Lawmakers Allowed to View Osama Bin Laden Death Photos

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Members of two Senate committees can make an appointment with the CIA to view the photos of a dead Osama bin Laden, multiple congressional aides confirmed to ABC News Tuesday.

Lawmakers on the Senate Armed Services Committee and the Senate Intelligence Committee will now be able to see the photos if they wish.

Last week a trio of Republican senators claimed to have seen the photos, only for it to emerge that they had been duped by fake pictures. On Wednesday morning, as senators left a closed-door classified meeting with CIA head Leon Panetta, the top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Saxby Chambliss, told reporters that he had seen the photos. New Hampshire's Kelly Ayotte said the same thing. And Scott Brown of Massachusetts told Fox-25 TV that he had seen one of the photos, too.

"I have seen one of them," Ayotte said of the bin Laden photos, adding that it was "clearly his features."

But later that day it emerged that the picture seen by Ayotte, Brown, and Chambliss was in fact not authentic. At least now they'll be able to see the real thing.

Critics -- including some family members of loved ones killed in the terror attacks on September 11th, 2001 -- have pressed President Obama to release photographic proof of bin Laden's death. President Obama maintains he will not make the pictures public.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 


Sen. Sanders: Republican Budget ‘Laughable,’ ‘Absurd’

U.S. Senate(WASHINGTON) -- House Speaker John Boehner's declaration that budget cuts need to be in the trillions -- not the billions -- for Republicans to agree to a higher debt limit, landed with a thud among liberals, many of whom are insisting that higher taxes be considered as part of the discussion.

On ABC's Top Line Tuesday, Sen. Bernie Sanders said that Boehner can't reach his goals without deep cuts in critical government programs, including moves that would "decimate Medicare."

"We're not going to ask billionaires who are doing phenomenally well and seen their tax rates go down" to sacrifice, said Sanders, I-VT. "We're not going to ask them to pay one penny more in taxes. That is laughable, that's absurd, and the vast majority of the American people do not support that approach."

When Republicans were in the White House, Sanders voted against raising the debt ceiling. He wanted to draw a distinction between his votes then, and what Republicans are threatening to do now.

"Traditionally I think that you've seen a lot of people including myself voted against it," Sanders said. "But in reality I think there is the understanding that a compact has been worked out that it is going to pass. The idea that the Republicans may be very serious -- maybe not, we don't know -- on killing of the raising of the debt ceiling, which would cause financial chaos throughout the world -- that's I think a new step forward."

The debt ceiling is a separate debate than the one over the budget, he alleges.

Sanders continued: "To decimate Medicaid, when we already have 50 million people without health insurance, to bring Medicare into a voucher program, to cut back substantially on education when millions of families cannot afford to send their kids to college, and not ask millionaires and billionaires to pay one cent more in taxes, is literally laughable. It is laughable. It isn't gonna happen, it shouldn't happen."

Sanders also made the case for his new proposal to create a single-payer-style health care system -- a bill that he knows will not advance in the current political climate.

"I think you have to have a vision. And the vision for this country should be we've got to join the rest of the industrialized world, where virtually every other country guarantees health care to their people as a right and yet ends up spending in other countries far less per capita than we do."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Obama to Make Commencement Speech in Waterlogged Memphis

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images(MEMPHIS, Tenn.) -- The graduating class at Booker T. Washington High School in Memphis, Tenn., has won a commencement speech by President Obama during their graduation ceremony this spring.

The high school is in an impoverished area close to the site of Martin Luther King's assassination and where Benjamin Hooks, the late head of the NAACP, attended high school. Memphis has been hit hard by recent flooding, as well.

For the second year of the administration’s annual “Commencement Challenge,” schools were asked to submit a video demonstrating their commitment to preparing students for college and a career. Booker T. Washington’s video opened to show housing projects being torn down in black-and-white and highlighted how the community and the school rebuilt and helped students gain confidence and skills to graduate.

Six finalists were selected for their “creativity in engaging and supporting students, academic results, and progress in preparing students to graduate college and career ready,” the White House said. Of the final three finalists, chosen by votes online, the president chose the final winner personally.

Some of the school’s progress the White House hailed when making the announcement today -- Booker T. Washington High School’s graduation rate went from 55 percent in 2007 to 81.6 percent in 2010.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


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

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