December 15th, 2010
10:10 PM ET

Lieberman: Senate should take up DADT repeal before considering START

Martina Stewart
AC360° Digital Producer

(CNN) – One of the Senate’s most outspoken proponents of repealing the military’s policy barring gay men and lesbians from serving openly said Wednesday that he has more than enough votes to roll back the Clinton-era policy even in the face of a filibuster.

Related: House passes 'don't ask, don't tell' repeal

And, sounding a note of the harsh political realities as Republicans prepare to take over the majority in the House and increase their numbers in the Senate, Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Connecticut, also said that repeal of the “don’t-ask-don’t-tell” policy should be considered before the New START agreement on nuclear arms reduction because if repeal legislation is not passed now, it stands no chance of passage in the upcoming 112th Congress.

On Wednesday evening, Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine became the fourth Republican senator to publicly declare her support for a repeal. With Snowe’s backing, supporters of a repeal appeared to have 61 votes, one vote more than the 60-vote threshold necessary in the Senate for putting an end to a filibuster and allowing a vote.

In an interview that aired Wednesday night on Anderson Cooper 360°, Lieberman said he believes there are actually 62 votes in favor of a repeal.

“We’ve got 61 votes,” the independent senator told CNN’s Anderson Cooper, “I’ve been saying this. People thought I was puffing, but I knew I had those votes, and I know I’ve got at least one more Republican who will come with me. In the Senate, you don’t need 51, you need 60. We’ve now got 61, and I believe 62.”

Later in the interview, Lieberman also told Cooper that he thought the remainder of the lame-duck session presented the best opportunity for a repeal to be passed.

Related: Senate votes to take up START pact

“I really believe . . . this is the next most important and urgent thing to do” after passage of a bill extending the Bush tax cuts and a spending bill necessary to keep the government functioning, Lieberman said. “I think it’s more important than passing the START treaty right now which can be done in January or February.”

December 15th, 2010
09:54 PM ET

Tracking the Votes on 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell': Join the Live Chat

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/01/02/liveblogfinal.copy.jpg]

The House today voting to repeal 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell.' We'll talk with senator Joe Lieberman who says there are enough votes now in the Senate to repeal it, as well. But is there enough time? Plus, a father's plea after losing his son in the Gulf oil spill disaster.

Scroll down to join the live chat during the program. It's your chance to share your thoughts on tonight's headlines. Keep in mind, you have a better chance of having your comment get past our moderators if you follow our rules.

Here are some of them:

1) Keep it short (we don't have time to read a "book")
2) Don't write in ALL CAPS (there's no need to yell)
3) Use your real name (first name only is fine)
4) No links
5) Watch your language (keep it G-rated; PG at worst - and that includes $#&*)

Filed under: Live Blog
December 15th, 2010
06:43 PM ET

Beat 360° 12/15/10

Ready for today's Beat 360°? Everyday we post a picture you provide the caption and our staff will join in too. Tune in tonight at 10pm to see if you are our favorite! Here is the 'Beat 360°' pic:

Talk show host Oprah Winfrey interviews actor Hugh Jackman during a taping of the "Oprah Winfrey Show" at the Sydney Opera House on December 14, 2010 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo credit: Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images)

Have fun with it. We're looking forward to your captions! Make sure to include your name, city, state (or country) so we can post your comment.

Update: Beat 360° Winners:

Eli Lazar
"Hugh, I am so sorry your name wasn’t on the guest list. Gale can get a little out of hand with her door policy."


John Stevens, Toronto
"We're going to rename Australia 'Opralia'. I will be its queen and you will help my subjects to obey me by using those pointy Wolverine thingies."

___________________________________________________________________________Beat 360° Challenge

Filed under: Beat 360° • T1
December 15th, 2010
06:30 PM ET

U.S. joins Gulf oil spill lawsuits, seeks unlimited damages

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/US/12/15/gulf.oil.lawsuits/story.gulfbp.suit.gi.jpg caption="Workers clean oil from the BP oil spill on Mississippi's Waveland beach December 6, 2010." width=300 height=169]

CNN Wire Staff

Washington (CNN) - The federal government Wednesday joined the dozens of lawsuits against BP and several other companies over the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, seeking unlimited penalties against all but one firm.

In a lawsuit filed in New Orleans, the Justice Department accuses BP, its partners in the ruptured well and drilling contractor Transocean of failing to take "necessary precautions" to prevent or control the April 20 blowout. The spill eventually dumped an estimated 205 million gallons (4.9 million barrels) of crude into the Gulf over nearly three months.

"We intend to hold them fully accountable for their violations of the law," Attorney General Eric Holder said in announcing the lawsuit.

The suit asks the court for civil penalties under the Clean Water Act and to declare eight of the defendants liable without limitations under the federal Oil Pollution Act. It asks a court to impose all removal costs and damages caused by the oil spill, including damages to natural resources, on the companies, according to the Justice Department and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Fines under the Clean Water Act can run up to $4,300 per barrel of oil spilled, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said

"This is about getting a fair deal for the region that suffered enormous consequences from this disaster, and it's also about securing the future of the Gulf," Jackson said.

The suit will join nearly 80 others that have been consolidated before a federal judge in New Orleans. The defendants include BP and oil companies MOEX and Anadarko, which were partners in the Macondo well off Louisiana; Transocean and its partner, Triton Asset Leasing; and Transocean insurer QBE/Lloyd's. The insurer is the only company not being sued under the Clean Water Act or and the only company against which the government is not seeking unlimited damages.

Full story

Filed under: 360° Radar • 360º Follow • Gulf Oil Spill
December 15th, 2010
05:51 PM ET

House passes 'don't ask, don't tell' repeal

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/POLITICS/12/15/gays.in.military/story.dadt.repeal.gi.jpg caption="The bill passed 250 to 175 in a virtual party-line vote." width=300 height=169]

CNN Wire Staff

Washington (CNN) - The House of Representatives voted Wednesday to overturn the ban on openly gay and lesbian soldiers serving in the U.S. military, passing legislation repealing the controversial "don't ask, don't tell" policy.

The bill - a so-called "standalone" measure not tied to any other legislative items - passed 250 to 175 in a virtual party-line vote. It now advances to the Senate.

The House previously passed a repeal of the ban as part of a larger defense spending authorization bill, but the measure stalled last week in the Senate.

Full story

December 15th, 2010
03:58 PM ET

Letters to the President: #695 'Luck of the legal draw'

Tom Foreman | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

Reporter's Note: President Obama’s health reform plan has taken a shot amidships from a federal judge who says part of it is unconstitutional. Writing letters to the White House, however, appears to still fall within the bounds of legality.

Dear Mr. President,

The dueling rulings from various judges about your health care reform plan seem to underscore a basic problem - or at least a potential problem - in the judicial branch of government these days. As a practical matter, we seem to be hearing about judges who received their jobs under Democrats saying a Democratic plan is fine, and judges who snagged their robes under Republican rule saying the opposite.

Related video: Virginia AG on health care suit

Each major party seems hell bent on skewing the courts in its favor, by stacking the judicial deck with folks who lean to one side. As a result even as we seek the guidance of the courts about fairness, reason, and the law in these divisive times, I feel as if we are finding just more of the same sitting on the bench.

Please note that I’m not blaming one side more than the other, and frankly I don’t even know if one could accurately measure this trend even if one tried.

December 15th, 2010
01:39 PM ET

Update: Senate passes controversial tax cut deal

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://www.cnn.com/video/bestoftv/2010/12/13/ac.kth.obama.tax.cuts.cnn.640×360.jpg caption="The vote came hours after President Barack Obama urged lawmakers to approve the deal" width=300 height=169]

CNN Wire Staff

Washington (CNN) - The Senate approved a controversial $858 billion tax cut package Wednesday, overwhelmingly voting to extend the Bush-era tax reductions despite a series of objections from both the left and the right.

The measure, which passed 81 to 19, now advances to the House of Representatives.

Among other things, the package includes a two-year extension of the Bush-era tax cuts set to expire December 31. It also would extend unemployment benefits for 13 months, cut the payroll tax by 2 percentage points for a year, restore the estate tax at a lower level, and continue a series of other tax breaks.

The estate tax - currently scheduled to exempt inheritances up to $1 million and tax amounts above that at a rate of 55% - would be reduced under the tax package to a rate of 35% on amounts above a $5 million individual exemption.

The vote came hours after President Barack Obama urged lawmakers Wednesday to approve the deal, which the White House negotiated with Senate GOP leaders.

"I am absolutely convinced that this tax cut plan, while not perfect, will help our economy and create jobs in the private sector," Obama said. "It will help lift up middle-class families who will no longer have to worry about a New Years' Day tax hike."

House Democrats, however, have repeatedly warned that they may change the measure, particularly provisions dealing with the estate tax.

Full story

Filed under: 360° Radar • 360º Follow • Raw Politics
December 15th, 2010
11:30 AM ET
December 15th, 2010
11:24 AM ET

Obama calls for lawmakers to back tax deal

CNN Wire Staff

Washington (CNN) - President Barack Obama urged lawmakers Wednesday to approve the compromise tax package he negotiated with Republican leaders.

Saying he is convinced that the legislation will spark growth, Obama acknowledged differences on "both sides of the aisle" and said "that's the nature of compromise."

In remarks at the White House, Obama said the package "can't afford to fall victim" to a delay or a defeat.

"I am absolutely convinced that this tax cut plan, while not perfect, will help our economy and create jobs in the private sector," Obama said. "It will help lift up middle-class families who will no longer have to worry about a New Years' Day tax hike."

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, has confirmed that the Senate's final vote on the controversial deal will take place Wednesday. Senators debated the package late into the night Tuesday.

The proposal received strong bipartisan support in clearing a key Senate procedural hurdle Monday, with an 83-15 vote to end debate.

But as senators cleared the way for the pivotal vote, House Democrats continued to argue about whether they will change the measure after an expected Senate approval.

Full story

Filed under: 360° Radar • 360º Follow • Raw Politics
December 15th, 2010
11:20 AM ET
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