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White House looking for sharply increased gun control laws

The White House is weighing a far broader approach to curbing U.S. gun violence than just reinstating a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, the Washington Post reported on Sunday. A working group led by Vice President Joseph Biden is seriously considering measures that would require universal background checks for gun buyers and track the movement and sale of weapons through a national database, the newspaper said. The measures would also strengthen mental health checks and stiffen penalties for carrying guns near schools or giving them to minors, the Post said. The approach is backed by law enforcement leaders,
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Don’t look for any cooperation on solving debt crisis

Congressional leaders on Sunday showed no signs of emerging from their corners to resolve the next step in the financial crisis, with Democrats still talking about higher taxes on the wealthy and the Senate’s top Republican suggesting that a crippling default on U.S. loans was possible unless there were significant cuts in government spending. “It’s a shame we have to use whatever leverage we have in Congress to get the president to deal with the biggest problem confronting our future, and that’s our excessive spending,” said Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. Last week’s deal to avert the combination of end-of-year tax
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Obama set to nominate Republican Hagel as defense secretary

President Barack Obama will nominate Chuck Hagel as his next defense secretary, a senior administration official said Sunday, choosing a former Senate colleague and a decorated Vietnam veteran and signaling he’s ready for a contentious confirmation fight likely dominated by questions about Hagel’s stands on Israel and Iran. Obama, who avoided a Capitol Hill battle by deciding not to nominate U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice as his first choice for secretary of state, went ahead with Hagel, 66, even as leading Republicans announced their opposition — though they stopped short of saying they might try to block Hagel. Seeking to soften
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Republicans: Just as divided and angry as ever

The Republican Party seems as divided and angry as ever. Infighting has penetrated the highest levels of the House GOP leadership. Long-standing geographic tensions have increased, pitting endangered Northeastern Republicans against their colleagues from other parts of the country. Enraged tea party leaders are threatening to knock off dozens of Republicans who supported a measure that raised taxes on the nation’s highest earners. “People are mad as hell. I’m right there with them,” Amy Kremer, chairman of the Tea Party Express, said late last week, declaring that she has “no confidence” in the party her members typically support. Her remarks
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Gov. Christie: Nailing Republicans part of his job

In 2010, Gov. Chris Christie underestimated the first major storm of his administration by flying to Disney World hours before snow crippled New Jersey. A year later, he overplayed Tropical Storm Irene with the now-infamous order, “Get the hell off the beach.” When Superstorm Sandy set its sights on his state, he had learned his lesson: be more hands on, more empathetic. “I had a sense from the beginning that this one was going to be really bad,” Christie, 50, told The Associated Press in an interview last week that reflected on a first term that has now positioned him
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Obama urges fast action on new debt ceiling

President Barack Obama is hailing a last-minute deal that avoids the so-called fiscal cliff but says it’s just one step in a broader effort to boost the economy and shrink federal deficits. Obama said in his radio and Internet address Saturday that the new law — approved by Congress on New Year’s Day and signed Thursday — raises taxes on the wealthiest Americans while preventing a middle-class tax hike that could have thrown the economy back into recession. With the “fiscal cliff” crisis barely over, Obama faces new battles in Congress over raising the country’s $16.4 trillion borrowing limit, as
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Obama set to round out new national security team

President Barack Obama may round out his new national security leadership team next week, with a nomination for defense secretary expected and a pick to lead the Central Intelligence Agency possible. Former Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska is the front-runner for the top Pentagon post. Acting CIA director Michael Morell and Obama counterterrorism adviser John Brennan are leading contenders to head the spy agency. White House aides said the president has not made a final decision on either post and won’t until he returns from Hawaii, where he is vacationing with his family. Obama is due back in Washington
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FDA claims moves will make food safer

The Food and Drug Administration says its new guidelines would make the food Americans eat safer and help prevent the kinds of foodborne disease outbreaks that sicken or kill thousands of consumers each year. The rules, the most sweeping food safety guidelines in decades, would require farmers to take new precautions against contamination, to include making sure workers’ hands are washed, irrigation water is clean, and that animals stay out of fields. Food manufacturers will have to submit food safety plans to the government to show they are keeping their operations clean. The long-overdue regulations could cost businesses close to
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Four gun shows near Newtown, CT cancel after school shooting

Four gun shows, all about an hour’s drive from Newtown, Conn., all canceled. A show in White Plains, N.Y., — brought back a few years ago after being called off for a decade because of the Columbine shooting — is off because officials decided it didn’t seem appropriate now, either. In Danbury, Conn. — about 10 miles west of Newtown — the venue backed out. Same with three other shows in New York’s Hudson Valley, according to the organizer. Gun advocates aren’t backing down from their insistence on the right to keep and bear arms. But heightened sensitivities and raw
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Geithner leaving Treasury post: Trouble for Obama?

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner‘s plans to leave near the end of January put the White House in a tricky spot, depriving the Obama administration of its longest-serving economic adviser for its next fiscal showdown with Congress. Geithner, who spent his years as Treasury secretary battling the financial crisis and then fighting with Republican lawmakers in 2011 over raising the U.S. debt ceiling, has wanted to leave government service for some time. The Treasury Department said Geithner would stick to his previously announced schedule to stay until sometime around the January 21 inauguration. Bloomberg News reported that Geithner would leave at
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