POLITICAL HOT TOPICS: Wednesday, April 6, 2011
April 6th, 2011
05:41 AM ET
4 years ago

POLITICAL HOT TOPICS: Wednesday, April 6, 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
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CNN: Democrats, Republicans fail to reach budget deal
Top White House and congressional negotiators failed to reach agreement Tuesday on a spending plan for the rest of the current fiscal year, bringing the federal government closer to a shutdown at the end of the week. Key Democrats rejected a Republican proposal to keep the government running for one more week at the cost of an additional $12 billion in cuts. Republicans, meanwhile, dismissed Democrats' insistence that there had been an agreement to cut $33 billion for the rest of the fiscal year. If there is no deal by midnight Friday, when the current spending authorization measure expires, parts of the government will close down.

CNN: GOP budget chief calls for $6.2 trillion spending cut
Top House Republican leaders unveiled a 2012 budget proposal Tuesday that would cut $6.2 trillion in federal spending over the next decade while radically overhauling Medicare and Medicaid - two hugely popular entitlement programs that have long been considered politically untouchable. The proposal, drafted by Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, would also overhaul key portions of the tax code, dropping the top rate for individuals and businesses to 25% while eliminating a number of loopholes. Under the plan, according to the GOP, total federal spending would drop to under 20% of the economy, compared with at least 23% under President Barack Obama's blueprint. Domestic discretionary spending - the share of the budget not devoted to entitlements - would remain frozen below 2008 levels.

CNN: Pentagon faces yet another battle - on the budget front
A government shutdown would not hamper the war efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq or the U.S. military efforts in Libya and Japan, the Pentagon insisted on Tuesday. But the Pentagon is digging in for a longer standoff with Congress over how to pay for those missions. "We would retain the ability and the authority to continue to protect our vital interests around the world, to continue to safeguard the nation's security, to wage the wars we're fighting and the operations that we are conducting right now." Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said, adding that the hope is a shutdown can be averted.

The Hill: Union ready to sue for pay if shutdown occurs
The head of the largest federal employees union said Tuesday that his group would likely file a lawsuit against the federal government for workers’ pay if a shutdown occurs. Speaking at the National Press Club, John Gage, national president of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), said his union would consider filing a claim under the Constitution’s 13th Amendment in the event of a shutdown since some workers would have to work without pay to keep vital operations up and running.

CNN: Republicans blast Obama, Holder for delay on 9/11 trial
One day after Attorney General Eric Holder placed the blame squarely on Congress for forcing him to place the 9/11 plot conspirators before a military court in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Congress struck back. At a congressional hearing dominated by Republican lawmakers and a panel heavy with Obama administration critics, the much-delayed decision was met with derision and accusations of partisan politics. "I find it a strange coincidence that the administration decided to announce this 180-degree turn in policy the day before this hearing, and on the very same day that the president announced his re-election campaign," said Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wisconsin, the House Judiciary panel chairman. "I and many others believe that the security of the United States should not depend upon politics."

CNN: Kaine enters Senate race in Virginia
Democratic National Committee Chairman and former Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine ended weeks of speculation Tuesday by announcing that he will seek his state's open Senate seat, which is being vacated by Sen. Jim Webb. Webb, a Democrat, announced his retirement in February. Kaine made the announcement in a video posted on his new campaign website, focusing on his record as governor that "made government more efficient" through budget cuts and investments in education and transportation.

CNN: Wasserman Schultz to chair Democratic National Committee
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida said Tuesday that she is President Barack Obama's choice to be the next chair of the Democratic National Committee. If approved by the DNC as expected, Wasserman Schultz will succeed Tim Kaine, who announced earlier Tuesday he is running for the U.S. Senate. "The DNC shares my core mission to help Democrats succeed - electorally and legislatively - so that we are able to deliver on and win the future for the American people," Wasserman Schultz said in a statement, adding that "there will be nothing more important to our party or to the American people than advancing President Obama's agenda and ensuring that he is elected to a second term."

CNN: Romney opens wallet to GOP
Once again, Mitt Romney's coming to the aid of fellow Republicans. The former Massachusetts governor and probable 2012 GOP presidential candidate announced on Tuesday that Free and Strong America PAC, his political action committee, is contributing $15,000 each to the Republican National Committee, the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the National Republican Congressional Committee.

CNN: Trump to address Tea Party rally in Florida
Real estate mogul Donald Trump, whether he makes a run for president or not, is stepping up his political travels. Trump's office confirms that he will address the South Florida Tea Party rally in Boca Raton April 16th, one of a number of tea party events planned around the country during the weekend before the tax deadline. His appearance is the third event he plans to attend in early primary or caucus states important to the GOP. He will speak at the Iowa Republican Party's Lincoln Day dinner in Des Moines, and plans a June appearance at the traditional "Politics and Eggs" breakfast series in New Hampshire. Both are traditional stops for likely candidates.

CNN: Huntsman heads to New Hampshire
U.S. Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman will travel to New Hampshire in May, further evidence the former Republican Utah governor is considering a run for the White House in 2012. Huntsman will be the commencement speaker at Southern New Hampshire University May 21st, a University spokesman confirmed to CNN. "Finishing up the most important ambassadorship for the U.S. State Department, Jon was incredibly successful as governor of Utah and has been an outstanding businessman. In short, he is truly deserving of this honor," SNHU President Paul LeBlanc said in a statement.

CNN: Feds to Maine: Reinstall labor mural or repay funding
The federal government says it wants back money it provided to Maine if the state's governor does not reinstall a mural the funds helped pay for in its Department of Labor building. "We understand ... the mural is no longer on display in your headquarters," Gay Gilbert, a senior U.S. Labor Department official, wrote in a letter this week to the Maine department. "Thus, it is no longer being used for an administrative purpose permitted by the Reed Act." "Accordingly ... the state must ... return to its (Unemployment Trust Fund) account the amount of the Reed Act funds represented by the mural," the letter said.

NATIONAL
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CNN: FAA demands inspections of older 737s
The Federal Aviation Administration issued an emergency Airworthiness Directive Tuesday mandating operators of at least 80 older Boeing 737s to conduct inspections for wear and tear. The order comes days after a Boeing 737 flown by Southwest Airlines made an emergency landing with a hole in its fuselage. The planes must be inspected every 500 cycles, which are take-offs and landings, until more can be learned about a Friday incident when a Southwest Airlines plane landed with a hole in its fuselage.

CNN: Pentagon says military medical research trial was badly done
A military medical research trial looking into an experimental treatment for traumatic brain injury was improperly conducted, the Pentagon's Inspector General recently stated. The military's IG review found the "management and conduct of the trial were inconsistent with military standards for human subject medical research." The report stated concerns of "possible substandard patient care" as well as flaws in the review and approval process of the research.

CNN: Transocean executives donate safety bonuses to rig victims' families
Top executives of the company that owned the Deepwater Horizon oil rig announced Tuesday they will donate their safety bonuses to the families of the 11 workers killed in the April 2010 explosion in the Gulf of Mexico. The announcement follows criticism of a Transocean Ltd. financial filing that claimed 2010 was its "best year" in safety. "The executive team made this decision because we believe it is the right thing to do," Chief Executive Officer Steven Newman said in a statement Tuesday. "Nothing is more important to Transocean than our people, and it was never our intent to diminish the effect the Macondo tragedy has had on those who lost loved ones," he said.

CNN: NFL lockout gets its day in court
A federal judge will hear arguments on Wednesday from lawyers representing current and former NFL players who want the league to lift its lockout and this year's football season to proceed. Judge Susan Richard Nelson will consider whether to grant a preliminary injunction that would lift the lockout, the result of an ongoing dispute between the NFL owners and the players who have failed to reach an collective bargaining agreement.

Sports Illustrated: Once unthinkable, Texas A&M crowned champions for first time
Texas A&M overcame a lot on Tuesday night. Its own gender-biased history. A hostile Indiana crowd. The newly anointed "face of the game" in Notre Dame's Skylar Diggins. The hand-wringing over a national championship game without UConn. The Aggies went to a place they'd never been, the national title game, and made it their own. In the 30th anniversary of the women's NCAA championship, Texas A&M - which didn't even admit women a half-century ago - beat Notre Dame 76-70, setting off an exuberant, joyful and unexpected celebration.

INTERNATIONAL
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CNN: Highly radioactive water from power plant no longer gushing into sea
Workers scored a key victory Wednesday in their struggle to gain the upper hand in the weeks-long crisis at the Fukishima Daiichi nuclear power facility, but a top Japanese official cautioned that the fight was far from over. At daybreak, authorities with the Tokyo Electric Power Company noticed that water was no longer gushing into the Pacific Ocean from the turbine building of the No. 2 reactor, one of six operated by the utility at its plant.. Radiation levels in the water tested 7.5 million times the legal limit on Saturday. On Tuesday, it was still 5 million times above the norm.

CNN: U.S. scales back military aid units in Japan
The Department of Defense is reducing the number of ships and aircraft it is contributing to Operation Tomodachi, the response to the earthquake and tsunami on March 11 and the nuclear crisis they created. The Navy announced on Tuesday that the USS Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike group has ended its role in the Japan recovery effort and is repositioning in order to resume its previously scheduled operations. The strike group, which includes the guided-missile cruisers USS Chancellorsville and USS Shiloh and destroyers USS Preble and USS Curtis Wilbur, will remain in the Pacific Command area of operations, but its next mission has not been announced.

CNN: Ex- U.S. congressman Weldon says he will meet with Gadhafi
In an opinion piece he wrote for The New York Times, former U.S. Rep. Curt Weldon said he is set to meet with Moammar Gadhafi on Wednesday in an attempt to convince the embattled Libyan ruler to step down. "I've met him enough times to know that it will be very hard to simply bomb him into submission," wrote Weldon, who said he is in Libya at the invitation of Gadhafi. U.S. President Barack Obama's administration is aware of the trip, the former Republican representative from Pennsylvania said.

CNN: Gbagbo negotiating surrender, Ivory Coast foreign minister says
After days of heavy fighting, forces loyal to Ivory Coast's Laurent Gbagbo laid down their arms Tuesday, and the self-declared president was negotiating the terms of his surrender, his foreign minister said. Calm was reported Tuesday afternoon in Abidjan, the West African nation's largest city and the center of the battle between Gbagbo's military and those loyal to his rival, Alassane Ouattara, who is recognized internationally as the legitimate president. "We must now do what we can do to have lasting peace," said Alcide Djedje, the foreign minister, who participated in talks at the French ambassador's residence in Abidjan.

CNN: Hundreds hurt, 6 killed in Yemen violence
Yemeni protesters and military and pro-government gangs clashed in several areas Tuesday, with at least six killed and hundreds more injured, as the future of President Ali Abdullah Saleh remained uncertain. The United States has no intention of stopping its military aid to Yemen, despite the unrest, Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said Tuesday. The aid, in support of Yemeni counterterrorism efforts, continues to be essential because of the "real threat" from al Qaeda in the country, he said.

CNN: Islamists protest women's rights in Bangladesh
Dozens of people were injured in Bangladesh as riot police clashed with thousands of Islamists protesting women's rights, authorities and witnesses said. The protesters damaged buses and cars Monday, setting several on fire, while police used clubs and tear gas to disperse the Islamists, who were wearing skullcaps and burial cloths. "We'll die for the cause of Islam, but (will) not allow the government to disrespect (the) Quran," one protester shouted during the demonstration near the national mosque in downtown Dhaka. The government recently announced its National Women Development Policy 2011, which ensures women expanded rights in property and education. The protesters said the policy is against the Quran.

CNN: Suspect arrested in slaying of U.S. agent in Mexico
Mexican police have arrested another suspect in the death earlier this year of a U.S. immigration agent, authorities said Tuesday. Jose Manuel Garcia Soto was arrested in the Mexican state of San Luis Potosi. He is thought to be involved in the death of Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agent Jaime Zapata, Mexican federal police said. Authorities said Garcia is believed to be a member of the Zetas cartel. Last month, the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said the weapon used to kill Zapata originated in the United States. Zapata was killed and another agent injured February 15 when they were ambushed on a highway in San Luis Potosi. Federal authorities have offered a $5 million reward for information in the case.

CNN: Ozone depletion over Arctic 'unprecedented' this winter
The depletion of the ozone layer over the Arctic region "has reached an unprecedented level," a loss of 40% from the beginning of the winter to late March, the U.N. weather agency said Tuesday. The World Meteorological Organization blames the "record loss" on the "continuing presence of ozone-depleting substances in the atmosphere" and a "very cold winter in the stratosphere."

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

CNNMoney: U.S. factories pick up work from Japan
The disaster in Japan caused a number of disruptions in Japanese manufacturing after shuttered plants halted production. But some U.S. factories are stepping in to pick up the slack. Japanese automaker Nissan (NSANY) announced last week that it will start shipping engine components from its plant in Decherd, TN, to assembly lines in Japan, - the first time the company has exported parts from North America back to Japan. The parts, cylinder blocks, cylinder heads and crankshafts, will replace those normally manufactured at Nissan's engine plant in Iwaki, Japan, about an hour from the crippled nuclear power plant. That plant, which was damaged last month, has yet to resume even partial operation and it could be months before it returns to normal operations.

Bloomberg: Fed’s Biggest Foreign-Bank Bailout Kept U.S. Muni Bonds on Track
A European bank that received the most Federal Reserve discount window help during the financial crisis also took $381 billion in aid from its home countries and owned subsidiaries implicated in bid-rigging that prosecutors say defrauded U.S. taxpayers. Details of Fed lending released last week show that Dexia SA, based in Brussels and Paris, borrowed as much as $37 billion, with an average daily loan amount of $12.3 billion in the 18 months after Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. collapsed in September 2008. The House subcommittee that oversees the Fed plans hearings on the central bank’s discount window lending to offshore financial institutions next month.

In Case You Missed It

Dan Lothian reports on the Justice Department's decision that goes against an Obama campaign promise.
http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/politics/2011/04/04/lothian.gitmo.flipflop.cnn

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