Washington (CNN) - Sen. Charles Schumer announced Sunday that several major airlines have promised not to charge passengers for carry-on baggage.
Schumer, D-New York, said he personally contacted officials at American Airlines, Delta Airlines, JetBlue, United Airlines and US Airways, and secured commitments from all five companies.
Two weeks ago, local carrier Spirit Airlines became the first in the United States to propose charging passengers $45 to store luggage in overhead bins.
"In the last week we have gained tremendous momentum in our effort to keep carry-on bags free," said Schumer. "We have begun to put the brakes on runaway and out-of-control airline fees. I am pleased some of the major carriers have responded to our efforts and have agreed not to charge for something that has always been free."
On Wednesday, Schumer introduced a bill that would amend the tax code to eliminate a loophole that he and four other senators say allows airlines to avoid taxes on certain fees. That effort came a day after two other senators put forward a bill that would change how the Federal Aviation Administration regulates carry-on baggage fees.
Washington (CNN) - In a tense moment during hearings on Capitol Hill, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sparred with Sen. Robert Menendez over whether the United States had halted pro-democracy programs in Cuba.
U.S.-Cuban relations have become tenser in the aftermath of the December imprisonment of a U.S. citizen and government contractor, Alan Gross.
"For some reason, it seems to me, when it comes to Cuba, the recent actions by the regime to arrest an American citizen have totally frozen our actions," Menendez, D-New Jersey, said at a Senate Foreign Relations budget hearing with Clinton.
"Are we going to have a permanent freeze on having entities that are trying to create peaceful change for civil society inside of Cuba? Is that the policy of the State Department?"
Clinton denied a freeze was in force, but said there is "an intense review" under way.
"We are very supportive of the work that we believe should be done to support those people of conscience inside Cuba. We are trying to figure out the best ways to effective in doing that," Clinton said.
Plouffe, Obama’s former campaign manager, will be taking on an expanded role as an outside political adviser to the White House, the Washington Post reported Saturday. Plouffe’s increased role in advising the White House political operation comes in the wake of Democrats’ stunning loss last week in a Massachusetts special Senate election which deprived Obama’s party of the filibuster-proof supermajority it previously held in the Senate. The loss of a crucial 60th vote in the Senate has immediately deprived Democrats of the support necessary to pass a health care reform bill, Obama’s top domestic agenda item of the past year, and has likewise called into question some of Obama’s other ambitious plans including a cap-and-trade energy bill and financial regulatory reform.
Asked whether the White House’s decision to bring in Plouffe suggested that he had not done enough, Sen. Robert Menendez, Chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, said Sunday that he welcomed Plouffe.
“We welcome the White House beefing up their political operation in a volatile political atmosphere,” Menendez told CNN Chief National Correspondent John King.
“Clearly, we did everything we could in Massachusetts,” Menendez also told King, defending his committee’s work in support of Martha Coakley’s failed campaign.
“I think the big take-away from Massachusetts, however, is that, in fact, there is enormous economic angst in the country. . . . And that economic angst came out to play in this election. It is something that I expect the president to deal with in his State of the Union speech and something we will deal with as a jobs package.”
“I’d have a rough time supporting it, to be honest with you,” Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-UT, told CNN Chief National Correspondent John King on State of the Union. “I think it’d just wind up being another excuse [to raise taxes] rather than facing the tough problems that we all should be facing right now, that the president should be facing . . . He ought to do something about it rather than push it off again to another commission that never seems to work anyway.”
The President reversed course and issued a statement Saturday supporting the statutory proposal which could make recommendations binding on Congress. The White House previously proposed the commission be created by executive order – meaning its recommendations would have been non-binding.
Asked whether he would support the statutory proposal, Sen. Robert Menendez, D-NJ, said he was considering both alternatives.
“I haven’t made that final conclusion,” Menendez told King. “I’m looking at, in fact, which of the two might be the best way to ensure that we reduce the deficit.”
Menedez’s sticking point with statutory proposal is the fact that it would only allow an “up-or-down” vote on the bipartisan commission’s recommendations. The other proposal now abandoned by the White House would have allowed Congress to amend the commission’s recommendations.
Washington (CNN) – As the White House tries to rally wavering support for the re-confirmation of Federal Reserve chief Ben Bernanke, two senators – one Democrat and one Republican – announced Sunday that they will support the nation’s top banker despite reservations about him.
President Obama has nominated Bernanke for a second term as the head of the nation’s central bank but Bernanke’s confirmation has become ensnared in concerns about his role in the financial crisis that began in late 2008 and nearly pushed the economy into freefall. Bernanke’s nomination has also been tripped up in recent days by growing populist accusations that the Obama administration bailed out Wall Street and the automotive industry while doing too little to create jobs as the official unemployment rate remains stubbornly at 10 percent.
New Jersey Democrat Sen. Robert Menendez said Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union that he’s had concerns about Bernanke regarding “consumer protection, of being ahead of the curve on the economy and particularly on mortgage foreclosures.”
“I think [Bernanke’s] learned from those lessons,” Menedez told also told CNN Chief National Correspondent John King. “I give him credit for making some significant moves to – along with President Obama – from stopping us from going into a deep depression. So, yes, I will support Chairman Bernanke and I believe that his confirmation will be assured.”
Utah Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch also told King that he will support Bernanke, though Hatch’s pledge of support was far from a ringing endorsement of the embattled Fed chief.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - A Senate Democratic leader acknowledged Tuesday his party failed to move quickly enough to counter Republican critics over the summer, but predicted that GOP gains based on town hall pushback to President Obama's health care plan would cost Republicans at the polls next November.
"To be honest, we needed to be more aggressive in August," New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez, chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, told reporters. "We saw Republicans led by extremists in their party mobilize and make a lot of noise. There's no question some momentum was lost during that period of time.
"But the Republican strategy is for the president and the Congress is to be defeated in policy... It may seem like a strategy, but it is a strategy that's going to backfire on them" in the long term, he predicted.
Menendez is responsible for the Senate Democratic campaign operation and his job has been complicated by primary battles in Colorado, Kentucky and Pennsylvania.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Four senators pushed for a bill Wednesday to ban texting while driving, a day after a study found that drivers who text while on the road are much more likely to have an accident than an undistracted driver.
Sens. Chuck Schumer, D-New York; Robert Menendez, D-New Jersey; Mary Landrieu, D-Louisiana; and Kay Hagan, D-North Carolina, unveiled the ALERT Act, which would ban truck and car drivers and operators of mass transit from texting while driving.
The proposed legislation would prohibit any driver from sending text or e-mail messages while driving a vehicle, said an earlier news release from the senators. If the bill passes, the Department of Transportation would set the minimum standards for compliance.
States that do not enact text-banning laws within two years of the bill's passage could lose 25 percent of their federal highway funds, Schumer said in a news conference announcing the legislation. The non-compliant states could recuperate that money once they meet the text-banning standards, Schumer added.
Fourteen states and the District of Columbia already have laws barring texting while driving, which include the home states of three of the bill's sponsors: Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, North Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia and Washington.