Washington (CNN) – Top Democrats are prepared to short-circuit the traditional legislative process and exclude their GOP counterparts during final congressional health care deliberations, senior Democratic sources have told CNN.
Democrats are trying to prevent the Republicans from using Senate rules to slow the push for final passage of a comprehensive reform bill, the sources added.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is set to discuss the politically contentious health care issue when she huddles in her office with other House Democratic leaders Tuesday afternoon. The House Democratic leadership is also likely to meet with President Barack Obama, and plans to hold a conference call with their entire caucus.
The full House of Representatives is not scheduled to return from vacation until January 12; the Senate meets January 19. Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, however, have already discussed the issue over the phone, aides said.
Congressional leaders are working to merge an $871 billion Senate bill and $1 trillion House bill that differ on several critical details.
(CNN) – Florida Republican Party chairman Jim Greer announced his resignation on a conference call with reporters Tuesday, accusing his conservative critics of being purists who are "shredding and tearing the fabric" of the GOP.
For months, Greer has been assailed by GOP activists accuse him of mismanaging party finances and favoring Gov. Charlie Crist in his Senate primary bid against Marco Rubio, the more conservative former House Speaker.
Greer said his opponents want to "burn the house down and destroy the Republican Party."
"I am not a purist," he said in describing his vision for the party. "I have never been a purist. I believe that our party stands for principles and values and that anyone who has an interest in our party should be able to participate."
Greer, who was appointed to his post by Charlie Crist in 2007, stressed that he has worked to create a more inclusive party in Florida and urged the GOP "to stop the fight between moderates and conservatives and put the focus on electing Republicans in 2010."
Greer avoided criticizing Rubio during his salvo.
"At the end of the day, the voters will decide what the Republican Party should look like," he said.
Washington (CNN) - The FBI received "actionable intelligence" from Nigerian bombing suspect Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab in the first hours after his arrest, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Tuesday.
According to authorities, AbdulMutallab tried to detonate explosives hidden in his underwear as a flight from Amsterdam, Netherlands, made its final approach to Detroit, Michigan, on Christmas Day. The device failed to fully detonate, instead setting off a fire at the man's seat.
AbdulMutallab was arrested on charges of attempting to destroy an aircraft. He will face his first court hearings Friday.
U.S. authorities have said AbdulMutallab may have received training from al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which is based in Yemen.
(CNN) – Dick Cheney is taking criticism from at least one member of his own party over the former vice president's recent and persistent criticisms of the Obama administration's handling of national security issues.
Ron Paul, the Texas congressman and upstart 2008 presidential candidate, told CNN's Larry King Monday night Cheney is in no place to criticize Obama's handling of the war on terrorism.
"I think he had his eight years, and he's caused a lot of trouble for our country and perpetuated a war in Iraq unnecessary and wrong-headed," said Paul. "I would say it would be best he not be so critical right now."
Paul was a constant critic of the Iraq war during his unsuccessful presidential run. While he is currently not seeking a higher office, his son, Rand, is seeking the Republican nomination for Senate in Kentucky.
Paul's comments come several days after Cheney released a tough-worded statement criticizing the president's response to the attempted terrorist attack on Christmas Day.
"He seems to think if he gives terrorists the rights of Americans, lets them lawyer up and reads them their Miranda rights, we won't be at war," Cheney said in the statement. "He seems to think if we bring the mastermind of 9/11 to New York, give him a lawyer and trial in civilian court, we won't be at war. He seems to think if he closes Guantanamo and releases the hard-core al Qaeda trained terrorists still there, we won't be at war."'
(CNN) – Jim Greer, the embattled chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, will resign Tuesday, two sources close to the party confirm to CNN.
Greer will discuss his decision with members of the Republican State Executive Committee around noon, and will hold a conference call with reporters at 1 p.m. ET.
The longtime ally of Gov. Charlie Crist has been under fire for his management of party money and his involvement in contested primaries. Critics of the chairman - including backers of Marco Rubio, Crist's conservative rival for the GOP Senate nomination - have been demanding his ouster for months. Greer was appointed by Crist in 2007.
Greer was also one of Michael Steele's top allies during last year's tumultuous race for the Republican National Committee chairmanship.
(CNN) – Newt Gingrich is standing by his criticism of the Obama administration in the wake of the attempted Christmas Day terror attack, saying Monday he believes the Justice Department is more concerned with the rights of terrorists than those of Americans.
"I believe what you have is a group of people centered in the Justice Department and the Attorney General, whose law firms all gave pro bono support to terrorism," the former House Speaker told Fox News host Bill O'Reilly Monday. "They start every day with a presumption that the rights of terrorists are more important than the lives of Americans."
An incredulous O'Reilly replied that Gingrich's statement was "impossible to believe" and asked, "Why would any rational person want to extend protections to a terrorist than their own family?"
"You interjected the word 'rational,'" Gingrich responded.
"We are in much greater danger than we were a year ago," he also said. "...We have to confront the fact that this is going to be a much bigger, much harder war than we thought."
Washington (CNN) - President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden will team up with the top Democrats in Congress late Tuesday afternoon to discuss heath care reform strategy.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer will meet with Obama and Biden in person in the Oval Office, while Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Majority Whip Dick Durbin will join by telephone. The White House confirms that the meeting will focus on the Democrats drive for health care reform, as well as other legislative priorities.
"The purpose of this meeting is to get everyone back in step after a well-deserved holiday break. The President and the Leaders will discuss the path forward on health care, but other topics and priorities for 2010 will also be on the agenda," a White House official told CNN.
The House passed its health care reform bill on November 7, and the Senate passed its own version on Christmas Eve. Now comes the tough task of merging the two bills into one piece of legislation. The bills differ in many ways, most importantly over the creation of a new government-run public health insurance option, anti-abortion funding provisions, anti-illegal immigration provisions, the costs of the bills, and how they are funded. (View a comparison of the two bills [PDF])
Washington (CNN) – Rep. Neil Abercrombie says he'll step down from Congress on February 28 to focus on his run for Hawaii governor.
The announcement comes three weeks after the 11-term Democratic congressman said he would retire from his current job in order to enter his state's gubernatorial race.
Stepping down at the end of next month will "ensure that I will be able to fulfill the remaining duties requiring my presence in the House," Abercrombie said in a statement. "This work, most notably, involves providing my continuing support for legislation on health care and the Akaka Bill."
The Akaka Bill, formally known as the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act of 2009, is named after the state's junior senator. It calls for a process for ethnic Hawaiians to essentially gain federal recognition as an Indian tribe.
Under state law, a special election for Abercrombie's seat can be held no sooner than 60 days after the vacancy. The Honolulu Advertiser reports that Scott Nago, the interim chief elections officer, told the state Senate Ways and Means Committee that his preference would be to hold an all-mail special election ,with some walk-in voting sites.
Washington (CNN) – For the second time in less than two weeks, Democrat Martha Coakley has turned down an invitation to debate Republican Scott Brown in a one-on-one setting, as the two candidates enter the homestretch in the campaign to fill the unexpired term of the late Massachusetts Sen. Edward Kennedy.
Kevin Conroy, Coakley's campaign manager, said Monday night that she was willing to participate in a proposed WCVB-TV/CNN debate on Sunday, but only if it included Joseph Kennedy, a third party candidate who is not related to the late senator.
While Coakley and Brown met the eligibility criteria established by WCVB and CNN to participate in the debate, Kennedy did not. The media organizations said eligibility was based on several factors including organized campaign activities, fundraising and public polling. The debate was scheduled to air live on WCVB and CNN.
TEHRAN, Iran (CNN) - An Iranian parliamentary committee has denied a request by U.S. Sen. John Kerry to visit Tehran, according to reports from Iran.
Kerry had requested a visit in December, Iran's semi-official Fars news agency reported.
The request was discussed and rejected by Iran's Foreign Relations Committee of the Parliament, according to Tabnak, a news Web site linked to past Iranian presidential candidate Mohsen Rezaie. It is unclear if this committee has the final say on whether Kerry can visit Tehran.
Kerry, D-Massachusetts, is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.