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Last-minute deal avoids shutdown

A last minute budget deal, forged amid bluster and tough bargaining, averted an embarrassing federal shutdown and cut billions in spending — the first major test of the divided government voters ushered in five months ago. Working late into the evening Friday, congressional and White House negotiators struck an agreement to pay for government operations through the end of September while trimming $38.5 billion in spending. Lawmakers then approved a days-long stopgap measure to keep the government running while the details of the new spending plan were written into legislation. Actual approval of the deal would come in mid-week. “Today
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Budget battle tests Obama’s leadership

President Barack Obama promised to change Washington’s ways. Yet he is as caught up in them as ever. It was just at the start of this week that Obama launched his re-election bid with a sunny video of real people talking about their hopes and needs. It was the very image of life outside Washington politics. By week’s end, Obama was mired in budget negotiations, canceling trips and scrambling to hold off a government shutdown that would surely erode the public’s faith in his leadership. That’s the messy business of governing. And this is how it is going to be
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Planned parenthood, abotion and budgets

Republicans portray Planned Parenthood as primarily focused on performing abortions and — intentionally or not — using American taxpayer dollars to do it. Not so, say Democrats who counter that the group’s 800-plus health centers nationwide provide an array of services, from screenings for cancer to testing for sexually transmitted diseases. Abortion is just one of many procedures, and the law bars Planned Parenthood from using tax money for it. In the budget maelstrom Friday stood Planned Parenthood Federation of America, a 90-year-old organization now part of a decades-long congressional battle over abortion. Republicans wanted any legislation keeping the government
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House votes to overturn net neutrality

The House of Representatives voted on Friday to overturn “net neutrality” rules aimed at ensuring an open Internet, setting the stage for a clash with the Senate and President Barack Obama. The House voted 240-179 in favor of a Republican-backed resolution that seeks to block the rules approved by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The House vote went almost entirely along party lines although six Democrats joined the Republicans in voting for the resolution and two Republicans opposed it. The five-member, Democratic-controlled FCC, in a vote split on party lines, agreed in December to the rules aimed at safeguarding “network
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IRS snitch gets $4.5 million whistleblower award

An accountant who tipped off the IRS that his employer was skimping on taxes has received $4.5 million in the first IRS whistleblower award. The accountant’s tip netted the IRS $20 million in taxes and interest from the errant financial-services firm. The award represents a 22 percent cut of the taxes recovered. The program, designed to encourage tips in large-scale cases, mandates awards of 15 to 30 percent of the amount recouped. “It ought to encourage a lot of other people to squeal,” Sen. Charles Grassley told The Associated Press. The Iowa Republican helped get the IRS Whistleblower Office authorized
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Time is running out

Uncomfortably close to a deadline, President Barack Obama and top congressional leaders have only hours to avert a Friday midnight government shutdown that all sides say would inconvenience millions of people and damage a still fragile economy. Obama said he still hoped to announce an agreement on Friday but did not have “wild optimism.” In revealing nothing about what still divides them, Obama and the lawmakers, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., all said another late night of talks in the Oval Office had narrowed their differences over cutting federal spending and other matters.
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Workers brace for government shutdown

A weather forecaster says he may have to live off the money he’s been setting aside for a Caribbean vacation. A worker in Washington hopes to polish his resume so he can retire from public service and work in the private sector. An accountant wonders if she can put off her mortgage for a month. Federal workers like them across the U.S. will be out of work and without a paycheck if the looming government shutdown isn’t averted. Some say they will make the best of it, using the spare time to get a few things done. Others are far
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How a government shutdown will affect you

You’d still get your mail — and your usual Social Security payment. But troops’ pay might be delayed, and you’d have to put off that spring break trip to a national park. Here’s how government services would or wouldn’t be affected if there’s a partial shutdown Friday at midnight:   Benefit payments: Social Security payments would continue, and applications would still be processed. Unemployment benefits would still go out. Medicare would still pay claims for recipients, but payments to doctors and hospitals could be delayed if the shutdown were prolonged. Mail: Deliveries as usual (U.S. postal operations are not subsidized
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Shadow of Newt Gingrich looms over shutdown

In this Nov. 20, 1995, file photo, House Speaker Newt Gingrich, of Ga., holds the original budget compromise given to him by White House Chief of Staff Leon Panetta during an address before the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington. Gingrich was the face of the last federal government shutdown, the fiery House speaker who led his Republican revolution headlong into a confrontation with a Democratic president. (AP Photo/J.Scott Applewhite, File) Newt Gingrich was the face of the last federal government shutdown, the fiery House speaker who led his Republican revolution headlong into a confrontation with a Democratic president. Now,
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Social Security ending mailed earning statements

Those yearly statements that Social Security mails out — here’s what you’d get if you retired at 62, at 66, at 70 — will soon stop arriving in workers’ mailboxes. It’s an effort to save money and steer more people to the agency’s website. The government is working to provide the statements online by the end of the year, if it can resolve security issues, Social Security Commissioner Michael Astrue said. If that fails, the agency will resume the paper statements, which cost $70 million a year to mail, he said. “We’ll provide it, we expect, one way or another,
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