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: Estate tax emerges as key Democratic beef in Obama's compromise
House Democrats will allow a vote on the tax compromise reached by President Barack Obama and Republicans but will try to change the deal, especially an estate tax provision they believe is beneficial to the wealthy, one of their leaders said Sunday. Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, who heads the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, told reporters that the package will get a vote in the House despite a threat by House Democrats last week to prevent it from reaching the floor.
CNN: Durbin pushes for tax vote
Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin said Sunday that Democrats "will need Republican support" to pass a tax package negotiated by President Obama with Republicans, though he declined to say whether he thinks the deal will pass the Senate. In an interview on CNN's "State of the Union," Durbin, D-Illinois, said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, has "promised" GOP backing on the deal to extend tax cuts. Durbin said he and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, have been counting votes and making calls throughout the weekend to drum up support for the plan, which is garnering intense backlash from Democrats.
CNN: Axelrod: No big changes to tax deal
President Barack Obama's senior adviser ruled out any major changes to the tax package negotiated with Republicans, saying Sunday that it is time to move forward on a compromise that includes elements distasteful to each side. In an interview on CNN's "State of the Union," David Axelrod said the focus must be on what is best for the country right now, rather than scoring political points or settling political scores. "You can focus on what you don't like and ... cut your nose off to spite your face, and that would be the wrong thing to do," Axlerod said, adding that he expected Congress to approve the deal because "everyone understands what it means to the economy if we don't get this done."
Washington Post: Obama faces fight over missile defense as he presses New START ratification
With only days left in the lame-duck Congress, President Obama is pushing hard to accomplish something never before done by a Democratic president: successfully get a nuclear arms-reduction treaty through the ratification process. White House senior adviser David Axelrod said on "Face the Nation" on Sunday that "the support is there" to pass the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) if it comes to the floor. The White House said Friday that Obama is willing to postpone his vacation until the U.S.-Russia pact is ratified. But it has become clear that Obama is facing a fight over the same issue that derailed President Bill Clinton's quest for a similar accord – missile defense, a cherished Republican goal dating back to Ronald Reagan's presidency. When Republican senators now say they need a fuller debate on the treaty, this is an important part of what they want to discuss.
CNN: Steele could announce his future on Monday
Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele has organized a private conference call with fellow committee members for Monday night in which he could announce whether he plans to seek a second term. Steele sent a brief and cryptic email to committee members on Saturday evening, asking them to "join me for a private conference call" and requesting that they RSVP for the call by replying to his personal email address. The email message was forwarded to CNN by multiple RNC members. The chairman, whose tenure has been marred by controversial public statements and questions about his handling of party finances, has remained mum about his future in recent weeks as a slew of candidates have lined up to replace him.
CNN: New group hopes to emphasize non-partisan solutions
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, an independent, will join several leading Democratic, Republican and other independent political leaders to launch of a new group that hopes to find non-partisan solutions to some of the nation's problems and to impact the next Congressional session. The organization, known as No Labels, kicks off Monday in New York with a series of panels discussing some key political problems in America and how it can help find common ground. Besides Bloomberg, among the participants in Monday's event are: Sens. Evan Bayh, D-Indiana; Kirsten Gillibrand, D-New York; Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia; Joe Lieberman, I-Connecticut.
Politico: John Thune, Tim Pawlenty in Iowa backyard battle
While other prospects for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination are already making forays into Iowa, Sen. John Thune has taken pains not to set foot in the first-in-the-nation state at all. The last time he was in the state was early 2009, headlining a campaign event for Iowa Rep. Steve King. Nevertheless, if he decides to run, the widespread assumption is that as the senator from neighboring South Dakota, he'll play well there. And that's a problem for Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, another potential GOP contender from a neighboring state who's been the most aggressive of the 2012 contenders about laying Iowa groundwork, with a systematic approach that includes hiring top Iowa-savvy GOP operatives and campaigning for state-level Republican candidates.
The Hill: New Jersey GOP lacking a name to face a more vulnerable Menendez
New Jersey Republicans may find themselves in a familiar spot heading into 2012 - absent a top-tier statewide candidate to face a Democrat with soft approval numbers. After serving as the party's Senate campaign chief in 2010, Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) faces his own reelection race in two years and early polling suggests he's vulnerable. The problem for Republicans, though, is nothing new - the party is staring at a thin statewide bench. "There really isn't anybody on the horizon for Republicans right now," said Monmouth University pollster Patrick Murray, who noted that even though Menendez's numbers are less than stellar, potential challengers are hardly lining up to take him on in 2012.
Roll Call: Angle’s Losing Nevada Bid Was Cash Juggernaut
She didn’t win, but campaign finance records made public late last week suggest that Sharron Angle captured the energy of the national tea party movement perhaps better than any other Congressional candidate in 2010. And the Nevada Republican has no plans to give it up.A former local legislator little-known even in her own state before she took on the Senate’s most powerful Democrat, Angle raised more campaign cash from donors than anyone else last cycle, drawing on a national network of conservative activists to raise a whopping $27 million through Election Day. That’s $4.4 million more than her opponent, Democratic Sen. Harry Reid, and millions more than others in more expensive media markets, according to a batch of post-election finance reports filed last week with the Federal Election Commission. Only self-financing candidates such as Linda McMahon in Connecticut were able to spend more.
CNN: In Haiti, Palin urges U.S. to do more to help
Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin was in Haiti on Sunday, urging the U.S government and other Americans to do more to help the earthquake-ravaged country. "Not to get political, but if some of the politicians would come here and see the conditions perhaps they would see the need for, say, a military airlift to bring the supplies that are so needed here," she said. Palin spoke at a brief press conference at a warehouse owned by the Samaritan's Purse organization north of Port-au-Prince. "(I) don't want Americans to forget the need that is here," she said. "More importantly, for Americans and people across the world to know what an individual can do to make a difference, to contribute, to kind of get out of your comfort zone and volunteer to help."
Detroit Free Press: Economy proved to be Jennifer Granholm's nemesis
Jennifer Granholm became Michigan's first female governor with rock star appeal. Eight years later, as she prepares to leave, her star has dimmed under the crushing weight of the worst economy in modern times. Even her critics admit the steep decline of Detroit's car companies was the root cause of the state's economic calamity. Still, detractors say she did too little to convince businesses that Michigan was a friendly place for them and not enough to address the state's long-term fiscal problems.
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CNN: Holbrooke in critical condition after aortic surgery
U.S. diplomat Richard Holbrooke was in critical condition at a Washington hospital Sunday night, after undergoing surgery on Saturday to repair a tear in his aorta, the State Department said. Holbrooke underwent another procedure on Sunday to improve his circulation, the department said in a statement Sunday night. Relatives, friends, colleagues and staff are by his side, and his wife Kati Marton spoke Sunday with Afghan President Hamid Kharzai and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari.
CNN: Snowstorm wreaks havoc, barrels east; Metrodome roof collapses
A powerful snowstorm barreled east through the Midwest on Sunday, bringing with it more precipitation and gusty winds and leaving behind a trail of significant damage, large snow drifts and subarctic temperatures, according to the National Weather Service. Winter storm warnings and advisories Sunday extended as far west as Illinois, as far east as Pennsylvania, and as far south as northern Alabama and Georgia. Meanwhile, residents of the upper Midwest who braved at-times blizzard conditions on Saturday faced the prospect Sunday night of wind chills dipping, in spots, as low as 30 degrees below zero. This comes after up to 23 inches of snow fell in parts of Minnesota and as many as 18.5 inches in Wisconsin since Friday.
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CNN: Afghan, NATO forces detain several people after weekend suicide attack
Afghan and coalition forces have detained several people after a weekend suicide attack that killed six Americans, officials said Monday. The attack took place Sunday in southern Afghanistan and all six NATO service members who were killed were Americans, a U.S. military source said. In the attack, a suicide bomber driving a minibus attacked a joint NATO and Afghan national army compound, the governor's office in the southern province of Kandahar said.
CNN: WikiLeaks rival plans Monday launch after internal split, founders say
Arguing that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has "weakened the organization," a newly organized rival to the website known for leaking official secrets says it will launch Monday. The founders of Openleaks.org say they are former WikiLeaks members unhappy with the way WikiLeaks is being run under Assange. "It has weakened the organization," one of those founders, Daniel Domscheit-Berg says in a documentary airing Sunday night on Swedish television network SVT. He said WikiLeaks has become "too much focused on one person, and one person is always much weaker than an organization."
CNN: South Korea to conduct naval drills
A new round of naval firing drills in South Korea is scheduled to steer clear of border islands, defense officials told the Yonhap News Agency on Sunday. The exercises, which will start Monday and end Friday, will take place off coasts on all sides of the country, the South Korean agency reported. None are scheduled near the Yellow Sea islands south of the maritime border with North Korea, defense officials said, but more locations could be added to the list. They come after similar live-fire drills conducted by South Korea last week.
CNN: At least 5 dead, 20 rescued, 17 missing after ship sinks off Antarctic
A South Korean fishing vessel sank Monday in frigid ocean waters about 1,000 nautical miles north of McMurdo Station in Antarctica, killing at least 5 people while at least 20 were rescued, according to maritime officials. A time-sensitive search was underway for another 17 people who were missing, said Maritime New Zealand spokesman Ross Henderson. While the ship sank in the Southern Hemisphere's late spring, water temperatures are just 2 degrees Celsius (35.6 degrees Fahrenheit), meaning crew members likely could only survive no more than 10 minutes before succumbing to hypothermia, authorities said.
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Bloomberg: OPEC Cheating Most Since 2004 as Options Signal Oil Hitting $100 Next Year
OPEC is breaching its production limits the most in six years, signaling the world’s biggest suppliers are ready to pump more crude next year as oil rallies toward $100 a barrel. The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries excluding Iraq pumped 26.78 million barrels a day this year, exceeding the quotas by an average of 1.934 million a day, the highest level since 2004, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Crude rose 11 percent in 2010 as demand recovered, trading at about $90 for the first time in two years. Options to buy at $100 next December are near a five-month high. Flouting quotas lets OPEC, which provides about 40 percent of the world’s oil, boost profits without changing targets set when the first global recession since World War II caused prices to tumble 78 percent. Analysts say the rally may lead the 12- member group to raise output next year after leaving quotas unchanged at this weekend’s meeting in Quito, Ecuador.
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