POLITICAL HOT TOPICS: Tuesday, February 8, 2011
February 8th, 2011
04:20 AM ET
4 years ago

POLITICAL HOT TOPICS: Tuesday, February 8, 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.

WASHINGTON/POLITICAL
For the latest political news: www.CNNPolitics.com

CNN: Gibbs signals U.S. backing for a more deliberate process in Egypt
Egypt faces a "bumpy" process in its transition from decades of repressive rule to a multiparty democracy, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Monday in signaling U.S. backing for a more deliberate approach to political negotiations. In a briefing with reporters, Gibbs repeated the U.S. insistence on meaningful change in Egypt, but he added that the government there should "outline a series of steps and a timeline that the Egyptian people are comfortable with."

CNNMoney: Obama to business: Let's work together
President Obama made the case Monday to business leaders that ramping up spending on education and infrastructure will promote economic growth and put the economy back on track. "We need to out-innovate, out-educate and out-build our competitors," Obama told the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. "We need an economy that's based not on what we consume and borrow from other nations, but what we make and sell around the world." Obama spoke before 200 members of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a group that hasn't always been on friendly terms with the administration, and remains fiercely opposed to the health care and Wall Street reform laws championed by the White House.

CNN: Hatch 'invited himself' to Tea Party town hall
Sen. Orrin Hatch "invited himself" to the Tea Party town hall that will be held in Washington on Tuesday, according to the chairman of the Tea Party Express. On Monday, the Utah Republican confirmed, in a tweet, that he would join the event that's being billed as the first of its kind. "He invited himself," Tea Party Express Chairman Amy Kremer told CNN. "I guess that he wanted to become a part of it. All I have to say is he needs to be ready to answer the tough questions."

Politico: Democratic moderates chart own course on health care reform
A handful of moderate Senate Democrats are looking for ways to roll back the highly contentious individual mandate — the pillar of President Barack Obama’s health care law — a sign that red-state senators are prepared to assert their independence ahead of the 2012 elections. They haven’t decided whether to propose legislation, but any effort by moderate Democrats that takes aim at the individual mandate could embarrass Obama and embolden Republicans who are still maneuvering to take down the health care law. And it’s not just health care. The senators are prepared to break with the White House on a wide range of issues: embracing deeper spending cuts, scaling back business regulations and overhauling environmental rules. The moderates most likely to buck their party include Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Jon Tester of Montana — all of whom are up for reelection in 2012 and represent states Obama lost in 2008.

NPR: Alternatives To Mandating Insurance? Maybe
Both supporters and opponents of the health care law routinely refer to the requirement that most people get health insurance or pay a penalty as the measure's "linchpin." But is it? Not everyone thinks so. "The biggest fear is that without mandatory health insurance, there will be no incentive for people to buy health insurance until after they're sick, and then the system won't work," says Jamie Court, president of Consumer Watchdog, a California-based advocacy group that supports the law but opposes mandatory health insurance. "I would take issue with that." Court says the biggest problem with health insurance is that it costs too much. He thinks that rather than having a mandate — which, he points out, is highly unpopular with the public in both parties — lowering costs would lead more people to buy insurance.

Chicago Tribune: Patriot Act extension runs into conservative opposition
A House GOP push to permanently extend expiring provisions of the Patriot Act is running into opposition from conservative and "tea party"-inspired lawmakers wary of the law's reach into private affairs. Enacted after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the law makes it easier for federal authorities to conduct surveillance on terrorism suspects. Civil libertarians have long fought the measure, often drawing support from Democratic allies in Congress. But as the Republican-led House prepares to vote Tuesday for a short-term extension of provisions expiring at the end of this month, some rank-and-file Republicans are signaling they will resist efforts later this year to make the law permanent.

CNN: Pawlenty says he can win in 2012
Despite his socially conservative stances, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty believes he can win the presidency. "Yes of course," Pawlenty said when asked if he could win. "If you're not willing to stand by your values, what's the point in doing it anyhow?" The likely 2012 presidential candidate spoke in Sioux City, Iowa, on Monday as part of a lecture series sponsored by the Family Leader, a socially conservative group, in a speech threaded with his moral values. With his wife, Mary, by his side, Pawlenty touted his belief that marriage is "between a man and woman" and his pro-life history.

CNNMoney: Florida Gov. Rick Scott: Slash taxes by $4 billion
Taking an unusual tack to dealing with a $3.6 billion budget deficit, Florida Gov. Rick Scott unveiled a budget Monday that cuts $4 billion in property and corporate income taxes. The budget, which the newly installed governor has said is the nation's most fiscally conservative, also cuts $4.6 billion in spending from services such as Medicaid and prisons. Public employees would also have to contribute 5% for their pension benefits, which will save $2.8 billion over two years. "It clearly is a lean budget," said Scott, a tea party favorite who unveiled his budget at a rally for tea party supporters, who applauded loudly for his calls to reduce state spending.

Christian Science Monitor: Nine states don't give maximum unemployment benefits: Does yours?
On December 17th, Congress reauthorized emergency benefits for unemployed workers, giving them an extra 13 to 20 weeks of unemployment compensation. But before Uncle Sam can cut the checks – the extended benefits are fully funded by the federal government, not the states – each state needs to pass legislation allowing the legal distribution of the funds. Nine states have not done this yet. On Monday, in a mathematical projection, the National Employment Law Project said that as a result of those nine states not passing legislation, some 236,000 workers could lose out on $876 million in unemployment benefits. In most cases, the unemployed will miss out on an extra 13 weeks of payments. But, in two states, Louisiana and Mississippi, the jobless would qualify for an extra 20 weeks.

New York Times: U.S. Plan to Replace Principals Hits Snag: Who Will Step In?
The aggressive $4 billion program begun by the Obama administration in 2009 to radically transform the country’s worst schools included, as its centerpiece, a plan to install new principals to overhaul most of the failing schools. That policy decision, though, ran into a difficult reality: there simply were not enough qualified principals-in-waiting to take over. Many school superintendents also complained that replacing principals could throw their schools into even more turmoil, hindering nascent turnaround efforts. As a result, the Department of Education softened the hit-the-road plans for principals of underperforming schools laid out in the program rules. It issued guidelines allowing principals hired as part of local improvement efforts within the last two years to stay on, then interpreted that grandfather clause to mean three years.

CNN: Harman departure leaves questions
Democratic California Rep. Jane Harman is expected to announce her intention to resign from office on Tuesday and when she does she will face more questions about the timing of her decision. Harman won her 9th term in office in November and was sworn in just last month. She is expected to announce she will leave Congress to head the Woodrow Wilson Center, a top think tank in Washington. According to state election laws, the California governor is required to set the date for a special election, no later than 14 days after the seat is vacated. California currently has a budget gap of $25 billion, and Los Angeles County, parts of which Harman represents, is facing a budget deficit of $3.5 million to $4.5 million. On Monday, Harman's office offered no comment to questions about her departure date or whether she is concerned about the cost burden of a special election on her constituents.

NATIONAL
For the latest national news: www.CNN.com

CNNMoney: U.S. to reveal Toyota unintended acceleration findings
The government is expected to announce Tuesday the results of a 10-month inquiry into possible causes of unintended acceleration in Toyota cars and trucks. The study, which was conducted by the Department of Transportation and scientists from NASA, was launched last spring at the request of Congress following a string of high-profile reports of Toyota cars and SUVs accelerating out of control. Some auto safety advocates suggested new electronic throttle control mechanisms on Toyota vehicles could be one cause. "We're looking forward to seeing the report," Toyota spokesman John Hanson said.

Washington Post: Federal judicial vacancies reaching crisis point
Federal judges have been retiring at a rate of one per week this year, driving up vacancies that have nearly doubled since President Obama took office. The departures are increasing workloads dramatically and delaying trials in some of the nation's federal courts. The crisis is most acute along the southwestern border, where immigration and drug cases have overwhelmed court officials. Arizona recently declared a judicial emergency, extending the deadline to put defendants on trial. The three judges in Tucson, the site of last month's shooting rampage, are handling about 1,200 criminal cases apiece. "It's a dire situation," said Roslyn O. Silver, the state's chief judge.

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

CNN: North and South Korea begin military talks
North and South Korea opened working-level military talks Tuesday at the truce village of Panmunjom, South Korea's Defense Ministry said, marking the first inter-Korean dialogue in months. The talks are meant to help pave the way for higher-level military discussions. Colonel-grade officers from both sides will lead the meeting, which began around 10 a.m., according to the ministry. The talks signal a change in tone after tensions between the two sides escalated sharply last year.

CNN: Rebel leader claims responsibility for attack on Russian airport
Chechen rebel leader Doku Umarov claimed responsibility Monday for last month's deadly attack on Moscow's main international airport that left 36 people dead. In a video message, posted on a website that regularly carries messages from Chechen rebels, Umarov said he was speaking on January 24 - the day of the deadly bombing. He wore camouflage combat fatigues and a black skullcap. "The special operation was done in accordance with my order. Similar special operations will be taking place in the future," he said in Russian.

CNN: No Egypt-style protests in Yemen, says prime minister
Yemen's prime minister, Ali Mujawar, on Monday defended his government, saying there is no reason Egypt-style protests should take off in the country. "Yemen is not Tunisia or Egypt," he said. "Yemen has its own different situation... Yemen is a democratic country. Through all the stages, elections took place. And therefore this is a democratic regime." He accused opposition parties of "trying to duplicate what happened in Tunisia and Egypt, and act as if it should be imposed on the people here in Yemen."

Financial Times: Nato chief warns Europe over defence budgets
Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Nato’s secretary-general, has issued a stark warning that European nations “cannot afford to get out of the security business” by slashing national defence budgets in order to help meet fiscal deficit targets. As US and Nato officials become increasingly concerned by the decline in European military spending, Mr Fogh Rasmussen warned that too many people in Europe were coming up with “naive” and “dangerous” suggestions that the continent should engage in humanitarian projects, leaving the US to do the hard fighting in conflict situations. Instead, he said that European nations needed to boost their presence in the Nato family, pooling capabilities and co-ordinating policies to develop what he called “smart defence”.

BUSINESS
For the latest business news: www.CNNMoney.com

CNNMoney: AOL unloads 40% of its cash on Huffington Post buy
AOL's purchase of The Huffington Post is the splashiest in a long line of acquisitions - but the buying spree likely ends here. AOL had to part with almost half of its cash to secure the deal. As part of the $315 million acquisition, AOL unloaded $300 million in cash - plus another $30 million in cash to cover expenses. That's more than 40% of the $802 million in cash that AOL had on hand at the end of last year. "The acquisition price is a bit of a stretch," said Clayton Moran, analyst at The Benchmark Company. "[AOL is] draining cash from the asset side of the business very quickly."

In Case You Missed It

President Obama visits the Chamber of Commerce Monday and addresses business owners. CNN's Samantha Hayes reports.
http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/politics/2011/02/07/hayes.obama.chamber.comm.cnn

CNN's John King speaks with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich about the crisis in Egypt.
http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/politics/2011/02/07/jk.gingrich.egypt.cnn

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