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News Wrap: Senate deadlocks on extending unemployment benefits

January 9, 2014 at 12:00 AM EST
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JUDY WOODRUFF: There was talk of a Senate compromise today on resuming benefits for the long- term unemployed. But it came to naught. Democrats proposed funding the program into late fall. They said they’d pay the $18 billion cost with cuts elsewhere, as Republicans demanded.

Ohio Senator Rob Portman and other Republicans said they also want various reforms in the program.

SEN. ROB PORTMAN, R-Ohio: Let’s sit down and talk. We’re adults. You know, we have been elected by millions of people to represent them, and it’s our responsibility, indeed our commitment to them, that we would sit down across the aisle and work these things out, as you would in any other relationship, in your marriage, in your business, with your neighbors.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid rejected that appeal. He said it’s one more example of Republican stalling.

SEN. HARRY REID, D-Nev.: Nothing is ever quite good enough. They always want more amendments. They always want amendments. But the issue is here before us. Is this body going to vote to extend unemployment benefits paid for and with structural changes, or are they going to turn their back on people who are desperate?

JUDY WOODRUFF: By day’s end, the two sides remained deadlocked.

Also today, the Labor Department said first-time applications for unemployment benefits fell more than expected last week.

And on Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average lost about 18 points to close at 16,444. The Nasdaq fell nine points to close at 4,156.

New Jersey’s Republican Gov. Chris Christie apologized today in a brewing political scandal. He said he’d had no knowledge that part of the traffic on a major bridge apparently was closed in order to punish a Democratic mayor. He also said he’s fired a top aide for lying about it. Christie is a potential presidential candidate for 2016. We will take a closer look at the scandal after the news summary.

The president of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, has ordered the release of 72 prisoners over U.S. objection. He said today there’s not enough evidence to hold them. American officials say the prisoners had killed or wounded dozens of coalition troops. U.S. senators have warned that releasing the prisoners will hurt U.S.-Afghan relations.

A suicide bomber in Iraq blew himself up at a military recruiting center in Baghdad today. At least 21 people were killed in the attack. It appeared to be retaliation for the military’s push to retake two cities seized by al-Qaida fighters last week. One of the cities, Fallujah, saw a lull in fighting today, and some people claimed things are returning to normal.

MAN (through interpreter): I call upon residents of Fallujah to come back home. The security situation is now stable. State offices and banks have opened their doors. Offices have started giving salaries to civil servants and policemen have started working as usual.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Meanwhile, the speaker of the U.S. House, John Boehner, said the U.S. needs to do more to secure Iraq, with equipment and other aid. But he said there’s no reason to consider sending U.S. troops back in, at least for now.

In Egypt, courts convicted 113 Muslim Brotherhood supporters on charges stemming from protests last year. They had been accused of attacking police and rioting after the military deposed President Mohammed Morsi in July; 63 of the defendants were given three-year prison terms. It’s the largest mass sentencing yet in an ongoing crackdown against the Brotherhood.

The U.S. nuclear force suffered a new blow today. Defense officials said two missile launch officers been implicated in an illegal drug investigation at an Air Force base in Montana. That follows a series of security problems in nuclear ranks. The news came as Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel appeared at a missile base in Wyoming.

Sixteen leading U.S. food companies have in the past several years cut the calorie counts in their products by about 78 calories a person, per day, if spread across the entire population. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation reported today that’s four times the reduction they had promised by 2015. The savings are roughly equivalent to an average cookie or a medium-sized apple. It’s part of an effort to reduce obesity nationwide.

Poet, author and playwright Amiri Baraka died today at a Newark, N.J., hospital. He began as a beat generation poet in the 1950s. In the years that followed, he evolved into a leading black militant voice and a provocative cultural force. His work influenced a generation of artists and anticipated rap and hip-hop. Amiri Baraka was 79 years old.