Congress scrambles for security funding plan as deadline nears

Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) arrives to speak at a news conferenceBy David Lawder and Richard Cowan WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Congressional leaders scrambled on Thursday to figure out how to avert a partial shutdown of the U.S. domestic security agency, with some Republican lawmakers suggesting a stop-gap funding bill to buy time. As the clock ticked toward a midnight Friday deadline for funding the Department of Homeland Security, the Senate was trying to move toward passing a "clean" funding bill that would exclude contentious immigration restrictions. Conservative Representative Joe Pitts, a Pennsylvania Republican, said short-term funding would "give the two sides of the Capitol time to negotiate and work out some kind of a strategy." The House has passed a $39.7 billion bill to pay for DHS operations but that measure blocks funding for Democratic President Barack Obama's executive order last year lifting the threat of deportation for millions of undocumented immigrants. Senate Democratic and Republican leaders reached a tentative deal on Wednesday to vote on a spending bill without the House restrictions, although it was unclear when the vote would occur.



Carly Fiorina ramps up Hillary Clinton attacks at C-PAC

Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina speaks during the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Md., Thursday, Feb. 26, 2015. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)OXON HILL, Md. (AP) — Former technology executive Carly Fiorina, the only woman known to be contemplating a Republican presidential bid, is ramping up attacks on likely Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.



Boehner defends Netanyahu's upcoming speech to Congress

Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) speaks about funding for the Department of Homeland Security during a news conference on Capitol HillBy Patricia Zengerle WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner on Thursday challenged an assertion by the Obama administration that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's upcoming speech to Congress about Iran's nuclear program would be destructive to U.S.-Israeli relations. "The president's national security advisor says it's destructive for the prime minister of Israel to address the United States Congress. I couldn't disagree more," Boehner said at his weekly news conference. "The American people and both parties in Congress have always stood with Israel and nothing, and no one, could get in the way," the Republican leader said.



GOP's Jeb Bush working to reassert conservative credentials

FILE - In this Feb. 18, 2015 file photo, former Florida Gov. Jeb. Bush speaks in Chicago. As Florida’s governor, Jeb Bush was among the nation’s most conservative state chief executives. He’s quietly embarking on work to persuade the right-flank of the Republican Party he’d be that same kind of conservative in the White House. Eight years removed from office, Bush is viewed by some conservatives as a squishy moderate: a member of the GOP’s most established family with a toxic position on immigration and education standards. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green, File)OXON HILL, Md. (AP) — As Florida's governor, Jeb Bush was among the nation's most conservative state chief executives. He's quietly embarking on work to persuade the right-flank of the Republican Party he'd be that same kind of conservative in the White House.



Future of Puerto Rico bankruptcy bill uncertain in Congress
By Elvina Nawaguna and Megan Davies WASHINGTON/NEW YORK (Reuters) - A bill to give Puerto Rico's ailing public utilities a way to restructure debt under the U.S. bankruptcy code drew skepticism from congressional Republicans but support from Democrats, who said it would relieve the island's problems. The Republican-controlled Judiciary subcommittee on regulatory reform of the House of Representatives on Thursday held a hearing on the bill, proposed by Puerto Rico's non-voting congressional delegate, Democrat Pedro Pierluisi. The legislation would allow the territory's government-owned corporations to file under Chapter 9 of the bankruptcy code. Puerto Rico's electric power authority, PREPA, is struggling with debt of about $9 billion.

US Republican presidential hopefuls talk tough

US Republican Senator from Texas Ted Cruz addresses the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at National Harbor, Maryland, outside Washington, DC on February 26, 2015US Republican presidential hopefuls wooed thousands of conservatives gathered near Washington on Thursday, coming out swinging against the Obama administration, Hillary Clinton and fellow party members seen as not conservative enough. Candidates-in-waiting, including New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and Texas Senator Ted Cruz, brought crowds to their feet at the Conservative Political Action Conference with red-meat messages such as peace through strength, repealing "Obamacare" and the need for greater presidential leadership. CPAC is a must stop for Republicans politicos. The Texas Republican raised hackles in his own party in recent years when he helped push the US government into shutdown over budget fights, and for opposing Republican leadership on a series of issues.



Tennessee Black Caucus seeks apology from GOP lawmaker

FILE - In this Jan. 10, 2012 file photo, Rep. Sheila Butt, R-Columbia, lower right, listens as Gov. Bill Haslam, center, talks about his legislative agenda on the opening day of the second session of the 107th General Assembly in Nashville, Tenn. The Tennessee Legislative Black Caucus has said Butt should apologize for a Facebook post they say is racist. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey, File)NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Tennessee Legislative Black Caucus on Thursday called on Republican Rep. Sheila Butt to apologize for what they said was a racist Facebook post, and said she should be removed from her leadership position.



New Jersey's Christie to conservatives: 'I'm still standing'

New Jersey Governor Christie speaks while being interviewed onstage at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at National Harbor in MarylandBy Steve Holland and Emily Flitter NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. (Reuters) - New Jersey Governor Chris Christie addressed head-on questions about his volatile temper on Thursday and dismissed critics, telling a gathering of conservatives: "I'm still standing." The potential Republican presidential contender is trying to remain viable for the November 2016 election despite losing some financial donors to rival Jeb Bush. Polls put Christie in the middle of a Republican pack led by Bush and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. The subject came up when he took questions from conservative radio talk show host Laura Ingraham at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Maryland, near Washington.



Missouri state auditor and candidate for governor dies
(Reuters) - Missouri's state auditor, Tom Schweich, a Republican candidate for governor, died on Thursday, Governor Jay Nixon said in a statement. Schweich, 54, had been reelected in November. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported, citing an unnamed police source, that Schweich had sustained a self-inflicted gunshot wound at his home. This report could not be confirmed immediately. Schweich was "a brilliant, devoted and accomplished public servant who dedicated his career to making Missouri and the world a better place," Nixon said in a statement. ...

Senate panel OKs auto industry whistleblower incentive
A measure that would offer financial incentives for auto industry employees to expose safety defects won unanimous backing from a U.S. Senate panel on Thursday. The vote by 13 Republican and Democratic members of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee sends the legislation, which would allow whistleblowers to share in auto company penalty payments, to the floor of the Senate. The measure follows controversies over defective General Motors Co ignition switches and Takata Corp air bag inflators. An aide to Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell could not say when a vote might be scheduled.

Former US Rep. Todd Akin: I'm not running in 2016
ST. LOUIS (AP) — Former U.S. Rep. Todd Akin is putting an end to the rumors: He will not make another run for the U.S. Senate in 2016.

Netanyahu sets meeting with bipartisan leaders of U.S. Senate
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will meet with the Republican and Democratic leaders of the U.S. Senate on Tuesday after he addresses the U.S. Congress, Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Thursday. The meeting at the U.S. Capitol among Netanyahu, McConnell and Democratic Senate leader Harry Reid comes as Democrats have accused Republicans of seeking to make the U.S.-Israeli relationship a partisan issue. Republicans invited Netanyahu to speak to lawmakers without consulting Democrats.

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