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Nation in brief: Federal deficit triples in 2009

Washington – The federal budget deficit tripled to a record $1.4 trillion for the 2009 fiscal year that ended last week, congressional analysts said Wednesday.

The unprecedented flood of red ink flows from several factors, including a big drop in tax revenues due to the recession, $245 billion in emergency spending on the Wall Street bailout and the takeover of mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Then there is almost $200 billion in costs from President Barack Obama’s economic stimulus bill, as well as increases in programs such as unemployment benefits and food stamps.

The previous record deficit was $459 billion and was set just last year.

Obama has attributed the nation’s dismal fiscal situation to the financial and economic crises he inherited.

Dole calls for health reform

Kansas City, Mo. – Former Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole said a top GOP leader asked him not to publicly support health care reform. But he’s doing so anyway.

The former Kansas senator said Wednesday that health care reform is “one of the most important measures members of Congress will vote on in their lifetimes.”

Dole opposes a government-run insurance option, saying it could put private insurers out of business. He expects something to pass by early 2010.

Dole spoke at a health care summit in Kansas City. He said afterward that some Republicans have asked him to stay mum, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. The Kentucky senator’s spokesman denied the claim.

Sanford’s car going too fast

Columbia, S.C. – A Highway Patrol trooper stopped South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford’s car for speeding but let his protective detail driver go without a ticket, an official said Wednesday.

State Department of Public Safety Director Mark Keel said that he had reviewed a recording of the stop and that the State Law Enforcement Division agent will now be cited.

Keel did not say how fast Sanford’s car was going Tuesday on Interstate 385, a heavily traveled route between Columbia and Greenville, but the recording shows he was going 85 mph. The maximum speed throughout the state is 70 mph.

In 2006, Sanford’s office was highly critical of the lieutenant governor when the Highway Patrol twice stopped him for speeding but did not issue tickets.


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