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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Senate passes measure for credit card reform

WASHINGTON – Landmark credit card legislation, poised to reach President Obama’s desk as early as Memorial Day, will force the card industry to reinvent itself and consumers to rethink the way they use plastic. The Senate Tuesday took a critical step forward by voting 90 to 5 to pass a bill that would sharply curtail credit card issuers’ ability to raise interest rates and charge fees. Lawmakers will now turn to reconciling differences with a similar bill approved by the House last month. Swift passage was expected given that the Senate version received so much bipartisan support and that the White House has pressed for action.

Democrats stall funding to close Guantanamo prison

WASHINGTON – Under pressure from Republicans and concerned about the politics of relocating terrorism suspects on U.S. soil, Senate Democrats rejected President Obama’s request for funding to close the Guantanamo Bay prison and vowed to withhold federal dollars until the president decides the fate of the facility’s 240 detainees. The decision represents a potentially serious setback for Obama, who as a candidate vowed to close Guantanamo and who signed an executive order beginning the process soon after he took office.

Congress approves spending plan

WASHINGTON – The Democratically controlled Congress on Wednesday easily approved a $3.4 trillion spending plan, setting the stage for President Barack Obama to pursue the first major overhaul of the nation’s health care system in a generation along with other far-reaching domestic initiatives. Despite a persistent recession and soaring budget deficits, Democrats overwhelmingly endorsed the president’s request for hundreds of billions of dollars in new spending over the next decade for college loans, early childhood education programs, veterans’ benefits and investments in renewable energy.

Specter says he’s switching from GOP to Dems

WASHINGTON — Veteran Republican Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania disclosed plans Tuesday to switch parties, a move intended to boost his chances of winning re-election next year that also will push Democrats within one seat of a 60-vote filibuster-resistant majority.

Democrats forge budget agreement

WASHINGTON – Congressional Democrats sealed an agreement Monday night on a budget plan that would help President Barack Obama overhaul the health care system but allows his signature tax cut for most workers to expire after next year. Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, D-N.D., announced the agreement and key details in a statement.

Senate votes to keep sales tax deduction

WASHINGTON – The Senate fulfilled a dream for taxpayers in several states without income taxes by making permanent the sales tax deductions on their federal income tax. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., led the effort on the Senate floor with an amendment to the federal budget bill for fiscal 2010. The amendment, which passed by voice vote and still must be agreed to by the House, makes good on the reinstitution of the deduction for taxpayers who itemize by then-House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, in 2004. The deduction has been extended on a piecemeal basis ever since.

Congress advances huge budget plan

WASHINGTON – Congressional Democrats overwhelmingly embraced President Obama’s ambitious and expensive agenda for the nation Thursday, endorsing a $3.6 trillion spending plan that sets the stage for the president to pursue his most far-reaching priorities. Voting along party lines, the House and Senate approved budget blueprints that would trim Obama’s spending proposals for the fiscal year that begins in October and curtail his plans to cut taxes. The blueprints, however, would permit work to begin on the central goals of Obama’s presidency: an expansion of health care coverage for the uninsured, more money for college loans and a cap-and-trade system to reduce gases that contribute to global warming.

Senate again passes expanded wilderness bill

WASHINGTON – For the second time this year, the Senate has passed a long-delayed bill to set aside more than 2 million acres in nine states as protected wilderness, from a California mountain range to a forest in Virginia. The 77-20 vote on Thursday sends the bill to the House, where final legislative approval could come as early as next week.

House votes to tax AIG bonuses

WASHINGTON – Struggling to keep ahead of public outrage, the House of Representatives on Thursday passed a bill to recoup most of the $165 million in bonuses paid to executives of American International Group, although its efforts were immediately swamped by news of more migraine-inducing corporate conduct. A prominent congressman said Thursday that 13 financial companies that received an injection of government money owe more than $220 million in unpaid taxes.

Pelosi dampens stimulus hopes

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Thursday that a second economic stimulus package is not “in the cards” in the short term, disappointing those seeking another quick infusion of federal dollars into the struggling economy. Pelosi’s statement came less than a month after President Obama signed the $787 billion stimulus measure into law and on the same day the Obama administration warned state officials gathered in Washington that it would keep a close eye on how they spend the money allotted to them from that package.

Lands bill falls short in House

WASHINGTON – Democratic leaders suffered an embarrassing defeat Wednesday as the House failed to pass a public lands bill. The 1,248-page bill, which included provisions ranging from new Pacific Northwest scenic trails to Everglades National Park additions, secured a solid House majority. The 282-144 vote, though, fell just short of the two-thirds margin needed under the special rules in play.

Obama signs bill despite earmarks

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama railed against pork-barrel projects Wednesday. Then he signed a massive spending bill stuffed with them. Still, Obama pledged to reform the process by which so-called earmarks end up in spending bills. He unveiled a plan that he said was designed to make sure all projects that benefit from earmarking have a “legitimate” purpose.

Senate approves spending bill

The Senate on Tuesday passed the $410 billion omnibus spending bill that critics say also includes billions of dollars of political pork. The bill, which will fund most Cabinet departments and some other federal agencies for 2009, passed in a voice vote after senators voted, 62-35, to end debate.

Mortgage relief bill clears House

WASHINGTON – The House on Thursday passed legislation that would allow bankruptcy judges to modify the terms of troubled home mortgages, overcoming fierce financial industry opposition. The bill, a package of housing-related initiatives, passed 234 to 191, largely along party lines. Rep. Walt Minnick, D-Idaho, voted for the measure; Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., voted against it.

Congress might regulate tobacco

WASHINGTON – In what appears to be the best chance since public health groups started pushing for it in the 1970s, Congress is poised to regulate tobacco, a product linked to 1,200 deaths each day but sold largely unfettered for centuries. Legislation that will be taken up today by the House Commerce and Energy Committee would place tobacco under the control of the Food and Drug Administration. Among other things, the bill would restrict the ways tobacco companies market cigarettes, require them to disclose the ingredients in their products and place larger warning labels on packages, and give the FDA the authority to require removal of harmful chemicals and additives from cigarettes.

Trade pick Kirk owes back taxes

WASHINGTON – Another Obama administration nominee has tax troubles. This time, it’s Ron Kirk, the president’s choice to be U.S. trade representative. Kirk owes an estimated $10,000 in back taxes from earlier in the decade and has agreed to pay them, the Senate Finance Committee said Monday. The committee said the taxes arise from Kirk’s handling of speaking fees he donated to a scholarship fund that he set up at his alma mater, and for his deduction of the full cost of season tickets to the Dallas Mavericks professional basketball team.

Outside Voices: Facebook’s about-face

Chicago Tribune, Feb. 20: Thousands of Facebook users threatened to un-friend the entire Web site last week to protest what one consumer guardian called “a digital rights grab.” The Electronic Privacy Information Center and 25 other groups were poised to file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission over revisions to the site’s contract with users when Facebook retracted the changes, saying it was all a misunderstanding.