Mitt Romney to Lay Out Health Reform Plan Thursday

TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Former Massachusetts Governor and likely Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney will outline his approach to health care reform in Michigan on Thursday, announcing a plan to “repeal and replace” the law that Democrats enacted last year.

As governor in 2006, Romney signed Massachusetts’ bipartisan health reform law. It required everyone in the state to obtain health insurance and became a model for the controversial law that national Democrats enacted for the entire country in 2010.

The speech Thursday at the University of Michigan Cardiovascular Center will focus on “rolling out his plan to repeal and replace” the national health care law, according to one senior aide.

Romney’s greatest hurdle as a Republican presidential candidate will be squaring his status as the father of health reform in Massachusetts with the near-unanimous opposition the national law faces among Republicans.

A Romney adviser tells ABC News that he will address his own record on health care reform but that it won’t be a major focus of his speech. Look for Romney to continue his federalism defense: the plan he enacted was right for Massachusetts, but not for the entire country.

Romney will try to differentiate him from the rest of the Republican field by offering something concrete with which to replace the health reform law.

A press release lays out his “2012 Principles for Health Reform”:

  • Restore to the states the responsibility and resources to care for their poor, uninsured, and chronically ill.
  • Give a tax deduction to those who buy their own health insurance, just like those who buy it through their employers.
  • Streamline the federal regulation of healthcare.
  • Reduce the influence of lawsuits on medical practice and costs.
  • Make healthcare more like a consumer market and less like a government program.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Jon Stewart Revives Rick Santorum's 'Google Problem'

Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum, who turned 53 on Tuesday, is trending high in the Google-sphere, but not for the reasons he’d like.

Daily Show host Jon Stewart revived Santorum’s so-called “Google problem” Monday night on his show, encouraging viewers to search ‘Rick Santorum’ and see what they find.

The top results are a less than flattering mix of links to web sites that associate his name with a sex act.

“Santorum might as well change his last name to lemon party,” joked Stewart.

The search results have been the fixation of gay rights advocates since 2003, when blogger Dan Savage mobilized online supporters to create a new definition for Santorum after he publicly compared gay sex to pedophilia and bestiality.

Using a network of cross links and by driving up “clicks,” the activists have succeeded in keeping their definition at the top of search returns.

“There's no better way to memorialize the Santorum scandal than by attaching his name to a sex act that would make his big, white teeth fall out of his big, empty head,” Savage said at the time.

Santorum, who has said he believes homosexuality will “undermine the fabric of our society,” has acknowledged the controversy but sought to downplay its significance.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Senate Dems Call for End of Tax Breaks for Big Oil

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Three Senate Democrats unveiled a bill Tuesday to scrap some tax breaks for the five biggest and most profitable oil companies and pledged to turn over the savings from the proposed cuts to pay down the federal deficit.

The bill, known as the Close Big Oil Tax Loopholes Act, would cut about $2 billion per year in tax subsidies for the five biggest oil companies by eliminating the domestic manufacturing tax deduction and closing a loophole Democrats say “amounts to the U.S. government subsidizing foreign oil production.”

The sponsors of the legislation -- Sens. Robert Menendez, Sherrod Brown and Claire McCaskill (all of whom are up for reelection in November 2012) -- said the savings from their bill would go directly to deficit reduction, not reallocated for new spending.

While there is little appetite among Congressional Republicans to support what could be perceived as a vote to increase taxes, the confrontational move comes after House Speaker John Boehner told ABC News in an exclusive interview last month that oil companies deserve "some part of this to blame" for rising gasoline prices and that he believes reviewing oil subsidies is "certainly something we should be looking at." 

President Obama quickly wrote a letter to Congressional leadership encouraging both parties to "take immediate action” to clear the daunting legislative hurdle and “eliminate unwarranted tax breaks for the oil and gas industry and use the dollars to invest in clean energy."

The Senate bill faces a tough battle as Democrats would not only have to secure votes from all 53 members in their caucus, but also seven Republicans as well.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Senate Subcommittee Investigates Mobile Safety, Data Collection

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The growing use of mobile technology to communicate is making it easier to stay in touch -- maybe even more than you desire. A Senate subcommittee is looking at ways to give consumers control of the data generated by their smart phones and other devices.

“Consumers have a fundamental right to know what data is being collected about them,” said Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn, chairman of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law. “I also believe they have a right to decide whether they want to share that information and with whom they want to share it and when.”

Franken says that data collected by the mobile device in your pocket can tell an awful lot about you, and that the scope of the problem is staggering.

“Each year over 26,000 adults are stalked through the use of GPS devices, including GPS devices on mobile phones,” Franken said. “That’s from 2006, when there were a third as many smart phones as there are today.”

Testifying on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, Jessica Rich of the Federal Trade Commission said there's a lot to be worried about.

“These concerns stem from the always-on, always-with you personal nature of mobile devices,” Rich said, noting the potential hazards of “invisible collection and sharing of data with multiple parties, the ability to track consumers -- including children and teens -- to their precise location.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Obama to Speak on Immigration Reform at US-Mexico Border

JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama will tout his administration's improvements in border security and renew a commitment to overhauling the nation's immigration system in a speech Tuesday on the U.S.-Mexico border at El Paso, Texas.

But with key voices on both sides of the debate saying there is little chance Congress will overhaul immigration laws any time soon, Obama's speech is widely seen as a political appeal to Hispanics, who are a key constituency for his 2012 re-election campaign.

Hispanics voted for Obama by a 2-1 margin in 2008.  But many have since become disillusioned, hit hard by the sluggish economic recovery and disappointed by unfulfilled promises to improve policies affecting millions of legal and illegal immigrants and their families, community leaders say.

The White House insists that Obama has always been committed to achieving a comprehensive package of immigration system reforms, and has blamed the shifting political winds in Washington for the delay.

Most Republicans and some moderate Democrats staunchly oppose any legislation that would address the legal status of the country's estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants, citing concerns about competition for scarce U.S. jobs and added strain on social welfare programs.

Still, Obama has held three high-profile meetings on immigration in recent weeks, pulling together a diverse mix of stakeholders and lawmakers from across the country to enlist help campaigning for his plan, and adding pressure on Republicans who oppose it.

Obama envisions a sweeping law that would make immigration enforcement programs more strategic, penalize employers who hire illegal workers, streamline the visa process and provide relief to thousands of immigrant families living in the shadows.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Big Break for Health Care Reform?

Creatas Images/Thinkstock(RICHMOND, Va.) -- As Justice Department lawyers prepare to defend the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals announced that the arguments -- which mark the first time a challenge to the health care law has been heard by a federal appeals court -- will be heard by three judges who were all appointed by Democratic presidents.

Up until now, the three lower court judges who have ruled in favor of the health care law were appointed by Democratic presidents, and the two who have struck down the law's central provision were nominated by Republican presidents. Now, for the first time, the challenge to the law will be heard by a three-judge appeals court panel; two of the judges were appointed by President Obama and one by President Clinton. The judges are: Diana Motz (Clinton), Andre Davis (Obama) and James Wynn (Obama).

While significant, this does not guarantee a victory for the administration. There is precedent for a judge appointed by a president from one party to rule in a way that might seem favorable to the opposing party.

A statement from the court explained that the judges were assigned by random selection: "The clerk of the court maintains a list of mature cases available for oral argument and on a monthly basis merges those cases with a list of three judge panels provided by a computer program designed to achieve random selection."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Arizona Appeals to Supreme Court Over Immigration Law

Ethan Miller/Getty Images(PHOENIX) -- Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer is so determined to have her state's controversial immigration enforcement law enacted that she's skipping the full 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and taking the matter directly to the Supreme Court.

It's widely assumed that was the Republican's intention all along, after a federal judge last July imposed an injunction on the most contentious provisions of the law, which includes allowing police officers to question a person's immigration status during the course of an arrest.

A three-member panel of the 9th Circuit Court upheld the lower court ruling, leaving parts of the law, known as SB 1070, in limbo.  Brewer decided she stood a better shot with the Supreme Court rather than the full appeals court, given the high court has five conservative justices who may be sympathetic to her cause.

The Justice Department will argue against the law, claiming that only the federal government can arrest and deport illegal immigrants.

Some parts of SB 1070 were allowed to go into effect, such as a provision dealing with sanctions for employers who hire illegal immigrants.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Senate Republicans Block Key Obama Nominee at Justice Department

Comstock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Senate Republicans Monday night blocked the Obama administration’s pick to be deputy attorney general, James Cole.

Cole’s nomination to become the second-in-command to Eric Holder at the Justice Department failed to overcome the Senate’s 60-vote threshold, going down to defeat 50-40.  The only Republican to support Cole was Indiana’s Dick Lugar.  Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid changed his vote to no to allow him to bring up the nomination again at a later date.

Frustrated Democrats quickly noted that the current terrorism threat in the wake of Osama bin Laden’s death demands a complete national security team.  The timing, Democrats said, makes the GOP’s historic filibuster the “wrong filibuster at the wrong time.”

“Experts and the American people believe that we are now facing a heightened terrorism threat in the wake of the raid upon Osama bin Laden’s compound," said Judiciary Committee chairman Pat Leahy.  "Our success in protecting our nation depends on the ability of the president to rely on his national security team.  Jim Cole is a key member of that team, with a well-deserved reputation for toughness, fairness, and integrity.  He has demonstrated the leadership skills and clear-eyed focus on the mission that we need against al Qaeda,”

“This is the wrong filibuster at the wrong time, against a nominee endorsed by former Republican Sen. Jack Danforth and other Republican officials,” Leahy added.  “For the first time in history, a nominee to serve as the deputy attorney general -- a key national security position -- is facing a partisan filibuster.”

Reid said, “Republicans are blocking us from confirming the man who signs the warrants they need to hunt down terrorists.  This is not the time to play partisan games with our nation’s safety.”

Still, the GOP opposition to Cole was steadfast.  The top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, Iowa’s Chuck Grassley, raised concerns about Cole’s time as an independent consultant to insurance giant AIG, as well as Cole’s views on combating terrorism.

Grassley added that Cole was a recess appointment by President Obama, another issue that fueled Republican opposition.

The Obama administration responded to Monday night’s Senate vote by saying it is “confident” Cole will be confirmed, but “disappointed” in Monday night’s vote.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Newt Gingrich: Announcement Coming on Presidential Intentions?

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Newt Gingrich was widely criticized for bungling the initial announcement that he was contemplating a run for president, but now he’s making sure there’s no confusion.

On Monday, Gingrich urged supporters on Twitter and Facebook to tune into Fox News on Wednesday night, telling them he will “talk about my run for President of the United States” with host Sean Hannity.

“I have been humbled by all the encouragement you have given me to run,” Gingrich wrote in a message on his Facebook page. “Thank you for your support.”

Aides to the former House Speaker said that he plans to use social media platforms to officially enter the race for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination on Wednesday. Two days later, he is scheduled to deliver a speech at the Georgia Republican Party Convention in Macon, Ga. On Sunday, he is scheduled to appear on NBC’s Sunday news program, Meet The Press.

It’s all part of Gingrich’s attempt to re-insert himself into the presidential race after announcing in early March that he was beginning what his advisers called the “explore phase” of his campaign. Somewhere between testing-the-waters and a full-fledged exploratory committee, Gingrich launched a website,

A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll released late last week put Gingrich in fifth place -- tied with Rep. Ron Paul, R-Tex. -- among Republicans who were asked to rate the potential GOP candidates. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee was out in front with 16 percent, followed by real estate mogul Donald Trump (14 percent), former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (13 percent), and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (11 percent). Gingrich and Paul each received 10 percent support in the national poll.

In a head-to-head matchup among all adults, an April ABC News/Washington Post poll found President Obama leading Gingrich by 15 points.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Ripped Rep’s Abs Send 'Schock' Through Capitol Hill

United States Congress(WASHINGTON, D.C.) -- Photos of Republican lawmaker Aaron Schock, R-Illinois, created a buzz Monday after the youngest member of the House of Representatives was photographed for the cover of Men’s Health magazine showing off his washboard abdominal muscles.

Schock, who is 29 and single, is featured in a spread pushing the two-term congressman’s challenge to Americans to lose weight and get healthier this summer with a Take the Fit for Life Summer Challenge.

“You have the power to change your life for the better. By making smart, simple food and fitness choices, you can take control of your health—and look and feel better than you have in years! (And you’ll even be helping our nation in the bargain.),” Schock writes in the June issue of Men’s Health. “Do it for yourself. Do it for your family. Do it for your country!”

The article details Schock’s daily workout routine that begins at 6:30 a.m. in the House of Representatives gym on Capitol Hill. Schock, is one of a handful of Members of Congress who work out at the House gym for weight training, cardio and P90X training sessions, the video workout series created by exercise instructor Tony Horton.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) quickly jumped on the sultry images with its own photoshopped version of the magazine cover that pokes fun at Schock and asks "Who Needs Medicare When You’ve Got Abs Like These?"

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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