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No budget, no pay: An incredible idea whose time has come?

In an earlier era, a move like the one engineered by House GOP leaders to pass a “no budget, no pay” measure probably would have been stopped in its tracks. But with Congress’ approval ratings in the gutter, House lawmakers pushed aside questions about fairness and constitutionality and tacked the idea on to an unpopular, must-pass measure to increase the government’s borrowing cap. The measure temporarily would withhold pay from any member of the House or Senate whose chamber doesn’t pass a budget this year. The Senate is expected to approve it in the coming week, but only after leaders
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NRA lobbyist admits ad on Obama’s kids was a screw-up

One of the National Rifle Association’s senior lobbyists said an ad by the nation’s leading gun-rights group after a school shooting in Connecticut that refers to President Barack Obama’s children was “ill-advised.” Jim Baker, head of the federal affairs division at the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action, said he had made his views known to others at the powerful gun-rights organization. The ad, which cast Obama as hypocritical for having expressed skepticism about putting armed guards in schools, when “his kids are protected by armed guards at their schools,” drew widespread criticism when it first became public on January 15.
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Federal court slaps down Obama for recess appointments

A federal appeals court ruled on Friday that President Barack Obama violated the U.S. Constitution when he used recess appointments to fill a labor board, a decision that could curtail the president’s options in filling vacancies. Obama, frustrated by Republican opposition to his nominees, made the three “recess” appointments to the National Labor Relations Board in January 2012, while the Senate was on one of its many recesses but not formally adjourned for the year. “Considering the text, history, and structure of the Constitution, these appointments were invalid from their inception,” said the ruling by a three judge panel of
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Newtown residents marching for gun control in Washington

Residents from Newtown, Conn., are joining a march on Washington for gun control on Saturday with parents, pastors, survivors of gun violence and Education Secretary Arne Duncan. Organizers said they are expecting thousands of participants for the rally on the National Mall, including about 100 from Newtown and buses from New Jersey, New York and Philadelphia. Others are flying in from Seattle, San Francisco and even Alaska. They will gather Saturday at the Capitol Reflecting Pool at 10 a.m. and will begin marching down Constitution Avenue toward the Washington Monument at 11 a.m. A rally is planned on the monument
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Western U.S. is drifting towards Democrats

A political generation ago, the West signaled the nation’s rightward swing — from the emergence of Ronald Reagan to the success of tax-limitation ballot measures in California and Colorado. But now the fabled expanse of jagged peaks, arid deserts and emerald coastlines is trending in a different direction. From Washington state — where voters in November legalized marijuana and upheld the legality of gay marriage — to New Mexico, once a hotly contested swing state that Republicans ceded to Democrats in the presidential campaign, the West has become largely Democratic terrain. There are, as always, exceptions. Lightly populated Idaho and
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Confusing maze of state gun laws hampers control efforts

There is a legal avenue to try to get any gun you want somewhere in the U.S., thanks to the maze of gun statutes across the country and the lack of certain federal laws. That undermines gun-control efforts in communities with tougher gun laws — and pushes advocates of tighter controls to seek a federal standard. Gun rights proponents say enforcing all existing laws makes more sense than passing new ones. An Associated Press analysis found that there are thousands of laws, rules and regulations at the local, county, state and federal levels. The laws and rules vary by state,
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Biden heads to Virginia to push gun-control

Vice President Joe Biden is taking the White House’s campaign for gun control on the road to Virginia. Biden plans a roundtable discussion Friday in Richmond with experts who worked on gun safety following the 2007 shooting at Virginia Tech. President Barack Obama wants Congress to require background checks for all gun sales and ban both military-style assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines. The president concedes passage will be difficult, but he also will travel to push the plan. His destinations have yet to be announced. Virginia has an avidly pro-gun tradition, but lawmakers have been debating a bill to
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Democratic support growing for Hagel nomination

Democratic support for Chuck Hagel’s nomination for defense secretary grew on Thursday as the former Republican senator allayed concerns about his past statements on Israel and Iran. Sens. Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Chris Coons of Delaware and Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire said they met with Hagel this week and were reassured by his commitment to Israel’s security. Hagel would replace Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who is stepping down. Despite early misgivings, about a dozen Democrats have announced they would vote for his nomination, and none has declared opposition to President Barack Obama’s choice.
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Abortion opponents plan march on Washington

Abortion opponents plan to march in Washington in a demonstration that coincides with the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision that created a constitutional, nationwide right to abortion. Thousands are expected for the noon Friday rally at the National Mall and in front of the Supreme Court. Organizers say the event will feature former Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum. Reps. Chris Smith of New Jersey and Diane Black of Tennessee are also scheduled speakers. This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision, which legalized abortion. Earlier this week, opponents marked the anniversary with workshops, prayers and calls
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Why Tim Geithner was a divisive Treasury Secretary

President Barack Obama has saluted the outgoing Timothy Geithner as one of the best U.S. Treasury secretaries ever. He’s surely been among the most contentious. Not since the Great Depression had an administration inherited so many grave financial threats at once. To many, Geithner deserves credit for helping steady the banking system and helping restore investor confidence. Yet his toughest critics say Geithner’s policies consistently favored big banks over ordinary struggling Americans. When Geithner became Treasury secretary in January 2009, the economy had sunk into a deep recession. Unemployment was surging. Stock prices were sinking. The financial system was teetering.
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