Recently in National News Category

Financial reform inches forward

Lawmakers in Washington came closer to compromise on a new bill that would more tightly regulate the financial industry Sunday after extensive talks.

The talks come shortly before a Monday procedure vote to see if the bill can move forward, the New York Times said.

Several sticking points still exist including a future fund for bailouts and how creditors are treated when a company faces restructuring, Politico said.

Even with debating, a bipartisan bill is expected, thanks to broad public disapproval of the financial industry, said the New York Times.

"We don't have a bipartisan compromise yet, but I think there's a good chance we're going to get it," Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said.

Nearly 1 in 3 Americans failed to fill out Census

Nearly 1 in 3 Americans have failed to fill out and return their Census form as of the Friday due date.

The mail-in participation rate stood at 68 percent, though more forms are expected to arrive throughout the weekend, and official participations results won't be available until May, the New York Times said.

The results appear to be close to the participation rates of the 2000 Census, despite a major ad campaign by the Census Bureau, reported USA Today.

Wisconsin had the highest participation rate at 78 percent, following closely by Minnesota at 76 percent, and Iowa with 75 percent, said the New York Times.

Coal mine explosion kills 25

A coal mine in West Virginia exploded, killing at least 25.

The explosion, which occurred due to improperly vented methane gas, was the deadliest underground disaster in 25 years, the Associated Press said.

The company that owns the mine is reported to have an abysmal safety record, having several evacuations in the mine for dangerous levels of methane, which indicates that the explosion may have been preventable, the New York Times said.

A search continues for four miners who may still be alive in the mine, the Associated Press said. Airtight chambers are scattered throughout the mine that provide food, water, and oxygen for four days, where the miners might have taken refuge.

While chances for their survival are slim, Gov. Joe Manchin held out hope. "I don't want to give anybody any false hope, but by golly, if I'm on that side of the table, and that's my father or my brother or my uncle or my cousins, I'm going to have hope."

Abortion doctor murderer sentenced

An anti-abortion activist and murderer of late-term abortion provider George Tiller has been sentenced to life in prison on Thursday.

Scott Roeder, 52, was convicted of first-degree murder and aggravated assault after shooting Tiller in the face during church services last May, Reuters said.

The judge said Roeder will not be eligible for parole for at least 50 years, reported Reuters.

Tiller's clinic in Wichita, Kan., was one of only three clinics in the United States that offered abortions after 21 weeks of pregnancy, commonly known as late-term abortions, BBC News said.

BBC News reports that Roeder said he expressed no regret for the murder of Tiller. "Wichita is a far safer place for unborn babies without George Tiller."

House passes health care reform

The House of Representatives passed the controversial health care reform bill amid protests Sunday night.

The bill, which passed 219 to 212, saw sweeping opposition from Republicans and several Democrats also defected to vote no, reported BBC News.

The reforms shake up the health care industry, providing coverage to 32 million now-uninsured Americans, allowing young people to stay on their parents' insurance until age 26, disallowing denying people for pre-existing conditions, and a whole host of other changes, said the Associated Press.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the reforms honored America's traditions. "We will be joining those who established Social Security, Medicare and now, tonight, healthcare for all Americans," she said, reported BBC News.

Despite the bill being passed, many legislatures are unhappy. Republicans promise to make health care a major issue in the 2010 elections, according to the Associated Press.

A scandal broke out during debate shortly before the vote, said Politico. Representative Randy Neugebauer of Texas broke House decorum when he shouted during pro-life Democrat Bart Stupak's speech, saying, "It's a baby killer!"

The bill has been sent to the President to be signed, though changes are expected to made in the coming days and months, said BBC News.

Democrats to pair loan reform with health care overhaul

Democrats are preparing to piggyback student loan reforms with the health care overhaul currently being debated Thursday.

The move has received more approval recently from members of the Senate, such as Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, which makes it much more likely to happen, Politico said.

If the two bills were piggybacked and passed through reconciliation, it would be a double win for President Obama, said Politico.

Democratic officials familiar with the negotiations say that it is almost for certain the move will go forward, reports The Hill.

"It's going in," said the Democratic source.

The health care bill is still contentiously debated and faces an uphill battle in the reconciliation process. Adding the student loan reforms, which take billions of dollars from private banks and re-allocate them back through federal loan programs, may potentially make it harder to vote for, Politico said.

"There are some who think it complicates the ultimate vote, there are other who think it helps the ultimate vote," Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin said. "It's an honest difference of opinion."

Obama wants 'up-or-down' vote on health care reform

President Obama urged Congress to put the health care reforms that have been debated for several months to an "up-or-down vote" within the next few weeks.

An 'up-or-down' vote would require the use of the Senate procedural rule known as reconciliation now that Democrats not longer have a supermajority and would otherwise face Republican filibuster, the Boston Globe said.

Though Obama did not specifically mention the use of reconciliation, the Boston Globe says, he indicated support. "I do not know how this plays politically, but I know it's right," Obama said.

Many Democrats remain skittish of the proposed changes to the health care system, but the New York Times reports that Obama expects them to support the bill regardless.

"The American people want to know if it's still possible for Washington to look out for their interests and their future," Obama said. "They are waiting for us to act. They are waiting for us to lead."

Senate advances jobs bill

Senate Democrats defeated a Republican filibuster Monday to pass a jobs bill after five Republican broke ranks to vote for the bill.

The bill, which pumps $15 billion into the economy to help spur job growth, was approved on a vote of 62-30, the New York Times said.

There were many parts of the bill that received large bipartisan support, including a measure than exempts businesses from paying Social Security taxes on those they hire and an additional $1000 tax break if an employee is kept working for a full year, the Associated Press said.

The bill is expected to add as many as 250,000 new jobs, the Associated Press said.

Petraeus to support overturning 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'

Gen. David Petraeus has indicated Sunday that he would support overturning the 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy present in the military.

Petraeus said that it matters very little to soliders whether or not they serve with gay or lesbian military members, Politico said.

The policy, which forbids military members from being open about being gay, has been under review by lawmakers and high-ranking military officials, the Houston Chronicle said.

Politico reports that Petraeus believes it comes more down to the mission than sexual identity. "Frankly, over time we said, 'Hey how is this guy's shooting, or how is her analysis, or what have you?'"

Rep. John Murtha dies

Rep. John Murtha of Pennsylvania died Monday due to complications following a recent surgery at Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington, Va.

The Marine veteran of the Vietnam War served for 36 years in the House of Representatives before his death and in recent years was known for being out-spoken on opposition to the war in Iraq, Politico said.

Murtha was the first Vietnam War veteran in Congress, elected during a special election in 1974, said the Associated Press.

Politico said that Murtha formed a strong alliance with the Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi early in her career while working on the House Appropriations Committee.

Although a strong supporter of the military, the Associated Press says, Murtha shocked Washington in 2005, he called for the immediate withdrawal of troops after having supported the initial actions of President George Bush.

The Associated Press reported that Murtha said, "The war in Iraq is not going as advertised. It is a flawed policy wrapped in illusion."

Though he disagreed with the Iraq War, the Associated Press said that Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will remember Murtha as a tireless advocated for the military.

"From health care to weapons procurement, from shipbuilding to pay and benefits, no one understood the needs of our modern military better than he did," Mullen said in a statement.

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