POLITICAL HOT TOPICS: Tuesday, March 1, 2011
March 1st, 2011
04:30 AM ET
3 years ago

POLITICAL HOT TOPICS: Tuesday, March 1, 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

CNNMoney: Government shutdown may be averted ... for now
Spoiler alert: There's now a good chance that the federal government will not shut down on Friday night, when the latest stop-gap funding measure expires. But like a stay of execution, dodging the bullet this week is no guarantee that a shutdown won't occur. That's because the deal likely to be cut between Senate Democrats and House Republicans by the end of this week would do nothing to bridge the chasm between them. They still disagree on how much should be cut for the rest of the year - and which programs should be targeted.

CNN: Shutdown compromise could be only temporary reprieve
Though the House and Senate are expected to approve a short term bill this week that would avert a government shutdown until at least March 18, the compromise could be only a temporary reprieve in the battle over spending cuts. House GOP leaders Monday showed little willingness to give ground on a longer term deal to fund the government for the rest of the year. House Republicans are taking a hard line that spending should be rolled back to the 2008 levels. Illinois Republican Peter Roskam, the House Deputy Whip, argued that Senate Democrats' willingness to accept the two-week compromise signaled a movement toward the House Republican position. "You get to the '08 levels in seven months, You can do it. You just got to do it a billion at a time," Roskam said.

CNN: Key GOP Senators Oppose Idea to Arm Opposition in Libya
Three key Republican senators said Monday they oppose a proposal by Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Connecticut, to arm rebels in Libya fighting Moammar Gadhafi. They had mixed thoughts on whether the United States should be involved in imposing a no-fly zone in that country to protect protestors from attacks by Libyan war planes. “I would not suggest either of those courses for the moment,” said Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana, the top Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee who indicated U.S. involvement could lead to war. “Depending upon the method of delivery and what we decide to do we could decide to have a war in Libya to join the war in Afghanistan and Iraq.” Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, a member of the Armed Services Committee, said she would be “leery” of providing arms at this point but said she supports a no-fly zone.

CNN: New Wisconsin budget due as state tries to patch old one
Facing a flood of red ink and embroiled in an effort to curb the collective bargaining rights of most public workers, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is scheduled to unveil his new state budget on Tuesday. The spending plan is being rolled out as protesters enter a third week of demonstrations at the state capitol, and Democratic lawmakers stay as far away from the building as possible. The state's 14 Democratic senators have fled to neighboring Illinois to prevent a quorum of 20 votes needed for a budget repair bill that would require public employees - with the exception of police and firefighters - to cover more of their retirement plans and health care premiums.

CNN: GOP group launches pro-Walker ad in Wisconsin
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is getting as assist from national Republicans as he battles state Democrats and organized labor over the right of public employees to collectively bargain. The Republican Governors Policy Committee, a wing of the Republican Governors Association, will launch a new television ad Tuesday defending Walker's rigid stance on his budget bill. Several labor groups have already run ads attacking Walker. Democrats in the Wisconsin Senate have left the state to avoid a vote on the legislation, which would strip public employees of most of their bargaining rights. Walker has said layoffs could come as soon as Tuesday unless Democrats return and the bill passes.

Wall Street Journal: States Mull Shift in Worker Pensions
Policy makers across the country are considering scrapping guaranteed retirement benefits for public workers in favor of 401(k)-like plans. In pursuing the switch, some state and local governments hope to shift more responsibility and risk—as well as potential reward—to employees. But some are discovering that closing down a pension plan can carry hefty costs. Many say 401(k)-style plans can yield meaningful cost savings over time if employer contributions are substantially reduced from what they were, and relieve governments of the obligation to make guaranteed payouts. Yet shorter-term pain can result from such a switch.

CNN: GOP governors remain skeptical after Obama meeting
At a closed-door session with governors of both parties Monday, President Obama did little to win over an emboldened group of Republicans who want to block much of his agenda and are seeking greater flexibility in how federal programs are run at the state level. In public remarks before the White House summit, Obama even granted a major concession in the debate over his health care law by embracing a bipartisan proposal that would allow states to apply for "innovation waivers" beginning in 2014, three years earlier than originally scheduled in the health care reform bill. Under the terms of the waivers, states would be exempt from a number of requirements in the law if they come up with their own way to adequately expand coverage without increasing the deficit. Republican governors were skeptical.

CNNMoney: Obama issues first deepwater drilling permit
The Obama Administration approved a permit to drill a deepwater oil well in the Gulf of Mexico Monday, the first such permit issued since the BP disaster last spring. The permit is for a Noble Energy well in Mississippi Canyon Block 519, approximately 70 miles south east of Venice, La., close to the spot where the BP rig sank. "This permit represents a significant milestone for us and for the offshore oil and gas industry, and is an important step towards safely developing deepwater energy supplies offshore," said Michael Bromwich, director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement.

CNN: House Republican Leaders Vow to Defend Defense of Marriage Act
House Republican leaders say they will decide by the end of the week how to proceed in defending the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which bars federal recognition of same-sex marriage. Both House Speaker John Boehner and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor expressed disappointment that the Obama administration decided to stop defending the law in court and said House Republicans are weighing their options. "I'd be very surprised if the House didn't decide that they were going to defend law," Boehner told the Christian Broadcast Network.

Roll Call: Off-Year Elections Mean Redistricting Head Start for Four States
Each state will go through redistricting this year, but four of them will tackle the process early thanks to off-year elections. Virginia, New Jersey, Louisiana and Mississippi could not be more different when it comes to drawing new lines for Members and state legislative districts. Virginia legislators will put together the state’s plan during a special session, while New Jersey will handle the lines through a bipartisan commission and split the process in two so the state legislative races are ready by the fall elections. Down South, Louisiana legislators must draw lines to factor in a one-seat loss due to population decline. In Mississippi, it could be a partisan showdown since Democrats control both chambers of the state House but Gov. Haley Barbour (R) has the ability to veto their plan.

NATIONAL
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CNN: Fast-moving wildfire engulfs 6,000 acres in Florida
Firefighters in Florida were battling a massive, fast-moving wildfire early Tuesday that shut down roads and threatened neighborhoods, authorities said. By midnight, the blaze had engulfed 6,000 acres and was growing rapidly, Florida Division of Forestry spokesman Cliff Frazier said. Authorities shut down part of U.S. 1 and a 20-mile stretch of Interstate 95 in Volusia and Brevard counties.

Honolulu Star Advertiser: More kids in need of low-cost lunch
The number of Hawaii public school children eligible for free and reduced-cost lunch, a key indicator of poverty, has risen 20 percent - or by more than 13,500 children - since 2007. Statewide, more than 80,300 kids qualify for the program, aimed at making sure students get at least one nutritious meal a day. This school year, students on free and reduced-cost lunch account for 47 percent of all public school children in the islands, up from 39 percent in the 2007-08 school year. The increase, more evidence of how hard the economic downturn is hitting working families, has principals offering more after-school tutoring and beefing up learning "intervention" programs because of the strong link between poverty and lower student achievement.

INTERNATIONAL
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CNN: Gadhafi clings to power amid growing support for protests
Embattled Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi flatly denied Monday the existence of the protests threatening to end his 41-year rule, as reports of fighting between government forces and rebels raged another day. In a joint interview with ABC News' Christiane Amanpour and the BBC, Gadhafi also denied using force against his people, Amanpour reported. Excerpts of the interview were posted on the networks' websites. "No demonstration at all in the streets," he said, speaking at a restaurant in Tripoli. Told by the BBC's Jeremy Bowen that he had seen demonstrators in the streets that morning, Gadhafi asked, "Are they supporting us? They love me, all my people with me, they love me all. They will die to protect me, my people," he said.

CNN: World leaders step up pressure on Gadhafi
The United States has frozen at least $30 billion in Libyan government assets, a U.S. Treasury official announced Monday - one of a series of steps being taken by international leaders designed to break strongman Moammar Gadhafi's grip on power. The $30 billion is the largest amount ever blocked under any sanctions program, according to David Cohen, the acting Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence. American officials slapped the sanctions on Libya last Friday, and the U.N. Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution on Libya on Saturday.

CNN: Unmoved by sultan's offer, Oman protesters to continue demonstrations
A fourth day of demonstrations are expected in Oman on Tuesday, this time in the capital Muscat. On Monday, anti-government protesters in the key port city of Sohar refused to end protests despite orders from the sultan to hire 50,000 people and pay a stipend to people who are out of work, sources in the Gulf state told CNN. Demonstrators in Sohar have blocked routes to the port and the industrial zone, prompting port staff to leave work, two sources in the town said. Protesters demands include greater freedom of expression, higher salaries, a clampdown on government corruption, a new constitution, and the prosecution of security officials whose actions led to the death of demonstrators.

CNN: Opposition groups in Yemen call for fresh demonstrations
Youth groups, opposition leaders and even members of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh's powerful tribal group are expected to take to the streets Tuesday to protest his continued rule. The demonstrations come a day after the country's main opposition bloc rejected Saleh's call to form a unity government until elections to replace him are held. The bloc said its goal is simply "the fall of the regime.” “The opposition will not enter a unity government with the ruling party and will stand with the demands of the people," said Mohammed Al-Qubati, the spokesman for the Joint Meeting Parties, on Monday.

CNN: Two suspects identified in Mexico lake killing
Two additional suspects have surfaced in the fatal shooting of an American man on a lake that straddles the United States and Mexico last September, Zapata County Sheriff Sigifredo Gonzalez told CNN. David Hartley was allegedly shot on the Mexican side of Falcon Lake. He and his wife, Tiffany, were on personal watercraft on the lake when gunmen opened fire on them, authorities say. The killing remains unsolved. Gonzalez said officials would not release the new suspects' names. "We're just waiting for more information. We understand that they were there, they participated in the shooting. They were given the orders to go kill (Tiffany) also," the sheriff said.

GlobalPost: Is NATO trying to silence reports on civilian casualties in Kunar?
A NATO airstrike in Kunar province that may have caused as many as 67 civilian casualties has led to renewed tensions between the Afghan government and the U.S. forces. The dispute has been further aggravated by what many saw as offensive remarks by military officials suggesting that Afghan parents may have harmed their own children to inflate the figures. NATO has denied that civilians were injured in the Ghazi Abad district of Kunar, and insists that their operational footage indicates that only insurgents were in the area. But GlobalPost has learned that U.S. military officials detained two Al Jazeera journalists who were covering the incident, temporarily confiscated their equipment and, according to the journalists, subjected them to humiliating treatment and lengthy interrogations.

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

CNNMoney: Stocks end 'tough month' in the black
Despite a slight step back last week, stocks closed out February on an upbeat note, posting their third straight month of gains. The Dow Jones industrial average (INDU) rose 96 points, or 0.8%, on Monday; the S&P 500 (SPX) rose 3 points, or 0.2%; the Nasdaq (COMP) was flat for the day. Overall, all three major indexes were up nearly 3% during the month and have risen more than 5% since the beginning of the year. "All being said, the market did very well in February," said Rich Ilczyszyn, market strategist with futures broker Lind-Waldock.

In Case You Missed It

CNN's Jill Dougherty explores what steps the Obama administration is willing to take to get Moammar Gadhafi out of Libya.
http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/bestoftv/2011/02/28/exp.tsr.dougherty.libya.us.option.cnn

Libya crisis puts spotlight on world oil prices and US dependence on foreign oil. CNN's Lisa Desjardins explains.
http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/us/2011/02/27/desjardins.libya.gas.prices.cnn

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