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Republicans continue to seek political gain from Benghazi

The Republican chairman of the House oversight panel is asking a veteran diplomat and a former chairman of the Joints Chief of Staff for sworn testimony about their investigation into the deaths of four Americans at a diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya. Rep. Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, planned on Monday to seek depositions from retired Ambassador Thomas Pickering and retired Adm. Mike Mullen. Issa, who is leading Republicans’ investigations into the attacks on a State Department consulate last September, said he wants to know with whom the pair spoke to reach their conclusion
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Rand Paul busy plotting 2016 Presidential bid

Republican Sen. Rand Paul opened his presidential exploration tour Friday with a splashy set of speaking engagements in Iowa designed to broaden his tea party brand into something more mainstream and, perhaps, viable. The son of former Texas Rep. Ron Paul was the headliner at a marquee Republican dinner and was expected to meet with key voting groups in eastern Iowa. In coming weeks, the Kentucky Republican will reintroduce himself in early voting New Hampshire and South Carolina as a durable would-be candidate able to broaden the GOP into diverse voting blocs dominated by Democrats. He’s laid some of the
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Reactionary Republicans plan to politicize Benghazi tragedy through 2014

Steady drips of information about a horrific night in Libya are fueling Republican arguments and ads designed to fire up the conservative base and undercut the Democrats’ early favorite for president in 2016. Democratic and Republican strategists sharply disagree on the issue’s power to influence elections next year and beyond. But after eight months of trying, Democrats are still struggling to move past last September’s terrorist attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, which killed ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. Democrats insist that an independent inquiry, the dismissal of several State Department officials, and nine congressional hearings
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IRS claims it is sorry it targeted tea party, other right-wing groups

The Internal Revenue Service is apologizing for what it acknowledges was “inappropriate” targeting of conservative political groups during the 2012 election to see if they were violating their tax-exempt status. IRS agents singled out dozens of organizations for additional reviews because they included the words “tea party” or “patriot” in their exemption applications, Lois Lerner, who heads the IRS division that oversees tax-exempt groups, said Friday. In some cases, groups were asked for lists of donors, which violates IRS policy in most cases, she said. The agency — led at the time by a Bush administration appointee — blamed low-level
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Washington worried about ‘zero-day’ computer hackers

The proliferation of hacking tools known as zero-day exploits is raising concerns at the highest levels in Washington, even as U.S. agencies and defense contractors have become the biggest buyers of such products. White House cybersecurity policy coordinator Michael Daniel said the trend was “very worrisome to us.” Asked if U.S. government buying in the offensive market was adding to the problem, Daniel said more study was needed. “There is a lot more work to be done in that space to look at the economic questions…so we can do a better job on the cost-benefit analysis,” he said. Some security
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Right-wingers fail to water down immigration bill

A landmark bill backed by President Barack Obama to overhaul the nation’s immigration system survived unscathed on Thursday during the first day of consideration by a divided Senate Judiciary Committee. On bipartisan votes, the panel rejected conservatives’ attempts to thwart implementation of a centerpiece of the bill – a pathway to U.S. citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants. By day’s end leading Democratic and Republican senators said the committee had improved the bill. The panel, composed of 10 Democrats and eight Republicans, accepted 21 relatively modest amendments that focus largely on border security and increased congressional oversight. All but one
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Obama jumps back into health care debate

President Barack Obama is launching a new effort to rally the public around his hotly disputed health care law, a strategy aimed at shoring up key components of the sweeping federal overhaul and staving off yet another challenge from Republicans. The president will specifically target women and young people, groups that backed him overwhelmingly during his presidential campaigns. During a Mother’s Day-themed event at the White House on Friday, Obama will promote the benefits of the law for women, including free cancer screenings and contraceptives, and ask moms to urge their uninsured adult children to sign up for the health
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Republicans boycott vote on EPA chief nominee

Republican senators on Thursday stalled the confirmation of President Barack Obama’s pick to lead the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, saying they were “completely unsatisfied” with answers provided by Gina McCarthy on several topics. Their decision to boycott the Senate Environment Committee meeting on her nomination was the latest in a series of procedural moves by Republicans that have made it difficult for Obama to get his second-term Cabinet in place. Obama has complained that Republicans have stymied his agenda at every turn. The dispute over McCarthy stems from more than 1,000 written questions Republican senators asked her after her confirmation
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Sanford: A comeback kid and potential wild card

Fresh off a redemptive win in South Carolina’s special election, former Governor Mark Sanford‘s return to Congress will make him a prominent wild card in an already fractious Republican caucus. Sanford, whose political career was short-circuited in 2009 by an extramarital affair that marred his last 18 months as governor, earned a political rebirth along with a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday by defeating Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch. Sanford will arrive in Washington owing little to the Republican Party’s leadership, which withheld its support as he battled Colbert Busch in their heavily Republican district. Once he
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Republicans face problem turning Benghazi attack into a scandal

Politicians love few things better than a scandal to trip up their opponents, and Republicans hope last year’s fatal attack on U.S. diplomats in Libya will do exactly that to Hillary Rodham Clinton and other Democrats. History suggests it might be a tough lift. The issue is complex, the next presidential election is more than three years away, and a number of reports and officials have disputed criticisms of Clinton’s role when she was secretary of state. Still, Republicans and conservative talk hosts are hammering away at Clinton’s and the Obama administration’s handling of the 8-month-old tragedy. A daylong House
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