Congress resumes thorny cliff debate
WASHINGTON, Dec. 30 (UPI) — Members of Congress expressed hope Sunday a deal on the so-called fiscal cliff could be hammered out, but said the devil was still firmly in the details.
Appearing on ABC’s "This Week," senior senators and House members agreed a fair amount of political posturing was taking place, but that didn’t discount the fact there remained significant differences between Democrats and Republicans.
"Until we know exactly what the Senate’s proposing, the senators couldn’t tell us the details, it’s impossible to know," said Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md. "It depends on the deal."
The standoff publicly continued to revolve around President Obama and Democrats’ stance that upper-income taxpayers should see their annual tab increase in order to help close the budget deficit. The Republicans’ insist tax hikes on anyone would derail economic growth and the books should be balanced through cuts and other reforms to entitlement programs.
"The president and a lot of folks in his party have shied away from those discussions, and I think … it is accurate that’s not going to happen in this conversation, but it should," said Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz.
Meanwhile, Obama said finalizing a deal on the so-called fiscal cliff had boiled down to the question of tax increases for wealthy Americans.
The president said on NBC’s "Meet the Press" it was the Republicans who were holding up an agreement by digging in on the tax-hike question.
"They say that their biggest priority is making sure that we deal with the deficit in a serious way, but the way they’re behaving is that their only priority is making sure that tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans are protected," Obama said in the interview that was taped Saturday.
Bush out of intensive care unit
HOUSTON, Dec. 30 (UPI) — Former U.S. President George H.W. Bush was moved from the intensive care unit of a Houston hospital where he has been for more than a month, officials said.
"President Bush’s condition has improved, so he has been moved today from the intensive care unit to a regular patient room at The Methodist Hospital to continue his recovery," his office said in a statement Saturday.
Bush was moved to the intensive care unit on Dec. 23 for the treatment of a persistent fever, CNN reported. He was originally admitted to the hospital with bronchitis and remained in the hospital for a lingering cough.
On Friday, spokesman Jim McGrath said: "The president is alert and, as always, in good spirits — and his exchanges with doctors and nurses now include singing. The Bushes thank everyone for their prayers and good wishes and, like their doctors, are cautiously optimistic that the current course of treatment will be effective."
Storm makes windy exit from Northeast
BOSTON, Dec. 30 (UPI) — Wind advisories were posted in the northeastern United States Sunday after a snowy winter storm blew through the region this weekend.
The National Weather Service said gusts above 40 miles per hour were possible in the greater New York City area and gale warnings were in effect for coastal waters from the Carolinas to the Canadian border.
AccuWeather said buoys anchored off New England recorded swells 15-20 feet high Sunday.
The blustery weather was on the tail end of a robust weather system that generated 4-8 inches of snow in New England and snarled both road and air travel up and down the East Coast.
Boston declared a snow emergency Saturday night and deployed some 200 plows and other pieces of equipment to the streets, CNN said.
"With up to 8 inches of snow expected in parts of the city, and freezing temperatures forecast for the next week, it’s extremely important we get our roadways cleared as soon as possible in the interest of public safety," Boston Mayor Thomas Menino said in a written statement.
The Hartford (Conn.) Courant said the snow caused several traffic accidents overnight and shut down part of Interstate 84 near the Massachusetts state line.
A Connecticut state police trooper was injured when a car skidded into his patrol car while he was assisting another motorist in Stratford.
Illness sweeps two Caribbean cruise ships
LONDON, Dec. 30 (UPI) — The norovirus was suspected in an outbreak of nausea aboard a pair of cruise ships in the Caribbean, U.S. health officials said this weekend.
More than 400 passengers and crew were stricken aboard the Queen Mary 2, which sailed from New York Dec. 22, and the Emerald Princess, which returned to Florida Dec. 27 with more than 200 folks feeling ill.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control said it was conducting lab tests this weekend to confirm the pathogen was the nasty norovirus.
Word from the QM2 was passengers being told to avoid buffets while a short-handed crew did its best to keep up with their duties, Britain’s Sky News said.
"I have never felt as sorry for the staff as I do now. They are working round the clock battling this situation," one passenger wrote on the blog Cruise Critic.