March 15th, 2013
03:26 AM ET

Conservative's reversal on gay marriage

You probably recognize Sen. Rob Portman from his tireless campaigning for Mitt Romney in 2012. He was even on the short list to be Romney's running mate.

He's been a leading Republican voice on economic issues for four decades.

Now, the prominent Ohio conservative will be known for something else: reversing his hardline position against gay marriage.

He invited CNN to his Senate office to reveal the news.

"I'm announcing today a change of heart on an issue that a lot of people feel strongly about that has to do with gay couples' opportunity to marry," Portman told CNN.

It has to do with another revelation, one deeply personal. His 21-year-old son, Will, is gay.

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Obama, lawmakers may discuss cuts Friday
February 27th, 2013
09:56 AM ET

Obama, lawmakers may discuss cuts Friday

Congressional leaders have been invited to the White House on Friday, the day forced federal spending cuts are scheduled to start taking effect, according to a senior Republican aide.

The aide told CNN that Republicans do not anticipate the meeting to be anything more than optics an effort, the aide said, by President Barack Obama to show he is at least talking to Congress on the day the cuts are supposed to kick in.

But the aide added it wasn't clear what was on the president's agenda.

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Republicans stall Hagel nomination
February 14th, 2013
05:22 PM ET

Republicans stall Hagel nomination

It appears a Senate vote on Defense Secretary nominee Chuck Hagel will be delayed for more than a week.

The Senate Thursday afternoon failed to garner enough votes to stop a filibuster against Hagel (pictured). Fifty-eight senators voted to move forward with the nomination, while 40 voted to hold it up. One senator, Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch, announced present, and Republican Sen. David Vitter missed the vote.

Sixty votes were needed to move the nomination forward. Senate Republicans initiated the filibuster over questions about Hagel's finances, as well as remaining tension between some Republican senators and the White House over the September terror attack that killed a U.S. ambassador and three other Americans in Benghazi, Libya.

However, Republicans signaled they'd be willing to allow the nomination to proceed after recess, when only a simply majority of 51 votes are required to end a filibuster. The Senate is not in session next week.

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Lautenberg won't seek re-election in 2014
February 14th, 2013
04:18 PM ET

Lautenberg won't seek re-election in 2014

Frank Lautenberg, the New Jersey Democrat who has served five terms in the U.S. Senate since 1982, will not seek re-election next year when his term expires, the senator said in a statement Thursday.

Lautenberg, 89, returned to the Senate in mid-January after missing key votes over a weeks-long absence due to a cold which "turned into the flu, turned into a severe case of bronchitis with fluid in the chest," he said last month.

Newark Mayor Cory Booker formed a Senate campaign committee last month to explore a run for the seat while a Quinnipiac University poll released around the same time found Booker would lead Lautenberg 51% to 30% in a head-to-head matchup.

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Georgia Sen. Saxby Chambliss to retire at end of term
January 25th, 2013
10:35 AM ET

Georgia Sen. Saxby Chambliss to retire at end of term

Saxby Chambliss, the Republican senator from Georgia, will not seek re-election in 2014, a GOP source said today.

A conservative voice in the upper chamber since 2002, Chambliss recently drew the ire of some activists to his right who took issue with his support for bipartisan compromise. He was a member of the "Gang of Six," which tried in 2011 to strike a bipartisan deal on reducing the federal debt. For more on this story, read CNN's Political Ticker.

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January 24th, 2013
11:15 AM ET

Watch live: Feinstein proposes banning 100+ firearms

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein is offering details on her proposal to federally ban some assault weapons, as well as ammunition magazines that hold more than 10 rounds.

You can watch the announcement in Washington live on CNN.com.

Her measure is designed “to help end the mass shootings that have devastated families” and communities, she said. The proposal comes about a month after a shooting that killed 20 children and six women at a Connecticut elementary school.

Feinstein, while making the announcement, also is displaying examples of weapons that would be banned. Her measure would stop the sale, transfer, importation and manufacturing of more than 100 specialty firearms and certain semi-automatic rifles, as well as limiting magazines to 10 rounds or less. Not all of the weapons in the bill meet the technical definition of assault weapons.

The measure would not cover weapons already owned before it passed, as well as other hunting, sporting, antique, manually operated and disabled weapons.

Obama announces 23 executive actions, asks Congress to pass gun laws
President Obama signs gun-violence-related executive actions following an announcement at the White House Wedensday.
January 16th, 2013
02:32 PM ET

Obama announces 23 executive actions, asks Congress to pass gun laws

  • President Barack Obama announces 23 executive actions on gun control, separately asks Congress to pass gun-control laws
  • Obama asks Congress to pass laws that would: require background checks on all gun sales; restore a ban on "military-style assault weapons"; ban gun magazines with capacities of more than 10 rounds; and toughen penalties on people who sell guns to those who can't have them
  • Below are the latest updates as they come to us. Also, you can read our full story, and check out details of Obama's plan.

[Updated at 2:32 p.m. ET] The National Rifle Association of America has issued a statement responding to Obama's announcement:

"Throughout its history, the National Rifle Association has led efforts to promote safety and responsible gun ownership. Keeping our children and society safe remains our top priority. The NRA will continue to focus on keeping our children safe and securing our schools, fixing our broken mental health system, and prosecuting violent criminals to the fullest extent of the law. We look forward to working with Congress on a bi-partisan basis to find real solutions to
protecting America's most valuable asset our children.

"Attacking firearms and ignoring children is not a solution to the crisis we face as a nation. Only honest, law-abiding gun owners will be affected and our children will remain vulnerable to the inevitability of more tragedy."

[Updated at 12:43 p.m. ET] Senate Democratic leadership sources tell CNN that passing any new legislation will be extremely difficult because more than a dozen vulnerable Democrats from conservative states will probably resist much of what the president is pushing, according to CNN's Dana Bash.

These Democratic sources say the most likely legislation to pass will be strengthening background checks, since it is the least overt form of gun control and it also appeals to gun rights advocates' emphasis on keeping guns away from people with mental health and criminal problems.

[Updated at 12:42 p.m. ET] Reaction to Obama's announcement is starting to come in. From Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy, whose state was the site of the December 14 school massacre that prompted Obama to examine gun control steps:

"In the hours after the worst of our fears were confirmed, in the midst of the grief and sorrow over the loss of 20 innocent children and six dedicated educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School, there was one question on the minds of people across Connecticut and around the nation: How do we make sure this never happens again? Today the president took the critical first step toward answering that question. The common sense measures he proposed today are something that we should all be able to agree on, and I want to commend him and the vice president for their work on this issue."

From Michael Steel, spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner:

"House committees of jurisdiction will review these recommendations. And if the Senate passes a bill, we will also take a look at that."

[Updated at 12:22 p.m. ET] The announcement is over, and Obama is signing the 23 executive actions. These actions are in addition to laws that Obama wants Congress to pass. Here, according to the White House, are the 23 executive actions that he and his administration will do:

1. "Issue a presidential memorandum to require federal agencies to make relevant data available to the federal background check system."

2. "Address unnecessary legal barriers, particularly relating to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, that may prevent states from making information available to the background check system."

3. "Improve incentives for states to share information with the background check system."

4. "Direct the attorney general to review categories of individuals prohibited from having a gun to make sure dangerous people are not slipping through the cracks."

FULL POST

January 1st, 2013
10:27 AM ET

Cantor: No decision on whether House will vote Tuesday on fiscal cliff deal

The Senate did its part, so will the House follow suit today and pass a fiscal cliff package?

So far, the answer is, we really don't know.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's office says there's no decision yet on whether the House will vote today on the fiscal cliff deal passed by the Senate.

The deal, which passed the Democratic-controlled Senate in an overwhelming 89-8 vote in the middle of the night, would maintain tax cuts for individuals earning less than $400,000 and couples earning less than $450,000. Technically, it would reinstate cuts that expired at midnight.

The bill temporarily extends certain tax breaks, such as the one for college tuition, while making new tax rates permanent.

It would mark the first time in two decades that tax rates jump for the wealthiest Americans - giving some bragging rights to President Barack Obama, who has long insisted on such a move.

But it also leaves him breaking a promise. The president had vowed to raise tax rates for the top-earning 2% of Americans, including those with household income above $250,000.

You can follow the latest developments on the fiscal cliff deal on our Political Ticker blog.

December 21st, 2012
01:44 PM ET

GOP disarray jeopardizes fiscal cliff deal

[Updated at 1:44 p.m. ET] House Speaker John Boehner said at a news conference Friday morning that his Republican colleagues refused to back his Plan B fiscal cliff bill because of what he called unfounded fears of being blamed for a tax increase.

"They weren't taking it out on me," he told reporters. "They were dealing with the perception that somebody might accuse them of raising taxes."

Boehner on Thursday dropped plans to bring the bill to a vote after it became clear that it didn't have enough support from members of his party. This leaves negotiations in limbo Friday 11 days before automatic tax increases on everyone.

[Initial post, 8:43 a.m. ET] House Speaker John Boehner will hold a news conference in Washington Friday morning, a day after fellow Republicans effectively scuttled his proposal to avert the looming fiscal cliff's automatic tax increases.

Boehner wanted to pass his Plan B fiscal cliff bill which would have extended tax cuts that are set to expire at year's end for most people while allowing rates to increase to 1990s levels on income over $1 million this week, before members of Congress went home for the holiday.

But it didn't come up for a vote, because House GOP leaders learned that they couldn't get enough of their fellow Republicans to sign on.

What this means next in the fiscal cliff talks is unclear. From here, scenarios range from intensified and ultimately successful talks in the coming days or entrenchment as the fiscal cliff becomes a reality next year, when a new Congress could enter negotiations with Obama.

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December 10th, 2012
04:30 PM ET

Obama, Boehner try to talk their way down from fiscal cliff

It's crunch time for avoiding the fiscal cliff as President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner and their aides hold private talks on issues that will impact every American.

Three weeks remain to cut a deal before the automatic tax hikes and spending cuts of the fiscal cliff go into effect on January 1.

Obama and Boehner met face-to-face on Sunday for the first time since November 16. It also was their first one-on-one meeting in more than a year, when talks broke down on a comprehensive agreement to reduce the nation's chronic federal deficits and debt.

In a rare display of bipartisan concurrence, both sides issued identical statements after the meeting that said no details would be forthcoming. Staff on both sides also have been talking, but few details were available.

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Pelosi looks to keep leadership post
November 14th, 2012
09:27 AM ET

Pelosi looks to keep leadership post

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is asking Democrats to keep her in the position for the next session of Congress beginning in January, Democratic sources told CNN today.

Follow the CNN Political Ticker for more on this story.

Giffords to attend Loughner's sentencing Thursday, source says
Jared Loughner, who pleaded guilty to a 2011 mass shooting, will be sentenced Thursday
November 7th, 2012
09:19 PM ET

Giffords to attend Loughner's sentencing Thursday, source says

Former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords will attend Thursday's sentencing of the Arizona man who pleaded guilty to shooting her in the head, a source close to Giffords said.

Prosecutors have said Jared Loughner will be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the January 2011 shooting, which killed six people and wounded 13 others, including Giffords, at a meet-and-greet event in Tucson.

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Harry Reid released from hospital after vehicle crash
Sen. Harry Reid was evaluated at a hospital after a vehicle collision on Interstate 15 in Las Vegas , his office says.
October 26th, 2012
07:05 PM ET

Harry Reid released from hospital after vehicle crash

[Updated at 7:05 p.m. ET] Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, was discharged late Friday afternoon from a Las Vegas hospital hours after suffering rib and hip bruises in a vehicle collision on a Nevada highway, his office and a hospital spokeswoman said.

The vehicle that Reid was in, one of four vehicles in a caravan going north on Interstate 15, was involved in the multi-vehicle crash around 1 p.m. PT, Nevada Highway Patrol spokesmen Loy Hixson said.

Reid was discharged from University Medical Center shortly before around 4 p.m. PT (7 p.m. ET), hospital spokeswoman Karen Gordon said. For more, check out this story from CNN.com's Political Ticker.

March 8th, 2012
06:13 PM ET

Senate rejects GOP measure to build oil pipeline

The Senate narrowly rejected a Republican-sponsored measure Thursday that would have bypassed the Obama administration's current objections to the Keystone XL pipeline and allowed construction on the controversial project to move forward immediately.

Fifty-six senators voted in favor of the amendment - four short of the 60 required for approval. Eleven Democrats joined a unanimous Republican caucus in backing the plan.

The proposed 1,700-mile long pipeline expansion, intended to carry crude oil from Canada's oil sands to the U.S. Gulf Coast, has become a political lightning rod. Supporters, including the oil industry, say it's a vital job creator that will lessen the country's dependence on oil imported from volatile regions.

Opponents say the pipeline may leak, and that it will lock the United States into a particularly dirty form of crude that might ultimately end up being exported anyway.

FULL STORY
Giffords gets ovation, president’s embrace on eve of resignation
President Barack Obama embraces U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Arizona, before the State of the Union address in the U.S. House on Tuesday.
January 25th, 2012
01:37 AM ET

Giffords gets ovation, president’s embrace on eve of resignation

U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords took a few steps into the House chamber and absorbed a 90-second standing ovation before the State of the Union address Tuesday night, the eve of her resignation to focus on recovering from her shooting last year.

Giffords, escorted by colleagues including her friend U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, smiled and waved as attendees stood and cheered, with some chanting "Gab-by! Gab-by!"

Her husband, retired Navy captain and former astronaut Mark Kelly, smiled as he watched from his seat near first lady Michelle Obama. As President Barack Obama entered a few minutes later, the president paused at Giffords' seat and gave her a long embrace and a kiss on the cheek.

And when she stood during the speech and applauded Obama's lines, the Arizona Democrat was helped to her feet by a Republican and fellow Arizonan, U.S. Rep. Jeff Flake, who probably wouldn't be standing with Democrats during applause lines otherwise.

"It was the least I could do," Flake told CNN after the address. "It was just an incredible experience to be there with her, particularly after last year, having an empty chair where she should have been. It was just an overwhelming, emotional experience for, I think, all of us."

FULL STORY
Senate votes to extend key Patriot Act provisions
May 26th, 2011
05:46 PM ET

Senate votes to extend key Patriot Act provisions

The Senate voted Thursday to extend three key provisions of the Patriot Act scheduled to expire at midnight, sending the measure to the House for consideration.

The House had been scheduled to begin its Memorial Day recess on Thursday afternoon. However, a protracted dispute over the legislation in the Senate, fueled by conservative newcomer Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, muddied voting schedules and required the House to stay longer than planned.

Late Thursday afternoon, Paul reached a deal with Senate leaders to allow votes on whether to table two of his amendments. Both amendments failed, and the subsequent vote on the measure to extend the Patriot Act provisions for four years passed easily on a 72-23 vote.

The expiring provisions of the law passed after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks deal with roving wiretaps, tracking alleged "lone wolf" terrorists, and the ability of law enforcement officials to obtain any records they deem relevant to an investigation.

While the Senate approval was expected, passage in the House could be tougher as lawmakers on the right and left oppose an extension for various reasons. For example, some members of Congress are concerned about the law's impact on civil liberties, while others support the law but think it should be made permanent.

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Rep. Christopher Lee resigns amid reports that he tried to meet women on Craigslist
February 9th, 2011
06:05 PM ET

Rep. Christopher Lee resigns amid reports that he tried to meet women on Craigslist

Rep. Christopher Lee , a New York Republican, has resigned after reports surfaced that the married congressman was trying to meet women on Craigslist, a GOP source told CNN.

Lee acknowledged making "profound mistakes" and said his decision to step down was voluntary.

"It has been a tremendous honor to serve the people of Western New York. I regret the harm that my actions have caused my family, my staff and my constituents. I deeply and sincerely apologize to them all. I have made profound mistakes and I promise to work as hard as I can to seek their forgiveness," he said in a statement.

"The challenges we face in Western New York and across the country are too serious for me to allow this distraction to continue, and so I am announcing that I have resigned my seat in Congress effective immediately."

The allegations were first reported Wednesday afternoon on Gawker.

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October 29th, 2010
10:25 PM ET

Al Qaeda in Yemen behind 'credible terrorist threat' against U.S., Obama says

[Update at 10:25 p.m.] Two suspicious packages found abroad that were bound for Jewish organizations in the United States contained a massive amount of explosive material that would have triggered a powerful blast had the suspected terror plot not been thwarted, a source close to the investigation said Friday.

[Update at 9:55 p.m.] A Yemeni diplomat in Washington says the Yemeni government has opened a full scale investigation into a suspicious device that was shipped from the country to the East Midlands Airport in the United Kingdom.

President Obama's counterterrorism adviser, John Brennan, has been in discussions with Yemen President Ali Abdullah Saleh about how to address the threat, a senior U.S. official said.

Yemen Embassy spokesman Mohammed Albasha in Washington said no UPS or FedEx flights take off or land in Yemen.

"It is way too early to rush to conclusions," Albasha said. "We have had heightened security at our airport(s) and have been working very closely on
security with our regional partners including the U.K. and U.S. since the Christmas incident" involving the accused would-be bomber now known as the "Underwear Bomber." 

Meanwhile, British police sources said the discovery of the suspicious package at East Midlands Airport was the result of an intelligence tip rather than a random check.

[Update 8:54 p.m.] Synagogues across metropolitan Chicago, Illinois, began taking "appropriate precautions" Friday after officials warned them to watch out for suspicious packages from abroad, a Jewish Federation spokeswoman said.

President Obama said two packages that apparently contained explosive materials were bound for two synagogues in Chicago.

While there were "no identifiable or specific threats," an FBI official in Chicago said suspicious packages addressed to U.S. destinations found on cargo planes abroad warranted the precautions.

Read the full story on CNN.com.

[Update 8:20 p.m.] The Emirates flight that was escorted into JFK International Airport this afternoon has been cleared, FBI Special Agent Richard Kolko said. Officials originally flagged flight 201 because there was cargo from Yemen aboard.

Read more on CNN.com.

[Update 8:00 p.m.] A U.S. official said it is likely that the material used in two suspicious packages bound for the United States was PETN a highly explosive organic compound belonging to the same chemical family as nitroglycerin but testing continues to reach a definitive conclusion.

PETN was allegedly one of the components of the bomb concealed by Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab, who is accused of trying to set off an explosion aboard Northwest Airlines Flight 253 as it approached Detroit, Michigan, on December 25. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is also believed to be behind that botched attack.

Declining to provide specifics, White House counterterrorism chief John Brennan said intelligence officials were specifically looking for such suspicious packages when the first package was found in the United Kingdom.

He later issued a statement thanking Saudi Arabia, saying the United
States is "grateful" for the country's help in identifying the threat.

FULL POST

March 15th, 2010
02:27 PM ET

Update: Sen. Harry Reid speaks about wife's condition

[Updated 2:30 p.m.] Sen. Harry Reid spoke on the Senate floor Monday about his wife Landra who was injured and had surgery after she was in a car accident last week. She was released from the hospital Monday.

"We often say the Senate is a family. I'm reminded of it time and time again when both triumph and tragedy unite us. Over the past few days I learned all over again just how close, how genuine, how meaningful that family is," he said. "The tremendous outpouring of support for my wife and daughter from people across Nevada and the nation and from my Senate family has deeply touched all of us."

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