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Obama urges fast action on new debt ceiling

President Barack Obama is hailing a last-minute deal that avoids the so-called fiscal cliff but says it’s just one step in a broader effort to boost the economy and shrink federal deficits. Obama said in his radio and Internet address Saturday that the new law — approved by Congress on New Year’s Day and signed Thursday — raises taxes on the wealthiest Americans while preventing a middle-class tax hike that could have thrown the economy back into recession. With the “fiscal cliff” crisis barely over, Obama faces new battles in Congress over raising the country’s $16.4 trillion borrowing limit, as
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Obama set to round out new national security team

President Barack Obama may round out his new national security leadership team next week, with a nomination for defense secretary expected and a pick to lead the Central Intelligence Agency possible. Former Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska is the front-runner for the top Pentagon post. Acting CIA director Michael Morell and Obama counterterrorism adviser John Brennan are leading contenders to head the spy agency. White House aides said the president has not made a final decision on either post and won’t until he returns from Hawaii, where he is vacationing with his family. Obama is due back in Washington
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FDA claims moves will make food safer

The Food and Drug Administration says its new guidelines would make the food Americans eat safer and help prevent the kinds of foodborne disease outbreaks that sicken or kill thousands of consumers each year. The rules, the most sweeping food safety guidelines in decades, would require farmers to take new precautions against contamination, to include making sure workers’ hands are washed, irrigation water is clean, and that animals stay out of fields. Food manufacturers will have to submit food safety plans to the government to show they are keeping their operations clean. The long-overdue regulations could cost businesses close to
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Four gun shows near Newtown, CT cancel after school shooting

Four gun shows, all about an hour’s drive from Newtown, Conn., all canceled. A show in White Plains, N.Y., — brought back a few years ago after being called off for a decade because of the Columbine shooting — is off because officials decided it didn’t seem appropriate now, either. In Danbury, Conn. — about 10 miles west of Newtown — the venue backed out. Same with three other shows in New York’s Hudson Valley, according to the organizer. Gun advocates aren’t backing down from their insistence on the right to keep and bear arms. But heightened sensitivities and raw
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Geithner leaving Treasury post: Trouble for Obama?

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner‘s plans to leave near the end of January put the White House in a tricky spot, depriving the Obama administration of its longest-serving economic adviser for its next fiscal showdown with Congress. Geithner, who spent his years as Treasury secretary battling the financial crisis and then fighting with Republican lawmakers in 2011 over raising the U.S. debt ceiling, has wanted to leave government service for some time. The Treasury Department said Geithner would stick to his previously announced schedule to stay until sometime around the January 21 inauguration. Bloomberg News reported that Geithner would leave at
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Embattled Boehner holds on to Speaker’s post

Despite a rocky few weeks during the “fiscal cliff” fight, John Boehner won re-election as speaker of the House of Representatives on Thursday and will again lead Republicans as they take on the White House over federal spending. Boehner defeated House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi 220-192 in a vote on the opening day of the 113th Congress and vowed to use his second term to shrink the national debt of $16 trillion to prevent it from “draining free enterprise.” The Ohio congressman narrowly avoided the embarrassment of having to go to a second round of voting, as 12 conservatives held
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The fiscal cliff debacle: From hope to hopelessness

It began so optimistically. On November 16, after their first “fiscal cliff” session with President Barack Obama, the four leaders of Congress had stood in the driveway of the White House shoulder-to-shoulder for what is a rare photo these days, Republicans and Democrats together, smiling. There they were at the microphone, talking about a “framework” for tax reform and deficit reduction. In hindsight, the shot of House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell – the Republicans – with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi – the Democrats – seems like an old
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Employers stepped up hiring amid fiscal cliff turmoil

U.S. employers likely kept hiring last month at a modest but steady pace, despite tense negotiations that pushed the economy to the brink of the fiscal cliff. Economists forecast that employers added 155,000 jobs in December, according to a survey by FactSet. That would be slightly higher than November’s 148,000. The unemployment rate is projected to remain at 7.7 percent. Stable hiring would mean the job market held up during the talks between Congress and the White House over tax increases and spending cuts that were not resolved until the new year. A trio of encouraging reports Thursday on private
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New Congress will face the same, old partisan problems

Congress is ushering in the new and the old — dozens of eager freshmen determined to change Washington and the harsh reality of another stretch of bitterly divided government. The 113th Congress will convene Thursday at the constitutionally required time of noon for pomp, pageantry and politics as newly elected members of the House and Senate are sworn in and the speaker of the Republican-controlled House is chosen. The traditions come against the backdrop of a mean season that closed out an angry election year. A deal to avert the “fiscal cliff” of big tax increases and spending cuts split
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John Boehner, under fire for delaying relief action, sets vote for Friday

The House is headed for a vote on aid for Superstorm Sandy victims after House Speaker John Boehner mollified Republicans from New York and New Jersey upset with his decision to cancel action on the bill. Facing intense pressure, Boehner agreed Wednesday to schedule a vote Friday on $9 billion for the national flood insurance program and another vote Jan. 15 for a remaining $51 billion in the package, said Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y. The new Congress is being sworn in Thursday. King left a meeting with Boehner and other Republicans without the anger that led him to rip into
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