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: Budget debate shifts to raising debt ceiling
An escalating national debate on federal deficits and government spending focused Sunday on the upcoming deadline for Congress to increase the amount of money that the United States can borrow. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner said congressional leaders told President Barack Obama last week that they will raise the federal debt ceiling when it reaches its limit, which is expected to happen sometime within the next 10 weeks. "Congress will raise the debt ceiling," Geithner told ABC's "This Week" program. "I sat there with them and they said, 'We recognize we have to do this.' "
CNN: Sen. Paul: Both sides need to give in
To reach a deal in Congress over the national debt, Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky said both political parties need to make concessions, excluding higher tax rates. “The compromise is for conservatives to admit that the military budget’s going to have to be cut,” Paul said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “Liberals will have to compromise and will have to cut domestic welfare.” To reach a deal in Congress over the national debt, Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky said both political parties need to make concessions, excluding higher tax rates. “The compromise is for conservatives to admit that the military budget’s going to have to be cut,” Paul said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “Liberals will have to compromise and will have to cut domestic welfare.”
CNN: Trump: I’m ‘much bigger’ than Romney
Real estate mogul Donald Trump touted his net worth as a selling point over likely presidential contender and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. “I'm a much bigger business man and have (a) much, much bigger net worth. I mean, my net worth is many, many, many times Mitt Romney,” Trump said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “I built a very big net worth and I’d like to put that ability … to work for this country.”
Politico: Senate Democrats bank on incumbency
Democratic senators confronting stiff electoral headwinds next year are emerging from the first fundraising quarter with an uplifting takeaway: They’re outraising their opponents out of the gate. Despite the daunting prospect of defending 23 seats and the residue of the hypercharged 2010 environment, most Democratic incumbents in battleground states stockpiled at least $1 million to begin the year as they hunker down to protect their four-seat majority. Comparatively, just two Republican challengers hit the million-dollar marker.
Roll Call: Hawaii Braces for Democratic Primary Clash
Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray (Wash.) has said she doesn’t have the “bloody primary” problem that Republicans face in races across the country, but she clearly was not referring to Hawaii’s Senate contest. The roles are reversed in the Aloha State, home to some infamously competitive Democratic primaries in recent years and where former Gov. Linda Lingle looks to have a clear path to the GOP nomination if she runs. Several Democrats are interested in replacing retiring Democratic Sen. Daniel Akaka, including the state’s two Congresswomen, Reps. Mazie Hirono and Colleen Hanabusa.
Roll Call: Could There Be a Trio of Pauls in Congress?
Another member of the Paul clan is looking to join the family business: Robert Paul, son of Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), has expressed interest in joining his brother, Rand Paul (R-Ky.), in the Senate. Robert Paul, a Texas doctor, told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that he’s looking at running for retiring GOP Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison’s seat. “I have thought about running,” he told the Star-Telegram. “I am very happy as a physician, but [I] have a lot of concern about the debt.”
Newark Star Ledger: Christie estimates changes in employee benefits will save $ 870M a year
Gov. Chris Christie estimates his plan to overhaul the state’s public employee health benefits system will save more than $870 million a year by 2014 by shifting significant percentage of the costs to employees and future retirees, according to the Treasury Department. In the most detailed explanation of the proposal to date, Treasury spokesman Andrew Pratt said the governor wants to gradually increase state employee health benefit contributions over three years, requiring them to pay 10 percent of premiums this July and climbing to 30 percent by July 2014. New workers would immediately pay 30 percent.
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CNN: U.S. storms kill more than 40
Powerful storms that have ripped across the Southeast killed more than 40 people over the past three days, according to the National Weather Service and reports from several states. A CNN meteorologist called the storms' impact on North Carolina "epic." Among the worst-hit places was Bertie County, North Carolina, a rural area in the northeast part of the state. The weather service reported 14 deaths in the county. Zee Lamb, county manager, said there were 11 fatalities. More than 50 people were taken to hospitals in Greenville, and between 50 and 70 homes were destroyed, Lamb said.
CNN: Official: Texas crews rush to fend off 'perfect storm for wildfires'
Faced with some of driest conditions Texas has seen in nearly a century, firefighters around the state are struggling to fight off what a forest service official on Sunday called the "perfect storm for wildfires." April Saginor, a spokeswoman with the Texas Forest Service, said crews were having difficulty getting hundreds of blazes under control due to a rare combination of strong winds, unseasonably warm temperatures and low humidity. Conditions this spring are the driest they've been in Texas since 1917, she claimed. Authorities have responded to 7,807 fires across more than 1.5 million acres since this year's wildfire season began, Gov. Rick Perry wrote in a letter late Saturday to President Barack Obama requesting that the federal government declare Texas a disaster area. These have affected all but two of the state's 254 counties.
CNN: LaHood: New rules for air traffic controllers
Air traffic controllers are facing a slew of new rules aimed at preventing them from falling asleep while on duty, the government announced Sunday. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said the Federal Aviation Administration and the Air Traffic Controllers Union agreed to implement the changes effective immediately, following a series of recent incidents involving sleeping air traffic controllers. Controllers will now have a minimum of nine hours off between shifts, instead of the current eight-hour minimum, LaHood said. That will apply when they swap shifts as well. Controllers can no longer be put on an unscheduled midnight shift following a day off.
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CNN: Rebels question NATO as fighting continues
As fighting continued in the Libyan cities of Ajdabiya and Misrata Sunday, a rebel spokesman questioned the commitment of NATO's mission there. Forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi were bombing Ajdabiya from 40-50 kilometers (25-31 miles) away, Libyan rebel spokesman Shamsiddin Abdulmolah told CNN. The loyalists who were bombing the city "have no problem with the weather conditions there," referring to unconfirmed reports that NATO airstrikes were halted in the area due to weather conditions.
CNN: Security forces kill 7 in Syria, an opposition source says
In separate incidents, Syrian security forces opened fire on protesters in Homs and mourners at a funeral in Talbisa Sunday, killing seven people and injuring more than 50, an opposition source told CNN. In Homs, the source said thousands of protesters demanding reform were surrounded by security forces. They attacked demonstrators, firing live ammunition and tear gas into the crowds, the source said. He said three people were killed and 13 others injured in the clash. In the nearby town of Talbisa, the source said four people were killed and more than 40 wounded when security forces opened fire on mourners at a funeral.
CNN: Nine months to end Japan's nuclear crisis, plant owner estimates
Engineers will need six to nine months to bring the damaged nuclear reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant to heel, the plant's owners said Sunday in their first public timetable for ending the crisis. It will take three months to reduce the levels of radioactivity in the plant and restore normal cooling systems in the reactors and spent fuel pools, the Tokyo Electric Power Company announced. Another three to six months will be needed before the reactors are fully shut down and new shells are built around their damaged housings, the company said.
CNN: U.S., Japan announce joint post-crisis rebuilding effort
The U.S. secretary of state and the Japanese foreign minister on Sunday announced plans for a joint reconstruction venture as the Asian nation grapples with a nuclear crisis following a devastating earthquake and deadly tsunami. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said aid to Japan honors Japan's legacy of assisting other countries in crisis. "Our two governments ... have agreed to create a public-private partnership for reconstruction," Clinton said. "We wish to enhance cooperation between Japan and American businesses, between civil society groups, public officials, under the guidance of the government of Japan, with its planning."
CNN: Official: 5 troops killed in Afghanistan bombing are all Americans
Five troops killed in a suicide bombing this weekend at a military base in eastern Afghanistan were members of the U.S. Army's 101st Airborne Division, a senior U.S. military official said Sunday. Earlier, authorities had said only that five members of NATO-led International Security Assistance Force, which includes troops from the United States and other nations, were killed in the Saturday incident. The families of all five have been notified of the deaths, and a formal announcement from the Army is forthcoming, said the official, who declined to be identified pending the announcement.
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Bloomberg: Oil Declines in New York After Saudi Arabia Says Market Is `Oversupplied'
Oil declined for the first time in four days in New York after Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest exporter, said the global market has adequate crude supplies. Futures slipped as much as 0.9 percent after Saudi Arabia’s Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi said yesterday the “market is oversupplied.” Crude fell 2.8 percent last week on speculation price gains spurred by conflicts in the Middle East will curb economic expansion. The world economy is being hurt by “very high” oil prices, said Nobuo Tanaka, the International Energy Agency’s executive director. “You don’t see a major supplier of crude make comments like that unless there’s a genuine feeling to get prices lower,” Jonathan Barratt, managing director of Commodity Broking Services Pty in Sydney, said by telephone.
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