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Power Breakfast: State And Municipal Debt, An Oncoming Crisis?

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Today a House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee convenes a hearing on state and municipal debt - subtitled 'The Coming Crisis?' Vermont Congressman Peter Welch wonders why.

"The question I have is, why is Congress getting involved?" Welch asks.

As a Democrat on the subcommittee, Welch goes into today's hearing mindful of what he calls its subtext.

"The state pension systems are really the responsibility of the states, and many states have not been adequately funding them," he explains. "I think the subtext of this hearing is to show some support by the Republican majority for some of the activities going on in Wisconsin and Ohio."

Figuratively speaking, political winds have shifted in Washington - and Republicans have an opportunity to test whether that could contribute to a climatic shift in the Midwest.

Elsewhere in the Capitol today, U.S. lawmakers may be keeping a close eye on some actual shifting winds.

Senator Mark Kirk mentions the air over Japan's nuclear facilities, where a winter storm is brewing.

"I, for one, will be looking at any kind of plume that forms and its direction," he says. "If the wind direction changes, you could have Fukushima debris over Tokyo. That would be a humanitarian challenge- a real challenge for the United States and Japan."

The Illinois Republican says Congress should be focused now on supporting humanitarian relief efforts. Nuclear power backers in both parties are bracing for a powerful gust of skepticism and concern about nuclear safety.

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