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Christie will work to expand Medicaid coverage in New Jersey

Gov. Chris Christie announced Tuesday that he would expand Medicaid health insurance coverage to more low-income New Jersey adults as part of President Barack Obama’s health insurance overhaul — all while making it clear he’s “no fan of” the president’s program. Christie made the announcement Tuesday as part of his state budget proposal to a standing ovation in the state Assembly chambers. “Refusing these federal dollars would not mean that they wouldn’t be spent,” he said. “It just means that they will be used to expand health care access in New York, Connecticut, Ohio or somewhere else.” Christie left no
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Crisis-weary Americans tune out budget debate

President Barack Obama is pulling out all the stops to warn just what could happen if automatic budget cuts kick in. Americans are reacting with a collective yawn. They know the shtick: Obama raises the alarm, Democrats and Republicans accuse each other of holding a deal hostage, there’s a lot of yelling on cable news, and then finally, when everyone has made their points, a deal is struck and the day is saved. Maybe not this time. Two days before $85 billion in cuts are set to hit federal programs with all the precision of a wrecking ball, there are
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Divided Senate confirms Chuck Hagel for Defense Secretary

A deeply divided Senate voted on Tuesday to confirm Republican Chuck Hagel to be the nation’s next defense secretary, handing President Barack Obama’s pick the top Pentagon job just days before billions of dollars in automatic, across-the-board budget cuts hit the military. The vote was 58-41, with four Republicans joining the Democrats in backing the contentious choice. Hagel’s only GOP support came from former colleagues Thad Cochran of Mississippi, Dick Shelby of Alabama and Mike Johanns of Nebraska — all three had announced their support earlier — and Rand Paul of Kentucky. The vote came just hours after Republicans dropped
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As budget cuts loom, politcal hyperbole increases

President Barack Obama and his officials are doing their best to drum up public concern over the shock wave of spending cuts that could strike the government in just days. So it’s a good time to be alert for sky-is-falling hype. Over the last week or so, administration officials have come forward with a grim compendium of jobs to be lost, services to be denied or delayed, military defenses to be let down and important operations to be disrupted. Obama’s new chief of staff, Denis McDonough, spoke of a “devastating list of horribles.” For most Americans, though, it’s far from
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Both sides exchange blame on budget crisis

President Barack Obama is arguing that looming government-wide spending cuts could idle military resources like naval aircraft carriers, while Republicans are criticizing the president for taking his arguments outside Washington instead of staying to work out a plan before Friday’s deadline. The president planned to appear Tuesday at Virginia’s largest industrial employer, Newport News Shipbuilding, which would be affected by cuts to naval spending. Obama warned Monday that if the so-called sequester goes into effect later this week, the company’s “workers will sit idle when they should be repairing ships, and a carrier sits idle when it should be deploying
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Senate to start concentrating on gun control bills next week

The Senate Judiciary Committee seems all but certain to start voting on an assault weapons ban and other gun curbs next week, Congress’ first roll calls in response to the Newtown, Conn., slayings of 26 students and staff at an elementary school in December. The Democratic-written bills largely follow President Barack Obama’s proposals for limiting gun violence, which have been opposed by the National Rifle Association and generated little support from congressional Republicans. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., the committee chairman, said Monday that the panel would consider: —A bill by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., banning assault weapons and ammunition magazines
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NRA uses more lies to promote its pro-gun agenda

In a typical stunt, the often fact-challenged National Rifle Association is lying in a new ad that claims a Justice Department memo shows President Barack Obama wants the federal government to seize firearms and require national gun registration. The White House has not proposed either idea and does not support such proposals, but those facts don’t bother the NRA, which often uses such wild conspiracy theories to raise money and add sensational lies to the national debate on gun violence. The Justice Department memo, written by one of the agency’s crime researchers, does raise legitimate questions about the effectiveness of
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Supremes set to look at Voting Rights Act

When the Supreme Court last scrutinized the 1965 Voting Rights Act in 2009, Justice Anthony Kennedy peered down from the bench and asked why federal rules were tougher for Alabama and Georgia than for Michigan and Ohio. Chief Justice John Roberts pointedly added that it seemed lawyers defending the rules, which were created to protect black voters, believed that even in modern times “southerners are more likely to discriminate than northerners.” Now four years later, as the landmark law faces another challenge, the skepticism of Roberts and of Kennedy, often the decisive vote on racial dilemmas, is likely to emerge
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Governors join Obama in fighting budget cuts

Governors from both parties are warning of the damaging economic impact if the White House and Congress fail to reach a deal to stave off across-the-board spending cuts set to take effect Friday. “It’s senseless and it doesn’t need to happen,” said Gov. Martin O’Malley, D-Md., during the annual meeting of the National Governors Association this weekend. “And it’s a damn shame, because we’ve actually had the fastest rate of jobs recovery of any state in our region. And this really threatens to hurt a lot of families in our state and kind of flat line our job growth for
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Why doesn’t Washington work? Our leaders are just too human

Turns out politicians are people, too, only worse. Just ask pros who make their living in the trenches of everyday human drama such as divorce, family feuds or schoolyard scraps. They recognize in Washington’s bitter budget standoff a hint of human nature as they know it, but with the crazy pumped up to absurd levels. “We’re seeing middle school behavior here,” says Barbara Coloroso, who crusades against childhood bullying. Psychologist Piers Steel, an expert on procrastination, says Congress has the worst case of it he’s seen. Divorce attorney Sanford Ain’s assessment is blunter: “It’s nuts!” A sampling of conflict-savvy professionals
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