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: New Congress: Symbolism early, sizzle to come
As the new Congress convenes Wednesday, the initial focus for Republicans, fresh off their 2010 midterm election victories, will start off symbolic with the legislative meat to be served shortly after. House Speaker John Boehner recently laid out his vision for the upcoming session, vowing to make the "people's House" more transparent. His first order of business will be passing a new set of rules for the legislative chamber. And in a move to satisfy the leanings of the Tea Party movement, which propelled the GOP to its historic takeover of the House, the Constitution will be read aloud on the House floor on the second day of the new session. In addition, all new bills must meet a constitutional test. And the first significant legislative item Boehner wants to tackle? President Barack Obama's health care reform law.
CNN: Some Senate Democrats to try to change filibuster rules in new Congress
Senate Democrats, anxious to reign in what they consider abuse of the filibuster by Senate Republicans, will formally propose changes Wednesday to how and when senators can use the stalling tactic. However, Senate leaders – using their own procedural smoke and mirrors – will postpone votes on the proposals until late January at the earliest as they negotiate possible compromises to the politically contentious issue, according to Senate leadership aides from both parties. Frustrated by Republicans' escalating use of the filibuster, to stall even routine legislation and nominations, a group of Senate Democrats, led, in part, by first-term Sen. Tom Udall of New Mexico, is trying to build support for a wide-range of proposed Senate rule changes that would curb the use of filibusters but not ban them entirely. When the Senate convenes Wednesday, Udall will introduce one or more his proposals. Typically, a Senate rule change requires a super majority of 67 yes votes, something that will be difficult for Democrats, with their narrow 53-seat majority, to achieve. However, on the first legislative day of a new Congress, a simple majority of senators, just 51 votes, can approve new rules.
The Hill: Tight calendar for 112th limits GOP’s options on spending cuts
The legislative schedule established by House Republicans for their new majority will make it all but impossible for the GOP to pass separate appropriations bills for fiscal 2011, congressional aides said Tuesday. The continuing resolution to fund the government runs out on March 4, leaving House Republicans with a shrinking number of days to identify cuts and pass a bill before the stopgap measure expires. The tight timeline means that the option of 12 appropriations bills, which would maximize the ability of the GOP to go after programs it considers wasteful, is all but off the table, according to aides on both sides of the aisle.
Politico: GOP backpedals on committee attendance rule
House Republicans have voted to peel back a requirement that would have required them to publicly post committee attendance - the first reversal on a set of proposed rules the GOP has laid out as it prepares to take control of the House on Wednesday. The amendment was offered Tuesday evening by conservative Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert and adopted by a voice vote. Republicans positioned the posting of attendance online as a major step that would help increase accountability and bolster the activity of committees – both major tenets of John Boehner's (R-Ohio) impending speakership. But the quick reversal shows that not everyone in the Republican Conference was ready to embrace this step.
CNN: Obama signs food safety bill
President Barack Obama on Tuesday signed the most sweeping overhaul of America's food safety system since 1938. The legislation gives the federal Food and Drug Administration the authority to impose new rules to prevent contamination and allows the agency to order, rather than simply suggest, the recall of tainted foods. It also authorizes the creation of a food tracking system to quickly pinpoint the source of outbreaks. The legislation requires producers to assess ways in which their products could be contaminated and to take steps to prevent such problems. It also requires importers to verify the safety of all foods they bring into the country.
CNN: Obama may announce staff moves as early as Friday
President Obama has narrowed the list of candidates for White House chief of staff down to two - current interim boss Pete Rouse and former Clinton Commerce Secretary William Daley - according to two senior Democratic sources close to the process. The president wants to move quickly on naming the next full time chief of staff, the sources said, noting that a slew of staff moves could be announced as early as Friday. The two Democratic sources told CNN that the president would like to get the uncertainty about his long-term chief of staff sorted out within the next week as part of a broader reshuffling that will also likely include the departure of Press Secretary Robert Gibbs.
New York Times: A Reversal for Medicare on Planning for Life’s End
The Obama administration, reversing course, will revise a Medicare regulation to delete references to end-of-life planning as part of the annual physical examinations covered under the new health care law, administration officials said Tuesday. The move is an abrupt shift, coming just days after the new policy took effect on Jan. 1. Many doctors and providers of hospice care had praised the regulation, which listed “advance care planning” as one of the services that could be offered in the “annual wellness visit” for Medicare beneficiaries. While administration officials cited procedural reasons for changing the rule, it was clear that political concerns were also a factor. The renewed debate over advance care planning threatened to become a distraction to administration officials who were gearing up to defend the health law against attack by the new Republican majority in the House.
CNN: Oil industry calls on Congress to open more areas to drilling
The American Petroleum Institute has a message to Congress as it starts work Wednesday: Open more areas for drilling and we will create more jobs for the American people. "With the right policies in place at all levels of government, our industry stands ready to be the engine of economic growth and recovery this country needs in 2011 and well beyond," said the industry group's chief, Jack Gerard, in a speech Tuesday. The institute commissioned a study that says if the government will sign off on a plan to open the Eastern Gulf of Mexico, portions of the Rocky Mountains, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and the Atlantic and Pacific Outer Continental Shelf to oil and natural gas exploration and production, the industry can create 530,000 jobs by 2025.
CNN: Lieberman hints at Senate future
Independent Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman hasn't made much noise about running for re-election in 2012, but according to a new interview, if he does run, he won't be returning to his Democratic roots. Instead, he says he'll "likely" run as an independent. Speaking to CNN affiliate WFSB in Hartford, CT in an interview for the weekly Sunday show "Face the State," Lieberman told host Dennis House that he thinks he could win re-election to the U.S. Senate, but that it would be a difficult race.
Newark Star-Ledger: Gov. Christie's dismissal of county education chiefs draws criticism from N.J. Senate majority leader
While Gov. Chris Christie told reporters today that a need for "change" was behind his decision to not renew the contracts of a third of the state’s executive county school superintendents, the Senate majority leader criticized the move, calling it a "policy of politics before kids. The executive county superintendents are watchdogs for school children and property taxpayers. They are professionals who went through a long vetting process and (were) selected because they weren’t going to put politics before sound educational policy," said Barbara Buono (D-Middlesex). "These aren’t political hacks that should be in a revolving door — they’re essential to overseeing the operations of our schools."
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CNN: Glenn Close: Use of my image in Navy video 'insulting'
Actress Glenn Close said she is "distraught" that her image was used in one of a series of profanity- and slur-laden videos aboard the Navy's USS Enterprise. "The cynical, unauthorized use of my image in this video is deeply offensive and insulting, and was the result of a seemingly innocent request made during a visit to an aircraft carrier over four years ago," Close said, according to a statement from publicist Catherine Olim on Tuesday. In the videos, Navy Capt. Owen Honors is shown cursing along with other members of his staff in an attempt to demonstrate humor. There are also anti-gay slurs, simulated sex acts, and what appear to be two female sailors in a shower together.
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CNN: Governor of Pakistan's Punjab province assassinated
The governor of Pakistan's Punjab province was assassinated by his own security guard Tuesday, according to Interior Minister Rehman Malik, apparently because he spoke out against the country's controversial blasphemy law. The security guard was arrested, Malik said. The shooting occurred at Islamabad's Kohsar Market, which is frequented by foreigners. The guard, Malik Mumtaz Hussain Qadri, confessed to assassinating Taseer because "he did blasphemy of the Prophet Mohammed," said Naeem Iqbal, spokesman for Islamabad police. Qadri told police Taseer had described the blasphemy law as "the black laws." The blasphemy law makes it a crime punishable by death to insult Islam, the Quran or the Prophet Mohammed.
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CNNMoney: December auto sales raise hopes for 2011
Most automakers ended a challenging 2010 with a strong sales month, raising hopes that the industry could be carrying some momentum into the new year. American automakers General Motors, Ford Motor and Chrysler Group all posted solid gains that met or topped forecasts. Ford's gains in 2010 allowed it to recapture the position of No. 2 automaker in U.S. sales, trailing only GM, for the first time since 2006, reclaiming the spot from Toyota Motor. Korean automaker Hyundai Motor Co., which operates the Hyundai and Kia brands in the United States, continued to make gains in the U.S. market, and Japanese automakers Honda and Nissan both ended the year with strong sales.
Financial Times: Rising oil price threatens fragile recovery
High oil prices threaten to derail the fragile economic recovery among developed nations this year, the leading energy watchdog has warned, putting pressure on the Opec oil cartel to increase production. Over the past year the oil import costs for the 34 mostly rich countries that make up the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development have soared by $200bn to $790bn at the end of 2010, according to an analysis by the International Energy Agency. The increase, due to high crude prices, is equal to a loss of income of about 0.5 per cent of OECD gross domestic product, according to the IEA. “Oil prices are entering a dangerous zone for the global economy,” said Fatih Birol, the IEA’s chief economist. “The oil import bills are becoming a threat to the economic recovery. This is a wake-up call to the oil consuming countries and to the oil producers.”
In Case You Missed It
CNN's Brian Todd reports on a controversial fundraising event for incoming GOP Congressmen.
Republicans intend to take down the new health care law, but is their reasoning justified? Anderson Cooper reports.
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