POLITICAL HOT TOPICS: Tuesday, February 15, 2011
February 15th, 2011
04:15 AM ET
12 years ago

POLITICAL HOT TOPICS: Tuesday, February 15, 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: Obama's budget: A play for the center?
The plan wasn't even officially out before the criticism started rolling in. President Obama's proposed $3.7 trillion budget was slammed by the left and the right Monday. Outraged liberals called it a callous assault on the poor; dismissive conservatives labeled it a debt-riddled assault on future generations. Which raises the question: Is Obama's budget blueprint exactly what the president needs to capture the broad political center in the runup to 2012?

CNNMoney: Budget chiefs: Not happy with Obama plan
The top budget chiefs from both political parties criticized President Obama's 2012 budget Monday. Democrat Kent Conrad and Republican Paul Ryan, the budget chairmen in the Senate and House respectively, share one big beef: The Obama budget remains effectively silent on how to address the long-term drivers of debt - Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. By the end of the decade, those entitlement programs, together with interest owed on the country's debt, could command most of federal tax revenue coming in the door. Though ideologically different, Conrad and Ryan are both deficit hawks who sat on the president's bipartisan debt commission.

CNN: Cantor criticizes Obama's budget, pledges GOP will include entitlement reform
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor criticized President Obama for failing to address entitlement reform in his budget that was delivered to Capitol Hill Monday, and pledged that the House Republican budget coming out this spring would wade into the controversial area. Cantor promised the GOP budget blueprint would be "a serious document that will reflect the type of path we feel we should be taking to address the fiscal situation – including addressing entitlement reforms."

CNN: House votes to extend key provisions of Patriot Act
The U.S. House of Representatives voted Monday to extend three provisions of the Patriot Act and Intelligence Reform bill that are due to expire next month. The bill passed by a simple majority vote of 275-144. The same measure failed last week by a vote of 277-148, which fell short of the 284 needed to pass then because it was considered under a House rule that required a two-thirds majority. The bill extends the provisions through December 8.

CNN: Barbour denies pushing 'amnesty' as a lobbyist
Already coming under fire for his lobbyist past as he ramps up for a 2012 presidential bid, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour is denying that he once urged Congress and the Bush administration to pass legislation providing a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. Or, as a good many Republican primary voters like to call it, "amnesty." TIME magazine reported Monday that Barbour, a co-founder of the powerhouse lobbying firm Barbour, Griffith & Rogers – now known as the BGR Group – was retained by the Mexican government in 2001 to lobby for an extension of an immigration provision that would allow undocumented workers to obtain visas and green cards. The extension ultimately died in the Senate.

CNN: Mississippi governor asked to denounce attempts to honor KKK leader
The Mississippi NAACP has called on Governor Haley Barbour to publicly denounce an attempt by a Confederacy group to honor a Ku Klux Klan leader, the organization said Monday. The Sons of Confederate Veterans has launched the campaign to recognize Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest on a specialty license plate. Forrest, a popular and controversial figure, is best known as a leader of the KKK, the white supremacist group known for terrorizing blacks in the South after the Civil War.

CNN: Official: Veteran diplomat to be U.S. envoy to Afghanistan, Pakistan
Former ambassador Marc Grossman will be named this week to replace the late Richard Holbrooke as the U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, a senior Obama administration official said. The official was not authorized to speak on the record about who would assume the position as the Obama administration's point man in the volatile region. Grossman is currently vice chairman of the Cohen Group, a Washington-based consulting group headed by former U.S. defense secretary and senator William Cohen.

The State: Graham, Haley push for states to be able to opt out of health care law
U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham and Gov. Nikki Haley on Monday opened the S.C. front in the Republican Party’s battle to roll back health care legislation signed into law by President Barack Obama last year. At a State House news conference, Graham and Haley took turns blasting the law as an expensive federal takeover of the nation’s health care system. Graham said the law, which won 60 votes in the 100-member U.S. Senate, was passed through a “sleazy” process that offered no opportunity for GOP input. Graham also said he has introduced legislation to allow South Carolina and other states to “opt out” of the law, which is being challenged in federal courts.

Talking Points Memo: GOP Rep. Didn't Take Federal Health Insurance - He Already Had Better State Benefits
Rep. Leonard Lance (R-NJ) was recently able to get an ad from a liberal group, attacking him on his vote to repeal health care reform, taken off the air on the factual ground that he has not accepted federal health care benefits as the ad stated. However, it turns out that he gets even better government-provided health benefits - from the state government in New Jersey.

CNN: President George H.W. Bush among those to receive honor
Former President George H.W. Bush, slugger Stan Musial and cellist Yo-Yo Ma are among the 15 individuals who will receive America's highest civilian honor Tuesday, the White House announced. The 15 will receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which is "presented to individuals who have made especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors," the White House said. President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama will be at the ceremony Tuesday afternoon.

For the latest national news: www.CNN.com

CNN: Computer ties human as they square off on 'Jeopardy!'
The computers haven't proven to be our trivia overlords just yet. Give them at least until Wednesday. An IBM supercomputer named Watson finished one round of the TV show "Jeopardy!" on Monday night tied with one of his human competitors and $3,000 ahead of the other. The man vs. computer face-off won't be complete, however, until the final rounds of the extended trivia game show are aired on Tuesday and Wednesday.

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

CNN: Military moves to get Egyptians back to work
The military sought Monday to persuade Egyptians to end the demonstrations and strikes that culminated last Friday in the resignation of the president, and urged their countrymen to get back to work. Though efforts are on track to "realize the legitimate demands of the people for a true democratic environment," widespread strikes and demonstrations continued Monday in certain state sectors, "even though normality has been restored," the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces said in a statement. It cited "negative consequences" of continued unrest, including harming national security, adversely affecting the state's ability to get necessary goods to the public, disrupting production and operations, delaying the nation's return to "day-to-day life," adversely affecting the economy and "creating an atmosphere that gives the opportunity to irresponsible persons to commit illegitimate acts."

CNN: Tehran streets mostly empty after protesters clash with police
Tens of thousands of demonstrators who marched in Tehran in defiance of the Iranian government were largely cleared from the city's streets by nightfall. Patrolling security forces had battled protesters with batons and tear gas for much of the day. The wave of people who marched along Revolution Avenue on Monday had remained largely silent as they walked toward the capital's Azadi Square, though at times they clashed with Iranian security forces who tried to disperse the marchers and divert them from the square. By day's end, dozens of demonstrators had been detained while internet videos showed others had been chased and beaten.

USA Today: General: Heart of Afghanistan insurgency beaten
Coalition forces in Afghanistan have beaten the insurgency in an important stronghold of Taliban fighters, though pockets of resistance remain, a U.S. commander said Monday in an interview with USA TODAY. "This is really the heart of the insurgency," Marine Maj. Gen. Richard Mills said of Helmand province in southern Afghanistan. "I believe they have been beaten." The province is among the first targets of a surge of 30,000 U.S. servicemembers ordered into Afghanistan by President Obama in December 2009. The first Marines associated with the surge began arriving in the province shortly afterward.

CNN: Feds: Seven men charged with conspiring to supply Taliban
Seven men, including two Americans, have been charged for allegedly conspiring to sell surface-to-air missiles and cocaine to Taliban fighters in Afghanistan, according to a U.S. Justice Department statement released Monday. "We eliminated an entrenched global criminal network, preventing it from moving ton quantities of cocaine, laundering millions in drug money, and trading arms to the Taliban to undermine the rule of law and kill Americans," said Michele M. Leonhart, administrator of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. "West Africa has emerged as a place where drugs and terror intersect." The men allegedly conspired to supply undercover agents posing as Taliban and were arrested by U.S. authorities working with local law enforcement in Romania and Liberia on February 10 and 12, according to the statement.

The Guardian: Elderly NHS patients' harrowing plight is revealed in report
The NHS is inflicting pain and suffering on elderly patients and ignoring their most basic needs, according to a report by the health service ombudsman which highlights cases where vulnerable patients were failed. Some patients were not offered help with eating or bathing, and one was left in urine-soaked clothes held together with paper clips. Older people too often did not receive the care, compassion and respect they deserved, according to the ombudsman, Ann Abraham. Her report cites 10 cases inadequately investigated by the NHS, in which elderly men and women were treated appallingly, often towards the end of their lives. It details serious failings in how NHS staff managed the patients' pain, nutritional needs and discharge from hospital, often with disastrous consequences.

For the latest business news: www.CNNMoney.com

Bloomberg: Queensland Spurs U.S. Coal Exports to 15-Year High
The biggest floods in Queensland, Australia, in half a century are turning into a windfall for U.S. coal mining companies anticipating record profits and the highest exports in 15 years. Shipments from the U.S. are poised to rise 8.8 percent this year to about 86.5 million tons, the most since 1996, the Energy Department in Washington said Feb. 8. Demand for American coal is increasing after floods devastated an area of Australia twice the size of Texas. Queensland’s combined output of steelmaking and thermal coal may be reduced by 23 million metric tons, Bank of America Merrill Lynch said in a Jan. 25 report. That’s about 13 percent of the state’s exports in the year ended in June.

In Case You Missed It

OMB Director Jacbo Lew says the new budget will be on track by the middle of the decade.

CNN's David Gergen says President Obama's proposed 2012 budget doesn't solve the budget deficit.

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