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Hagel claims budget cuts puts Pentagon missions in peril

New Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said on Friday that budget uncertainty, including $46 billion in new defense cuts, jeopardizes the Pentagon‘s ability to effectively fulfill all its missions. Hagel, appearing at his first Pentagon news conference since he was sworn in on Wednesday, said the cuts mean the U.S. Navy would gradually stand down four air wings, the Air Force would immediately cut flying hours and the Army would reduce training. “Let me make it clear that this uncertainty puts at risk our ability to effectively fulfill all of our missions,” Hagel said, adding that while the cuts remain in
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With automatic cuts now in place, time to face next crisis

Severe spending cuts now the law of the land, President Barack Obama and congressional Republicans refused Saturday to concede any culpability for failing to stave off what both parties acknowledged was a foolhardy way to slash $85 billion in federal spending. The still-fragile economy braced itself for the gradual but potentially grave impact of the across-the-board cuts, which took effect Friday night at the stroke of Obama’s pen. Hours earlier, he and congressional leaders emerged from a White House meeting no closer to an agreement. Even as they pledged a renewed effort to retroactively undo the spending cuts, both parties
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Military base schools will feel budget pinch first

Public schools everywhere will be affected by the government’s automatic budget cuts, but few may feel the funding pinch faster than those on and around military bases. School districts with military ties from coast-to-coast are bracing for increased class sizes and delayed building repairs. Others already have axed sports teams and even eliminated teaching positions, but still may have to tap savings just to make it through year’s end. But there’s little hope for softening any future financial blows. “Next year is scarier than this year,” said Sharon Adams, chief financial officer for Muscogee County schools in Georgia. The district
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The last ditch summit on budget problems: A futile effort?

  A fiscal deadline all but blown, President Barack Obama says he once again wants to seek a big fiscal deal that would raise taxes and trim billions from expensive and ever growing entitlement programs. But with automatic federal spending cuts ready to start taking their toll, the path toward that grand bargain Obama campaigned on last year has significantly narrowed. The president has summoned the top bipartisan congressional leadership to the White House, a meeting designed to give all sides a chance to stake out their fiscal positions with a new threat of a government shutdown less than four
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Obama to Supremes: Overturn gay marriage ban

The Obama administration wants the Supreme Court to overturn California’s gay marriage ban, outlining a broad legal argument that could ultimately be applied to other state prohibitions across the country. The administration’s friend-of-the-court brief, filed Thursday evening, unequivocally calls on the justices to strike down California’s Proposition 8 ballot measure, although it stops short of the soaring rhetoric on marriage equality President Barack Obama expressed in his inaugural address in January. Still, it marks the first time a U.S. president has urged the high court to expand the right of gays and lesbians to wed. The brief is not legally
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Congress sents Obama a renewal of Violence Against Women act

The House on Thursday passed and sent to President Barack Obama a far-reaching extension of the Violence Against Women Act. The vote came after House Republican leaders, cognizant of divisions in their own ranks and the need to improve their faltering image among women voters, accepted a bill that cleared the Senate two weeks ago on a strong bipartisan vote. The bill renews a 1994 law that has set the standard for how to protect women, and some men, from domestic abuse and prosecute abusers. Thursday’s 286-138 vote came after House lawmakers rejected a more limited approach offered by Republicans.
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Sequestration won’t deliver promised savings on budget

On paper, there’s one thing to like about the ugly spending cuts due to kick in on Friday: $85 billion in budget savings at a time when Washington continues to bleed red ink. In reality, the so-called “sequester” is likely to yield less than half that much in the short term. In part, that has to do with the complex way the government handles its money. But it also reflects the probability that the spending cuts will hurt the economy, which in turn will lower tax revenue and drive up the costs of social safety-net programs like unemployment insurance. On
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Democrats, Republicans will stage meaningless budget votes

Across-the-board spending cuts all but certain, Republicans and Democrats in the Senate are staging a politically charged showdown designed to avoid public blame for any resulting inconvenience or disruption in government services. The two parties drafted alternative measures to replace the cuts, but officials conceded in advance the rival measures were doomed. At the White House, President Barack Obama invited congressional leaders to discuss the issue with him on Friday — deadline day for averting the cuts, which would slash $85 billion from the military and domestic programs alike. Democrats controlling the Senate are pushing a $110 billion plan that
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With sequestration certain, government shutdown is next crisis

With big, automatic budget cuts about to kick in, House Republicans are turning to mapping strategy for the next showdown just a month away, when a government shutdown instead of just a slowdown will be at stake. Both topics are sure to come up at the White House meeting Friday between President Barack Obama and top congressional leaders, including Republican House Speaker John Boehner. A breakthrough on replacing or easing the imminent across-the-board spending cuts still seems unlikely at the first face-to-face discussion between Obama and Republican leaders this year. To no one’s surprise, even as a dysfunctional Washington appears
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Gay candidate for mayor killed in Mississippi

A candidate for mayor of a small town in Mississippi was found dead by a river on Wednesday morning, the victim of an apparent homicide, police said. Marco McMillian, 34, was one of the first viable, openly gay candidates in Mississippi, according to the Victory Fund, a national organization that supports and endorses lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender candidates and officials. The death of McMillian was not being investigated as a hate crime, said Will Rooker, a spokesman for the Coahoma County Sheriff’s office. In addition to being gay, McMillian was African American. The death is not considered politically motivated,
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