News Wrap: Congressional negotiators reach two-year budget agreement
JUDY WOODRUFF: Congressional negotiators reached an agreement this evening on a budget deal. Aides said it is a two-year agreement that includes provisions to replace automatic spending cuts with savings from future years. It also requires federal workers to contribute more to their pensions, among other things. The agreement was worked out by budget committee chairs, Democratic Senator Patty Murray and Republican Congressman Paul Ryan.
Heads of state, celebrities and thousands of South Africans gathered in Johannesburg today to honor the life of Nelson Mandela. The crowd braved a rainstorm, singing songs and celebrating the life of South Africa's first black president. President Obama was one of many foreign leaders who made the trip.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: For the people of South Africa, for those he inspired around the globe, Madiba's passing is rightly a time of mourning, and a time to celebrate a heroic life.
But I believe it should also prompt in each of us a time for self-reflection. With honesty, regardless of our station or our circumstance, we must ask: How well have I applied his lessons in my own life?
JUDY WOODRUFF: We will have a full report on the memorial service and talk with Charlayne Hunter-Gault, who was there, right after the news summary.
In the Central African Republic, two French soldiers were killed overnight in the capital of Bangui. They were on patrol in the city as part of an operation to disarm Christian and Muslim fighters when gunmen opened fire. It happened hours before French President Francois Hollande arrived to meet with the country's interim president, with African peacekeepers and religious leaders.
A major new federal regulation approved today will bar U.S. banks from trading stocks and other securities for their own profit. The Federal Reserve and other agencies adopted the so-called Volcker rule to prevent the risk-taking that helped cause the 2008 meltdown. We will explore the details and potential consequences later in the program.
The Supreme Court now has to consider a rule forcing cuts in air pollution from power plants in the South and the Midwest. The justices heard arguments today on the 2011 regulation. It requires 28 states to reduce smog and soot that drifts into the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic. A decision is expected by June.
Secretary of State John Kerry appealed to Congress today for more time to negotiate over Iran's nuclear ambitions. Last month, the U.S. and its partners struck an interim deal that slows Iran's uranium enrichment in exchange for easing some economic sanctions.
Today, Kerry implored the House Foreign Affairs Committee not to adopt additional sanctions, for now.
SECRETARY OF STATE JOHN KERRY: We're asking you to give our negotiators and our experts the time and the space to do their jobs. And that includes asking you, while we negotiate, that you hold off imposing new sanctions.
Now, I'm not saying never. If this doesn't work, we're coming back and asking you for more. I'm just saying not right now.
JUDY WOODRUFF: In Tehran, Iran's foreign minister issued his own warning shortly before Secretary Kerry appeared at that hearing.
MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF, Iranian Foreign Minister (through interpreter): I'm sure the Americans know that any new sanctions would be against what they agreed to in the Geneva plan of action. And, well, it would be a serious breach and would jeopardize the deal at their end. And they would be responsible for that.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Any easing of the existing sanctions will wait until U.N. inspectors verify that Iran is filling its side of the interim nuclear agreement.
The Senate confirmed the nomination of one of President Obama's key judicial nominees today. Washington lawyer Patricia Millett won a position on the U.S. Court of Appeals for Washington, D.C., 56-38. And Democratic Congressman Mel Watt won confirmation to lead the Federal Housing Finance Agency. They are the first such votes since Senate Democrats pushed through a rule — rules change making it easier to break filibusters against many nominees.
The Obama administration is earmarking another $100 million for mental health just before the first anniversary of the Newtown school shootings. The announcement came today, as Vice President Biden met with families of the 26 victims. The funds will go to help community health centers add mental health services and to help existing facilities in rural areas.
For the first time, a woman will head up a major American automaker. Mary Barra was named CEO of General Motors today. The 51-year-old is currently the company's vice president for global product development. She started working for GM when she was 18. The announcement came one day after the U.S. Treasury sold the last of its stake in GM. More on GM and its new boss later in the program.
On Wall Street today, the Dow Jones industrial average lost 52 points to close at 15,973. The Nasdaq fell eight points to close at 4,060.