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: House approves DREAM Act, but Senate approval uncertain
A hotly debated measure that offers a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants who came to the United States as children won approval Wednesday from the U.S. House. The 216-198 vote, mostly on partisan lines, sends the so-called DREAM Act to the Senate, where it was uncertain if supporters had the votes to overcome a certain Republican filibuster against it. The Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act - or DREAM - would create a path to citizenship for immigrants who entered the United States illegally as children under the age of 16 and have lived in America for at least five years, obtained a high school or General Education Development diploma and demonstrated "good moral character," according to a White House fact sheet.
CNN: Senate Democrats postpone planned vote on 'don't ask, don't tell'
Unable to secure needed Republican support, Senate Democrats decided Wednesday to postpone a planned make-or-break vote on starting debate on repealing the "don't ask, don't tell" policy that bars openly gay and lesbian soldiers from the military. Jim Manley, the spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, said the showdown vote was delayed while negotiations continue with Republican senators whose support is necessary to overcome a GOP filibuster. Earlier, Reid said he was talking to one moderate Republican, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, to try to gain her support.
CNN: WH warns of deeper economic crisis
In a dramatic escalation of the rhetoric over President Obama's controversial tax cut deal, senior White House economic adviser Larry Summers warned Congress on Wednesday that failing to pass the legislation could lead to a double-dip recession in 2011. "If they don't pass this bill in the next couple weeks it will materially increase the risk that the economy would stall out and we would have a double dip," he told reporters at a White House briefing. Pressed for clarification given the dire nature of his statement, Summers stressed that he was only saying it would "significantly increase the risk" of that outcome and was not predicting an actual double dip recession, which is defined as a recession followed by a short-lived recovery and then another recession.
CNN: Sen.-elect on tax deal: I'm leaning against it
Kentucky's Senator-elect Rand Paul says that if he were already in Congress he would lean against voting for the recently announced tax deal. …"The most important thing government can do right now for the economy is to extend the Bush tax cuts. I would be for extending them permanently...If you're going to extend and add new tax cuts, you should couple them with cuts in spending. Instead, we're coupling them with increases in spending and I think that's the wrong thing to do. So I'd be leaning against voting for it."
CNN: House passes spending authorization bill
The House on Wednesday passed a measure that authorizes almost $1.1 trillion in government spending for the rest of the fiscal year, which would be the same level as last year. The 212-206 vote on mostly partisan lines sends the measure to the Senate for consideration. Such spending authorization is necessary to keep the government running, and despite deep divisions between Democrats and Republicans on policy, Congress was expected to pass a measure before the current lame-duck session ends in early January.
McClatchy DC: Clyburn, DeMint clash over South Carolina schools money
The most powerful members of the South Carolina congressional delegation are unable or unwilling to take the steps necessary to secure emergency funding to save the jobs of 2,600 public school teachers in the state. Time is running out as Congress rushes to finish its lame-duck session by Dec. 17. Anti-spending Republicans will take over the House of Representatives and wield more power in the Senate when the new Congress convenes next month, making it unlikely South Carolina could recoup the lost money for teachers.
CNN: House Republicans overhaul work calendar
House Republicans promised to run the House of Representatives differently than the Democrats, and they are starting with an overhaul of the work calendar for next year. Incoming House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Virginia, released a schedule on Wednesday which plans for mostly four-day work weeks in Washington, and also includes regular "constituent work weeks" for members to spend back in their districts. House sessions would go for two weeks, followed by a week back home in the district. Cantor said Republicans told leaders they wanted to cut back time in Washington to interact with constituents back home during the week, instead of mainly on weekends.
Washington Post: New Republican lawmakers are hiring lobbyists, despite campaign rhetoric
During his campaign to represent Wisconsin in the U.S. Senate, GOP nominee Ron Johnson accused Democratic incumbent Russell Feingold (D) of being "on the side of special interests and lobbyists. After promising voters that he would reform the culture of lobbying in Washington, instead Senator Feingold embraced lobbyists and declared himself to be on their side," a Johnson spokeswoman said at the time. But after defeating Feingold, Johnson himself has turned to K Street for help – hiring homeland security lobbyist Donald H. Kent Jr. as his chief of staff. Johnson is not alone: Many incoming GOP lawmakers have hired registered lobbyists as senior aides. Several of the candidates won with strong support from the anti-establishment tea party movement.
CNN: Ruling expected Friday in nation's last Senate battle
The judge presiding over Alaska's Senate race challenge is expected to issue a ruling Friday. Arguments began Wednesday in the legal challenge filed by Joe Miller which asserts that Alaska law prohibits misspelled write-in ballots from being counted and bars the state from applying more lenient standards for write-in ballots than other ballots. Sen. Lisa Murkowski ran for re-election as a write-in candidate, after losing the Republican primary to Miller. Five weeks after election day, Miller trails Murkowski by over 10,000 votes.
ABC News: More Money Woes Revealed At Republican National Committee
The Republican National Committee has quietly disclosed more than $4 million in previously unreported debt in amended filings with the Federal Election Commission, meaning yet another headache for embattled party chairman Michael Steele. In a letter to the FEC Wednesday, RNC official Boyd Rutherford said the unreported money woes "were discovered during a self-initiated internal review process, which was undertaken in connection with the arrival of a new Chief of Staff and Finance Director." The additional debt numbers only add to earlier reports that the RNC was not fully disclosing its unmet financial obligations.
Roll Call: O’Donnell Gets in Conservative Underdogs’ Corner
Christine O’Donnell wants to help other conservatives take on establishment Republicans, so she’s starting a new political action committee to help inexperienced candidates with a “passion” for conservative values avoid making the mistakes that tripped up her campaign this year. “It’s to help the underdog candidate find their way,” the Delaware Republican told Roll Call in an interview Wednesday. Speaking from a Northern Virginia hotel the morning after a dinner with tea party activists, O’Donnell praised independent-minded candidates and outlined her tentative vision for transitioning her losing Senate campaign into a political action committee.
CNN: Nixon Library will release 265 hours of White House tapes
The Richard Nixon Presidential Library will open a trove of records at the facility and online Thursday, including 265 hours of White House tapes, officials said. The library, in Yorba Linda, California, will also open more than 140,000 pages of presidential records and 75 hours of video oral histories, officials said. The library is part of the National Archives. The White House tapes span February 1973 to March 1973 and include a few from early April 1973. There are no transcripts for these tapes, but the library has produced a detailed subject log for each conversation, National Archives officials said in a statement. The tapes cover subjects such as the ceasefire in Vietnam, the release of American Prisoners of War, Watergate, U.S. policy in the Middle East, the assassination of two U.S. diplomats in Sudan by the Black September Organization, the state visits of King Hussein of Jordan and Prime Minister Golda Meir of Israel, the Wounded Knee incident, and Wage and Price controls, officials said.
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CNN: Will reading WikiLeaks cost students jobs with the federal government?
U.S. agencies have warned some employees that reading the classified State Department documents released by WikiLeaks puts them at risk of losing their jobs. But what about students considering jobs with the federal government? Do they jeopardize their chances by reading WikiLeaks? It's a gray area, said law professors and national security experts who spoke with CNN. The topic has been debated intensely in the past week in legal and academic circles, ever since several U.S. universities sent e-mails to students with warnings about reading leaked documents. They say students ought to be mindful of their future careers when commenting on or distributing the documents online - especially those planning to seek jobs in national security or the intelligence community, which require a security clearance.
Boston Globe: Health costs sap state aid for schools
Hundreds of millions of dollars the state has provided to local school districts to improve classroom education has instead been gobbled up by soaring health care costs for school employees, according to a new report that questions whether Massachusetts has fulfilled the ambitious goals of its 1993 education reform law. From 2000 to 2007, annual health care costs in school budgets grew by $1 billion, while state aid for schools grew by only $700 million, according to the report being released today by the Boston Foundation. Inflation has added to the problem, the report found, leaving schools underfunded by a total of $1.7 billion.
New York Times: To Test Housing Program, Some Are Denied Aid
It has long been the standard practice in medical testing: Give drug treatment to one group while another, the control group, goes without. Now, New York City is applying the same methodology to assess one of its programs to prevent homelessness. Half of the test subjects — people who are behind on rent and in danger of being evicted — are being denied assistance from the program for two years, with researchers tracking them to see if they end up homeless. The city’s Department of Homeless Services said the study was necessary to determine whether the $23 million program, called Homebase, helped the people for whom it was intended. Homebase, begun in 2004, offers job training, counseling services and emergency money to help people stay in their homes.
CNN: Remains of once-missing WWI veteran to be interred
A U.S. soldier who had been missing in action for 92 years will be buried with full military honors Thursday. On Wednesday, the Department of Defense's POW/Missing Personnel Office said the remains of Army Private Henry A. Weikel, 28, of Mt. Carmel, Pennsylvania, had been identified and returned to his family for burial. Weikel will be laid to rest in Annville, Pennsylvania, the office said in a statement. Weikel was part of the 60th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade, 5th Infantry Division during World War I. On September 16, 1918, Weikel's unit "encountered heavy enemy artillery barrage and machine gun fire near Jaulny, France, in a wooded area known as Bois de Bonvaux," the statement said. Weikel was killed in the battle, and his remains were buried along with those of two other soldiers nearby.
Denver Post: Judge: Names of SEC employees who viewed porn at work to remain secret
The names of U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission employees who viewed pornography on the taxpayers' dime will remain a secret to protect their privacy, a federal judge has ruled. "The Court concludes that the public interest in the individuals' names is negligible, at best," U.S. District Judge Christine Arguello wrote in a 29-page opinion issued Tuesday. "The SEC has already disclosed information sufficient to inform the public about the SEC's operations and activities related to the misconduct." An SEC investigation found 24 employees and seven employees of SEC contractors were using agency computers during work hours to access pornography from 2005 through this year. Those entangled in the scandal were either fired or disciplined.
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CNN: Prison fire kills 81 in Chile
Chile's president said Wednesday that conditions were "inhumane" at a prison south of Santiago where a fire killed 81 prisoners. President Sebastian Pinero visited a hospital where five injured inmates were hospitalized and afterward told reporters that the San Miguel prison was vastly overcrowded. "The conditions that existed at the prison were inhumane," Pinera said. "Chile does not deserve a prison system as we have. This is a problem that has dragged on for a long time."
Washington Post: Defense Secretary Gates: Progress in Afghan war has 'exceeded my expectations'
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said Wednesday that progress in the war in Afghanistan has "exceeded my expectations," giving a strong endorsement of the U.S. approach days before the White House is scheduled to complete a major review of its strategy. Gates gave his assessment on the second day of a visit to Afghanistan that included stops at several U.S. military bases and a meeting with President Hamid Karzai. "I will go back convinced that our strategy is working," he said at a news conference with Karzai. "The bottom line is that over the last 12 months we've come a long way. . . . There is no denying that the security climate is improving and that the sacrifices of Afghan and coalition troops are achieving greater safety and security." Next week, the White House is scheduled to finish the first major review of its Afghan strategy since last December, when President Obama ordered a surge of 30,000 additional troops to try to halt the spreading Taliban-led insurgency.
CNN: Top Chinese envoy meets with Kim Jong Il on Korean Peninsula tension
China's top foreign policy official met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il Thursday and the two sides "reached consensus" about defusing tensions on the Korean peninsula, officials said. The meeting marks the first between Kim and a top official from China since the flareup between the two Koreas. "The two sides reached consensus on bilateral relations and the situation on the Korean Peninsula after candid and in-depth talks," said Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu. She did not elaborate on what Kim discussed with the official, Dai Bingguo, during the latter's visit to Pyongyang.
Bloomberg: U.S. May Have ‘Problem’ Meeting Surging Wheat Demand
The U.S., the world’s largest wheat shipper, may not have the logistical capacity to meet rising global demand after rains cut the quality of the harvest in Canada and Australia, the United Nations said. As much as 8 million metric tons of Australia’s wheat harvest may be downgraded because of excessive rains and Canada’s output suffered from wet weather, pushing importers to seek alternative suppliers, said Abdolreza Abbassian, an economist at the UN Food & Agriculture Organization, citing government estimates. “Right now, the only country that would have such supply to compensate for the downgrade of Australia and also Canada would be the U.S.,” Abbassian said in an interview. “The problem is that the capacity in the U.S. for terminals to absorb enough milling wheat for shipment, it’s just not there.”
CNN: Panama Canal closes because of flooding
Heavy rains and flooding Wednesday prompted the closing of the Panama Canal for only the third time in its storied 96-year history. Officials closed the canal around noon and were hoping to reopen it by Wednesday evening, Fernando Lemos, spokesman for the Panama Canal administrator, said. "The situation might get better in the next few hours," Lemos said, "but there is no exact time as to when the canal will open again." …The last time the canal closed was in 1989, after the United States invaded Panama to topple strongman Manuel Noriega. Landslides forced the canal to close for several months from late 1915 to mid-1916, just months after it opened.
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CNN Money: MasterCard, Visa targeted in apparent cyberattack
The corporate websites of Visa and MasterCard were inaccessible at times Wednesday due to an apparent cyberattack by purported Wikileaks backers. Messages posted on Twitter indicated the attacks maybe be in response to recent moves by Visa and Mastercard against WikiLeaks, the website that recently released thousands of secret U.S. State Department documents. "The issue appears to be the result of a concentrated effort to flood our corporate website with traffic and slow access," said MasterCard spokesman James Issokson, in a prepared statement.
Wall Street Journal: U.S. Lays Out AIG Exit Plan
American International Group Inc. on Wednesday entered into an agreement with the U.S. government that details, among other things, the rights the Treasury Department will have as it begins to sell its controlling stake in an accelerated exit plan. The Treasury is aiming to sell at least $15 billion of its shares in the giant insurer in the first of a series of stock offerings starting in the first quarter of 2011, people familiar with the matter said. Executing the share sales, which are expected to total over $60 billion over two years, will involve a careful balancing act that aims to disentangle the government from the company without destabilizing it. While Treasury wants to exit its ownership as quickly as possible, it doesn't want to get in the way if AIG needs to buttress its capital position or that of its insurance subsidiaries by selling shares.
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