President Barack Obama warned Russia on Wednesday that the West will be forced to apply a cost to Moscow if it fails to change course in its dispute with Ukraine. Obama held face-to-face talks with new Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk in the Oval Office and told reporters with Yatseniuk seated at his side that, "We will stand with Ukraine." Yatseniuk said Ukraine stands ready for talks on the crisis, and vowed, "We will never surrender" to Russia.
By Thomas Ferraro WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The normally divided U.S. Senate moved forward on Wednesday with a new, bipartisan agreement designed to ease partisan gridlock. I'm optimistic," said Republican Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee. "But I believe in not counting your chickens until they hatch." "The goal here is to get off to a small but positive start with bipartisan bills, so that we can get back to legislating and tackling bigger issues in a responsible way," said Democratic Senator Charles Schumer of New York. "I hope it works." Alexander and Schumer took the lead in recent months to craft the agreement to help the Senate set aside its partisan fights so that it could debate, amend and pass legislation.
There will be no delay in the penalty most Americans face under President Barack Obama's healthcare reform law if they fail to obtain health coverage this year, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said on Wednesday. Sebelius also said there would be no postponement of this month's deadline for enrolling in coverage through new private health insurance marketplaces or the Medicaid program for the poor. "No, sir," was Sebelius' categorical answer when asked about both prospects by Representative Kevin Brady of Texas at a hearing of the House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee. Speaking a day after her department released new Obamacare data showing private insurance enrollment rising to 4.2 million people as of March 1, Sebelius rebuffed Republican claims that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act's implementation was failing to attract enough enrollees.
By Susan Cornwell WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. House Republicans said on Wednesday that they are pushing a plan to delay for five years the penalties for failing to buy health insurance under Obamacare, and to use the savings to spare doctors from a steep cut in Medicare payments. Delaying until 2019 the financial penalty for not signing up for health insurance would slow down Obamacare signups and save the government billions of dollars that would otherwise be paid out in taxpayer subsidies to enrollees, the Republicans say, citing Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates. Democrats derided the idea as a "poison pill." They complained that House Republicans have tried dozens of times to change or repeal Obamacare and now proposed another change to a bipartisan deal making a long-sought repair to the formula used to determine Medicare payments to physicians. House Speaker John Boehner confirmed the Republican strategy when asked about it in a Capitol hallway.
By Mark Hosenball and Warren Strobel WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The White House's top lawyer has tried to mediate between the Senate Intelligence Committee and the CIA, which are making increasingly bitter mutual charges of spying on each other about a Bush-era program of harsh interrogation, a source familiar with the discussion told Reuters. The involvement of Counsel Kathryn Ruemmler indicates White House interest in ending the battle, in which the Central Intelligence Agency and the Senate panel have essentially accused each of spying on the other. Ruemmler has attempted to "de-escalate" the tension, the source said. The fight burst into the open on Monday when the committee chair Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein said the CIA had possibly broken the law by spying on Congress.
The latest snowfall was a bigger story in Washington this week than Tuesday's private meeting between the estranged president and House speaker - their first in more than a year. Since Barack Obama recently signaled he has all but given up on legislating with Republicans, and since John Boehner has flat out said he can't trust the president, the assumption in Washington is that the chances for big legislation anytime soon are basically zero, whether the White House breaks out the good china or not.
Ten years ago this week, John Kerry barely held off John Edwards in Wisconsin's Democratic primary, prolonging for another few weeks his plodding, uninspiring march to the party's presidential nomination. Kerry went on to lose an eminently winnable election, after which most Democrats in Washington expected him to disappear, like Walter Mondale or Michael Dukakis.
Democrats in Washington don't have to worry much about the kind of fratricidal disorder that plagues the modern Republican Party. But neither should they take too lightly the intraparty breach that seems to be widening in New York, where the mayor of the nation's biggest city is staring down the governor of its third largest state.
Let's be clear about this much: no matter what the soothsayers on cable TV tell you, Hillary Clinton is no more likely to clear the Democratic field and avoid a primary in 2016 than Dennis Rodman is to become her secretary of state. Walter Mondale couldn't pull that off in 1984, and Al Gore couldn't do it in 2000, and the conditions for Washington-anointed frontrunners have only gotten exponentially harder since then.
Thu, 06 Feb 2014 07:00:00 -0500
AP among First Amendment award winners
WASHINGTON (AP) - The Radio Television Digital News Foundation is presenting its First Amendment Award to The Associated Press for defending press freedoms against secret government subpoenas for reporters' phone calls.
Wed, 12 Mar 2014 16:43:45 -0400
Obama to raise money at Qualcomm founder's home
WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama will travel to California in May to raise money for House Democrats at the home of Qualcomm Inc. founder Irwin Jacobs.
Wed, 12 Mar 2014 16:41:33 -0400
WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama expressed a glimmer of hope Wednesday that a referendum on the future of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula can be halted, as he met with the new leader of the former Soviet republic.
WASHINGTON (AP) - The top CIA lawyer accused by the head of the Senate Intelligence Committee of trying to intimidate the panel over its investigation into secret prisons and brutal interrogations of terrorism suspects was himself involved in the controversial programs, cited more than 1,600 times in the Senate's unpublished investigative report, according to the panel's chairwoman, Sen. Dianne Feinstein.
Wed, 12 Mar 2014 16:30:27 -0400
Washington Insiders Say Chris Christie Won 2013
After a whirlwind year of crippling partisanship, bungled policy rollouts, and a government shutdown, most public figures are leaving this year with quite a few more chips to their image than they had in January. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie-a growing puzzle for Democrats and continuing headache for his fellow Republicans-emerged as the winner of 2013 on the political stage, according to a National Journal Political Insiders poll. Sixty percent of Democrats said Christie had the best 2013 of political figures, while 71 percent of Republicans said the same. The runners-up were barely any competition, with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton scoring 24 percent from Democrats and Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, pulling a mere 11 percent from GOP insiders.
Fri, 13 Dec 2013 11:40:05 -0500
Sorry Pope Francis, 2013 Was the Year of Quinoa
This year has seen tanking approval ratings for just about everybody in Washington, thanks to bungled policy initiatives, stalled legislation, and a government shutdown. It's quinoa, a highly nutritious, centuries-old grain, at least according to the United Nations. In February, the U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization declared 2013 the international year of quinoa, not for the grain's place in Western society as a healthy, even upscale ingredient that's tough to pronounce, but for its impact on food security around the world. The price of quinoa, often called "the miracle grain of the Andes" for its origins, has tripled since 2006, The Guardianreported early this year.
Fri, 13 Dec 2013 10:56:47 -0500
2013 Was Actually the Year of Quinoa
Between bungled or stalled policy initiatives and a government shutdown, moving the needle on progress on either side proved nearly impossible. According to the United Nations, 2013 was the year of quinoa, a highly nutritious, centuries-old grain. In February, the U.N.'s Food and Agricultural Organization declared 2013 the international year of quinoa, not for the grain's place in Western society as a healthy, even upscale ingredient that's tough to pronounce, but for its impact on food security around the world. The price of quinoa, often called "the miracle grain of the Andes" for its origins, has tripled since 2006, The Guardianreported early this year.
Fri, 13 Dec 2013 09:41:49 -0500
Republican Insiders to Tea Party: You're Not Helping Us
For Republicans, the group is something akin to a flesh-eating virus that threatens to chomp away at the GOP. The civil war between establishment and tea-party Republicans intensified this week when House Speaker John Boehner slammed outside conservative groups for "ridiculous" pushback against the bipartisan budget agreement, which cleared his chamber Thursday. Sixty-five percent of Republican influencers on the Hill called tea-party challengers to Republican lawmakers "very unhelpful" to the GOP, according to a National JournalPolitical Insiders poll published Friday. Their presence on the campaign trail leads to further splintering of the Grand Old Party, whose widening rift between establishment and tea-party members has not gone unnoticed by both Democratic opponents and the general public.
Fri, 13 Dec 2013 06:31:57 -0500
Republican Look-Alike Sites Mocking Democrats May Violate Rules
The National Republican Congressional Committee proudly launched a faux campaign website for Democratic candidate Domenic Recchia this week, mocking him as a "career politician . asking for your vote." They even bought Google ads to direct New Yorkers to www.domenic-recchia.com, designed at first glance to look like it could be Recchia's own, down to the same yellow star replacing the dot in the 'i' of his last name. The problem is such a look-alike site, with a banner blaring "Domenic Recchia for Congress," may violate Federal Election Commission regulations for confusing the public, election lawyers say. (Screengrab) "This doesn't even strike me as a close call," said Paul S. Ryan, senior counsel for the Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan campaign watchdog group. The Recchia site is just the latest in a series of mocking microsites the NRCC has put online to attack, taunt, and otherwise annoy Democratic congressional candidates from Montana to New York to West Virginia.
Fri, 13 Dec 2013 04:30:06 -0500
Voters in Florida's 13th Congressional District are heading to the polls today in a special election to replace the late GOP Rep. Bill Young, who died in October. By the end of the day, either Democrat Alex Sink or Republican David Jolly will be elected...
Senate Democrats kept their promise to stay up all night as they powered through a sleepless night into the morning to talk about climate change. The all-night session marked the 36th in Senate history, according to the Senate historian's office. Thirty senators were slated to...
WASHINGTON - Get ready for another all-nighter in the Senate. Twenty-eight Democratic senators are expected to take turns speaking on the Senate floor this evening all the way through Tuesday morning, all in the name of climate change awareness. While there is no specific legislation...
President Barack Obama told Ukraine's Prime Minister on Wednesday that the United States would stand by his country's defense of its sovereignty, conferring symbolic legitimacy on the Kiev government in a direct rebuke to Russia. Obama also said after meeting interim Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk that he hoped US diplomacy with Moscow over the next few days could cause a "rethinking" of plans for a secession referendum in Crimea on Sunday. Obama said that Russia had infringed international law with its incursion into Ukraine and warned that if President Vladimir Putin did not change course, he would face "costs" from the United States and the international community, which has already threatened economic sanctions.
Russia would be unable to disrupt the US military's withdrawal from Afghanistan even if it cut off access to supply routes across its territory, a top US commander said Wednesday. Amid rising tensions between Washington and Moscow over the crisis in Ukraine, the head of NATO-led forces in Afghanistan reassured lawmakers that Russia could not hold up a planned troop drawdown there. "I'm absolutely confident we'll be able to" remove all US equipment on schedule, General Joseph Dunford told the Senate Armed Services Committee. "Even if the Russians cut off one of the avenues?" Senator John McCain asked.
The US Energy Department said Wednesday a decision to release five million barrels from its Strategic Petroleum Reserve was a long-planned test, amid speculation it related to the Ukraine crisis. The department's decision for a "test drawdown" of the huge reserve is being done to test new regional pipeline systems in Texas and Louisiana, and has been under discussion "for many months", the department said. Department spokesman Bill Gibbons said it is required to undertake the test by law, though the last time a test release took place was in 1990.
Private messages were published in a London court Wednesday as prosecutors alleged that former members of Blair's Labour government offered support to the former executive of Rupert Murdoch's News International.
Long-stalled IMF reforms will be included in the Ukraine aid package that a US Senate panel votes on Wednesday, but lawmakers remain split over whether the financing upgrades are needed. Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Robert Menendez laid out the framework of the aid that will be considered at 1830 GMT. The package will include punitive sanctions against Ukrainians and Russians involved in the deadly crackdown on anti-government protesters in Kiev or the Russian army's recent incursion into Ukraine, and loan guarantees to the tune of $1 billion as put forward by the White House. It also will include reforms of the International Monetary Fund which were approved in 2010 but have yet to get a vote in the US Congress, and $50 million for democracy-building efforts.
No Pakistani civilians were killed by US drones last year as Washington slashed its controversial use of the pilotless planes in the country, a UN expert said Wednesday. "I am pleased to be able to report a very significant de-escalation in the use of armed drones by the United States in... Pakistan," Ben Emmerson told reporters in Geneva. "But perhaps most significantly, for the first time in nine years there were no reports of civilian casualties during 2013 in the FATA area of Pakistan," he added. The FATA, or Federally Administered Tribal Areas, is a region bordering Afghanistan where Pakistan's military is battling the Taliban and the United States has used drones to strike at Al-Qaeda militants.
US Secretary of State John Kerry said Wednesday he hoped to decide soon on whether to restore the full $1.5 billion in American aid to Egypt. We are committed to try to help make that happen," Kerry told lawmakers at a hearing into the State Department's 2015 budget request. Washington has struggled to define its policies towards Egypt since the military toppled democratically-elected Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in July. While refusing to term Morsi's ouster a "coup" arguing he had failed to heed the call for democratic reforms after long-term autocratic leader Hosni Mubarak was removed from office, Washington has warily eyed crackdowns by Egypt's new military-installed leadership.
The United States on Wednesday accused China of raising tensions by blocking two Philippines vessels as it urged freedom of navigation in the tense South China Sea. The United States, a treaty-bound ally of Manila, said it was "troubled" by Sunday's incident in which China prevented movement of two ships contracted by the Philippine navy to deliver supplies and troops to the disputed Second Thomas Shoal. Pending resolution of competing claims in the South China Sea, there should be no interference with the efforts of claimants to maintain the status quo," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said. The Philippines on Tuesday summoned China's charge d'affaires, accusing Beijing of a "clear and urgent threat" to Manila's interests.
Ahead of talks with Ukraine's interim prime minister, US Secretary of State John Kerry announced Wednesday he would meet his Russian counterpart on an 11th-hour mission as a referendum looms in Crimea. At the request of US President Barack Obama, Kerry told lawmakers he would fly to London late Thursday for last-ditch talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. "We will offer certain choices to Foreign Minister Lavrov and to President (Vladimir) Putin through him and to Russia, with hopes, and I think the hopes of the world, that we will be able to find a way forward that defuses this," he said.
The White House's top arms control official on Wednesday said US cooperation with Russia on agreements limiting nuclear arsenals would survive the worst East-West tensions in years sparked by Ukraine. Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall said that US and Russian officials were even now working "effectively" together to prepare for a nuclear security summit in The Hague later this month which President Barack Obama will attend. "We expect that the Russians will continue to abide by the arms control agreements that they have reached with us," said Sherwood-Randall, the White House Coordinator for Defense Policy, Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction, and Arms Control.
Republican David Jolly won a special congressional election in Florida, in an important early test of President Barack Obama's health care reforms as lawmakers gear up for November's mid-term elections. "We had a big win last night in Florida," House Speaker John Boehner told reporters Wednesday, crediting the outcome to his party's focus on job creation as well as opposition to the health care law known as "Obamacare." Jolly narrowly defeated Democrat Alex Sink in a race to replace Republican Bill Young, who died in October after four decades in office. His win further diminishes Democrats' chances of retaking the House of Representatives, where Republicans now hold a 233-199 seat advantage.
United Nations (United States) (AFP) - UN chief Ban Ki-moon appealed to the United States and Russia Wednesday to "reenergize" talks aimed at resolving the bloody civil war in Syria as it enters its fourth year. The UN-led peace talks, dubbed Geneva II, broke down on February 15 when a second round ended with no new date set for them to reconvene. Syria's government and opposition began talks on January 22, with the participation of dozens of nations, including Russia, which backs the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, and the United States, which supports the opposition.
US Secretary of State John Kerry said he will travel to London to meet his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov on Friday as a potentially explosive referendum looms in Ukraine's Crimea peninsula. "We will offer certain choices to Foreign Minister Lavrov and through him President (Vladimir) Putin in the hopes, and I think the hopes of the world, that we will be able to find a way forward," Kerry told lawmakers Wednesday. The top Russian and US diplomats have clashed since last week over how to end the Ukraine crisis, after thousands of Russian troops were deployed into Crimea, home to Moscow's Black Sea Fleet.