WASHINGTON – The House of Representatives passed legislation to enact stringent restrictions on abortion Tuesday, acting on an issue championed by social conservatives in the Republican majority and inviting a possible new challenge to constitutional abortion rights.
The bill approved largely along party lines would prohibit abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy, with limited exceptions to save the life of the mother or in cases of rape or incest, so long as they have been reported to law enforcement.
The final vote was 228 to 196. Six Republicans voted against the measure, while as many Democrats voted for it.
The 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision allowed abortions until a fetus is viable outside the womb, generally considered to be at 24 weeks. The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals last month struck down an Arizona law that also would have banned abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Other states with Republican-led legislatures have also pushed new abortion restrictions.
WASHINGTON — Recently disclosed National Security Agency surveillance programs have helped disrupt more than 50 “potential terrorist events” around the world over the last 12 years, according to U.S. intelligence officials, who described the spying operations as tightly regulated and extremely useful.
The officials, testifying Tuesday before the House Intelligence Committee, identified two new cases — an alleged plot to blow up the New York Stock Exchange, and a U.S. resident who helped finance a terrorist group in Somalia — that they said proved the value of collecting domestic telephone calling records and monitoring foreign Internet traffic.
Most of the plots were foiled by surveillance of foreigners overseas, the kind of spying the NSA has done since it was created in 1952 to monitor communications and other so-called signals intelligence.
WASHINGTON — A coalition of presidential campaign veterans, healthcare companies and community activists will kick off a months-long push on Sunday to prepare millions of Americans to sign up for insurance this fall under President Obama’s healthcare law.
The multimillion-dollar campaign — called “Get Covered America” — will build on the kind of grass-roots organizing and targeted advertising that were critical to Obama’s reelection.
This time, the stakes may be almost as high. The fate of the president’s signature 2010 health law hinges largely on successfully enrolling uninsured Americans in health plans, even as Republicans continue to try to block the law in Washington and in state Capitols.
“We know it’s a big task,” acknowledged Anne Filipic, president of Enroll America, the nonprofit formed to lead the effort. She said that most of the uninsured — 78%, according to the organization’s most recent survey...
WASHINGTON -- The White House plans to announce Tuesday that it has improved gun safety in the country by chipping away at 21 of 23 items on an executive to-do list issued in January.
But the progress report will also highlight steps that Congress has not taken, as some of the most significant measures ordered by President Obama will have little effect if lawmakers don’t act to give funding or approval.
Administration officials say there has been progress on several actions taken by Obama under executive authority, including directives to end the freeze on gun violence research and to reduce barriers that keep states from submitting records to the national background system.
They acknowledged, though, that the end to the 17-year ban on research will make little difference until Congress restores funding for the work. In addition, a more thorough database of mental health and criminal history records is valuable only if gun sellers check that database before selling firearms.
WASHINGTON – Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director John Morton announced his resignation Monday after more than four years at the head of the agency.
A senior Department of Homeland Security official familiar with the matter said that Morton’s departure was voluntary but acknowledged that the Obama administration was surprised by the timing as Congress is in the middle of debating a comprehensive overhaul of immigration laws.
“ICE has truly come of age and become an innovative, leading force in federal law enforcement,” Morton said in a memo announcing his exit to agency employees.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said in a statement that she was “deeply grateful” for Morton’s work.
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court ruled Monday that brand-name drug makers can be sued for violating the antitrust laws if they make a deal that pays a potential competitor to put off selling a generic version.
The 5-3 decision is likely to benefit consumers with lower prices. The Federal Trade Commission, which has pursued suits against the drug makers, estimated these so-called “pay for delay” deals cost consumers and health plans $3.5 billion a year.
The ruling is likely to send a warning to drug makers who wish to deter generic rivals from entering the market. A “large and unjustified” payment to settle a patent dispute can trigger an antitrust claim against the brand-maker, the court said.
This case posed a conflict between the patent laws, which give patent holders a type of monopoly, and the anti-trust laws which forbid monopolies and anti-competitive deals.
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court threw out an Arizona law Monday and by a surprisingly lopsided vote, ruling state officials may not demand a proof of citizenship from residents who register to vote.
The 7-2 decision written by Justice Antonin Scalia said this “proof of citizenship” requirement conflicts with the national Motor Voter Act. The measure said states must “accept and use” a simple registration form when filled out by residents who are registering to vote.
Scalia insists on closely following the words of the law, and in this instance, the words of the federal measure were clear in their meaning, he said. As written, the Motor Voter Act “forbids states to demand that an applicant submit additional information beyond that required by the federal form,” he said.
The decision is a victory for voting-rights advocates who had challenged the Arizona law and similar measures in a handful of other states. They had sued Arizona on behalf of...
WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court, rejecting the advice of the Obama administration, will consider whether to limit the federal housing discrimination law to cases of actual and proven bias against blacks or Latinos.
The justices voted to hear a New Jersey city’s appeal arguing it cannot be held liable for housing discrimination for redeveloping a depressed neighborhood and reducing the number of homes that are available to African Americans and Latinos.
At issue is whether the Fair Housing Act forbids actions by cities or mortgage lenders that have a “discriminatory effect” on racial minorities.
Last year, the high court was set to decide that issue in a case from St. Paul, Minn.
But the Justice Department’s civil rights chief Thomas Perez went to St. Paul and persuaded city officials to drop their appeal on the eve of the argument before the Supreme Court. He and other civil rights advocates feared a decision that would crimp enforcement of the laws against...
WASHINGTON — White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough said Sunday that “the scope and scale” of assistance to Syrian rebels will expand, based on evidence that the Assad government is gaining ground in the protracted civil war and that it may have used chemical weapons in the conflict.
Speaking on CBS News’ “Face the Nation,” McDonough did not say whether arms shipments to Syrian rebels would include artillery and other heavy weaponry that could help reduce the military regimes advantage. In the shadow of Iraq and Afghanistan, the United States has to tread carefully, McDonough said.
“We have to be very discerning about what's in our interest and what outcome is best for us, and the prices that we're willing to pay to get to that place,” he said. “We've rushed to war in this region in the past; we're not going to do it here.”
WASHINGTON- -The White House said Friday that it will take weeks to deliver weapons and ammunition to Syrian rebels despite the rising death toll in the civil war and pleas for speedy assistance from anti-government forces.
The United States has created supply pipelines and set up intermediaries to deliver humanitarian aid to the opposition for several months and will use them to send direct military assistance to the Supreme Military Council, an umbrella group of rebel factions, Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes said.
“In terms of timelines, we've established these pipelines, so I think you should see this as a continuum,” Rhodes said. “There's already material that has been flowing in to the opposition, and that will continue to be the case in the weeks to come. So, we don't anticipate that this is something that is far off into the future.”
Another administration official confirmed that the administration is talking about delivery in a matter of...
WASHINGTON—Sen. Barbara Boxer plans to push for Washington to provide $250 million and perhaps more to help local and state governments pay the cost of healthcare to uninsured immigrants who seek legal status under legislation now before the Senate.
Officials from Los Angeles County--home to an estimated 1.1 million people in the country illegally, one-tenth of the nation's total--have expressed concern that local taxpayers will be “left holding the bag” to pay for the healthcare costs.
“Our state has more at stake, I would suggest, than any other state” from the legislation, the California Democrat told reporters Thursday, citing the large number of immigrants living illegally in the state.
The immigration bill before the Senate would bar most immigrants seeking legal status from receiving federal benefits, such as food stamps and Medicaid, during the years it would take to become legal residents or U.S. citizens.