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Background check compromise gives new life to gun control in Senate

The Senate is ready to launch an emotion-charged debate on new gun restrictions, four months after the carnage at a Connecticut elementary school spurred President Barack Obama and Congress to address firearms violence. In an opening showdown Thursday, senators were scheduled to vote on an attempt by conservatives to scuttle the Democratic bill before debate even started. There were no real doubts the conservatives would be defeated and lawmakers would turn to the legislation, which would expand background checks to more gun buyers, toughen penalties against illicit firearms sales and offer slightly more money for school security. The roll call
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How does Obamacare affect federal budget? Good question

Next year is the year President Barack Obama’s signature health care law goes into high gear, covering millions of uninsured Americans by a mix of private plans and government programs infused with tens of billions of dollars in taxpayer money. You’d think there’d be a chapter in the new 2014 budget that lays it all out. Wrong. Well, maybe a table? Wrong again. A box? Nope. It turns out that the costs of the Affordable Care Act — Obamacare to its unyielding Republican foes— are sprinkled here and there through hundreds of pages of budget books. It’s partly due to
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Loud minorities often prevail in gun debate

At first glance, it seems Republicans are verging on a blunder. With about 90 percent of Americans favoring universal background checks for gun buyers, GOP lawmakers’ strong resistance might appear foolhardy. But these Republicans are making a calculated and probably safe choice, for several reasons. Their districts’ all-important GOP primaries are dominated by hard-right activists. The gun lobby is far more organized and fierce than any opposing groups. And Americans’ voting habits often reward those who refuse to compromise. “A small, passionate group of people, no matter how radical or extreme, can be more successful than a reasonable but less
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Critics nail Obama for breaking promises

Advocates for seniors say President Barack Obama is breaking his promise to protect Social Security, while conservatives say he is breaking his promise not to raise taxes on the middle class. Obama’s budget proposal includes a mix of tax increases and benefit cuts in an effort to reduce government borrowing and spark the still-fragile economy. Obama says it is the kind of balanced approach that is necessary to tame runaway budget deficits. But advocates from across the political spectrum are reminding the president of his past campaign promises. “Clearly it will be up to members of Congress to set fiscal
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McConnell calls exposure of his dirty campaign plans ‘Nixonian’

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky politician known for his own dirty tricks, is accusing liberal news site Mother Jones of using “Nixonian” moves in exposing his plans to get nasty with anyone who dares run against him in 2014. The web site has published an audio tape that reveals McConnell’s campaign operatives discussing using what they called “odd” religious beliefs and a purported history of depression of potential opponent Ashley Judd if she ran against him. Judd, citing “family obligations” said last month she would not run and those close to her told Capitol Hill Blue that she
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Homophobic Santorum calls endorsement of gay marriage ‘suicidal’

One of the Republican Party’s leading homophobes, former Senator and failed Presidential candidate  Rick Santorum, is carrying his stirdent anti-gay message even further, urging fellow Republicans to avoid what he calls a “suicidal” endorsement of marrige equality. Even though polls show widespread public support for gay marriage, Santorum claims the trend if “only a fad” and could destroy the Republican Party is too many from the party of the elephant jump on board. “The Republican Party is not going to change on this issue,” Santorum told the Des Moines Register in an interview.  “In my opinion, it would be suicidal
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Ohmigod! Obama sends actual budget to Congress

President Barack Obama on Wednesday is sending Congress his 2014 budget, an effort to achieve an elusive “grand bargain” to tame runaway deficits that have soared above $1 trillion for each of the past four years. Obama’s spending blueprint for the 2014 budget year would accomplish the deficit cuts through a combination of further tax increases, further reductions in the growth of spending and reductions in the growth of the government’s biggest benefit programs, Social Security and Medicare. But instead of moving Congress nearer a grand bargain, the Obama’s proposals so far have managed to anger Republicans and Democrats alike.
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Senate near deal on background checks

A bipartisan deal seems imminent on expanding background checks to more gun buyers, an agreement that could build support for President Barack Obama’s drive to curb firearms violence. Meanwhile, the Senate is ready for an opening vote on restricting guns as Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., set a roll call for Thursday on starting consideration of the firearms legislation. Odds are growing that Democrats will win enough Republican support to thwart an effort by conservatives and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to block consideration from even starting. “I hope Republicans will stop trying to shut down debate and start
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Deal on farm workers could clear way for immigration bill

A tentative deal has been reached to resolve a dispute between agriculture workers and growers that was standing in the way of a sweeping immigration overhaul bill, a key senator said Tuesday. The agreement could smooth the way for release of the landmark legislation within a week or so. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who’s taken the lead on negotiating a resolution to the agriculture issue, didn’t provide details, and said growers had yet to sign off on the agreement. The farm workers union has been at odds with the agriculture industry over worker wages and how many visas should be
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Arkansas takes aim at abortion providers

The Republican-led Arkansas Senate, in the latest statehouse swipe at abortion providers around the country, approved a bill on Tuesday that sponsors said was aimed at cutting off the last vestiges of state funding to groups such as Planned Parenthood. While it does not explicitly name Planned Parenthood or any other organization, the bill would bar all Arkansas state funds from going to any entity that provides abortions, refers patients to abortion providers or contracts with any group that does so. The measure cleared the state Senate on a mostly party-line 19-11 vote, and now moves to the Republican-controlled House,
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