Thousands of tons of building materials, such as cement and steel, began crossing into the Gaza Strip on Saturday, Egyptian and Palestinian officials said, as Israel eased its five-year-old blockade on the Hamas-ruled territory.
Israel agreed to ease the blockade on Gaza under terms of a cease-fire that ended eight days of fierce fighting with Hamas last month, reports CBS News correspondent Robert Berger.
Trucks carrying gravel for private construction entered Gaza from Israel for the first time since Hamas seized control of the Palestinian territory.
Israel says 300 truckloads of goods are now entering Gaza each day.
The director of Gaza's border authority, Maher Abu Sabha, confirmed to The Associated Press that Qatar is paying for the raw materials that were bought in Egypt, to be transported through the Rafah border crossing.
By KEVIN ROBILLARD | 12/31/12 12:22 PM EST
House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer said Monday he was not enthusiastic about an emerging deal to avert the fiscal cliff and wouldnt commit to voting for it.
[President Barack Obama] is prepared to compromise and has been willing to compromise and, in fact, has compromised throughout the last two years, Hoyer said on MSNBC. Do some Democrats not like that? Yes, I think that is the case. I frankly am not enthusiastic about the compromise being talked about today.
Hoyer, a Marylander considered the most moderate member of Democratic leadership in the House, said he wouldnt commit to voting either way until he saw a final bill.
Well have to see what the final product is, Hoyer said. But I think we need to get to compromise, we need to move forward. Nobody wants to go over this cliff. Going over the cliff is economically harmful to the United States of America, to the growth of jobs in America and to the middle class. We dont want to go over the cliff.
Some Democrats have begun to express dissatisfaction with the deal being negotiated by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Vice President Joe Biden. While Obama campaigned on ending the Bush-era tax rates for income above $250,000 a year, Biden and McConnells negotiations have moved the dividing line closer to $400,000.
Read more: http://www.politico.com/story/2012/12/hoyer-cool-to-compromise-85618.html#ixzz2Geap0L9H
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The contours of a deal to avert the 'fiscal cliff' are emerging that would raise tax rates on couples making over $450,000 a year, raise the estate tax rate and extend unemployment benefits for one year.
That's according to officials familiar with the negotiations.
The deal in the works would return tax rates on families making over $450,000 to 39.6 percent. The tax on estates worth more than $5 million would increase to 40 percent. And unemployment benefits would continue for one year.
The officials say the White House and Republicans are at an impasse over what to do about automatic, across-the-board spending cuts set to begin taking effect on Jan. 1. Democrats want to put off the cuts for one year.
By Ramsey Cox - 12/31/12 11:23 AM ET
Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) criticized an emerging fiscal cliff deal on Monday, arguing Democrats were giving up too much on tax rates for the rich.
Harkin said "no deal is better than a bad deal" in criticizing a deal that could extend tax rates for households with annual income under $450,000.
"This is one Democrat who doesnt agree with that at all, Harkin said.
He argued Democrats were making permanent generous tax rates for wealthier households even as in return they were only winning temporary extensions of programs that would help the poor and middle class, such as federal unemployment benefits. Harkin also argued against extending the current estate tax, which he views as too generous.
"There might be some extended debate," he told reporters after his floor comments. He added that it is "not true" that Democrats have as a group signed off on $450,000 threshold or estate tax status quo.
A Christian man was beheaded by Syrian rebels and fed to dogs, a nun has told a British newspaper.
Speaking to The Sunday Times, Sister Agnes-Mariam de la Croix said newlywed taxi driver Andrei Arbashe's brother had reportedly been overheard comparing the rebels to "bandits".
As a consequence, Andrei, who was set to become a father for the the first time, was kidnapped. The 38-year-old's remains were found in the northern town of Ras al-Ayn, on the Turkish border.
Sister de la Croix, who is mother superior of the Monastery of St James the Mutilated between Damascus and Homs, said: "They beheaded him, cut him into pieces and fed him to the dogs.
"The uprising has been hijacked by Islamist mercenaries who are more interested in fighting a holy war than in changing the government.
Senate in 1 hour 10 minute speeches until noon est.
Source: USA TODAY
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/
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.
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.
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."
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