Although scant progress has been made toward averting deep automatic budget cuts that begin Friday, President Barack Obama can welcome some forward motion elsewhere — on Cabinet nominations and on the economy.
After contentious confirmation hearings, the nominations of former Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska to be defense secretary and former White House Chief of Staff Jacob Lew as Treasury secretary both advanced Tuesday.
The Senate overcame Republican delaying tactics, voting 71 to 27 to move ahead on Hagel. Sixty votes had been required. The Senate was expected to confirm Hagel as early as later Tuesday.
And the Senate Finance Committee approved Lew's nomination, 19-5, to succeed Timothy Geithner, sending it to the full Senate for a confirmation vote in the days ahead.
Also, new private economic forecasts suggest the U.S. economy was stronger at the close 2012 than first reported.
The Commerce Department had said the economy shrank at a 0.1 percent annual rate in the October-December quarter, but it is expected to revise that upward on Thursday to show a slight gain. That would follow upgrades by private forecasters.
Continue reading this story on the...