Mitt Romney Lands in Afghanistan

Photo Courtesy - TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images(KABUL, Afghanistan) -- Former Governor Mitt Romney, R-Mass., landed in Afghanistan on Sunday, part of a week-long trip to meet with political and business leaders in the region. Romney is also expected to visit Israel and Jordan.

It has been widely speculated that Romney, who ran for president in 2008 before losing the Republican nomination to Arizona Sen. John McCain, is preparing a 2012 presidential run.

Romney last visited Afghanistan in 2006, just months before announcing his first run at the presidency.

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Health Care Repeal Vote Postponed after Arizona Shooting

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- In his second written statement Saturday, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., has announced that the House will delay its efforts to repeal the health care law next week as well as other legislative business "so that we can take whatever actions may be necessary in light of today’s tragedy."

Lawmakers voted last week to schedule debate and a vote on repealing health care reform on Wednesday. Repeal was expect to pass in the House, but chances were less likely in the Senate and the White House threatened to veto it.

A House GOP retreat in Baltimore next week could also be delayed in the aftermath of Saturday's shooting at an event held by Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Arizona.

 “All legislation currently scheduled to be considered by the House of Representatives next week is being postponed so that we can take whatever actions may be necessary in light of today’s tragedy," Cantor said in a statement. "Further information relating to a revised House schedule will be released tomorrow.”

The Virginia Republican added:

“Our nation was shocked by the tragedy in Arizona earlier today. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, members of her staff, and others became the victims of a senseless act of violence. Congresswoman Giffords serves Arizona’s 8th District with distinction and thoughtful leadership, and it is horrifying that she was exposed to such violence at an event designed to reach the people she represents. I couldn’t agree more with Speaker Boehner, who earlier said that, ‘an attack on one who serves is an attack on all who serve.’ Along with our nation, this institution has suffered a horrible tragedy. We are saddened, mourn those who lost their lives, and stand together in hopeful prayer for the recovery of the victims and their families."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 


Bob Dole Hospitalized Again

Photo Courtesy - BobDole(dot)org(WASHINGTON) -- Former Senator and presidential candidate Bob Dole was admitted to Walter Reed Army Medical Center Tuesday evening with a fever, discharged Friday morning then went back to the hospital for treatment because his fever had recurred.  He was admitted and remained there Saturday evening.

The Kansas Republican issued a statement Saturday saying he was grateful for the tremendous care he received and "continue to receive" at Walter Reed.  He said, "Overall I feel good today."

The 87-year-old World War II vetran who served with distinction with the 10th Mountain Division, entered Walter Reed back in February and spent most of the next ten months there, undergoing two knee surgeries and three bouts of pneumonia.  In his statement he said he has been receiving physical therapy for his knee and working at his law firm, Alston and Bird.

Dole served in the U.S. Senate from 1969 to 1996, when he resigned to run for president.  He was defeated by Bill Clinton.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Congresswoman Giffords: Reaction To Arizona Shooting

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords’ colleagues on Capitol Hill quickly denounced her tragic shooting in Arizona on Saturday that left at least one dead and others critically wounded.

“I am horrified by the violent attack on Representative Gabrielle Giffords and many other innocent people by a wicked person who has no sense of justice or compassion,” said Republican John McCain, the state’s senior senator.

For many lawmakers, Saturday’s shooting in Tucson was an indication of the heated political rhetoric that has escalated in recent years.

“We are in a dark place right now in this country politically,” Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-MO, told ABC News in an interview. “We can no longer disagree and simply try to resolve our disagreements and come up with a policy that both sides can in some ways embrace. We’ve come to a point now where if we disagree we are enemies, and we spend a great amount of time planning ways to dismember each other politically and it all begins with campaigns… I think people overlook the fact that the campaigns are becoming nastier and nastier, and more and more personal, and when that happens, after the election, people are still bruised.”

Speaker of the House John Boehner said that “an attack on one who serves is an attack on all who serve,” while Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid noted that “this is a sad day for our country and acts of senseless violence such as this one affect us all.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Eric Cantor: GOP Will Be Seen As Party of 'Cut-And-Grow'

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Congressional Republicans, now in control of the House, say they plan to cut government spending and create jobs.

“Each day,” said new House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., in the weekly GOP address, “we will come to work asking: One, ‘Are our actions focused on job creation and the economy?’  Two, ‘Are our actions focused on cutting spending?’  Three, ‘Are our actions focused on shrinking government while protecting and expanding liberty?’”

The Virginia congressman said that the Republican Party has been afforded a “golden opportunity to listen, lead, and deliver results” and will soon be seen as the “cut-and-grow” majority.

“We are going to cut spending and cut job-killing government regulations while growing the economy and private-sector jobs,” Cantor said.

He spent much of the address criticizing President Obama’s health care reform law and once again expressed GOP support for repealing the act.

“Republicans care about health care,” Cantor said. “We simply disagree that excessive government regulation and sweeping mandates on individuals and businesses are the right way to go about it.”

“After the House passes repeal of ObamaCare, we’ll begin a two-step process of conducting continued oversight of the continued harm that it is doing to our economy and our health care system, as well as beginning work on a new vision to improve our healthcare system without bankrupting our country.”

President Obama has threatened to veto House Republicans’ attempt to repeal the health care law.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Weekly Address: Obama Touts Benefits of Tax Cut Compromise

Photo Courtesy - The White House(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama uses his weekly radio address to highlight how in the New Year Americans will benefit from the tax cut package signed during the lame-duck session of Congress last year.
“We’re seeing more optimistic economic forecasts for the year ahead, in part due to the package of tax cuts I signed last month,”  President Obama says in his weekly address, “I fought for that package because, while we are recovering, we plainly still have a lot of work to do.”
Mentioning his stop Friday at the Thompson Creek Window Company in Maryland, the president says that businesses like this one, will be able to benefit from the compromised deal, and encouraged all businesses to do the same.
“For one year, any business, large or small, can write off the full cost of most of their capital investments,” Obama said, “So, if you’re a business owner, I’d encourage you to take advantage of this temporary provision. It will save you money today and help you grow your business tomorrow. “
Also included in the tax cut package was a payroll tax holiday, which the president in his weekly address touts that a typical family will see $1,000 more in their paycheck this year.
“In fact, 155 million workers will see larger paychecks this month as a result of this tax cut.”
Taken as a whole, the president says the tax cuts package will accelerate the pace of the economy, spurring additional jobs and growth.
“That is our mission.  That should be the focus, day in and day out, of our work in Washington in the coming months, as we wrestle with a challenging budget and long-term deficits. “
The president said that the tax cut bill, along with other passed legislation in December in the waning days of the last session of Congress were a “much-needed departure” from the pattern of politics where “symbolic battles” consumed Washington, “while the rest of America waits for us to solve problems.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


After Defeat by Rand Paul, Kentucky’s Trey Grayson Lands at Harvard

Photo Courtesy - sos dot ky dot gov(BOSTON) -- Where do former U.S. Senate candidates go after a painful defeat at the polls? In Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson’s case, the answer is Harvard.

Grayson, who lost to Sen. Rand Paul in the state’s GOP Senate primary last year, is heading to the university to run its prestigious Institute of Politics -- a gathering place for students, academics, politicians and activists based at the Kennedy School of Government.

It’s a homecoming of sorts for Grayson, who received his undergraduate degree in government from Harvard College in 1994. While there he served on the Institute’s student advisory board.

“I am excited and humbled to be selected as Director. The IOP played a pivotal role in developing my interest and approach to politics and public service,” Grayson said in a statement on Friday. “I look forward to working with the staff, students, and my Kennedy School colleagues to inspire a new generation of undergraduates to pursue public service like I did.”

Paul, newly sworn in as a senator this week, defeated Grayson in one of the country’s most contentious primary fights, and one that amounted to an early test of the influence of the Tea Party movement.

Although Grayson enjoyed the support of key establishment figures in Washington, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, he ended up losing to Paul by a considerable 58 percent to 35 percent margin in the May primary. Paul went on to fend off a challenge from Democrat Jack Conway in the November general election.

In his new position, Grayson follows in the footsteps of other prominent political figures who spent time at the Institute of Politics before, after, or in between jobs in public office, including New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, former U.S. Sen. Alan Simpson, former Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman and former Iowa Congressman Jim Leach, who now heads the National Endowment for the Humanities.

And in the spirit of bipartisanship, Caroline Kennedy called Grayson “exactly the right person to lead the IOP as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of my father’s Presidency,” in a statement issued by Harvard.

Grayson will take over on Jan. 31 for former U.S. Senator John C. Culver, an Iowa Democrat, who has served as interim director since July 2010.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


House Republicans Keep Promise on Health Care Repeal, Step Back from Others

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- In power for less than one week, House Republicans appear poised to make good on their high-profile promise to vote to repeal the new health care reform law.

Legislation for repeal cleared a procedural hurdle Friday, setting the stage for a final up-or-down vote next week.

But in advancing the measure, Republicans also seemed to step back from other high-profile promises made in the Pledge to America, the document which outlines their intended governing agenda.

The Republican pledge decries the Democrats' record of forbidding amendments and open debate on costly legislation, and promises to "let any lawmaker -- Democrat or Republican -- offer amendments to reduce spending" on spending bills.

Yet rules approved Thursday for floor debate on the repeal measure, preclude any amendments blocking Democrats from forcing votes on individual aspects of the behemoth law.

"This is nothing but a gag rule," said New Jersey Democratic Rep. Frank Pallone of the strict rules.

House Speaker John Boehner said Thursday there was no need for amendments or debate. "I promised a more open process, I didn't promise that every single bill was going to be an open bill," he told reporters.

Text of the "Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act" also appears to leave unfulfilled a much-touted GOP pledge to include a "clause citing the specific constitutional authority upon which the bill is justified."

There is no mention of the Constitution in the two-paragraph bill, though an explanation is noted in the official Congressional Record.

GOP promises to do whatever it takes to slash the federal budget deficit also seemed to take a hit this week when the Congressional Budget Office estimated that repeal of the health care law would cost $230 billion over the next decade.

Republicans have promised to "cut-as-you-go," pairing estimated spending increases with cuts to offset the cost. The repeal measure includes no offsets to the CBO's estimated cost.

House Speaker John Boehner said Thursday he believes the CBO, a nonpartisan group long considered by both parties to be an impartial referee on budget matters, was manipulated by Democrats to produce a false estimate of savings in the health care reform law.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Obama Signs Defense Bill, But Expresses Reservations

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- President Barack Obama signed a bill Friday that authorized nearly $725 billion in defense spending, but he spoke out against certain restrictions within the legislation.

The law, known as the Ike Skelton National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2011, increases defense spending by 7% from the previous fiscal year,and includes $158.7 billion for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Obama objected to Sections 1032 and 1033 which relate to money tied to transferring detainees in United States custody. Section 1032 bans the use of defense funds from being spent on transferring detainees from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba to the United States. The next section bars the use of certain funds to move detainees to other countries unless precise conditions are met.

President Obama said that the limitations, which were put into the bill by House Democrats, “Interfere with the authority of the executive branch to make important and consequential foreign policy and national security determinations regarding whether and under what circumstances such transfers should occur in the context of an ongoing armed conflict."

Despite Obama saying during his candidacy for President that he would not make remarks on legislation, known as "signing statements", he continued saying he would sign the bill because, "of the importance of authorizing appropriations for among other things, our military activities in 2011.” 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


DADT Repeal Picks Up Steam at Pentagon, Support from John McCain

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The process of implementing the repeal of "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" policy at the Pentagon appears to be picking up steam.   Pentagon spokesman Col. Dave Lapan said we’ll likely hear in two weeks from top DOD officials that the process for changing current regulations and coming up with a training schedule has been concluded.

Since the repeal was enacted, the Pentagon’s been working on what regulations, policies and benefits would need to be changed as a result of the repeal. That process is nearing completion and soon we’ll hear DOD Personnel Chief Cliff Stanley and Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. James Cartwright describe those changes. That briefing is expected in about two weeks.

Regulations won’t actually change until after the certification process by Gates, Mullen and President Obama is complete.  They’re also working on how the training process will begin.  Lapan said they’ll also discuss the start and end dates for the three phases of that process for implementation of the repeal of DADT within the military.

The implementation process will involve training legal and human resource officers, in addition to chaplains and recruiting officers on what regulations will be changed within the military with regard to  repealing DADT.  Commanders and military officials will also have to be trained before informing and training the 2.2 million people making up the Armed Forces. 

Gates said Thursday the goal of the systematic repeal is “ to move as quickly, but as responsibly as possible” and he had asked that the first two phases be accelerated as quickly as possible so the “real challenge” of training the 2.2 million could begin.  Gates used the word "training," but Lapan says it’s more about "informing" rather than educating the force.

Gates said he was “struck” by the comments of one of the Joint Chiefs that it was “better to do this sooner rather than later, so we’re approaching it with that philosophy in mind.”   Mullen reminded gay service members that now is not the time to come out because DADT is still in place, “We'll get through this. We'll do it deliberately. We certainly are focused on this and we won't dawdle.”

Even foes of repealing the policy are changing their tone.

"I think I have to do everything I can to make sure that the impact on the morale, retention, recruitment and battle effectiveness of the military is minimized as much as possible," said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., on Fox Business News. McCain led the charge against repeal. But now that the repeal is law, he said  he'll support it.

"It is a law and I have to do whatever I can to help the men and women who are serving, particularly in combat, cope with this new situation. I will do everything I can to make it work," said McCain.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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