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Hurricane Sandy Aid Bill Not On House Schedule


WASHINGTON -- The House returned to work Sunday afternoon but had no plans to vote on a Senate-passed disaster relief bill for Superstorm Sandy victims.

The Senate voted 62-32 on Friday to pass a $60.4 billion aid bill after two days of debate. Twelve Republicans voted for the measure.

The House has until Jan. 3, when the 113th Congress is sworn in, to act on the measure. Otherwise, work on it must begin anew.

"The best way to handle it is to just pass the Senate bill," said Democratic Rep. Frank Pallone of New Jersey, whose oceanfront district sustained major damage during the Oct. 29 storm.

Pallone and other New Jersey lawmakers returned to Washington on Sunday intent on pressing Republican leadership and other lawmakers to back the Sandy relief bill.

Read more: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2012/12/30/sandy-aid-bill/1799603/

Senate Adjourns To Monday With No Deal

The House and Senate both finished legislative work early Sunday evening, with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) saying negotiators were still far apart in talks to avoid January's "fiscal cliff."

Both chambers returned for a special Sunday session in hopes of closing a deal, but the day ended with no votes being taken on any bills related to the cliff. The House and Senate had plans to return early Monday morning in the hopes of reaching an agreement that can be passed before the end of the year.

The Senate left just before 7:30 p.m., after Reid warned that there is "significant disagreement" between Republicans and Democrats in negotiations.

But Reid said there is "still time left to reach an agreement," and said he hopes Senate leaders can announce progress when the Senate resumes work at 11 a.m. Monday. "I certainly hope so," he said.

The House returns at 9 a.m. for morning speeches, and will start legislative work at 10 a.m. But like the Senate, the House finished without any firm schedule for Monday.



Fiscal Cliff Debate: Why The (Very) Few Rule The Many In Congress

Sunday, December 30, 2012, By Ron Elving

In the final hours of the latest budget crisis in Washington, several salient facts are increasingly clear.

First, the leaders of the two parties in the Senate might still put together a negotiated deal that would avert the combination of tax increases and spending cuts known as the fiscal cliff. The leaders would start with President Obama's top priorities, modify them to accommodate Republican preferences, throw in some measures that are GOP priorities and take the package to the floor.

Second, that package would pass the Senate on Monday on the votes of Democrats, independents and possibly even a Republican or two. That assumes no one filibusters the bill. Even one senator could do so and delay the proceedings into the new year. (More about that rule in a moment.)

Third, if no one filibusters and the Senate approves the compromise package, the House will have enough votes to approve it and send it on for the president's signature. But having enough votes is not enough. In fact, it is likely the package will not even be brought to the floor for debate and a vote.

How can this be?

Even if a majority of the whole House (Republicans and Democrats) were prepared to swallow the Senate deal, they won't get a chance unless Speaker John Boehner brings it to the floor. And Boehner probably won't. He has adopted a rule that no measure will be voted on unless it is supported by a majority of the majority party — that is, his party, the Republicans. At this point, the Senate deal looks unlikely to appeal to most House Republicans.



Dianne Feinstein: Filibuster Reform Headed In Bipartisan Direction

WASHINGTON -- In order to block a Senate rule change in January making the filibuster a more public act, Republicans have been hoping to peel off at least six Democrats, depriving the majority of the 51 votes needed. One of their most promising targets has been veteran Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who has been reluctant to change the rules on a party-line vote because of concerns about what will happen when Democrats are once again in the minority.

But in recent weeks, Feinstein has expressed a willingness to go with the party-line vote. On Sunday, she did so again, even after a bipartisan group of eight senators had put forward a plan on Thursday for much milder filibuster reforms that would leave the current rules in place. On "Fox News Sunday," Feinstein said she's hopeful the bipartisan plan will work out, but she wouldn't rule out the Democrats' going it alone.

"I think there are some changes that can be made on a bipartisan basis," Feinstein said. "I think that's where things are going right now, to see what we can agree upon. If we can't, then the so-called nuclear option comes into play. I'm hopeful that that is not the case, because what comes around goes around."

Pressed on whether she'd support a 51-vote approach -- what opponents call the nuclear option and advocates call the constitutional option -- if the bipartisan deal fell apart, she wouldn't rule it out.

"At this stage, I don't believe it's necessary," Feinstein said, emphasizing at this stage. "I believe we can work something out that both parties can accept."



Israeli Premier’s Party Criticizes Israeli President For His Praise Of Palestinian President

By Associated Press, Updated: Sunday, December 30, 12:37 PM

JERUSALEM — Israel’s president and prime minister are trading charges over making peace with the Palestinians.

President Shimon Peres told a summit of international ambassadors and diplomats Sunday that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is a reliable peace partner. He said Israeli diplomacy must change “from an aggressive approach to a moderate approach of dialogue.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s party and his hawkish election partner released a statement calling the Israeli president out of touch and labeling the Palestinian president a “peace rejecter.”

Peres won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994.

Netanyahu is expected to win Jan. 22 elections, and the hard-line bloc maintains a lead over dovish parties. The statement from Netanyahu’s party said Peres’ remarks in front of a diplomatic audience represent a political stance that encourages international condemnation of Israel.



U.S. Complicity in Israel's Deadly Actions in Gaza

On November 18, an Israeli air force pilot flying a U.S.-made F-16 fighter jet fired a missile at the four-story home of the al-Dalu family in Gaza City, killing ten members of the family and two from the al-Muzannar family next door.

An on-site investigation conducted by Human Rights Watch concluded that the attack was a "clear violation of the laws of war" and demanded that those "responsible for deliberately or recklessly committing a serious violation of the laws of war should be prosecuted for war crimes."

Two weeks ago, on International Human Rights Day, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated that the United States works to advance "the universal freedoms enshrined" in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which includes the "right to life, liberty and security of person." "When governments seek to deny these liberties through repressive laws and blunt force," she intoned, "we stand against this oppression and with people around the world as they defend their rights."

Yet, when it comes to U.S. policy toward Palestinians, this rhetoric rings hollow. The United States arms Israel to the teeth, fails to uphold U.S. human rights laws when Israel uses U.S. weapons to commit abuses of Palestinians and, up to this point, has thrown around its diplomatic heft in international forums to shield Israel from the war crimes prosecutions advocated for by Human Rights Watch and others.



G.O.P. Backs Off a Demand, Clearing Way for More Talks (chained-CPI)

Source: New York Times

WASHINGTON — Negotiations over a last-ditch agreement to head off large tax increases and sweeping spending cuts in the new year appeared to resume Sunday afternoon after Republican senators withdrew their demand that a deal must include a new way of calculating inflation that would lower payments to beneficiaries programs like Social Security and slow their growth.

Senate Republicans emerged from a closed-door meeting to say they agreed with Democrats that the request — which had temporarily brought talks to a standstill — was not appropriate for a quick deal to avert the tax increases and spending cuts starting Jan. 1.

To hold the line against raising taxes on high-income households while fighting for cuts to Social Security was “not a winning hand,” Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, said.

The concession could be a breakthrough, but Senate Republicans were still balking at an agreement on Sunday, adopting a new talking point that Democrats want to raise taxes just to increase spending, not to cut the deficit. That concern appears to center on a Democratic proposal to temporarily suspend across-the-board spending cuts to military and domestic programs as talks resume on a larger deficit deal.

Read more: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/31/us/politics/obama-accuses-republicans-of-blocking-tax-deal.html?_r=0

Stay tuned...

Russian Warship Heads To Syria In Preparation For A Possible Evacuation

The Kremlin is sending another warship to the Syrian port of Tartus, where Russia has a naval base, Russian news agencies reported.

The reports Sunday by the ITAR-Tass and Interfax news agency cited an unidentified official in the military general staff as saying the Novocherkassk, a large landing ship, has set sail from the Black Sea port of Novorossiisk. She was “accompanied by a combat ship of the Russian Black Sea Fleet,” according to a Russian news source.

The Novocherkassk was the third vessel of its kind dispatched since Friday from Russia to Tartus, AFP reported, and was expected to arrive in the area in early January.

The reports gave no information on the ship’s intent. But Russian diplomats have said that Moscow is preparing a plan to evacuate thousands of Russians from Syria if necessary. The Defense Ministry announced two weeks ago that several ships were being dispatched to the Mediterranean.



Yemen: Al Qaeda Offers Bounty For U.S. Ambassador, Soldiers

Source: Associated Press

SANAA, Yemen (AP) — Al Qaeda’s branch in Yemen has offered to pay tens of thousands of dollars to anyone who kills the U.S. ambassador in Sanaa or an American soldier in the country.

An audio produced by the group’s media arm, the al-Malahem Foundation, and posted on militant websites Saturday said it was offering 3 kilograms (6.6 pounds) of gold, worth $160,000, for killing the ambassador.

The group said it will pay 5 million Yemeni riyals ($23,000) to anyone who kills an American soldier inside Yemen.

It said the offer is valid for six months. The bounties were set to “inspire and encourage our Muslim nation for jihad,” the statement said.

Read more: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2012/dec/30/yemen-al-qaeda-offers-bounty-us-ambassador-soldier/#ixzz2GYpVMAyv
Follow us: @washtimes on Twitter

Read more: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2012/12/30/yemen-al-qaida-offers-bounty-for-us-ambassador/1798711/

Obama Touts Hagel, Says No Decision On Defense Secretary Job

Dec 30 (Reuters) - President Barack Obama offered strong support for former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel as the potential next U.S. defense secretary but said in remarks aired on Sunday he has not yet decided on a nominee for the Pentagon post.

Hagel is considered a leading candidate to replace outgoing Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, but he has come under criticism for his record on Israel and for a comment that being gay was an inhibiting factor for being an ambassador.

"I've served with Chuck Hagel. I know him. He is a patriot. He is somebody who has done extraordinary work both in the United States Senate, somebody who served this country with valor in Vietnam," Obama told NBC's "Meet the Press" in an interview taped on Saturday and broadcast on Sunday.

Obama said he has seen nothing that would disqualify Hagel.


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