News Wrap: IRS Apologizes for Excessive Spending on Conference

In other news Thursday, a top IRS official apologized at a House hearing for a 2010 conference that cost more than $4 million. Also, Senate Democrats and Republicans blocked each other's proposals to keep student loan interest rates from doubling on July 1.

Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

KWAME HOLMAN: A top official at the IRS apologized today for a 2010 conference that cost more than four million dollars. Faris Fink told a House hearing his division followed rules in place at the time, but he acknowledged, nonetheless, the spending was excessive. Some of it paid for videos shown at today's hearing. One was a "Star Trek" parody, which drew this from New York Democrat Carolyn Maloney.

REP. CAROLYN MALONEY, D-N.Y.: Not only was it a monumental waste of well over $50,000 dollars of taxpayers' money, but I would say it is an insult to the memory of "Star Trek."

I could do a better Captain Kirk.

But I think I recognized one of the panelists in the video.

Mr. Fink, were you Mr. Spock in that video?

FARIS FINK, IRS Deputy Commissioner: Yes, that is correct.

KWAME HOLMAN: An inspector general's report found the IRS spent nearly $50 million dollars on 225 conferences over two years. Fink said today new rules now put much lower limits on training and travel expenses.

Senate Democrats and Republicans blocked each other's proposals today to keep student loan interest rates from doubling. Republicans wanted to tie rates on federally subsidized Stafford loans to 10-year Treasury notes, meaning they would rise as the economy gains. Democrats sought to extend the current 3.4 percent rate for the next two years. Barring congressional action, the rate goes to 6.8 percent on July 1st.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has named his state attorney general, Jeff Chiesa, as interim U.S. senator. He succeeds long-serving Democrat Frank Lautenberg, who died earlier this week. Christie said today the new senator will serve just four months and will not be a candidate in an October special election.

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE, R-N.J.: I made him the offer. As I told you, he texted me the next morning and said, I'm in. I called him and I said, great. I said, now, are you going to run for it or you just want to serve on the interim basis? And he said, I have no interest in being a political candidate, Governor. I would rather not run. And I said, fine. It's fine with me, Jeff. If you don't want to run, that's fine.

KWAME HOLMAN: Chiesa will be the first Republican to represent New Jersey in the Senate since 1982.

The first system to reach storm strength and earn a name this Atlantic hurricane season pushed onto Florida's Gulf Coast today. Tropical Storm Andrea took aim at the state's Big Bend region, with heavy rain and winds of 60 miles an hour. It was headed for Georgia and the Carolinas. The storm is not expected to strengthen into a hurricane.

Rescue crews in Philadelphia finished searching a collapsed building today, as an investigation began into how it happened. Six people died yesterday when the four-story structure fell as it was being demolished.

Mayor Michael Nutter faced questions today about problems at the site and the contractor's history of legal and financial trouble.

MAYOR MICHAEL NUTTER, D-Philadelphia: Something obviously went wrong here yesterday and possibly in the days leading up to it. That's what the investigation is for. But the simply answer to your question is, we have demolitions all the time with active buildings next to them, and they're done very safely in this city all the time.

KWAME HOLMAN:
The building fell onto a neighboring Salvation Army thrift store. In addition to those killed, at least 13 people were hurt.

In Turkey, protesters again defied Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Thousands marched in Istanbul, jeering and carrying signs demanding Erdogan's resignation. They vowed to keep up the demonstrations that began a week ago. Meanwhile, Erdogan winding up a trip to North Africa charged that terror groups are involved in the protests.

On Wall Street, stocks broke a two-day losing streak. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 80 points to close at 15,040. The Nasdaq rose 22 points to close at 3,424.

Swimming champion and movie star Esther Williams died today in Los Angeles. Williams won several races in the 1939 national swimming championships, and then moved to the movies in 1942. She starred in a number of aquatic musicals through the 1940s and '50s, and was a favorite pinup for G.I.s during World War II. At her death, Esther Williams was 91 years old.

Those are some of the day's major stories -- now back to Jeff.