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News Wrap: House Passes Bill to Halt Public Financing for Presidential Campaigns

January 26, 2011 at 5:23 PM EDT

HARI SREENIVASAN: House Republicans pushed through a bill today to end partial public financing for presidential campaigns. Under the program, taxpayers make voluntary $3 checkoffs on federal tax returns. Republicans said ending it would save $617 million over 10 years, and they criticized Democrats for opposing the idea.

REP. VIRGINIA FOXX (R-N.C.): They don’t think of $617 million as significant.

Mr. Speaker, the American people think that $617 million is significant. They want us to cut spending wherever we can. And this is a program that has long ago outlived its usefulness.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Democrats shot back that Republicans had an ulterior motive for targeting public funding of campaigns.

REP. FRANK PALLONE (D-N.J): This is the Republicans basically catering to special interests and the large corporations, who will spend unlimited amounts of corporate money on campaigns, and not having, in this case, a public financing component through voluntary, largely small donations.

HARI SREENIVASAN: The measure was considered unlikely to pass the Democratic-controlled Senate.

The Federal Reserve will stay the course, for now, on its efforts to boost the economy. The Central Bank said today the recovery is continuing, but it’s not strong enough to bring down unemployment without help. As a result, the Fed will continue buying U.S. Treasury bonds in a $600 billion program. That is intended to lower interest rates and spur companies to expand and hire.

On Wall Street, stocks managed modest gains. The Dow Jones industrial average advanced eight points to close at 11,985. The Nasdaq rose 20 points to close at 2,739.

Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was transferred today to a rehabilitation facility in Houston. An ambulance carried her from a nearby hospital. She had been in intensive care since arriving Friday from Tucson, two weeks after being shot in the head.

Overnight, doctors upgraded Giffords’ condition to good, and they updated her status this afternoon.

DR. IMOIGELE AISIKU, director of Neurocritical Care, TIRR Memorial Hermann Hospital: She’s very interactive with us. I can tell when I go in and I’m examining and so forth that she’s cooperating and interactive and aware of what’s going on. So, I think, along with everything that’s been said, it’s progressing quite remarkably.

HARI SREENIVASAN: The medical team also removed a tube draining fluid from Giffords’ head wound on Monday.

A tense calm returned to Lebanon today, after two days of protests against the rising power of Hezbollah. At the same time, the pro-Iranian group’s choice for prime minister, Najib Mikati, moved to form — moved to form a new government, and he met with outgoing Prime Minister Saad Hariri. Two weeks ago, Hezbollah and its allies pulled out of Hariri’s pro-Western government, causing it to collapse.

The ruling party candidate in Haiti, Jude Celestin, is dropping out of a presidential runoff. He had been under pressure to quit the race after widespread fraud in the first round last November. Celestin’s departure means former first lady Mirlande Manigat will face popular singer Michel Martelly in the runoff. No date has been set for the vote.

In Afghanistan, the new Parliament has opened, more than four months after a disputed election. President Hamid Karzai swore in the lawmakers, after trying to delay the session for a vote-fraud probe. And he warned, some would still lose their seats. The Afghan leader also accused the international community of meddling in the vote.

Toyota announced a recall today of nearly 1.7 million cars around the world for fuel leaks. The recall mostly affects vehicles in Japan, but it also includes two Lexus luxury models in North America sold between 2006 and 2008. Toyota was plagued by a series of major recalls last year, and its U.S. sales suffered as a result.

Those are some of the day’s major stories.