AP Political NewsBrief at 8:14 a.m. EST
(Associated Press Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) White House ramping up gun violence discussionsWASHINGTON (AP) _ Facing an end-of-the-month deadline, the Obama administration is calling gun owner groups, victims' organizations and representatives from the video-game industry to the White House this week for discussions on potential policy proposals for curbing gun violence. President Barack Obama has ordered an administration-wide task force to send him proposals by the end of January. The group, led by Vice President Joe Biden, was formed in response to last month's horrific massacre of 20 children and six adults at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school.
Obama defense pick faces rough going in SenateWASHINGTON (AP) _ President Barack Obama's pick of Chuck Hagel to run the Pentagon faces rough going in the Senate as a handful of Republicans quickly announced their opposition to a former GOP colleague, and several skeptical Democrats reserved judgment until the nominee explains his views on Israel and Iran. The concerns about Hagel complicate his path to Senate confirmation but are not necessarily calamitous as the White House pushes for the first Vietnam War veteran to oversee a military emerging from two wars and staring at deep budget cuts.
Hagel's own words are fodder for criticsWASHINGTON (AP) _ Chuck Hagel was blunt-spoken in the Senate, even when bucking fellow Republicans. Now opponents in his own party and elsewhere are using Hagel's words against him. The Vietnam veteran and former two-term senator from Nebraska will need to explain some of his comments and views as President Barack Obama's choice for the next secretary of defense. A look at past remarks likely to come up during his confirmation hearing:
Obama, Karzai to meet in Washington on FridayWASHINGTON (AP) _ President Barack Obama will host Afghan President Hamid Karzai (HAH'-mihd KAHR'-zeye) at the White House on Friday. It's the first in-person meeting for the two leaders since Obama won re-election. His victory meant the continuation of his administration's plans to bring the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan to a close by the end of 2014.
Obama's CIA pick chose spycraft over priesthoodWASHINGTON (AP) _ John Brennan was headed for the priesthood when, while sitting idly on a bus as a student at Fordham University in the 1970s, he stumbled on a recruiting ad for the CIA. Now, after years of poring through intelligence, trekking with Mideast tribesmen and overseeing some of America's most controversial and lethal counterterror missions, he's pursuing a calling with just as much responsibility and arguably a lot more stress as the nation's top spy. It's the second time that Brennan has made a run for the job as director of the Central Intelligence Agency.
Reid says he misspoke with disaster comparisonWASHINGTON (AP) _ Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Monday that he misspoke when he suggested in a Senate speech that damage from Superstorm Sandy was worse than that inflicted by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. In a short statement released by his office, the Nevada Democrat said he "simply misspoke" in comments Friday criticizing House Republicans for delaying legislative action to provide financial relief to areas of the Northeast hit by Sandy last October.
Black ties, booze and access marks of inaugurationWASHINGTON (AP) _ This is K Street on steroids. South Carolinians will be celebrating President Barack Obama's inauguration with cocktails amid the Hope Diamond and dinosaur fossils at the Smithsonian's Museum of Natural History. Minority government contractors will huddle at a downtown restaurant known as a lobbyists' hotspot. And the nation's largest gay rights group is promising a star-studded night at the storied Mayflower Hotel.
THE RESET: Obama, GOP drawing battle linesPresident Barack Obama is heading toward bruising fights on Capitol Hill on multiple fronts even before second-term Inauguration Day festivities fade. Battle lines are forming in the Senate over his latest national-security team selections and in both chambers over his proposal to raise the government's borrowing limit. And an expected major White House push on gun-control is already encountering heavy, mostly GOP pushback _ even though nothing specific is yet on the table.
Hillary Clinton back at work after hospitalizationWASHINGTON (AP) _ Cheers, a standing ovation and a gag gift of protective headgear greeted Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton as she returned to work on Monday after a monthlong absence caused first by a stomach virus, then a fall and a concussion and finally a brief hospitalization for a blood clot near her brain. A crowd of about 75 State Department officials greeted Clinton with a standing ovation as she walked in to the first senior staff meeting she has convened since early December, according to those present. Deputy Secretary of State Thomas Nides, noting that life in Washington is often a "contact sport, sometimes even in your own home" then presented Clinton with a gift _ a regulation white Riddell football helmet emblazoned with the State Department seal, officials said.
Unusual respite from surging health care costsWASHINGTON (AP) _ Americans kept health care spending in check for three years in a row, the government reported Monday, an unusual respite that could linger if the economy stays soft or fade like a mirage if job growth comes roaring back. The nation's health care tab stood at $2.7 trillion in 2011, the latest year available, said nonpartisan number crunchers with the Department of Health and Human Services. That's 17.9 percent of the economy, which averages out to $8,680 for every man, woman and child, far more than any other economically advanced country spends.
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