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U.S. Senate goes 'nuclear,' changes filibuster rules

Senate goes nuclearSenate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., pushed through a controversial change to Senate rules Thursday that will make it easier to approve President Obama's nominees but threatens to further divide an already polarized Congress.

Fifty-two Senate Democrats and independents voted to weaken the power of the filibuster. The change reduces the threshold from 60 votes to 51 votes for Senate approval of executive and judicial nominees against unanimous GOP opposition. Three Democrats — Sens. Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Carl Levin of Michigan — opposed the change.

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Congress' approval rating: 9 percent

CongressIt's official....this is the most disliked Congress in the 39-year Gallup poll history of measuring such matters. The latest approval rating: 9 percent.

"The government shutdown in October clearly didn't help Congress' image, and it appears that the impact of that incident may linger, given the record-low approval this month," according to a new Gallup analysis.

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US lawmakers call for action to curb Internet child trading

Internet child tradingU.S. lawmakers called Tuesday for federal action to prevent parents from giving unwanted adopted children to strangers met on the Internet, and the Illinois attorney general urged Facebook and Yahoo to police online groups where children may be advertised.

The demands come as nations whose orphans have been adopted by Americans contend that the U.S. government isn't doing enough to stop the practice, known as "private re-homing."

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Patriot Act author prepares bipartisan bill to curb NSA

Jim SensenbrennerThe conservative Republican who co-authored America's Patriot Act is preparing to unveil bipartisan legislation that would dramatically curtail the domestic surveillance powers it gives to intelligence agencies.

Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, who worked with president George W Bush to give more power to US intelligence agencies after the September 11 terrorist attacks, said the intelligence community had misused those powers by collecting telephone records on all Americans, and claimed it was time "to put their metadata program out of business".

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Abortion coverage for Congress under health law?

Abortion coverage for congressIt's an issue lawmakers may not want to have to explain at town hall meetings back home:

An attempt to fix a problem with the new health care law has created a situation in which members of Congress and their staffers could gain access to abortion coverage, something that currently is denied to federal employees who get health insurance through the government's plan.

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Credit rating Industry wrote provision that undercuts credit-rating overhaul

Moody'sMoments before the Senate overwhelmingly passed a bill to overhaul the credit ratings industry seven years ago, Republican and Democratic sponsors took turns touting its promise for ending an entrenched oligopoly.

The bill, they said, should break the vicelike dominance of three agencies – Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services, Moody’s Investors Service and the smaller Fitch Ratings – in an industry that serves as a crucial watchdog over the nation’s financial system.

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30 Democratic House members on trip to Israel paid for by AIPAC offshoot

Patrick MurphyDemocratic U.S. Reps. Lois Frankel, Patrick Murphy and Joe Garcia of Florida are in Israel for the week along with more than 30 other Democratic House members — trips paid for by an arm of a powerful lobbying group.

Next week, freshmen Republicans head off on the same trip, paid for by the American Israel Education Foundation, which Frankel in a news release described as an “independent, nonprofit charitable organization.”

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