Three stories to watch today:
Obama at Fort Bragg to speak about Iraq war's end
With the withdrawal of virtually all U.S. troops from Iraq due to be completed just days from now, President Barack Obama is expected to speak about the war’s end to soldiers at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, on Wednesday.
The speech is scheduled to be delivered at about noon ET.
As of two weeks ago, more than 10,000 U.S. troops were deployed in Iraq, down from 170,000, and the number was dropping daily. Iraqi security forces, including army and police officers, are to assume full responsibility for the country's security by the end of the year under a deal agreed to by Iraq and the United States.
The withdrawal will bring to an end the war that began in 2003 with the toppling of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. Only about 150 U.S. troops are expected to remain after the December 31 deadline, a U.S. official told CNN, though a large private security force will protect the thousands of State Department workers and contractors staying behind after the withdrawal deadline.
Obama announced the troop withdrawal in October, cutting some units’ deployments short. His announcement followed news that negotiations to extend the deadline broke down after Iraq's top political leaders refused to grant U.S. troops legal immunity, opening up the prospect of service members being tried in Iraqi courts and subjected to Iraqi punishment.
Payroll tax cut extension
Expect to hear more about a showdown Wednesday between congressional Democrats and Republicans regarding a possible extension of a Social Security payroll tax cut and a possible extension of federal jobless benefits.
On Tuesday, the Republican-controlled House passed a GOP plan that would extend the payroll tax cut and jobless benefits, and also speed the process for government approval of the Keystone XL oil pipeline. Congressional Democrats generally want to extend the tax cut and jobless benefits, but are opposed to this plan because of the pipeline and other provisions. The Senate is expected to defeat this particular plan.
Time is running out for the possible extensions, with Congress scheduled to leave Washington for its holiday recess at the end of the week.
The payroll tax break, which was enacted last year, cut workers’ Social Security payroll tax rate to 4.2% on the first $106,800 in wages this year, instead of the normal 6.2%. With that cut, people making $50,000 this year will take home an additional $1,000. Unless the break is extended, it will expire after December 31.
Award-season nominations continue Wednesday morning with the announcement of candidates for the Screen Actors Guild Awards.
The 9 a.m. ET nomination announcement will be carried live on TNT and online at TNT.tv and TBS.com. The SAG show, which presents 13 awards for acting in film and television, will be held on January 29 in Los Angeles.
On Tuesday, the Critics' Choice awards had its turn for nominations. George Clooney, Leonardo DiCaprio, Jean Dujardin, Michael Fassender, Ryan Gosling and Brad Pitt were nominated for best actor; Viola Davis, Elizabeth Olsen, Meryl Streep, Tilda Swinton, Charlize Theron and Michelle Williams were nominated for best actress.
Golden Globe nominations are set for Thursday.