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.
(CNN) – Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, the new vice chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, said Tuesday President-elect Barack Obama's vacant Senate seat should not viewed as 'the black seat.'
“Mr. Burris will be seated or won’t be seated on the basis of what happens in a court. I don’t think it’s in the people of Illinois’ interests for us to color that seat," Cleaver told reporters on Capitol Hill. "That seat can’t be the black seat. If that happens we begin to lose the progress we made.”
Those comments appear at odds with views of Rep. Bobby Rush, who has implored Senate Democrats to seat Burris because there are currently no African-American members of the Senate, and called the currently all-white chamber the "the last bastion of plantation politics."
WASHINGTON (CNN) – A group of House Republicans stayed in session and continued energy speeches Monday despite the summer adjournment in hopes of pressuring Democrats for a vote on oil drilling.
The speeches, a mix of democratic defiance and political showmanship, were part of a plan to pressure House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, to hold votes on offshore drilling, nuclear power and other GOP energy proposals.
Republicans refused to leave the House floor on Friday and began five hours of speeches protesting against Democratic energy policies immediately after the House of Representatives adjourned for its annual five-week break.
Listen: House GOP ask for the 'opportunity to vote'
The speeches picked up again Monday morning, and Republicans have pledged to keep up the effort.
"We'll continue at least this week," said Rep. Tom Price, R-Georgia. "Then we'll see what we know."
Price said 24 congressmen returned to the Capitol for Monday's session.
Listen: Price pushes for an offshore drilling vote
Rep. Mike Pence, R-Indiana, said that 40 Republican members are committed to rotate in shifts throughout the week. Asked how long they'll be there, he said, "We'll be here as long as we can."
WASHINGTON (CNN) — Republicans are attacking the "audacity" of recent comments Barack Obama reportedly made to Democratic congressional leaders Tuesday night in a closed-door meeting.
In comments first reported by the Washington Post and confirmed to CNN by a senior Democratic aide, while discussing his recent trip to Europe, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee said, "This is the moment, as Nancy [Pelosi] noted, that the world has been waiting for.”
The Illinois senator, on Capitol Hill to give House Democrats a pep talk ahead of the November elections, also said he had "become a symbol of the possibility of America returning to our best traditions."
The Democratic aide told CNN that comment was made in the context of "Americans struggling and demanding change." A House Democratic leadership aide who was in the room also told CNN Obama's point was the campaign is "NOT about him."
"The [Washington] Post left out the important first half of the sentence, which was something along the lines of: ‘It has become increasingly clear in my travel, the campaign, that the crowds, the enthusiasm, 200,000 people in Berlin, is not about me at all. It’s about America. I have just become a symbol…,'" the aide said.
The Republican National Committee circulated the comments to reporters under the banner, "Barack Obama audacity watch." John McCain's presidential campaign also forwarded the comments with the subject line, "wow."
Obama and the Democratic leadership emerged from the meeting upbeat Tuesday evening after meeting behind closed doors for close to an hour. Speaking to reporters after the meeting House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Obama has the ability to transform the way Washington does business.
"If we do what I know is possible then I think we can shake up Washington and actually deliver for the American people and that's an exciting prospect," she said.
Also speaking at the press conference, Obama predicted the November election could be a transformative one.
"If the Democrats can make clear our vision, which is not for larger government but is for a responsive, efficient, and honest government that is listening to the voices of the American people, if the American people can feel confident that the institutions here in Washington are working for them and not on behalf of special interests, then I think this can be an incredible election," he said.
(CNN)— A plane carrying Texas Rep. Ron Paul and six other members of Congress was forced to make an emergency landing Tuesday due to mechanical issues.
According to the Federal Avaiation Administration (FAA), Continental Airlines flight 458, a Boeing 737 en route to Washington, DC from Houston made a rapid decent in New Orleans when the pilot reported pressurization problems.
Reps. Ted Poe, Nick Lampson, and Henry Cuellar, Solomon P. Ortiz, John Carter, and Ciro Rodriguez were among those aboard the flight. The FAA says the plane had a safe landing in New Orleans with no injuries.
Update: Trevor Kincaid, a spokesman for Rep. Nick Lampson, tells CNN the congressmen are being rebooked on two different flights from New Orleans to Washington, D.C.
Kincaid said Lampson told him, "there was a minor technical failure with the pressure" and there was "a slow gradual descent, no nosedive." Lampson told him in a phone conversation that, "some people didn't realize there was a problem until the gas masks came down." Lampson said there was no panic on the plane and praised Continental Airlines for their handling of the situation.
(CNN) - On the same day Democratic leaders stressed party unity after the drawn out primary fight, one congressional Democrat said Tuesday he will not endorse Barack Obama's bid for the White House.
Rep. Dan Boren, Oklahoma's lone Democrat in Congress, told the Associated Press Obama is "the most liberal senator," and said he has to listen to the wishes of his own constituents.
"We're much more conservative," Boren said of his rural district which stretches across the eastern part of the state and borders Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas, and Texas.
"I've got to reflect my district. No one means more to me than the people who elected me. I have to listen to them," Boren added. His congressional office confirmed the accuracy of the quotes to CNN.
Boren also said Obama's record "does not reflect working in a bipartisan fashion." But the Oklahoma Democrat said he would vote for Obama at the party's convention in August because of the serious issues the country faces.
"I think this is an important time for our country," he said. "We're facing a terrible economic downturn. We have high gasoline prices. We have problems in our foreign policy. That's why I think it's important."
Boren's comments come a day after Florida Democratic Rep. Tim Mahoney also said he has no plans to make a formal endorsement. The freshman Democrat, who replaced Republican Rep. Mark Foley following House page scandal, told the Palm Beach Post he plans on remaining an uncommitted superdelegate and may not even attend the convention.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Several sources tell CNN that House Majority Whip and superdelegate James Clyburn of South Carolina will endorse Senator Barack Obama Tuesday.
Clyburn, whose congressional district went overwhelmingly for Obama in the state's January primary, had said that he would wait to weigh in on the presidential race until the last nominating contest had been held. Earlier this spring, he had made remarks critical of Bill Clinton, calling his conduct on the trail "bizarre," and telling interviewers that some of the former president's actions had deeply upset African-Americans.
"There are African-Americans who have reached the decision that the Clintons know that [Hillary Clinton] can’t win this," he told Reuters. "But they’re hell-bound to make it impossible for Obama to win.”
WASHINGTON (CNN) – Speaker Nancy Pelosi blasted President Bush's comments Thursday suggesting that Democrats believe "we should negotiate with terrorists and radicals" and suggested Senator John McCain denounce them.
But the presumptive Republican nominee himself defended the remarks, said he intended to make Barack Obama’s willingness to consider dialogue with Iran an issue in the fall campaign, calling on the Illinois senator to “explain [that decision] to the American people.”
“It is a serious error on the part of Senator Obama that shows naiveté and inexperience and lack of judgment - to say that he wants to sit down across the table from an individual who leads a country who says that Israel is a stinking corpse, that is dedicated to the extinction of Israel,” said McCain Thursday. “My question is, what does he want to talk about?”
Pelosi, who is leaving later today on a bipartisan congressional trip to Israel, said there is a "protocol" of not criticizing the President when he is abroad, but then declared, "I think what the president did in that regard is beneath the dignity of the office of president and unworthy of our representation at that observance in Israel."
The California Democrat added that she hopes "any serious person would disassociate themselves from the president's remarks, who aspires to leadership in our country."
WASHINGTON (CNN) – A House committee Thursday asked former White House political adviser Karl Rove to testify about allegations that Bush administration officials pushed for federal prosecutions of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman and other Democrats.
House Judiciary Committee leaders said it is "imperative" that Rove answer allegations that he pressed the Justice Department to investigate Siegelman, a Democrat who when indicted was preparing a rematch against Alabama's Republican governor in 2006.
"We look forward to scheduling an early date for your voluntary appearance," the committee's Democratic leaders wrote in a letter released Thursday.
Rove's lawyer, Robert Luskin, said Thursday that President Bush's onetime political mastermind "absolutely denies he was in any way involved in the decision to prosecute Don Siegelman." Luskin said he has had no direct communication the the Judiciary Committee's staff or its chairman, Rep. John Conyers, D-Michigan, and said the White House would have to decide whether Rove will be able to testify.