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Political Notebook

Obama set to approve bipartisan deficit panel

February 17, 2010

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WASHINGTON - President Obama plans to sign an executive order tomorrow establishing a bipartisan deficit commission similar to one that Congress rejected.

A senior administration official says Obama would appoint former White House chief of staff Erskine Bowles and former Republican Senate whip Alan Simpson as the co-chairs of the body.

The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because the White House has not yet announced the details.

Obama had backed a congressional plan for a bipartisan panel that would study the issue for much of the year and, if 14 members agree, report a deficit-reduction blueprint after the November elections.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Frank says Bayh could be more effective in office
AMHERST - Indiana Senator Evan Bayh could do more to change the partisan politics on Capitol Hill by staying in Congress than by leaving, Representative Barney Frank said yesterday.

“I don’t understand how you make things better from the outside. I share the frustration, but I would have hoped he would have stayed around.’’ Frank said, shortly before appearing at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst to sign copies of his biography with author Stuart Weisberg.

Bayh said Monday that he plans to retire when his term runs out.

Frank, a Newton Democrat, addressed about 125 people at UMass with recollections ranging from his days as a Boston mayoral aide to his current spot as chairman of the House Financial Services Committee.

But partisanship was a theme to which he returned again and again, saying he believes a clear shift began under Republican Newt Gingrich’s tenure as House speaker in the second half of the 1990s. Before that, he said, Democrats and Republicans could disagree but remain cordial and work toward compromise. Now, though, the pressure to please the party’s base to win primary elections has spawned a Congress in which the sides are “very ideologically differentiated,’’ he said.

He believes that’s also evident in the electorate, in which the most ardent liberals and conservatives are getting their news from such opposing sources that they often seem to be discussing different topics. “People are almost in a parallel universe. They are not getting a common set of facts and most of the people they talk to are those who agree with them,’’ Frank said.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Romney names Rhoades to head his PAC group
Mitt Romney’s highly successful political action committee has a highly successful political operative now in charge. This week, Romney said he is handing the reins of his Free and Strong America PAC to Matt Rhoades, who was communications director during the race for the White House in 2008 by the former Massachusetts governor.

“Matt Rhoades has one of the sharpest political minds in the business,’’ Romney said in making the announcement. ‘He’s been a friend and an adviser for several years now and I’m pleased that he has agreed to run the day-to-day operations of my Free and Strong America PAC. He shares with me the view that 2010 is going to be a critical election year, with many races and lots of opportunities to elect Republican candidates.’’

Rhoades most recently was vice president with DCI Group, which advises clients on public relations. He replaces Peter Flaherty, who will become a senior adviser to the PAC.

Romney is about to embark on a cross-country tour in support of Republican candidates and his book, “No Apology.’’ His pocket won’t be empty: Last month, the Federal Election Commission reported that Romney’s PAC raised more money last year - $2.9 million - than any other potential GOP candidate for the White House in 2012.

GLOBE STAFF

Tony award winners chosen to read at Kennedy tribute

NEW YORK - Tony Award winners Fritz Weaver and Tammy Grimes will be among those reading at a tribute to the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy.

Selections from Robert Frost, Walt Whitman, and other poets whom Kennedy admired will be featured at the midday event at St. Peter’s Church in midtown Manhattan on Monday. That would have been Kennedy’s 78th birthday.

Kennedy, a Democrat from Massachusetts, died of brain cancer last summer.

ASSOCIATED PRESS