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News Wrap: Democrats Blocked Again on Financial Reform Bill

April 27, 2010 at 12:00 AM EDT
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In other news Tuesday, Senate Democrats failed in their second attempt to end a Republican filibuster and bring financial reform legislation to the floor. Also, an oil leak off the coast of Louisiana continued to spread as the Coast Guard worked to contain the spill.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Senate Republicans again blocked a move to limit debate on financial reform. For a second day, Democrats fell short of getting the 60 votes needed. Negotiations continued, but leaders sparred on the Senate floor over how to proceed.

SEN. HARRY REID, D-Nev., majority leader: We want to bring our bill to the floor, so we can discuss it, debate it, amend it, improve it. We want to do it in the open. After all, if we’re not debating, and senators refuse to let the Senate do its job, what are we doing here?

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, R-Ky., minority leader: Americans don’t understand why we would vote on a bill that doesn’t meet the basic test of reform. They don’t see the point. In what other line of work is it acceptable to show up to a big meeting with an unfinished product?

HARI SREENIVASAN: Democrats said they plan to hold another vote tomorrow.

Wall Street took a beating as debt problems in Greece and Portugal grew worse. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 213 points, to close just under 10992. The Nasdaq fell 51 points to close at 2471.

Shares of Ford Motor Company also fell, even after it made $2 billion in the first quarter. The automaker acknowledged it might not do as well in the rest of the year.

An oil slick off Louisiana kept spreading today, a week after a floating rig exploded and sank. Satellite photos showed the oil some 30 miles from islands that form a national wildlife refuge. Coast Guard crews worked to contain the spill, which now measures about 48 miles long and 80 miles wide.

Their efforts were helped by wind blowing the oil away from the shore. So far, robot subs have failed to shut off the leak at the ocean floor. The oil company BP said today it will start drilling another well to ease the pressure feeding the spill. That process could take three months.

The federal agency that oversees coal mines will start flexing its legal muscles to stop repeated safety violations. That word came at a Senate hearing today, after the West Virginia mine explosion that killed 29 men.

Joe Main of the Mine and Safety Health Administration, or MSHA, said going to federal court is one option. He also asked for beefed-up powers.

JOE MAIN, director, Mine Safety and Health Administration: Unlike other agencies that enforce federal law, MSHA lacks the authority to subpoena testimony and documents as part of its investigative process.

MSHA’S criminal penalties must be enhanced, so that the threat of jail is real for the worst offenders. Knowing violations of key standard laws — of key safety laws should be felonies, and not misdemeanors.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Massey Energy, the operator of the West Virginia mine, had numerous safety violations. The cause of the fatal blast is still under investigation.

The drugmaker AstraZeneca has agreed to pay more than half-a-billion dollars to settle a federal case. It involved the antipsychotic drug Seroquel, used to treat schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. The Food and Drug Administration charged, the company promoted the drug for insomnia and other uses that had not been approved. Sales of the medicine totaled nearly $5 billion last year.

Another major drugmaker, Merck, lost a case before the U.S. Supreme Court today. The high court agreed to let investors pursue a class-action suit over losses from Vioxx. Merck stopped selling the popular painkiller in 2004, after it was linked to heart attacks and strokes.

The president’s deficit commission held its first meeting today and heard a new warning. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke pointed to last year’s record red ink of $1.4 trillion. He made his most urgent appeal yet for the president and Congress to take action now.

BEN BERNANKE, Federal Reserve chairman: The path forward contains many difficult trade-offs and choices, but postponing those choices and failing to put the nation’s finances on a sustainable long-run trajectory would ultimately do great damage to our economy.

HARI SREENIVASAN: At the White House, President Obama said he’s not ruling out any options for now. That includes the possibility of tax increases.

The federal government may take the state of Arizona to court over its new law on immigration. Attorney General Eric Holder said today a legal challenge is under consideration. The Arizona law orders police to ask for documentation if there is reasonable suspicion to believe someone is in the country illegally.

A brawl erupted in Ukraine’s parliament today over letting the Russian navy use a Black Sea port until 2042. The Russians’ current lease at Sevastopol on the Crimean Peninsula had been set to expire in 2017. Today, opposition lawmakers threw eggs, set off smoke bombs and came to blows. They argued the Russian presence amounts to military occupation. In the end, the lease extension passed, in a victory for President Viktor Yanukovych, who is seen as pro-Russian.

Those are some of the day’s main stories. I will be back at the end of the program with a preview of what you will find tonight on the NewsHour’s Web site — but, for now, back to Gwen.