Washington (CNN) - On the eve of the latest White House Afghanistan update, the incoming head of the House Armed Services Committee said he wants to hear directly from the commander, Gen. David Petraeus, to determine what progress has been made.
Rep. Howard "Buck" McKeon, R-California, who next month will take over as chairman of the defense committee, said Wednesday he will ask Petraeus to testify.
(CNN) - Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Oregon, on Wednesday claimed President Obama put pressure on Democrats to vote for a controversial extension of Bush-era tax cuts, saying it would be "the end of his presidency," but the White House says it's not true.
In an interview with CNN's Eliot Spitzer on "Parker Spitzer," DeFazio said "The White House is putting on tremendous pressure, making phone calls; the president's making phone calls saying that's the end of his presidency if he doesn't get this bad deal."
(CNN) - Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, announced Wednesday that she now supports a repeal of the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy, making four Republican Senators in all who have publically endorsed the end of the 17-year-old prohibition against openly gay soldiers from serving in the U.S. military.
In a statement, Snowe said she came to the conclusion after "careful analysis," but also stressed the importance of allowing time to implement a plan for repeal.
Snowe's announcement means, in theory, supporters of a repeal have more than the 60 senators needed to end debate.
Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska and Scott Brown, R-Massachusetts, are the other GOP senators who have voiced support for the repeal. In her statement, Snowe joins Murkowski and Brown who have said their vote is contingent on the Senate finishing work on both the tax cut legislation and the bill to fund the government.
The House passed a stand-alone bill to repeal the policy Wednesday, putting increased pressure on Senate Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nevada, to bring a vote on the measure to the floor before the end of this Congress.
Snowe also criticized the Senate for the delay of the defense authorization bill. Originally, a repeal of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy was included as part of the Defense Authorization Bill – a strategy supporters of repeal hoped would speed passage, as senators who oppose repeal would be forced to make a politically risky vote against military policy.
"It is undeniable that we could have avoided this situation, where three weeks before the end of the legislative session we are without a national defense authorization bill for the first time in 48 years," Snowe said in a statement. "It was a misguided judgment to hold up the critical defense authorization bill."
Snowe's announcement came about the same time Wednesday that Sens. Carl Levin, D-Michigan, and John McCain, R-Arizona, the chairman and ranking member of the Armed Services Committee, announced an agreement on a defense bill, stripped of controversial provisions, that the senators think can be unanimously approved by the Senate in the coming days. The move could clear the way for Snowe to vote for the separate bill repealing "don't ask, don't tell."
The open question is whether there will be time to do so, with 10 days until Christmas and the Senate's plate already full with the START treaty and an enormous, controversial spending bill.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Sen. Snowe's vote on "don't ask, don't tell" was contigent on the passage of the Defense Authorization bill.
Washington (CNN) – If you thought the quick agreement on a recent tax cut bill meant bipartisanship was taking hold in the Senate, brace yourself for whiplash as the chamber turns to several hotly contested bills Democrats want to clear before adjourning - a legislative push that has left Republicans fuming.
First up will be the New START nuclear arms reduction agreement with Russia, which key Republicans are working to block – primarily, they argue, because there is not enough time left in the lame duck congressional session to debate the issue adequately. Formal consideration of the far-reaching treaty begins Thursday morning.
(CNN) - Former President Bill Clinton's childhood home in Hope, Arkansas is now a national park.
The two and a half story white house where Clinton lived for the first four years of his life was announced as a national park on Wednesday– making it the 394th park in the National Park System.
Washington (CNN) - The House of Representatives voted Wednesday to overturn the ban on openly gay and lesbian soldiers serving in the U.S. military, passing legislation repealing the controversial "don't ask, don't tell" policy.
The bill - a so-called "standalone" measure not tied to any other legislative items - passed 250 to 175 in a virtual party-line vote. It now advances to the Senate.
Washington (CNN) – Hoping to remind Republican National Committee members of his close ties to controversy-prone Chairman Michael Steele, rivals of Wisconsin GOP Chairman Reince Priebus are circulating photos of him and Steele palling around together in happier times.
Titled "Dream Team," the photo gallery is an attempt to depict Priebus as a loyal sidekick to Steele, whose tenure at the RNC has been sullied by gaffes and fundraising scandals. Priebus helped manage Steele's last campaign and served as the RNC's top lawyer until earlier this month.
(CNN) – With a stacked legislative agenda to pass before the end of the year, the latest battle in the Senate centers on when members will head home to their districts to celebrate Christmas.
After Senate Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nevada, left the door open to keeping the Senate in session through the holiday, Arizona Republican Sen. Jon Kyl accused him of "disrespecting one of the two holiest of holidays for Christians."
Washington (CNN) - Former Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman confirmed Wednesday that he will not challenge Michael Steele for the Republican National Committee chairmanship.
"I've been pretty consistent on this, it's very simple," Coleman told MinnPost.com. "I've said if Steele was running, I wouldn't run against him. He strongly supported me in the past; I made that commitment to him a number of months ago – if he's in I'm not in."
Beijing, China (CNN) - New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson arrived here just a little while ago - a short layover on the way to Pyongyang, North Korea.
I am traveling with him covering his four day private visit to North Korea. I've been to China and South Korea - including the DMZ - but never to North Korea and am looking forward to seeing it.