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In other news Tuesday, House Republicans readied to vote on a plan to raise the nation's debt ceiling through May 19th. Rep. Paul Ryan said they wanted to shift focus to making major spending cuts. Also, parts of the Midwest are in a deep freeze, with temperatures dipping to minus 30 degrees Fahrenheit.
And to the other news of the day.
House Republicans forged ahead with a plan to raise the nation's debt ceiling through May 19. That vote is set for tomorrow. Congressman Paul Ryan, last year's Republican vice presidential nominee, said today Republicans want to shift the focus to enacting a budget, with major spending cuts.
REP. PAUL RYAN, R- Wis.:
The Senate is going on four years now for not having passed a budget. We think this gives us the time we need in this nation to have a good, thorough, vigorous and honest debate about what it takes to get our fiscal house in order and about how to budget. Families budget. Businesses budget. Our federal government should budget.
The bill also says if lawmakers don't enact a budget with spending cuts, they won't be paid.
In the Senate, Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid declined to comment on that provision, but he did say that, in general, he welcomes the House move.
SEN. HARRY REID, D-Nev.:
I'm very glad that they sent us a clean debt — they're going to send us a clean debt ceiling bill. The other stuff on it, we will approach that when we need to. But I'm glad that we're not facing crisis here in a matter of a few days.
President Obama said he wanted a longer-term extension of the debt ceiling. But a White House spokesman said today the president will accept a short-term bill if it reaches his desk. Without an extension, the government could run out of money within a month.
A deep freeze lingered in the Upper Midwest today, with temperatures dropping in some places to minus-30 Fahrenheit. Wind chills made it even worse. Across the region, people bundled up to face the cold, and some schools closed. Frigid arctic air swept down from Canada last Saturday. Authorities attribute at least three deaths to the weather so far.
American military transport planes have joined the French effort to repel Islamist rebels in Mali. Pentagon spokesman George Little confirmed today that U.S. C-17s have flown five missions to the African nation in recent days. They ferried more than 80 French troops and 120 tons of equipment. Little said the U.S. is still considering whether to provide aerial refueling planes.
At least 17 Iraqis died in a series of car bombings in and around Baghdad today. Dozens more were injured. One blast targeted a crowded market in the Shiite neighborhood of Shula, where the burnt-out shells of cars and other charred debris littered the streets. There was no immediate claim of responsibility.
The U.N. secretary-general has offered a grim appraisal of the situation in Syria, essentially saying there's little hope for any diplomatic solution. Ban Ki-Moon spoke today during his first news conference of the year at the U.N. in New York.
BAN KI-MOON, United Nations secretary-general: Our shared assessment is that we are still a long way from getting the Syrians together. The key decisions about the country's future are in the hands of the Syrians. But the international community and in particular the Security Council has a grave responsibility to act to bring the desperate suffering of the Syrian people to an end.
Also today, Russia began evacuating its citizens from Syria, as fighting escalated around Damascus. The Russians have been a main ally of the Assad regime.
The U.N. Security Council today condemned North Korea's latest rocket launch and approved expanded sanctions. The vote was unanimous. North Korea has insisted the December launch placed a weather satellite in orbit. The U.S. has said it was actually a test of long-range missile technology. The U.N. resolution demands the North halt plans for further launches and abandon nuclear weapons work once and for all.
U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk will step down next month. The former Dallas mayor announced his intentions in a statement today. He gave no indication today of what he will do next or who will succeed him.
And, on Wall Street, stocks rallied again. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 62 points, to close at 13712. The Nasdaq rose eight points to close above, 3143.
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