Washington (CNN) - President Barack Obama should end a long-standing policy of not writing letters of condolence to families of troops who commit suicide, dozens of lawmakers urged him in a letter Wednesday.
Saying "our armed forces are in the midst of a suicide epidemic," the lawmakers warned that military suicides could reach record numbers in 2009 - topping the high of 140 set last year.
"By overturning this policy on letters of condolence to the families of suicide victims, you can send a strong signal that you will not tolerate a culture in our Armed Forces that discriminates against those with a mental illness," the lawmakers urged.
The White House has begun a review of the condolence policy, which the 46 members of Congress said should be completed as soon as possible.
Washington (CNN) - Congressional Republicans plan to mount a last-ditch challenge Wednesday to the health care bill now moving through the Senate, arguing that a key provision is unconstitutional.
Sen. John Ensign, R-Nevada, has claimed the bill's requirement that all Americans purchase coverage is not authorized "by any of the limited enumerated powers granted to the federal government." He also has argued the mandate violates the Fifth Amendment, which states that private property shall not "be taken for public use, without just compensation."
Congress lacks "the legal or moral authority to force this mandate on its citizens," Ensign recently said. "Is it really constitutional for this body to tell all Americans that they must buy health insurance coverage?"
Democrats are expected to defeat Ensign's point of order and pass a motion Wednesday setting the stage for final passage of the sweeping $871 billion measure. A final vote on the bill is currently set for Thursday morning.
Any measure passed by the Senate would still have to be merged with the $1 trillion version approved by the House of Representatives in November.
Democrats hope to have a bill ready for President Barack Obama's signature before the president's State of the Union address early next year.
"Health care reform is not a matter of if," White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Tuesday. "Health care reform now is a matter of when."
The Senate is almost ready to wrap up work on a health care reform bill before going home for the holidays. CNN Capitol Hill correspondent Lisa Desjardins tells CNN's John Lisk how lawmakers are handling the final few hours.
(CNN) - Business before politics - that's the message from Rudy Giuliani.
The former New York City mayor announced Tuesday that he won't run for either governor or the U.S. Senate next year in New York. Instead, Giuliani says he'll concentrate on his lucrative law office and consulting business. But the 2008 GOP presidential candidate wouldn't rule out a future run for office.
"The main reason has to do with my two enterprises, Bracewell-Giuliani and Giuliani Partners. I'm very busy with both," Giuliani told reporters in New York City. "We have some pretty significant commitments next year that will really make it impossible for me to run full time for office."
Giuliani also endorsed fellow Republican Rick Lazio for governor of New York. Lazio, a former congressman from Long Island who announced his candidacy for governor in September, joined Giuliani at the news conference.
Giuliani's public endorsement of Lazio was a formal declaration that he is not running for governor. The New York Times reported last month that he had decided not to run, but a spokeswoman for Giuliani said he had not made up his mind. At the time, polls indicated that Giuliani had a wide lead over Lazio in a hypothetical 2010 GOP primary contest.
New York (CNNMoney.com) - Americans, it seems, still have a love affair with the West.
Texas and Wyoming were the big winners in the Census Bureau's annual population estimates, which were released on Wednesday.
In the year ended July 1, Texas added more people than any other state, and Wyoming had the highest growth rate in the nation.
The population of the United States has grown more than 9% to 307,006,550 since the 2000 census. The population grew 0.86% since last year's estimates.
Washington (CNN) - While the war in Afghanistan remains unpopular with most Americans, the public continues to support President Barack Obama's decision to send more U.S. troops to the conflict, according to a new national poll.
Fifty-nine percent of those questioned in a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Wednesday morning say they favor the president's plan to send 30,000 more U.S. troops to Afghanistan, with 39 percent opposed.
"Most of those who oppose Obama's plan would like to see the U.S. immediately withdraw all its troops from Afghanistan," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.
–CNN Deputy Political Director Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report
The CNN Washington Bureau’s morning speed read of the top stories making news from around the country and the world.
Compiled by Alison Harding
For the latest political news: www.CNNPolitics.com
CNN: Final Senate vote on health care set for Thursday morning
The Senate will hold its final vote on a sweeping health care bill Thursday morning under an agreement that Majority Leader Harry Reid announced Tuesday.
Washington Post: Robert Byrd back in form for Senate health-care vote
This week, amid a historic blizzard, the 92-year-old senator arrived in the wee hours after midnight, and in the frigid minutes just after dawn. When an aide guided him in his wheelchair onto the chamber floor just after 7:30 a.m. Tuesday, his fellow Democrats leapt to their feet and cheered, for the third time in five days.
Boston Globe: Health fight shifts to insurer shopping
The public option is gone. Expansion of Medicare is dead. But an intense fight continues over a crucial issue in the proposed health care overhaul: how far Congress should go in emulating the type of insurance marketplace that is at the center of the pioneering Massachusetts insurance program.
CNN: CNN Poll: Afghanistan war still unpopular, but troop increase isn't
Although the war in Afghanistan remains unpopular with most Americans, the public supports President Obama's decision to send more U.S. troops to the conflict, according to a new national poll.
Bloomberg: Bernanke’s Confirmation Support Runs 3-1 in Favor in Senate
U.S. senators are backing Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke for a second term by a 3-to-1 margin, based on a count of 77 lawmakers by Bloomberg News.
Christian Science Monitor: Skeptics dominate hearing on Guantanamo detainees in Illinois
Federal and state officials faced a vociferous public and skeptical state legislators here Tuesday at a public hearing on the proposal to transfer Guantánamo Bay detainees to the Thompson Correctional Center in northwest Illinois.
Los Angeles Times: Schwarzenegger to seek federal help for California budget
Facing a budget deficit of more than $20 billion, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is expected to call for deep reductions in already suffering local mass transit programs, renew his push to expand oil drilling off the Santa Barbara coast and appeal to Washington for billions of dollars in federal help, according to state officials and lobbyists familiar with the plan.
Washington (CNN) - There's a constant fear that hangs over some service members deployed to a war zone - and it's not necessarily the threat from insurgents or roadside bombs.
One Marine serving in Afghanistan said suppressing the truth about his sexual orientation is gut-wrenching.
"I do worry a lot about being outed and kicked out," he said in an e-mail to CNN. "So far the military has been my livelihood and my source of work/income for the past six years. I don't want that all taken away from me and me being discharged anything but honorably."
The Marine requested anonymity because of the military's 1993 congressionally mandated "don't ask, don't tell" law prohibiting gay, lesbian and bisexual service members from coming out.
Being homosexual in the military was grounds for discharge before "don't ask, don't tell." The argument against gays in the military was that they would cause a breakdown of unit cohesion and morale.
Others argue that those concerns are unfounded, pointing to other U.S. allies such as Great Britain and Israel which have openly gay and lesbian members serving in the military.