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Obama tones down attacks on Republicans in budget mess

President Barack Obama said he is looking for compromise in the coming months to end a two-year fight with Congress over how to reduce the deficit, promising Americans in his weekly radio address that he will try to find common ground with lawmakers. Turning away from the sharp rhetoric he has used in recent weeks to blame Republicans for $85 billion in government spending cuts that took effect March 1, Obama this week highlighted how he is working with lawmakers in Congress. “The fact is, America is a nation of different beliefs and different points of view. That’s what makes
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Boehner has guarded praise for change in Obama’s direction

House Speaker John Boehner says that President Barack Obama’s recent outreach to congressional Republicans is a “hopeful sign” that progress could be made in breaking the recent impasse over how to reduce the federal deficit. Boehner says at a news conference that it was interesting that after months of “campaign-style events” around the country to promote his agenda, that the president was now sitting down to talk to Republican lawmakers. The Ohio Republican expressed optimism that the Obama’s contacts with Republicans could be productive, adding that the president will not get very far if he insists on raising taxes. Obama
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Budget problems may result in more forest fires left to burn

After coming in $400 million over budget following last year’s busy fire season, the Forest Service is altering its approach and may let more fires burn instead of attacking every one. The move, quietly made in a letter late last month by Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell, brings the agency more in line with the National Parks Service and back to what it had done until last year. It also answers critics who said the agency wasted money and endangered firefighters by battling fires in remote areas that posed little or no danger to property or critical habitat. Tidwell played
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Different federal agencies offer different sequestration furloughs

Federal workers could face seven days of furloughs at the Housing and Urban Development Department, but Homeland Security personnel might see twice that number. At the Environmental Protection Agency, workers would get four-day holiday weekends with a catch — one day would be a furlough day. Other agencies are avoiding furloughs altogether. Government agencies vary widely in how they are dealing with $85 billion in across-the-board budget cuts that went into effect last week, according to labor unions that represent federal workers. “It just depends on their flexibility,” said Patrick Lester, director of fiscal policy for the Center for Effective
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Allowing knives onboard planes angers many

Flight attendants, pilots, federal air marshals and even insurance companies are part of a growing backlash to the Transportation Security Administration‘s new policy allowing passengers to carry small knives and sports equipment like souvenir baseball bats and golf clubs onto planes. The Flight Attendants Union Coalition, which representing nearly 90,000 flight attendants, said it is coordinating a nationwide legislative and public education campaign to reverse the policy announced by TSA Administrator John Pistole this week. A petition posted by the flight attendants on the White House’s “We the People” website had more than 9,300 signatures early Friday urging the administration
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Gun control laws on shaky ground in Congress

President Barack Obama’s prospects for winning near-universal background checks for gun purchases seemed shaky as the Senate Judiciary Committee prepared for Congress’ first votes on curbing firearms since December’s horrific shootings at a Connecticut elementary school. The Democratic-led panel had four bills on its agenda Thursday as lawmakers began shaping their response to the slaughter of 20 first-graders and six staffers in Newtown, Conn. The shootings elevated guns to a top-tier national issue, though many of Obama’s proposals have encountered opposition from the National Rifle Association and many Republicans. Besides expanding background checks, the other measures would ban assault weapons
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Rand Paul ends filibuster against CIA director nominee

A tea party senator from Kentucky used an old-style filibuster lasting nearly 13 hours to block Senate confirmation of John Brennan‘s nomination to be CIA director. Sen. Rand Paul ended his filibuster shortly after midnight, but Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, also a Kentucky Republican, said he would continue to oppose Brennan’s confirmation and try to keep the debate going. After Paul yielded the floor, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., filed a motion to cut off debate on Brennan’s nomination and bring it up for a vote. Paul ended his lengthy speech with a joke. He said that he was tempted
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Obama tries eating out as new way to reach Republicans

Shifting course in the face of political gridlock, President Barack Obama is making rare overtures to rank-and-file Republicans, inviting GOP senators to dinner Wednesday, planning visits to Capitol Hill and working the phones with lawmakers. Obama’s efforts are aimed at jumpstarting budget talks and rallying support for his proposals on immigration and gun control. The president’s new charm offensive underscores the limitations of his earlier attempts to use public pressure, rather than direct engagement, to win Republican cooperation. That strategy proved futile in recent weeks, as the White House and Congress failed to prevent $85 billion in automatic budget cuts
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White House tours cancelled but Capitol visits continue on

If your public tour of the White House has now been canceled, House Speaker John Boehner says come visit the Capitol instead. Boehner says tours of that building will continue, despite mandatory spending cuts that led the U.S. Secret Service and the National Park Service on Tuesday to announce that public tours of the White House will end, starting Saturday, until further notice. The Republican speaker made the tit-for-tat announcement in a letter to his Ohio constituents on Tuesday, following news about the suspension of White House tours. His office released the letter on Wednesday. “While I’m disappointed the White
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Obama’s public approval rating drops as Americans blame him for fiscal mess

Less than two months into his second term, President Barack Obama’s approval rating has dropped and Americans blame him and his fellow Democrats almost as much as his Republican opponents for a fiscal mess. A Reuters/Ipsos online poll released on Wednesday showed 43 percent of people approve of Obama’s handling of his job, down 7 percentage points from February 19. Most of that steep drop came in the week to February 26 when it was becoming clear that Washington was going to be unable to put aside partisan differences and agree to halt automatic budget cuts which started last Friday.
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