WASHINGTON (CNN) - Congressional Republicans tore into the Obama administration over its implementation of the economic stimulus plan Wednesday, arguing that the White House is mishandling the distribution of the money while dramatically overstating the ability of the package to create jobs.
Among other things, they criticized the White House for constantly referring to the number of "jobs created or saved" by the $787 billion package - a metric, they claimed, that is impossible to verify.
The White House Office of Management and Budget defended the plan, arguing that every federal dollar spent has, by definition, helped to ease the pain of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.
The Republican and Democratic leaders traded their arguments during a contentious hearing before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Rep. Patrick Murphy, an Iraq war veteran, Wednesday kicked off a new push to convince Americans that the president should repeal "don't ask, don't tell" - the policy that prevents openly gay troops from serving in the U.S. military.
Murphy, D-Pennsylvania, appeared along with several gay, lesbian and straight service members to launch the initiative.
"We can not afford to wait any longer" for the repeal of "don't ask don't tell," Murphy said at an event at the National Press Club in Washington. "Now is the time to change this, when our military is stretched so thin" with wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
A "Voices of Honor" tour, sponsored by The Human Rights Campaign, will travel across the country sharing stories of gay, lesbian and straight service men and women in hope of garnering support for the Military Readiness Enhancement Act, which would repeal the law that established the policy and allow gay and lesbian Americans to serve openly in the military.
Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese issued a statement saying, "We must repeal this discriminatory policy and ensure that our military can recruit and retain the best and the brightest troops regardless of their sexual orientation."
President Barack Obama has said he wants Congress to repeal the law, but gay rights groups have been angered that the president has not done more to hasten the change.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Judge Sonia Sotomayor's world these days is a tiny, plain office in the Eisenhower Office Building next door to the West Wing of the White House.
There she prepares for next week's confirmation hearings to become the 111th person to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court. While a group of mostly young lawyers meet regularly with her, sources close to the judge say much of her time is spent alone, reading her past cases and speeches, taking notes - the monotonous, grinding work every high court nominee must go through to endure the intense scrutiny by the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Away from her family, friends and colleagues in New York and the comfort zone of her judicial chambers - the federal appeals court judge has felt overwhelmed at times by the media attention and intense preparation, say sources close to her. But they say she remains focused and surprisingly upbeat about the unpredictable public stage she is about to take.
"She has always possessed this quiet confidence in herself, which really never crosses into over-confidence," said one longtime friend who asked not to be identified. "Sonia is proud of her record as a judge, proud of her upbringing, and proud of herself. She'll do well" in the hearings.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Vice President Joe Biden announced Wednesday that a deal has been reached with hospitals to help fund health care reform.
Biden said the hospital industry has pledged to contribute $155 billion in Medicare and Medicaid savings in the next decade.
"We're here today to make our health care system healthy again," the vice president said in announcing the agreement.
"Hospitals have acknowledged that significant health care savings can be achieved by improving efficiencies, realigning incentives to emphasize quality care instead of quantity of procedures," Biden said.
"In the last several weeks, they've been working with (Senate Finance Committee) Chairman (Max) Baucus and are coming forward with a proposal that produces real savings in federal health care spending. Savings that will be applied toward the president's firm goal ... of enacting health care reform that is deficit neutral."
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) - Mr. President, help us get one of your mortgage workouts now.
That's what many borrowers are saying nearly five months after President Obama unveiled his housing rescue plan. The program is beset with problems, say borrowers, housing counselors and even the president himself.
Loan servicers are overwhelmed by the numbers of homeowners applying for loan modifications or refinancing. Borrowers are frustrated that their paperwork is being lost, and calls are not returned. Administration officials are racing to roll out new features to improve the program.
Even Obama acknowledges that the program is failing to stem the foreclosure tidal wave.
COLUMBIA, South Carolina (CNN) - With Gov. Mark Sanford showing no sign that he plans to quit, there may only be one option left for critics who want him gone: impeachment.
But legislators on both sides of the aisle in South Carolina believe that the chances of ousting Sanford with an impeachment vote are slim, unless new evidence arises showing that the governor broke the law or abused his power by secretly leaving the state to visit his mistress.
Democrats, long in the minority in both the state House and Senate, won't have the votes to pass such a measure by themselves when the legislature reconvenes in January. And Republicans appear to have little appetite for another embarrassing political mess, especially in an election year.
Perhaps most importantly, members of both parties say that for the time being, there is little evidence that Sanford did anything impeachable.
"If he decides to open his mouth again, and starts telling us about other revelations, then maybe something will come up," said Democratic state Rep. Boyd Brown. "But right now I don't see it."
WASHINGTON (CNN) - It was a stunning announcement that caught many across the country completely by surprise.
Now, four days after Sarah Palin announced that she will step down later this month as governor of Alaska, a new national poll by USA Today/Gallup indicates that seven in 10 Americans say Palin's decision had no affect on their opinion of her.
The survey also suggests a wide partisan split over whether respondents would likely vote for Palin if she decides to run for the White House in 2012. More than seven in 10 Republicans said they would be likely to vote for Palin for the presidency. That number drops to 34 percent among independents and to 17 percent among Democrats.
"Many Americans have deeply-held opinions about Palin as a result of the national campaign in 2008," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "Assuming Palin decides to run for the White House in 2012, public opinion is less likely to be affected by her resignation, and more likely to be swayed by what she does once she leaves office."
CNN radio reports on the public response to Palin's move:
The USA Today/Gallup poll was conducted Monday, three days after Palin announced that she would resign as governor, with 1,000 adult Americans questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus 3 percentage points.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Top Obama administration officials outlined several new initiatives to safeguard the country's food supply Tuesday, saying the recent spate of food-borne illnesses is unacceptable.
The FDA intends to issue new guidance over the next three months regarding steps the entire food industry can take to more quickly detect contamination sources and remove the unsafe products from stores.
A new position at the agency - deputy commissioner for foods - will be created for the sole purpose of overseeing food protection. The commissioner will be part of a "unified incident command system" established to address contamination outbreaks and facilitate responses at the federal, state, and local levels, officials said.