POLITICAL HOT TOPICS: Thursday, January 20, 2011
January 20th, 2011
04:23 AM ET
12 years ago

POLITICAL HOT TOPICS: Thursday, January 20, 2011

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.

For the latest political news: www.CNNPolitics.com

CNN: U.S., China pledge cooperation on key issues
U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao lifted glasses at a White House state dinner Wednesday night, with Obama saying that "while it's easier to focus on our differences of culture and perspective, let us never forget the values that our people share. A reverence for family, the belief that with education and hard work and sacrifice, the future is what we make of it and, most of all, our desire to give our children a better life," Obama said, enumerating what he called common values between the U.S. and China in toasting Hu. Hu, toasting Obama at the first formal state dinner for China in more than 13 years, praised the U.S. president for bringing the two countries closer together.

CNN: Chinese president faces chilly welcome in U.S. Congress
After all the niceties of a state dinner at the White House, the reception Chinese President Hu Jintao receives on Capitol Hill Thursday may be a bit chilly in comparison. Hu is scheduled to meet separately with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker John Boehner. Neither man attended Wednesday night's dinner in honor of the Chinese leader. Reid called Hu a "dictator" in a Tuesday television interview, but quickly recanted his words. "Maybe I shouldn't have said dictator, but they have a different type of government than we have and that is understatement."

CNN: House votes to repeal health care law against long odds
The House of Representatives voted to repeal the Obama administration's signature health-care legislation Wednesday evening, a vote the newly elected Republican majority called a fulfillment of their No. 1 campaign promise. The bill, dubbed the "Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act," passed 245-189. Three Democrats joined a unanimous Republican caucus on the vote. The legislation is unlikely to make it past the Democratic-controlled Senate, where Majority Leader Harry Reid has said he won't bring it to the floor for a vote. And even if it did, it would face a certain veto by President Barack Obama. But Rep. Mike Pence, a leading GOP conservative, dismissed Democratic criticism that Wednesday's vote was a "gimmick." "We have another term for it on our side of the aisle: It's a promise kept," he said.

CNNMoney: Health care repeal would kill off tax breaks
Why do Republicans want to take away tax breaks for small businesses? Well, they don't really. What they want to do is kill off last year's health care reform act, which they say will stifle jobs by suffocating employers with red tape. On Wednesday, the House passed a bill repealing the law. The vote is symbolic because the Senate is not expected to follow suit. But no one expects the debate over the law's merits to quiet down. And lost in all the rhetoric: For businesses with fewer than 50 employees, the law does not impose specific near-term health care mandates. On the contrary: It contains a number of tax credits that will help small businesses pay for health insurance.

CNN: House Democrat compares Republican 'lies' to Nazi propagandist
A House Democrat compared Republicans to one of the most reviled Nazis during World War ll– ignoring efforts on both sides of the aisle to tone down the political rhetoric. Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tennessee, used a late night House floor speech Tuesday to hit Republicans for what he called "lies" about a government takeover of the health care system, and evoked Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels. "They say it's a government takeover of health care, a big lie, just like Goebbels. You say it enough, you repeat the lie, you repeat the lie, you repeat the lie and eventually people believe it," he said. Cohen, who is Jewish, went on to compare that "lie" to the term "blood libel," a phrase that historically was used to falsely accuse Jews of killing Christian children. In present times, the term has come to be understood by some as any false accusation of murder. Sarah Palin used the term last week, but Cohen did not mention her by name in his speech.

CNN: Giffords stands with assistance, may move to rehab center Friday
Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was able to stand with assistance on Wednesday, an aide said, with her doctor adding that the congresswoman has the strength to stand on her own. "Today we were getting her out of bed again and we were able to stand with assistance," said Dr. Peter Rhee, Tucson's University Medical Center's trauma chief. "She's got the strength to stand on her own, lift her head up and these ... I see improvements every single day." Rhee was speaking to CNN affiliate KVOA. Giffords' chief of staff, Pia Carusone, told CNN Wednesday that Giffords had stood Wednesday "with assistance." A federal grand jury in Tucson indicted Jared Lee Loughner on three charges of attempted murder on Wednesday.

CNN: Steele: GOP relieved I'm gone
Michael Steele, the newly ousted chairman of the Republican National Committee, said he's "disappointed" he lost the recent election but that many in his party are relieved. "I think the people in the party, particularly the establishment, are breathing a sigh of relief," Steele said Wednesday on CNN's "The Situation Room." "They have control of the RNC now; let's see what they do with it." Steele said he thinks members of his party wanted someone with a different tone to run the fundraising arm of the national party. The former Maryland lieutenant governor often made controversial comments that landed him in the national hot seat.

New York Times: U.S. Prepares to Lift Ban on Guantánamo Cases
The Obama administration is preparing to increase the use of military commissions to prosecute Guantánamo detainees, an acknowledgment that the prison in Cuba remains open for business after Congress imposed steep new impediments to closing the facility. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates is expected to soon lift an order blocking the initiation of new cases against detainees, which he imposed on the day of President Obama’s inauguration. That would clear the way for tribunal officials, for the first time under the Obama administration, to initiate new charges against detainees. Charges would probably then come within weeks against one or more detainees who have already been designated by the Justice Department for prosecution before a military commission, including Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, a Saudi accused of planning the 2000 bombing of the American destroyer Cole in Yemen; Ahmed al-Darbi, a Saudi accused of plotting, in an operation that never came to fruition, to attack oil tankers in the Straits of Hormuz; and Obaydullah, an Afghan accused of concealing bombs.

CNNMoney: Even budget deficits are bigger in Texas
Texas lawmakers unveiled a Spartan budget late Tuesday night that slashes $31 billion in spending to close the state's massive budget deficit. Education, Medicaid and corrections would be hit particularly hard. House legislators were forced to rely on spending cuts to close the shortfall - estimated at between $15 billion and $27 billion - because Republican leaders pledged not to raise taxes. They also did not touch the state's projected $9.4 billion rainy day fund, one of the most flush in the nation. The spending plan calls for a 13% hit to public education and a 7.6% drop in higher education support. Among the cuts, funding for pre-K Early Start programs would be slashed, and four community colleges would be closed.

CNNMoney: Gifts to Obama: From flashy to bizarre
The State Department has released its annual list of gifts from foreign governments to federal employees, and as one would expect, President Obama made out pretty well. In total, the president racked up 54 gifts with an estimated value of more than $160,000 during 2009, the most recent tally that the government furnishes. The gifts range from the practical - a small wooden CD holder from Russian President Dmitry Medvedev - to the weirdly extravagant - a $395.00 pencil from Jose Manuel Durao Barroso, the president of the European Commission. By law, Obama doesn't keep gifts of significant value. Instead, most items are transferred to the National Archives or the General Services Administration.

Burlington Free Press: Legislature hears report on single-payer health care system
Speaking for 90 minutes to a packed House chamber, Dr. William Hsiao detailed the changes and challenges of a switch to a public/private, single-payer system that he and a team of researchers tailored to Vermont. Hsiao, an economist at the Harvard University School of Public Health, has helped design health-care systems for seven countries and has experience in government and health care dating back to the Nixon administration. “I hope you want to more forward and be a model for the United States,” Hsiao assured the audience. Gov. Peter Shumlin has promised to offer legislation that would set the state on a course toward a single-payer system. Legislative leaders said Wednesday that the review of the Hsiao recommendations would be a priority.

For the latest national news: www.CNN.com

CNN: Suicide rate doubles for Army National Guard
The U.S. Army announced Wednesday that the number of suicides rose again last year to almost one a day, despite major efforts to identify and help at-risk soldiers. Suicides among active-duty soldiers actually declined for the first time in six years but the numbers increased among other soldiers, doubling in the Army National Guard. The overall number of suicides for the 2010 calendar year was 343 - an increase of 69 over the previous year - and included self-inflicted deaths among active-duty soldiers, the National Guard, the Army Reserves, civilian employees of the Army and family members. The Army reported 156 active-duty suicides last year and 112 in the National Guard.

For the latest international news: http://edition.cnn.com

Washington Post: Khalid Sheik Mohammed killed U.S. journalist Daniel Pearl, report finds
A recently completed investigation of the killing of Daniel Pearl in Pakistan nine years ago makes public new evidence that a senior al-Qaeda operative executed the Wall Street Journal reporter. Khalid Sheik Mohammed – the self-described mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, who is being held at the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba – said at a military hearing in 2007 that he killed Pearl. But there have been lingering doubts about his involvement, and the United States has not charged him with the crime. According to the new report, which was prepared by faculty members and students at Georgetown University, U.S. officials have concluded that vascular technology, or vein matching, shows that the hand of the unseen man who killed Pearl on video is that of Mohammed. The report also says Mohammed told the FBI that a senior al-Qaeda operative advised him to take control of Pearl from his original kidnappers.

New York Times: U.S. Sees Success in Immigration Program for Haitians
A year after the devastating earthquake in Haiti, the American government has received more than 53,000 applications from Haitians seeking temporary legal status in the United States, and it has approved the vast majority, a top immigration official said Wednesday. The official, Alejandro Mayorkas, director of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, said his agency’s response to the disaster showed that it could handle a much larger immigrant legalization program like the proposal known as the Dream Act, which would provide a path to citizenship for hundreds of thousands of young illegal immigrants. Tuesday was the deadline for Haitians to apply for the designation, called temporary protected status. The program gives most Haitians who were in the United States on the day of the earthquake the right to stay and work legally for 18 months while Haiti tries to recover.

For the latest business news: www.CNNMoney.com

CNNMoney: China's economic growth picks up pace
China's economy accelerated at the end of 2010, while inflation cooled slightly. China's gross domestic product, the broadest measure of economic output, grew at an annual rate of 9.8% during the fourth quarter of 2010, up from 9.6% growth in the prior quarter, according to figures from the National Bureau of Statistics released Thursday. That rate is considered very rapid compared to sluggish growth in Western economies. The U.S. economy grew at a snail's pace of 2.6% in the third quarter. While China's rapid growth has sparked fears that its economy may overheat, some economists say a rate around 10% is not unusual in the country's recent history.

USA Today: China goes big with building of skyscrapers
In Chicago today, visiting Chinese President Hu Jintao will see a city famed as the birthplace of the skyscraper, for decades the towering symbol of U.S. economic ambition and power. These days, China has taken over as the skyscraper's home. If the fast-rising nation continues its current rapid pace of urbanization, China could build a new Chicago every year until 2030 — more than 1,500 new buildings that are over 30 stories high — wrote Jonathan Woetzel, a director at consultants McKinsey & Co. in Shanghai, in a January report "China's cities in the sky." China is building 44% of the 50 skyscrapers to be completed worldwide in the next six years, increasing the number of skyscrapers in Chinese cities by over 50%, says Andrew Lawrence, an Asian property analyst at investment bank Barclays Capital.

In Case You Missed It

The House votes in favor of repealing the health care bill. CNN's Samantha Hayes explains what happens next.

Rep. Steve Cohen likens the GOP's statements on health care to the propaganda spread by notorious Nazi Joseph Goebbels.

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