WASHINGTON – The tradition-laden Senate voted Thursday to modestly curb filibusters, using a bipartisan consensus rare in today’s hyper-partisan climate to make it a bit harder but not impossible for outnumbered senators to sink bills and nominations.
The rules changes would reduce, yet not eliminate, the number of times that opponents – usually minority Republicans these days – can use filibusters, procedural tactics which can derail legislation and which can be stopped only by the votes of 60 of the 100 senators.
In return, the majority – Democrats today – would have to allow two minority amendments on bills, a response to Republican complaints that Democrats often prevent them from offering any amendments at all.
The new procedures also would limit the time spent debating some bills and nominations, allowing some to be completed in hours that could otherwise take a day or more.
LA teacher accused of molesting 20 kids
A fourth-grade teacher who worked nearly 40 years in the Los Angeles Unified School District has been arrested on suspicion of sexually abusing 20 students, a year after another veteran teacher accused of molesting nearly two dozen pupils brought national attention to the district and the problem of classroom sex abuse.
After a 10-month investigation, eight felony counts of continual sexual abuse and seven counts of lewd acts upon a child were filed Wednesday against Robert Pimentel of Newport Beach, pertaining to abuse that allegedly took place at George De La Torre Jr. Elementary in the Wilmington area, officer Christopher No told The Associated Press.
New Jersey adds to cost of rebuilding
Superstorm Sandy landed one final stunning blow to New Jersey on Thursday as the state adopted rebuilding guidelines that come with sticker shock.
They will force homeowners in flood zones to spend tens of thousands of dollars to raise their houses now or pay exorbitant premiums of up to $31,000 a year for flood insurance later.
Gov. Chris Christie said he adopted flood maps issued late last year by the Federal Emergency Management Agency as New Jersey’s standard for rebuilding from the worst storm in its history. The superstorm destroyed more than 30,000 homes, caused $37 billion in damage and is still keeping 41,000 people out of their damaged homes.
Jindal to GOP: Don’t be ‘the stupid party’
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal called on the Republican Party to stop being the stupid party on Thursday as GOP leaders promised fundamental changes to help stave off future losses.
We had a number of Republicans damage the brand this year with offensive and bizarre comments. I’m here to say we’ve had enough of that, Jindal said in the keynote address at the Republican National Committee’s winter meeting in Charlotte, N.C.
Jindal, thought to be a potential 2016 presidential contender, also called on conservatives to shift their focus from Capitol Hill number-crunching to the place where conservatism thrives – in the real world beyond the Washington Beltway.
White-collar crime investigator leaving
Lanny Breuer is leaving the Justice Department after leading the agency’s efforts to clamp down on public corruption and financial fraud at the nation’s largest banks, according to several people familiar with the matter.
During his tenure, he was admonished for his role in the agency’s botched attempt to infiltrate weapon-smuggling rings in the operation dubbed Fast and Furious. And he has been accused of being soft on Wall Street for failing to throw senior bank executives behind bars for their role in the financial crisis.
Yet Breuer is widely credited with aggressively going after white-collar crime in the aftermath of the crisis. He also stepped up the division’s involvement in money laundering cases, launching a series of criminal investigations that have resulted in multimillion-dollar settlements.
Palestinian leader wants to meet Lapid
The Palestinian president wants to meet with newly elected Israeli parliament members to lay out his views on peace, hoping a political surge of centrists will provide an opening to resume long-stalled negotiations on a Palestinian state, a senior aide said Thursday.
President Mahmoud Abbas’ main target appears to be Yair Lapid, leader of the moderate Yesh Atid (There is a Future) party, who is expected to be influential in setting the priorities of the next government.
Lapid has said he wants Israel to make a serious push for peace, although it is unclear how far he will press the issue in coalition negotiations with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Some Mali rebels ready to negotiate
Mali’s rebel movement showed new signs of discord Thursday in the wake of punishing French airstrikes, with one wing of the Ansar Dine group now pledging to negotiate an end to the country’s crisis and possibly even fight against its former comrades-in-arms.
France’s air and land campaign that began two weeks ago to save Mali’s embattled interim government has shaken up the military landscape and put the international spotlight on the former French colony.
Mali’s government was on a new political defensive, urging its soldiers to respect human rights after new allegations that they had carried out summary executions in zones of battle against the radical Islamists.
No. 2 al-Qaida leader in Yemen dead
Al-Qaida’s No. 2 in Yemen died of wounds sustained in a U.S. drone attack last year in southern Yemen, the country’s news agency and a security official said Thursday.
Saeed al-Shihri, a Saudi national who fought in Afghanistan and spent six years in the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, was wounded in a missile attack in the southern city of Saada on Oct. 28, according to SABA news agency.
The agency said that he had fallen into a coma since then. It was not clear when he actually died.