(CNN) – The man overseeing embattled energy giant BP's efforts to stop a gushing underwater oil well was apologetic Thursday for not sharing more information about the company's "top kill" procedure while an increasingly anxious country waits for results.
With the world watching courtesy of several live video feeds demanded by the White House and Congress, BP began the "top kill" procedure Wednesday afternoon, an effort to force heavy drilling mud into the well and stop the flow of oil and gas up from beneath the seafloor. But at a press conference Thursday afternoon, BP Chief Operating Officer Doug Suttles made the surprise announcement that his company had suspended the operation more than 16 hours prior.
Asked why BP had left the country in the dark about the status of the procedure while the video feeds continued to broadcast from 5,000 feet below the surface of the water, Suttles told CNN Chief National Correspondent John King that the company had been perhaps too focused on the operation itself and not sufficiently focused on keeping the public informed.
"Well, John, I should say I've had a number of people mention that to me and clearly, we need to probably do even more to tell people what's occurring," Suttles said in an interview that aired on CNN's John King, USA. "You can imagine in some degree we're probably guilty of focusing so much on this operation. We've spent all of our time analyzing the results, looking at the next steps and we somehow need to continually feed data out there to the public so they know what's occurring. They're obviously able to watch the [oil] plume and the end of the riser [the broken pipe leaving the well], but we've actually said it's very difficult to tell exactly what's occurring from that.
"So, John, I probably should apologize to folks that we actually haven't been giving more data on that. It was nothing more than we're so focused on the operation itself."
Suttles also told King that after stopping the pumping of mud into the well around midnight Wednesday, BP had resumed the "top kill" procedure on Thursday evening.
And Suttles said that BP should know within the next 24-48 hours whether the procedure was working.
Washington (CNN) - The U.S. House and a Senate committee approved amendments to a military bill Thursday that would repeal the "don't ask, don't tell" policy barring openly gay and lesbian soldiers from military service, but only after some conditions are met.
The Senate Armed Services Committee voted 16-12 to approve compromise language on the repeal in an amendment to the military policy bill. The panel then voted 18-10 to send the bill to the full Senate.
In the House, the chamber voted 234-194 to add the amendment to its version of the defense policy bill. A final vote on the full bill was expected Friday.
President Barack Obama praised the votes.
"I am pleased that both the House of Representatives and the Senate Armed Services Committee took important bipartisan steps toward repeal tonight," Obama said in a statement. "This legislation will help make our Armed Forces even stronger and more inclusive by allowing gay and lesbian soldiers to serve honestly and with integrity."
The Human Rights Campaign, which advocates for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights, called it the first time since the "don't ask, don't tell" policy came into effect during the Clinton administration that any congressional body voted to repeal it.
Washington (CNN) - Fresh fundraising numbers might spell trouble for Sen. Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas. The Democrat raised less money in the last filing period than run-off opponent, Lieutenant Gov. Bill Halter.
Both campaigns released campaign finance reports on Thursday.
For the period between April 29 thru May 19, Lincoln's net contributions totaled $552,289.91. Halter raked in $777,119.94. That means Halter outpaced Lincoln by just over $224,830.
Most of Lincoln's total - nearly $233,000 - came from political committees, such as PACS. Just over $319,000 came from individuals.
In contrast, most of Halter's funds - just over $753,000 - came from individuals, whereas just over $24,000 came from political committees.
While Halter may have won this fundraising cycle, Lincoln has the clear edge in cash on hand – holding just over $1.5 million than Halter. The lieutenant governor entered the race just over 12 weeks ago.
(CNN) - Amid a press conference that largely focused on the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, President Barack Obama refuted allegations of impropriety surrounding reports that his administration offered Rep. Joe Sestak a position several months ago if he would drop his Pennsylvania Senate bid.
"I can assure the public that nothing improper took place," the President said, at the end of his hour-long press conference.
But Obama refused to give any more details on the alleged offer, even as several Republicans and a handful of Democrats have demanded the White House be more upfront on the matter.
(Updated with Sestak comments after the jump.)
"There will be an official response shortly on the Sestak issue, which I hope will answer your questions," Obama said when asked about the issue at the end of an hour press conference. "You will get it from my administration. And it will be coming out, when I say shortly, I mean shortly. I don't mean weeks or months."
(CNN) - The federal government gave partial approval Thursday to Louisiana's plan to keep oil out of coastal estuaries by dredging up new barrier islands, the official leading the government's response to the Gulf of Mexico spill said.
Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen called for a prototype project to begin on one of six segments approved by the Army Corps of Engineers.
"Implementing this section of the proposal will allow us to assess this strategy's effectiveness in protecting coastal communities and habitats of the Gulf region as quickly as possible," Allen said in a statement announcing the decision.
Allen said he has approved the use of dredges "where work could be completed the fastest," with the government and oil giant BP responsible for the costs.
Washington (CNN) - Speaker Nancy Pelosi predicts she has the votes in the House for repeal of the current "don't ask, don't tell" law barring gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military.
"I think the votes are there for that," Pelosi told reporters Thursday at her weekly press conference.
The Speaker pointed out that the compromise worked out with the White House makes the repeal contingent upon the completion of a Pentagon review that is scheduled to be finished by December.
"This amendment today is respectful of that. It doesn't repeal 'don't ask, don't tell', it defers to when that report comes forth."
Pennsylvania Democratic Rep. Patrick Murphy, an Iraq war veteran, has proposed an amendment to the defense policy bill that includes the compromise language negotiated with the Senate, the White House, and the Pentagon. The House is expected to vote on it, and the larger defense bill, late Thursday or Friday.
Most Republicans are opposed to the amendment.
Washington (CNN) - Louisiana Democrat Charlie Melancon lost his composure Thursday during a Capitol Hill hearing about the Gulf oil spill.
"Our culture is threatened. Our coastal economy is threatened. And everything that I know and love is at risk," Melancon, who represents many of the affected Louisiana shoreline areas, told his Capitol Hill colleagues.
Unable to finish reading his prepared statement, Melancon submitted it for the congressional record and then walked out of the hearing room as other lawmakers sought to comfort him.
Washington (CNN) - Sen. John McCain has released more tough ads against his Republican primary opponent, now saying that J.D. Hayworth is an "Avid Earmarker."
That is the title of the television and radio spots that the McCain campaign released statewide on Thursday. Sen. McCain is locked in a battle with the former congressman to win the GOP senate nomination in Arizona.
Both the radio and television ads cite Hayworth being "described as an 'avid earmarker.'" In a corresponding e-mail to reporters, the McCain campaign listed media reports to bolster their claim.
In the TV ad, McCain is cast as a staunch opponent "against pork barrel spending." "He fights to save us money," an announcer also says.
Then, over video of Hayworth, on-screen graphics list items that the ad says Hayworth supported while he was in Congress, including: "$220,000 to renovate Maine Blueberry farm," "$250,000 to control Maui seaweed," "$5.8 million for Vermont snowmobile trail," "$300,000 to map the genes of Michigan chickens" and "$223 million for 'Bridge to Nowhere'."
Washington (CNN) - Two well respected non-partisan political handicappers say Republican Dino Rossi's entrance into this year's Senate battle in Washington state is putting the Democratic-held seat into play.
Rossi officially announced his bid Wednesday.
Thursday, the Cook Political Report moved its rating of the contest from "solid Democrat" to "toss up" and the Rothenberg Political Report changed its classification from "safe" for Sen. Patty Murray, the Democratic incumbent, to a "narrow advantage for the Democrats."
Rossi, currently a commercial real estate investor, is arguably the best known Republican in Washington state, thanks to his two bids for governor. In an election that went into overtime, Rossi lost to Democrat Christine Gregoire by just a handful of votes six years ago. He was again defeated in a 2008 rematch by a wider margin.
Washington (CNN) - Just two days after the House Republicans launched AmericaSpeakingOut.com, an interactive site geared toward collecting ideas for the GOP, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee launched a site that allows their supporters to vote for the worst GOP ideas.
GOPContractWithAmerica.com is a campaign website that links to a new Facebook application that allows supporters to fill out a poll and share it with their Facebook friends. Republicans have said their new site is not campaign oriented.
"The DCCC launched this new initiative to enable our four million plus grassroots supporters to vote for the worst GOP priorities that benefited big corporate special interests under George W. Bush," DCCC Spokesman Ryan Rudominer told CNN in an e-mail. "The DCCC will continue on the cutting edge in allowing our grassroots supporters' voices to be heard."