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 Democrats defy Obama on tax cut bill
House Democrats voted Thursday against considering the tax package that President Barack Obama negotiated with Republicans, raising questions over the president's influence in his own party. Later, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, released the first version of legislation to implement the negotiated deal and said the Senate would vote Monday to open debate on it. The Senate version made public by Reid was largely the same as the deal announced by Obama, but it added extensions of some tax breaks intended to spur green energy investment, such as ethanol use. However, the vote by the House Democratic caucus was a defiant rejection of both the agreement on tax and benefit measures, as well as what many Democrats in the chamber perceived as being marginalized in the talks by the White House. "This message today is very simple. That in the form that it was negotiated, it is not acceptable to the House Democratic caucus," said Democratic Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, who represented House Democrats in the negotiations. "It's as simple as that."
CNN: Senate rejects bid to open debate on repeal of 'don't ask, don't tell'
The Senate on Thursday rejected a Democratic bid to open debate on repealing the "don't ask, don't tell" policy banning openly gay and lesbian soldiers from military service, possibly killing any chance for it to get passed in the current congressional session. However, a bipartisan group of senators immediately said they would raise the issue again in a separate piece of legislation. It was unclear if the bid to separate the repeal provision from a larger defense authorization bill would increase its chances for approval. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, called Thursday's vote without an agreement with any Republican senators to support the motion, ensuring it would fail. The vote was 57-40 in favor of the cloture motion that required 60 votes to pass.
CNN: 9/11 responders bill defeated by Senate GOP filibuster
Senate Democrats failed Thursday to win a procedural vote to open debate on a bill that would provide medical benefits and compensation for emergency workers who were first on the scene of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The motion for cloture, or to begin debate, needed 60 votes to pass due to a Republican filibuster, but fell short at 57-42 in favor. While supporters said they would try to bring the bill up again, either on its own or as part of other legislation to be considered, the vote Thursday jeopardized the measure's chances for approval in the final weeks of the current congressional session.
The State: On immigration, two Grahams?
Six years ago, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham crafted a rare type of bill that blocked the U.S. government from punishing an Aiken high-school girl for a crime her mother had committed long ago — smuggling her across the Mexico border as an infant in search of a better life. Seven months ago, Griselda Lopez Negrete graduated from the University of South Carolina Aiken with an honors degree in business administration, and as a permanent legal resident of the United States on a path toward citizenship. Graham, though, has trod a different path. Three years after promoting a landmark immigration reform bill, Graham is now joining hardliners in opposing a measure that would grant the same protections to children of illegal aliens that he provided Negrete in 2004. Graham sees no contradiction between his past support for immigration reforms — branded “amnesty” by fellow South Carolina Republican U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint — and his current stance against a measure to create a conditional route to citizenship for as many as 500,000 children of illegal immigrants.
CNN: Waters delays demand for House investigation of ethics committee
A California congresswoman under investigation by the House ethics committee delayed plans Thursday to force a House vote on a measure that would launch an investigation into the committee for its handling of her case. Rep. Maxine Waters, D-California, has been accused of seeking federal assistance for OneUnited Bank, a minority-owned bank in which her husband held a financial interest. She has vehemently denied any wrongdoing and has repeatedly demanded a conclusion to the almost year-and-a-half-long investigation. Instead, Waters demanded the committee's leadership "set the record straight on its own accord, in a bipartisan manner, with a joint statement signed by the Chair and Ranking Member." The statement should respect, she said, "the public's and this body's right to know the circumstances of the events that led to the discipline of the two attorneys leading the case against me."
CNN: Feds pull high-speed rail funds from Wisconsin, Ohio
The Obama administration is pulling back $1.2 billion in funding for high-speed rail projects in Ohio and Wisconsin after the governors-elect in both states vowed to kill the proposed train lines. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced that he would re-direct the funds to other states, with California set to receive the largest sum. The Golden State will get another $624 million for a high-speed rail project that will ultimately link Los Angeles and San Francisco, while Florida will receive $342 million for an Orlando-to-Tampa line. That's on top of the funds already dedicated to the high speed rail projects in those states. Another $162 million will go to a project in Washington state, with the remaining funds divided up among 10 more states, the Transportation Department announced.
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CNN: Split verdicts for officers accused in post-Katrina killing
Three current and former New Orleans, Louisiana, police officers were convicted Thursday for shooting and burning a man in the chaos following Hurricane Katrina, then later trying to cover up the crime. Two other officers - one current and one former - were acquitted at the close of the 19-day trial. U.S. Attorney Jim Letten painted the split verdicts as a victory for prosecutors, as well as for the hurricane-ravaged city and its beleaguered police department. The crimes, one of several involving New Orleans police that have been and are set to go to trial, occurred just days after the hurricane hit the city.
CNN Money: Household wealth grows $1.2 trillion
Americans got richer in the third quarter even as home values hit the skids after more than a year of increases. Net worth for households and individuals climbed $1.2 trillion, or 2%, to $54.9 trillion in the third quarter, according to the Federal Reserve's Flow of Funds report released Thursday. Household wealth had tumbled in the second quarter - sliding $1.5 trillion between April and June - after having climbed for four straight quarters. But growth returned in the third quarter thanks to higher stock values, with the S&P rising 11% following a 12% slide in the second quarter.
Boston Globe: SJC ruling extends reach of DNA cases
The long arm of the law just got longer. The state’s highest court ruled yesterday that prosecutors can indict suspects known only by their DNA profiles and bring them to justice years later when police identify who the genetic material belongs to, even if the statutes of limitation have lapsed. In the Supreme Judicial Court’s first decision of its kind, the justices unanimously concluded that a DNA profile is an “indelible ‘bar code’ that labels an individual’s identity with nearly irrefutable precision.’’ As such, it can serve as the identity of the person indicted, even though the charging document lists the unknown defendant as John Doe.
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CNN: Empty chair will represent imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize winner
Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo will be represented Friday at the ceremony bestowing the honor by an empty chair, the second time such a symbol has been used in the event, the chairman of the Nobel Peace Prize Committee said Thursday. Thorbjorn Jagland told reporters that the gesture is not a protest. "It is a signal to China that it would be very important for China's future to combine economic development with political reforms and it is support for those people in China who are struggling for basic human rights," Jagland said at a news conference.
CNN: U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to attend Nobel Prize ceremony
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will attend the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize ceremony Friday in Oslo, Norway, as part of the official delegation on behalf of winner Liu Xiaobo of China, her office announced. Liu, a professor of literature, is serving an 11-year sentence in a Chinese prison for what the government called "inciting subversion of state power."
CNN: Tuition hike protesters attack car carrying Prince Charles, Camilla
Protesters enraged by a Parliament vote to triple university tuition rate caps, attacked a car carrying Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, Thursday night. The demonstrators broke a window and tossed paint on the car, however neither royal family member was injured in the attack. 'We can confirm that their Royal Highnesses' car was attacked by protesters on the way to their engagement at the London Palladium this evening," a spokesman for the prince said. "Their Royal Highnesses are unharmed." A wire photo of the royal couple, dressed in evening wear, shows startled expressions on their faces as they sit in their Rolls-Royce before exiting for a Royal Variety Performance.
Bloomberg: UN Climate Talks Face ‘Zombie’ Future as Treaty Stays Elusive
United Nations envoys from 193 countries end two weeks of climate talks today, hoping to agree on protecting forests and aid to poorer nations. Disputes between developed and developing nations on how to reduce greenhouse gases may kill those deals. At the meeting in the Mexican City of Cancun, China, India, Brazil and South Africa pressed industrialized nations to agree to new restrictions on fossil fuel emissions after current ones in the Kyoto Protocol expire in 2012. Japan, Canada and Russia refused, saying extending the accord misses the point because the world’s two biggest emitters, the U.S. and China, are not part of it. After last year’s push for a legally binding agreement to limit emissions collapsed in Copenhagen, the UN scaled back ambitions to focus on a series of programs to build to an eventual new treaty. A failure in Cancun to achieve that may lead to a loss of confidence in the UN-led international effort to curb global warming.
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Los Angles Times: Mortgage rates jump to 6-month high
Mortgage interest rates hit a six-month high this week, dashing the hopes of those who still want to refinance their loans. Mortgage financing giant Freddie Mac reported a fourth straight week of increases in fixed rates, with lenders offering an average 4.61% to well-qualified buyers with 20% down payments, or 20% equity in the case of refinancings. That means it now costs borrowers an extra $100 or so a month on a typical 30-year fixed-rate loan for $400,000, from four weeks ago when rates scraped bottom.
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New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg is brushing aside questions about a potential run for president.
Sherrod Brown says "don't ask, don't tell" vote failure is a response from Democrats upset with the president's tax plan.
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