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Obama’s ‘charm offensive’ on budget is turning sour

Over dinner at a swank hotel a few blocks from the White House, Republican senators wanted to know if President Barack Obama would support a gradual increase in the age of eligibility for Medicare, set at 65 since the program’s inception more than four decades ago. The president hedged, according to several at the event, recalling the discussion on a cost-saving change to Medicare that most if not all leading Democrats in Congress adamantly oppose. One later recalled that Obama “drew no bright line” in opposition, but the lawmaker came away believing that the president “would be very resistant” even
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Grand jury investigating Sen. Robert Menendez

Sen. Robert Menendez is being investigated by a Miami federal grand jury for his role in advocating for the business interests of a wealthy donor and friend, The Washington Post reported Thursday. A story on the newspaper’s website said that as part of the probe federal agents have questioned witnesses about the interactions between Menendez, D-N.J., and Florida ophthalmologist Salomon Melgen. The newspaper said the grand jury also issued subpoenas for Melgen’s business and financial records. The newspaper cited unidentified people it said were familiar with the probe. Federal agents have not contacted Menendez, one person told the newspaper. The
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Pay raises for political employees raises ire in Louisiana

Lawmakers bristled Wednesday over pay raises handed out by Louisiana‘s statewide elected officials while the state struggled with continuing budget shortfalls and repeated cuts. Members of the House Appropriations Committee said they were frustrated as they learned that Treasurer John Kennedy, Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon, Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain and Attorney General Buddy Caldwell have given salary bumps to various employees in their offices in the current budget year. Rep. John Schroder, R-Covington, said taxpayers wouldn’t be happy to know that raises were given when the state had to make midyear cuts to services. “It’s hard to sit here and
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CPAC bringing Romney, Ryan back onto center stage

The Republican Party’s 2012 presidential ticket is returning to the national stage as thousands of conservative activists gather outside Washington to examine the GOP’s future. Presidential candidate Mitt Romney will appear at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Friday afternoon, the second day of a three-day conservative summit. It’s the first time he’ll deliver public remarks since his concession speech last November. But at a conference focused on the next generation of conservative leaders, Romney’s 2012 running mate, Wisconsin congressman Paul Ryan, is scheduled to speak first. He’s expected to discuss his recently released budget blueprint. Friday’s program also features
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A third of American counties are dying

A record number of U.S. counties — more than 1 in 3 — are now dying off, hit by an aging population and weakened local economies that are spurring young adults to seek jobs and build families elsewhere. New 2012 census estimates released Thursday highlight the population shifts as the U.S. encounters its most sluggish growth levels since the Great Depression. The findings also reflect the increasing economic importance of foreign-born residents as the U.S. ponders an overhaul of a major 1965 federal immigration law. Without new immigrants, many metropolitan areas such as New York, Chicago, Detroit, Pittsburgh and St.
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Republicans showcase budget differences with Obama

House Republicans are staking out stark differences with Democrats as they prepare to meet with President Barack Obama for talks over the budget impasse, while Obama is conceding that a political accommodation may be impossible. On the one hand, many Republicans who long have chided Obama for failing to engage their party on the nation’s biggest problems are applauding his newfound outreach — part of a concerted effort by the president to mend ties with Congress in hopes of reaching a grand compromise on fiscal issues. On the other hand, neither side is backing down from entrenched positions that have
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Disturbing questions about veterans charity in Florida

The next phase of an investigation into a veterans charity accused of being a front for a $300 million gambling operation will focus on lobbying and campaign donations, authorities said. While authorities wouldn’t talk specifics Wednesday, records showed the Florida-based charity Allied Veterans of the World and another company involved in the alleged fraud have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on lobbying and political campaigns in Florida. Nearly 60 people were charged in the probe so far and Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll stepped down after being questioned by investigators. Allied Veterans ran nearly 50 Internet parlors with computerized slot
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Changing attitudes found among working mothers

Working mothers increasingly want full-time jobs, and tough economic times might be a big reason, according to a national survey. In the Pew Research Center study being released Thursday, researchers saw a big spike in the share of working mothers who said they’d prefer to work full time; 37 percent said that was their ideal, up from 21 percent in 2007. The poll comes amid a national debate on women in the workplace ignited by top Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg, who writes in a new book about the need for women to be more professionally aggressive. In “Lean In: Women,
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Colorado moves to legalize same-sex civil unions

A bill to legalize same-sex civil unions in Colorado won final approval from state lawmakers on Tuesday and was expected to be signed into law, reflecting a recent shift to the left in the political balance of power in the Denver statehouse. Supporters of the Democratic-sponsored measure, which cleared the state House of Representatives on a 39-26 vote, say it would make gay and lesbian couples eligible for the most of the same benefits, protections and responsibilities currently extended only to heterosexual spouses. Colorado is one of 30 states with a constitutional amendment that defines marriage as exclusively between a
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Senate committee approves expanded background checks on gun sales

Democrats gave a boost Tuesday to the pillar of President Barack Obama’s plans for reducing gun violence, pushing a bill requiring nearly universal federal background checks for firearms buyers through the Senate Judiciary Committee over solid Republican opposition. The proposal still faces a difficult path through Congress, where GOP lawmakers say it would have little impact on crime and warn that it is a precursor to a federal registry of gun owners. Such a listing is forbidden by federal law and is anathema to conservatives and the National Rifle Association. The committee approved the bill 10-8, supported by every Democrat
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