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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Obama readying road map for spending

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama on Saturday promised to lower mortgage costs, offer job-creating loans for small businesses, get credit flowing and rein in free-spending executives as he readies a new road map for spending billions from the second installment of the financial rescue plan. The White House is deciding how to structure the remaining half of the $700 billion that Congress approved last year to save financial institutions and lenders. An announcement was possible as early as this coming week on an approach that would use a range of tools to unfreeze credit, helping families and businesses.

Our View: Federal expansion of health care program overdue

Two years ago, President Bush vetoed legislation that would’ve expanded health care coverage for children, and Congress was unable to muster the votes for an override. But the issue is back, and Congress is on the verge of adopting a similar bill, with a long-overdue sweetener for Washington state. Following earlier action by the U.S. House of Representatives, the U.S. Senate on Thursday passed a bill to bolster the popular State Children’s Health Insurance Program. The bill would cover 4.1 million more children, bringing the total to 11 million. The cost is $32.8 billion over 4 1/2 years and is to be paid for with a 61 cent tax on a pack of cigarettes.

Senate moves to expand health insurance for kids

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama and his congressional allies took a modest step toward reshaping the nation’s health care system Thursday as the Senate passed legislation to expand health insurance for children. But rather than building momentum for the sweeping reform Obama has promised, the victory on Capitol Hill – a largely party-line 66-32 vote – marked a rocky start for what many hope will be the biggest reform campaign in a generation.

House passes $819 billion stimulus package

WASHINGTON – In the first major test of President Barack Obama’s ability to push his ambitious agenda through Congress, the House on Wednesday approved the largest attempt since World War II to use the federal budget to redirect the course of the nation’s economy. Obama had worked hard to gain bipartisan support for the $819 billion stimulus package, beginning to negotiate possible compromises with Republicans even before entering the White House. But the measure passed on a strict party-line vote, 244-188. No Republican supported the bill, and only 11 out of 255 Democrats opposed it.

Mail may show up less often after cut

WASHINGTON – Worsening economic conditions and the changing habits of Americans are threatening to do to the U.S. Postal Service what few things can: stop delivery of the mail, at least for a day. In testimony before a Senate subcommittee Wednesday, Postmaster General John “Jack” Potter said the post office may be forced to cut back to five-day delivery for the first time in the agency’s history, citing rising costs and an ongoing decline in mail made worse by the global recession.

House rejects DTV delay

WASHINGTON – House Republicans on Wednesday defeated a bill to postpone the upcoming transition from analog to digital television broadcasting to June 12 – leaving an estimated 6.5 million U.S. households unprepared for the currently scheduled Feb. 17 switchover. But the battle over a delay may not be over, with some predicting the House will take up the measure again next week.

House defeats bill to delay digital TV transition

Bucking the Obama administration, House Republicans on Wednesday defeated a bill to delay the upcoming transition from analog to digital television broadcasting to June 12 — leaving an estimated 6.5 million U.S. households unprepared for the switchover.

GOP unswayed by Obama on stimulus plan

WASHINGTON – Trying to build support for his $825 billion economic stimulus plan before a crucial vote, President Barack Obama traveled to Capitol Hill on Tuesday but continued to meet a stubborn wall of complaints from Republicans that the cost of the package was unacceptable. Republicans praised Obama for listening to their concerns, but many said afterward that they would not support the proposal.

Stimulus tests bipartisanship

WASHINGTON – House Democrats appear likely to jettison family planning funds for the low-income from an $825 billion economic stimulus bill, officials said late Monday, following an appeal from President Barack Obama at a time the administration is courting Republican critics of the legislation. Several officials said a final decision was likely today, coinciding with Obama’s scheduled visit to the Capitol for separate meetings with House and Senate Republicans.

Senate confirms Treasury nominee

WASHINGTON – Timothy Geithner was confirmed by the Senate on Monday as Treasury secretary and will immediately face tough sledding as the Obama administration prepares to spend hundreds of billions of dollars to rescue the financial system. Despite their misgivings about his failure to pay nearly $43,000 in taxes on time, senators endorsed Geithner as the best candidate to lead the government’s response to the financial crisis. But the 60-to-34 vote was relatively close for a Cabinet confirmation, reflecting the controversy that dogged his candidacy.

Rove subpoenaed to testify in firings

The House Judiciary Committee chairman subpoenaed former White House adviser Karl Rove on Monday to testify about the Bush administration’s firing of nine U.S. attorneys and its prosecution of a former Democratic governor. Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., said the ongoing legal battle to get Rove and other former Bush administration aides to testify may have success with a new president in the White House.

Senate approves digital TV delay

WASHINGTON – The Senate on Monday voted unanimously to postpone the upcoming transition from analog to digital television broadcasting by four months to June 12 – setting the stage for Congress to pass the proposal as early as today. Monday’s Senate vote was a victory for the Obama administration and Democrats in Congress, who have been pushing for a delay amid growing concerns that too many Americans won’t be ready for the scheduled Feb. 17 changeover.

Pay equity bill sails through the Senate

WASHINGTON – The Senate approved landmark worker rights legislation on Thursday that will make it easier for those who think they have endured pay discrimination to seek legal help. The vote was 61-36. The House of Representatives approved a similar measure on Jan. 9, three days after the 111th Congress convened. Because the Senate made modest changes in the House version, the House must pass it again. Once it does, as is assured, this will be one of the first bills that President Barack Obama signs into law.

Geithner approval moves closer

WASHINGTON – Timothy Geithner apologized to Congress Wednesday for what he called “careless mistakes” in failing to pay $34,000 in taxes and moved closer to confirmation as treasury secretary and the Obama administration’s point man in reviving the economy. While some Republican lawmakers questioned whether Geithner was being forthright in the explanation of his tax errors, he appeared to have sufficient support to win approval from the Senate Finance Committee.

Senate OKs release of remaining bailout

WASHINGTON – The Senate voted Thursday to release the second half of the Treasury’s hugely unpopular initiative to stabilize the fragile U.S. financial system, granting President-elect Barack Obama virtually unfettered authority to spend $350 billion to revive sluggish credit markets and help millions of homeowners avoid foreclosure. With the financial crisis threatening anew to further depress the economy, the Democratic Congress was moving rapidly to give Obama the tools he has requested to try to ease the effects of a recession that many economists predict will be the deepest, longest and most dangerous since the Great Depression.

Obama promises reform of entitlement programs

WASHINGTON – President-elect Barack Obama pledged Thursday to shape a new Social Security and Medicare “bargain” with the American people, saying that the nation’s long-term economic recovery cannot be attained unless the government finally gets control over its most costly entitlement programs. That discussion will begin next month, Obama said, when he convenes a “fiscal responsibility summit” before delivering his first budget to Congress. He said his administration will begin confronting the issues of entitlement reform and long-term budget deficits soon after it jump-starts job growth and the stock market.

Program would pay to replace gas hogs

WASHINGTON – Congress is mulling a proposal to pay people to get rid of those old gas guzzlers sitting in their driveways. Under legislation introduced Wednesday in both the House and Senate and called the “Cash for Clunkers” program, drivers could get vouchers of up to $4,500 when they turn in their old fuel-inefficient vehicles for scrap and buy vehicles that get good gas mileage.

Democrats near on stimulus package

WASHINGTON – Congressional Democrats are putting the final touches on an economic stimulus package that will cost almost $850 billion, hoping to have the details of the legislation ready in time for President-elect Barack Obama to promote it on a trip to Ohio on Friday in which he hopes to build public support for the recovery plan. With the cost estimate almost tripling since shortly after Obama’s November election victory, the stimulus plan is expected to include at least $300 billion in tax cuts and close to $550 billion in domestic spending, making the pricetag of Obama’s first major legislative initiative almost equal to the annual cost of funding all federal agencies.

Chu hearing forecasts new focus in energy policy

WASHINGTON – The Nobel Prize winner nominated to head the Energy Department said Tuesday that he would focus the agency in part on global warming, a sharp departure from the agency’s priorities during the Bush administration. “If we continue on our current path, we run the risk of dramatic, disruptive changes to our climate,” physicist Steven Chu told the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee during his confirmation hearing.