December 2009 Current Events: U.S. News
Here are the key events in United States news for the month of December 2009.
- Obama Sending More Troops to Afghanistan, Provides Timeline (Dec. 1): In a press conference, President Obama announces that the U.S. military will be sending an additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan, in an attempt to prevent further Taliban insurgencies. The troop surge will begin in Jan. 2010, and will bring the total number of American troops in Afghanistan to 100,000. Obama also outlines his plan for the removal of these troops, in a drawdown that will begin in July 2011.
- New York Senate Votes Down Gay Marriage Bill (Dec. 2): The New York Senate rejects a bill that would allow same-sex marriages to be licensed in the state; the vote is a decisive 38–24, though the majority of the senate are members of the Democratic Party, which by and large supports gay marriage. Governor David Patterson and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg were among key politicians supportive of the bill's passage.
- Guantánamo Bay Prisoners Will Be Transferred to Illinois Prison (Dec. 15): President Obama orders the federal government to take over an Illinois prison in order to house prisoners from Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. This step is a large part of Obama's plan to shut down the infamous prison facility. Thomson Correctional Center, in the northwestern part of the state, is a maximum-security prison, though currently empty. Closing Guantánamo Bay was one of Obama's campaign and inaugural promises, though fulfilling that promise is proving more difficult than anticipated.
- Government Sets Three-Hour Limit on Tarmac Wait Time (Dec. 21): The federal government announces new regulations on airline travel: starting this spring, there will be a limit on the amount of time that airlines can keep passengers waiting on a tarmac without giving them food or letting them off the plane. Under the new law, dubbed "President Obama's Passenger Bill of Rights" by some, airlines must provide passengers food and water if they have been waiting on the tarmac for two hours; they must be allowed to disembark the plane after three hours. Airlines face fines of $27,500 per passenger if they do not comply with the law. The ruling, set to go into effect in four months, received staunch opposition from airline companies, which predict an increase in delays and flight cancellations.
- Senate Passes Health-Care Reform Bill (Dec. 24): After months of drafts, debate, and revisions, the U.S. Senate passes a health-care reform bill with a partisan vote of 60–39. The bill guarantees access to health insurance for tens of millions of Americans, and formulates a plan for reducing health-care costs. The House of Representatives passed a similar bill in November, with a vote of 220–215; only one Republican voted for the Democrat-created bill. The two versions of the bill must be reconciled before any law can be passed, however.
- Attempted Suicide Bombing on U.S.-Bound Flight (Dec. 25): A Nigerian man on a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit allegedly attempted to ignite an explosive device hidden in his underwear. The explosive device that failed to detonate was a mixture of powder and liquid that did not alert security personnel in the airport. The alleged bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, told officials later that he was directed by the terrorist group Al Qaeda. (Dec. 26): Officials charge Abdul Farouk Abdulmutallab with trying to blow up the Detroit-bound airliner on Christmas Day. The suspect was already on the government's watch list when he attempted the bombing; his father, a respected Nigerian banker, had told the U.S. government that he was worried about his son's increased extremism. (Dec. 28): Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, a group based in Yemen, takes responsibility for orchestrating the attack. The U.S. government finds this a credible possibility. (Dec. 29): The U.S. government had intelligence from Yemen before the Christmas attack that a terrorist plot was being formed by a Nigerian, officials say. President Obama calls the failure to act on this intelligence "totally unacceptable."