Obama signs repeal of part of health care law
President Obama has signed the first rollback of last year’s health care law, a bipartisan repeal of a burdensome tax-reporting requirement that’s widely unpopular with businesses.
The bill Mr. Obama signed Thursday repeals a provision that would have forced millions of businesses to file tax forms for every vendor selling them more than $600 in goods each year, starting in 2012. The filing requirement is unrelated to health care. However, it would have been used to pay for part of the new health care law by ensuring that vendors pay taxes.
Republicans hope it is the first of many such bills, resulting in the entire health care law being scrapped. Democrats say the bill is part of an inevitable tinkering that will be needed to improve the health measure.
Pelosi angry about negotiations freeze-out
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi complained Thursday that her caucus was shut out of the negotiating process last week when congressional leaders and the White House hammered out a 2011 spending deal that avoided a government shutdown.
The California Democrat added that she feels “no ownership” of the compromise.
“It’s pretty evident House Democrats were not a part of that agreement,” Mrs. Pelosi said during her weekly briefing with reporters at the Capitol. “The Republicans in the House, the Democrats in the Senate - the two majorities - they were the ones who had the votes, so they have the strength to negotiate.”
Rep. Berkley to seek Ensign seat in Senate
LAS VEGAS | Rep. Shelley Berkley will run for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Nevada Republican John Ensign.
Mrs. Berkley’s campaign released a statement Thursday in Washington putting the seven-term Democrat from Las Vegas in the race against Rep. Dean Heller, a northern Nevada Republican who already has announced he will seek the seat.
Mrs. Berkley and Mr. Heller each easily won re-election in November and have been considered front-runners to replace Mr. Ensign since he announced in March that he won’t seek a third term. A Democratic lawyer, Byron Georgiou, is also in the race.
Geithner warns GOP: Don’t delay debt vote
Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner on Thursday told Republican lawmakers that they would shoulder the blame if the country got too close to defaulting on its debt and roiled markets worldwide by not approving a debt-limit increase.
In yet another warning about the perils of not allowing the U.S. to borrow more to fund spending already approved by Congress, Mr. Geithner said it would be deeply irresponsible for lawmakers to use debt-limit negotiations for political gains.
Congress must agree to raise the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling, the legal amount the country can borrow. However, Republicans have said they are unwilling to do so without reforms on government spending and have threatened to take negotiations to the deadline.
“If they take it too close to the edge, they will own responsibility for that miscalculation,” Mr. Geithner said.
Treasury has forecast that the limit will be reached by May 16. After that point, Treasury can take emergency measures to avoid hitting the debt ceiling. But those actions will only give the United States about a two-month window before Treasury is unable to issue debt to fund government operations.
Hispanics outnumber blacks in cities
Hispanics outnumber blacks for the first time in most U.S. metropolitan areas, shifting the political and racial dynamics in cities once dominated by whites and blacks.
Census figures released Thursday highlight the growing diversity of the nation’s 366 metro areas, which were home to a record 83.7 percent share of the U.S. population. The numbers from the 2010 count already are having a big effect on redistricting in many states, where district boundary lines are being redrawn based on population size and racial makeup.
Hispanics became the largest minority group in 191 metropolitan areas last year. That’s up from 159 metro areas when the previous census was taken in 2000, when Hispanics most commonly were found in Southwestern border states.
Santorum looks to raise cash for 2012 bid
MANCHESTER, N.H. | Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum is setting up a fundraising committee that allows him to take the first steps toward a 2012 presidential campaign.
Mr. Santorum has been laying the groundwork for months. While the two-term senator lacks the name recognition and fundraising organization of his better-known rivals, he is a favorite among the social conservatives who hold huge sway in some early nominating contests.
Panel makes mandatory toddler-bed safety rules
The government has approved new mandatory safety rules for toddler beds. The new federal standard adds protections to voluntary standards already being used for toddler beds.
The new standard requires that the upper edge of the guardrail be at least 5 inches above the toddler bed’s mattress, that testing of the bed’s slats be consistent with testing for slats in cribs and that separate warning labels to address entrapment and strangulation hazards appear on the toddler beds.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission, which made the announcement Thursday, has been told by Congress to issue mandatory standards for various infant and toddler products.
The agency is aware of 122 incidents from 2005 through 2010, including four deaths and 43 injuries associated with toddler beds.
Cribs that convert into toddler beds also must comply with the new federal standard for toddler beds.