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A rough confirmation ride predicted for Hagel nomination

President Barack Obama’s pick of Chuck Hagel to helm the Pentagon faces rough going in the Senate as a handful of Republicans quickly announced their opposition to a former GOP colleague, and several skeptical Democrats reserved judgment until the nominee explains his views on Israel and Iran. The concerns about Hagel complicate his path to Senate confirmation but are not necessarily calamitous as the White House pushes for the first Vietnam War veteran to oversee a military emerging from two wars and staring at deep budget cuts. Obama also tapped White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan to head the CIA.
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White House steps up pressure on curbing gun violence

Facing an end-of-the-month deadline, the Obama administration is calling gun owner groups, victims’ organizations and representatives from the video-game industry to the White House this week for discussions on potential policy proposals for curbing gun violence. President Barack Obama has ordered an administration-wide task force to send him proposals by the end of January. The group, led by Vice President Joe Biden, was formed in response to last month’s horrific massacre of 20 children and six adults at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school. Biden will meet Wednesday with gun violence victims’ groups and gun safety organizations, a White House official
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Debt ceiling debate headed towards nasty fight between Obama, Republicans

President Barack Obama, meet Congressman Michael Burgess. The president says he absolutely will not let Republicans threaten a national debt ceiling crisis as a way to extract deeper federal spending cuts. Burgess’ take? “It’s the most preposterous thing I’ve ever heard,” the Texas Republican says. “He’s going to have to negotiate.” Both sides may be bluffing, of course. They may reach an agreement before the debt-limit matter becomes a crisis in March, or possibly late February. But the tough talk suggests this year’s political fight could be even nastier and more nerve-grating than the recent “fiscal cliff” showdown, or the
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Pelosi may want even more taxes for the rich

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi isn’t ruling out pushing for upper-income earners to pay more even after the “fiscal cliff” deal that raised their taxes. She tells CBS’ “Face the Nation” that “I’m saying that’s not off the table.” The California Democrats isn’t getting into specifics but she does discuss changes to tax law that might involve deductions and other breaks. The former House speaker also says the current Republican Party isn’t the “Grand Old Party that did so many things for America that commanded so much respect.” She says the country needs a strong GOP but she describes the
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Obama will nominate John Breenan to run CIA

President Barack Obama will nominate John Brennan as his next director of the Central Intelligence Agency. Brennan, a 25-year CIA veteran, currently serves as Obama’s top counterterrorism adviser. The White House says the president will announce Brennan’s nomination during an event Monday afternoon. At the same event, an administration official says, the president will also formally announce that he is nominating Chuck Hagel as his next defense secretary. Both men must be confirmed by the Senate. Obama considered Brennan for the top CIA job in 2008. But Brennan withdrew his name amid questions about his connection to enhanced interrogation techniques
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White House looking for sharply increased gun control laws

The White House is weighing a far broader approach to curbing U.S. gun violence than just reinstating a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, the Washington Post reported on Sunday. A working group led by Vice President Joseph Biden is seriously considering measures that would require universal background checks for gun buyers and track the movement and sale of weapons through a national database, the newspaper said. The measures would also strengthen mental health checks and stiffen penalties for carrying guns near schools or giving them to minors, the Post said. The approach is backed by law enforcement leaders,
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Don’t look for any cooperation on solving debt crisis

Congressional leaders on Sunday showed no signs of emerging from their corners to resolve the next step in the financial crisis, with Democrats still talking about higher taxes on the wealthy and the Senate’s top Republican suggesting that a crippling default on U.S. loans was possible unless there were significant cuts in government spending. “It’s a shame we have to use whatever leverage we have in Congress to get the president to deal with the biggest problem confronting our future, and that’s our excessive spending,” said Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. Last week’s deal to avert the combination of end-of-year tax
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Obama set to nominate Republican Hagel as defense secretary

President Barack Obama will nominate Chuck Hagel as his next defense secretary, a senior administration official said Sunday, choosing a former Senate colleague and a decorated Vietnam veteran and signaling he’s ready for a contentious confirmation fight likely dominated by questions about Hagel’s stands on Israel and Iran. Obama, who avoided a Capitol Hill battle by deciding not to nominate U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice as his first choice for secretary of state, went ahead with Hagel, 66, even as leading Republicans announced their opposition — though they stopped short of saying they might try to block Hagel. Seeking to soften
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Republicans: Just as divided and angry as ever

The Republican Party seems as divided and angry as ever. Infighting has penetrated the highest levels of the House GOP leadership. Long-standing geographic tensions have increased, pitting endangered Northeastern Republicans against their colleagues from other parts of the country. Enraged tea party leaders are threatening to knock off dozens of Republicans who supported a measure that raised taxes on the nation’s highest earners. “People are mad as hell. I’m right there with them,” Amy Kremer, chairman of the Tea Party Express, said late last week, declaring that she has “no confidence” in the party her members typically support. Her remarks
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Gov. Christie: Nailing Republicans part of his job

In 2010, Gov. Chris Christie underestimated the first major storm of his administration by flying to Disney World hours before snow crippled New Jersey. A year later, he overplayed Tropical Storm Irene with the now-infamous order, “Get the hell off the beach.” When Superstorm Sandy set its sights on his state, he had learned his lesson: be more hands on, more empathetic. “I had a sense from the beginning that this one was going to be really bad,” Christie, 50, told The Associated Press in an interview last week that reflected on a first term that has now positioned him
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