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: Republican House member resigns over 'profound mistakes'
Republican Rep. Christopher Lee of New York resigned his House seat Wednesday after a report that the married congressman had tried to meet a woman on Craigslist. "It has been a tremendous honor to serve the people of Western New York," Lee said in a statement posted on his website. "I regret the harm that my actions have caused my family, my staff and my constituents. I deeply and sincerely apologize to them all. I have made profound mistakes and I promise to work as hard as I can to seek their forgiveness." The statement said that "the challenges we face in Western New York and across the country are too serious for me to allow this distraction to continue, and so I am announcing that I have resigned my seat in Congress effective immediately."
CNN: Analysis: Webb retirement a mixed blessing for Virginia Democrats
Virginia Sen. Jim Webb's announcement Wednesday that he will not seek re-election did not come as a major surprise to state Democratic insiders who always understood the former Navy Secretary to be something of a lone wolf, content to keep his political ruminations to himself. And given that Webb sometimes seemed to radiate disdain for the political process, the reality is that Democrats might have a better shot at keeping the seat with someone else on the ticket. Webb notoriously bristled at the demands of campaigning and was never a strong fundraiser. When he narrowly beat former Sen. George Allen in 2006, a Democratic wave year fueled by anti-war netroots sentiment, a good chunk of his campaign cash came in the form of low-dollar out-of-state contributions.
CNNMoney: House Republicans detail cuts
House Republicans released a dramatic budget proposal on Wednesday that would result in sweeping cuts to federal agencies and government services. The GOP would slash the Environmental Protection Agency's budget by 16%, cut $758 million from a program that provides food to low-income children and eliminate almost $1 billion in assistance for local police departments. The resolution would fund the government for about the next seven months at $74 billion below President Obama's 2011 budget request, and singles out non-security discretionary spending, which is less than 15% of the budget, for a massive cut of $58 billion.
CNN: House Republican leaders poised to give in to conservative demands for more spending cuts
House Republican leaders under fire from fellow conservatives for backtracking on a promise to cut $100 billion in spending this year are suddenly trying to meet that goal, according to a senior House GOP aide. "Right now there are a lot of moving parts but the leadership is working with the RSC (Republican Study Committee), the freshmen and the (House) Appropriations Committee to coalesce around a unified strategy to cut $100 billion," the senior House GOP aide tells CNN. He would speak only off the record because he was discussing internal GOP deliberations. House Republicans will likely unveil their spending cuts as soon as Thursday, as part of a bill the House plans to vote on next week to keep the government running through the rest of this year. The current spending bill expires March 4.
CNN: Another House Republican bill went down to defeat Wednesday, the second time in as many days.
The latest setback – a GOP spending cut bill calling for a refund to the U.S. Treasury of $180 million overpaid to a U.N. fund – failed to pass. The bill was part of Majority Leader Eric Cantor's weekly spending cut program called "You Cut." Tuesday night a bill extending three provisions of the Patriot Act also failed. And earlier Tuesday GOP leaders pulled a trade bill that was scheduled for a vote after supporters expressed concerns it wouldn't pass. The two bills that did get votes were brought to the floor under rules requiring a two-thirds majority to pass.
CNN: House Republican leaders say White House lunch found common ground
President Barack Obama and Republican leaders in the House agreed Wednesday that their lunch meeting at the White House yielded some common ground. Obama considered the meeting with House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and his top two deputies "constructive" and cited general agreement with them on the need to reduce spending and the deficit, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters.
CNN: White House gives Egypt a to-do list
President Barack Obama's spokesman listed Wednesday specific steps the Egyptian government needs to take to satisfy the demands of protesters convulsing the country. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs called for expanding he negotiations with opposition groups, lifting the state of emergency and making constitutional changes to bring about democratic elections. "We think more has to be done, and more importantly, I think the people of Egypt think more has to be done," Gibbs told reporters.
National Journal: EXCLUSIVE: White House to Cut Energy Assistance for the Poor
President Obama’s proposed 2012 budget will cut several billion dollars from the government’s energy assistance fund for poor people, officials briefed on the subject told National Journal. It's the biggest domestic spending cut disclosed so far, and one that will likely generate the most heat from the president's traditional political allies. Such complaints might satisfy the White House, which has a vested interest in convincing Americans that it is serious about budget discipline.
CNN: Spokesman: Giffords recovering part of her ability to speak
U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, recovering from a gunshot wound to the head suffered January 8, is regaining part of her ability to speak and recently asked for toast while having breakfast, staffers said Wednesday. Spokesman C.J. Karamargin would not divulge what else Giffords has said, other than that she has spoken other words "within the last few days. It's very good news," he said. Giffords Chief of Staff Pia Carusone told CNN affiliate KMSB in Tucson, Arizona, that the congresswoman made the toast request while eating yogurt and oatmeal Monday. "I said 'absolutely.' "
CNN: Pawlenty back to New Hampshire in March
It's back to New Hampshire for Tim Pawlenty, the former Minnesota governor and likely candidate for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination. Pawlenty will visit the Granite State on March 10 to address a house party organized by Granite Oath, a conservative political action committee. The group is headed by Ovide Lamontagne, a former candidate for US Senate and a prominent New Hampshire conservative. Pawlenty's trip in March will come on the heels of a book tour that also took him to New Hampshire, site of the first-in-the-nation primary. On that trip, in January, the potential candidate told reporters that he felt comfortable in the state.
CNN: Tea Party Express names Sen. Ben Nelson as a 'top target'
The Tea Party Express is hyping, what it calls, "exclusive news": that the group has placed another name on its list of political targets. On Wednesday, Sal Russo – chief strategist of the Tea Party Express – distributed an email to supporters. It states that the group is "pleased to tip you...to the exclusive news that we will be making another Democrat, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, one of our top targets for defeat in these upcoming 2012 elections."
Honolulu Star Advertiser: On fast track, civil unions could go to governor next week
A proposal to grant civil unions in Hawaii appears to have the support of both houses of the Legislature and could be on its way to Gov. Neil Abercrombie by the end of next week. The measure, which was approved by the Senate last month, received initial approval of the full House today by a 32-18 vote, with one member absent. Senate Bill 232 faces a final vote by the House on Friday. Because changes were made, the Senate must agree to those changes before it can go to the governor, who is supportive of civil unions legislation.
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CNN: Napolitano: terror threat may be highest since 9/11
The terrorist threat to the U.S. homeland has continued to "evolve" and may now "be at its most heightened state" since the September 11, 2001, terror attacks, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told members of Congress on Wednesday. The most significant risk to the United States is probably posed by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and Anwar al-Awlaki, said Michael Leiter, the director of the National Counterterrorism Center. The American-born Muslim cleric has close ties to al Qaeda, and has been linked to Army Maj. Nidal Hassan, the alleged culprit behind the November 2009 shootings at Fort Hood, Texas. There is an increased reliance on recruiting Westerners into terrorist organizations, Napolitano said during testimony before the House Homeland Security Committee.
CNN: Rumsfeld says Democrats key in early political formation
During Donald Rumsfeld's first public appearance since the release of his new book, he praised many former elected officials and a surprising number of them were Democrats. A man who has been a Republican during his entire political career told a crowd of some 700 people at Philadelphia's National Constitution Center that the first politician to influence him was Franklin Delano Roosevelt. "Franklin Roosevelt was the president, he represented the United States at war time. My parents, I and everyone I knew looked to him as the leader of our country and he was an enormously important figure for a young man," Rumsfeld said on the first stop of his tour promoting his memoir, "Known and Unknown."
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CNN: Labor strikes erupt in Egypt; anti-Mubarak protesters remain defiant
Thousands of Egyptian workers went on strike Thursday to demand better compensation, adding pressure to a government buckling under massive protests calling for the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak. Various agencies launched strikes nationwide, including employees in the petroleum, railway and telecommunication industries. About 2,000 workers are on strike in the petroleum sector, said Hamdi Abdel-Aziz, a spokesman for the petroleum ministry.
CNN: Officials: Suicide bomber attacks Pakistani military training center
A teenage suicide bomber killed at least 27 army recruits and wounded 42 others Thursday when he blew himself up at a military training center in northwest Pakistan, officials said. The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the blast, saying it was a "message for those who wish to join (the) pro-American military. We will continue targeting Pakistan military until it stops supporting the U.S.," said Azam Tariq, the central spokesman for the group. The suicide bomber, who was about 14-years-old, was wearing a school uniform, a senior Pakistani military official said.
Jerusalem Post: NATO offers troops if Israel, Palestinians make peace
While the Israeli-Palestinian conflict may no longer be seen as the “only problem in the region,” it is still – even with the turmoil roiling the area – “a major impediment in addressing other issues that threaten regional stability,” the head of NATO said Wednesday. Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the secretary-general of the alliance, told the Herzliya Conference that “the lack of a solution to the Israel- Palestinian conflict continues to undermine the stability of the region.” Rasmussen stressed that NATO was neither involved in the Middle East diplomatic process, nor seeking a role. However, he said that NATO would consider possible involvement if three conditions were met: a comprehensive Israeli-Palestinian peace being reached; both parties requesting NATO help in implementing the agreement; and the UN endorsing NATO involvement. “Of course, at the moment, these three ifs are far from being met,” he said.
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Wall Street Journal: Germans in Talks to Buy Big Board
After 219 years as the citadel of American capitalism, the New York Stock Exchange was near an agreement to be acquired by Deutsche Börse AG in a deal that would create the world's largest financial exchange. If a deal is reached and regulators approve, the combined company would trade more stocks and futures than any rival in the world and more options than any U.S. exchange. The takeover would culminate a decade of tie-ups by exchanges around the world eager to find new sources of growth and catch up with smaller rivals that have been quicker to embrace new and lucrative kinds of trading. For New York, the move is symbolic of the city's fading dominance on the world stage as other countries are drawing investors directly to their markets. The move also is a recognition that securities trading today goes on at all hours and in all time zones, making the actual bricks and mortar of Wall Street far less important than before.
Bloomberg: UN Sees Risk of ‘Widespread’ Hoarding, Wheat Gains
Global wheat harvests may trail demand for a second year, spurring hoarding and further price gains, said the United Nations. “Whenever you get the market as tight as we are now, hoarding becomes widespread,” Abdolreza Abbassian, a senior economist at the UN Food and Agriculture Organization in Rome, said in an interview. Wheat, corn and soybeans soared to the highest levels since 2008 yesterday as a U.S. government report showed smaller crops and rising demand are eroding global inventories. Governments from Beijing to Belgrade are raising imports, limiting exports or releasing supply from stockpiles to curb inflation. Wheat in Chicago, the global benchmark, soared 73 percent in the past year as drought and floods ruined crops. Dry weather threatens production in China, the top producer.
In Case You Missed It
CNN's Dan Lothian reports on the intelligence questions surrounding the White House and the crisis in Egypt.
CNN's Dana Bash reports that Rep. Christopher Lee is resigning after being caught in a Craigslist scandal.
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