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Other News: Auto Sales Plunge; Wall Street Bounces Back

April 1, 2009 at 6:15 PM EDT
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JUDY WOODRUFF: In other news today, domestic automakers issued dismal new numbers for March. Sales at General Motors, Ford and Chrysler plunged as much as 45 percent from a year ago.

That followed reports the Obama administration is pushing G.M. toward a controlled bankruptcy that cuts the company in two. The strongest assets, including Chevrolet and Cadillac, would be sold to a new company financed by the government.

Wall Street took heart today from possible signs of life in housing and manufacturing. Pending home sales were up in February. Factory activity fell, but at a slower pace.

The news sent the Dow Jones industrial average up 152 points to close at 7,761. The Nasdaq rose 23 points to close at 1,551.

House Republicans detailed their alternative to President Obama’s budget today. They offered the plan as the House moved toward a possible vote tomorrow.

Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin said they would cut taxes, overhaul Medicare, and repeal much of the Obama economic stimulus package.

REP. PAUL RYAN, R-Wis.: We need to show the American people and the markets that we’re going to get this debt under control. In other words, we need to show the American people that there’s another way forward, that this mountain of debt and the mountain of taxes is avoidable. This need not be our fate; this does not have to happen. We do not have to have this unprecedented spending and borrowing and taxing spree.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Democrats, meantime, remained on track to pass a budget today that largely mirrored the president’s plan at a cost of $3.6 trillion. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said the country already tried the Republican way.

REP. STENY HOYER, D-Md., House majority leader: Their tax policies led to deep debt, high deficits, and an economy that went into the tank. Their failure to regulate the economy on the thoughts that those who had the most would simply regulate themselves obviously was an abysmal failure, and the American taxpayer is paying the bill.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The budget debate also continued in the Senate, with a final vote there expected by the end of the week.

The race to fill a congressional seat in New York state remains undecided. Democrat Scott Murphy led Republican Jim Tedisco by just 25 votes in Tuesday’s special election. The outcome lay with some 10,000 absentee ballots. The election was seen by many as an early referendum on President Obama and his policies.

In southern Afghanistan, four Taliban suicide bombers killed at least 13 people in Kandahar. They attacked as a provincial council was meeting, led by Ahmad Wali Karzai, brother of President Karzai. He had already left.

Across the border, Pakistani officials said that a U.S. drone aircraft attacked a militant hideout, killing a dozen people. The site was linked to a Pakistani Taliban leader, Baitullah Mehsud. He threatened yesterday to strike Washington.

The leaders of Afghanistan and Pakistan promised closer cooperation today against the Taliban and al-Qaida. Afghan President Karzai and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari met in Turkey, along with their military and intelligence chiefs. Karzai has accused Pakistan of not doing enough to stop militants crossing the border.

American casualties in Iraq last month were the lowest since the war there began. The U.S. military announced nine troops were killed in March, more than half in accidents; 13 Americans died in Afghanistan last month.