WASHINGTON (CNN) - President Barack Obama will announce during his State of the Union Address on Wednesday that he's freezing the salaries of top White House officials, as well as other political appointees, senior administration officials told CNN on Tuesday.
As his administration continues to turn up the heat on Wall Street, the president also will announce that he's wiping out bonuses for all political appointees, according to the senior officials.
Fiscal discipline will be a major theme of the address, amid pressure to reign in ballooning federal spending, the officials said.
Senior officials have already said that Obama's address also will announce a freeze on all non-security federal discretionary spending for three years.
That refers to spending on an array of domestic programs - everything from agriculture to energy - that adds up to $447 billion of roughly $3.5 trillion in the federal budget.
The freeze would not apply to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid or other entitlement programs.
Washington (CNN) - The State Department said Tuesday afternoon it had been critical of some news organizations, including al Jazeera and CNN, for their coverage of the U.S. relief efforts in Haiti.
Earlier in the day Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she deeply resented some of the news reports on U.S. assistance to Haiti.
"I have absolutely no argument with anyone lodging a legitimate criticism against our country. I think we can learn from that. And we are foolish if we keep our head in the sand and pretend that we can't," Clinton told a town-hall meeting at the State Department, marking her one-year anniversary on the job.
"On the other hand, I deeply resent those who attack our country, the generosity of our people, and the leadership of our president in trying to respond to historically disastrous conditions after the earthquake. So what we're asking for is that people view us fairly," Clinton said.
Washington (CNN) - The Senate will vote Thursday on whether to give Ben Bernanke a second term as Federal Reserve chairman, according to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's spokesman.
Jim Manley, the spokesman for Reid, said Tuesday that Senate leaders reached agreement on holding the Bernanke vote on Thursday morning in addition to a vote on raising the federal debt ceiling.
Democratic leaders and White House officials say they expect to muster the 60 votes necessary to overcome opposition to confirming Bernanke for a second term.
(CNN) - A conservative activist who made controversial undercover videos of the liberal community organizing group ACORN was one of four men charged Tuesday with attempting to illegally access and manipulate the phone system in a district office of U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana.
Joseph Basel, 24, Robert Flanagan, 24, James O'Keefe, 25, and Stan Dai, 24, were charged with entering Landrieu's New Orleans office - which is federal property - under "false pretenses for the purpose of committing a felony," according to a news release from the local U.S. attorney's office.
The four posted a $10,000 unsecured bond and were released, said Kathy English of the Department of Justice. According to CNN affiliate WWL, the next court date in the case was set for Feb. 12.
O'Keefe is the same conservative activist who dressed up as a pimp last summer and visited ACORN offices to solicit advice on setting up a brothel, among other scenarios, law enforcement officials confirmed. He secretly
recorded the visits on videotapes that were posted on the Internet, leading to a media firestorm.
Flanagan is the son of William Flanagan, the acting U.S. attorney for the Western District of Louisiana, his office said.
Articles on conservative Web sites connect O'Keefe to a man named Joe Basel, describing them as conservative student activists and filmmakers.
"This is a very unusual situation and somewhat unsettling for me and my staff," Landrieu said in a statement Tuesday night. "The individuals responsible have been charged with entering federal property under false pretenses for the purposes of committing a felony. I am as interested as everyone else about their motives and purpose, which I hope will become clear as the investigation moves forward."
Updated: 8:03 p.m.
Washington (CNN) - Two moderate Democratic Senators facing re-election battles this year said Tuesday they would oppose using a legislative tool that requires only 51 Senate votes to get health care legislation to President Barack Obama's desk.
Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Indiana, called the move, known as reconciliation, "ill-advised," while Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-Arkansas, issued a news release rejecting the procedure.
"I will not accept any last-minute efforts to force changes to health insurance reform issues through budget reconciliation, and neither will Arkansans," Lincoln said in the statement.
Washington (CNN) - New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand accused potential primary challenger Harold Ford Jr. Tuesday of being beholden to Wall Street interests, a day after he charged that she was following in lock step behind national Democratic leaders.
"I dont (sic) know who Harold Ford thinks I am, but I will not be pushed aside by him and a handful of his big banker buddies," Gillibrand said in a statement released by her campaign that described Ford's party affiliation as (I-Wall Street). "As for his childish name calling, I would not allow that kind of name calling from my 6 year old son and I certainly dont (sic) think it is appropriate for someone who says they want to be a Senator from NY. Fords attacks dont (sic) hurt me, they do hurt the people of New York by distracting us from the real economic challenges that middle class families are facing."
On Monday, Ford sharply criticized Gillibrand in a radio interview on Talk 1300 Radio in Albany. "Understand that you're not elected to the United States Senate to be a parakeet or to take instructions from the Democratic leadership," said Ford, a former Tennessee congressman now living in New York.
Earlier this month, Ford announced that he was considering a primary challenge to Gillibrand, a former congresswoman appointed by Gov. David Paterson to replace Sen. Hillary Clinton. The former first lady turned senator resigned her seat to become President Obama's Secretary of State.
Full text of statement after the jump:
Washington (CNN) – On the day before President Obama delivers his first State of the Union address, he broke bread at a private White House luncheon with top business leaders representing the insurance, oil, and banking industries.
"The Obama administration has reached out throughout the first year to develop an ongoing dialogue with the business community as we work (to) rebuild and strengthen our economy for the long-term," a White House official familiar with the meeting told CNN. "The lunch is the fourth of its kind hosted by the President this year, and follows a series of meetings with top administration officials with business leaders throughout the country."
The meeting comes at a time when some of the industries represented at the luncheon have been criticized by the White House, and just days after the president told a town hall meeting in Elyria, Ohio that he was fighting to curb the excesses of Wall Street. In his daily briefing, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs acknowledged there are areas of disagreement between the president and some of the business leaders, but noted that the lines of communication remain open.
The two men who led the 9/11 Commission appeared before the Senate Homeland Security Committee Tuesday. (Photo Credit: Getty Images)
Washington (CNN) - The man who led the investigation into the 9/11 terrorist attacks said Tuesday he was shocked and upset when he heard the intelligence community was not consulted before the decision was made to read the suspected underwear bomber his rights.
That decision came only hours after authorities say the would-be bomber attempted to blow up a plane on Christmas Day.
Former 9/11 Commission Chairman Thomas Kean told the Senate Homeland Security Committee on Tuesday it "made no sense whatsoever" to give Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab all of his rights and a lawyer before he could be questioned fully.
AbdulMutallab was interviewed twice by FBI agents before they read him his Miranda rights approximately 10 hours after the failed bombing incident. Officials said AbdulMutallab did provide some intelligence during the
questioning but stopped talking once he was Mirandized - read his rights under U.S. law.
Kean said there may be other plots and details about al Qaeda leadership in Yemen that will never be known.
"This is not just about prosecuting an individual, it's about protecting the American people," said Kean.
Lee Hamilton, the former vice chairman of the 9/11 Commission, told the committee there appears to be no government policy on how to handle suspected terrorist detainees. "There has to be a policy, it has to be clarified," he said.
Washington (CNN) – Sandra Day O'Connor will turn 80 in March but has lost none of the energy and focus she showed for a quarter century on the Supreme Court.
Since her 2006 retirement, O'Connor has turned much of her attention to reforming the way judges are selected nationwide. Thirty-three states have some form of election, and she has expressed concern that big money donations to judicial races create the perception that the courts can be unduly influenced.
"It has the effect of turning judges into the politically elected figures in arms races, if you will, by people with the means to support them," she told CNN's Wolf Blitzer in an exclusive interview Tuesday. "And what the framework of our Constitution tried to achieve when they wrote that Constitution back in the 1700s was an independent federal judiciary." O'Connor wants that framework applied to state judicial races.
The push for reform has a powerful advocate in the first woman to sit on the high court. She is lending her reputation and credibility to several projects aimed at assisting state-level efforts to have judges named by merit-based selection systems, not elections.
Washington (CNN) – A jobs bill passed by the House should be approved by the Senate and sent to President Barack Obama as soon as possible, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said Tuesday.
In a speech at the National Press Club, Hoyer outlined the legislative agenda of House Democrats in an election year for the entire chamber.
Job creation and debt reduction topped Hoyer's list as part of a broad approach to confront the long-term problem of unsustainable government spending.
Hoyer, the second-ranking Democrat in the House, cited health care reform and energy reform - both passed by the House but facing uncertain fates - as vital legislation for both job creation and reduced spending.
Another House-passed measure - a jobs bill that would use federal bailout money for infrastructure development and other programs creating jobs - also is awaiting action in the Senate.