Congress weighs in on various issues

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Marie Wilson

By The Associated Press

Congress postpones digital TV transition to June 12

After weeks of debate, Congress is giving consumers four more months to prepare for the upcoming transition from analog to digital television broadcasting.

The House voted 264-158 on Wednesday to postpone the shutdown of analog TV signals to June 12, to address growing concerns that too many Americans won’t be ready by the Feb. 17 deadline that Congress set three years ago. The Senate passed the measure unanimously last week, and the bill now heads to President Barack Obama for his signature.

The change is being mandated because digital signals are more efficient than analog ones.

The Nielsen Co. estimates that more than 6.5 million U.S. households relying on analog TV sets are not ready.

Senate OKs $15,000 tax break for home buyers

The Senate voted Wednesday night to give a tax break of up to $15,000 to home buyers in hopes of revitalizing the housing industry, a victory for Republicans eager to leave their mark on a mammoth economic stimulus bill at the heart of President Barack Obama’s recovery plan.

The tax break was approved without dissent and came on a day in which Obama pushed back pointedly against Republican critics of the legislation even as he reached across party lines to consider a reduction in the spending it contains.

Obama warned against failure to act quickly.

Obama caps executive pay tied to bailout money

Assailing out-of-touch corporate pay and perks, President Barack Obama on Wednesday slammed a salary cap on top executives from companies that want bailouts – but it’s a limit that could end up thinning the wallets of only a small number of people.

Obama’s action comes as many Americans, while hanging on for economic life, have watched Wall Street high-flyers receive big-dollar bonuses even as their firms draw public help for survival. The outcry has grown with each report of a bailed-out company that plans to buy a jet or hold a Las Vegas retreat.

Obama signs bill extending children’s health insurance

President Barack Obama signed a bill on Wednesday to extend health coverage to 4 million uninsured children, a move he called a first step toward fulfilling a campaign pledge to provide insurance for all Americans.

It was a victory for Obama a day after his nominee to shepherd his broad health care agenda stepped aside amid tax problems.

Obama used an ebullient East Room signing ceremony to continue his push for his plan that would provide universal health insurance, even as he spent much of the previous day admitting he “screwed up” in naming former Sen. Tom Daschle to spearhead the health care overhaul. He wrapped the signing event in another pitch for his separate $819 billion economic plan that now is under consideration in the Senate and faces Republican opposition.

“The way I see it, providing coverage to 11 million children through CHIP is a down payment on my commitment to cover every single American,” Obama said.