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Monday
May092011

Would Campaign Finance Disclosure Create Spoils System?

Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Republicans on Capitol Hill are up in arms about an expected move by President Obama to make companies disclose their political donations if they want to bid for government contracts.

The president is expected to sign an executive order to that effect in the coming days, according to GOP sources on Capitol Hill.

The move would signal the latest round in an ongoing battle that has raged ever since the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling.  In response to that decision, Democrats in Congress pushed the Disclose Act, a bill to impose new financial disclosure rules on political campaigns.

However, even though the House last year passed the bill, Democrats in the Senate fell short in multiple efforts to send it on to the supportive White House. No Senate Republicans backed it at all.  The bill would not have applied to a select group of unions and organizations such as the National Rifle Association, AARP and the Sierra Club, an exclusion that sparked a fierce debate over the fairness of the measure.

Now, the expected executive order from the White House has reignited the battle over disclosing political donations.

In a recent letter to the president, 27 Republicans led by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and the top GOP senator on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Susan Collins lashed out at the possible move.

Such an order, the Republicans said, "could have a chilling effect on the First Amendment rights of individuals to contribute to the political causes or candidates of their choice."

"Political activity would obviously be chilled if prospective contractors have to fear that their livelihood could be threatened if the causes they support are disfavored by the administration," they wrote.

They also warned that such a move would create "the appearance that contract award decisions could be predicated on-or influenced by-political contributions or considerations."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
May092011

Health Care Law Challenge Inches Toward Supreme Court

Photos.com/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Justice Department lawyers are preparing to defend the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, the Obama administration's most celebrated legislative achievement.

The arguments, to begin Tuesday morning, mark the first time a challenge to the health care law has been heard by a federal appeals court.

Acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal will argue that the law makes health care coverage widely available, protects consumers from insurance industry underwriting practices, and reduces the cost of uncompensated care that was previously borne by those with health insurance.

But critics say the law is unconstitutional.  They say that Congress exceeded its authority when it passed the main provision of the law that requires an individual to buy health insurance by 2014 or face a tax penalty.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit will hear two cases, one brought by the Commonwealth of Virginia, the other by Liberty University, a private Christian school.

The administration contends that the Constitution empowers Congress to regulate interstate economic activity.  It points to the costs the uninsured have passed on to providers, patients and the insured population.

Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II, the Attorney General of Virginia, says in court briefs that while Congress can regulate interstate activity, it cannot regulate inactivity.  He says the individual mandate compels people to buy insurance against their will.  Hei also argues that the law conflicts with a state law already on the books that says residents cannot be forced to buy health insurance.

The second case involves a challenge from Liberty University, which does not want to be forced to buy health insurance that might not be "compatible" with its employees' Christian values.  Two Virginia residents, Michele G. Waddell and Joanne V. Merrill, are also a part of the suit.  They argue that they want to manage their health care privately.

So far, three federal district court judges have upheld the law, and two others have found the individual mandate to be unconstitutional.  The three who upheld the law were appointed by Democratic presidents; those who struck it down were appointed by Republicans.

The Fourth Circuit will not announce which judges will make up the panels hearing the cases until the morning of arguments.

It is expected that the issue could reach the Supreme Court as early as next term, in the heat of the next presidential debate.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
May092011

Obama to Weigh Keeping Troops on US, Mexico Border

Scott Olson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama will raise the issue of immigration reform to the fore this week with a trip to the U.S.-Mexico border, where he faces a looming decision on whether to keep 1,200 National Guardsmen deployed.

Nearly one year ago, under pressure from congressional Republicans and border state governors to do more to curtail illegal immigration, Obama authorized the use of troops to assist the Border Patrol with immigration enforcement operations in California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.

Funding for the border security mission approved by Congress expires in June.

In a letter to Obama last month, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer urged the administration to extend the Guard deployment, saying she believes it has had a significant impact on reducing smuggling activity and border violence.

Brewer said the guard has been involved in approximately 19,000 surveillance operations, 10,000 apprehensions of illegal migrants and 235 seizures of drug shipments, including over 18 tons of marijuana.

While the guardsmen cannot directly engage in law enforcement on U.S. soil, they have served as criminal analysts and on so-called entry identification teams, which help spot illegal border crossers.

More than 524 troops have been active in Arizona, 250 in Texas, 224 in California and 72 in New Mexico, officials have said.  Over 100 additional troops from the border states serve in command and control positions.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said last week that the administration is considering extending the mission, but that costs of the deployment remain a concern.

Some Republicans, who have proposed cutting funding for border security in their budget proposals for 2012, also oppose spending millions of dollars more to keep the troops deployed.

Still, advocates on both sides of the immigration debate agree the National Guard mission has been success and should continue at least for the short term.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Sunday
May082011

White House: U.S. Won't Increase Presence in Libya

MARCO LONGARI/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- In an interview with ABC News’ Christiane Amanapour, President Obama’s National Security adviser Tom Donilon insisted that the United States would not increase its presence in Libya due to NATO's success in protecting the embattled nation's civilians.

"NATO is still running this operation now, we're supporting it," Donilon told Amanpour. "They have the assets that are needed for them to engage in the civilian protection mission, and they are engaging."

Recalling NATO's ineffective war policy in Bosnia, where the U.S. "gave the Europeans the lead and they weren't able to protect the civilians," Amanpour asked if the United States policy of "leading from behind" will be ineffective in achieving the desired results in Libya.

"Will the U.S. step up more involvement?" Amanpour asked the White House National Security Adviser.

"No," responded Donilon. "When the president made this decision, there was an immediate threat to 700,000 Libyan civilians in the town of Benghazi. We've had a success here in terms of being able to protect those civilians. Now we need to continue that civilian protection mission and continue to put the pressure on Gadhaffi."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Sunday
May082011

Donilon: Pakistan Remains Important U.S. Ally

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Following the killing of Osama bin Laden, a lot of questions have been raised about whether or not Pakistani officials were aware that bin Laden had been hiding out in the town of Abbottabad, in a compound located only a third of a mile away from a military academy of the Pakistani Army.

"The idea that he could be in a suburb essentially of Islamabad is quite remarkable," said former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, in an interview with ABC News’ Christiane Amanpour.

"This isn't a time bluster from Pakistan," Rice added. "This is a time for serious analysis of why this happened, why he was hiding in plain sight for apparently as long as he was."

The U.S. did not give Pakistan prior warning about the raid in which Navy SEALs killed bin Laden, and White House national security advisor Tom Donilon said that decision was not based on mistrust, but rather on "operational security." The United States acted on the assumption that bin Laden had an escape plan; if the information leaked, the Al Qaeda leader would vanish once more. There was also the matter of protecting U.S. forces.

"The safety and security of our operators would have been put at issue," Donilon said. "So we didn't share this with anybody, not even our closest ally."

Pakistan remains an important ally of the United States, the national security advisor noted, and its role in the ongoing fight against terrorism should not be so easily dismissed.

The United States also has an immediate interest in preserving the relationship: Pakistan has in its custody all the non-combatants of the Abbottabad compound, including three of Bin Laden's wives. Pakistani officials also took additional material from the compound, according to Donilon, and the United States needs access to it.

Rice said it is possible and probable that high-ranking Pakistani officials did not know bin Laden was hiding in Abbottabad. Ignorance, however, is not an excuse.

"If this happens in your country," Rice told Amanpour, "you have an obligation to find out and to do a thorough investigation and to punish anybody who might have been responsible."

Politicians and Americans are now questioning whether the United States should cut off funding to Pakistan. From 2002 to 2010, the United States gave $13.3 billion in security-related aid to Pakistan, and $6 billion for economic assistance. More than $3 billion was requested for 2011.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Saturday
May072011

Jon Huntsman Defends Obama Administration Role

LIU JIN/AFP/Getty Images(COLUMBIA, S.C.) -- Former U.S. Ambassador to China and potential 2012 Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman made a stop at the University of South Carolina Saturday, to speak at the school’s graduation.

During his speech, the former ambassador and Utah governor addressed the issue that both Republicans and Democrats appear intent on using against him if he launches a White House bid -- his service in the administration of a president he may now be seeking to run against.

"Work to keep America great. Serve her if asked. I was, by a president of a different political party," Huntsman said. "But in the end, while we might not all be of one party, we are all part of one nation -- a nation that needs your generational gift, energy and confidence."

That he chose South Carolina and a graduation ceremony is notable. South Carolina is one of the four early primary states, and a graduation ceremony, instead of a traditional political event, allowed him to define himself as a person and not just a politician.

Even so, the South Carolina primary doesn't seem like a natural fit for Huntsman, whose moderate record on issues like cap-and trade-and civil unions for gay couples are not likely to sit well with the evangelical conservative electorate there.

The debate over America's relationship with China is also going to be something Huntsman is going to have to navigate. China was often used as a boogeyman during the 2010 election cycle and potential candidates like Donald Trump have made China's "currency manipulation" a major talking point in speeches to GOP-oriented groups.

"There are many in China who think their time has come, that America's best days are over. And, there are probably some in this country who have lost confidence and think that China is the next big thing," Huntsman said. "But these people aren't seeing things from my earlier vantage point of 10,000 miles away. The way I saw it from overseas, America's passion remains as strong today as ever."

Huntsman has wasted no time jump-starting the preparations for a potential presidential bid. In fact, several key supporters, including veterans of Sen. John McCain's 2008 presidential operation, had already formed a kind of campaign-in-waiting by the time Huntsman touched down in the U.S. last week.

On Tuesday Huntsman set up a federal political action committee, "H PAC." A spokesman for the PAC, Tim Miller, said it was “an organizational step that will allow him to travel the country, discuss issues that are important to him, and support Republican candidates.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Saturday
May072011

Obama's Weekly Address: Clean Energy Jobs are the Jobs of the Future

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Speaking in his weekly address on Saturday, President Obama said that although the economy wasn’t the main news story of the past week, he remains focused on the issue.

Speaking from the Allison Transmissions plant in Indianapolis, Indiana, the president said he chose to visit the facility because it was a place where workers were doing "big and impressive things.”

“The clean energy jobs at this plant are the jobs of the future – jobs that pay well right here in America,” Obama said. “And in the years ahead, it’s clean energy companies like this one that will keep our economy growing, create new jobs, and make sure America remains the most prosperous nation in the world.”

President Obama said while there are no quick fixes to the problem of rising gas prices, the government is doing its part to boost safe and responsible oil production here in the U.S.
 
“…over the long term, the only way we can avoid being held hostage to the ups and downs of oil prices is if we reduce our dependence on oil,” said. “That means investing in clean, alternative sources of energy, like advanced biofuels and natural gas.”

Obama said cutting investment in clean energy is not something that he supported.

“I absolutely agree that the only way we’ll be able to afford the things we need is by cutting the things we don’t and living within our means. But I refuse to cut investments like clean energy that will help us out-innovate and out-compete the rest of the world.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Saturday
May072011

GOP Weekly Address: Sen. Brown Commends Military on bin Laden Killing

Scott J. Ferrell/Congressional Quarterly/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The killing of Osama bin Laden was the main focus of the weekly Republican address, which was delivered on Saturday by U.S. Senator Scott Brown (R-Mass.).

Senator Brown said while bin Laden’s death can’t compensate for the loss of lives at the hands of the al Qaeda leader, it is “always a victory” when Justice has the final word.

“This was a man who rejoiced in the suffering and death of others, who set in motion all the horror and grief of 9/11 and considered it just a start,” Brown said. “He was a teacher of evil, and now, for him, the lesson is over. It ends not in the fulfillment of some fanatical vision, but in the depths of the Arabian Sea.”

Brown commended members of the U.S. military and the intelligence community for their role in the killing of bin Laden, and said that anyone seeking to do Americans harm will be dealt with.

“The operation was a model of sustained, concentrated military action, and the example will not be lost on other terrorists,” he said. “Any escape they make will be temporary. Any sanctuary they find will be uncovered.  Those who harm or threaten the American people will be dealt with, on our terms, however long it takes.”

The Massachusetts senator said one lesson that can be learned from the killing of bin Laden by Navy SEALs in Pakistan early Monday is that commitment to even the hardest objectives is rewarded.

“We all heard it said that bin Laden was beyond our reach, in some remote corner of the earth, and after almost a decade we could surely never find him. Let me tell you it’s always a mistake to bet against American resourcefulness and determination.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
May062011

Michelle Obama Thanks Military Families

ABC/Donna Svennevik(WASHINGTON) -- In an emotional moment on Friday, First Lady Michelle Obama told a gathering of mothers, grandmothers and spouses of U.S. service members at the White House that she understands some of them may be sad this Mother’s Day because they are mourning a loved one.

“All we can do is hug you and tell you that we are thinking and praying and working for you all.”

Not all of the guests for “Military Spouse Appreciate Day” at the White House have lost a loved one in military service, some of the family members have loved ones currently serving in the military.

Mrs. Obama told the families that they were invited over to the White House for tea because she hoped the invite could serve as a very small way to say thank you.

“Every day you deal with things that most of us can only imagine,” the first lady said.  

“Even if you’re not the ones wearing the uniform, every single one of you is serving our country and every single one of you deserves our support.”  

The families enjoyed tea and snacks with Mrs. Obama as well as Dr. Jill Biden, who herself is a military mother and grandmother.

In her own remarks, Biden mentioned the military operation to kill Osama bin Laden.  “The historic action in Pakistan reminds Americans of the courage military family members demonstrate on a daily basis.”  She said the entire nation is proud of all the families.

“You are all heroes.”  

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
May062011

Secret Service Signs Up for Twitter

NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The United States Secret Service is getting ready to take up residence in the Twitter universe.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has announced that the Secret Service will roll out its official Twitter page on Monday. The unveiling of the page on the popular social networking website follows the recent launch of the Secret Service’s new recruiting website, and officials are hoping that “tweeting” can help with recruitment.

“The internet is a valuable resource for people all over the world,” said Secret Service Assistant Director Mickey Nelson in a statement. “By using social media sites, we hope to supplement our recruitment efforts, while providing an informative, helpful tool to businesses and individuals who are interested in information from our agency.”

Officials say the Twitter page will be used to share press releases, explore the Secret Service’s history, and promote upcoming recruitment opportunities, among other uses.

The page can be accessed by logging on to http://www.twitter.com/SecretService.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







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