JUDY WOODRUFF: In other news today, the U.S. House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to rein in credit card companies. The bill that passed would bar retroactive interest rate hikes on previous balances. It also bans companies from issuing credit cards to people under 18. A similar bill is making its way to the Senate floor.
The Senate defeated a measure today to give homeowners relief in federal bankruptcy court. It was designed to let judges cut mortgage payments to stave off foreclosures. Democrats and Republicans argued over whether it would help or just end up making things worse, as the banking industry claimed.
SEN. MARK UDALL, D-Colo.: By limiting judges’ ability to reduce the principal on home loans, we’re delaying the resolution of this country’s mortgage crisis. Homeowners continue to struggle with loans they cannot pay, and the toxic assets based on those loans remain on the balance sheets of America’s financial institutions.
SEN. JON KYL, R-Ariz.: It would result in higher interest rates for all home mortgages, exactly what we don’t want while we’re trying to entice people back into the market.
So we’re talking about substantial impacts as a result of this well-meaning provision that would, in fact, over the entire market, be very, very bad.
JUDY WOODRUFF: President Obama had said the bill was important to save the economy, but it lost 51-45.
On Wall Street, stocks had a mixed day after an early rally fizzled. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 17 points to close at 8,168. The Nasdaq rose 5 points to close at 1,717.
The British combat role in Iraq has now come to an end after six years. British forces officially handed control of the southern region of Basra to U.S. forces today. We have a report from Julian Manyon of Independent Television News.
JULIAN MANYON: In searing heat, British troops assembled for the last time to honor their fallen comrades.
BRITISH SOLDIER: Guardsman Ferguson, 1st Battalion, Scots Guards, 13th of December, 2007. Corporal Malone…
JULIAN MANYON: It took 30 minutes to read out the names of the dead, a hundred and seventy-nine Britons who laid down their lives for their country in a war which left much of the British public uncertain and confused.
SPEAKER: We owe it to our fallen comrades and friends to dare to speak of the new life, the new hope, and the resurrection our presence here has enabled.
JULIAN MANYON: It’s a day to remember valor and sacrifice. But for many back home, including for some of the relatives and loved ones of the fallen, the questions will remain: Was it all necessary? Was it worthwhile?
Showing no sign of doubt, the secretary of state for defense, John Hutton, who came for this historic day.
Secretary of State, can you put your hand on your heart and say that this operation was worthwhile?
JOHN HUTTON, defense minister, United Kingdom: Yes, I can do that. I think, if you were to come and see Basra today and compare it to Basra six years ago, the contrast is remarkable. Iraq is not a threat any longer to its neighbors; it’s not a threat, fortunately, any more to its people. The murderous, fascist dictatorship of Saddam is no longer with us.
JULIAN MANYON: The British army has formally handed over authority to the U.S. troops who will now serve here. The hope remains that the Iraqi forces will soon be able to take full responsibility for their own security. But despite the six-year British presence, that day has not yet come.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Most of Britain’s remaining troops in Iraq will leave by the end of May. About 400 will stay on to help with training and security.
In Pakistan, the army said its troops fought their way over a vital mountain pass in a battle with the Taliban. The government forces were trying to push the militants back into the Swat Valley and away from the Buner district near the capital. The army said the latest operations killed at least 14 Taliban fighters.
Terror attacks worldwide dropped 18 percent last year, but Pakistan was the big exception. The U.S. State Department reported today that attacks doubled in Pakistan to about 1,800. Attacks also rose in Afghanistan, but they dropped by almost half in Iraq.