Wisconsin Governor: Massive Layoffs If Democrats Don't Return

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(MADISON, Wis.) -- If Wisconsin Democrats refuse to return home from Illinois to vote on a bill that could gut unions' collective bargaining power, the state will have to lay off thousands of workers.

That ultimatum was delivered Tuesday by Gov. Scott Walker in a televised address. Walker said he would be left with no choice but to fire state and government workers, the ones he says Democrats are claiming to protect.

Walker said 1,500 employees would have to be let go before the end of June if no action is taken on his budget repair bill, which would also force state and local workers to contribute much more to their pensions and health care plans.

The governor warned that up to an additional 10,000 workers would be on the chopping block if Democrats don't act quickly to vote on the bill Republicans say is designed to close Wisconsin's budget deficit.

Critics contend the legislation is a ruse to destroy the unions in Wisconsin and across the nation, since they traditionally vote Democratic.

The 14 state Democrats have been holed up at a hotel in Illinois where they've vowed to stay until Walker shows a willingness to compromise with state and local workers.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Former Obama Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel Elected Mayor of Chicago

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(CHICAGO) -- Rahm Emanuel, the former White House chief of staff, has realized his lifelong ambition to become mayor of Chicago.

With 87 percent of the vote in the Chicago mayor's race counted Tuesday evening, Emanuel had 54 percent, winning the mayoral election outright and avoiding a runoff in April.

"Looking forward to working together as your next mayor," he tweeted Tuesday night.

After a topsy-turvy campaign in which his Chicago residence was repeatedly challenged, Emanuel easily outdistanced a crowded field.

His closest challenger, longtime city official Gery Chico, drew only 25 percent of the vote.

Former Sen. Carol Moseley Braun, the so-called "consensus" African-American candidate, polled a distant fourth with only about eight percent.

Turnout in Chicago was far lower than expected, according to city election officials, who said fewer than half of the city's registered voters showed up at the polls.

Emanuel takes office in May, succeeding Richard M. Daley who is retiring after 22 years in office -- serving longer than his famous father, Richard J. Daley, the last of America's big-city bosses.

Despite his big victory, Emanuel faces huge challenges, including a crippling city budget deficit.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Sarah Palin Responds to Accusations Surrounding Leaked Manuscript

Photo Courtesy - Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Sarah Palin responded Tuesday night to accusations surrounding a leaked manuscript by a former aide -- in particular, a claim that she has a second Facebook account that praises the posts on her official page.

“Pay no attention to the fake accounts and their fake messages,” the former Alaska governor posted on her (official) Facebook page Tuesday night.

The accusations stem from the leaked unpublished manuscript of a book by Frank Bailey, one of Palin’s former aides from her time as governor.  The manuscript, entitled Blind Allegiance to Sarah Palin: A Memoir of Our Tumultuous Years, was first leaked by the Anchorage Daily News last Friday and is based on more than 60,000 emails that Bailey sent and received while working for the former vice presidential nominee.

The book includes Palin’s personal Gmail address.  When the blog Wonkette ran a Facebook search on that address, they found what appears to be a Palin account under the name “Lou Sarah” -- Louise is Palin’s middle name.

Lou Sarah “likes” both Sarah and Bristol Palin as well as a photo gallery of Bristol on ABC’s Dancing with the Stars.  In addition to posting comments on Bristol’s page, Lou Sarah also gave one of Sarah Palin’s posts an “amen.”

“There’s always buzz about fake Sarah Palin Facebook and Twitter accounts.  Please know that this is my only authentic Facebook account and SarahPalinUSA is my only authentic Twitter account,” the real Sarah Palin posted Tuesday night.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Federal Government Shutdown Debate Heats Up

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The war of words over the looming government shutdown got a lot more heated Tuesday.

It started when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he will try to pass a clean bill to extend federal funding for 30 days when the Senate reconvenes next week, even though House Speaker John Boehner had flatly stated last week that his party would not agree to that.

Republicans have said they will only agree to a bill that cuts spending.

Boehner predictably rejected Reid’s proposal for a short-term solution that maintains spending levels, but conceded that if Reid does not bring House Republicans’ continuing resolution to the Senate floor for a vote, “the House will pass a short-term bill to keep the government running -- one that also cuts spending.”

“Senate Democratic leaders are insisting on a status quo that has left us with a mountain of debt and a stalled economy with unemployment near 10 percent. That is not a credible position,” Boehner, R-Ohio, said. “Republicans’ goal is to cut spending and reduce the size of government, not to shut it down.”

Democrats have argued that their clean short-term bill would reflect $41 billion in cuts from President Obama’s 2011 budget that was never enacted by Congress. But House Republicans have been steadfast in their pledge to cut $100 billion from the president’s budget request.

Following Boehner’s response Tuesday afternoon, Senate Democrats held a conference call to rip the GOP’s stance, blasting the Speaker of the House for “being misled and pushed around by his conservative freshmen.”

“We’re saying in the meantime we’ll pass a stop-gap measure to stop a government shutdown,” the Senate’s number-three Democrat, Charles Schumer, said. “Now they’re saying even that’s not good enough. They’re saying they don’t want to negotiate on deeper cuts. They want cuts right now on their terms before negotiations take place. How can you say you’re in good faith when you’re saying I want my demands before any negotiations? It’s not an act of good faith. It’s the act of a group that won’t be satisfied with anything less than a shutdown of the government.”

“No one wins from a government shutdown, but for some mind-boggling reason many on their side seem to be rooting for one,” he added.

And just in case there was any doubt that the two sides appear to be growing further apart, not closer together, Reid noted that the two sides have not negotiated “at all” on a new continuing resolution.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 


Missing Wisconsin Dems Immune from Legal, Political Penalties

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(MADISON, Wisc.) -- Fourteen Wisconsin Democrats who have fled the state to prevent a quorum inside the state Senate face few legal and political consequences for their actions despite the unprecedented and extended nature of their absence.

The lawmakers have been hiding out in an undisclosed location in Illinois since Thursday, saying it was the only way to block Gov. Scott Walker and Republican state legislators from rapidly approving a bill that would curb rights of state employee unions and trim members' benefits.

Republicans, who accused their peers of breaking legislative rules, shirking responsibility and manipulating the democratic process, had initially dispatched the State Patrol to round them up and bring them back.

The Wisconsin Senate needs 20 lawmakers present to hold a vote on the bill. But with only 19 Republican members, at least one of the 14 Democrats must also attend.

Now with the standoff showing no sign of abating -- and lawmakers in other states weigh whether to follow in the Wisconsin Democrats' footsteps -- experts say the absconding lawmakers' tactics are legal even if highly unusual.

The state constitution requires lawmakers to fulfill their duties to the best of their abilities and allows the legislature to "compel the attendance" of absent members to reach a quorum, though the documents do not spell out what types of compulsion can be used.

But the state constitution also prohibits lawmakers from being arrested during a legislative session, unless they're accused of "treason, felony or breach of the peace."

The "murkiness" of those two provisions, said one state Democratic aide, is why they fled, despite the knowledge that they couldn't be physically detained under the law. The jurisdiction of Wisconsin State Patrol ends at the state line.

In the meantime, the Democrats are continuing to urge Gov. Walker and Republicans, who resumed consideration of some legislative business Tuesday, to separate the non-fiscal provisions from the controversial budget bill and bring them up for an independent vote.

The last time state lawmakers fled the legislature to block a vote was in Texas in 2003, when 11 Democrats went to New Mexico to stall a GOP-sponsored redistricting plan. They returned one month later, after one of the 11 Democrats defected, returning to Texas to give Republicans the quorum needed to advance the bill, which ultimately passed.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Republican Senator Announces He Won't Run for President

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- South Dakota Republican Sen. John Thune announced on Tuesday he is staying out of the 2012 presidential race, saying that he wanted remain in the U.S. Senate.

Here is the full statement from Thune and his wife, Kimberley:

For months now, my wife Kimberley and I have received encouragement from family, friends, colleagues, and supporters from across South Dakota and the country to run for the presidency of the United States. We have appreciated hearing their concerns about where the country is headed and their hopes for a new direction.

During this time, Kimberley and I and our two daughters have given a great deal of thought to how we might best serve South Dakota and our nation. That process has involved lots of prayer.

Along the way, we have been reminded of the importance of being in the arena, of being in the fight. And make no mistake that during this period of fiscal crisis and economic uncertainty there is a fight for the future direction of America. There is a battle to be waged over what kind of country we are going to leave our children and grandchildren and that battle is happening now in Washington, not two years from now. So at this time, I feel that I am best positioned to fight for America’s future here in the trenches of the United States Senate.

I want to thank those who have encouraged us and prayed for us during the past several months. We are forever grateful for all the support.

John and Kimberley

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Justice Clarence Thomas' Silence Unmatched over 40 Years

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas celebrated an unusual anniversary Tuesday: It's been five years since he's asked a question during oral arguments.

Over the years Thomas has read opinions from the bench, but the last time he spoke up spontaneously during an exchange among the justices and lawyers was in February 2006.

His silence during questioning has sparked debate among court watchers over whether a justice should participate in oral arguments.

Some say that the hearings are largely ceremonial, but others see the opportunity to engage in a public dialogue with lawyers on both sides of a case as a crucial tool for justices to try to persuade one another on a matter of law.

While the court does not have official rules mandating the role of each justice during oral arguments, tradition holds that participation is the norm.

"No single justice has gone even one full term without asking a question in the last 40 years," said Timothy R. Johnson, professor of political science at the University of Minnesota.

Johnson, who has studied the issue for an upcoming book, said that on average Justice Antonin Scalia is the most verbose of the justices, speaking about 27 times per argument session. Compare that to Justice Thomas, who speaks on average almost zero.

Thomas has said that he goes into the oral argument sessions knowing how he will decide a case so he doesn't ask questions.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Reid Proposes Clean Stop-Gap Funding Bill to Keep Gov't. Running

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- With a government shutdown looming on March 4, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Tuesday he will try to pass a clean bill to extend federal funding for 30 days when the Senate reconvenes next week, something House Speaker John Boehner flatly stated his party would not agree to.

Due to lawmakers’ ongoing Presidents’ Day recess, they will only have four work days next week to avert a shutdown on March 4 -- that makes passing a stop-gap funding bill their best shot at avoiding a shutdown.

But last week Boehner said the GOP-controlled House would not pass any bill that extends government funding at current levels once the latest funding measure -- known as a continuing resolution (CR) --runs out.

Now Reid has challenged him on that, arguing this clean short-term bill would reflect $41 billion in cuts from President Obama’s 2011 budget that was never enacted by Congress. House Republicans want $100 billion in cuts.

“I have asked Sen. Inouye, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, to prepare a clean continuing resolution that I can bring to the floor next week. Since this bill is intended to fund vital services like Social Security, our military and border security, it should have no legislation or riders tied to it. This bill will include the $41 billion in budget cuts that Democrats and Republicans agreed to in December, and will keep the government running for 30 days while both sides can negotiate a common-sense, long-term solution.”

The Senate’s top Republican, Mitch McConnell, quickly blasted Reid’s proposal as “unacceptable” because it would entail “keeping bloated spending levels in place.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Former Bush Aide Urges Obama to Retaliate Against Somali Pirates

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Former White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer issued a stern warning to the Obama administration in the aftermath of the killings of four Americans at the hands of Somali pirates on Tuesday: retaliate or face the consequences.

“If I was a Somali pirate & if O doesn't retaliate, I'd keep taking hostages,” Fleisher, who served as the White House’s chief spokesman during the first two years of President George W. Bush’s presidency, tweeted. “If crime/terror pays, there will be more crime/terror.”

There has been no word from the White House about what action the Obama administration might take in the wake of the killings, but ABC News’ Jake Tapper reports that over the weekend the president authorized the use of force against the pirates in case of any imminent threat to the hostages.

Early Tuesday morning, White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan notified President Obama that the four hostages -- Jean and Scott Adam from California and Phyllis MacKay and Bob Riggle from Washington state -- had been killed.

The Americans, who were on a round-the-world journey on their yacht, encountered pirates last week 300 miles off the Somali coast. U.S. officials had attempted to negotiate with the captors when gunfire broke out. American military forces killed two pirates in the shoot-out and captured more than a dozen others.

“4 Americans killed by pirates,” Fleisher tweeted. “This is the 3:00am call that Hillary warned about. If O doesn't want more killed, he must strike back.”

One Somali pirate was recently sentenced to 33 years in prison for his involvement in the 2009 hijacking of a U.S. shipping vessel, the Maersk Alabama. U.S. forces intervened and saved the life of the Alabama’s captain. Pirate activity has been on the rise in East African waters over the last few years.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Rep. David Wu Tells ABC News: I Sent Emails, Sought Treatment

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(NEW YORK) -- In his first network interview since reports that his staff pushed him to get psychiatric help just before the November election, Oregon Congressman David Wu admitted he sent “unprofessional” emails to his staff, including a photo of himself in a tiger costume.

“Last October was not a good month, it was very stressful. I did some things, I said some things which I sincerely regret now. And as a result of those things I saw fit to consult professional help, I got the help I needed then. I am continuing to consult medical help as I need it and I’m in a good place now,” Wu told ABC News.

Wu said he’s being treated now with medication and counseling after the “intervention” staged by his staffers. The Oregonian has reported that some of the staff had tried to find out if there was a psychiatric hospital ward that would admit Congressman Wu.

“I don’t know what they were seeking,” Wu said. “We had several meetings, we had a lot of meetings in a campaign and…campaigns are very, very stressful.”

“I saw appropriate medical help at the time and I am continuing to do that,” he said.

Wu, a father of two, admitted to sending odd emails to staffers in the middle of the night, including a photo of himself dressed up like a tiger, despite warnings that a Halloween costume could do damage to his campaign.

“It was unprofessional, inappropriate," Wu said.

At least six staffers have left Wu’s office. But despite his string of odd behavior the congressman said he is fit to serve and hopes that going public will help others seek the help they need.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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