The newest justice had the honor of issuing the Supreme Court's first ruling of the term. (Photo Credit: Getty Images)
Washington (CNN) - The newest justice had the honor of issuing the Supreme Court's first ruling of the term, and Sonia Sotomayor managed a shy smile Tuesday after reading a portion of it from the bench in the public session.
Sotomayor joined the bench in August and has heard oral argument in 35 appeals with her eight colleagues. The high court issued three other rulings Tuesday, from cases heard when the new term began in early October.
Chief Justice John Roberts announced Sotomayor's name at the start of the morning session, and she proceeded to spend about four minutes summarizing the court's unanimous conclusions.
At issue in her ruling was the right to immediately appeal a judge's pretrial order requiring disclosure of confidential attorney-client communications.
Washington (CNN) - Mortgage company executives and government officials faced an angry congressional committee Tuesday concerning some of the problems with the administration's mortgage aid program aimed at avoiding foreclosures. Many of the complaints lodged by members of the House Financial Services Committee focused on the slow pace of converting trial mortgage modifications into permanent ones under the program.
While over 680,000 borrowers now have temporary adjustments which last for several months, only a small fraction of those people have been offered new permanent mortgages.
"We are terribly frustrated," Committee Chairman Rep. Barney Frank (D-Massachusetts) told the hearing.
"Why can't we do so something...I am frustrated," Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Missouri) said.
In an attempt to dramatically raise the number of homeowners whose mortgages are permanently revised, the government last week announced new steps to pressure companies, including such steps as sending Treasury Department and Fannie Mae personnel to the largest 7 mortgage servicers to personally make sure applications are being processed efficiently; giving the companies specific targets and publishing more detailed information about the institutions' conversion rates.
"I think the banks have a long way to go to get up to their full potential," Assistant Treasury Secretary Herb Allison told the committee, adding the institutions recently made progress towards more conversions. "Lights need to be shine on each of these banks."
Washington (CNN) - Thousands of American Indians would receive as much as $1,000 each if they accept the proposed settlement of a class action lawsuit over government mismanagement of tribal lands.
The suit, filed in 1996, accused the U.S. Department of the Interior of failing to account for and provide revenue from a trust fund representing the value of Indian assets managed by the government.
Individual Indian Money accounts are supposed to represent the property of individual Indians, held by the United States as trustee on their behalf. The lawsuit had accused the government of failing to account for the money, failing to make proper payments, and converting tribal money for the government's own use.
A federal judge must approve the plan, and Congress would have to enact a bill to implement it.
Majority Leader Harry Reid is the top cheerleader for health care reform in the Senate... and this support for the bill might just wind up costing him his Nevada Senate seat.
That's because a growing number of Nevadans don't support health care reform...
A Las Vegas Review-Journal poll shows 53 percent of registered voters oppose the president's health care plan while only 39 percent approve of it.
Majorities of Nevadans are also opposed to a public option, believe that the reform plan would raise taxes, and that it would lead to the rationing of health care. Worse yet – ahead of his re-election bid next year, only 39 percent approve of Reid's efforts to get a bill though the Senate.
Evidence suggests that although most Democrats support Reid's efforts... that probably won't be enough to outweigh the disapproval of most independents and Republicans. One pollster says Reid is carrying the flag for this reform and "You remember what happened historically to flag bearers in war. The flag bearer gets shot first."
To read more and contribute to the Cafferty File discussion, click here
Washington (CNN) - Two years into the current recession, Americans don't see economic conditions getting better any time soon, and the steady growth in optimism that previous polls measured throughout the year appears to have stalled, according to a new national poll.
A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Tuesday indicates that 34 percent of those questioned say that things are going well in the country today. That's 14 points higher than a year ago, but a dip of 3 points since November.
Full results (pdf)
"This the first time in Barack Obama's presidency that this number has gone down," said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.
According to the survey, 39 percent of the respondents say the country's still in a downturn, up 6 points from last month. Nearly half of those questioned say the economy has stabilized and a small minority, 15 percent, think the country is starting to recover.
(CNN) – Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele Tuesday demanded that the Senate Democratic leader apologize for invoking slavery as he criticized Republicans for their opposition to passing health care reform.
"Instead of joining us on the right side of history, all Republicans can come up with is this: Slow down, stop everything, let's start over," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, said Monday.
"If you think you've heard these same excuses before, you're right," Reid also said from the Senate floor. "When this country belatedly recognized the wrongs of slavery, there were those who dug in their heels and said slow down, it's too early, let's wait, things aren't bad enough."
Steele, the RNC's first African-American chairman, took exception with Reid's remarks.
"It was not a sober moment for Harry Reid at all," Steele said Tuesday morning on CBS. "It was an ignorant moment.
Washington (CNN) - Liberal and moderate Senate Democrats said Tuesday they were continuing negotiations on a package of alternatives to a government-run public health insurance option in the chamber's sweeping health care bill.
The negotiating senators said the ideas under discussion would replace the controversial public option in a compromise intended to win the support of the chamber's entire Democratic caucus.
Senate Republicans unanimously oppose the health care bill so far, and it will require support from all 60 members of the Democratic caucus for it to pass.
"I think we know where the fault lines are," said Sen. Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, one of the liberals in the talks. "Still, at this point, but they're not necessarily easy ones to overcome. Things have been narrowed, but there are still very significant issues."
Sen. Charles Schumer of New York, who is leading the negotiations, said the talks would continue throughout Tuesday in the face of remaining "bumps in the road."
"There are many bumps in the road because everyone's giving," Schumer said. "Again, the overall framework, the way I put it is: some in our caucus want more government involvement, some in our caucus want less government involvement. The question is, how do you thread that needle?"
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who asked for the talks involving five liberal and five moderate Senate Democrats to work out differences on key health care issues, wanted an agreement by Tuesday. Participants said they were working to meet that deadline, but offered no promises.
Washington (CNN) - Former FBI and CIA Director William Webster will lead an outside investigation of the FBI's "policies, practices and actions" before the November massacre at Fort Hood, the bureau announced Tuesday.
Webster, a former federal judge, led the FBI from 1978 to 1987. The bureau's current director, Robert Mueller, picked him to look into "whether there are improvements to our current practices or other authorities that could make us all safer in the future," Mueller said in a statement Tuesday.
Washington (CNNMoney.com) - President Obama on Tuesday outlined a broad new proposal to try to spur jobs and give more help to Main Street consumers and businesses.
In a speech at the Brookings Institution, Obama said he wants to give small businesses tax breaks for new hires and equipment purchases. He also wants to expand American Recovery and Reinvestment Act programs and spend some $50 billion more on roads, bridges, aviation and water projects.
Finally, Obama would offer consumers rebates for retro-fitting their homes to consume less energy.
"Even though we have reduced the deluge of job losses to a relative trickle, we are not yet creating jobs at a pace to help all those families who have been swept up in the flood," Obama said in prepared remarks.
Washington (CNN) - The Senate prepared to vote Tuesday on an amendment to tighten restrictions on federal funding for abortion in the sweeping health care bill it is considering.
No matter the outcome of the vote, it will impact the chances of the health care bill eventually winning approval from Congress.
The amendment filed Monday by moderate Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah would mirror language from the health care bill passed by the House last month that prevents any health plan receiving federal subsidies from offering coverage for abortion.