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March 23, 2013 at 12:00 PM   |   Comments

Senate passes first budget in four years

WASHINGTON, March 23 (UPI) -- The U.S. Senate, by the slimmest of margins, approved its first budget in four years early Saturday, party leaders said.

The 50-49 vote came about 5 a.m., with four Democrats joining the entire GOP caucus in voting "no," The Hill reported.

The Democratic dissenters -- Max Baucus of Montana, Mark Begich of Alaska, Kay Hagan of North Carolina and Mark Pryor of Arkansas -- are all up for re-election next year in states for voted for Mitt Romney.

Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., missed the vote.

Senate Budget Chairwoman Patty Murray, D-Wash., said the budget resolution "puts economic growth and the middle class first."

The Senate plan relies on $975 billon in new tax revenues over the next 10 years. It cuts $975 billion from spending, including $275 billion from Medicare and Medicaid. Still, it fails to close the budget gap by $566 billion because it ends $1.22 trillion in automatic spending cuts.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., called the resolution "a rehash of the extreme policies that continue to hobble the economy and crush the middle class."

He predicted it would not become law.

The House passed its budget resolution Thursday on a 221-207 party line vote.

The two bills now go to a joint House-Senate conference that will attempt to work out differences between them.


Biden's European hotel tabs at $1 million

WASHINGTON, March 23 (UPI) -- Hotel tabs for Vice President Joe Biden's five-day trip to Europe last month cost more than $1 million, government documents show.

The totals were for two-night stays at five-star hotels in London and Paris, ABC News reported Friday.

One contract with the Hyatt Regency London was for $459,338.65, while another at the Hotel Intercontinental Paris Le Grand was for $585,000.50, U.S. State Department documents revealed.

The amounts were "in line with high-level travel across multiple administrations," said a State Department official.

The contract included accommodations for staff, security details, military personnel and communications.

"Security experts are also required to travel in advance of the president or vice president," the official added. "Safety and security are not negotiable."


Teens arrested in fatal shooting of baby

BRUNSWICK, Ga., March 23 (UPI) -- Two Georgia teenagers were arrested for allegedly being involved in the fatal shooting of a 13-month-old boy, police said.

Demarquis Elkins, 17, and a 14-year-old boy, whose name was not released because of his age, were arrested Friday in Brunswick, Ga., and charged for the Thursday shooting, CNN reported.

Sherry West, 41, the baby's mother, said she was walking to the post office, pushing her son, Antonio, in a stroller, when one of the teens allegedly approached her and asked for money.

"A boy approached me and told me he wanted my money, and I told him I didn't have any money. And he said, 'Give me your money or I'm going to kill you and I'm going to shoot your baby and kill your baby,' and I said, 'I don't have any money,' and 'Don't kill my baby,'" West said

The boy tried to grab her purse, West said, then allegedly started shooting. West was shot in the leg, "and then, all of a sudden, he walked over and he shot my baby in the face," she said.

West said the younger boy was standing behind the older one during the incident.

Police carried out an extensive search for the suspects that involved a SWAT team and a helicopter search and ended with the arrest of Elkins and the other boy, ABC News reported.

"We are still investigating the motive, but we are trying to turn every stone to make sure we get a motive," said police chief Tobe Green.

Green said police were executing search warrants for three locations and that the gun used in the incident has not yet been recovered.

Both of the suspects have been charged with first-degree murder.


Pope has lunch with ex-pope Benedict

VATICAN CITY, March 23 (UPI) -- Pope Francis was flown by helicopter to Castel Gandolfo for lunch Saturday with his predecessor, Benedict XVI, Vatican officials say.

It is the first known occurrence of a newly elected pope meeting with a former pope in more than 600 years, the BBC reported.

Benedict, now known as the pope emeritus, has lived at the castle south of Rome since stepping down last month. He is expected to stay there until accommodations at the Vatican are ready at the end of April.

Francis will lead his first Easter season mass as pope on Sunday when he celebrates Palm Sunday.

In the 10 days he has been the leader of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Francis has made subtle changes in the lifestyle customary to his position. He has given up the papal ermine robe and red shoes for a white habit and black shoes, and abandoned his special limousine for the public bus. He also no longer greets guests from his elevated throne but at floor level.

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