The worst drought in 50 years is taking its toll on 29 states, as well as the national economy. Nearly 1300 counties across America have officially been declared drought disaster zones, with very little rain in the forecast for the next few days.
Acorrding to the USDA, 38% of the corn crop has been rated poor or very poor, while 30% of the soybean crop has been rated poor or very poor.
Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack speaks to CNN's Soledad O'Brien on "Starting Point" this morning about the nation-wide drought plaguing the United States. Sec. Vilsack met with President Obama Wednesday and says the President supports passing legislation that would provide aid to American farm and ranch families.
Sec. Vilsack says, "We've got thousands and thousands of farm families and ranch families across the country who are suffering today, in 29 states. This is not a Republican or Democratic issue. This is an American issue."
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke warned in a Congressional testimony Tuesday about the dangers of dropping off the fiscal cliff at the end of 2012. Meanwhile, Congressional Democrats say they will let the Bush-era tax cuts expire at the end of the year if Republicans do not compromise on spending cuts before the deadline.
"Fiscal decisions should take into account the fragility of the recovery," Bernanke says. "That recovery could be endangered by the confluence of tax increases and spending reductions that will take effect early next year if no legislative action is taken."
Soledad O'Brien speaks with Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) on CNN's "Starting Point" about the approaching fiscal cliff. Sen. Blumenthal says Congress should be passing an extention of the tax cuts for households earning less than $250 thousand per year in order to provide the economy with some stability.
Sen. Blumenthal also says that if given the choice of either extending tax cuts for all Americans or ending the tax cuts for all Americans he would vote to extend them, "I think that fiscal cliff is so ominous and so potentially destructive that we need to avoid it." Sen. Blumenthal adds, "We also need to address the need for cuts in spending. I think a balanced approach is the optimal way to go."
Democratic critics along with some Republicans are calling for Mitt Romney to disclose more than two years of tax returns in the lead up to the November presidential election.
While some are wondering whether the former Bain Capital executive might be hiding offshore accounts, Romney supporters are saying their candidate has nothing to hide.
Romney supporter Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) tells Soledad O'Brien on CNN's "Starting Point" that American voters are not concerned about Romney's tax returns or his history at Bain.
"I never hear it," Sen. Johnson says. "When I'm back in Wisconsin, when I travel around America, nobody ever talks to me about those issues. They're talking to me about what we can do to get unemployment below the 8 percent..."
Sen. Johnson adds, "At some point in time you just draw the line and say, listen, the American people have enough information. And I think they do."
See more clips from Sen. Johnson on "Starting Point" in the clips below.
Members of the U.S. Olympic team will be dressed head to toe in red, white and blue when they walk in to London's Olympic stadium in two weeks. Some lawmakers, however, are saying the China-made clothing is anything but patriotic.
The uniforms were designed by American fashion designer Ralph Lauren, a private sponsor of the Olympic team.
Senate Marjority Leader Harry Reid (D- NV) said Thursday, "I am so upset that I think the Olympic committee should be ashamed of themselves. I think they should be embarrased. I think they should take all the uniforms put them in a big pile and burn them. And start all over again."
Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY) and Sen. Kirsten Gilibrand (R-NY) penned a letter to the United States Olympic Committee Chairman Lawrence Probts that reads in part, "As American fans cheer for our Olympians, we should also be cheering for the American manufacturers and laborers reflected in the red, white and blue on their uniforms... We look forward to seeing the all our uniforms saying Made In America at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Russia."
Soledad O'Brien speaks with Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY) on CNN's "Starting Point" this morning about the Olympic team uniforms. "This is the country that landed a man on the moon," Rep. Israel says. "We should be able to manufacture clothing for our Olympic athletes in London next month."
Rep. Israel, like Sen. Reid, says the uniforms could be manufactured again, on U.S. soil, and be ready for the London games. He adds, "This is a big deal. "Made in America" is not just a label, it is an economic solution."
GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney received boos from the audience at the NAACP Convention in Houston Wednesday when he said he would repeal "Obamacare." In response to the crowd's cries, Romney said at a separate event later that same day that "if I don't stand for what they want, go vote for someone else."
House Minority Whip Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD) tells Soledad O'Brien on CNN's "Starting Point" this morning that the response wasn't exactly unexpected. "I don't think Romney was surprised that he was going to get an adverse reaction," Rep. Hoyer says.
While President Obama's campaign says the President will not be speaking at the convention due to a "scheduling conflict," Vice President Joe Biden will be delivering the keynote address Thursday.
"I think the Vice President clearly is representing the President and himself," Hoyer adds. "I think the Vice President and the President are well-known to the NAACP and African-Americans and to America. And I think that those policies are going to be supported by that organization."
Rep. Hoyer also talks to Soledad about his new addition to the jobs initiative, the "Make It In America Plan", which focuses on expanding manufacturing in America and also incentivizes companies to keep jobs in the U.S. rather than shipping them overseas.
Watch more from Soledad's interview with Rep. Hoyer on CNN's "Starting Point" in the clip below.
On Monday, President Obama announced his plan to extend the Bush-era tax cuts for Americans making less than $250,000. While Republicans are advocating for a tax cut extension for all Americans, President Obama is saying he will veto any such bill that comes his way.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) says raising taxes on the wealthiest 3% of Americans would be detrimental to the economy, he tells Christine Romans on CNN's "Starting Point."
"You don't raise taxes in times of such uncertainty," Rep. Chaffetz says. "We're just saying let's keep the taxes the same."
Rep. Chaffetz adds, "One of the things that I think President Obama fails to recognize is that when he calls for the extension of taxes for just one year, it creates more uncertainty in the market place."
Rep. Chaffetz also says Republican Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney should not cave to Democratic pressure to release more tax returns. Rep. Chaffetz says, "He's been very successful. He's released everything that he's required to release...Governor Romney's been very successful, get over it."
Watch more from Christine Romans' interview with Rep. Chaffetz from CNN's "Starting Point."
President Obama is scheduled to announce an extension to some of the Bush-era tax cuts at the White House Rose Garden this morning.
The President will be calling for extensions for Americans making less than $250,000 a year and will be joined by working-class Americans at the announcement. Meanwhile, Republicans are criticizing the President for not extending the cuts for all Americans.
Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX) tells Christine Romans on CNN's "Starting Point" this morning that President Obama will ultimately not raise taxes on America's wealthy. "At the end of the day, I think the President is going to understand that he's in a really bad economic position, he will cave, and we will not see the tax increases he hopes for."
Rep. Brady also responds to criticism about Texas' controversial Voter Rights Act, which would require voters to carry identification to polling centers.
"The Department of Justice is cherrypicking the numbers and the political groups they want to use for that data.," Rep. Brady says. "We want real ballots from real people and this law does that."
Watch more from Christine Romans' interview with Rep. Brady on "Starting Point" this morning.
The Supreme Court struck down three parts of Arizona's immigration bill Monday. However, the Court upheld the most controversial portion - the SB 1070 provision - which permits police officers to check a person's immigration status while enforcing other laws.
While the law says police can only check immigration statuses if they have "reasonable suspicion" to believe someone is in the country illegally, critics maintain the law will promote racial profiling.
Mitt Romney has not expressed his position on Arizona's controversial provision while on the campaign trail but has said that he supports giving states greater authority to enforce immigration laws.
Romney campaign senior adviser Carlos Gutierrez tells Soledad O'Brien on CNN's "Starting Point" that "the Governor supports the right of border states and the country at-large to protect its borders, to protect its integrity. It's not an anti-immigration issue."
Gutierrez adds, "This is not about Governor Romney. This is about President Obama's lack of leadership."
Watch more from Soledad's interview with Carlos Gutierrez on CNN's "Starting Point."
The economy is the number one issue on the minds of voters gearing up for the Presidential elections in November. Will gloomy economic reports hurt President Obama's reelection chances?
Democratic National Committee Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) says President Obama is concentrating on turning the economy around, but Republican lawmakers have been standing in the way.
"We are focused, as President Obama has been since the start of his term, on making sure that we can continue to push forward on bringing the economy...moving forward, stronger, creating jobs and getting things turned around," Rep. Wasserman Schultz says. "It's all the more reason why the Republicans that I work with in the House of Representatives and in the Senate need to come to the table and work with President Obama to make job creation a priority."
"This has been, quite frankly, close to if not the most do-nothing of do-nothingest Congresses," Rep. Wasserman Schultz adds. "The time that we are spending out of session rather than in session focusing on job creation has just been appalling."
Rep. Wasserman Schultz says Congress needs to pass President Obama's "to-do list", which includes the Jobs Act. "Unfortunately, the Republicans in Congress and Mitt Romney continue to demonstrate that they are rooting for failure," the DNC chair says.
Rep. Wasserman Schultz also addresses Mitt Romney's speech before the NALEO convention, saying that it was vague and voters don't realize the GOP candidate is 'extreme' on immigration. See the clip below. Transcript available after the jump.
Moody's cut credit ratings for 15 of the world's largest banks Thursday, sparking fears of a double-dip recession in the U.S. and around the world.
Five of the downgraded banks are American - JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Bank of America and CitiGroup - and might have to pay more interest on their debt as a result of the downgrade.
Rep. Randy Forbes (R-VA), a proponent of less regulation and fewer taxes, tells Soledad O'Brien on CNN's "Starting Point" that "strangling regulations" are standing in the way of hiring.
"Ask the people who are actually making the hiring decisions why they aren't doing it," Rep. Forbes says. "They're telling us the same thing. 'We're not going to make investments if you have this huge healthcare bill that's strangling small businesses around the country. we're not going to do it when everyday single we're kicking business people in the teeth.'"
Forbes adds, "Until we get those guys back in the game investing those moneys, we're going to continue to have this cyclical kind of thing that we're seeing everyday."
Soledad also speaks with Rep. Forbes about the upcoming Presidential election, the Dream Act and President Obama's immmigration executive order. See more from the interview below.