News Wrap: House sends $1.1 trillion budget approval onto Senate

January 15, 2014 at 6:10 PM EDT
In our news wrap Wednesday, the House of Representatives approved a $1.1 trillion budget package. The Senate is also expected to approve the funding bill by the end of the week. Also, unreleased video footage suggests that Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, a U.S. soldier held captive in Afghanistan since 2009, may still be alive.
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GWEN IFILL: The Supreme Court heard new arguments today over the rights of anti-abortion protesters. The case involved a Massachusetts law that keeps activists at least 35 feet away from clinics. The court last dealt with the issue in 2000, upholding a similar law in Colorado. We will talk to our Supreme Court expert, Marcia Coyle, right after the news summary.

A budget bill to fund the government for the rest of the fiscal year is halfway home. The House approved the $1.1 trillion package today.

Republican Harold Rogers of Kentucky chairs the House Appropriations Committee.

REP. HAROLD ROGERS, R-Ky.: I understand that not everyone will like everything in this bill. That’s the nature of compromise. But I believe this legislation reflects the best possible outcome.

GWEN IFILL: A number of Tea Party Republicans said the bill spends too much, and they opposed it. Nearly all Democrats supported it, although Jim McGovern of Massachusetts and others complained that the across-the-board cuts known as the sequester go too deep.

REP. JIM MCGOVERN, D-Mass.: While it begins to undo the sequester, it does so for only two years. And we need to get rid of it forever, permanently. So, with this bill, we are waist-deep, instead of neck-deep, in manure. Hooray, I guess.

GWEN IFILL: The Senate is expected to adopt the full budget by the end of the week. In the meantime, senators today approved a short-term bill to fund the government into Saturday.

There’s word today that the National Security Agency has tapped into as many as 100,000 computers overseas. The New York Times reports the agency implanted hardware into the machines, gleaning intelligence information over radio waves. We will take a closer look at what the NSA is said to be doing and where later in the program.

A new video suggests the only U.S. soldier held captive in Afghanistan may still be alive. U.S. military officials confirmed today there’s a video of Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl that cites recent events. They said he appears frail and shaky, but the video itself has not yet been released. Bergdahl disappeared from his base in Afghanistan in 2009. It’s believed he’s being held by Taliban militants.

A Senate report today concluded that the State Department could have prevented a deadly assault in Benghazi, Libya. Four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens, were killed when attackers stormed a U.S. diplomatic post and nearby CIA mission in Benghazi on September 11, 2012. The report found State Department officials ignored security warnings of growing terrorist activity.

But a State Department spokeswoman said there was little new in the findings.

MARIE HARF, State Department: Obviously, we have talked at length about the fact that we knew there were extremists and terrorists operating in Libya and in Benghazi. But, again, we had no specific information indicating a threat, an attack was coming.

We can’t go back and look at the hypotheticals about what could have been prevented and what couldn’t have.

GWEN IFILL: The Senate Intelligence Committee also says analysts initially blamed the attack on anti-American protests, without real evidence. That led to Republican charges of a cover-up. We will talk to Washington Post reporter Adam Goldman, who’s following the story, later in the program.

A new burst of violence hit Iraq today, with at least 75 people killed in bombings and shootings. Half-a-dozen bombs went off in Baghdad, leaving streets around the capital blood-stained and strewn with wreckage. The violence extended to Kirkuk and Mosul as well.

A donors conference has generated at least $2.4 billion in humanitarian aid pledges for Syrians caught in a civil war. Secretary of State John Kerry joined other top diplomats at the gathering in Kuwait today. Kerry said the U.S. is giving another $380 million in assistance.

Voters across Egypt went to the polls once again today to cast ballots on a new constitution. It’s expected to win easily. Turnout appeared lower in some places on this second and final day of voting. Sporadic violence on Tuesday killed at least nine people. Islamist followers of ousted President Mohammed Morsi boycotted the election.

In economic news, Apple agreed to refund at least $32.5 million for un-authorized purchases children made on mobile apps. The Federal Trade Commission said it’s had thousands of complaints from parents.

And on Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average gained 108 points to close just short of 16,482. The Nasdaq rose almost 32 points to close near 4,215.