News Items

President Obama’s 2016 budget blueprint proposes rolling back a program that gives veterans the right to receive faster care outside of the long waitlists at the troubled Veterans Affairs medical system.

Obama signed the Veterans Choice Program into law in August following months of partisan wrangling on Capitol Hill that finally led to a compromise measure to overhaul the agency.

The Veterans Choice Program was a key GOP provision in the deal.

Authored by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., the measure provides “choice” cards to veterans that can be used to obtain medical care at designated facilities outside of the VA system.

The Senate has passed a bill approving the construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline.

Nine Democrats joined with 53 Republicans in green-lighting the measure, but Thursday’s 62-36 vote still falls short of the threshold needed to override a presidential veto.

The measure authorizes construction of the nearly 1,200-mile pipeline to carry oil from Canada to Gulf Coast refineries.

Critics say the project would contribute to global warming and also point to the recent Yellow Stone spill in Montana as an example of an overall increase in spills.

Supporters say the bill would create more jobs and boost energy security.


President Obama called for an end to "mindless austerity" on Thursday as he announced his desire to end "sequester" spending cuts in his budget for 2015.

The across-the-board cuts, agreed to by both parties, have been in effect since 2013, after lawmakers were unable to produce a more strategic deficit-cutting plan. Members of both parties have problems with the cuts, which indiscriminately affect both domestic and defense programs.

Obama's proposed $74 billion in added spending — about 7 percent — would be split about evenly between defense programs and the domestic side of the budget. Although he's sought before to reverse the sequester spending cuts, Obama's pitch in this year's budget comes with the added oomph of an improving economy and big recent declines...

JERUSALEM, Israel -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blamed Iran for Wednesday's ambush of an IDF patrol. The attack left two Israeli soldiers dead, seven wounded and northern Israel on edge.

"Whoever is behind this attack will pay the full price," Netanyahu said. "For some time, Iran, via Hezbollah, has been trying to establish an additional terrorist front against us from the Golan Heights. We are taking strong and responsible action against this attempt."

It's the deadliest attack by Hezbollah since the Second Lebanon War in the summer of 2006, more than 8 years ago.

After the attack, the IDF declared the area a closed military zone, put its forces on high alert, and responded...

The federal budget deficit will fall to a six-year “low” of $468 billion in 2015, before resuming an upward climb that will take the federal debt to record heights.

The numbers are the latest from the Congressional Budget Office, which had predicted a somewhat larger 2015 deficit of $483 billion. The 2008 financial crisis led to the highest deficit as a percentage of the economy on record since World War II — in 2009 it was $1.4 trillion.

It is now closer to 2 percent of GDP, and is expected to remain relatively low through 2018. But rising health care costs, the implementation of Obamacare and an aging population are expected to drive a massive surge in spending over the next 25 years that will cause the deficit and debt to rise.

The growing...

Neither President Barack Obama nor Secretary of State John Kerry will meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu when he visits the United States in March.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest says Obama wants to avoid the appearance of endorsing Netanyahu in the upcoming Israeli elections.

But some see it as retaliation because Earnest also said Israel violated protocol by not planning the trip directly with the White House.

It all started after House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, invited Netanyahu to address a...

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will address Congress on March 3, House Speaker John Boehner announced Thursday -- though President Obama does not plan to meet with him. 

The House speaker had invited Netanyahu to speak to lawmakers about the threat from Iran. The announcement caught the president off-guard, as the invitation was not cleared first with the Obama administration; such invitations typically are coordinated with the White House and State Department. 

Asked Thursday about the visit, the White House said Obama would not meet with him, citing the country's upcoming elections. Spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said that in keeping with "long-standing practice and principle," the president does not meet with heads of state or...

House Republicans decided Wednesday to drop planned debate of a bill that criminalizes virtually all late-term abortions.     
The move came after objections from GOP women and other lawmakers left them short of votes.

The measure would ban abortions past 20 weeks of pregnancy, only allowing exceptions for a rape victim who reported the crime to law enforcement.

Some female Republicans in Congress objected to that requirement, saying that many victims are too distressed to report rapes. Only 35 percent of rapes and sexual assaults were reported to police in 2013, according to Justice Department report.

"The issue becomes, we'...

House Speaker John Boehner announced Wednesday he is inviting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address Congress next month about the threat from Iran, in a sharp rebuke to President Obama. 

Such invitations typically are coordinated with the White House and State Department, but this one was not. The House speaker's office said Netanyahu will be invited to speak Feb. 11 before a joint session of Congress. The invitation comes as lawmakers weigh legislation, supported by Republicans and some Democrats, to tee up more sanctions against Iran in case negotiations fail to curtail the country's nuclear enrichment program. 

Obama vowed Tuesday during his State of the Union address to veto any such legislation. But Boehner signaled he wants...

President Barack Obama will address Congress Tuesday in his sixth annual State of the Union speech.
He's expected to make the case that America’s economic comeback is real and is proposing significant tax increases to fund his many ideas.
"He's going to talk about how middle class economics brought us back from the brink and put us to a place where the economy is growing, jobs are growing, the deficit is shrinking,” White House Senior Adviser Dan Pfeiffer said.
His proposal: raise...

The Supreme Court says it will decide whether same-sex couples nationwide have a right to marry under the Constitution.

The justices said Friday they will review an appellate ruling that upheld bans on same-sex unions in four states.

The case will be argued in April and a decision is expected by late June.

Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee are among the 14 states where gay and lesbian couples are not allowed to marry.

The number of states that permit same-sex marriage has nearly doubled in three months as a result of federal and state court rulings. The justices' decision to turn away same-sex marriage appeals in October allowed some of those rulings to take effect. Florida last week became the 36th state to issue marriage licenses to same-sex...

A small church in a Phoenix suburb may win its case that's gone all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The nation's high court heard the case this week. It surrounds discrimination involving church signs ordinances compared to city laws for other types of signs.

The battle in the nation's high court is over a Gilbert, Arizona, ordinance that limits roadside signs directing people to Sunday services.

Both liberal and conservative justices had concerns about the ordinance because it allows more restrictions on the temporary signs of churches than the ones put up by real estate agents, political candidates, and others.

The Good News Community...

The new Republican-controlled Congress is wasting no time to advance the GOP's pro-life stand.

House Republicans passed the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act in the last session of Congress. But then Senate Democrats blocked it.

Now with Republicans in charge, two lawmakers have re-introduced the bill. It would ban abortions after the first 20 weeks of pregnancy.

Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., is one of the bill's sponsors.

He says the law would protect "innocent, defenseless children who can not only feel pain and can survive outside of the womb in most cases, but are...

The guest list hasn't changed, but President Barack Obama faces a different type of crowd when he meets with congressional leaders on Tuesday.

Obama's sit-down with House and Senate leaders is his first since the new, fully Republican-run Congress was seated last week. Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid, long Obama's stronghold in the Senate, was demoted by the November elections to minority leader. GOP leader Mitch McConnell, a persistent thorn in Obama's side as minority leader, now has Reid's old job running the upper chamber.

The three were to join House Speaker John Boehner and House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi in the Oval Office to discuss opportunities for potential cooperation between Democrats and Republicans this year. Yet it was far from...

A small church in a Phoenix suburb says its local government puts far stricter limits on its roadside signs advertising Sunday services than it places on politicians, real estate agents and other groups, and is asking the Supreme Court for relief.

The justices are hearing arguments Monday in a case from Gilbert, Arizona, that raises First Amendment questions about how governments may regulate their citizens' speech. The Good News Community Church and Pastor Clyde Reed sued Gilbert, claiming that religious groups are treated more severely than others.

Gilbert allows so-called directional signs, like the ones put up by the church inviting people to Sunday worship, to be no larger than 6 square feet. They must be placed in public areas no more than 12 hours before...

The House voted Thursday to curb a provision in ObamaCare that some lawmakers say is hurting the job market, as the new Republican-controlled Congress moved quickly to challenge the administration on several fronts. 

The House voted 252-172 for the ObamaCare bill, which tweaks the law's definition of full-time workers who must be offered employer-provided health care. Twelve Democrats sided with Republicans in approving the first Affordable Care Act-related legislation of the new Congress. 

The bill changes the full-time worker threshold from 30 hours weekly to a 40-hour minimum. Critics claim defining full-time employees as those working at least 30 hours is pressuring firms to save money by cutting workers' hours below that and, in turn, the number...

Speaker John Boehner beat back a conservative challenge to win a third term at the helm of the House on Tuesday, as he joined Mitch McConnell in presiding over the first Republican-controlled Congress in nearly a decade. 

Boehner, at the start of the 114th Congress, now leads the biggest GOP majority in nearly 70 years. 

Boehner was elected speaker with 216 votes, slightly more than the majority needed to clinch the post. Three conservative lawmakers -- Reps. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas,; Ted Yoho, R-Fla.; and Daniel Webster, R-Fla. -- were put forward as challengers, and more than a dozen Republicans defected to support them and others. Democrats mostly voted for California Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the minority leader. 

Earlier, McConnell assumed the...

Senate Republicans on Sunday, just hours from taking control of the chamber, suggested a willingness to work with President Obama on job growth and other key issues but also said he must meet them halfway.

“There are a lot of areas where we can work together right out of the gate,” South Dakota GOP Sen. John Thune told “Fox News Sunday.” “You always enter a new session of Congress with high hopes…We want to see solutions for the American people. And we hope the president will meet us there.”

Thune, the incoming chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, said Republican leadership has set an early goal of trying to pass legislation with bipartisan support, such as a bill to complete the Keystone XL pipeline.

Though Senate...

Some Congresional Republicans are steaming over the release of four more detainees from Guantanamo Bay.

On Saturday, the Defense Department sent four Afghan prisoners back to their home country.
Fox News reports that the top American commander in Afghanistan had concerns that the men could pose a threat to U.S troops, but a review board called them a low security risk.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., says the president is exceeding his authority by releasing more prisoners and is promising a fight in 2015.

"I didn't say impeachment. I said there would be a constitutional crisis. And it is coming," he told CBS's "Face the Nation...

Don't have health insurance? Get ready to pay up. 

The ObamaCare-mandated fines for not having insurance are rising in 2015 -- and for the first time, will be collected by the Internal Revenue Service. 

The individual requirement to buy health insurance went into effect earlier this year. But this coming tax season is the first time all taxpayers will have to report to the IRS whether they had health insurance for the prior year. 

The fines for the 2014 year were relatively modest -- $95 per person or 1 percent of household income (above the threshold for filing taxes), whichever is more. 

But insurance scofflaws face a sharp increase if they don't get covered soon. The fine will jump in 2015 to $325 or 2 percent of income,...