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Biden meeting with gun safety, victims groups

Seeking to spur fresh action on gun legislation, Vice President Joe Biden is meeting at the White House with victims groups and gun-safety organizations. Wednesday’s meeting is to be part of a series of gatherings Biden is conducting this week at the White House, aimed at building consensus around proposals to curb gun violence following the horrific elementary school shooting in Newtown, Conn. The vice president will meet Thursday with the National Rifle Association and other gun-owner groups. Meetings with representatives from the video-game and entertainment industries are also planned. President Barack Obama wants Biden to report back to him
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GOP Senator threatens to block new CIA director’s nomination

A Republican senator threatened on Tuesday to block the confirmation of President Barack Obama’s nominee to head the CIA until the administration provides more information to Congress about the September 11, 2012, attacks on U.S. facilities in Benghazi, Libya. Senator Lindsey Graham said his objection was not directed at Obama’s CIA nominee – 25-year agency veteran John Brennan – but was an attempt to extract information about the Benghazi attacks from the White House. “I do not believe we should confirm anyone as Director of the CIA until our questions are answered,” Graham said in a statement. Under Senate rules,
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All U.S. troops out of Afghanistan? It’s possible

The Obama administration says it might leave no troops in Afghanistan after December 2014, an option that defies the Pentagon’s view that thousands of troops may be needed to contain al-Qaida and to strengthen Afghan forces. “We wouldn’t rule out any option,” including zero troops, Ben Rhodes, a White House deputy national security adviser, said Tuesday. “The U.S. does not have an inherent objective of ‘X’ number of troops in Afghanistan,” Rhodes said. “We have an objective of making sure there is no safe haven for al-Qaida in Afghanistan and making sure that the Afghan government has a security force
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National Cathedral in Washington will perform same sex marriages

The Washington National Cathedral, where the nation gathers to mourn tragedies and celebrate new presidents, will soon begin performing same-sex marriages. Cathedral officials tell The Associated Press the church will be among the first Episcopal congregations to implement a new rite of marriage for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender members. The church will announce its new policy Wednesday. As the nation’s most prominent church, the decision carries huge symbolism. The 106-year-old cathedral has long been a spiritual center for the nation, hosting presidential inaugural services and funerals for Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford. It draws hundreds of thousands of visitors.
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Obama’s pick for CIA director defends drone strikes

In White House councils, John Brennan has been privy to the most secret U.S. intelligence programs. Outwardly, he has been the administration’s most public defender of one of President Barack Obama’s most controversial practices – the expanded use of armed drone aircraft to kill terrorism suspects overseas. This is the second time that Obama has sought to put Brennan at the helm of the CIA, and his confirmation process is likely to revisit old controversies over U.S. counterterrorism measures undertaken by the administrations of Obama and George W. Bush. Brennan, a 25-year CIA veteran, withdrew his name from consideration as
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A rough confirmation ride predicted for Hagel nomination

President Barack Obama’s pick of Chuck Hagel to helm the Pentagon faces rough going in the Senate as a handful of Republicans quickly announced their opposition to a former GOP colleague, and several skeptical Democrats reserved judgment until the nominee explains his views on Israel and Iran. The concerns about Hagel complicate his path to Senate confirmation but are not necessarily calamitous as the White House pushes for the first Vietnam War veteran to oversee a military emerging from two wars and staring at deep budget cuts. Obama also tapped White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan to head the CIA.
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White House steps up pressure on curbing gun violence

Facing an end-of-the-month deadline, the Obama administration is calling gun owner groups, victims’ organizations and representatives from the video-game industry to the White House this week for discussions on potential policy proposals for curbing gun violence. President Barack Obama has ordered an administration-wide task force to send him proposals by the end of January. The group, led by Vice President Joe Biden, was formed in response to last month’s horrific massacre of 20 children and six adults at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school. Biden will meet Wednesday with gun violence victims’ groups and gun safety organizations, a White House official
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Debt ceiling debate headed towards nasty fight between Obama, Republicans

President Barack Obama, meet Congressman Michael Burgess. The president says he absolutely will not let Republicans threaten a national debt ceiling crisis as a way to extract deeper federal spending cuts. Burgess’ take? “It’s the most preposterous thing I’ve ever heard,” the Texas Republican says. “He’s going to have to negotiate.” Both sides may be bluffing, of course. They may reach an agreement before the debt-limit matter becomes a crisis in March, or possibly late February. But the tough talk suggests this year’s political fight could be even nastier and more nerve-grating than the recent “fiscal cliff” showdown, or the
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Pelosi may want even more taxes for the rich

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi isn’t ruling out pushing for upper-income earners to pay more even after the “fiscal cliff” deal that raised their taxes. She tells CBS’ “Face the Nation” that “I’m saying that’s not off the table.” The California Democrats isn’t getting into specifics but she does discuss changes to tax law that might involve deductions and other breaks. The former House speaker also says the current Republican Party isn’t the “Grand Old Party that did so many things for America that commanded so much respect.” She says the country needs a strong GOP but she describes the
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Obama will nominate John Breenan to run CIA

President Barack Obama will nominate John Brennan as his next director of the Central Intelligence Agency. Brennan, a 25-year CIA veteran, currently serves as Obama’s top counterterrorism adviser. The White House says the president will announce Brennan’s nomination during an event Monday afternoon. At the same event, an administration official says, the president will also formally announce that he is nominating Chuck Hagel as his next defense secretary. Both men must be confirmed by the Senate. Obama considered Brennan for the top CIA job in 2008. But Brennan withdrew his name amid questions about his connection to enhanced interrogation techniques
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