POLITICAL HOT TOPICS: Tuesday, March 29, 2011
March 29th, 2011
05:11 AM ET
4 years ago

POLITICAL HOT TOPICS: Tuesday, March 29, 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: Obama: Not acting in Libya 'would have been a betrayal of who we are'
President Barack Obama on Monday rejected criticism of his decision to commit U.S. forces to the U.N.-authorized military mission in Libya, telling the American people there were strategic and moral reasons to act. In a nationally televised speech at the National Defense University, Obama said his administration kept its pledge that the mission would be limited in size and scope, announcing that the NATO alliance would assume full command on Wednesday. The United States now will play "a supporting role - including intelligence, logistical support, search-and-rescue assistance, and capabilities to jam regime communications," Obama said, noting that both the risk and cost of the operation to America "will be reduced significantly."

CNN: Republicans upset with Obama's regime change remarks
When U.S. President Barack Obama said Monday it would be wrong to seek regime change in Libya by force, Republican lawmakers took issue - saying removing Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi is and should be precisely the goal. Gadhafi must have been comforted to hear the president's words, Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, said following Obama's televised address. "If we tell Gadhafi, 'Don't worry, you won't be removed by force,' I think that's very encouraging to Gadhafi," McCain said, after Obama delivered a speech explaining U.S. intervention in Libya. McCain said the president's words were "puzzling" because Obama has previously said that U.S. policy is for Gadhafi's ouster. "The reason why we wage wars is to achieve the results of a policy that we state," McCain said.

CNN: Pawlenty: Obama administration 'naive' on Syria
Likely Republican presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty accused the Obama administration of "naivety" on Syria, as he called for the United States to recall its ambassador and toughen sanctions on the country. Pawlenty's comments came in a radio interview on the Hugh Hewitt Show Monday evening, shortly before President Obama addressed the nation on the military operation in Libya. "Our interests in Syria are at least as strong, if not stronger, than in Libya", Pawlenty said when asked what the United States should do after violent crackdowns on demonstrators in Syria.

CNN: Budget talks at impasse, raising concerns of possible government shutdown
Bipartisan talks to end the budget crisis, which stalled last week, appeared to grind to a near standstill Monday, raising concerns on both sides of the political aisle that large parts of the government could shut down when the current spending measure expires at the end of next week. "Republicans refuse to negotiate on a final number," Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid said on the Senate floor. "The infighting between the tea party and the rest of the Republican Party – including the Republican leadership in Congress – is keeping our negotiating partner from the negotiating table." House Republican Leader Eric Cantor denied the talks might collapse because of disagreements between the GOP leadership and the conservative wing of their caucus. Instead, he blamed Reid for "abandoning his responsibility to offer a credible plan to cut spending and fund the government for the rest of the year."

Washington Post: GOP lawmakers to unveil own plan to wind down Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac
A month-and-a-half after the White House announced its plan to wind down Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, House Republicans on Tuesday plan to introduce their own. According to congressional sources familiar with the matter, a series of eight bills by Republicans will call for hiking fees charged to borrowers in two years and taking other steps to shrink the companies’ footprint in the housing market. The bills will call on Fannie and Freddie to begin to sell their massive portfolios of mortgage investments, which keep rates low, and would take away other advantages enjoyed by the companies that banks and private-sector firms don’t have.

Indianapolis Star: Once again, a full House
Five weeks lost. Five weeks left. With Democrats back in the Indiana House, ending a standoff that was one of the longest in Indiana's and the nation's legislative history, the legislature is now in a race against the clock. Legislators have just five weeks to complete work on a new state budget, draw new legislative and congressional district maps, address education and government reforms and consider hundreds of other bills that had been in limbo until the impasse ended Monday. And they've got to get it done by April 29, the deadline for this session to end. Go into overtime, and it costs taxpayers money the state can ill-afford.

CNN: Very ill child keeps Santorum off the campaign trail
Former Sen. Rick Santorum, a probable GOP presidential candidate, canceled a trip to Iowa this past weekend because one of his children was very sick. Aides close to the Pennsylvania Republican tell CNN that Santorum's daughter, Isabella Maria, became very ill on Friday. The three year old girl was born with Trisomy 18, a condition where a person is born with three number 18 chromosomes rather than the normal two. Many newborns suffering from this disease rarely survive beyond a week after birth, with those who do survive battling serious medical conditions.

CNN: Former Alabama Supreme Court chief justice to form presidential exploratory committee
Former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, who garnered attention and lost his job after building a Ten Commandments monument outside Alabama's judicial building, is considering seeking the Republican presidential nomination, his top aide confirmed to CNN. Moore plans to announce in mid-April that he is setting up a presidential exploratory committee, the aide, Zachery Michael told CNN.

CNN: Herman Cain assailed as 'bigoted' over Muslim remarks
A leading Muslim advocacy group accused potential presidential candidate Herman Cain of spewing "bigoted speech" Monday following remarks he made at a conservative conference last weekend. While attending the Conservative Principles Conference last weekend in Iowa, Cain told a reporter- if he became president – he would not appoint a Muslim to his cabinet or as a federal judge. The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) expressed outrage on Monday, saying Cain's words show how "right wing" conservatives are currently engaging in Muslim bashing.

Roll Call: Redistricting Doesn’t Always Go as Planned
All the hard work of drawing a Congressional map can be ruined by a basket of chicken fingers. Across the country, Republicans and Democrats are feverishly strategizing about how to draw Congressional districts that will benefit their parties for the next decade. But even though districts can be drawn to dramatically favor a particular party or even a specific person, candidates and campaigns still matter and sometimes races don’t turn out as they were planned.

CNN: Maine governor removes pro-union mural
Maine GOP Gov. Paul LePage followed through with his decision to remove a mural depicting the history of the workers' movement from the state's labor department lobby, a spokeswoman said Monday. "The mural has been removed and is in storage awaiting relocation to a more appropriate venue," said LePage press secretary Adrienne Bennett in a prepared statement. "We understand that not everyone agrees with this decision, but the Maine Department of Labor has to be focused on the job at hand." The controversy over the 36-foot-long, 11-panel mural erupted last week when a LePage administration official announced that the artwork would be removed and that conference rooms dedicated to American labor movement icons would be renamed.

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

CNN: Justices to hear appeal over Wal-Mart gender pay lawsuit
Think big - really big - and you may understand the stakes in an upcoming Supreme Court case that could have a profound impact on nearly every American business with employees. At issue is whether the justices should allow certification of the largest class-action employment lawsuit in U.S. history, a long-standing dispute against mega-corporation Wal-Mart Stores Inc. over alleged gender bias in pay and promotions. Arguments in the case are Tuesday morning and ruling can be expected by late June. The company is the world's largest retailer and the nation's largest private employer. If the class-action goes through, hundreds of thousands of women - perhaps as many as 1.6 million plaintiffs - could join in the largest discrimination claim of its kind. Tens of billions of dollars or more in damages are potentially at stake.

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

CNN: World leaders meet to put more pressure on Gadhafi
As fighting between government and rebel forces rages on in several Libyan towns, world leaders will gather Tuesday in London to plan ways to put pressure on leader Moammar Gadhafi. More than 40 foreign ministers and representatives from regional groups will attend the conference, including U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Chairman of the African Union Jean Ping and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The conference comes as opposition fighters, aided by coalition airstrikes, made some gains in fighting Gadhafi's forces.

CNN: U.S. official: Fewer assets devoted to Libya already
The U.S. military has already reduced its day-to-day presence in the operation in and around Libya, according to a defense official. "Some of the ships have peeled off, but are still in the region," said the official, who declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the mission. At least two of the ships involved in the initial phase of establishing the no-fly zone over Libya are no longer involved in day-to-day operations, the official said. The U.S. still "would still keep the capability to fire Tomahawk missiles, but they're not needed as much. So the ships that have that capability may go to other spots as needed," the defense official said. There is still enough capability to do what the U.S. has to do, he said.

CNN: Plant workers scramble to prevent radioactive water from leaking
Workers at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant faced a difficult balancing act Tuesday as they struggled to keep reactors cool and prevent radioactive water from leaking into the ocean. Water has been a key weapon in the battle to stave off a meltdown at the facility since a March 11 earthquake and tsunami knocked out cooling systems. But officials say there's a flip side to pumping and spraying tons of water to keep radioactive fuel from overheating: the water has to go somewhere. The discovery of contaminated water in a maintenance tunnel has sparked fresh concerns about the possibility of additional radiation leaking from the plant.

CNN: Ammo factory blast in Yemen kills at least 121
At least 121 people were killed and 45 injured in an explosion at an ammunition factory in southern Yemen on Monday, medical sources said. The death toll was expected to rise, said the sources, who asked that they not be identified because they are not authorized to speak to the news media. Two of them work at Republican Hospital in Abyan. Most of the dead and injured were locals who had been ransacking the factory after it was taken over Sunday by militants, security officials said.

CNN: Carter to meet Raul Castro on second day of Cuba trip
Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter continues his trip to Cuba on Tuesday, where he is expected to have a face-to-face session with President Raul Castro. On Monday, Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, landed in Havana for a private visit aimed at reducing tension between the Cold War enemies and seeing first-hand the economic reforms sweeping the communist island. But expectations are high that Carter also will work behind the scenes to secure the release of American contractor Alan Gross, who was recently sentenced to 15 years in a Cuban prison.

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

CNNMoney: Oil slips, but gas keeps climbing
Oil prices came under pressure Monday, tumbling below $104 a barrel, but gasoline prices continued to move higher nationwide. The main U.S. oil futures contract, West Texas Intermediate, for May delivery dropped $1.42 to settle at $103.98 a barrel. Brent crude, the European benchmark, fell 92 cents to $114.87 a barrel. Gasoline prices, however, rose Monday for the sixth day in a row. The national average price for a gallon of regular gas edged up six tenths of a cent overnight to $3.584, according to motorist group AAA.

In Case You Missed It

Grading President Obama's Libya speech, in which he defend American involvement in the coalition effort.
http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/world/2011/03/29/ac.obama.libya.involvement.cnn

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