February 2009 Current Events: U.S. News
Here are the key events in United States news for the month of February, 2009.
- Serena Williams, Rafael Nadal Win Australian Open (Feb. 1): American Serena Williams wins her fourth Australian Open title against Russian Dinara Safina. Rafael Nadal, from Spain, pulls ahead of Swiss player Roger Federer, to win the final match.
- Steelers Win the Superbowl; Holmes MVP (Feb. 1): In a tightly fought race for the title of Superbowl 43 Champions, the Pittsburgh Steelers defeat the Arizona Cardinals 27-23. Both teams held leads during the game; the Cardinals came back from a 13-point deficit in the fourth quarter, only to lose in the final seconds to the Steelers. MVP nod goes to Steelers' player Santonio Holmes, who caught the winning touchdown.
- GOP Senator Judd Gregg Nominee for Commerce Secretary (Feb. 2): In a demonstration of his willingness to work closely with members of the opposite party, President Obama names Judd Gregg, a Republican senator from New Hampshire, as his nominee for commerce secretary. This is the last position available in his cabinet; former nominee Bill Richardson withdrew his name in January following an ethics investigation. New Hampshire governor John Lynch, a Democrat, says he will respect Gregg's wishes to fill his vacant Senate seat with a Republican, assuming Gregg is confirmed in the cabinet position. If Gregg were replaced by a Democrat, it would change the political makeup of the Senate significantly. (Feb. 12): Judd Gregg withdraws his nomination for commerce secretary, citing fundamental differences with the Obama administration on the economic stimulus plan. Gregg is the fourth person nominated by Obama for a cabinet position to later end that bid. (Feb. 25): Former Washington governor Gary Locke is the new nominee for President Obama's secretary of commerce position. Locke is the third pick for this position. America's first Chinese-American governor, Locke also served five terms in the Washington state House of Representatives.
- Daschle Withdraws Name for Cabinet Position (Feb. 3): Former senator Tom Daschle, President Obama's pick for secretary of health and human services, ends his bid for the nomination. Daschle had failed to pay approximately $128,000 in taxes for using a friend's car service and had been under intense scrutiny by the media for several days. Daschle claims his failure to pay was inadvertent, yet he does not want to distract from the administration's goal and felt it necessary to withdraw. He is also stepping down as the nation's first health care czar. (Feb. 28): Kathleen Sebelius, governor of Kansas and longtime supporter of President Barack Obama, is the new pick for the cabinet position Secretary of Health and Human Services.
- A-Rod Admits to Using Performance Enhancers (Feb. 9): Acclaimed Yankees pitcher Alex Rodriguez has admits to using a performance-enhancing substance in the past. This confession follows a leaked report that Rodriguez tested positive for steroids during a 2003 survey. At the time, such drugs were illegal but Major League Baseball claimed there would be no penalties for participating in the survey.
- Oklahoma Tornado Kills Nine (Feb. 10): Nine people were killed in Oklahoma following a strong tornado that tore through the town of Lone Grove. Emergency workers prepare for the possibility of more casualties as they sift through the rubble left behind.
- Plane Crash near Buffalo, N.Y. Kills 50 (Feb. 12): Continental Connection Flight 3407 from Newark Airport to Buffalo, N.Y. crashes into a house in Clarence Center, N.Y., killing all passengers and crew on board, an off-duty pilot on the flight, and one person in the home. Two others in the home suffered minor injuries. The cause of the crash remains unknown, though there were reports of ice build-up during the flight. The pilot did not make a distress call. Witnesses at the scene say the plane burst into flames on impact. (Feb. 18): Investigations into the cause of the crash of Continental Connection Flight 3407 suggest that crew error may have been at least partially to blame. In recreating the events of the crash, investigators believe that the crew overcompensated for an automatic system that prevents the plane from flying too slowly.
- Burris Admits Blagojevich Asked Him to Donate (Feb. 14): In a reversal from previous testimony about the Blagojevich impeachment proceedings, Roland Burris, now the junior senator from Illinois, admits that the former governor's brother contacted him in a request for campaign funds. (Feb. 15): Republican lawmakers in the state of Illinois are asking Burris to resign as senator and that an investigation be made into whether he committed perjury during his testimony at Blagojevich's impeachment trial. (Feb. 17): The United States Senate Ethics Committee and an Illinois prosecutor have begun investigations into Burris' contact with Blagojevich before the former governor was arrested. Burris' shifting explanations of his dealings with Blagojevich are causing alarm among the private citizens and lawmakers of Illinois. (Feb. 24): Illinois senator Richard Durbin has met with Burris in an attempt to convince the junior senator to resign from his post. According to Durbin, Burris refused.
- Release of 17 Prisoners Stopped by Appeals Court (Feb. 18): Washington's federal appeals court has stopped the release of 17 detainees from the Guatánamo Bay prison in Cuba, overturning a judge's orders from October. President Obama, who has underscored his desire to close down the prison as soon as possible, will still have the right to relocate the prisoners. The argument among the three-judge panel, who voted 2–1 on this case, is over habeas corpus, which is the legal term for a prisoner's right to challenge the basis of his imprisonment and ask for a valid reason for detainment from the government.
- Obama Makes First Congressional Address, Stresses Urgent Action (Feb. 24): In his first address as president to a joint session of Congress, President Obama spoke of the necessity of immediate action to resurrect the flailing economy. He outlined his plans for investing in energy, health care, and education, while warning that the government bailouts are most likely unfinished.
- Obama Reveals 2010 Budget (Feb. 26): President Obama revealed his budget for the 2010 fiscal year, which totals over $3 trillion. He claims the aim of the budget is to halve the federal deficit by the end of his term in office. The budget includes substantial spending in health care reform, education, and renewable energy, which were also the major focus of his first presidential address. The end of tax cuts for families making more than $250,000, which are set to expire in 2010, will be among the places Obama expects to see an increase in revenue.
- Obama Announces Date to End Iraq War (Feb. 27): In front of a crowd of Marines in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, President Obama announced his intention to withdraw most American troops out of Iraq by August 31, 2010. As many as 50,000 troops will remain there for smaller missions and to train Iraqi soldiers. Camp Lejeune is the largest marine camp on the East Coast, and 8,000 troops there will soon be shipped to Afghanistan.