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News Wrap: House GOP Leaders Aim to Defund Health Reform Law

September 18, 2013 at 12:00 AM EDT
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GWEN IFILL: The Federal Reserve will not dial back its economic stimulus program just yet. In a surprise move, the Central Bank announced today it plans to continue buying billions of dollars of bonds to hold down interest rates.

Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke said it’s because the economic outlook has dimmed in recent months. We will have more on the Fed’s decision later in the program. The Fed’s announcement sent Wall Street on a buying binge. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 147 points to close just short of 15677. The Nasdaq rose nearly 38 points to close at 3783.

The budget fight in Washington heated up today. House Republican leaders announced they will try to block funding for the president’s health care law, even if it means shutting down the government at month’s end.

Senate Democrats are certain to revive the health care provision, and House Speaker John Boehner played down the prospect of a shutdown.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER, R-Ohio: There should be no conversation about shutting the government down. That’s not the goal here. Our goal here is to cut spending and to protect the American people from Obamacare. It’s a simple as that. There’s no interest in our part in shutting the government down.

GWEN IFILL: House leaders said today they will also try to delay the health care law for a year by tying it to a separate bill raising the national debt ceiling. That ceiling could be reached by late October. If it isn’t raised, the government could default on its debts.

President Obama today tore into Republicans over both issues and insisted he won’t give in.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: You have never seen in the history of the United States the debt ceiling or the threat of not raising the debt ceiling being used to extort a president or a governing party and then trying to force issues that have nothing to do with the budget and have nothing to do with the debt.

GWEN IFILL: The next round in the fight comes Friday, when the House considers the spending bill to fund the government through mid-December.

Separately today, a group of House Republicans offered their first comprehensive alternative to President Obama’s health care law. It provides an expanded tax break for consumers who purchase their own health coverage. It also calls for increased coverage for high-risk individuals. There’s no estimate of the bill’s total cost.

There may be a new chance for diplomacy on Iran’s nuclear program. The White House confirmed today that President Obama and Iran’s new leader have exchanged letters. Mr. Obama offered to let Tehran demonstrate that its program is for peaceful purposes only. And President Hassan Rouhani told NBC News that he has full authority to negotiate a deal.

The death toll in Mexico rose to 57 today in the wake of storms that struck both coasts over the weekend. Hardest hit was Acapulco, where Tropical Storm Manuel touched off flooding that cut off the Pacific beach resort.

We have a report narrated by Lewis Vaughan Jones of Independent Television News.

LEWIS VAUGHAN JONES: Tropical Storm Manuel is forcing people to leave however they can. Countless homes have been evacuated, leaving thousands needing help. Even the way out of here is waist-deep in water.

This is the main airport terminal, usually full of tourists at this time of year, but, outside, planes were grounded. Tens of thousands of people are trapped. Now the army has stepped in to help airlines fly people away to Mexico City.

Ed Smith is a British teacher who managed to get out on a military plane.

ED SMITH, evacuee: The hotel’s not designed to cope with weather like that, so just everything was wet and damp. And it just rained and rained. And the debris, the amount of debris that washed up on the beach, palm trees, objects, a dead horse, a dead armadillo, it was just relentless really.

LEWIS VAUGHAN JONES: This is the worst weather to hit Mexico in decades. And it is a double assault. As well as the storm in Acapulco in the west, a hurricane hit the other side of the country. Mudslides in the east have already taken lives.

For many, basic supplies are low, and, overnight, shops were looted. This country is facing two major storms at the same time. The challenge is to get more aid in while getting more people out.

GWEN IFILL: There’s a strong possibility that Mexico will face a double blow again this weekend. Tropical Storm Manuel has reformed, taking aim at La Paz in Baja California, and yet another storm could be headed toward Mexico’s Gulf Coast.

A double-decker bus collided with a passenger train in Ottawa, Canada, today, killing six people. It happened during morning rush hour in the Canadian capital. Witnesses said the bus drove through a closed crossing barrier. The collision tore away the front of the bus and derailed the train engine. At least 30 people were injured, 10 critically.

Officials at the National Security Agency now say they know how Edward Snowden obtained the documents he leaked detailing secret surveillance. NPR reported today that Snowden had access to the NSA’s own internal Web site, and as a systems administrator, could copy data without being detected. The agency said it has taken steps to prevent such leaks in the future.

The federal government is getting closer to ending its ownership role in General Motors. The Treasury sold another big block of shares over the summer, reducing its stake in GM to just over 7 percent. That’s down from nearly 61 percent when the government bailed out the automaker in 2009.