Global markets or deadlines for extending tax breaks may yet force Congress to try again for a 'grand bargain' to shrink the US deficit. But big action before the 2012 election is unlikely.
The House's bid to pass a balanced budget amendment failed to get the two-thirds majority it needed to proceed. All but four Republicans voted to make federal deficits unconstitutional.
US poverty rate hit 14.3 percent last year, up from 13.2 percent in 2008. The jump bring the number of the poor to its highest level since 1959, five years before the Johnson-era War on Poverty.
Medicare is in better shape because of President Barack Obama's sweeping health care overhaul.
Latest effort to lower the federal price tag taps companies that don't offer health insurance to employees. They would pay an annual fee.