President Obama walks with Sylvia Mathews Burwell, left, whom he has nominated as secretary of Health and Human Services, and Kathleen Sebelius, who is stepping down from that post.

Health insurance gains since last fall hit 12 million, survey shows

WASHINGTON — President Obama’s health law has led to an even greater increase in health coverage than previously estimated, according to new Gallup survey data, which suggest that about 12 million previously uninsured Americans have gained coverage since last fall.

That is millions more than Gallup found in March and suggests that as many as 4 million people signed up for some kind of insurance in the last several weeks as the first enrollment period for the Affordable Care Act drew to a close.

Just 12.9% of adults nationally lacked coverage in the first half of April, initial data from the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index indicates, the lowest rate since the survey began in 2008.

Eighteen percent were uninsured in the third quarter of 2013, just before Americans could start shopping for coverage on the new online marketplaces created by the law.

Gallup pollsters cautioned that the data are preliminary, but said it is increasingly clear the health law is responsonible for...


Louisiana Democrat highlights independence from Obama in new ad

When Sen. Mary L. Landrieu assumed the chairmanship of the Senate’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee this year, it was a major boon to her difficult reelection campaign—placing her in a prominent position to aid her state’s oil and gas industry and strengthening her argument to voters that her seniority is an asset.

A new television ad released by Landrieu on Tuesday hammers that point, reintroducing the three-term Democrat as holding “the most powerful position in the Senate for Louisiana” and demonstrating her independence from the Obama administration—a recurrent theme in her red-state campaign where President Obama has cast a long shadow.

Simultaneously distancing Landrieu from Washington while touting the benefits of her tenure in the Senate, the ad’s narrator argues that she “forced Washington to respect Louisiana.”

“The administration’s policies are simply wrong when it comes to oil and gas production in...

President Obama commuted a sentence Tuesday after a typographical error lengthened the penalty by 3 1/2 years.

Obama grants clemency to correct a sentence extended by a court typo

WASHINGTON -- President Obama on Tuesday commuted the sentence of a drug convict, correcting a mistake that had extended his prison time by more than three years and could not be fixed by the courts.

Ceasar Huerta Cantu was sentenced to 15 years of incarceration after pleading guilty in 2006 to money laundering and trafficking marijuana. But because of a typographical error in Cantu’s presentence report, the 180-month punishment reflected a greater penalty than called for under U.S. sentencing guidelines.

A federal judge acknowledged the numerical error but denied a motion to correct it in March 2013 because a one-year statute of limitations had expired, according to a court opinion.

“A judge ruled that Mr. Cantu did not discover this error in time to correct it through any judicial means,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said. “As a result, it can now only be rectified through clemency. The president thought it was the right thing to do to commute his...

House Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio speaking during a news conference on Capitol Hill on March 26.

Immigration activists push House GOP in last-ditch campaign for vote

WASHINGTON -- In a last-ditch effort to bring an immigration overhaul to a vote in Congress, House Democrats on Tuesday began targeting key GOP lawmakers in hopes of pressuring House Speaker John A. Boehner to act.

The election-year campaign against 30 House Republicans, who have expressed interest in changing the nation's immigration laws, was framed by Democrats as one last opportunity to engage in a legislative debate before President Obama begins taking executive actions.

The administration has indicated it plans to halt strict enforcement of some immigration laws, including deportations that separate families, if Congress fails to act. Obama met Tuesday with faith leaders as protesters continued their second week of vigil in front of the White House.

"The president's going to be forced to act," said Rep. Joe Garcia (D-Fla.), a chief sponsor of a bipartisan bill that has sat idle in the House.

Boehner has tried to nudge the Republican majority to consider immigration reform, but...

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy earlier this month at a panel on reducing greenhouse gases.

U.S. appeals court upholds Obama administration limits on air toxics

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on Tuesday upheld the Environmental Protection Agency’s first-ever limits on air toxics, including emissions of mercury, arsenic and acid gases, preserving a far-reaching rule the White House had touted as central to President Obama’s environmental agenda.

In a 2-to-1 decision, the court ruled that the mercury rule “was substantively and procedurally valid,” turning aside challenges brought both by Republican-led states that had argued the rule was onerous and environmental groups that had contended it did not go far enough.

The EPA welcomed the decision, calling it “a victory for public health and the environment.” Liz Purchia, an agency spokeswoman, said, “These practical and cost-effective standards will save thousands of lives each year, prevent heart and asthma attacks, while slashing emissions of the neurotoxin mercury, which can impair children’s...

Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie.

Hawaii governor apologizes for questioning Inouye death-bed drama

Four days after questioning a death-bed letter at the center of Hawaii’s heated U.S. Senate race, Gov. Neil Abercrombie apologized to the widow of its ascribed author, the late Sen. Daniel Inouye, and others he offended. But he stuck to his key assertion Inouye told him the choice of a successor was his alone to make.

"I apologize to the late Sen. Inouye, his wife, Irene, his family, friends, and former staff for the comments I made concerning the letter," Abercrombie said in a statement issued late Monday. "I regret that my comments were interpreted as hurtful and disrespectful to them. That was certainly not my intent. Sen. Inouye was, without a doubt, one of the finest leaders in Hawaii's history, and a mentor to me.”

 Under Hawaii law, Abercrombie had the choice of three candidates to succeed Inouye, a fellow Democrat, who died unexpectedly in December 2012. He spurned Inouye’s favored successor, Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, and selected his lieutenant governor, Brian...


Obama: Religious intolerance has 'no place in our society'

WASHINGTON -- President Obama on Monday called on Americans to stand up against religious bigotry as he offered his support to the families of those killed in shootings at two Jewish community centers in the Kansas City area.

“Nobody should have to worry about their security when gathering with their fellow believers,” Obama told religious leaders at the White House for the annual Easter prayer breakfast. “No one should ever have to fear for their safety when they go to pray. And as a government, we're going to provide whatever assistance is needed to support the investigation.”

Obama noted that he had a connection to two of the victims. A teenager and his grandfather, shot in a parking lot behind the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City, attended the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection, Obamasaid. That church’s pastor, Rev. Adam Hamilton, delivered the sermon at the prayer service at the National Cathedral marking Obama’s second...

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius testifies before the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Sebelius praises Obamacare, concedes rollout was botched

WASHINGTON -- Outgoing Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said Sunday that the health insurance exchanges that are now up and running across the country have given uninsured Americans a true choice of insurance plans with price comparisons.

“People have competitive choices and real information for the first time ever in this insurance market,” Sebelius said in an interview on NBC's "Meet The Press."

Before, she said, “individuals were really on their own” if they did not have insurance through an employer or the government. “If you were healthy and wealthy, you could get coverage,” she said, but not so if you were sick or struggling economically.

Sebelius, who resigned last week, conceded that her department had botched the rollout of the insurance exchanges at the beginning of October.

“If I had a magic wand, I’d go back to mid-September” and ask more probing questions, she said. “I thought I was getting...

Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew answers questions from reporters Friday after meetings of International Monetary Fund, World Bank and international financial officials in Washington.

IMF urges Congress to back reforms giving fund more clout

WASHINGTON — The U.S. made clear this week that it wants the International Monetary Fund to be the emergency lender for countries like Ukraine, but American lawmakers have persistently refused to give the IMF the additional financial firepower that it has sought.

That tension was evident in meetings concluding this weekend of the IMF, the World Bank and representatives of the Group of 20 major economies: Washington's long delay in ratifying changes to the IMF's so-called quota system came under fire from finance ministers and other officials of many countries.

Analysts say congressional failure to act on the 2010 IMF reforms has hurt American credibility and weakened its hand in international settings, such as the G-20, the main global forum for cooperation on economic policies.

On Saturday, even as the IMF noted that a stronger U.S. economy was helping drive better global growth, it said in a statement that it was “deeply disappointed” by the lack of progress on the...

President Obama welcomed paying a larger portion of his income to the IRS as a result of his administration having increased taxes for wealthy Americans, the White House suggested.

Obamas' federal tax rate rose as their income fell in 2013

WASHINGTON-- President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama watched their income fall and their federal tax rate go up in 2013, according to IRS returns released Friday by the White House.

In a joint filing, the couple reported an adjusted gross income of $481,098, down $127,500 from 2012. The Obamas have seen a steady drop in income during their White House years, largely a result of slowing book sales for the couple. Both have published best-sellers.

The Obamas paid $98,169 in federal taxes, down from $112,214 in 2012. But their effective tax rose from 18.4% in 2012 to 20.4 % last year. In a blog post releasing the 42-page filing, the White House suggested the president was happy to hand over a higher share to the IRS.

Obama pushed for higher taxes on the wealthy and extended tax breaks for the middle class, a system that is "more fair," White House spokesman Jay Carney wrote.  “In 2013, as a result of his policies, the President was subject to limitations in tax preferences, as...

Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie, shown addressing his supporters on election night 2010, disputes the oft-told story that he spurned the death-bed wishes of the late U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye by appointing his lieutenant governor as Inouye's replacement.

Hawaii governor questions deathbed drama in heated Senate race

HONOLULU  — For political and emotional drama, it’s hard to top this: U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye, the most beloved and respected figure in Hawaii state history, makes a death-bed request to name his successor in Washington.

But the governor, a fellow Democrat who has clashed with Inouye, spurns the dying senator’s plea and appoints his own lieutenant governor to the seat.

The result, playing out more than a year later,  is a closely fought and emotionally wrought primary battle between the novice senator, Brian Schatz, and Inouye’s choice, Rep. Colleen Hanabusa:  a Democrat-on-Democrat fight tinged with ethnic and generational tension and haunted, inevitably, by the ghost of Inouye and his last wish.

But now Gov. Neil Abercrombie has challenged that much-told narrative, implying that it had been manufactured to pressure him into choosing Hanabusa. He questioned whether Inouye even wrote the letter, marked “personal” and dispatched just before he died,...