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Obama claims ‘everything’ is on the table for cuts

President Barack Obama, plunging into the rancorous struggle over America’s mountainous debt, will draw sharp differences with Republicans Wednesday over how to conquer trillions of dollars in spending while somehow working out a compromise to raise some taxes and trim a cherished program like Medicare. Obama’s speech will set a new long-term deficit-reduction goal and establish a dramatically different vision from a major Republican proposal that aims to cut more than $5 trillion over the next decade, officials said Monday. Details of Obama’s plan are being closely held so far, but the deficit-cutting target probably will fall between the $1.1
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Food price surge fuels biofuel critics

A surge in global food prices has prompted fresh criticism of US subsidies for ethanol, which diverts massive amounts of corn from global food supplies for energy. Producers of ethanol argue that the biofuel helps blunt the impact of high imported petroleum prices, but critics say the US policy giving tax breaks for ethanol used in motor fuel ends up being bad for food, energy and the environment. The issue has created unusual political alliances, with environmental groups and some lawmakers from both parties clashing with farm interests and legislators from the corn-producing midwest states. Senators Tom Coburn, a Republican
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Republicans find themselves on Medicare hot seat

Now it’s their turn to try to fix the health care mess. Republicans, just like President Barack Obama, may discover that’s easier said than done. The GOP budget expected to go to the full House this week would remake health care programs for the elderly and the poor that have been in place for nearly half a century. Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., says his approach would “save” Medicare by keeping the financially troubled program affordable for federal taxpayers. But it turns out that people now 54 and younger would pay the price. By one authoritative estimate, they’d be
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Barbour’s lobbyist past could complicate campaign

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour is embracing his background as one of Washington’s top lobbyists, saying his powers of persuasion would be an asset if he wins the White House. But an Associated Press review of lobbying by the powerhouse firm Barbour helped found before his first campaign for governor shows that he represented clients on issues and interests that could provide his Republican primary opponents ample ammunition and raise eyebrows among some Republican voters. How Barbour addresses his lobbying past could determine his fate if he decides to seek the Republican nomination. Barbour Griffith & Rogers Inc., which Barbour helped
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Pentagon backing away from Iraq withdrawal deadline

Eight months shy of its deadline for pulling the last American soldier from Iraq and closing the door on an 8-year war, the Pentagon is having second thoughts. Reluctant to say it publicly, officials fear a final pullout in December could create a security vacuum, offering an opportunity for power grabs by antagonists in an unresolved and simmering Arab-Kurd dispute, a weakened but still active al-Qaida or even an adventurous neighbor such as Iran. The U.S. wants to keep perhaps several thousand troops in Iraq, not to engage in combat but to guard against an unraveling of a still-fragile peace.
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Feds stopped 360 terrorists from flying into U.S.

The U.S. government has prevented more than 350 people suspected of ties to al-Qaida and other terrorist groups from boarding U.S.-bound commercial flights since the end of 2009, The Associated Press has learned. The tighter security rules — imposed after the attempted bombing of an airliner on Christmas 2009 — reveal a security threat that persisted for more than seven years after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Until then, even as commercial passengers were forced to remove their shoes, limit the amount of shampoo in their carry-on luggage and endure pat downs, hundreds of foreigners with known or suspected
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Obama ready to lay out his spending plan

President Barack Obama and Congress are shifting from short-term budget concerns to debates over the nation’s long-term economic future, and everything — from Medicare and Medicaid cuts to tax hikes for the wealthy — is on the table. Much will be revealed at midweek, when the House and Senate are expected to vote on a budget for the remainder of this fiscal year and Obama unveils his plan to reduce the deficit, in part by scaling back the government’s chief health programs for seniors and the poor. The House, too, may vote on Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s spending plan
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GOP leadership void opens door for Paul Ryan

Republicans are pressing ahead with one of the most ambitious and risky long-term spending agendas in memory, yet the dozen or so potential White House hopefuls are nearly invisible on the issue. They can’t stay on the sidelines for long, however. The contentious debate will rope them in on terms they might find hard to control. The triumph of tea party candidates in 2010 pumped new urgency into a long-brewing Republican Party push for major cuts in domestic and benefit programs, including Medicare and Social Security. In the absence of a Republican president or clear-cut party leader, a little-known congressman
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Supreme Court justice O’Connor faulted for ethical lapses

Retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor continues to hear cases in U.S. appeals courts, while also playing a role in public policy issues. Her critics say she should do one or the other, but not both. O’Connor, 81, was forced to apologize for 50,000 recorded telephone calls made to Nevada voters in which she supported a ballot measure to change the way state judges are selected. O’Connor said she did not authorize the calls featuring her recorded voice, much less their post-midnight delivery. But she also defended her involvement in the campaign that included her appearance in a television
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Both sides win something in budget deal

Rivals in a divided government, President Barack Obama and the most powerful Republican in Congress split their differences to stave off a federal shutdown that neither combatant was willing to risk. Their compromise is the result of a battle pitting the enduring power of the presidential veto and the White House soapbox — despite a “shellacking” in the last election — against a strong-willed GOP House speaker vaulted into office by a voter revolt against Washington’s free-spending ways. The resulting measure will bleed about $40 billion from the day-to-day budgets of domestic agencies over just the next six months, the
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