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Snow slows down - but doesn't shut down - Washington

Source: Reuters - Tue, 10 Dec 2013 02:56 PM
Author: Reuters
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By Susan Heavey

WASHINGTON, Dec 10 (Reuters) - The first winter snowfall of the season slowed U.S. government operations on Tuesday but did not bring them to a standstill, with Congress, the Supreme Court and financial regulators meeting for business as usual.

Commutes were lighter as snow that started around the morning rush hour shuttered most federal agencies, canceled events and postponed hearings across the capital.

But little accumulation and mostly clear roads left parts of official Washington still catching up from a two-week shutdown in October, including U.S. lawmakers expected to continue critical budget negotiations.

The storm had been expected to deliver up to 6 inches (15 cm) of snow from the Tennessee Valley into the Mid-Atlantic and New England throughout the day, National Weather Service forecasters said. By midmorning, it downgraded its advisory to three inches (7.6 cm).

Both the House of Representatives and the Senate were scheduled to open as usual despite the government closure. Lawmakers are negotiating a budget deal that could emerge on Tuesday, according to congressional aides.

Senators were also expected to hold a series of votes, including taking up President Barack Obama's nominee to head the Federal Housing Finance Agency, U.S. Representative Mel Watt.

Lawmakers will also hear from Secretary of State John Kerry at a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on the nuclear deal with Iran.

Democratic lawmakers, however, canceled a news conference on the efforts to raise the minimum wage.

The Supreme Court was in session as well, with rulings expected at 10 a.m. EST (1500 GMT) followed by two oral arguments, including a major case on EPA air pollution regulation.

The three U.S. bank regulators, as well as the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, proceeded with plans to approve the so-called Volcker rule, part of a larger efforts to reform Wall Street and prevent another costly taxpayer bailout.

While the groups unveiled details of the final rule in the morning, the snowfall led the CFTC to cancel its open public meeting but proceed with a vote.

Elsewhere, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim carried on with his speech at the Economic Club of Washington, delivering remarks on the private sector's role in developing nations before a full crowd at a Washington hotel.

Still, U.S. safety investigators postponed a Tuesday hearing about the cause of an Asiana Airlines Inc jetliner crash in July.

Other news conferences, museum events and various activities were also canceled or postponed across the city. (Reporting by Susan Heavey; additional reporting by Ros Krasny, Anna Yukhananov, Lawrence Hurley, Valerie Volcovici, Richard Cowan, Emily Stephenson; Editing by Doina Chiacu)

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