- - Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Retiring Sen. Joe Lieberman in his final Senate floor speech urged Congress to put partisan rancor aside and reach across party lines to break Washington’s gridlock.

The Democrat-turned-independent from Connecticut said Wednesday that strong bipartisan leadership is needed to solve the nation’s most pressing problems, such as the looming “fiscal cliff” budget crisis.

Mr. Lieberman nearly won the vice presidency on the Democratic ticket with running mate Al Gore in 2000 and mounted an unsuccessful presidential bid in 2004.

Mr. Lieberman is leaving the Senate in January after 24 years and will be replaced by Democratic Rep. Christopher S. Murphy, who defeated Republican wrestling magnate Linda McMahon in November’s election. Mr. Lieberman did not seek re-election and did not endorse either candidate.

SENATE

Democrats craft disaster aid package for $60.4B

Senate Democrats have quickly cobbled together a $60.4 billion disaster aid package for New York, New Jersey and other states hit by Superstorm Sandy in late October.

Working from the emergency spending request President Obama made five days ago, the Senate Appropriations Committee on Wednesday released a draft of the legislation.

While the bill calls for $60.4 billion, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that only about $9 billion would be spent over the next nine months. An additional $12 billion would be spent the following year.

The bill is laden with big infrastructure projects that often require years to complete.

ILLINOIS

Jackson’s wife won’t run for his House seat

CHICAGO — The wife of Jesse Jackson Jr. said Tuesday that she’s not interested in running for the U.S. House seat her husband held for nearly 17 years, ending talk that she was eying the Chicago-area district.

“No. I am not a candidate for Congress,” Chicago Alderman Sandi Jackson told reporters. “I intend to remain an alderman.”

Mr. Jackson resigned last month citing his health and acknowledging that he’s under federal investigation, reportedly for misusing campaign funds. His decision followed a hushed medical leave for treatment of bipolar disorder. He remained out of the public eye for five months, even leading up to the Nov. 6 election, in which he easily won re-election.

His resignation created a rare opening in the largely Democratic and urban district that covers city neighborhoods and some south suburbs. Numerous candidates have stepped forward. Mrs. Jackson, who has held her aldermanic seat since 2007, was also floated as a potential candidate.

CONGRESS

Panel sets date for Clinton to testify on Benghazi report

The date and time has been set for Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to testify publicly before Congress about findings of an investigation into the deadly attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Florida Republican and chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said Mrs. Clinton would appear before the panel at 1 p.m. on Dec. 20 to discuss the conclusions of the State Department probe into the Benghazi attack.

Mrs. Ros-Lehtinen had announced last week that Mrs. Clinton would testify on a then-unspecified date. Mrs. Clinton is also due to testify later this month before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, although no date has been publicized.

Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed in the Sept. 11 assault by dozens of heavily armed militants with ties to al Qaeda.

JUSTICE

Pfizer to pay $55 million in drug misbranding case

The Justice Department says Pfizer Inc. will pay $55 million to resolve allegations that its subsidiary Wyeth LLC promoted the drug Protonix for uses that were not approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

In a statement from its New York office, Pfizer, which acquired Wyeth in October 2009 years after the alleged misconduct, said that Pfizer was not a target or a subject of the case.

Wyeth obtained FDA approval to promote Protonix only for short-term treatment of erosive esophagitis. The condition is associated with gastroesophageal reflux disease. Wyeth allegedly promoted Protonix for all forms of the disease from February 2000 to June 2001.

The condition occurs when food or liquid leak backwards from the stomach into the esophagus.

Pfizer’s statement specifically denied allegations of wrongdoing.

From wire dispatches and staff reports