Boehner Challenges Constitutionality of Health Reform Law

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Speaker-in-waiting John Boehner, R-Ohio, filed an amicus brief Tuesday challenging the constitutionality of the individual mandate in the health care law passed by Democrats earlier this year.

“ObamaCare is a job-killer, and our economy simply cannot afford this unprecedented, unconstitutional power grab by the federal government,” Boehner stated Tuesday evening. “That is why Republicans will continue standing with the American people and fighting to repeal ObamaCare and replace it with better solutions put forth in the Pledge to America to lower health care costs and protect American jobs.”

Boehner’s amicus brief was filed in support of a lawsuit brought by 20 state attorneys general and the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB), the nation’s largest small business association. The brief seeks to overturn what Boehner says is a “government takeover of health care that is costing jobs, increasing costs, and jeopardizing coverage for millions of Americans.”

“I’m proud to join these states and the NFIB in their ongoing effort to overturn this job-killing health care law and protect American workers from its devastating impact,” Boehner said.

Republican aides privately speculate that Boehner could use the first bill of the next session of Congress to repeal health care.

Last week, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, asked Senate Republicans to join him in signing onto a similar amicus brief that outlined his argument against the constitutionality of the health care law. McConnell is expected to file the brief later this week.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio 


Obama Pushes DREAM Act Immigration Reform for Lame-Duck Congress

Photo Courtesy - The White House(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama Tuesday joined top Congressional Democrats in urging Congress to pass a small piece of immigration legislation known as the DREAM Act before it adjourns for the year.  The measure would give hundreds of thousands of young, undocumented immigrants a conditional path to legal residency.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has repeatedly promised a vote on the measure during the lame-duck session. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has also expressed support for bringing a bill to the floor, although not until after Thanksgiving.

“This legislation has traditionally enjoyed support from Democratic and Republican lawmakers and would give young people who were brought as minors to the United States by their parents the opportunity to earn their citizenship by pursuing a college degree or through military service,” the White House said in a statement following the president’s closed-door meeting with leaders of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus this afternoon.

The DREAM Act would apply to immigrants younger than 36 years old who arrived in the U.S. illegally as children under the supervision of their parents and have maintained "good moral character," among other requirements.

The bill has had Republican co-sponsors in the years since it was first introduced in 2001. It was passed as part of a Senate immigration reform bill in 2006, although the package later failed in the House. In 2007, the DREAM Act was filibustered when it came up for an up-or-down vote.

“Passage of the DREAM Act is achievable right now,” said Gutierrez. “The policy of mass deportation is not working and is ripping apart communities and may only get worse under a Republican-controlled House.  We cannot squander this opportunity to save a million kids.”

Opponents of the measure say the bill is flawed and would unreasonably add legal workers to the workforce at a time when many Americans are out of jobs.

According to the nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute, about two million of the nearly 11 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the U.S. could be eligible for legalization under the DREAM Act.

The group also estimates, however, that only 825,000 of those immigrants would ultimately take advantage of the law if it were enacted.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Senate Republicans Ban Earmarks; Will Democrats Follow?

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Senate Republicans Tuesday took their war against government spending to a new level, voting behind closed doors to approve a moratorium on all congressional earmarks for two years.

The resolution, which is non-binding, is identical to the one approved by House Republicans in the current Congress and forbids Republicans from engaging in the practice of funneling federal tax dollars to pet projects in their home states.

House Democrats have restricted earmarks for private contractors but not outlawed them entirely.

Only Senate Democrats have yet to decide on whether they will impose any limits on earmarks, although at least two members -- Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill and Colorado Sen. Mark Udall -- have said they want their caucus to follow suit.

A moratorium on earmarks throughout Congress would be a significant development and departure from what has become a common, if controversial, practice in recent years.

Congress approved 9,499 earmarked projects in fiscal year 2010 that totaled $15.9 billion, according to the nonpartisan group Taxpayers for Common Sense.

Earmarks account for less than one percent of overall federal spending.

The move by Republicans will also likely add pressure on President Obama, who has said he supports "cracking down on wasteful earmark spending, which we can't afford during these tough economic times."

But he has not called for eliminating the practice outright or threatened to veto bills that include earmarks.

President Obama's National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform issued a report last week detailing ways to reduce the national debt by $4 trillion in the next 10 years, including an outright ban on all earmarks.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Rep.-Elect Allen West: ‘You Have to’ Cut Defense; New Strategy Needed for Afghanistan

Photo Couresty - AllenWestforCongress dot com(WASHINGTON) -- The new class of GOP House freshmen is coming to Washington vowing to rethink government spending even in areas that Republicans have long held sacred -- and with an eye toward big changes on the national security front.

On Tuesday, Rep.-elect Allen West, R-Fla., a retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, told ABC News that “you have to” subject Pentagon spending to cuts if the nation plans to seriously grapple with the budget deficit.

He also called for a new strategy in Afghanistan that focuses less on “nation-building” and more on confronting new threats.

On Afghanistan, West said, “We have to look at how we can be successful on the ground and these combat theaters of operation. The 21st-century battlefield is a totally different battlefield. We have to get away from occupation, nation-building style warfare. I think that our national security strategy should focus on denying the enemy sanctuary. Cyber warfare is going to become a huge part of this, the information operations aspect of it. And those are the type of things we have to look at.”

Based on his time as a military adviser in Afghanistan, West said, “I think we've lost focus on the enemy, and we've gotten too far focused on nation-building. And that is one of the critical things I want to look at.”

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio 


NY & NJ Lawmakers Call on Senate to Pass 9/11 Health Bill

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Flanked by first responders and survivors of the 9/11 attacks, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and senators and representatives from New York and New Jersey called on the U.S. Senate to pass the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act.

“This should not be a partisan fight,” Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., said.  “We have an undeniable, moral obligation to provide these 9/11 heroes with all of the care that they need. It’s time to keep our promise to them and pass this bill in the U.S. Senate.”

The 9/11 Health and Compensation Act passed the House of Representatives in September largely along party lines, but with the support of 17 Republican representatives.  Gillibrand remarked that she expects all Democratic senators will vote for the bill and that she hopes it will pass before the end of the year.  President Obama has said he would sign the bill into law should it pass the U.S. Senate.

The 9/11 Health and Compensation Act would provide $7.4 billion dollars in aid to first responders and survivors of the World Trade Center attacks.  More than 30,000 responders and survivors have received medical care due to the exposure to toxins at Ground Zero.  These victims hail from all 50 states and 428 of the 435 congressional districts. 

The proposed legislation was named for James Zadroga, a New York City Police Department officer who was a first responder on September 11, 2001.  Zadroga died in 2006 from the respiratory disease he contracted while working at Ground Zero in the wake of the attacks.

Bloomberg and Gillibrand were joined by Sen. Charles Schumer, Sen. Frank Lautenberg, Reps. Carolyn Maloney, Jerrold Nadler, Peter King, Michael McMahon and Anthony Weiner and various labor union leaders.  Bloomberg, 9/11 survivors, first responders, and labor leaders spent the day lobbying key Republican senators to pass the bill.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Out with a Bang: RNC Political Director Steps Down

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Republican National Committee Political Director Gentry Collins has submitted his resignation to chairman Michael Steele with a stinging letter blasting Steele’s fundraising and leadership.

Steele is presumed to be seeking another term as RNC chairman next month.

“In the previous two non-presidential cycles, the RNC carried over $4.8 million and $3.1 million respectively in cash reserve balances into the presidential cycles,” Collins writes in the letter, a copy of which was obtained by ABC News. “In stark contrast, we enter the 2012 presidential cycle with 100% of the RNC’s $15 million in lines of credit tapped out, and unpaid bills likely to add millions to that debt.”

He makes clear that Steele was at fault for the party’s fundraising woes and writes that funding problems may have cost Republicans a chance to take the Senate.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Michelle Obama's Second Chief of Staff Resigns

Photo Courtesy - Pete Souza/The White House(WASHINGTON) -- Michelle Obama's chief of staff is stepping down.

The first lady's office says Susan Sher will return to Chicago after the first of next year. A replacement has not yet been determined. 

This marks the second chief of staff Mrs. Obama has gone through in only two years. Her first chief of staff, Jackie Norris, departed in June of 2009.

“Susan has been both a colleague and a dear friend for decades, and I have been grateful every day for her leadership and wise counsel in Washington,” said first lady Michelle Obama in a paper statement.  “I also very much appreciate her generosity in staying longer than she initially planned –- spending so many months away from her family in Chicago -– to help me build my office in the East Wing.  I wish her all the best.”

The White House has also put out a paper statement from the president.

“Susan has brought tremendous skill and dedication to the first lady’s office, as well as my administration’s outreach to the Jewish community and our efforts to pass health care reform, and I thank her for her service,” President Obama said.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Gov. Bobby Jindal: 'I'm Not Running' for President in 2012

Photo Courtesy - Office of Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal(NEW YORK) -- Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal tells ABC News he has no plans to run for president in 2012.

Asked by ABC News Radio San Francisco affiliate KGO-AM whether he would consider a run at the White House, Jindal said, “I’m not running, I’ve got a great job as governor of Louisiana.”

“I’ll leave that to others,” Jindal told ABC's Chicago affiliate, WLS-AM.

Jindal is traveling the country promoting his new book Leadership and Crisis, in which he criticizes President Barack Obama's response to the Gulf oil disaster.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Rep. Charles Rangel Found Guilty of Violating House Ethics Rules

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Members of the House ethics committee ruled Tuesday that New York Democratic Rep. Charles Rangel had violated house rules for improperly fundraising for a community center in his name, failing to disclose more than a half million dollars in assets on financial disclosure forms, and failing to disclose financial arrangements for a villa at the Punta Cana Yacht Club in the Dominican Republic.

Rangel was found guilty on 11 of 13 counts against him.

The ethics committee is expected to meet Thursday afternoon for the sanctions hearing.

Possible sanctions range from expulsion -- considered highly unlikely -- to reprimand, censure or a monetary fine. According to House ethics rules, a reprimand is reserved for a "serious violation;" censure is for "more serious violations."

Legal experts believe that the committee will suggest either a censure or reprimand. Once the committee agrees on the sanction, it will vote to recommend the sanction to the full House for a vote.

If the House votes to censure Rangel, he will have to stand at the "well" of the House chamber to receive a verbal rebuke and reading of the censure resolution by the Speaker of the House.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Democrats, GOP Vote on New Senate Leadership Teams

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- On Tuesday, the Senate focused on the next Congress, not the current one, with both parties electing their leadership teams, while Republicans are also voting on an earmark moratorium. The moratorium is expected to cruise to passage when GOP senators meet later Tuesday, but the earlier session was all about leadership – and there were no surprises in store for the 112th Congress.

That means Republicans will still have Kentucky’s Mitch McConnell at the helm, with Arizona’s Jon Kyl at number two, and Tennessee’s Lamar Alexander in the number three slot. South Dakota’s John Thune and Wyoming’s John Barrasso will continue to round out the GOP team.

Across the aisle the Democrats, who have retained the majority in the Senate, albeit one reduced by six seats, will also retain their leadership team. As expected, Nevada’s Harry Reid will stay on majority leader, Illinois’ Dick Durbin as number-two, New York’s Chuck Schumer as number-three, and Washington’s Patty Murray at number-four. Michigan’s Debbie Stabenow and newly-promoted Mark Begich of Alaska will fill the remaining slots.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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