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Friday
Feb182011

Battle Over Clean Energy: Next Partisan Fight?

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The House Republicans' 2011 budget proposal, which proposes deep cuts in clean energy programs, threatens President Obama's goals and sets the stage for a battle between Republicans and Democrats to define the country's energy agenda.

The House Republicans' continuing resolution that would fund the government until October is unlikely to pass in the Senate, and the president threatened to veto it this week.

But the budget bill, which calls for hefty cuts in energy and environmental research, indicates that finding common ground on the subject may not be an easy task.

"By 2035, 80 percent of America's electricity will come from clean energy sources," President Obama said last month in his State of the Union address. "Some folks want wind and solar. Others want nuclear, clean coal and natural gas. To meet this goal, we will need them all, and I urge Democrats and Republicans to work together to make it happen."

But the Republican agenda slashes nearly $889 million from energy efficiency and renewable energy programs and cuts billions from federal agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency. It bars the EPA from using Congressional funds to regulate emissions under the Clean Air Act or from denying or approving state implementation plans or permits, and takes away $3 billion from the agency's budget.

It cuts back funding for energy, water and science programs, and reduces funding for non-core research and federal loan guarantees for lower-demand programs, including those related to the energy and environment. Most committees are prohibited from starting new programs without approval.

Democrats charge that the Republicans' agenda will halt projects already in the works and make it difficult for the Energy Department to guarantee loans. Others say it will halt job creation and curb U.S. global competitiveness.

Experts say there is likely to be a mix of targeted efforts going forward, but whether they are successful in the current polarized political environment remains to be seen.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Feb182011

Will Obama Administration Veto UN Resolution Critical of Israel?

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The Obama administration finds itself in a diplomatic jam.

It is possible that later Friday it will have to decide whether or not to break from its steadfast support for Israel in the United Nations and support a measure in the Security Council that nearly reiterates its own policy.

The source of the quandary is a resolution introduced at the Security Council last month by Lebanon and backed by more than a hundred countries, that would condemn Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank as "illegal."

The United States, seeking to avoid a step it believes would further complicate efforts to revive stalled peace talks, has since scrambled to prevent the resolution from being put to a vote.

Led by the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice, the United States has proposed alternatives, including a weaker so-called Presidential Statement that it says would be non-binding and also balance the criticism by mentioning rocket attacks into Israel from Gaza, according to a U.S. official.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told reporters on Thursday that the U.S. is searching for a solution, but wouldn't say what.

"We are working with our partners in the Security Council, with our friends in the region, to find a consensus way forward that is consistent with our overall approach.  There are a lot of rumors flying around and I'm not going to get into any specifics at this time," she said.

U.N. diplomats tell ABC News the Palestinians have to decide soon whether to accept the alternative, otherwise the Lebanese are prepared to put the original resolution to a vote on Friday afternoon.  If the resolution comes to a vote, the United States would have to decide whether to veto it or abstain and let it pass.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Feb182011

Obama Meets with Tech Titans; White House Tight on Details

Photo Courtesy - The White House/Pete Souza(WOODSIDE, Calif.) -- The super-secret two-and-a-half-hour dinner meeting between President Obama and a dozen of Silicon Valley’s biggest stars has come and gone.

But the White House seems reluctant to share much color about the event.

New press secretary Jay Carney instead released an email which described the evening as the president’s chance to discuss “his proposals to invest in research and development and expand incentives for companies to grow and hire, along with his goal of doubling exports over five years to support millions of American jobs.”

Carney later added “there was also a lot of discussion about ways to encourage people to study science, technology, engineering and math, and to go into STEM fields.”

Obama chose these 12 titans of technology -- which included Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Apple Chairman and CEO Steve Jobs and Twitter CEO Dick Costolo -- because “American companies like these have been leading by investing in the creativity and ingenuity of the American people, creating cutting-edge new technologies and promoting new ways to communicate.”

Members of the press traveling with the president were not allowed to cover the dinner, and one wondered aloud afterward if Zuckerberg had attended wearing a techno-geek uniform: “hoodie and flip-flop’s.”

The White House provided an answer when they released a still photo of a pre-dinner chat between Obama, Zuckerberg and others.  It appears Zuckerberg dressed for dinner, wearing a jacket and collared shirt -- though you still can’t tell if he wore a tie. 

The meeting took place at the Woodside, California home of venture capitalist John Doerr and his wife, Ann.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Feb182011

Ohio Senator Warns Republicans: Beware 'The Arrogance of Power'

Photo Courtesy - Portman [dot] Senate [dot] gov(WASHINGTON) -- Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH.) has a warning for his fellow Republicans: beware "the arrogance of power," or voters will do to you what they did to Democrats last year.

"We've got to be sure we stick to our principles and that we continue to do what we told people we would," Portman said in an interview with ABC News.  He told ABC News Republicans promised two things: To focus on the economy and to get control of the national debt.

"If we focus on those two things and make progress," Portman said, "I think the future of the party is going to be in good shape.  If we don't or if we overreach, then the American people will make a different decision as they did between 2008 and 2010."

The biggest risk for Republicans, Portman said, is "the arrogance of power."

Even in Portman's home state of Ohio -- where Republicans trounced Democrats across the board in November -- he said Republicans can't necessarily count on a repeat next year.

"Yet to be seen," he said when asked if President Obama will win in Ohio next year as he did in 2008.

"I suppose as a Republican I should be saying, 'Absolutely not! You know, we're going to beat him in Ohio and stop his re-election prospects there,'" but, he said it depends on who the Republican candidate is and whether the party has made any progress on its promises.

"People are not looking for partisanship they're looking for progress and results," he said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Feb172011

$35 Billion FAA Bill Takes Flight, Wins Senate Passage

Photo Courtesy - Architect of the Capitol(WASHINGTON) -- The Senate Thursday night passed the $35 billion Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill by a vote of 87-8 after weeks of debate.

The FAA bill would help streamline the implementation of the Next Generation Air Transportation System -- known as NextGen -- a nationwide project designed to change the country’s system from a ground-based one to a satellite-based one using GPS technology. The program, the 2004 brainchild of former Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta, would improve aviation safety and capacity, save airlines money and cut down on delays and pollution, according to proponents.

In addition, Democrats have touted the FAA measure as the “first jobs bill” of the new Congress, saying it would save or create an estimated 280,000 jobs.

The eight senators opposing the bill Thursday were Republicans Mike Crapo, Jim DeMint, Ron Johnson, Mike Lee, Rand Paul, James Risch, Pat Toomey and David Vitter.

Five senators did not vote: Chris Coons, Bob Corker, John Kerry, John McCain and Bernie Sanders.

The bill now heads to the House.

The key issue preventing Senate passage of the bipartisan measure had been a dispute over adding more long-distance flights to Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C. West Coast senators wanted to see more long-distance slots, but lawmakers from states neighboring the nation’s capital opposed that idea on the grounds that it would hurt home-state airports like Dulles International in Virginia and Baltimore-Washington International in Maryland.

But this week, senators managed to reach a compromise that would add up to 16 daily round-trip flights between Reagan and western states.

The timing of Thursday night's final passage was important because senators were eager to pass it before the Presidents’ Day recess. Upon their return to work on Feb. 28, lawmakers will have only five days to extend federal funding to prevent a government shutdown on March 4.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Feb172011

Florida House Speaker Vows to Keep Early Primary Date in 2012 Election

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- In an interview with CNN, Florida House Speaker Dean Cannon, a Republican, said “he sees little chance that his state will move its 2012 presidential primary date to later in the year to comply with rules approved by the two national political parties.”

Florida’s primary is currently scheduled for Jan. 31. Iowa’s "first in the nation" caucus is scheduled for Feb. 6, with New Hampshire holding its primary eight days later on Feb. 14. If Florida decided to keep its primary on Jan. 31 or even any time in February, it’s more than likely that both Iowa and New Hampshire -- as well as the other sanctioned “early states” of Nevada and South Carolina -- would feel compelled to move up the dates of their primaries/caucuses to keep their coveted status as lead-off states in the nomination process.

In Florida, the legislature has the power to set (or reset) the date of the state primary. According to Republican National Committee (RNC) rules, any state that holds its primary earlier than March 1 loses at least half of its delegates. But, says Cannon and other Florida legislative leaders, it’s a price worth paying for having a significant role in helping select the next Republican nominee.

Earlier this month, one Florida Republican insider told ABC News that there was “not a lot of interest” by Republican legislators in “playing by the rules.”

RNC Chairman Reince Priebus recently travelled to Florida to urge the state to pick a later primary date. Governor Rick Scott (R) has not yet taken a position on the issue.

The legislature is expected to take up this issue in March or April.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 

Thursday
Feb172011

As Protests Continue in Wisconsin, Obama Sides with Union Workers

Photo Courtesy - JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images(MADISON, Wisc.) -- Thursday marked the third straight day of protests from people across the state of Wisconsin in opposition to a bill that could strip public sector employees of many of their collective bargaining rights. Teachers and union workers are vastly opposed to the proposal, which would also mandate increased contributions for their benefits. Tensions escalated to such a point on Thursday afternoon that 14 Democratic state lawmakers left the state in order to postpone action on the bill. They are staying at a hotel in Rockford, Illinois.

President Obama joined the fray of voices by saying, “Some of what I've heard coming out of Wisconsin, where you're just making it harder for public employees to collectively bargain, generally seems like more of an assault on unions. And I think it's very important for us to understand that public employees, they're our neighbors, they're our friends,” in a Wednesday interview with WTMJ-TV.

White House press secretary Jay Carney said Thursday that while President Obama understands the needs and the challenges that governors face to deal with their own fiscal issues and the need to make tough budget decisions, “what he sees happening in Wisconsin, making it harder for public employees to collectively bargain, seems more like an assault on unions. “

“He doesn't see that as a good thing,” Carney said, adding that it is sometimes easy to paint public employees as “faceless bureaucrats,” but emphasized these people are teachers, nurses, policemen and firemen.

“The best way to deal with this is for people to address these problems by sitting down at the table to collaborate and work out a solution.”

The fracas all stems from the proposed budget of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. By projecting a $3.6 billion dollar deficit, he said cuts would have to be made.

Schools in 15 districts closed down on Thursday so that teachers could go and join other protesters, who had entirely filled the rotunda at the state capitol. Some classes at the University of Wisconsin-Madison were also cancelled as a result of the demonstrations.

As of Thursday evening, there was no word on a planned return date for the legislators who had fled the state.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Feb172011

McCain, Napolitano Hint at Joint Benchmarks for Immigration Reform Talks

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Arizona Sen. John McCain and his Republican colleagues have long said they will only join Democrats on a comprehensive immigration reform deal if and when the Southwest border is secured.

Now McCain says he wants to develop a mutually agreeable set of benchmarks with Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano for what level of security is sufficient and how to determine when that goal has been met.

“We have to agree on certain criteria on what is successful securing of our border,” McCain said Thursday during a Senate Homeland Security Committee hearing. “I think it would be very helpful to all of us if you could lay out what is necessary, what assets need to be devoted and what statistics could show us that the border is being secured, and at that time I think we could move forward with comprehensive immigration reform.”

The comments signal a shift in McCain’s willingness to engage in dialogue on the issue and possibly support a reform bill in the new Congress.

McCain has been an outspoken critic of Napolitano’s border security efforts in his state, and has disputed the administration’s claims that the border overall is as secure now as it’s ever been.

But Thursday, perhaps signaling a thaw in relations, McCain said Napolitano “quite appropriately” points out the record number of resources and enforcement actions her agency has undertaken along the border, even though he believes conditions have deteriorated in part of his state.

Napolitano has previously rejected Republicans' “secure border” precondition for progress on immigration reform. But Thursday she suggested a willingness to sit down with McCain and arrive at a common vision for what a reasonably secure border would look like.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Feb172011

Where Are the Dems? Wis. Lawmakers Avoid Vote to Cut Union Rights

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The top Senate Democrat in Wisconsin said Thursday that he and the other state lawmakers who participated in a mass exodus from the state to avoid a contentious Senate vote on slashing union rights "hope we are in a place that is hard for them to find."

After Gov. Scott Walker, a Republican, called the Democrats' departure "disrespectful," Senate Minority Leader Mark Miller, a Democrat, told ABC News that "it's the governor that has been disrespectful to the workers for trying to pass this so quickly.

"This kind of major legislation needs to have the proper consideration and not [be] railroaded through," he said.

His colleague, Democratic Sen. Jon Erpenbach, would only say that all 14 legislators were together and in "a very cold place."

Erpenbach told ABC News that Walker left them "no option" and that the group left around 9 a.m. Thursday.

"I went home, kissed my wife and kids and got in my car drove off," he said.

His comments came shortly after Walker, a Tea Party-backed Republican, released a written statement blasting the Democrats for hightailing out of the Capitol.

"I am calling on Senate Democrats to show up to work today, debate legislation and cast their vote," Walker said. "Their actions by leaving the state and hiding from voting are disrespectful to the hundreds of thousands of public employees who showed up to work today and the millions of taxpayers they represent."

The 14 lawmakers left to force a postponement of a Senate vote that threatened to curb unions and public worker pensions. Without their votes, the 33-member chamber was left one person short of the 20 members required for the Senate to open business.

Erpenbach accused Walker of "throwing a bomb out there and waiting to see what happens."

"We won't come back until the governor agrees to sit down and meet with people who don't see eye-to-eye with him and discuss better ways of helping the people of Wisconsin," he said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Feb172011

Senate Set to Revamp Nation's Air Travel

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) - After weeks of debate, the Senate appears to be set to pass a $35 billion Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill.

The key issue that had prevented passage of the bipartisan measure was a dispute over adding more long-distance flights to Reagan National Airport in Washington, DC. West Coast senators wanted to see more long-distance slots, but lawmakers from states neighboring the nation’s capital opposed that idea on the grounds that it would hurt their home-state airports like Dulles International in Virginia and Baltimore-Washington International in Maryland.

Senators, however, managed to reach a compromise that would add up to 16 daily round-trip flights between Reagan and western states.

The bill would help streamline the implementation of the Next Generation Air Transportation System – known as NextGen – a nationwide project designed to change the country’s system from ground-based to a satellite-based one that uses GPS technology. The program, the 2004 brainchild of former Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta, would improve aviation safety and capacity, save airlines money and cut down on delays and pollution, according to proponents.

In addition, Democrats have touted the FAA measure as the “first jobs bill” of the new Congress, saying it would save or create an estimated 280,000 jobs.

Once it emerges from the upper chamber of Congress, the bill will still have to be passed by the House.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio