December 16th, 2010
09:53 PM ET

Lame Duck Indeed: Join the Live Chat

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

We have breaking news from Capitol Hill, where the Senate has failed to pass a major piece of legislation.  We're Keeping them Honest. Are they playing games instead of doing actual work? Plus, a new report on war on Afghanistan. Does it paint a true picture? We'll talk with Peter Bergen who just returned from the country and Sebastian Junger who who spent a year embedded with troops there.

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 16th, 2010
08:47 PM ET

Senate Democrats give up bid to pass $1.1 trillion spending bill

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/POLITICS/12/16/government.spending/story.demint.gi.jpg caption="Republican Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina has said he might ask that the bill be read aloud." width=300 height=169]

CNN Wire Staff

Washington (CNN) - In a dramatic twist played out on the floor of the Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid conceded Thursday night he lacked the votes to bring up a nearly $1.1 trillion spending bill designed to fund the federal government for the rest of the current fiscal year.

Reid, D-Nevada, accused Republicans of withdrawing previously pledged support for the bill, and said he would work with the Senate Republican leader to draft a short-term spending measure that would keep the government running beyond Saturday, when the current spending authorization resolution expires.

The shift announced by Reid was a Republican victory because it killed the bill they opposed and will likely put off major spending decisions for the rest of fiscal year 2011 until a more conservative Congress convenes in January.

The House of Representatives has passed a resolution that authorizes spending at the same level as last year until September 30, when fiscal year 2011 ends. The Senate spending bill, drafted by Democrats and Republicans on the Appropriations Committee, was a more flexible appropriation measure that would have given government departments more leeway in how they spend their budgets.

Earlier Thursday, Defense Secretary Robert Gates called for the Senate to pass the spending bill because it would allow his department to meet changing priorities in the current year.

Republicans, however, complained the Senate bill would have continued excessive government spending including $8 billion in earmarks, or provisions requested by individual legislators.

Full story

Filed under: 360° Radar • 360º Follow • Raw Politics
December 16th, 2010
05:16 PM ET

Procedural snag delays House vote on tax deal

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/POLITICS/12/15/government.funding/t1larg.capitol.building.gi.jpg caption="Liberal Democrats are pushing for changes in the tax package." width=300 height=169]

Deirdre Walsh

Washington (CNN) - The House of Representatives moved toward a final vote Thursday night on the $858 billion tax deal negotiated by the White House and top Senate Republicans after an argument among Democrats over possible amendments delayed consideration for several hours.

The bill, which cleared the Senate 81-19 on Wednesday, was expected to win approval eventually, despite strong objections from both the left and the right. Among other things, House liberals remain strongly opposed to what they argue is a deficit-exploding giveaway to the rich in the form of a lower estate tax.

A procedural snag earlier Thursday forced House Democratic leaders to pull the bill from consideration over concerns they lacked support on how the debate would proceed under rules they had set. The House then went into indefinite recess as liberal Democrats seeking changes to the bill huddled with party leaders to work out a solution.

Eventually, debate resumed on a new set of rules that would allow the House to vote on a proposed change to the controversial estate tax provision, and then on the full bill itself. If the House passes the measure with no changes, it goes to President Barack Obama to be signed into law.

Full story

Updated 7:04 p.m.

Filed under: 360° Radar • 360º Follow • Deirdre Walsh • Raw Politics
December 16th, 2010
04:56 PM ET

Beat 360° 12/16/10

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:

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, center, speaks to reporters as he leaves The High Court on December 16, 2010 in London, England. Assange was released after being granted bail by the High Court. (Photo credit: Oli Scarff/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:

Joey Gardner
"Birthers! Alas, I give you President Obama’s birth certificate!"


Derek Reid, Seattle, WA
"I have Santa's list. Soon we'll all know who's been naughty and nice!"

___________________________________________________________________________Beat 360° Challenge

Filed under: Beat 360° • T1
December 16th, 2010
03:45 PM ET

For 25 years, it has been good to be King

Ann O'Neill

Editor's note: It's the end of an era as Larry hangs up his suspenders after 25 years on CNN. We've got a bunch of surprises for him - and you - at 9 ET Thursday night on "Larry King Live." Don't miss it.

Los Angeles (CNN) - "Tonight on Larry King Live. ..."

Spoken in the whiskey and gravel baritone of a man who smoked three packs a day for decades, the words have come to promise a nightly fix of current events and celebrity confessionals.

Now, it's last call. After 25 years, Larry King's record-breaking run as CNN's prime-time, talk-show host ends Thursday night with a grand finale staffers are calling "Larrypalooza."

Led by friend and protégé Ryan Seacrest, a star-studded collection of guests will pay tribute. King will say his goodbyes. And then the set, with its horseshoe-shaped desk and familiar backdrop of multicolored dots, will fade to black.

"It's sad," King said, "but there's a time to go. You know when it's time."

Full story

Filed under: 360° Radar • Larry King
December 16th, 2010
03:15 PM ET

Obama trumpets U.S. gains in Afghanistan

CNN Wire Staff

Washington (CNN) - President Barack Obama asserted Thursday that the United States is making significant progress in the nine-year war in Afghanistan, but warned that the conflict "continues to be a very difficult endeavor."

We are "on track to achieve our goals" of disrupting, dismantling and defeating al Qaeda and eroding "its capacity to threaten America and our allies in the future," he said. The gains, however, are fragile.

The president noted, among other things, that there has been a "successful increase" in the recruitment and training of Afghan forces due partly to the July 2011 deadline set by the administration to start withdrawing the U.S. military.

A "sense of urgency" is galvanizing other allies as well, he claimed.

Obama was joined for the announcement by Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. James Cartwright.

To further U.S. goals in the region, Obama announced he will travel to Pakistan next year. While Islamabad increasingly recognizes the danger of confronting militants along Pakistan's border with Afghanistan, "progress has not come fast enough," he said.

"Terrorist safe havens within (Pakistan's) borders must be dealt with," he said.

Obama's remarks came as the White House released a long-awaited report on U.S. strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Ground has been gained in halting the momentum of militants thanks in large part to the administration's acceleration of resources to the war effort, the report concluded.

Full story

Filed under: 360° Radar • 360º Follow • Afghanistan • Pakistan
December 16th, 2010
12:15 PM ET

Before birther row, Lt. Col. Lakin racked up medals as flight surgeon

Eliott C. McLaughlin

(CNN) - Lt. Col. Terrence Lakin is a poster soldier for the so-called birther movement, but for 17 years prior to his court-martial proceedings, the flight surgeon served around the globe, racking up a chest full of medals.

Military prosecutors allege that the Colorado native intentionally missed a plane in April after disobeying four lawful orders from superiors. Lakin has said he refused to deploy to Afghanistan until he sees proof that President Obama was born in the U.S.

In a YouTube explanation posted before he was charged, Lakin said he had no choice but the "distasteful one of inviting my own court-martial."

"If [Obama] is ineligible, then indeed, all orders are illegal because all orders have the origin with the commander in chief," he said.

The Uniform Code of Military Justice says the maximum punishment for both offenses - missing his plane and disobeying lawful orders - is a dishonorable discharge and up to two years in confinement. A guilty verdict could also result in forfeiture of his pay, which totals $7,959 a month, according to a charge sheet provided by a group sponsoring his defense.

Full story

December 16th, 2010
12:00 PM ET
December 16th, 2010
11:45 AM ET
December 16th, 2010
11:30 AM ET

Letters to the President: #696 'The looming Christmas deadline'

Tom Foreman | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

Reporter's Note: President Obama is trying to wrap up some late legislative pushes, while the rest of us are just trying to wrap up presents before Christmas is upon us.

Dear Mr. President,

Christmas is coming fast now, and I was just sitting here in my office looking out into the DC night wondering if you have anything to do with your own shopping anymore? I mean, whether online or in catalogues, do presidents even get involved? I ask because I saw a guy scooting into one of the stores up at Union Station and it looked like a certain partner of yours, so I thought, so that’s how he gets the gifts!

“Look kids, out on the lawn! It’s Biden Claus!”

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