Republicans stall approval of consumer agency chief

The new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has too much unfettered power and President Obama’s choice to lead it will be blocked until the agency is made more accountable, Senate Republicans said Tuesday.

At a Banking Committee confirmation hearing on Richard Cordray’s nomination, Republicans did not question the credentials of the president’s pick, a former Ohio attorney general. Instead, they complained that the bureau’s director will have too much independence and said other federal financial regulators would be unable to curb the agency’s actions, even if its rulings threaten to cause instability in the banking system.

Democrats said the bureau’s authority was comparable to other federal regulatory agencies. They said the GOP was breaking new ground in blocking a nomination because they oppose the agency involved.

The agency, created last year in response to the 2008 financial crisis, is designed to protect consumers when they take out loans, use credit cards and make other financial transactions.


GOP offers job-growth ideas to Obama, seeks agreement

House Republican leaders are offering President Obama an opening for compromise on measures that would spur job growth. They say neither Republicans nor the administration should consider their own initiatives “an all-or-nothing situation.”

In a letter to Obama on Tuesday, Speaker John Boehner and House Republican Leader Eric Cantor asked the president to meet with the bipartisan leadership of Congress this week to discuss his proposals in advance of his jobs address Thursday to a joint session of Congress. The letter lists GOP proposals that have already passed the House and would be worthy of his consideration.

It is critical that “our differences not preclude us from taking action in areas where there is common agreement,” the letter said.


Testimony on DNA evidence conflicts in murder appeal

Questions mounted Tuesday over crucial DNA evidence linking American student Amanda Knox and her co-defendant to the murder of her British roommate, with forensic experts giving detailed and conflicting views in court over genetic science.

Knox felt “disoriented” after two days of listening to the reports about DNA extraction and attribution, her lawyer said. A prosecution consultant and a lawyer suggested further testing on DNA evidence might be warranted.

Without a clear motive or convincing witnesses, much of the appeals outcome hinges on how the court views the DNA evidence.

Knox and Raffaele Sollecito were convicted of sexually assaulting and killing Meredith Kercher in November 2007 in the apartment Knox and the 21-year-old Briton shared while studying in Perugia. Knox was sentenced to 26 years in prison; Sollecito to 25. Both deny wrongdoing and have appealed the verdict.


Two deaths are reported as wildfire keeps spreading

A massive wildfire that destroyed at least 600 homes in Central Texas has killed two people.

Bastrop County Sheriff Terry Pickering said Tuesday that he had no details about the victims, including when or how they died.

The fire was the largest of dozens burning throughout the drought-stricken state. It started Sunday near the town of Bastrop, about 25 miles south of Austin, and quickly spread, fanned in part by winds from Tropical Storm Lee, which dumped its rain on Gulf Coast states farther east.

The state Forest Service said Tuesday morning that firefighters hadn’t begun to contain the fire, which had destroyed about 600 homes and forced the evacuation of hundreds of others.


Remnants of tropical storm give East Coast a soaking

Disorganized yet deadly, the leftovers from Tropical Storm Lee spread farther inland Tuesday, soaking much of the East Coast.

Lee formed just off the Louisiana coast late last week and gained strength as it lingered in the Gulf of Mexico for a couple of days before heading ashore. By Tuesday, it had collided with a cold front, leaving much of the East Coast wet and with unseasonably cool temperatures.

At one point, flood watches and warnings were in effect from northeastern Alabama through West Virginia to New England. The National Weather Service said 4 to 8 inches of rain were possible, with isolated downpours of up to 10 inches.