Friday, March 19, 2010

McClatchy Washington Report 3/19

  • Two more Democratic representatives who'd voted "no" in December said they'd vote "yes" on Sunday when the revamped health care overhaul bill will be considered. The Congressional Budget Office said the legislation would reduce federal budget deficits by $138 billion over the next 10 years while ensuring 32 million Americans who don't have health insurance.
  • A U.N. organization that regulates wildlife trade voted Thursday against bans on hunting polar bears threatened by shrinking Arctic ice and on fishing for the Atlantic bluefin tuna, a species that can grow to nearly 1,400 pounds and is prized in Japan for sushi and sashimi.
  • Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney hasn't made up his mind whether he'll run for president in 2012, but he already has a plan for how to overturn the Democratic-led health care program now before Congress, if it becomes law. The key, he said, is having Republicans reclaim the White House and take majorities in the Senate and the House.
  • Conservative talk show hosts and columnists have ridiculed an 11-year-old Washington state boy's account of his mother's death as a "sob story" exploited by the White House and congressional Democrats like a "kiddie shield" to defend their health care legislation.
  • President Barack Obama's popularity is declining in California, with slightly more than half of the state's voters still approving of his job performance, according to a Field Poll released Friday. The poll found 52 percent of Californians giving Obama good marks, down from 56 percent in January and 65 percent a year ago. At the same time, Californians gave a resounding thumbs-down to Congress, with only 12 percent of the state's voters approving of its performance. That's the lowest assessment since Field began tracking Congress two decades ago.
  • Gov. Mark Sanford has settled charges that he broke state ethics laws, admitting no guilt but agreeing to pay $74,000 in fines. The governor also agreed to pay $66,223 to reimburse the cost of the state investigation into his travel and to pay for his use of state aircraft, pricey airline tickets and misspent campaign money.
  • With two gun bills heading through Florida's Capitol, the National Rifle Association looks like it's starting to run out of big issues to fight for. Gov. Charlie Crist plans to approve the legislation that would stop legislators from raiding a special trust fund that pays for concealed-weapons permit regulation and ban adoption agencies from requiring prospective parents to disclose whether they have a firearm. Both bills attest to the might of the NRA. But the group has won so many victories that even supporters say the gun lobby is now left with little nips and tucks to the right to own firearms.
  • Pakistan will seek U.S. aid for its civilian nuclear power program next week when its top military and senior civilian leaders visit Washington to re-start a "strategic dialogue" between the two countries. The U.S., however, is unlikely to deliver by offering a nuclear deal that parallels the package that former President George W. Bush granted to Pakistan's archenemy India.
  • Israel and the U.S. Thursday backed away from a week-old confrontation over Israel's plans to build 1,600 new apartments for Jewish residents in East Jerusalem, which Israel captured from the Arabs in 1967.
  • Vice President Joe Biden arrived in North Carolina's Research Triangle Park on Thursday and headed straight for the headquarters of a Durham company that has become a symbol of the Obama administration's economic hopes. In front of excited employees and friendly local politicians, Biden praised LED maker Cree's energy-efficient lights as exactly the kind of products that the country needs to design, manufacture and export.
  • Sara Granda, the UC Davis law school graduate who is paralyzed and drew national attention last year when State Bar officials nearly prevented her from taking the exam, has been named by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to a legal position in the state Department of Health Care Services.
  • Monarch butterflies, hit hard by strong storms at their winter home in Mexico, have dwindled to their lowest population levels in decades as they begin to return to Texas on their springtime flight back to the United States and Canada. The monarch loss is estimated at 50 to 60 percent and means that the breeding population flying northward is expected to be the smallest since the Mexican overwintering colonies were discovered in 1975.

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