The CNN Washington Bureau’s morning speed read of the top stories making news from around the country and the world. Click on the headlines for more.
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CNN: Congress OKs stop-gap spending, ready to go home
Congress on Thursday passed a measure to fund the federal government another two months, their last major legislative action before shutting down and returning to the campaign trail for the Nov. 2 elections. The House voted 228-194 early Thursday morning and the Senate voted 69-30 on Wednesday to pass a stop-gap effort that effectively keeps the lights on at agencies and major federal programs until Dec. 3.
CNN: Democrats narrowly pass resolution to adjourn before elections
House Democratic leaders barely headed off a revolt Wednesday from 39 moderate Democrats who sided with Republicans and voted against a procedural resolution that would let Congress adjourn before the midterm elections. GOP leaders framed the measure as a de facto vote on agreeing to leave Washington without voting on whether to extend the Bush-era tax cuts due to expire at the end of the year. The Democrats who split with their party face tough re-election battles and didn't want to give the GOP a political talking point by going on record that they were ready to leave without taking up the issue.
CNN: House passes bill to help 9/11 first responders
A bill to provide medical benefits and compensation for emergency workers who were first on the scene of the September 11, 2001, terror attacks won approval Wednesday from the U.S. House. The measure passed on a mostly partisan 268-160 vote. The Senate has yet to take up the issue.
CNN: Democrats to target GOP leader
National Democrats are preparing a full-blown campaign accusing House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, of being a Beltway insider – an effort tied to the broader goal of painting all congressional Republicans as beholden to lobbyists and special interests. Boehner, in line to be speaker if the GOP regains control of the House, will deliver a speech Thursday on congressional reform – a theme that has helped the GOP politically in an election year where voters are frustrated and angry with Washington.
CNN: Idaho Democrat latest to waver on support for Pelosi
Freshman Rep. Walt Minnick of Idaho is the latest House Democrat to distance himself from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, saying he hasn't decided if he would back Pelosi again for speaker. "I'm going to have to see who's running," Minnick responded when asked whether he supports Pelosi.
Politico: Hoyer sets himself apart from Pelosi
Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer have always been very different kinds of leaders – but with a high-stakes midterm cycle coming to an uncertain close for Democrats, the distance between the two has become magnified. For while Hoyer remains the picture of a loyal second-in-command, he’s also made clear that his political style and, to a lesser extent, substance, is markedly different from Pelosi's. And that sets up Hoyer as a clear alternative to Pelosi should she leave leadership voluntarily, or by political force, after November's mid-term election.
CQ Politics: In W.Va., Senate Is Yet Another Seat to Sweat
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has dropped half a million dollars into West Virginia’s Senate race in the past week while the National Republican Senatorial Committee has spent $1.2 million. The ad buys came as GOP nominee John Raese dropped into Washington, D.C., for a sit-down with NRSC Chairman John Cornyn (Texas) and as Democratic operatives continue to scramble to play down a Democratic poll that showed Gov. Joe Manchin III (D) trailing in the contest.
Wall Street Journal: Loyalty to Obama Costs Democrats
Live by the president and you could die by the president. Democrats who have been thorns in the president's side are doing well in some of the toughest districts for their party, from Alabama to the steel belt of western Pennsylvania. But swing-district Democrats who have voted with the president in Congress are struggling, even if they're now asserting their independence.
New York Times: Democrats Find Many Big Donors Cutting Support
Many wealthy Democratic patrons, who in the past have played major roles financing outside groups to help elect the party’s candidates, are largely sitting out these crucial midterm elections. Democratic donors like George Soros, the bête noire of the right, and his fellow billionaire Peter B. Lewis, who each gave more than $20 million to Democratic-oriented groups in the 2004 election, appear to be holding back so far.
CNN: McCain to give NRSC $1 million
The National Republican Senatorial Committee blasted out an email to reporters Wednesday afternoon with the headline that Sen. John McCain has offered $1 million to the organization. The promise comes as the party committee is looking to pick up at least 10 seats in order to take back a majority in the Senate. NRSC Chairman Sen. John Cornyn praised McCain, saying, "It's very encouraging to see Sen. McCain step up and do this. Republicans have historically not done this like Democrats have, and that has been a real competitive advantage that they have had."
CNN: GOP pushes military absentee ballots
Several Republican lawmakers Wednesday urged Attorney General Eric Holder to immediately force states and counties which missed the deadline for mailing military absentee ballots to act promptly to ensure men and women in uniform can vote in time for the November election. By law, military ballots were to have been sent by September 18th. The Senators led by Jeff Sessions, R-Alabama, insisted the Justice Department "initiate immediate litigation to enforce voting rights law– otherwise many service members will not receive ballots in time," the GOP letter said.
Alaska Daily News: Miller late in filing disclosure with Senate
U.S. Senate candidate Joe Miller still hasn't filed the required forms meant to allow the public a glimpse at the investments, personal wealth and potential conflicts of interest of those who want to represent them. They were due months ago. "It was a simple oversight; we're already working on it, and it will be filed as soon as possible," Miller campaign spokesman Randy DeSoto said Wednesday.
CNN: O'Donnell: God kept me in politics
Delaware GOP Senate nominee Christine O'Donnell said Wednesday God is the reason she didn't give up on politics after her failed 2008 Senate bid. "God continued to strengthen and empower us," O'Donnell told the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN). "If it weren't for faith when all logic said it's time to quit, we pursued, we marched on because we knew God was not releasing us to quit."
CNN: Brown responds to Whitman allegations
Jerry Brown, the Democratic nominee for governor in California, has responded to allegations that GOP nominee Meg Whitman subjected her former housekeeper, Nicky Diaz-Santillan, to emotional and financial abuse. "Once again, Meg Whitman has shown that she thinks the rules don't apply to her," Brown said in a statement. "From the start, Meg Whitman has failed to tell Californians the truth."
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CNN: Army's largest base reeling from four apparent suicides in one weekend
Four soldiers from Fort Hood, Texas died over the week. In all four cases, it appears the soldiers, all decorated veterans from the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan, took their own lives, according to Christopher Haug, a Fort Hood spokesman. If confirmed as suicides, it would be on top of 14 other suicides on the base this year.
CNN: Times Square plotter planned to attack again, prosecutors say
Prosecutors say Faisal Shahzad, the 30-year-old Pakistani-American suspect in the failed Times Square bombing case, carefully selected his location as a highly populated target, and intended to strike again if he wasn't caught the first time. Shahzad is accused of attempting to set off a vehicle bomb in Times Square on May 1, according to documents filed in federal court Wednesday. The bomb failed to detonate and he was arrested two days later while trying to leave the country on a flight from New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport bound for Pakistan.
New York Times: Gates Fears Wider Gap Between Country and Military
The United States is at risk of developing a cadre of military leaders who are cut off politically, culturally and geographically from the population they are sworn to protect, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates told an audience at Duke University on Wednesday night. In a speech aimed at addressing what he sees as a growing disconnect between the country as a whole and the relatively few who fight its wars, Mr. Gates said that although veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan were embraced when they came home, “for most Americans the wars remain an abstraction — a distant and unpleasant series of news items that do not affect them personally.”
Washington Post: Postal Service close to going broke
Americans can still send and receive mail, but the U.S. Postal Service may not have much left in the bank after this week, as it's set to announce billions of dollars in losses as early as Thursday. It's also waiting for postal regulators to announce Thursday whether they approve of a proposed 5.6 percent postage-rate increase, to start in January. The proposed increase faces stiff resistance from business groups and lawmakers, who say that the USPS should instead make deeper spending cuts to meet its financial obligations.
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CNN: Official: Soldiers argued before two were killed
A verbal altercation between four U.S. soldiers in Iraq preceded the fatal shooting of two and wounding of a third, a U.S. military official said Wednesday. Spc. Neftaly Platero is in pre-trial confinement, suspected in the deaths of Spc. John Carrillo Jr. and Pfc. Gebrah P. Noonan, the military said Tuesday.
CNN: Report: Koreas begin military talks
South Korea and North Korea on Thursday morning began military talks for the first time in nearly two years, the Yonhap news agency reported. The working-level military talks were being held at the truce village of Panmunjom on the Korean border.
Jerusalem Post: Netanyahu: I am committed to peace with Palestinians
After meeting with US Middle East Envoy George Mitchell in Caesarea on Wednesday, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said that he and his government are committed to reaching a peace agreement with the Palestinian leadership. "There are many obstacles on the road to peace," the prime minister said before meeting with Mitchell. "There are many skeptics. There is one way to prove them right. That is not to try."
CNN: NATO airstrike kills Afghan civilians
A NATO raid left four civilians dead - including two children - in eastern Afghanistan, a district governor told CNN on Thursday. The International Security Assistance Force said "there is credible evidence" that civilians were killed in the airstrike in Ghazni province.
New York Times: Pakistan Halts NATO Supplies to Afghanistan After Attack
Pakistan closed a vital transit link for NATO supplies for the war in Afghanistan on Thursday in apparent retaliation for an attack by coalition helicopters on a Pakistani security post hours earlier. Trucks and oil tankers were stopped at the border post of Torkham just north of Peshawar and it was unclear when the post would reopen, a Pakistani security official said.
CNN: China: 3 Japanese nationals released
China on Thursday released three Japanese nationals after they admitted illegally entering a Chinese military zone and expressed regret, state-run media said. Another Japanese national, who worked with the three, remained under house arrest for illegally videotaping military targets and an investigation was continuing, the Xinhua news agency said.
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Wall Street Journal: Plan Would Pare U.S. Stake in AIG
American International Group Inc. and its various overseers are finalizing a plan to accelerate repayment of the company's taxpayer debt and allow the U.S. government to exit from majority ownership, according to people familiar with the matter. The plan, which has many moving parts, needs the approval of AIG's board of directors, the Treasury Department, the Federal Reserve and three trustees who oversee the government's current 79.8% ownership interest in AIG, the people said.
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