opened in Lower Windsor Township under the leadership of a felon barred from public ministry by the Roman Catholic Church.

Shortly after the Rev. Virgil Bradley Tetherow celebrated his first Mass at the chapel July 17, diocesan officials warned that the congregation is not recognized by the Catholic Church.

"An organization calling itself 'Saint Michael the Archangel Roman Catholic Church' has been advertising in York County, claiming to offer Catholic sacraments to the Diocese of Harrisburg," officials wrote in a memo to parishioners.

"Notice is hereby given that this is not an authentic Catholic parish," and Tetherow "does not possess faculties to celebrate sacraments licitly within the Catholic Church."

Six years ago, the Diocese of Scranton placed Tetherow, known as Father Gabriel, on leave after allegations involving the downloading of child pornography onto a rectory computer. In 2005, police in Monroe County charged Tetherow with 10 counts of possessing child pornography and 10 counts of criminal use of a communication facility, according to court records.

Tetherow later pleaded guilty to one charge of criminal use of a communication facility -- a felony. The District Attorney's Office dropped the other charges, and a judge sentenced Tetherow to two years' probation.

Roman Catholic officials decided Tetherow must remove himself from public ministry as a priest pending a final disciplinary ruling by the Vatican. The Scranton diocese is still waiting for a decision on Tetherow's case from Rome, spokesman William Genello said Friday.

Tetherow was dismissed last year from another independent congregation of traditionalist Catholics following disagreements with the board. He had served for several years as chaplain at Sts. Peter and Paul Roman Catholic Mission in York, which diocesan officials also consider schismatic.

Dr. David Drew , chair of the congregation's board, said Tetherow, with others, "opened a school on Mission property without board approval and in violation of city ordinances," and that helped lead to the board's decision to remove him.

In the past, Tetherow has declined to discuss his criminal history and his tenure at Sts. Peter and Paul in York. Through a church member, Tetherow declined to comment before Mass last Sunday at the newly refurbished chapel on Craley Road. So did several other congregants.

About 30 adults and 23 children -- including families who once attended Sts. Peter & Paul -- arrived for worship shortly before 9 a.m. Tetherow, praying in Latin, celebrated a version of the Mass that pre-dates the reforms of the Second Vatican Council of the 1960s.

The Rev. Virgil Bradley Tetherow, known as Father Gabriel, prepares to celebrate Mass at St. Michael the Archangel Roman Catholic Church in Lower Windsor Township. The organization bought a church building previously occupied by Bittersville United Methodist Church. (Daily Record/Sunday News -- Kate Penn)


congregants are traditionalist Catholics, who typically favor centuries-old forms of worship; hew to traditional Catholic dogma on the unique role of the church for human salvation; and reject many reforms initiated by the church since Vatican II, including modern concepts of religious freedom and ecumenism.

The Society of St. Pius X, a religious community that sponsors 103 traditionalist chapels in the U.S., has no formal affiliation with Tetherow or the group at St. Michael the Archangel, according to the U.S. district headquarters in Missouri.

County records show that "Saint Michael the Archangel" purchased the property at 1943 Craley Road in June for $100,000 from the board of trustees of the Susquehanna Conference of the United Methodist Church. The former Bittersville United Methodist congregation worshipped at the little white church until it folded 18 months ago.

During Mass, Tetherow preached about God's forgiveness of sin and man's desire to emulate the saints.

"How we worship shows what we believe," Tetherow said.

"In this chapel, we believe Jesus Christ is God, and in this chapel we worship the way we believe he revealed the way he wishes to be worshipped. Here, it is all about God and not about us."


See how the Jesuits are infiltrating our churches and corrupting our Biblical faith

The Jesuits and the Counter-Reformation

Homeland Security surveillance detected on Christian website

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Homeland Security surveillance detected on Christian website

Blogger noted for opposing homosexual lifestyle choice

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has begun watching a blog posted by a Christian who was forced to flee Brazil because of the conflict between that nation's pro-homosexual "hate crimes" agenda and his advocacy for traditional marriage.

Exactly why the U.S. government, which several times has linked Christians and conservatives with terrorism, is watching Julio Severo's unabashedly Christian Last Days Watchman blog isn't clear.

A WND request to the DHS for comment did not generate a response.

The website's records reveal the DHS visited the site yesterday. A different computer, also at the DHS, was on the site again today.

WND reported in 2009, shortly after Obama took office, that a Department of Homeland Security report warned of the possibility of violence by unnamed "right-wing extremists" – people concerned about illegal immigration, increasing federal power, restrictions on firearms, abortion and the loss of U.S. sovereignty. The report pointed to returning war veterans as particular threats.

The visit yesterday was revealed in a website tracking report:

The visit today was documented in another report:

Severo was profiled earlier on WND when as a prominent pro-family activist in Brazil, he was forced into exile because of the "hate crimes" laws in his land.

Several prominent Christian leaders in America at the time warned that similar crackdowns could be coming in the U.S. because of the federal "hate crimes" bill signed by Obama shortly after he took office.

That law enhances penalties based on the thoughts of the person suspected of committing a crime.

Pastor Rick Scarborough of Vision America Action and Mathew Staver of Liberty Counsel voiced their opposition to the law at the time. While there has not yet been a large-scale crackdown on pastors who preach against homosexuality, there are indicators that such developments could be in the offing.

Obama's lifting of the ban on homosexuals in the military, for example, has raised questions about the status of  military chaplains who teach a biblical perspective of homosexuality.

At the time of his exile, Severo told WND that while Brazil does not criminalize Christianity, it regulates what biblical principles can and cannot be preached, and it bans biblical citations that disapprove of the homosexual lifestyle.

"Brazil grants freedom to preach Christianity, provided that the sermons avoid negative mentions of state-protected behaviors and cultural trends," Severo said at the time. "The Brazilian government is establishing more and more categories of protected behaviors, banning negative mentions. So Brazilian preachers need to get updated on the latest political changes and preach a Gospel according to the state interests."

He cited an example of Brazil's restrictions.

"In Rio, a Pentecostal minister led a criminal to Jesus and convinced him to deliver himself to police. Rev. Isaías da Silva Andrade accompanied the former criminal to police and when they asked how his life had been changed, the minister answered that the former criminal lived under the influence of demons from Afro-Brazilian religions which inspired him to criminal conduct, but now he found salvation in Jesus. Because of this innocent account, Rev. Andrade is now being prosecuted for discrimination against the Afro-Brazilian 'culture'! If condemned, he will serve between two and five years in jail," Severo said.

Severo said his friends warned him that authorities were trying to find him, and so he took matters into his own hands.

"I was forced to leave the country with my family: a wife in the advanced stages of pregnancy and two little children," he reported on his blog. "We are now in a place that is completely foreign to us. What choice did we have?"

Brazilian pro-family activist Julio Severo

Severo today told WND through a relatively secure communications method that he remains in an undisclosed location because "even though I am away from Brazil, the largest gay group is Brazil, ABGLT, is after me, even asking their other gay groups to help them to find me where I am."

He explained ABGLT, which had filed complaints of "homophobia" against him with the Brazilian government, recently was helped by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to be accredited in the United Nations, extending its global influence.

He said he previously has found visits on his website from the federal police in Brazil.

"It is like the FBI in the U.S..," he told WND.

He said he monitors his websites periodically and then occasionally does a visitor-by-visitor review of who is reading his writings.

"A few times that I have examined [them] one by one, I was able to find federal law enforcement agencies as my visitors," he said.

He said it appears DHS was searching for some combination of "Christian," "U.S." and "Brazil" terms.

"I think all Christian leaders should be worried at a U.S. agency created in response to Islamic terror is after a Christian leader," he told WND. "Why not Islamic leaders?"

He said on his blog after he found the DHS visits, "Obviously, LDW has no terrorist or Islamic connection. It is conservative Christian – which is reason enough to be labeled 'terrorist' by leftist and anti-Christian activists. And such is the Obama administration."

"I do not know how much time they spent in my blog, because this specific data was missing in the official record. Nevertheless, perhaps because of some security failure, relevant information was exposed, especially on where and who was 'visiting' my blog," he wrote. "It seems that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security is searching for a Christian leader (from the United States? from Brazil?), who fled. But, searching for him in my blog?"

He said the purpose of his site is to make English-speaking readers aware of what is happening in Brazil, "particularly on the persecution on Christians."

"If they are keeping surveillance on Christian leaders, it’s time for us to watch and pray!" he said.

Barack Obama

The U.S. administration has made clear in a number of cases that it is concerned about conservatives as a potential danger and even has argued in court that it wants the authority to track American citizens in order to develop "probable cause" needed for search warrants.

That argument is being made before the U.S. Supreme Court in a dispute over whether police investigators and other authorities should be allowed to track American citizens who have not done anything that would ordinarily prompted a judge to issue a search warrant.

"The court of appeals' decision, which will require law enforcement officers to obtain a warrant before placing a GPS device on a vehicle if the device will be used for a 'prolonged' time period, has created uncertainty surrounding the use of an important law enforcement tool," said the government's brief in the case, U.S.A. v. Antoine Jones.

"Although in some investigations the government could establish probable cause and obtain a warrant before using a GPS device, federal law enforcement agencies frequently use tracking devices early in investigations, before suspicions have ripened into probable cause. The court of appeals' decision prevents law enforcement officers from using GPS devices in an effort to gather information to establish probable cause."

In the case, agents put a tracking device on Jones' vehicle, and he later was charged and convicted of drug offenses based on information obtained from the tracking device. His conviction was overturned, however, when an appeals court panel argued the information was obtained without a warrant.

The government asked the high court to review whether the warrantless use of a tracking device to monitor the vehicle's movements on public streets violated the Fourth Amendment.

But civil rights experts at the law firm of William J. Olson of Vienna, Va., and Gary Kreep of the United States Justice Foundation of Ramona, Calif., are arguing in a friend-of-the-court brief that while the Supreme Court needs to review the case, the goal should be to protect Americans' Bill of Rights-assured protections against unreasonable search and seizure, not expand government's ability to monitor its citizens.

While the Obama administration is asking for a determination about the warrantless use of tracking units, the Supreme Court wants briefs that also address the issue of whether the government violates the Fourth Amendment even by installing such a unit.

A poll released earlier showed the WND Freedom Index, an assessment of Americans' perspectives about their freedoms, took a plunge in the latest quarter, to 45.9 – its lowest mark in the two years the survey has been conducted.

Among the questions used to assemble the ranking – where 50 is a reflection of a neutral perspective about freedoms – was, "Do you believe that government today is using technology, such as cameras, scanners, electronic health records, to become too intrusive into the private matters of Americans."

Some 75 percent of the respondents said there is a problem. Nearly 38 percent of Americans said they perceive "great intrusion" and another 14.5 percent said there is "substantial intrusion." Another 22.8 percent said there is "some intrusion."

The federal government's determination that people innocent of crimes are worthy of being watched already is documented.

The 2009 DHS report, "Right-wing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment," said "threats from white supremacist and violent anti-government groups during 2009 have been largely rhetorical and have not indicated plans to carry out violent acts."

But it said worsening economic woes, potential new legislative restrictions on firearms and "the return of military veterans facing significant challenges reintegrating into their communities could lead to the potential emergence of terrorist groups or lone wolf extremists capable of carrying out violent attacks."

The report from the DHS Office of Intelligence and Analysis defined right-wing extremism in the U.S. as "divided into those groups, movements and adherents that are primarily hate-oriented (based on hatred of particular religious, racial or ethnic groups) and those that are mainly anti-government, rejecting federal authority in favor of state or local authority, or rejecting government authority entirely. It may include groups and individuals that are dedicated to a single issue, such as opposition to abortion or immigration."

It followed by only weeks a report from the Missouri Information Analysis Center that linked conservative groups to domestic terrorism.

The Missouri report warned law enforcement agencies to watch for suspicious individuals who may have bumper stickers for third-party political candidates such as Ron Paul, Bob Barr and Chuck Baldwin. It further warned law enforcement to watch out for individuals with "radical" ideologies based on Christian views, such as opposing illegal immigration, abortion and federal taxes.