WASHINGTON (CNN) - CNN has learned Senate Democrats will pull money to close the Guantanamo Bay military prison from a war funding bill instead of face an onslaught of criticism from Republicans, who argue it would be reckless to shutter the prison before the Obama administration has decided where to transfer the terrorism suspects who are detained there.
Democratic leaders made the decision this morning, according to two Senate Democratic leadership sources. It is a blow to President Obama who - in one of his first official acts as president - announced that he would close the base by next January 22.
The Senate war supplemental bill, which is scheduled to be voted on this week, included $80 million for the Department of Defense and the Department of Justice to begin the process of shutting down the prison.
Now, that money will be stripped out and replaced with language saying no funds can be used to transfer Guantanamo detainees to the United States, and no additional money will be approved, until 60 days after the president submits to Congress his plan to close the facility. That language is similar to a provision in the House bill.
One of Pelosi's closest allies in the House, Connecticut Democrat John Larson, acknowledged to CNN that the Speaker's news conference last week could have been better, but insisted there hasn't been any fallout among Democrats.
"Perhaps it wasn't one of her best press conferences. But certainly everyone in this caucus stands behind her to be the lead in our caucus. I don't know if it could have been done better or not, but our caucus is entirely behind her, " Larson said.
Several Democratic sources tell CNN that privately, some congressional Democrats are baffled by Pelosi's decision to escalate the controversy last week by going after the CIA.
But Larson, who chairs the House Democratic Caucus, also said he's spoken to members over the weekend and that they are "solidly behind the Speaker."
WASHINGTON (CNN) - At 8:30 a.m., Kirsten Gillibrand looks like any other working mom in a minivan dropping off her baby boy at day care and her other son at school.
But one hour later, she is gaveling the United States Senate into session.
Sen. Gillibrand, D-New York, is part of a different kind of "change" in Washington - a baby boom among female lawmakers.
She had her son Henry 11 months ago, when she was serving in the House of Representatives.
"I think it makes me and the other women better legislators, because we really understand some of the struggles that other moms and other families have," Gillibrand said.
Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, D-South Dakota, had her first baby, Zachary, 5 months ago.
Even though she's a member of Congress, she has to wait her turn on a waiting list with other Capitol Hill employees at the congressional day care center, which is at capacity. Until he can get in, Henry usually spends his days with a nanny or family.
WASHINGTON (CNN)– Top lawmakers and White House officials ended more than nine hours of closed-door negotiations on the economic stimulus bill shortly before midnight Tuesday indicating a final deal on the roughly $800 billion bill is possible as early as Wednesday.
“People are making progress. Drafting is taking place tonight. We’re not there yet but we made a significant amount of progress,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said as he left House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office for the last time of the day.
“Everybody is doing what we’re supposed to be doing,” said White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel. “Everyone knows the seriousness of the economic crisis.”
Pelosi, Reid, and Emanuel shuttled between meetings on the either side of the Capitol. The meetings included key House and Senate committee chairmen as well as the three Senate Republican moderates who voted for the bill Tuesday, giving it a slim margin of victory.
They were trying to execute a broad framework that Democratic sources tell CNN was hatched in an unpublicized White House meeting early Tuesday morning with President Obama, Reid and Pelosi.
Details began to emerge on the merging of the bills. Two senior Democratic sources said negotiators had agreed on a top line number of $800 billion but later one of those sources said the number could be even less. That would be less than either the Senate’s $838 billion bill or the House’s $819 billion.
Several sources involved tell CNN that the number is lower to satisfy the three moderate Republican senators who wanted a lower final number.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Sources close to Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio, tell CNN he will announce Monday he is retiring from the Senate.
The 72-year-old senator and former Ohio governor has been contemplating retirement for a while but made his final decision this weekend in Florida, where he was joined by his wife, children and grandchildren, according to one of the sources.
Voinovich plans to serve out his term, which expires in 2010.
He plans to make the announcement at 4 p.m. ET Monday in Washington, the source said.
Voinovich will be the fourth Republican senator to announce he will not run for re-election in 2010. Sen. Kit Bond, R-Missouri, said late last week that we would retire, joining Sen. Mel Martinez, R-Florida, and Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kansas, who had already announced they would leave Capitol Hill when their terms end at the close of the 111th Congress.
Republicans must defend 15 incumbents and four open seats in 2010. (Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, whose term is not up until 2012, is seriously considering a 2010 gubernatorial bid and could also be vacating her seat early).
Meanwhile, Democrats have to defend 15 incumbents and two seats where special elections are expected to be held. In Delaware, a special election will be scheduled for Vice President-elect Joe Biden's seat as well as a special election in New York should Hillary Clinton be confirmed as the next Secretary of State.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - A senior Democratic leadership aide tells CNN that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has asked Senate Banking Chairman Chris Dodd and his staff to work this weekend to prepare several options on how to help auto companies, plans Democratic will consider first thing Monday morning.
The aide gave a highly optimistic timetable, given the deep divide among lawmakers about how, and whether, to help Detroit.
“Ideally, we would reach consensus on process and substance with our caucus and Senate Minority Mitch McConnell mid-day Monday,” said the aide, who said their goal would be to schedule any necessary votes no later than mid-week.
Democratic leaders were hoping to confer with Republicans about various ideas most lawmakers are reluctant to discuss publicly.
(CNN) – Republican National Committee Chairman Mike Duncan told CNN he will spend the coming weekend deciding whether to run for another term at the helm of the GOP, and could announce his decision Monday.
Duncan said he is torn about what to do - he said he likes his job very much, but also feels it may time for him to return home to Kentucky after being at the RNC for eight years.
Duncan's deliberations come as several other Republicans are publicly eying his post, following two straight election cycles during which the GOP suffered stinging defeats.
Duncan has steadily risen through the ranks of the RNC over the last decade. In 2001 he was elected the committee's treasurer and was named general counsel in 2002. In 2007, President Bush tapped him to replace outgoing RNC chairman Ken Mehlman.
If he enters the race, Duncan will face a long list of challengers: former Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele, South Carolina Republican Party Chairman Katon Dawson, former Mike Huckabee campaign manager and ex-Tennessee Republican party Chairman Chip Saltsman, and Michigan Republican Party Chairman Saul Anuzis have already declared they are seeking Duncan's job.
An RNC source close to Duncan later called to say the announcement may not come until later next week.
(CNN) - CNN has learned that John McCain met Tuesday night with top advisers to start the process of setting up a political action committee.
A senior McCain aide says that was done to send the signal he intends to run for another term as senator from Arizona.
He is up for re-election in 2010.
MIAMI (CNN) – Two hours before Thursday morning’s press conference at the Republican Governors Association — her first since the Republican presidential ticket lost last week — Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin was still scheduled to appear alone. Instead, she spoke with a row of fellow governors standing silently behind her.
Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour told CNN producer Evan Glass that they all met at 9 a.m. - an hour-and-a-half before the press conference’s scheduled start time - and by then it had been "decided" that they'd all go out together.
An RGA official told CNN the reason for the change is a "long story."
He said that when the governors were all at their private morning meeting, someone brought up the desire to get beyond what happened in the McCain campaign and look towards 2009 and 2010.
Then, this source said, Palin piped up and said she agreed that she didn't want to talk about the past.
TAMPA, Florida (CNN) – Ensuring that news of the Republican National Committee's sartorial spending spree will remain in the headlines for at least one more news cycle, Sarah Palin on Sunday sounded off on the $150,000 wardrobe that was purchased for her in September, denouncing the report as "ridiculous" and declaring emphatically: "Those clothes, they are not my property."
A senior adviser to John McCain told CNN's Dana Bash that the comments about her wardrobe "were not the remarks we sent to her plane this morning." Palin did not discuss the wardrobe story at her rally in Kissimmee later in the day.
But in Tampa, Palin happily broached the clothing issue after being introduced by "The View" co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck, who accused Palin's opponents of being "fixated on her wardrobe" and "deliberately sexist."
That opened the door for Palin to weigh in on a topic that has frustrated the candidate and her advisers since the story first broke five days ago.
"This whole thing with the wardrobe, you know I have tried to just ignore it because it is so ridiculous, but I am glad now that Elisabeth brought it up, cause it gives me an opportunity without the filter of the media to get to tell you the whole clothes thing," she said.
"Those clothes, they are not my property. Just like the lighting and the staging and everything else that the RNC purchased, I'm not taking them with me. I am back to wearing my own clothes from my favorite consignment shop in Anchorage, Alaska. You'd think - not that I would even have to address the issue because, as Elisabeth is suggesting, the double standard here it's - gosh, we don't even want to waste our time."
Palin, however, forged on.
"I am glad, though, that she brought up accessories also. Let me tell you a little bit about a couple of accessories, didn't think that we would be talking about it, but my earrings - I see a Native Americans for Palin poster," she said. "These are beaded earrings from Todd's mom who is a Yupik Eskimo up in Alaska, Native American, Native Alaskan.