WASHINGTON (AP) -- America's trade deficit showed a slight improvement in March as sales of American products overseas outpaced an increase in imports, which were driven higher by the biggest one-month jump in crude oil prices in nearly 12 years.
The Commerce Department reported Friday that the March deficit narrowed to $31.6 billion. That was a 0.4 percent improvement over the February trade gap of $31.8 billion, which had been the biggest imbalance in 10 months.
Trade bill stalls
WASHINGTON (AP) -- A dispute over benefits for retired steelworkers added new uncertainty to Senate passage of a trade bill that President Bush says he must have.
A GOP-led filibuster on the steelworker amendment threw further action on the trade package, already in its second week of debate, into next week.
Patients' rights bill hopes dim
WASHINGTON (AP) -- A secretive series of talks involving the White House and key Senate Democrats is stalled short of agreement on patients' rights legislation, dimming hopes for a compromise and likely portending election-year combat on the issue.
Barring an unexpected last-minute breakthrough, officials said Thursday the talks would founder on the issue of lawsuits against HMOs, including the amount of monetary damages that aggrieved patients could receive.
Welfare debate moves to Senate
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Debate over changes to the welfare system moved to the Senate, where a brewing compromise stands in sharp contrast to partisan legislation approved by the House.
The House bill, approved Thursday in a mostly partly-line vote, 229-197, would press more people to work more hours and provide hundreds of millions of dollars for pro-marriage experiments. It continues the ban on aid to legal immigrants and offers a small increase in child care funding.
Untapped oil reserves reported
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Federal land west of Prudhoe Bay on Alaska's North Slope holds nearly as much untapped oil as does a wildlife refuge in the state that Bush administration wants to exploit, an updated Interior Department analysis says.
The National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska has up to four times as much oil as previously estimated, the analysis released Thursday by the department's U.S. Geological Survey finds.
Army official backs Crusader
Los Angeles Times
WASHINGTON -- In a rare display of high-level dissension, a top Army official took issue Thursday with Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's decision to cancel the $11-billion Crusader artillery program.
Appearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric K. Shinseki said the abrupt program termination would expose U.S. ground troops to more risk.
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