POLITICAL HOT TOPICS: Wednesday, April 13, 2011
April 13th, 2011
04:31 AM ET
7 years ago

POLITICAL HOT TOPICS: Wednesday, April 13, 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.

For the latest political news: www.CNNPolitics.com

CNN: Obama to lay out his deficit strategy
President Barack Obama enters politically tricky territory Wednesday when he outlines his plan for reducing long-term deficits and the national debt amid a climate of tense budget negotiations. The speech at George Washington University will follow White House talks in the morning with congressional leaders who are staking out positions on upcoming issues including approval of last week's budget deal for the rest of the current fiscal year, increasing the federal debt ceiling and crafting a budget for fiscal year 2012. For Obama, the speech is a response to a Republican budget plan for next fiscal year released last week by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, that would overhaul the Medicare and Medicaid government health care programs for the elderly while reforming the tax code to lower rates and eliminate loopholes.

CNNMoney: Obama urged to protect Social Security
The battle lines over Social Security are being drawn a day before President Obama delivers a major speech on the nation's long-term fiscal dilemma. In a letter sent Tuesday to Obama, a group of over 250 academics, policy experts and economists argued that Social Security does not contribute to the federal deficit and that shortfalls "should be eliminated without cutting benefits, including without raising the retirement age." Another group, the Strengthen Social Security Campaign, sent a letter to the President urging him to not even introduce the subject. "Social Security should not be part of deficit discussions or any deficit package or process," the letter said.

CNN: Senate leaders spar over upcoming fiscal debate
The top Senate Republican on Tuesday laid out a hard-line negotiating stance on upcoming budget battles, rejecting any tax increases and demanding "significant" reforms in exchange for his vote to raise the debt ceiling. "We're going to require as a condition for raising the debt ceiling something really important about the debt," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, told reporters. Without providing specifics, McConnell said it would take "something the markets would view as significant, something the American people would view as significant, something foreign countries would view as significant" in order for him to vote to increase how much the United States can borrow.

Washington Post: Obama risks losing liberals with talk of cutting budget
President Obama faces a growing rebellion on the left as he courts independent voters and Republicans with his vision for reducing the nation’s debt by cutting government spending and restraining the costs of federal health insurance programs. Key liberal groups, which helped elect Obama in 2008, are raising concerns that he has given up political ground to Republicans, allowing the message of reducing government to trump that of creating jobs and lowering the unemployment rate. Seizing on Friday’s deal, which would cut $38.5 billion from the fiscal 2011 budget, activists on Tuesday threatened to sit out the 2012 presidential campaign if Obama goes too far with further cuts.

CNNMoney: Countdown on for budget cuts
The long march toward a budget for the current fiscal year is finally over. The deal has been stuck. Everyone can pack up and head over the hill for the next fiscal fight. Not so fast. Early Tuesday morning - in the dead of night - the House Appropriations Committee released the bill, along with details on which programs were on the chopping block. The measure must pass both houses of Congress and be signed by Friday midnight. But some things remain up in the air. Part of the reason: Lawmakers who were not directly involved in negotiations are just now seeing the specifics. Reactions have been ... mixed.

The Hill: Rand Paul says he's considering filibuster of budget agreement
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said Tuesday that he's considering a filibuster of the budget agreement to fund the government for the remainder of this fiscal year. Paul, who said yesterday that he would vote against the agreement reached last Friday to cut $39.9 billion between now and September, acknowledged that he's considering waging a filibuster, which would make it so that leaders need 60 votes to pass the deal and advance it to President Obama's desk.

CNN: House Majority Leader predicts budget deal will pass with 'strong Republican support'
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor predicted Tuesday that despite opposition from some key House conservatives, the government spending deal would pass with "strong Republican support" in the House on Thursday. But when pressed if Republican leaders would need help from House Democrats to pass the bill, Cantor deflected the question, saying "we will always ask for them." The majority leader punted the issue to House GOP Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-California, saying "I'm not close enough to the vote count to know so you'll have to ask Mr. McCarthy."

CNN: Top conservative says no to budget deal
A key conservative leader in the House of Representatives said Tuesday he opposes the budget deal negotiated last week by President Barack Obama and Speaker John Boehner. Rep. Jim Jordan - like Boehner an Ohio Republican - called the $38.5 billion in cuts included in the deal insufficient, noting that House Republicans had originally proposed a much larger package of spending reductions. In January, the GOP-controlled House passed a budget blueprint calling for $61 billion in cuts.

CNN: Number two House Democrat undecided on his budget deal vote
President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid may have signed onto the budget deal with House Speaker John Boehner on Friday night, but the number two House Democrat hasn't made up his mind yet. House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer told reporters Tuesday he was still reviewing the legislation with his staff. Details of the spending cuts for the rest of the 2011 fiscal year were unveiled shortly before 2 a.m. ET on Tuesday and Hoyer, who is responsible for rounding up votes, said he hasn't begun asking House Democrats yet whether they will vote for the deal.

CNN: Pawlenty: ‘I’m running for president’
Former Republican Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty told CNN's Piers Morgan Tuesday he's focused on running for the White House. "I'm running for president," Pawlenty said in an interview Tuesday on "Piers Morgan Tonight.” "I'm not putting my hat in the ring rhetorically or ultimately for vice president. I'm focused on running for president." Pawlenty was responding to a hypothetical question if he would serve as Donald Trump’s vice president if Trump received the GOP nomination in 2012.

CNN: Romney: If Obama had called me on health care …
Likely Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney thinks President Barack Obama should have called him before implementing “Obamacare.” “Why didn’t any one of them (Democrats) or the president ever call me and say what worked, what didn’t?,” Romney said Tuesday on CNBC’s “The Kudlow Report.” “Why didn’t he (Obama) pick up the phone?” Romney said his message during such a phone call would have been: “What you’re putting in place at the nation is not only unconstitutional, it’s bad law, it will not work.”

CNN: Barbour says let Romney 'have his day,' slams his health reform law
One day after Mitt Romney formed a presidential exploratory committee, a potential competitor – Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour – said Tuesday that Romney should be allowed to "have his day" but also took a swipe at Romney's signature health care law saying, "We [Mississippi] don't want it." The comments from the potential presidential candidate come on the fifth anniversary of the health reform law enacted in 2006 during Romney's term as Massachusetts governor. Democrats in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and elsewhere are drawing attention to the passage of "Romneycare," asking voters to "Thank Mitt Romney," and making comparisons between the Massachusetts law and the national health care law passed under President Obama.

CNN: Barbour explains Trump's poll numbers
Potential 2012 presidential candidate Haley Barbour isn't putting much stock in Donald Trump's recent surging poll numbers. "I wouldn't read too much into that in all candor," Barbour told Chris Ryan on WKXL Radio Tuesday. "For some voters it may have just been that pure and simple, I've heard of Donald Trump, nobody else I've heard of I want to be for. So I'll just park my vote for this little poll with Donald Trump." The Republican Mississippi governor will visit the first-in-the-nation primary state Wednesday and said voters will pay more attention as the nominating process progresses.

CNN: RNC fundraising makes dent in debt
The Republican National Committee raised more than $7 million last month, but is still saddled with a debt of more than $19 million from the 2010 midterm election cycle. The RNC brought in $7.014 million in March, a big step up from $5.2 million in February, according to party committee officials. The RNC has $3.2 million cash on hand, with a debt of $19.764 million, down from more than $21 million the previous month. RNC Chairman Reince Priebus, who was elected in January, has repeatedly said that mission number one is to pay off the committee's debt and prepare the RNC for the 2012 presidential election. Previous Chairman Michael Steele was widely criticized for his lack of attention to fundraising.

The Hill: Salazar: GOP drilling bills show ‘amnesia’ about BP disaster
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar on Tuesday slammed House GOP bills that would mandate much wider offshore drilling and faster development, alleging they reflect “amnesia” about the catastrophic BP well blowout in the Gulf of Mexico that’s a week shy of its one-year anniversary. “When you have gone through a horrific national crisis, which the Deepwater Horizon was, it’s important that you learn the lessons from the Deepwater Horizon, and that we don’t repeat the mistakes of the past, and much of the legislation that I have seen bandied around – especially with the House Republicans – is almost as if the Deepwater Horizon-Macondo well incident never happened,” Salazar told reporters at Interior headquarters.

St. Petersburg Times: Gov. Rick Scott's reluctance to make legal claim for oil spill spurs outrage
The rosy scene bothered Tampa lawyer Steve Yerrid. There was Gov. Rick Scott on Monday, happily announcing a $30 million marketing and tourism grant from BP for seven Panhandle counties, thanking a BP senior executive at his side for "stepping up." Yerrid, appointed by then-Gov. Charlie Crist last year to serve as Florida's special counsel on the oil spill, says the grant is "chump change" compared to at least $1 billion the state could get from filing a claim against the oil giant. "The fact that we haven't filed a claim, and (Scott's) been in office since January, to me cannot be adequately explained," Yerrid said. "It's not like Florida doesn't need the money."

For the latest national news: www.CNN.com

CNN: California tsunami victim found washed ashore 380 miles away
The body of a 25-year-old northern California man swept out to sea while trying to photograph the tsunami's arrival from Japan last month has washed ashore about 380 miles away, in Oregon, officials there said Tuesday. Dustin Douglas Weber of Klamath, California, was standing on a sand bar near the mouth of the Klamath River in Del Norte County, California, when he was swept away March 11, authorities said. He was with two friends who also were carried off by the surge but were able to return safely to shore, authorities said.

CNN: Year after Gulf oil spill, group gives mixed report card for wildlife
Nearly a year after the start of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, some wildlife is recovering, while other species could need significant help, according to a National Wildlife Federation study released Tuesday. The current status of the coastal wetlands - where a wide variety of animals live or breed - is classified in the report as "poor," with that classification based on several factors in place before the April 20, 2010, explosion on the drill rig Deepwater Horizon killed 11 workers and triggered what scientists say was the worst oil spill in U.S. history. Even before the spill, the area was hard hit due to erosion, storms and river channeling.

Washington Post: CIA’s brain drain: Since 9/11, some top officials have moved to private sector
In the decade since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, private intelligence firms and security consultants have peeled away veterans from the top reaches of the CIA, hiring scores of longtime officers in large part to gain access to the burgeoning world of intelligence contracting. At least 91 of the agency’s upper-level managers have left for the private sector in the past 10 years, according to data compiled by The Washington Post. Several of the top positions have turned over multiple times in that period: In addition to three directors, the CIA has lost four of its deputy directors for operations, three directors of its counterterrorism center and all five of the division chiefs who were in place the day of the Sept. 11 attacks.

CNN: NASA announces new homes for retiring space shuttles
NASA announced Tuesday the new retirement homes for the four remaining space shuttles - three historic orbiters and the program's test vehicle. The space shuttle Atlantis will be displayed at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida; the Endeavour, at the California Science Center in Los Angeles; the Discovery, at the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Virginia; and the test shuttle, Enterprise, at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in New York, NASA Administrator Charles F. Bolden Jr. said during a ceremony at the Kennedy Center.

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

CNN: Japan nuclear disaster tops scale
Japan's prime minister vowed to wind down the month-long crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant "at all costs" Tuesday after his government officially designated the situation there a Chernobyl-level nuclear accident. Prime Minister Naoto Kan said he wants the plant's owner, the Tokyo Electric Power Company, to produce a timetable for bringing the disaster to an end, "and they will be doing that soon." And a day after his government warned that thousands more people would need to be evacuated from the surrounding region, he pledged to provide jobs, housing and education for those uprooted by the accident.

CNN: Pakistan wants to cut CIA drone strikes, personnel
The Pakistani government would like the CIA's aggressive drone campaign "suspended" and only resumed under "new rules" and "formalized terms," according to a Pakistani military official familiar with discussions between the two nations. Only then, in the instances where there was "compelling evidence" that a militant "high value target" had been located and that the operation was jointly coordinated between Pakistan and the United States, would the Pakistani government sanction a drone strike in the future, the official said.

CNN: Prosecutors hold Mubarak sons for questioning
The Egyptian prosecutor's office ordered two sons of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak held as it investigates the killing of protesters during a popular uprising that overthrew his government, state TV reported Wednesday. "The general prosecutor decided to hold Gamal and Alaa Mubarak for 15 days for investigation in charges of killing of protesters in Tahrir Square," Nile TV reported. The square was a popular gathering spot for those opposed to the Mubarak government. The developments came a day after the elder Mubarak was admitted to a hospital after complaining to his doctor that he felt unwell, according to a spokesman for the Egyptian military.

CNN: Border agent's accused killer captured, officials say
A Mexican man accused of fatally shooting a U.S. Border Patrol agent in 2009 was arrested Monday, officials said. Marcos Manuel Rodriguez Perez, alias "Virus," was captured in Tijuana, Mexico by federal authorities, the city said in a news release. Rodriguez is accused of killing Border Patrol Agent Robert Rosas, who suffered multiple gunshot wounds after he responded to a reported incursion near the U.S.-Mexico fence in the Campo area of San Diego County, California. The incident happened in July 2009.

CNN: Humanitarian work most dangerous in last 10 years
The last 10 years has been the deadliest on record for humanitarian workers, according to a new United Nations study. The report, commissioned by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, states "In the last decade, lethal attacks against humanitarian personnel have tripled, reaching over 100 deaths per year." Most of the violence can be attributed to just a few conflicts. Since 2005, there have been 180 major attacks in Afghanistan, 150 in Sudan and 100 in Somalia.

CNN: American detained in North Korea
An American man has been detained in North Korea, two State Department officials told CNN. Diplomatic sources speaking on condition of not being identified said the man is a Korean-American businessman. One of the sources said the businessman had a visa to enter North Korea. The State Department is working with the Swedish Embassy in the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, the officials said. The United States is urging North Korean authorities, through the Swedes, to release the man on humanitarian grounds.

For the latest business news: www.CNNMoney.com

CNNMoney: Stocks dragged down by oil and Alcoa
U.S. stocks finished lower Tuesday, with all three major indexes losing about 1%, as a 3% drop in oil prices sparked a sell-off in energy stocks and Alcoa's sales disappointment weighed down the Dow. Investors also were on edge after Japanese officials raised the threat level at the Fukushima nuclear plant to the same as the 1986 incident at Chernobyl, in what was then the Soviet Union. "Some people wanted to forget the nuclear threat in Japan, but it popped back up and worsened overnight," said Joe Saluzzi, co-head of equity trading at Themis Trading. "There are a lot of headwinds in the market, and on a day like today, investors are waking up and taking notice of all of them."

In Case You Missed It

GOP Rep. Ron Paul of Texas weighs in on the bipartisan budget deal reached last week and says he will not support it.

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