(CNN) - Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, told CNN Wednesday that Sen. Arlen Specter's seniority on committees will be determined in the next Congress, but stopped short of pledging the onetime Republican would regain his choice positions on the panels.
In an interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer, the Senate’s top Democrat suggested he never promised Specter's seniority would carry over when the longtime Pennsylvania Republican decided to join the Democratic Party last week.
"Sen. Specter and his chief of staff always were told that we couldn't interrupt any of the subcommittee chairs or the chairs until the next Congress," Reid said in an interview on The Situation Room. "And his seniority will be determined next Congress."
But Specter told CNN earlier in the day that Reid had in fact promised to honor his seniority when he jumped parties, a pledge that has reportedly riled other Senate Democrats.
"Sen. [Harry] Reid said that I would maintain my committee assignments and that my seniority would be established as if I'd been elected in 1980 as a Democrat," he told CNN's Dana Bash.
In the interview with CNN, Reid said Specter's status on key committees will ultimately be determined by the Democratic Caucus at the start of the next congressional session in 2010.
"All I can say is, every Congress since I've been here, we have a caucus to organize, and we determine seniority," he said. "And that's the way it's always been."
(CNN) - New Hampshire lawmakers on Wednesday passed a same-sex marriage bill, now headed to Gov. John Lynch.
The state House passed the bill in a 178-167 vote. The Senate last week approved the legislation in a 13-11 vote.
The bill passed Wednesday differed from an earlier bill passed in the House by distinguishing between civil and religious marriage. It allows each religion to decide whether to acknowledge same-sex marriage, but extends the option of civil marriage to any two individuals.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - President Barack Obama said Wednesday that the leaders of Afghanistan, Pakistan and the United States are meeting "as three sovereign nations joined by a common goal: to disrupt, dismantle and defeat" al Qaeda and the Taliban.
To do so, Obama said, the three nations have to deny extremists space to operate and bring a better life to the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Obama, in remarks delivered with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari at the White House, said the security of Afghanistan, of Pakistan and of the United States are linked.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – Former presidential candidate Robert Dole made headlines as a pitchman for Viagra, and now a decade later a Virginia congressman wants to limit the time when ads for this and similar products can air.
Last month, Democratic Rep. Jim Moran introduced the "Families for ED Advertising Decency Act," which prevents erectile dysfunction and male enhancement ads from appearing on radio and television between the hours of 6 a.m. and 10 p.m.
"This [the advertisements] is an intrusion into our daily lives that I believe has become inappropriate." Moran said in an interview with CNN. "There is a saturation of the television airwaves with these E.D. ads, and they have gotten more pervasive, more blunt, and less subtle."
The bill currently has only one co-sponsor, Rep. Robert Brady, D-Pennsylvania, and there are currently no hearings scheduled on the issue. But a Moran spokesman said the congressman is actively seeking more support.
"I don't want to be prudish about it," Moran said. "I understand there is limitless market to deal with male insecurity and its fine for drug companies to make a profit on that. The problem is that they are showing these ads when small children are bound to get curious."
UPDATE: Pfizer, the maker of Viagra, defended their commercials in a statement, saying, "Our goal in advertising our products is to reach the people who would be most likely to benefit from them."
Full statement after the jump
WASHINGTON (CNN) – Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele has agreed to put in place financial oversight controls that will give the treasurer more influence over how money is being spent.
Backers of the new provisions said the new controls are not intended to usurp Steele’s power, but to ensure that the membership has a say in how the organization is running. The measures are temporary until the full committee meets in July to debate a permanent financial plan.
For now, the RNC will reinstate previous financial restrictions, including approval of the treasurer for contracts that go beyond Steele’s term, contracts that exceed $100,000, and the green light to do some borrowing, former RNC General Counsel David Norcross said in an interview with CNN. Norcross was involved in pushing for the changes.
Also, Steele has agreed to keep on retainer a former RNC chief counsel and former financial official Jay Banning so they can offer their expertise on how to deal with unexpected situations. The RNC will also move towards creating a new chief financial officer position who would report not only to Steele but also to the committee’s treasurer and the executive committee, several people involved in the situation told CNN.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - The search for a new Supreme Court justice is moving ahead quickly at the White House with senior staff ready to begin paring down a list of finalists to less than half a dozen candidates, two sources with knowledge of the selection process tell CNN.
President Obama could begin meeting with some of the potential nominees as early as this weekend, said the sources, who spoke to CNN on the condition of anonymity. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs indicated earlier this week those meetings had not yet begun.
Since the candidates would have already had pre-screening interviews with staff led by the White House Counsel's Office, the Obama meetings would most likely not be a grilling about constitutional philosophy, but rather friendly chats, the sources said.
Unlike many past presidents, Obama is already closely involved in the selection process, given his background as a constitutional law professor, the sources said. Vice President Joe Biden is also playing a key role, given his long service on the Senate Judiciary Committee, which will hold the nomination hearings.
After face-to-face meetings, Obama would offer his initial thoughts and may seek for more information, or possibly ask to speak with more candidates. Sources close to the process, said the president will also likely reach outside his inner circle and members of Congress, to get the views of independent legal types. One such person mentioned is Charles Ogletree, a longtime respected professor at Harvard Law School, and a mentor to Obama.
(CNN) - He has made it clear that he is still against legalizing marijuana for recreational use, but California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said Tuesday that it is time for California to welcome discussions on the issue.
"I think it is time for debate and I think we ought to study very carefully what other countries are doing that have legalized marijuana and other drugs, what affect it had on those countries, and are they happy with that decision," the governor said.
Schwarzenegger, who was once shown smoking pot in the film 'Pumping Iron,' also said that it is time to consider all sides of the issue.
"I want to look at all that. It could very well be that everyone is happy with the decision and then we can look at that. If not, then we shouldn't do it. Just because of raising revenues, we have to be careful not to make mistakes at the same time," the governor said.
Some suggest that legalizing Marijuana could help the state's ailing economy.
Thirteen states, including California, have legalized Marijuana for medicinal use but not for personal use.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - The White House indicated Wednesday that a report and a photo from the controversial low-altitude New York flyover by a 747 plane used as Air Force One could be released soon.
Earlier, White House officials had said that there were no plans to release photos to the public.
But the tone seemed to change on Wednesday.
"The report, I believe, will be concluded at some point this week. We'll release its findings and release a photo," White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said during his daily press briefing.
The review, led by Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina, will focus on "why that decision was made and to ensure that it never happens again," Gibbs said.
The flyover, officials said, was a training mission - it was also a government-sanctioned photo shoot.
Military officials also estimate that the mission and the photo shoot, aimed updating file photos of Air Force One - cost around $328,835 in taxpayer money
WASHINGTON (CNN) - The FBI has failed to place the names of dozens of suspected terrorists on the government's watch list, an omission that could have "significant consequences to public safety," the Justice Department's watchdog says.
In a report released Wednesday, Inspector General Glenn Fine sharply criticizes the FBI for failing to add 35 terrorism subjects to the consolidated watch list, and for being slow to add many others.
He says he found at least 12 people - ones either not put on the list or added after an excessive delay - who may have been moving about the United States during the time they were not listed.
The report also says the FBI failed to remove several people from the list after they had been cleared.
The consolidated list is used to screen individuals seeking to enter the United States and those who are stopped by local police agencies. It was created in 2003 to bring order to the flurry of separate agency watch lists that quickly developed following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.