January 20th, 2014
02:22 AM ET

New Jersey Lt. Governor to deny claims

New Jersey Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno is expected to "categorically deny" allegations Monday that she gave Hoboken's Mayor an ultimatum to support a redevelopment plan backed by Gov. Chris Christie in order to receive Hurricane Sandy recovery aid, a source said.

Guadagno's remarks will be the first time a senior Christie official has addressed the charges Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer first made Saturday on MSNBC.

Zimmer went even further Sunday, implicating Christie directly in an interview on CNN.

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Filed under: Politics • U.S.
January 10th, 2014
05:45 AM ET

Legal woes lurk for Gov. Chris Christie

This may turn into much more than just a political scandal.

It may have seemed like a teenage prank at the time, but the blockage of bridge traffic as a possible act of partisan political revenge has put New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie in the middle of a serious legal stew.

And the fire underneath it is just beginning to heat up for the Republican presidential hopeful, as the state assembly plans to post online 907 pages of documents related to the case Friday.

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Filed under: Politics • U.S.
January 9th, 2014
12:55 AM ET

Christie could take bigger hit over scandal

This isn't the first time critics have called New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie a bully. But now the man many consider a Republican presidential frontrunner is on the defensive, scrambling to distance himself from an erupting political scandal that threatens to tarnish his image well before the 2016 elections.

E-mails that surfaced Wednesday suggest top Christie appointees orchestrated traffic jams on the George Washington Bridge as part of a political vendetta to punish a local mayor who wouldn't support him at the polls. Lane closures around approaches to the country's busiest bridge snarled traffic for days in September in Fort Lee, New Jersey - a problem the governor and his administration had originally blamed on a mishandled traffic study.

In response to the e-mail firestorm, Christie said Wednesday that he was misled by staff. He called the conduct outrageous and said he knew nothing about it.

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Filed under: Politics • U.S.
January 7th, 2014
12:30 PM ET

Bill to extend jobless benefits advances

A $6.4 billion plan to extend unemployment insurance benefits to eligible workers for another three months cleared a key procedural hurdle in the Senate on Tuesday as 60 senators - including six Republicans - voted to move ahead with debate on the measure.

"Today brought us a glimmer of hope," said Sen. Charles Schumer, D-New York, after the vote. "It shows that the big plates - the tectonic plates in our politics - are moving."

But House Speaker John Boehner said he told President Barack Obama a month ago that another extension of temporary emergency unemployment benefits "should not only be paid for but include something to help put people back to work. To date, the president has offered no such plan. If he does, I'll be happy to discuss it, but right now the House is going to remain focused on growing the economy and giving America's unemployed the independence that only comes from finding a good job."

Still, the 60 yea votes were the minimum needed to allow debate to go forward and avoid a filibuster in the Senate. Democrats got help from Republicans Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire; Dan Coats of Indiana; Susan Collins of Maine; Dean Heller of Nevada, Lisa Murkowski of Arkansas; and Rob Portman of Ohio.

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Filed under: Barack Obama • Politics • U.S.
Pussy Riot band member released
December 23rd, 2013
03:32 AM ET

Pussy Riot band member released

Maria Alyokhina, a member of Russian punk band Pussy Riot who was serving a two-year jail term for her part in a performance critical of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has been released from prison.
Alyokhina's release from a prison in the Krasnoyarsk region of Siberia was confirmed by Pyotr Verzilov, the husband of fellow band member, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova.
Tolokonnikova, who is also imprisoned, is expected to be released later Monday, Verzilov said.

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Filed under: Politics • Russia • Vladimir Putin • World
Obama addresses successes, shortcomings for 2013
President Barack Obama addresses reporters during his year-end news conference Friday.
December 20th, 2013
03:16 PM ET

Obama addresses successes, shortcomings for 2013

Correction: We hate to admit it, but in the heat of live-blogging President Barack Obama’s year-end news conference, we misquoted him as saying he “screwed the duck” with the Obamacare rollout. What he actually said was: “We screwed it up.” And in this case, so did we. We regret the error, and we thank our audience for the feedback.

[Updated at 3:16 p.m. ET] Obama hailed what he said was the first rollback in Iran's nuclear capabilities in a decade. Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons has long posed a challenge to U.S. national security, and the U.S. now has a structure under which Iran can "get right with the international community in a verifiable fashion" and prove that any peaceful nuclear program will not be weaponized and that it won't threaten the U.S. and its allies in the region, including Israel.

If Iran reverts to its old ways, Obama said he would put more pressure on Iran, but that isn't necessary right now. Existing sanctions remain in place, costing Iran billions of dollars each month in oil sales, along with banking sanctions, he said. There is no need to leave a club hanging over Iran's head, Obama said, because there's no doubt among Iranians that Congress will pass more sanctions if necessary.

[Updated at 3:10 p.m. ET] Asked about the implications of nominating Sen. Max Baucus as ambassador to China when Baucus offered the best hope of overturning the tax code, Obama called for "swift confirmation" of Baucus as ambassador and said that if Democrats and Republicans are "serious about tax reform, then it's not going to depend on one guy."

[Updated at 3:04 p.m. ET] Despite the negative publicity surrounding his health care initiative, 2 million people or more have signed up, Obama said, saying the program is "working."

"The demand is there, and as I've said before, the product is good," he said.

[Updated at 3:00 p.m. ET] Obama declined to comment specifically about Edward Snowden, saying he would let the courts and attorney general comment on his case, but he said that Snowden's leaks have "done unnecessary damage to U.S. intelligence capabilities and U.S. diplomacy."

He further said the United States is a country that "abides by the rule of law, that cares deeply about privacy, that cares about civil liberties, that cares about our Constitution," where countries with less concern for civil liberties have been able to sit on the sideline and cast aspersions as a result of the leaks.

However, he called the debate that was sparked by the Snowden incident an "important" one.

[Updated at 2:55 p.m. ET] Asked what his New Year's resolution would be, Obama responded, "To be nicer to the White House press corps," earning some laughter and light applause.

[Updated at 2:54 p.m. ET] Obama cites "comprehensive immigration reform" as an example where there's largely bipartisan support on an issue. He expressed hope that despite a "few disagreements," Congress could pass reform that would boost the economy and allow the country to attract more high-skilled workers.

[Updated at 2:50 p.m. ET] Asked to name his worst mistake of the year, Obama said, "since I'm in charge, obviously we screwed it up" on the health care roll-out. Despite meeting every three weeks with officials to ensure that consumers had a pleasant experience with the roll-out, "the fact is it didn't happen in the first month, in the first six weeks, in a way that was at all acceptable."

[Updated at 2:46 p.m. ET] While insisting that the NSA has committed no abuses in performing its surveillance duties, "there may be another way of skinning the cat" to alleviate Americans' concerns, Obama says.

[Updated at 2:42 p.m. ET] "This is only going to work if the American people have confidence and trust," Obama says of the NSA surveillance program, while conceding that American trust in the process has "diminished."

[Updated at 2:36 p.m. ET] Obama says there is a review of NSA surveillance under way to determine if current programs balance the need to keep the country secure while "taking seriously the rule of law and our concerns about privacy and civil liberties."

As for the controversial collection of metadata, Obama says there have been no alleged instances of the NSA acting inappropriately in the use of the data. The president says he has confidence that the NSA is "not engaging in domestic surveillance or snooping around."

[Updated at 2:31 p.m. ET] Asked if 2013 was the worst year of his presidency, Obama chuckled and said that despite Congress failing to act on his legislative initiatives, there have been many successes. Among those are an increase in wireless capacities in classrooms, a manufacturing hub in Youngstown, Ohio, that will "build on the renaissance we're seeing in manufacturing" and the fact that the U.S. is "producing more oil and natural gas in this country than we're importing."

[Updated at 2:26 p.m. ET] Obama says providing more opportunities for the middle-class and those hoping to join the middle class will be a top priority for 2014, and he'd like to see the country add more jobs, especially those with "wages and benefits that allow families to build a little bit of financial security."

"I think 2014 needs to be a year of action," he says

[Updated at 2:24 p.m. ET] As businesses are positioned to add new jobs amid more growth, Obama predicts 2014 will be "a breakthrough year for America," but much remains to be done, Obama says.

[Updated at 2:21 p.m. ET] So far in 2013, the United States added 2 million jobs as unemployment has fallen to the lowest point in five years, Obama says.

[Updated at 2:19 p.m. ET] Obama's year-end news conference has begun.

[Original story posted at 1:57 p.m. ET] President Barack Obama's year-end news conference is expected to begin at 2 p.m. ET.

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Filed under: Barack Obama • Politics • U.S.
December 13th, 2013
02:32 AM ET

Judge says giant cross must be removed

A giant cross that has stood on a Southern California mountain for decades must be removed because it violates the constitutional separation of church and state, a judge ordered this week.

The order Thursday by U.S. District Judge Larry Burns continues a long legal battle about the 43-foot cross atop Mt. Soledad in San Diego.

Burns ordered that the cross would have to be removed within 90 days. But the cross may be able to stay if the case is appealed, the judge ordered.

FULL STORY

Filed under: Politics • U.S.
December 10th, 2013
02:13 AM ET

Colorado town to vote on drone ordinance

Phillip Steel, a resident of Deer Trail, Colorado, is ready to fight for Old West values he feels are being threatened by drones.

Asked what exactly he's proposing to do when he sees an unmanned aircraft, Steel points his weapon to the sky.

"I am proposing to shoot it down," he said.

Deer Trail - population 598 - will vote Tuesday on a measure that would allow its residents to hunt for federal drones and shoot them down.

FULL STORY

Filed under: Politics • U.S.
November 22nd, 2013
01:15 AM ET

Key part of HeathCare.gov was shelved

When the troubled federal health care website came online, the key "Anonymous Shopper" function was nowhere to be found - even though it passed a key test almost two weeks before HealthCare.gov launched.

That successful test, noted in documents obtained by CNN and confirmed by a source close to the project, contradicts testimony from an Obama administration official overseeing HealthCare.gov, who told lawmakers earlier this month the function was scrapped because it "failed miserably" before the October 1 launch.

Like much of the HealthCare.gov rollout, the subject has become political fodder for Republicans, who claim the decision to nix the anonymous shopper was made by administration officials worried it would produce rate estimates so high they would deter potential enrollees.

FULL STORY

Filed under: Barack Obama • Politics • U.S.
October 30th, 2013
03:19 AM ET

Congress readies hot seat for Sebelius

They want her fired and the health care reforms she champions dismantled, and now Republicans will finally get their chance to question Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

She will appear before a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing on Wednesday called to examine the rocky rollout of the Obamacare website.

In an advance copy of her testimony, Sebelius says it's frustrating and unacceptable that the site has not lived up to its expectations.

However, she said Obamacare has delivered on its central promise to provide affordable healthcare.

FULL STORY

Filed under: Politics • U.S.
October 29th, 2013
03:04 AM ET

Why Sebelius will keep her job for now

Challenges continue to mount for Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

Public criticism persists as she prepares to testify Wednesday before a Congressional committee demanding answers about ongoing problems with the Obama administration's health care enrollment website.

Public ridicule reached prime-time - or late-night - when "Saturday Night Live" parodied Sebelius and the HealthCare.gov debacle that has rocked the online rollout of President Barack Obama's signature domestic policy achievement.

FULL STORY

Filed under: Politics • U.S.
October 21st, 2013
02:01 AM ET

Same-sex marriages start in New Jersey

Marsha Shapiro and Louise Walpin married each other for the third time early Monday. But this time, it was especially memorable: They were among the first to tie the knot after same-sex marriage became legal in New Jersey.

A rabbi first "married" the couple in 1992 in a Jewish ceremony. They married a second time in New York in August 2012 after same-sex marriage became legal there.

The third time was just after midnight Thursday in the Garden State. The couple helped pave the way there through a 2011 lawsuit that brought about the change. New Jersey now becomes the 14th state to recognize gay marriages.

FULL STORY

Filed under: Politics • U.S.
October 17th, 2013
02:14 AM ET

Key points of the new debt deal

OK, so Congress passed a bill, the President signed it into law and the government's finally back in business.

But with all the last-minute press conferencing, speechifying, and endless partisan tweeting, the one thing that wasn't extensively discussed was the actual details of the bill. Since it evolved constantly and was pushed through at the 11th hour, things got a tad confusing.

Here's are the key points you need to know about the bill that saved the government:

FULL STORY
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Filed under: Politics
October 17th, 2013
02:14 AM ET

The 5 most surprising provisions in the debt deal

So much for a "clean" bill. The measure passed by Congress to fund the government and raise the debt ceiling also contains some goodies and gifts tucked into the 35-page bill.

There's more money - a lot more - for a dam project on the Ohio River and millions of cash for Colorado flooding repair projects. And the wealthy widow of a late U.S. senator will receive a year's pay as a death benefit.

You have to hand it to a Congress that finds no bill is off limits for pork.

"These people are like alcoholics. They can't resist taking a drink. It's ridiculous. It's absolutely ridiculous," said Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona to the Daily Beast, referring to the dam project. "It shows that there are people in this body who are willing to use any occasion to get an outrageous pork-barrel project done at the cost of millions and millions of dollars. It's disgusting."

Here are five most surprising provisions to the bill:

FULL STORY
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Filed under: Politics
October 8th, 2013
01:02 PM ET

Obama calls Boehner; stalemate goes on

There were news conferences and a high-level phone call between President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner, but no immediate sign of progress on reopening the government a week into a partial shutdown or reaching a deal to avoid the first-ever U.S. default next week.

Obama called Boehner on Tuesday morning, and the White House then announced the president would make a statement and take some questions from reporters at 2 p.m. ET.

Earlier, Boehner demanded that Obama and Democrats negotiate with Republicans on steps needed to end the shutdown that began on October 1 and raise the nation's debt ceiling before the deadline for default on October 17.

FULL STORY

Filed under: Barack Obama • John Boehner • Politics
October 8th, 2013
06:08 AM ET

SEAL team Somalia mission: Capturing suspect

U.S. Navy SEAL Team Six pulled out during a raid in Somalia to capture suspected Al-Shabaab leader Ikrima when it became clear that he couldn't be taken alive, a senior U.S. official told CNN.

"Their mission was to capture him. Once it became clear we were not going to (be) able to take him, the Navy commander made the decision to withdraw," said the official, who has direct knowledge of the entire Somalia operation but declined to be identified publicly.

The official said the SEALs faced heavy opposition and an intense firefight broke out, leading to the withdrawal.

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Filed under: Politics • U.S. • World
October 8th, 2013
06:06 AM ET

Shutdown forecast: Week Two, and clouds ahead

Tuesday marks the eighth day of the partial shutdown of the federal government, and there's no end in sight.

President Barack Obama continues to refuse to negotiate with Republicans. They continue to insist that any government funding bill must somehow delay, defund or otherwise disrupt his signature health reform law.

What's more, the issue of funding the government has now fused with the issue of raising the nation's debt ceiling.

FULL STORY

Filed under: Politics • U.S.
October 4th, 2013
04:09 AM ET

Shutdown: Obama cancels Asia trip

U.S. foreign policy takes the latest hit as the government shutdown enters its fourth day.

With his focus on the brewing domestic crisis, the White House canceled President Barack Obama's trip to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Bali, Indonesia.

"The president made this decision based on the difficulty in moving forward with foreign travel in the face of a shutdown, and his determination to continue pressing his case that Republicans should immediately allow a vote to reopen the government," a statement from the White House said.

Secretary of State John Kerry will lead the U.S. delegation in Asia.

FULL STORY

Filed under: Politics • U.S.
October 3rd, 2013
09:53 PM ET

New California law gives undocumented immigrants driver's licenses

By Jaqueline Hurtado and Catherine E. Shoichet, CNN

Los Angeles - It was a moment Jose Diaz knew he didn't want to miss.
The day laborer and undocumented immigrant waited for more than 10 years to see it.
"I missed work today," he said, "but I felt like I had to be here."
Diaz was in the crowd cheering after California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a law Thursday that will allow undocumented immigrants to get driver's licenses in his state.
"This is only the first step," Brown said from the steps of Los Angeles City Hall, adding that he hopes other states will follow California's example.
"When a million people without their documents drive legally and with respect in the state of California, the rest of this country will have to stand up and take notice," he said. "No longer are undocumented people in the shadows. They are alive and well and respected in the state of California."
The new measure, known as Assembly Bill 60, requires the California Department of Motor Vehicle issue driver's licenses to undocumented immigrants who can prove their identities, have established California residency and pass driving exams. The law goes into effect no later than January 1, 2015.
Details about how the new licenses will look and the exact process for obtaining them are still in the works. But even so, supporters of the measure cheered the signing of the law.
"To have a license is not a luxury. It is a necessity, because in cars we go to work, to school and shopping and without a license really we are limited in many things," said Frida Hinojosa, an undocumented immigrant.
For more than a year, driver's licenses and other state benefits have been at the heart of a battle in the nationwide immigration debate.
Supporters of licenses for undocumented immigrants argue that it's safer to have more drivers trained and insured, and opponents argue that such systems are rife with fraud.
The rules vary from state to state.
In January, New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez said she would push to repeal the state law allowing undocumented immigrants to obtain driver's licenses. That same month, the governor of Illinois signed a new law that would allow undocumented immigrants to get temporary licenses.
In at least 45 states, officials have said recipients of deferred action - the Obama administration's program for young undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children –  are eligible for driver's licenses, according to the National Immigration Law Center. But in some states, like Arizona and Nebraska, officials have stepped up efforts to stop licenses from being issued, the law center said.


Filed under: Immigration • Politics • U.S.
October 3rd, 2013
01:28 PM ET

Obama: Only one way out of shutdown

President Barack Obama went on a rhetorical offensive against House Republicans on the third day of the federal government shutdown, telling a crowd in Maryland Thursday that there's only one party at fault and one remedy.

"There are enough Republicans and Democrats in the House of Representatives today that if the speaker of the House, John Boehner, simply let the bill get on the floor for an up or down vote, every congressman could vote their conscience, the shutdown would end today," Obama said in a speech in Rockville, Maryland.

"The only thing that is keeping the government shut down, the only thing preventing people from going back to work, and basic research starting back up, and farmers and small business owners, getting their loans - the only thing that's preventing all that from happening right now today, in the next five minutes, is that Speaker John Boehner won't even let the bill get a yes or no vote because he doesn't want to anger the extremists in his party."

FULL STORY

Filed under: Politics
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