Politics Now
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Homeland Security chief: Funding should not be 'political football' in immigration fight

The nation's Homeland Security chief pushed back Thursday against Republican threats to cut off funding for the department to protest President Obama’s immigration policies.

The department's budget runs out at the end of February, and Republicans have threatened to hold up additional appropriations unless the Obama administration pulls back plans to stop the deportation of up to 4 million immigrants who are in the country illegally.

“In these times, the Homeland Security budget of this country should not be a political football,” Jeh Johnson, the secretary of Homeland Security, said at the Wilson Center, a think tank in Washington.

The United States faces increased threats from terrorist groups, Johnson said, particularly in the wake of the three-day killing spree that left 17 people dead in Paris this month. An Al Qaeda offshoot in Yemen claimed responsibility.

To press his point, Johnson showed the audience a photo of himself as an 8-year-old boy with his family next to their Buick...

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Obama's proposed Pentagon budget exposes familiar GOP divide

When President Obama and Congress agreed to the "sequester" cuts in 2011, neither really thought they would happen.

The cuts were considered so terrible that they would force the parties to broker a compromise. The deal included $1 trillion of deep reductions over a decade, slashing across almost every aspect of government.

In fact, the cuts took effect after all when lawmakers failed to reach a deal. Now undoing them is proving just as daunting.

Obama's proposal Thursday to reverse the next phase of cuts for fiscal 2016 landed with a thud at the Republican-controlled Congress.

As much as the GOP's defense hawks would like to boost spending for the Pentagon, they are running smack into Republican deficit hawks who want to cut all government budgets.

At the same time, despite the past few years of a narrowing federal deficit -- now the smallest since Obama took office -- few Republicans are willing to stomach Obama's proposed tax hikes to pay for the new spending.

The GOP divide between...

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Senate approves Keystone XL pipeline bill despite veto threat

After three weeks and nearly 50 amendment votes, the Senate on Thursday approved legislation to expedite construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.

Passage secured not only a top Republican policy victory, but a political success for new Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who made Keystone his priority. The issue also became the first test of his promise to return the Senate to freewheeling debate and a more open amendment process.

"We had a whirlwind," said a noticeably upbeat McConnell, as he opened the chamber on Thursday morning.

Even though White House has threatened to veto the pipeline bill, nine Democrats joined all Republicans present on the 62-36 vote.

But passage Thursday doesn’t quite yet set the stage for what many expect to be a veto showdown between President Obama and the new Republican Congress.

The bill will need to return to the House, where the Republican majority will have to accept -- or reject -- the changes made by the amendments in the Senate, or negotiate...

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Rick Perry vows to fight criminal case that judge refused to toss out

Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry on Wednesday vowed to continue his fight to win exoneration a day after a judge handed the possible presidential aspirant a setback in the criminal case alleging he abused his gubernatorial veto powers.

Perry, who has upped his visibility in the 2016 chase for the GOP presidential nomination, insisted Wednesday that he had acted “lawfully and legally” in vetoing $7.5 million in state funding for the Public Integrity Unit in the office of Travis County Dist. Atty. Rosemary Lehmberg. The veto came after Lehmberg, a Democrat, refused to resign following a drunken driving conviction.

“Given the choice, I would make the same decision again today,” Perry told reporters in Austin, Texas, at a televised news conference. “Make no mistake, this prosecution sets a dangerous precedent in our country, and it directly targets the authority of every governor’s office in the nation.” he said.

In August, a grand jury indicted Perry on charges including abuse of official...

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Judge refuses to toss Rick Perry case on constitutional grounds

A Texas judge on Tuesday refused to dismiss a felony abuse-of-power case against former Gov. Rick Perry on constitutional grounds, rejecting the argument that Perry was acting within his rights as chief executive of America's second-most populous state when he carried out a veto threat.

The decision by District Judge Bert Richardson, who like Perry is a Republican, means the case against the possible 2016 presidential hopeful can move forward. Perry left office Jan. 20 and says he will announce as soon as May whether he will make a second run for the White House.

Perry was indicted in August on charges of abuse of official power and coercion of a public servant. He is accused of publicly threatening — then making good on — a 2013 veto of $7.5 million in state funding last year for a public corruption division within the office of Travis County Dist. Atty. Rosemary Lehmberg. That came after Lehmberg, a Democrat, refused to resign after a conviction and jail time for drunken driving....

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As House Benghazi committee reconvenes, Democrats renew complaints

Democrats are renewing a public battle over the intent of a special House committee's probe of the Sept. 11, 2012, Benghazi consulate attack, saying Republicans have intentionally excluded them from witness interviews and other key aspects of the investigation.

In a letter sent Friday to the Benghazi committee's chairman, Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), top Democrat Elijah Cummings of Maryland also cited two instances in which the committee dismissed testimony from witnesses interviewed only by Republicans that contradicted allegations made by Republican members in public over the State Department's cooperation with an independent review of the attack.

Cummings asked Gowdy to resolve the dispute before the planned public hearing on Tuesday, settling on a formal set of rules to govern the investigation that would include guaranteeing that any witness interviews are conducted jointly by both parties and that any decisions to subpoena further witnesses and documents can be debated publicly....

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