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News Wrap: Food Safety Bill Heads to Obama to Sign

December 21, 2010 at 6:01 PM EDT
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HARI SREENIVASAN: The House and Senate moved today toward funding government operations into next March. Lawmakers had failed to approve any of the individual spending bills needed for the fiscal year that began in October.

The stopgap measure considered today would freeze most agency budgets at current levels. Republicans will try to cut spending levels next year, when they take over the House and add seats in the Senate.

A bill to beef up food safety in the U.S. is headed to President Obama

for his signature. It won final approval in the House today. The measure authorizes the Food and Drug Administration to conduct increased inspections of food processing plants. It also imposes tougher standards on imported foods, and it gives the government new powers to force recalls of tainted food.

A new government was seated in Iraq today. Parliament approved a list

of cabinet members after nine months of political haggling.

The Iraqi lawmakers endorsed the new power-sharing agreement by a

unanimous vote, in a rare display of unity.

Afterward, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki marked the milestone.

NOURI AL-MALIKI, Iraqi prime minister (through translator): I would

like to congratulate the ministers for receiving their new posts in the new government and wish them success and good luck. I would also like to thank members of the former government, the government of the national unity, who were loyal in their work and accomplished their mission in peace.

HARI SREENIVASAN: The new government, including each of Iraq’s major

political and sectarian factions, was immediately sworn in, but 13 of the 42 posts, including the ministers of defense, interior and national security, were filled only temporarily.

That gives Maliki more time to resolve this agreement with Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and his Shiite faction. Maliki’s own Shiite coalition actually came in second in national elections last March, behind former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi and his Sunni-backed coalition, but only Maliki was able to garner enough support to fashion a governing coalition.

Today in Washington, President Obama hailed the formation of the new

government. In a written statement, he called it a significant moment in Iraq’s history.

One of the new government’s major decisions will be whether to ask that

thousands of U.S. troops stay longer than planned. They’re scheduled to leave one year from now.

New York State today accused a major accounting firm of helping deceive

investors at Lehman Brothers. The civil suit said Ernst & Young approved a practice that kept billions of dollars in debt off Lehman’s books over a period of seven years. The investment bank collapsed in 2008. The lawsuit seeks $150 million in fees that were paid to Ernst & Young.

Wall Street moved higher, after a couple of lackluster trading days.

The Dow Jones industrial average gained 55 points to close at 11533. The Nasdaq rose 18 points to close above 2667.

Those are some of the day’s major stories.