WASHINGTON, Jan. 23 (UPI) -- Republicans on House and Senate panels tried to pummel U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for actions before and after the Libyan terror attack.
But Clinton refused to give an inch and defended the administration's actions while conceding reforms were needed.
The chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committe, Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., told Clinton, "Security was not a high priority" at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi where the ambassador and three other Americans were killed. "Security requests were denied."
Royce said the problem was not in the lack of funding, rather "the tragedy of Benghazi was rooted in poor security."
The chairman questioned why security assets were pulled from the region before the attack. Clinton said those assets were focused on the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli, not the consulate in Benghazi.
Rep. Ieana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., pointed to news stories that said those department officials responsible for not passing on requests for more security to the highest levels were disciplined. But the stories about discipline were, "Not true!" Ros-Lehtinen said.
Clinton said "all four individuals have been removed from their jobs ... [and] placed on administrative leave." She said federal regulations forbid removing someone because of "unsatisfactory leadership" and urged Congress to change those regulations.
Democrats were more supportive. Rep. Eliot Engl, D-N.Y., the ranking member, said instead of engaging in "gotcha" politics the committee should be working for solutions.
"Clearly mistakes were made, but let's make one thing perfectly clear, Barack Obama was not responsible for the Benghazi attack, just as George Bush was not responsible for the Sept. 11  attacks and Ronald Reagan was not responsible for the [1983 attack on the Marine barracks in Lebanon]," Engl said.
House passes debt ceiling bill
WASHINGTON, Jan. 23 (UPI) -- The House Wednesday approved a temporary suspension of the debt ceiling, removing the threat of default on U.S. obligations.
The measure now goes to the Senate where Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said action on the bill would be taken immediately.
The White House said President Obama would sign the measure even though he would prefer a long-term deal.
The suspension through May 19, which passed 285-144, is conditional on the U.S. Senate passing a budget resolution by mid-April.
"Today I'm pleased that Speaker [John] Boehner's House colleagues have decided to change course and pass a bill that diffuses yet another fight over the debt ceiling," Reid told reporters. Reid, however, called the budget requirement a meaningless gimmick, The Hill reported.
The United States reached its $16.4 trillion borrowing limit New Year's Eve.
The bill would let the U.S. Treasury keep borrowing money to pay its bills but would not require lawmakers to vote on actually raising the debt ceiling.
Once the suspension period ends, the borrowing limit would be adjusted upward to account for the country's increased debt level.
"The bill still has to overcome some concerns expressed by members of the House and the Senate before it can pass both chambers and reach the president's desk," White House spokesman Jay Carney said Tuesday.
"If it does [pass Congress] and it reaches the president's desk, he would not stand in the way of the bill becoming law.
"Clearly, we support extension of the debt ceiling without drama or delay. That has been his position forever -- as president and since we've had these rather novel debates about whether or not we should engage in games of chicken over the full faith and credit of the United States."
The White House later said Obama looked forward "to continuing to work with both the House and the Senate to increase certainty and stability for the economy."
Suicide bomb kills 35 in Iraq
TUZ KHURMATU, Iraq, Jan. 23 (UPI) -- At least 35 people were killed by a suicide bomber, and many more injured, near a Shiite mosque in northern Iraq, police said Wednesday.
The attack, during a funeral in the town of Tuz Khurmatu, 90 kilometers (56 miles) south of the city of Kirkuk, injured two senior Iraqi government officials. One was Ahmed Abdul-Wahed, deputy governor of the largely Sunni Salaheddin province in north-central Iraq, CNN reported.
Last month, at least 208 Iraqi civilians, soldiers and police officials were killed in attacks, figures from Iraq's Interior, Defense and Health ministries indicate.
The rise in violence coincides with three weeks of demonstrations in predominately Sunni Muslim provinces, with protesters demanding the Shiite-led government stop what they call second-class treatment of Iraq's Sunni community, CNN said.
Hitler-Obama link draws fire
COLUMBUS, Ohio, Jan. 23 (UPI) -- Debe Terhar, president of Ohio's board of education, removed her Facebook page after comparisons between Adolf Hitler and President Barack Obama were posted.
Although the photograph linking Hitler and Obama over gun control were re-posts from another Facebook page that includes pro-gun and anti-Obama posts and photos, and Terhar said later she regretted "the consequences of carelessly sharing that photograph," Ohio Democrats called for her removal from office by Gov. John Kasich if she did not apologize.
"President Terhar's invocation of Hitler is dangerous and should not be tolerated by Gov. Kasich and the rest of the state school board," Ohio Democratic Party Chairman Chris Redfern said.
Kasich, through a spokesman, said she would remain in her post.
Both Kasich and Terhar are Republicans, The Cincinnati Enquirer noted Wednesday.
"I did not compare our president to Adolf Hitler," Terhar said in a text message, noting she re-posted the message without researching it because it referred "to gun control. It is a hot button issue today."
Network of surveillance blimps closing
KEY WEST, Fla., Jan. 23 (UPI) -- The 10 military blimps that have been tracking low-flying aircraft along the southern U.S. border are being taken out of service, military officials say.
The Tethered Aerostat Radar System, the program's official name, is funded by the Defense Department. But at least in the Florida Keys, the information gathered by the system is used mostly by the Coast Guard and other agencies trying to keep drugs out of the country, KeysNet.com reported.
In addition to Cudjoe Key, Fla., there are sites in Deming, N.M.; Morgan City, La.; Lajas, Puerto Rico; Fort Huachuca and Yuma, Ariz., and Eagle Pass, Marfa, Matagorda and Rio Grande City, Texas.
The Cudjoe Key blimp, nicknamed Fat Albert, has been a familiar sight in the Lower Keys since 1980.
"Its presence has a deterrent value to illicit trafficking here in the area," Coast Guard Commander Al Young, who heads operations in Key West, told US1Radio this week. "It also allows us here at the Coast Guard to maintain real-time visibility of air and surface resources that we may have and on occasion, we have used that information to vector assistance resources to find search objects."
Exelis Systems Corp., which operates the TARS system, said the radar will be shut down March 15. Then the company will begin the task of deflating the blimps and closing the sites.
More earning degrees in U.S.
WASHINGTON, Jan. 23 (UPI) -- The number of people with academic degrees, particularly doctorates and master's, grew substantially in the past decade, the U.S. Census Bureau said Wednesday.
The department said a statistical survey -- Educational Attainment in the United States: 2012 -- found the population with a doctorate grew by about 1 million, or 45 percent, from 2002 to 2012, while the group with master's degrees grew by 5 million, or 43 percent.
The population with an associate degree rose by 5 million, or 31 percent, and those whose highest degree was a bachelor's increased 25 percent to 41 million.
The report found 21 million women held bachelor's degrees as their highest level of education as of 2012, compared to 19 million men. Women also outnumbered men in earning master's degrees, 9 million to 7.4 million.
Men held more doctorates -- leading women 2 million over 1.2 million -- and held 1.8 million professional degrees, compared to 1.2 million for women.
The number of those without a high school or GED diploma fell by 13 percent to 25 million.
Among people 25 and older who reported earnings in 2011, the average income for people with bachelor's degrees but no higher degrees was $59,415. People with high school diplomas but no college reported average earnings of $32,493.
The report is based on statistics from the Current Population Survey's Annual Social and Economic Supplement, which surveys people annually in about 100,000 homes in February, March and April each year.
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