POLITICAL HOT TOPICS: Tuesday, January 25, 2011
January 25th, 2011
04:20 AM ET
7 years ago

POLITICAL HOT TOPICS: Tuesday, January 25, 2011

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.

For the latest political news: www.CNNPolitics.com

CNN: Obama's speech will target spending and divided Congress
Facing the challenge of a divided Congress and a still-recovering economy, President Barack Obama will delivery a State of the Union address Tuesday night that lays out a plan for "winning the future," according to a Democratic source with knowledge of White House talking points. The speech will focus on strengthening the nation's ability to compete in a changing world, the source said. "The president will lay out a plan to win the future by out-innovating, out-educating and out-building the rest of the world," said the White House talking points. "He will talk about the need to take responsibility for our deficits, by investing only in what makes America stronger and cutting what doesn't, and reforming our government so that it's leaner and smarter for the 21st century."

CNN: House majority leader says Ryan, not Bachmann, "giving the official Republican response"
There may be two House Republicans giving high-profile responses to President Obama's State of the Union speech on Tuesday night, but House Majority Leader Eric Cantor made it clear that it's the new House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, not Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, who is speaking for the GOP. "Paul Ryan is giving the official Republican response," Cantor said when asked at his weekly session with reporters if Bachmann's response will step on the GOP message. After House Speaker John Boehner and Senator GOP Leader Mitch McConnell announced on Friday that Ryan would deliver the GOP response, the Tea Party Express put out word that Rep. Bachmann would also be commenting on the President's speech and they would broadcast her remarks on their website.

Wall Street Journal: Ryan Is Republican Point Man
When Rep. Paul Ryan delivers the Republican response to President Barack Obama's State of the Union address Tuesday, many viewers will get their first look at a man whom GOP leaders are trusting to manage a central policy issue—how to cut the federal budget—that could shape the party's image for years. While unknown to most Americans, Mr. Ryan, 40 years old, has established himself as a leading conservative thinker on federal spending, shaped in part by his early work for supply-side icon Jack Kemp. Now, Republicans not only have made Mr. Ryan chairman of the House Budget Committee, but on Tuesday the House is expected to vote to give him unprecedented powers to force spending cuts for the current fiscal year. That authority will allow Mr. Ryan to act unilaterally in setting an overall spending level for the rest of the year, a job usually handled by his full panel.

CNN: Christie turns down chance at State of Union spotlight
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who denies any interest in a presidential run at every turn, has turned down the coveted nationwide opportunity to deliver the Republican response to the State of the Union, a source close to Christie confirmed to CNN. The source said Christie was offered the chance to give the Republican response following President Obama's address, but declined the invitation. Scheduling difficulties were part of the reason, but the source said "we would have made it work if he had wanted to do it." The inquiry on his interest from the Congressional GOP leadership was first reported in the Newark Star-Ledger. Christie thought he was better served focusing on legislative matters, including budget and pension reform efforts underway, the source told CNN.

CNN: Congressman who shouted 'You lie!' at Obama will sit with Democrats
A Republican congressman who unexpectedly participated in President Obama's health care speech in 2009 by heckling the chief executive says he will be flanked by two Democrats on Tuesday night to show his willingness to work with the opposition party. Rep. Joe Wilson of South Carolina shouted "You lie!" during the president's address on health care in September 2009. The chief executive had just denied that illegal immigrants were covered in his proposed health care plan. Wilson apologized for his outburst that night, but came under widespread criticism from both parties for what was seen as disrespect.

CNN: House conservatives keep pressure on GOP leaders on spending
Under pressure from House conservatives demanding deeper spending cuts than what House GOP leaders proposed, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said he is open to allowing a vote on their proposal. "We committed prior to the election that we would reduce discretionary spending to '08 levels. If the will of the House is such, if there are 218 votes to deliver on ‘06 levels, then so be it," Cantor said Monday at his weekly session with reporters in the Capitol. Last week the Republican Study Committee, a group of 175 conservative House Republicans, offered a measure to slash spending back to 2006 levels – $2.5 trillion over 10 years.

CNN: Top Senate Budget Republican not ruling out government shutdown
Most Republicans demanding to slash federal spending won't entertain the idea of taking a possible standoff with President Obama so far that the government shuts down. But the top Republican on the Senate Budget Committee told CNN Monday he's not ruling out that possibility "if the President just stonewalls – refuses to pass anything that will be responsible." In 1995, when Republicans controlled all of Congress and a spending stalemate resulted in a government shutdown, President Clinton went on to win re-election.

The Hill: Rep. Eric Cantor: 'No bailout of the states'
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) issued a new threat against a federal bailout for ailing state governments Monday as GOP leaders girded for a confrontation with President Obama over spending. Heading into Tuesday’s State of the Union address, Cantor showed no desire for increases in virtually any area of the federal government, and he doubled down on his opposition to new proposed spending on infrastructure and education, even in areas, like transportation, where he acknowledged there were deficiencies. Cantor flatly rejected any changes in the law that would allow state governments struggling with record budget deficits brought on by the economic recession and rising pension costs to restructure debt, including allowing them to declare bankruptcy.

CNN: Aides: Senate leaders close to pact on filibuster reform
Top Democratic and Republican senators, negotiating proposed reforms of the use of filibusters and other legislative stalling tactics, are close to an agreement on modest changes to curb the practices but not eliminate them altogether, two Senate aides said. Despite increased public attention to the often-controversial procedures, supporters of reform don't appear to have enough bipartisan support to force sweeping changes, the aides said. Much of the opposition to the changes comes from senior senators who have seen party control of the Senate switch several times and are wary about giving up the considerable rights available to the minority.

CNN: Record $2.5 billion returned to Medicare from fraud cases
The federal government returned a record total of more than $2.5 billion to the Medicare program from settlements and court judgments surrounding health care fraud cases last year, according to a government report issued Monday. An overall total of $4 billion was collected, including hundreds of millions in funds recovered for other federal agencies and payments to whistleblowers, the Justice Department said. Results reflect both the continuing array of efforts to swindle the government Medicare program and a stepped-up effort by law enforcement to combat them, officials said.

USA Today: Bush White House improperly held political briefings, report says
A federal agency is reporting that officials in President George W. Bush's White House improperly conducted political briefings on government property, and encouraged employees to get involved in campaigns, meaning that taxpayers footed the bill for political activity. "As the 2006 election drew nearer, OPA (the White House Office of Political Affairs) became a partisan political organization," reported the Office of Special Counsel, an advisory agency that reviews applications of the federal Hatch Act. The Hatch Act forbids federal employees from engaging in election activity.

CNN: Emanuel files papers for a stay
Chicago mayoral candidate Rahm Emanuel's team filed papers Monday night with the Illinois Supreme court to request a stay to allow ballots to be printed with Emanuel's name on them, according to the court. A Democratic source aware of the developments says the Emanuel campaign will file a petition with the state Supreme court on Tuesday asking for a leave which would then allow time to appeal. Wednesday the team would file the actual appeal and brief, which may be followed by a response from the Chicago Board of Elections on Friday. …Emanuel was thrown off the ballot Monday by an Illinois appellate court panel, according to the Cook County Appellate Court's office. The panel ruled 2-1 that Emanuel did not meet the residency standard to run for the city's top office.

CNN: Pawlenty embraces underdog mantle in New Hampshire
Tim Pawlenty's advisers reacted with pleasure at their boss's third place showing in last weekend's 2012 presidential straw poll conducted by the New Hampshire Republican Party. It's a sign, they say, that the former Minnesota governor's frequent visits and organizational efforts in the first-in-the-nation primary state are paying some early dividends among GOP activists. But Pawlenty acknowledged Monday during his sixth trip to the Granite State that he has a long, difficult road ahead before he can credibly be described a frontrunner for the GOP nomination in 2012.

CNN: Santorum: 'Life is a civil right'
Republican 2012 presidential hopeful Rick Santorum ramped up his criticism of President Barack Obama's stance on abortion writing Monday for the National Review. This follows a controversy sparked Thursday when the former senator made comments to CNSnews.com comparing abortion with slavery and criticizing Obama's stance on abortion. In the article Santorum explains the merit of his comments, stating that the president has "wrapped himself in the history and legacy of civil rights."

CNN: White House environmental adviser Browner to step down
President Barack Obama's top White House adviser on energy and the environment, Carol Browner, is planning to step down within a few weeks, senior officials said late Monday. Browner, a former Environmental Protection Agency chief, was one of the Obama administration's leading voices during the Gulf of Mexico oil spill last summer. She was seen inside the administration as a cool hand during the months-long struggle to contain the underwater gusher that was unleashed when the oil rig Deepwater Horizon exploded and sank in April. The move comes amid a midterm White House shakeup that includes the departure of Obama's top political adviser, David Axelrod, and White House spokesman Robert Gibbs.

For the latest national news: www.CNN.com

CNN: Judge enters not guilty pleas for Arizona shooting suspect
A federal judge entered a plea of not guilty Monday on behalf of Jared Lee Loughner to three counts of attempted murder in the mass shooting that wounded U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords earlier this month. After entering the packed courtroom, Loughner, 22, showed the same smirk as he had in his mug shot. He appeared to chuckle to himself as he looked into an upper balcony area filled with spectators. He smiled occasionally during the 15-minute arraignment and remained silent. U.S. District Court Judge Larry Burns asked federal public defender Judy Clarke about Loughner's ability to comprehend the proceedings. "We are not raising that issue at this time," Clarke told the judge.

NBC News: U.S. can't link accused Army private to Assange
U.S. military officials tell NBC News that investigators have been unable to make any direct connection between a jailed army private suspected with leaking secret documents and Julian Assange, founder of the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks. The officials say that while investigators have determined that Manning had allegedly unlawfully downloaded tens of thousands of documents onto his own computer and passed them to an unauthorized person, there is apparently no evidence he passed the files directly to Assange, or had any direct contact with the controversial WikiLeaks figure.

CNN: Study says greener military isn't better military, DoD disagrees
The Department of Defense has put a lot of money and effort into finding alternative fuels to replace petroleum-based fuels it uses now, but a new study concludes the military will not benefit from alternative energy research. …The Air Force and Navy have been testing various ships aircraft and found they can operate on a 50/50 mixture of traditional fuel and alternative fuel. The Air Force hopes to use 50% alternative fuel in all it's domestic flights by 2016. And the Secretary of the Navy, Ray Mabus also has set a goal to use alternative energy sources to provide half of the energy for all the Navy's warships, planes, vehicles and shore installations by 2020. The DoD "has spent hundreds of millions of dollars" on these testing and research programs, but for all the cost and time, there is little promised benefit over using fossil fuels, according to the congressionally-mandated study by the Rand Corp.

CNN: State of Transportation is 'weak,' engineers say
As President Obama is set to take stock of the nation during his State of the Union address Tuesday, a civil engineers group gives the U.S. transportation system low grades. For example, the nation's bridges. Most of us don't think much about bridges until one we need is closed or is damaged or collapses, as the I-35W one did in Minneapolis in 2007, killing 13 people. Yet engineers all over the country who really know about such things say we ought to be thinking about bridges a lot more. And here is something we should consider: One in four of our bridges is either in need of repair or obsolete in terms of handling modern traffic and loads.

CNNMoney: Postal Service to close another 2,000 locations
The money-losing U.S. Postal Service is planning to shut down thousands of stations and branches to try and ward off its fiscal woes. The Postal Service has set a goal of closing 2,000 stations and branches in 2011, said Postal Service spokeswoman Joanne Veto. That's in addition to the 491 closures that are already underway, she said. The Postal Service is not planning to close any post offices, she said, noting that the law prevents the closure of post offices for solely economic reasons. She described stations and branches as being smaller than post offices, with no mail processing, and sometimes no mail carriers.

For the latest international news: http://edition.cnn.com

CNN: Russian authorities: Terrorist bombing at Moscow airport kills 35
A suicide bomber attacked Moscow's busiest airport on Monday, killing 35 people and wounding about 100, authorities and state television said. The blast occurred around 4:30 p.m. at the entrance of the international arrivals section of Domodedovo Airport, the Itar-Tass news agency reported, citing a spokeswoman for the Russian Investigative Committee, Tatyana Morozova. State TV aired video of the smoke-filled terminal, including what looked like bodies and luggage on the ground. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev called the bombing a terrorist attack and immediately ordered additional security at airports and transportation hubs around the country. Moscow police went on high alert in case of additional attacks.

CNN: Mexican police: Gunmen open fire at soccer game, 7 dead
A group of heavily armed men opened fire at a soccer match between two local teams in western Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, killing seven people and wounding two others, according to a municipal police spokesman. The soccer field is at a community center opened four months ago as part of a program to decrease drug violence in a city that has been racked by violence and killings linked to drug cartels. Police said Monday they had not determined a motive for the shooting. The dead from the shooting Sunday evening were males ranging in age from 19 to 26, police said. At least one was a soccer player - an image from the scene showed the dead player face down on turf. Above him was a posted sign reading in Spanish, "Live Better" - a slogan in Juarez's anti-violence campaign.

The Telegraph: American accused of smuggling 80 guns into UK
British police believe Steven Greenoe, 37, a former US Marine who lives in Shrewsbury, bought the weapons including Glock 9mm pistols, legally in gun shops in North Carolina and then put them in his hold luggage. The alleged smuggling operation was discovered after weapons seized from criminals in the North West of England were traced back to America. One of them was found to have been used in a drive-by shooting in Manchester. Mr Greenoe was stopped at an airport in Raleigh, North Carolina in July as he attempted to board a flight to Manchester via New York. He had 16 weapons and ammunition magazines in his luggage. He is said to have taken the weapons out of the US without an export licence on more than a dozen flights to the UK over a period of five months.

CNN: Iran talks: Good eats, but little progress on nuclear divide
There was one silver lining in the two days of talks with Iran over Tehran's nuclear activities. "The food was excellent," one Western diplomat said. But aside from the pleasing hospitality, little progress was made by the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China to come up with a solution to stopping Iran's quest for nukes, according to diplomats briefed on the meeting.

For the latest business news: www.CNNMoney.com

Financial Times: Saudi to develop solar and nuclear power
Saudi Arabia will be burning most of its oil production domestically in less than 20 years, if current consumption patterns persist, a senior official has warned. In response, the authorities plan to cut reliance on fossil fuel and develop an alternative energy mix, including atomic and solar sources, as rising local demand could dramatically curtail the kingdom's ability to export oil. The world's largest oil exporter will need 8m barrels a day by 2028, roughly equivalent to its current production, merely to meet domestic energy needs, Hashim Yamani, president of the King Abdullah Atomic and Renewable Energy City, said on the sidelines of a conference on Sunday. The kingdom currently burns a total of 3.2m/b a day, he said.

In Case You Missed It

Anderson Cooper seeks to keep Rep. Michele Bachmann honest on her recent speech, which flubs many facts.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar talks to CNN's John King about the Senate's pairing up for the State of the Union address.

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