- The Washington Times - Friday, January 29, 2010

WHITE HOUSE

Obama eyes extension of same-sex benefits

TAMPA, Fla. | President Obama is calling on Congress to pass a law extending benefits to same-sex partners, one day after he renewed his support for repealing the ban on gays and lesbians serving openly in the military.

Mr. Obama was responding to a question during a town hall meeting Thursday in Tampa. He noted a bill is pending that would extend to domestic partners benefits such as granting Social Security survivor payments and allowing hospital visitation.

Mr. Obama said: “My hope is we can get it done.”

Mr. Obama has acted administratively to extend some benefits to federal employees with same-sex partners. He has called for a repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, which bars federal recognition of gay unions and the granting of benefits.

SENATE

Lawyer: Scheme meant to embarrass

NEW ORLEANS | A lawyer for one of four conservative activists accused of tampering with a Louisiana senator’s phones said they hoped to embarrass her over claims her staff ignored calls critical of her stance on health care reform.

J. Garrison Jordan is an attorney for suspect Robert Flanagan. He denies the men sought to disable or wiretap the phones in Sen. Mary Landrieu’s office at a federal building in New Orleans.

Mr. Jordan said Thursday they were trying to document allegations that Mrs. Landrieu’s staff has been ignoring phone calls about the Democratic senator’s health care position.

Among those arrested Monday was 25-year-old James O’Keefe. He gained notoriety last year with hidden-camera videos showing him dressed as a pimp and exposing irregularities in offices of the liberal community-organizing group ACORN.

HOUSE

Hacker infiltrates 49 sites, insults Obama

A hacker broke into 49 House Web sites of both political parties to post a crude attack on President Obama after his State of the Union address.

Jeff Ventura, spokesman for the House chief administrative officer, said the sites were managed by a private vendor - GovTrends of Alexandria, Va.

Most House Web sites are managed totally by House technicians but individual offices are permitted to contract with a third party to manage new features and updates.

Mr. Ventura said GovTrends let its guard down while doing an update, allowing the hacker to penetrate sites of individual members and committees overnight.

The attacker used an obscenity in referring to the president, who spoke from the House chamber Wednesday night.

Mr. Ventura said 18 House sites managed by GovTrends were defaced last August. The House is looking into continued use of the company, he said.

Phone messages left for GovTrends were not immediately returned.

TEA PARTY

Two lawmakers drop out of convention

NEW YORK | The National Tea Party Convention has lost two of its major speakers.

Minnesota Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann said she won’t attend the event, scheduled for early February in Nashville, Tenn. Tennessee Rep. Marsha Blackburn, also a Republican, has announced she is dropping out as well.

Both lawmakers are prominent backers of the “tea party” movement. However, their offices released statements Tuesday citing concerns about how funds raised by the convention might be used.

Many tea party activists across the country are boycotting the convention over its $550-per person ticket price and the $100,000 speaking fee being paid to Sarah Palin, the former Republican vice presidential nominee.

The convention is being run by a Tennessee lawyer, Judson Phillips, who has said he hopes to turn a profit on the convention.

SENATE

Iran sanction legislation OK’d

The Senate Thursday approved legislation that would allow President Obama to impose sanctions on Iran’s gasoline suppliers and penalize some of Tehran’s elites, a move aimed at pressuring Tehran to give up its nuclear program.

The sanctions would target companies that export gasoline to Iran or help expand the country’s oil refining capacity by, in part, denying them loans and other assistance from U.S. financial institutions.

The House already has passed similar legislation; differences between the two bills will have to be worked out before the measure becomes law.

CLIMATE BILL

Kerry cites progress on compromise talks

Sen. John Kerry Thursday said that talks aimed at crafting a compromise climate control bill were “making headway,” as he firmly rejected any notion that efforts to limit carbon dioxide emissions were dead in Congress.

“I just don’t agree with that interpretation at all,” Mr. Kerry told Reuters, adding that he thought President Obama made a strong pitch for legislation during his State of the Union speech Wednesday.

Mr. Kerry added: “Comprehensive climate change [legislation] means pricing carbon and setting a target for reduction. It’s open to how you price carbon. People need to relax and look at all the ways you might price carbon. We’re not pinned down to one approach.”

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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