Monday July 15, 2013

Washington’s newest power couple forging friendships and promoting tax reform

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) -- Welcome to the "Max and Dave Show," a campaign-style swing around the country featuring two of the most powerful members of Congress rallying support for their effort to overhaul the nation’s tax laws -- and, just maybe, change the way Washington works.

Sen. Max Baucus, a Democrat from Montana, and Rep. Dave Camp, a Republican from Michigan, are Washington’s newest power couple -- and an odd one during these politically deadlocked days in Washington. They are lawmakers from different states, different parties and they’re a decade in age apart. Yet, Camp and Baucus are developing a close friendship as they try to rally other lawmakers to their cause.

Their secret: Burgers, beer and a culture of working toward public policy answers that Americans seem to want in Washington -- even when there’s no solution in sight.

"Dave’s my buddy," Baucus told a gathering of workers at 3M, the Minnesota-based maker of everything from Scotch tape to electronic touch screens. "My comrade."

These days, you don’t often hear Democrats talk that way about Republicans, or see campaign-style events for a topic as dry as tax reform. But the pair have a common goal for an overhaul they believe is long overdue. And tax policy, to them, is exciting for all that is wrong and could be improved about it.


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So beginning last week in Minnesota, Baucus and Camp began barnstorming the country, employing a similar burgers-and-beer strategy that’s worked for them with colleagues in Washington.

GOP returns abortion to front burner for 2014 elections, Dems see gain as result

ATLANTA (AP) -- With no immediate hope of overturning the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision legalizing abortion, Republicans around the country are increasingly pushing legislation to restrict the procedure, and Democrats say they’ll make the GOP pay in coming elections.

From statehouses to Congress, Republicans have advanced a range of ideas: banning nearly all abortions beyond the 20th week after conception; making abortion clinics follow regulations for surgical care; mandating that clinic physicians have admitting privileges at local hospitals; requiring women to get ultrasounds before terminating a pregnancy.

The issue, which is figuring prominently in early 2016 White House race maneuvering, energizes social conservatives who influence many Republican primaries and drive GOP success in nonpresidential years when the electorate is older, whiter and more conservative. And some Republicans say more moderate voters will support their agenda in the wake of the murder conviction against Kermit Gosnell, the Philadelphia abortion doctor who jurors determined killed babies who’d survived the procedure.

But Democrats and abortion-rights advocates say Republicans already have overreached -- the noticeable uptick in restrictions began with GOP gains in 2010 elections, before Gosnell’s prosecution began -- and that moderate voters have other priorities.

"Defense workers are being furloughed, student loan interest rates have doubled and these Republicans insist on a relentless pursuit of more restrictions on women’s freedoms," said Rep. Steve Israel, chairman of the Democrats’ national congressional campaign for 2014. "Swing voters are by their very nature moderate; they want solutions, not ideological warfare."

Egypt’s army chief defends president’s ouster, says Islamist leader violated mandate

CAIRO (AP) -- Facing unrelenting pressure from Muslim Brotherhood protesters, Egypt’s military chief sought to justify his decision to remove Mohmmed Morsi from office, saying Sunday in a televised speech that the Islamist leader had violated his popular mandate and antagonized state institutions.

The comments by Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi -- his first since the president’s ouster nearly two weeks ago -- came as the designated interim prime minister pushed ahead with talks to form a new Cabinet this week.

Reform advocate Mohamed ElBaradei was sworn in as Egypt’s interim vice president for international relations on Sunday. The move reinforces the role of liberals in the new leadership who are strongly opposed to the Brotherhood.

Several secular-minded candidates also have been approached to lead the foreign, finance, culture, information and other key ministries. Nabil Fahmy, who served as Egypt’s former ambassador to the United States for over a decade under Hosni Mubarak, was tapped to be foreign minister, according to state media.

The United States sent its No. 2 diplomat in the State Department, William Burns, to Cairo to meet with interim government officials as well as civil society and business leaders during his two-day visit. Burns is the first high-level American official to visit since Morsi’s ouster.

Syrian troops advance against rebels in key neighborhoods on edge of capital

DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) -- Government troops fired tank shells and artillery in heavy clashes between Syrian forces and rebels Sunday on the edge of Damascus, where the military has been pushing its offensive to retake key districts that have been in opposition hands for months.

The Syrian army has seized the momentum in the civil war over the past three months, wresting back territory lost to rebel forces and solidifying its hold over contested areas, particularly on the fringes of Damascus. Two of the embattled districts are Jobar and Qaboun, from which rebels frequently launch mortar rounds on the heart of the capital.

A Syrian military commander said forces loyal to President Bashar Assad have recaptured 60 percent of Jobar, south of Qaboun, and were trying to retake the rest. The commander talked to reporters Sunday during a military escorted tour of Jobar organized by the Information Ministry. His claim could not be independently verified.

An Associated Press reporter on the tour saw widespread destruction that pointed to heavy fighting in the neighborhood. Marble tile factories were destroyed. Reporters made their way in the devastated area by climbing through holes knocked in walls because of warnings of rebel snipers in the area.

At least two bodies, apparently those of rebel gunmen, lay on the floor of a bunker described by the official as a "terrorist" hideout.

Police: Canadian actor Cory Monteith, star of hit show ‘Glee,’ found dead in city hotel

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) -- Cory Monteith, the handsome young actor who shot to fame in the hit TV series "Glee" but was beset by addiction struggles so fierce that he once said he was lucky to be alive, was found dead in a hotel room, police said. He was 31.

The Canadian-born Monteith, who played star quarterback-turned-singer Finn Hudson on the Fox TV series about a high school glee club, was found dead in his room on the 21st floor of the Fairmont Pacific Rim Hotel on Vancouver’s waterfront at about noon Saturday, according to police.

Acting Vancouver Police Chief Doug LePard said there was no indication of foul play.

Vancouver police said Sunday that an autopsy is expected to take place on Monday to determine the cause of death.

Monteith’s body was found by hotel staff who entered his room after he missed his check-out time, LePard said. Monteith had checked into the hotel on July 6.