WASHINGTON (CNN) - As Democrats scrambled to meet self-imposed deadlines, Senate Republicans froze the health care debate for at least a day Wednesday by insisting that a 767-page mega-amendment be read out loud in its entirety.
The move was poised take some 12 hours or more and grind Senate business to a halt for the day. It also threatened Democrats' ability to pass a health care bill before Christmas.
Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Oklahoma, set things in motion around lunchtime Wednesday. As the Senate moved to a sweeping single-payer amendment by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, Coburn objected to the common Senate procedure that waives the actual out-loud reading of the proposal.
"I would ask that the amendment be considered as read," Sanders said on the floor.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - As the Senate struggles with a second, competing version of health-care reform, a key player in House negotiations says pivotal committee chairmen in that chamber have coalesced around one position for a final House bill.
House Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller, D-California, made the comment to CNN Wednesday, pointing to discussions with Energy and Commerce Chair Henry Waxman, D-California, and Ways and Means Chairman Charlie Rangel, D-New York.
"We've come together around a position we would want to present to the leadership to go through," Miller said.
Unlike a proposal unveiled Wednesday by Sen. Max Baucus, the House version would include a public option - a government agency that would provide health insurance alongside private companies.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - A coordinated conservative push to kill a climate change bill managed to at least take down the House of Representatives' phone switchboard.
The volume of calls to House members Friday was so high that a spokesman for the House chief administrative officer told CNN Radio the system could not handle it.
"Phone traffic has increased to a level where some callers are receiving an 'all circuits are busy now, please try back again later' message," communications director Jeff Ventura wrote in an e-mail response.
This came as conservative radio hosts and congressmen made direct pleas for voters to dial the Capitol and oppose a Democratic bill that would set strict limits on carbon emissions. Both sides believed the bill was within a few votes of passing or failing.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - The U.S. Senate on Thursday passed a $106 billion spending bill that includes about $80 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, sending the bill to the White House for President Barack Obama's signature.
The money will fund the wars through October. The 91-5 vote followed a much closer procedural vote that added $1 billion in start-up funds for the "Cash For Clunkers" program, an effort to revive the stalled U.S. auto industry.
The money brings the running tab for both conflicts to about $950 billion, according to figures from the Congressional Research Service. The agency estimated that more than three-quarters of the money so far has gone to the war in Iraq, where most of the U.S. troops sent to those conflicts have been deployed.
The spending bill also authorizes the International Monetary Fund to borrow up to $100 billion, a provision Republicans criticized as a "global bailout." The international agency offers lifelines to countries in crisis, and has been heavily tapped during the current global recession.
The spending bill narrowly survived a nail-biter of a vote in the chamber earlier Thursday over the "Cash for Clunkers" provision, which will offer buyers up to $4,500 to trade in gas-guzzling vehicles for more fuel-efficient models. Democrats needed four Republican votes to reach the 60 needed to waive a budget rule and attach the $1 billion appropriation to start the program, and Washington Democrat Maria Cantwell switched an earlier "no" vote to keep it alive.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Grandparents, retirees and struggling seniors have waited months for this.
Tens of millions of Social Security recipients will see their bank accounts jump by $250 starting Thursday, when the government began sending out checks and transferring funds for a one-time boost coming from the stimulus bill passed in February.
The payments are flowing to nearly 55 million seniors and retirees between now and June fourth, with a huge chunk of checks hitting the mail this week.
"Approximately half of them will be out in the next day or two," Social Security Commissioner Michael Astrue told CNN Thursday.
CAPITOL HILL (CNN) - Just hours after Congressional leaders posted the final version of a $789 billion stimulus deal, staffers on Capitol Hill faced both a surge of demand on key Web sites and an apparent technical glitch that crashed those sites off and on throughout the morning.
A spokesman for the Senate appropriations committee told CNN Radio that their site had been up and down all Friday morning. He said technicians had found an apparent server problem that was not related to increased demand.
The technical issue crashed the system at one of the most high-profile moments in years, intermittently blocking the Appropriations homepage and some of the few other sites where taxpayers could find the details of the economic stimulus deal Democrats posted specifics to the Internet late Thursday night. Staffers said that technology crews were working to fix the problem and restore the sites.
ST. PAUL, Minnesota (CNN) - Two protesters tried to disrupt Republican presidential nominee John McCain's speech behind and to the right of the podium.
One took off an outer garment to reveal a pink garment underneath and held a banner in front of her.
The banner was snatched away by a man nearby who threw it to the floor and the protester tried to pick it up and struggled with several people for it.
One of the protesters flashed a peace sign while being led away by a single man. The other struggled with several men before being carried up the stairs and out of the auditorium.