- - Thursday, April 21, 2011

CONGRESS

Lawmakers make influential list

Four members of Congress - three Republicans and one Democrat - have been named to Time magazine’s list of the 100 most influential people in the world.

The list includes House Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin and Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota - all Republicans - and Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona.

Mrs. Bachmann, a darling of the tea-party movement who last year organized the Congressional Tea Party Caucus, fired off an email to reporters Friday morning shortly after Time made the list public, saying her inclusion “is a reflection of the growing voice of everyday Americans who desire to preserve and further the liberty on which our great country was founded.”

Mr. Ryan, chairman of the House Budget Committee, crafted the chamber’s 2011 budget, which the House passed almost exclusively along party lines on April 15. Republicans hailed the proposal as a bold step toward reining in runaway government spending while holding down taxes. Democrats countered that the plan would slash benefits for seniors, the middle class and the poor while giving the wealthy and corporations tax breaks.

Mrs. Giffords is recovering from life-threatening injuries from a January gun attack in her Tucson-area district. “Before that morning, Gabrielle Giffords may not have been a household name,” wrote President Obama in an introduction for the congresswoman in the magazine. “But the reason she has long been admired by people of all political stripes is that she embodies the best of what public service should be: hard work and fair play, hope and resilience, a willingness to listen and a determination to do your best in a busy world.”

Mr. Boehner, an 11th-term congressman from the Cincinnati area, was elevated to House speaker when Republicans took control of the chamber in January. He has helped push through Mr. Ryan’s budget plan with few party defections despite many conservative GOP freshmen pressing for cuts beyond the plan’s aim to reduce government spending by $6 trillion over 10 years.

GAO

Criminal immigrants imprisoned on rise

Government auditors say about 55,000 immigrants were in federal prison last year.

The Government Accountability Office says that’s about a 7 percent increase from 51,000 in 2005.

Federal officials reimbursed local and state governments for jailing about 296,000 immigrants on civil violations and for crimes in 2009, compared to 220,000 in 2003.

The GAO estimates the federal government has spent about $1.5 billion to $1.6 billion from 2005 to 2009 to incarcerate immigrants in federal and local facilities.

The GAO says the number of immigrants arrested and deported by Immigration and Customs Enforcement had risen 70 percent since 2009.

Immigration, drugs and traffic violations account for half of the arrest offenses.

LABOR

Fewer applications for jobless aid

Fewer people applied for unemployment benefits last week, partly reversing a sharp jump in applications the previous week.

The Labor Department said Thursday that the number of people applying for unemployment benefits dropped 13,000 to a seasonally adjusted 403,000 in the week ending April 16. The decline comes after applications rose 31,000 a week earlier.

Applications near 375,000 are consistent with sustainable job growth. Applications peaked during the recession at 659,000.

The four-week average, a less volatile measure, rose for the second straight week, to 399,000. That’s about 10,000 higher than it was a month ago.

The average has fallen about 7 percent since late January, but applications have plateaued in recent weeks. Most economists expect applications to continue declining as the economy improves.

Businesses have stepped up hiring, adding more than 200,000 jobs for the second straight month in March. That’s the biggest two-month hiring spree in five years. The unemployment rate fell to 8.8 percent last month, the lowest level in two years.

The total number of people receiving unemployment benefits ticked down to 3.7 million. But that doesn’t include millions of unemployed who are getting benefits under emergency programs enacted by Congress during the recession. Including those programs, 8.3 million people received unemployment benefits during the week ending April 2, the latest data available. That’s a drop of more than 200,000 from the previous week.

HOUSE

Democrat files suit, forces disclosure

A top House Democrat is taking legal steps to force the names of political donors to be disclosed.

Maryland Rep. Chris Van Hollen filed a lawsuit against the Federal Election Commission Thursday, challenging a regulation allowing independent groups spending money on political campaigns to shield the identities of their donors.

Mr. Van Hollen’s lawsuit was filed in federal district court in Washington.

Since a Supreme Court ruling last year cleared the way for corporations and independent groups to spend freely on campaign activity, many have done so using money from anonymous donors.

Mr. Van Hollen said that practice violates an existing law requiring donor disclosure.

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