January 2009 Current Events: U.S. News
Here are the key events in United States news for the month of January, 2009.
- Richardson Withdraws Nomination for secretary of commerce (Jan. 4): Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico withdraws his name as the Secretary of Commerce nominee under President-elect Barack Obama. Richardson cites a current investigation of a company with which the New Mexican government did business. Richardson claims his office has acted appropriately but felt the investigation would delay the confirmation process.
- Panetta Named CIA director (Jan. 5): President-elect Barack Obama names Leon Panetta, the former U.S. representative from California and chief of staff to President Clinton, as the next head of the Central Intelligence Agency. The choice is met with surprise and criticism, as Republicans and Democrats alike question whether Panetta's political experience has prepared him for the role. Obama defends the choice, citing a desire to alter current practices in the agency.
- 111th Congress Sworn In, Convenes (Jan. 6): The newly elected and reelected members of the Senate and House of Representatives are sworn in as part of the 111th Congress. Roland Burris is not allowed to participate in the process, pending outstanding paperwork in the matter of his appoinment by Ill. Gov. Rod Blagojevich who stands accused of attempting to sell the empty Senate seat. Democrats retain their control of both houses, with 55 Democratic Senators and 262 Democratic Representatives. (Jan. 12): Senate Democrats clear the way for Roland Burris to assume Barack Obama's vacated seat in the U.S. Senate. Senate leaders Harry Reid and Dick Durbin declare that Burris will be seated later in the week. The rest of Congress was sworn in on January 6.
- Panel Recommends Impeaching Blagojevich (Jan. 8): Impeachment of Gov. Rod Blagojevich, accused of trying to sell President-elect Barack Obama's vacated Senate seat, is recommended by an investigative committee of the Illinois House. The vote was unanimous and claims Blagojevich abused power. (Jan. 9): Illinois House of Representatives votes to impeach Gov. Blagojevich, a move unprecedented in that state. (Jan. 26) Blagojevich's impeachment trial begins, without the governor present. Blagojevich instead chooses to conduct interviews in hopes of convincing the public of his innocence. The trial includes playing the recorded telephone conversations that were the initial cause of Blagojevich's arrest. (Jan. 29): The Illinois State Senate unanimously votes to remove Rod Blagojevich from office. It's the first time in state history a governor has been forcibly removed from his seat, and only the eighth time in American history.
- Obama's Mother-in-Law Will Live in White House (Jan. 9): President-elect Barack Obama announces his mother-in-law, Marian Robinson, will be living in White House with the new first family, at least temporarily. Robinson has been helping the Obamas with their daughters Malia and Sasha while they have been campaigning and transitioning to the White House.
- Former "Sopranos" Actor Sentenced to 10 Years (Jan. 9): Former actor on TV's "Sopranos," Lillo Brancato Jr., is sentenced to 10 years in prison for attempted burglary. He was involved in a 2005 shooting in New York City that left a police officer dead. He could be released in as few as 5 years, with 3 1/2 years time served.
- Treasury Secretary Nominee Questioned on Taxes (Jan. 13): Timothy Geithner, President-elect Barack Obama's nominee for Treasury Secretary, failed to pay taxes from 2001 to 2004 on his salary from the International Monetary Fund, which was classified as self-employment. The matter has been resolved—Geithner paid back the taxes, with interest—but it is an embarrassment for someone who would be the head of the Internal Revenue Service. (Jan. 27) After a brief confirmation trial, Timothy Geithner is confirmed as the Secretary of Treasury, despite early concerns about his tax history. Most members of the Senate agreed Geithner's tax mistakes were accidental and minimal.
- Federal Intelligence Court Rules Government Wiretapping Legal (Jan. 15): The federal intelligence court rules that phone and Internet wiretapping is legal. This ruling validates but does not officially endorse President's George W. Bush's use of wiretapping throughout his administration, which he called necessary for fighting terrorism.
- Senate Releases Additional Bailout Fund to Obama (Jan. 15): The Senate votes to release the second half of the Federal bailout money, $350 million, to aid President-elect Obama's economic plan. The final vote was 52 to 42, with 46 Democrats and 6 Republicans voting in favor of the bill.
- Plane Crashes into Hudson River; All 155 Aboard Alive (Jan. 15): After allegedly striking a flock of geese, US Airways Flight 1549, en route from La Guardia Airport, New York City, to Charlotte, N.C., is forced to land in the Hudson River. All 150 passengers and 5 crew members survived. About half of the passengers on board were treated for hypothermia; the worst injury is a pair of broken legs. The plane is secured off the coast of Manhattan pending an investigation into the cause of the crash. (Jan. 18) The US Airways plane is removed from the Hudson river, and the flight recorder and the cockpit voice recorder are recovered.
- Salmonella Outbreak Linked to Peanut Butter (Jan. 20): Six people have been killed and over 470 sickened by a salmonella outbreak linked to peanut butter. Following the January 10 recall of peanut butter by producer King Nut, many other companies have recalled peanut butter products. King Nut peanut butter is not sold directly to consumers, but to other companies who may use it in their products. The recall has led several grocery store chains to pull all products containing peanut butter from their shelves.
- Obama, Biden Sworn into Office (Jan. 20): Hundreds of thousands of people watched in front of the Capitol as President Barack Obama and Vice-President Joe Biden are sworn into office. The inauguration featured an invocation by Pastor Rick Warren, music sung by Aretha Franklin and performed by Anthony McGill, a poetry reading by Elizabeth Alexander, and a benediction by Reverend Joseph Lowery. Finally, the national anthem is performed by the U.S. Navy band, the Sea Chanters. President Obama is the first African-American president in U.S. history.
- Hillary Rodham Clinton Confirmed as Secretary of State (Jan. 21): Barack Obama's former rival for the Democratic presidential nomination, Hillary Rodham Clinton, has been confirmed as the new president's pick of secretary of state. After a smooth hearing, Clinton is confirmed by a vote of 94-2. (Jan. 21): Caroline Kennedy has dropped out of the race for Secretary Clinton's now-vacant senate seat in New York. The new senator will be appointed by N.Y. Governor David Paterson. An early front-runner, Kennedy's difficulty communicating with the media and spotty voting record had lately put her out of favor with some New Yorkers. She cites "personal reasons" as her cause for withdrawing. (Jan. 23): Kirsten Gillibrand, second-term Democratic representative from New York, is chosen as Hillary Clinton's replacement in the Senate. Gov. Paterson's decision is met with surprise by some—Gillibrand is relatively unknown in New York—and anger by others; the National Rifle Association has endorsed Gillibrand in the past, a relationship seemingly at odds for a Democratic member of Congress.
- Secret Prisons and Detention Camps Ordered Closed (Jan. 22): President Obama signed executive orders closing all secret prisons and detention camps run by the CIA—including the infamous Guantánamo Bay prison in Cuba—and banning coercive interrogation methods. The president expects it will be many months before all of the prisons can be closed and the prisoners moved to new locations.
- Octuplets Born to California Woman (Jan. 27): A California woman gave birth to eight babies in California; they are only the second set of octuplets ever to be born alive in America. There are six boys and two girls, with birth weights ranging from a pound and half to just over three pounds. All babies were declared healthy.
- Obama Signs Equal-Pay Legislation (Jan. 29): President Obama signed his first bill into law: the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, an equal-pay act. The law expands workers' rights to sue in pay disputes.
- Republicans Choose First Black National Committee Chairman (Jan. 31): Michael Steele was selected by the Republican National Committee to be the new chairman. He is the first African-American to hold that position. Steele was formerly a lieutenant governor of Maryland.