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: McConnell warns of filibuster on tax bill
Senate Republicans will filibuster any bill that doesn't extend Bush-era tax cuts to all income groups, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said Wednesday. "The reality is that 42 Republican senators don't believe we should raise taxes on anybody, and there are also an indeterminate number of Democrats who agree with that," McConnell told CNN. "You know how the Senate works," he said, referring to Senate rules that allow just 41 votes to filibuster legislation. "We're going to have an extension of all the current tax rates, the only issue is how long."
CNN: Hoyer to allow vote Thursday on middle class tax cuts
On the same day Congressional and White House negotiators met to broker a compromise on how to deal with the Bush-era tax cuts that are expiring at the end of the year, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer announced that House Democrats would push ahead on a vote Thursday to permanently extend tax breaks just for those making $250,000 a year or less. Republicans argue tax cuts should be extended for everyone, including the wealthy. Hoyer said the House bill would include permanent extensions of income tax rates for the middle class, plus tax breaks for married couples, the child tax credit, and the earned income tax credit.
CNN: House to vote on Rangel censure
The full House of Representatives is expected to vote Thursday on the House ethics committee's recommendation to censure New York Democratic Rep Charles Rangel. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, who handles the House floor schedule, told reporters Wednesday that he informed Rangel and Rep Zoe Lofgren, the chair of the ethics committee, that the committee's report would be considered Thursday afternoon. After a lengthy investigation, the House ethics committee found Rangel guilty on 11 counts of violating House rules, including failing to pay taxes on a vacation home in the Dominican Republic and improperly using his office to raise money for an educational center bearing his name. On November 18th the committee voted 9-1 to recommend that the House censure Rangel and that he pay restitution for any unpaid taxes. The committee's rules require that its report be presented to the House for a vote.
CNN: Congresswoman seeks answers on postponed ethics hearing
A California congresswoman under investigation by the House ethics committee ripped into that committee Wednesday, demanding to know why it secretly put two investigators working on her case on administrative leave on the same day it announced a postponement of a hearing. Cindy Morgan Kim, the committee's deputy chief counsel and its lead attorney in the case involving Rep. Maxine Waters, and Stacy Sovereign, a committee attorney who assisted on the case, were placed on administrative leave on November 19, ten days before the scheduled date of the hearing, Waters said in a statement.
CNN: Defeated members of Congress moved from offices to cubicles
It was a moving day deadline for members of Congress who won't be coming back in January, and most seemed to be meeting Wednesday's timetable to pack up their prestigious offices and move to relatively humble cubicles to finish their final days on Capitol Hill. But some are finding the temporary quarters a little demoralizing as staffers try to complete legislative duties from cubicles and banquet tables set up in the Rayburn Office Building cafeteria. Others are relegated to spending their December days sharing big, empty hearing rooms.
CNN: GOP to House: Party's over
The college football bowl season is weeks away from crowning a new national champion, but there will be no congratulatory votes for the winner on the House floor. That's because Republicans are planning to ban most official Congressional commemorations when they take over the chamber in January. Under new House rules being circulated by the GOP transition team, House Republicans would prohibit resolutions on the floor that congratulate sports teams, recognize anniversaries or birthdays, according to Brendan Buck, spokesman for the transition team. The rule would be part of a series of reforms to House rules in the new session of Congress.
CNN: Bathroom equality comes to the House
Pelosi may have "shattered the marble ceiling" as the first female House Speaker, but incoming Republican House Speaker John Boehner has decided to create equal bathroom access for female members of Congress. According to an announcement from the GOP transition team, the woman's restroom will be adjacent to the House floor to accommodate the 71 female members in the next Congress, something current female members live without. "As we continue to evaluate ways to open up the people's House, it's encouraging to be able to make changes like this that are long overdue," Boehner said in the statement.
CNN: Ensign's office says he's no longer target of federal investigation
Senator John Ensign's office says he's been told he's no longer a target of a federal grand jury investigation into whether he violated the law in an effort to cover up an affair he had with the wife of a former aide. The two-term Republican admitted in June to an extramarital affair with Cindy Hampton, his onetime campaign treasurer. She is the wife of top aide Doug Hampton. Ensign and his family were longtime friends with the Hamptons. Doug Hampton has given interviews stating his family has received money and employment offers from Ensign after he and his wife left the Senate staff in April 2008. Ensign admitted his parents gave the Hamptons $96,000 but said the money was a gift, not an effort to suppress word of the affair.
Roll Call: Nevada GOP Wary of Ensign Re-Election Bid
When the Nevada Republican Central Committee met in Fallon last month, it was announced to the audience that Sen. John Ensign would not be able to attend as planned. But there was an unusual reaction from some in the crowd of party leaders and activists: applause. The tongue-in-cheek ovation was followed by laughter, as Republicans know they have an awkward situation awaiting them in 2012. Ensign says he is running for re-election, despite spending much of the past year under the cloud of a federal investigation related to the extramarital affair he had with a former staffer. Many party insiders worry he could put the seat in jeopardy.
CNN: White House scrambles to show it's on point at fixing security leaks
The White House tapped a career counterterrorism official Wednesday to oversee government-wide efforts to fix security gaps in light of the WikiLeaks publication of classified documents. The appointment of Russell Travers as senior adviser for information access and security policy, along with other actions detailed in a "fact sheet" released by the White House press office, weren't enough to satisfy the ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, who said he doesn't "sense an urgency" to close the security gaps. Travers has been deputy director of the National Counter-Terrorism Center since 2003 and spent the rest of his 30-plus-year career working for such intelligence agencies as the CIA and the Defense Intelligence Agency.
New York Times: Obama Rallying Support for Pact With Russia
President Obama appears to be building momentum for Senate approval of a new arms control treaty with Russia by the end of the year, but it may have to come at the expense of other legislative priorities with far greater support among his liberal base. With more Republicans signaling a willingness to vote for the so-called New Start treaty, Mr. Obama faces the challenge of finessing relationships with supporters who want him to focus more energy in the short lame-duck session on issues like immigration and gay rights while giving enough members of the opposition reason to vote for the pact.
CNN: Obama bans eastern Gulf drilling for 7 years
President Barack Obama will not be allowing new drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico for at least seven years, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced Wednesday. The exploration of drilling possibilities in sensitive areas of the Arctic will proceed "with utmost caution," he said. Obama's decision effectively reverses White House plans announced at the end of March to open the Gulf region - along with other large swaths of U.S. coastal waters - to oil and natural gas drilling.
CNN: Palin's intentions questioned as she heads back to Iowa
As Sarah Palin heads back to Iowa on Thursday for her second book signing in the key political state within a week, her decision not to engage with political activists and veterans of past caucuses is drawing mixed reviews. She will autograph copies of her new book "America by Heart" at a Walmart Super Center in Spirit Lake, in the western part of the state and an area known as a stronghold for conservatives. Last Saturday several hundred attended a book signing in West Des Moines. While in the Hawkeye state, Palin has not reached out to those political operatives who are being courted by others who are considering running for the Republican nomination, even as she mulls whether she will enter the fray.
CNN: RNC candidates: Steele a risk in 2012
Four candidates hoping to take over the Republican National Committee from Chairman Michael Steele warned party activists Wednesday that the GOP could risk their ability to capture the White House in 2012 unless a leadership change is made atop the party. Their jabs at Steele, who has yet to announce if he will seek a second term at the committee, took place at a forum for RNC candidates sponsored by the Tea Party-aligned group FreedomWorks and the Republican National Conservative Caucus (RNCC), a coalition of conservative RNC members. The RNC will elect a chairman at their mid-January winter meeting in Maryland.
CNN: Gov. O'Malley preparing for next election cycle
The incoming chairman of the Democratic Governors Association says he's preparing for the upcoming election cycle. Gov. Martin O'Malley of Maryland Wednesday was formally elected to take over as head of the DGA, as he met with other Democratic governors and governors-elect. "We have a lot of hard work ahead of us," O'Malley said at a luncheon in the nation's capitol to introduce the DGA's new leadership team.
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CNN: Ex-cop gets 8 years for role in post-Katrina shootings
A former New Orleans, Louisiana, police officer who pleaded guilty to covering up police shootings of civilians on a Louisiana bridge in the days following Hurricane Katrina was sentenced Wednesday to eight years in prison, authorities said. Former officer Michael Hunter pleaded guilty April 7 in federal court in New Orleans to conspiracy to obstruct justice and for misprision of a felony (for concealing a known crime), in the Danziger Bridge shootings in New Orleans that left two dead and four seriously wounded, the Department of Justice said in a statement Wednesday.
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CNN: Mullen: China must do more to end North Korea's 'reckless behavior'
China's call for a return to talks is an inadequate response to the threat posed by North Korea, America's top military officer said Wednesday. China reacted to the increased tensions after the artillery shelling of a South Korean island killed four people by urging a return to the six-party talks that include North Korea, South Korea, China, the United States, Japan and Russia. "Beijing's call for consultations will not be a substitute for action," said Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
CNN: Pakistani man sues U.S. over drone strikes
A Pakistani man is suing the U.S. government for $500 million over the death of his son and brother, whom he said were killed in a U.S. unmanned drone strike last year, his attorney said. Shahzad Akbar, attorney for Kareem Khan, told CNN his client also wants all drone attacks halted. He said he has submitted a legal notice to U.S. officials, including Defense Secretary Robert Gates, CIA Director Leon Panetta and Islamabad's CIA station chief, Jonathan Banks. Kareem Khan told CNN that an airstrike on December 31, 2009, targeted his home in Machikhel, a village in North Waziristan.
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CNN Money: Fed made $9 trillion in emergency overnight loans
The Federal Reserve made $9 trillion in overnight loans to major banks and Wall Street firms during the financial crisis, according to newly revealed data released Wednesday. The loans were made through a special loan program set up by the Fed in the wake of the Bear Stearns collapse in March 2008 to keep the nation's bond markets trading normally. The amount of cash being pumped out to the financial giants was not previously disclosed. All the loans were backed by collateral and all were paid back with a very low interest rate to the Fed - an annual rate of between 0.5% to 3.5%.
Washington Post: Fed aid in financial crisis went beyond U.S. banks to industry, foreign firms
The financial crisis stretched even farther across the economy than many had realized, as new disclosures show the Federal Reserve rushed trillions of dollars in emergency aid not just to Wall Street but also to motorcycle makers, telecom firms and foreign-owned banks in 2008 and 2009. The Fed's efforts to prop up the financial sector reached across a broad spectrum of the economy, benefiting stalwarts of American industry including General Electric and Caterpillar and household-name companies such as Verizon, Harley-Davidson and Toyota. The central bank's aid programs also supported U.S. subsidiaries of banks based in East Asia, Europe and Canada while rescuing money-market mutual funds held by millions of Americans.
CNN Money: Stocks rally: Dow soars 249 points
Stocks surged over 2% Wednesday as signs of economic strength in the United States and China tempered worries about the European debt crisis. The Dow Jones industrial average (INDU) soared 249 points, or 2.3%, to close at 11,256. The S&P 500 (SPX) jumped 25 points, or 2.2%, to 1,206. The Nasdaq (COMP) added 51 points, or 2%, to 2,549. It was the biggest one-day gain for the Dow since early September, and came after stocks ended November on a sour note, with all three major gauges marking declines for the month.
In Case You Missed It
In a rare joint interview, Pentagon Press Sec. Geoff Morell and State Dept. Spokesmen P.J. Crowley react to WikiLeaks.
Rep. Steve King of Iowa objects to settlements for black farmers, saying doing so is essentially paying reparations.
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