World briefly 2/14


GOP filibusters Hagel

Senate Republicans refused to allow a vote Wednesday on the nomination of Chuck Hagel to lead the Defense Department, staging the first filibuster against a president’s choice to head the Pentagon.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., called the move “a shame” as he announced on the Senate floor that he was unable to reach an agreement with the top Republican on the Armed Services Committee to avoid such a delay. Reid filed a motion to end the filibuster and said he expected to vote on it Friday.

Only two Cabinet appointments have ever been filibustered, according to the Senate historian’s office. C. William Verity, President Ronald Reagan’s choice for Commerce secretary in 1987, faced a filibuster by conservative Republicans who said he was too soft on trade relations with the Soviet Union, and Dirk Kempthorne, President George W. Bush’s nominee for the Interior Department in 2006, was briefly delayed by Democratic senators who objected to government policies on oil drilling.

Boehner skeptical of Obama’s plans

WASHINGTON — House Speaker John Boehner expressed doubts Wednesday that the Republican-led House and Democratic-controlled Senate could reach agreement on a budget and avoid automatic spending cuts that could jeopardize economic growth.

In a post-State of the Union interview with The Associated Press, Boehner was also skeptical about President Barack Obama’s new proposal for federally supported universal pre-school. And he showed little support for Obama’s core proposals on immigration reform and gun control, including universal background checks.

But it’s the economy and deficit at the top of the congressional priority list as Obama and lawmakers face looming fiscal crises confronting the nation: the deep automatic spending cuts, called a “sequester,” to take effect March 1, followed by the government running out of money to fund federal agencies March 27.

American Airlines, US Airways agree to merge

DALLAS — American Airlines and US Airways will merge and create the world’s biggest airline. The boards of both companies approved the merger late Wednesday, according to four people close to the situation.

The carrier keeps the American Airlines name but will be run by US Airways CEO Doug Parker. American’s CEO, Tom Horton, will become chairman of the new company, these people said. They requested anonymity because the negotiations were private.

A formal announcement is expected Thursday morning.

The deal has been in the works since August, when creditors forced American to consider a merger rather than remain independent. American has been restructuring under bankruptcy protection since late 2011.

Together, American and US Airways will be slightly bigger than United Airlines.

By wire sources