News Wrap: House Democrats Push $1.2 Trillion Government-Funding Plan
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HARI SREENIVASAN: House Democrats moved today to fund the government for the rest of the fiscal year, at a cost of $1.2 trillion. The so-called continuing resolution, or C.R., would freeze the budgets of most Cabinet departments.
Democrats and Republicans sparred over the bill on the House floor.
REP. DAVID OBEY (D-Wis.), House Appropriations Committee Chairman: There are many arguments in this resolution that I have lost, but the fact is, sooner or later, if you’re going to be responsible, you have to set aside your first preferences — your first preferences and simply do what is necessary in order to keep the government open, so that Congress doesn’t become the laughingstock of the country.
REP. JERRY LEWIS (R-Calif.): This is a Christmas tree bill that provides more spending for the majority’s many domestic priorities before their time in the majority comes to an end in early January.
I am encouraging our colleagues on both sides of the aisle who are concerned about excessive spending to oppose any effort to extend the C.R. beyond February.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Senate Democrats are also working on a catchall spending measure. The fiscal year began on October 1.
The capital of Haiti was at times chaotic today, after officials posted results from last month’s presidential election. The government-backed candidate qualified for a runoff next month, while a major opposition candidate was shut out.
Thousands of protesters claimed fraud and poured into the streets of Port-au-Prince. They set fire to the ruling party headquarters, burned tires, and put up barricades. Haiti’s president, Rene Preval, dismissed talk of fraud, and he criticized the U.S. Embassy for questioning the results.
State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley answered in Washington.
P.J. CROWLEY, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs: What we are — what we are determined to help Haiti achieve is a credible election and a result, not one that the United States will impose, but one that the people of Haiti can participate in fully, and that the government that emerges reflects the will of the Haitian people.
HARI SREENIVASAN: The presidential runoff is scheduled for January 16.
In Afghanistan, Defense Secretary Robert Gates voiced cautious optimism about progress in the war effort. He met with President Hamid Karzai in Kabul and said he will add his observations to the latest U.S. review of the war.
U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE ROBERT GATES: I will go back convinced that our strategy is working and that we will be able to achieve the key goals laid out by President Obama last year, further embraced by other NATO heads of state in Lisbon. That is for Afghan forces to begin taking the security lead, as they have in Kabul, in more and more areas in the coming year.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Gates’ visit came as the Taliban released a video including images of U.S. Army Specialist Bowe Bergdahl. He has been captive for nearly 18 months. He didn’t speak in the video.
Also today, NATO announced the deaths of two more soldiers in Afghan fighting.
A fire in a crowded prison in Chile has killed 81 inmates. The blaze erupted early this morning during a prison riot. A nationwide television audience could hear the inmates’ screams after a prisoner called for help on a cell phone. Chilean President Sebastian Pinera condemned conditions in the prison as absolutely inhumane. The complex holds 1,900 inmates, nearly three times its capacity.
Commercial space ventures took a major step forward today. A rocket owned by Space Exploration Technologies was fired into orbit from Cape Canaveral, Florida. The Falcon 9 rocket carried an unmanned capsule named Dragon. The capsule splashed down later in the Pacific Ocean, the first time a privately owned space vehicle has managed that. The craft could become a kind of taxi to and from the International Space Station.
On Wall Street, stocks managed modest gains. The Dow Jones industrial average added 13 points to close at 11372. The Nasdaq rose 10 points to close at 2609.
Those are some of the day’s major stories.