Washington (CNNMoney.com) - The Senate might break its impasse on financial overhaul if it moves forward with a proposal that would put a consumer financial protection watchdog inside the Federal Reserve.
But such a move could water down the impact of a such a consumer watchdog, especially when compared to the stand-alone agency first proposed by President Obama. It would also be a big reversal for the Senate Banking committee, which has accused the Fed of letting down consumers, contributing to the economic meltdown.
Housing a new consumer regulator in the Fed is not set in stone, but lawmakers on the Senate Banking panel are talking it over these next few days, say sources who are not authorized to speak about the negotiations.
Protecting consumers who buy financial products like mortgages, credit cards and even auto loans has been the big sticking point holding up Senate progress on legislation to overhaul the financial system.
Washington (CNN) - "If it were not for the Internet, God knows how many more people would have been killed on the streets of Tehran" after the 2009 Iranian elections, an Iranian blogger told a Senate subcommittee Tuesday.
Omid Memarian, who said he was imprisoned and tortured by the Iranian regime for his pro-democracy Internet writings, was the star witness at a hearing in which U.S. technology companies were scolded for not taking a more active role in protecting freedom of expression on the Internet.
Sen. Ted Kaufman, D-Delaware, accused U.S. corporations of "aiding and abetting" repressive regimes that restrict and censor the Internet, or use the Internet to track political opponents.
"A lot of it is being done with U.S. technology and U.S. companies, " Kaufman said.
Washington (CNN) - President Barack Obama extended a bipartisan olive branch to GOP leaders in the health care debate Tuesday, stating in a letter that he is willing to consider several of their ideas in a compromise plan.
Specifically, the president said he may be willing to:
- commit $50 million to fund state initiatives designed to reduce medical malpractice costs;
- allow undercover investigations of health care providers receiving Medicare, Medicaid, and other federal programs;
- boost Medicaid reimbursements to doctors in certain states; and
- include language in the final bill ensuring certain high-deductible health plans can be offered in the health exchange.
The president said his decision to consider the GOP ideas was a result of last week's health care summit.
"The meeting was a good opportunity to move past the usual rhetoric and sound-bites that have come to characterize this debate and identify areas on which we agree and disagree," he wrote. I "left convinced that the Republican and Democratic approaches to health care have more in common than most people think."
GOP leaders were unsatisfied with Obama's concessions. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, said the president's ideas were little more than a few items "inadequately addressed in a 2,700-page bill."
(CNN) - Sen. Jim Bunning set off a firestorm in Washington - and across the country - by single-handedly blocking a short-term extension of jobless benefits, demanding that it be paid for instead of adding to the deficit.
The $10 billion package also includes road projects and COBRA health insurance subsidies.
Without it, millions of out-of-work Americans can't continue to apply for federal unemployment benefits, and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said up to 2,000 employees at his agency would be sent home without pay.
Bunning, R-Kentucky, says he's not opposed to extending the benefits - he just wants to make sure they're paid for without adding to the deficit.
"If we can't find $10 billion to pay for something that we all support, we will never pay for anything on the floor of the U.S. Senate," he said. In response, Senate Majority leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, asked, "Where
was my friend from Kentucky when we had two wars that were unpaid for during the Bush administration?"
And that got the CNN Fact Check desk wondering: Has Bunning always been so deficit-conscious, or is his hardball stance something new?
Fact Check: Has Bunning voted for other unemployment benefit extensions or programs that increased the deficit?
(Get the facts and the bottom line after the jump)
(CNN) - California Attorney General Jerry Brown jumped into the race for the state's next governor Tuesday, saying "we need someone with insider's knowledge but an outsider's mind" to help solve its problems.
In a video message posted on his Web site, Brown said, "Our state is in serious trouble, and the next governor must have the preparation and the knowledge and the know how to get California working again."
If elected, this would be the second time around for Brown, who served two terms as California Governor from 1975-1983. Brown has already amassed at least a $12 million-dollar war chest and he has attracted the support of big Hollywood kingmakers; David Geffen, Jeffrey Katzenberg and Steven Spielberg are among those who have publicly endorsed him. So far no other big name Democrats are in the race; San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, once presumed to be Brown's fiercest primary opponent, dropped out of the contest last October.
The most recent surveys of California voters, conducted in mid-January by the Public Policy Institute and the Field Poll, indicated Brown leading the top Republican candidates - besting Meg Whitman by 5 to 10 points; and topping State Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner by 15 to 17 points.
One top Democratic donor who was torn between backing Brown and former eBay CEO Whitman tells CNN,"This is not the time in California's history to have someone who has never served in government deal with our problems."
(CNN) - Kentucky Sen. Jim Bunning is still not answering questions about his decision to block a bill that would extend unemployment benefits to millions of jobless Americans.
CNN's Dana Bash and a CNN camera crew again tried to get Bunning to comment more extensively on the controversy but the senator emphatically declined.
Savannah, Georgia (CNN) - President Barack Obama headed to Savannah Technical College in Georgia on Tuesday to highlight the jobs training program that is part of his stimulus and jobs plan. But it was the White House's attempt to control the media that raised eyebrows.
The White House focused on every detail to get their jobs message across, including where the White House press corps could set up its cameras. Due to logistical issues, the press corps considered using a nearby library but a White House staffer dismissed the idea, forcing the press to make a much more difficult trek to an area that showcased a classroom, where the jobs training occurred. The staffer suggested that the classroom was a better "backdrop" for the press corp and the message.
While the White House aides normally picks a venue for a presidential event, it is unusual for them to attempt to dictate positions for reporter "live shot" cameras - particularly for backdrop purposes.
The message mattered-so much so that the White House actually made it harder for TV reporters to do their jobs.
The White House did not have a comment when pressed further about this issue.
Update 5:22 p.m.: White House spokesman Ben Labolt responded to this blog post, saying the White House would have been "happy to work" with the press corps. LaBolt also explained that using the library would have forced the college to close down the area for the entire day, a different explanation than the one given earlier by another White House staffer.
Washington (CNN) - Newly-elected Sen. Scott Brown will sit on three powerful Senate committees, his office announced Tuesday.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell assigned Brown, who won his Massachusetts Senate seat in a special election in January, to the Senate Armed Services, Homeland Security and Veterans' Affairs Committees.
"We are currently involved in two wars, and these committees are critical in keeping our country safe, as well as protecting the men and women who defend us," Brown said in a statement. "It is equally important that the men and women in uniform receive the care and benefits they have earned through their selfless service."
Brown is a Lieutenant Colonel in the National Guard, where he has served for 30 years.
President Obama spoke Tuesday at Savannah Technical College in Savannah, Georgia. (PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images) Savannah, Georgia (CNN) - President Barack Obama highlighted an administration initiative Tuesday designed to provide incentives for homeowners to retrofit their homes in a more energy-efficient manner.
The Home Star program, which was first outlined in the president's State of the Union address, would provide rebates to homeowners of up to $3,000 for making energy efficient improvements to their houses. Customers would be eligible for direct rebates at the point of sale, according to the White House.
"This is a commonsense approach that will help jump start job creation while making our economy stronger," Obama said in a speech at Savannah Technical College. "It's what's right to plan for our future."
Among other things, the program would provide 50 percent rebates of up to $1,500 for simpler upgrades such the installation of better insulation, duct sealing, water heaters, windows, doors and roofing.
(CNN) - Sen. Jim Bunning's decision to block a bill extending unemployment benefits has become a political lightning rod among the four major candidates who are seeking to fill the outgoing Kentucky Republican's Senate seat.
Jack Conway and Daniel Mongiardo, the two Democrats vying for their party's nomination to replace Bunning, have condemned Bunning's actions as they seek to resonate with the 120,000 Kentuckians who currently receive unemployment benefits. Conway, the state's attorney general, has called Bunning's block "outrageous" and posted a petition to register disapproval with the move on his Web site.
Mongiardo - the current lieutenant governor - is going one step further, holding rallies Tuesday outside of Bunning's offices in Louisville and Lexington. Kim Geveden, Mongiardo's communications director, told CNN the campaign had invited Conway to attend the rallies, though Conway declined. Conway is currently in Washington, DC for official business, according to a spokeswoman.
It's a different story on the Republican side, where the two candidates battling for the party's Senate nomination are heralding Bunning's move as a prudent act of conservatism. Rand Paul, a doctor and son of Texas Rep. Ron Paul called attacks on Bunning "unfair" and is holding his own rally in support of Bunning in front of the senator's Lexington office at 3 p.m. ET. Trey Grayson, Kentucky's secretary of state, who's battling Paul, has also applauded Bunning's move.
Video of protesters in Louisville, Kentucky after the jump: