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: Congress passes budget deal despite GOP defections
A budget deal reached last week to avert a government shutdown won approval Thursday from both the House and Senate, sending it to President Barack Obama for his signature. The measure cuts $38.5 billion in spending while funding the government for the rest of the current fiscal year, which ends September 30. With its passage, the White House and Congress will now focus on what are expected to be more rancorous battles over a budget for fiscal year 2012 and the upcoming need to raise the federal debt limit.
CNN: Wasserman Schultz: GOP budget proposal, 'death trap for seniors'
Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz stood by her comments that Republican Rep. Paul Ryan's budget proposal is a "death trap for seniors" in a CNN interview Thursday. The incoming head of the Democratic National Committee reasoned that dramatic cuts in state funding within the GOP proposal would put seniors living in nursing homes under Medicare at risk. "You are going to have some seniors not survive because they won't be able to either get access to a nursing home or they will get kicked out of a nursing home and they will have to make it on their own," Wasserman Schultz said Thursday on CNN's American Morning.
CNN: 'I'm not confident' Afghanistan operation will work, Reid says
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid expressed doubt in the U.S. military operation in Afghanistan Thursday, saying, "I'm not confident it's going to work." In an interview that aired Thursday on CNN's "The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer," the five-term Nevada senator said, "The president has indicated as commander-in-chief he is going to start drawing down the forces this summer." Reid also noted the $100 billion the country is spending, calling it a "huge amount of money" that the nation "cannot continue to keep dumping" into the Afghanistan war.
CNN: Independent groups expected to rake in hundreds of millions
As President Barack Obama kicks off the 2012 money race with a series of well-publicized re-election fundraisers in Chicago, Democratic operatives are quietly crisscrossing the nation to raise big money for new independent expenditure groups. All told, these Democratic third-party groups aim to raise up to $200 million in outside money - that's in addition to the $1 billion Obama's fundraisers set as their campaign goal. The number and size of the independent expenditure groups ballooned last year, thanks in part a Supreme Court ruling that allows unlimited contributions by corporations.
Politico: Being speaker pays off for John Boehner
House Speaker John Boehner has raised more than $4.8 million in the first quarter of 2011, demonstrating the Ohio Republican’s fundraising power now that he has taken over as the top lawmaker in the House. Boehner also transferred nearly $850,000 to the National Republican Congressional Committee, the campaign arm of House Republican, from two of his political committees – the Freedom Project and Boehner for Speaker. And the Freedom Project, which is Boehner’s leadership PAC, gave another $60,000 to Republican freshmen to help retire their debt from the 2010 campaign.
CNN: Obama: People aren't worried about conspiracy theories
Before President Obama left Washington Thursday for three fundraisers in his hometown, he tackled Trump's recent concerns and outlined the road ahead as a candidate for re-election. In an interview on ABC News, he addressed the on-going zings from real estate mogul Donald Trump, who's ramped up his questioning of Obama's birth place in recent months saying, "Over the last two and a half years there's been an effort to go at me in a way that is politically expedient in the short-term for Republicans." "But it creates, I think, a problem for them when they want to actually run in a general election where most people feel pretty confident the President was born where he says he was, in Hawaii."
Arizona Republic: Arizona lawmakers OK requiring proof of citizenship to run for president
The Arizona Legislature has become the first in the nation to pass a measure requiring presidential candidates to provide proof of citizenship in order to get on the state's ballot. House Bill 2177 got final approval Thursday night from the House. It will be transmitted to Gov. Jan Brewer, who will then have five days to sign it, veto it or do nothing and allow it to become law. If Brewer chooses to veto the bill, Republican lawmakers could attempt an override vote. The bill would become law if two-thirds of legislators supported the override.
CNN: Wisconsin judge dismisses 1 of 3 suits challenging controversial law
A Wisconsin judge on Thursday dismissed one of three lawsuits challenging the state's controversial collective bargaining law. Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi dismissed the suit filed by Dane County and two officials, County Executive Kathleen Falk and County Board Chair Scott McDonell, saying the county lacks legal standing to assert constitutional claims against the state. "Under longstanding Wisconsin law, an agency or arm of government lacks authority to challenge the constitutionality of state statutes," Sumi wrote. However, she indicated that Falk and McDonell may continue the suit as individuals and taxpayers.
Politico: Oklahoma governor returns $54M health care grant
Under mounting pressure from local Republican legislators, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin is turning her back on a $54 million health reform grant she once proudly supported. It is by far the largest health reform grant that any state has rejected. Other states have returned or turned down $1 million exchange planning grants. Oklahoma "will not accept the $54 million Early Innovator Grant" Fallin announced Thursday afternoon, noting that the move "accomplishes my goal from the very beginning: stopping the implementation of the president's federal health care exchange in Oklahoma."
CNN: Delaware lawmakers approves civil unions bill
Delaware lawmakers on Thursday approved a measure legalizing civil unions, sending the bill to the governor for his signature. The 26-15 vote by the state House of Representatives was heralded by gay rights groups. The state Senate passed the bill last week on a 13-6 vote. "Parties who enter into a lawful civil union in Delaware, or whose legal union is recognized as a civil union under Delaware law, will have all of the same rights, benefits, protections and responsibilities as married persons under Delaware law," the measure says.
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CNN: FAA official out amid sleeping-on-the-job cases
The Federal Aviation Administration official in charge of operating the air traffic control system has resigned amid revelations that several controllers have fallen asleep on the job this year, the FAA chief said Thursday. Stepping down is Hank Krakowski, who has been the head of the FAA Air Traffic Organization. David Grizzle, the FAA's chief counsel, will be the acting chief of the unit during a search to fill the post, according to Randy Babbitt, the agency's administrator. "Over the last few weeks we have seen examples of unprofessional conduct on the part of a few individuals that have rightly caused the traveling public to question our ability to ensure their safety. This conduct must stop immediately," Babbitt said in a written statement.
Los Angeles Times: Banks are foreclosing while homeowners pursue loan modifications
Mortgage lenders call it "dual tracking," but for homeowners struggling to avoid foreclosure, it might go by another name: the double-cross. Dual tracking refers to a common bank tactic. When a borrower in default seeks a loan modification, the institution often continues to pursue foreclosure at the same time. Lenders contend that dual tracking simply protects their investment if the homeowner is unable to qualify for new loan terms. Mortgage servicers can lose money if they don't foreclose in a timely manner, and repossessions often are complicated and lengthy. But regulators and consumer advocates say the practice lulls some homeowners into thinking they are no longer at risk of having their homes taken away.
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CNN: Western leaders reject a future Libya led by Gadhafi
In a joint opinion piece to be published Friday, the leaders of the United States, Britain and France lay out in stark terms their contention that Libya's future must not include its leader, Moammar Gadhafi. "It is unthinkable that someone who has tried to massacre his own people can play a part in their future government," said the article, titled "Libya's Pathway to Peace," by U.S. President Barack Obama, British Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Nicolas Sarkozy. "It would be an unconscionable betrayal."
CNN: Iran helping Syria quell protests, U.S. says
The U.S. State Department accuses Iran of helping the Syrian government's efforts to suppress protests that have taken place there in recent weeks. "We believe that there is credible information that Iran is assisting Syria" in quelling the protesters, department spokesman Mark Toner said Thursday. U.S. officials said the Iranian assistance includes gear used to suppress crowds, as well as equipment and technical advice for monitoring and blocking e-mail, cell phones, text messaging, and internet postings by and among activists.
CNN: U.S. Embassy plans to reopen Ivory Coast consular section
The U.S. Embassy consular section in Abidjan may reopen Monday, but it initially will provide limited services, according to the State Department. The department continues to warn American citizens against traveling to Ivory Coast despite the arrest of former President Laurent Gbagbo, who defied calls to step down after an electoral commission declared he lost a presidential election in November to Alassane Ouattara. A violent power struggle followed the standoff, with supporters loyal to both sides taking to the streets in protests since December. Hundreds have been killed, according to the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross.
Bloomberg: Tepco Plans Initial $600 Million Payment to Evacuees of Nuclear Disaster
Tokyo Electric Power Co. said it expects to make initial payments of about 50 billion yen ($600 million) to compensate evacuees from the area near the damaged Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear power plant. The company plans to offer 1 million yen per household and 750,000 yen for single-person households within 30 kilometers of the plant, President Masataka Shimizu said at a briefing in Tokyo today. About 50,000 families who were ordered to leave their homes or to remain indoors will receive the financial aid, he said.
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CNNMoney: China's economy slows, as inflation remains feverish
China's economy grew at a slightly slower rate in the first quarter, as food prices continued to surge and limit the purchasing power of consumers. Chinese economy grew at a pace of 9.7% in the first three months of the year, the National Bureau of Statistics said Friday. While that feverish speed far outpaces growth in advanced nations like the United States, it marks a slight slowdown from the 9.8% growth rate seen in the prior quarter. China is the world's second largest economy after the U.S., but is considered an emerging economy because of its rapid growth and industrialization. Staggering growth of around 10% has been common in China over the last 30 years.
CNNMoney: Google's profit up 17% but misses Street's expectations
Investors hoping brand-new CEO Larry Page would pull a rabbit out of his hat were disappointed Thursday, when Google reported a quarterly profit that rose from year-ago results but missed Wall Street's forecasts. Shares of Google (GOOG, Fortune 500) dropped 5% after hours. Google is still making gobs of money. The world's online search leader said its net income in the first quarter rose to $2.3 billion, or $7.04 per share, up 17% from a year earlier. Sales rose 27%, to $8.6 billion. But investors have grown nervous about the fact that Google is maturing - and, they fear, plateauing.
In Case You Missed It
On the House floor Thursday, Rep. Joseph Crowley silently protested the GOP's stance on job creation.
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