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Inside Politics

- - Tuesday, December 6, 2011

CAMPAIGN

Romney says no to Trump's invite

Following the lead of rivals Ron Paul and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., GOP hopeful Mitt Romney said Tuesday he will not take part in billionaire Donald Trump's Dec. 27 debate.

Mr. Romney told Fox News he will skip the Iowa debate, which has been criticized by some Republicans as a distraction.

Mr. Trump, a New York real estate magnate and reality-show star, considered his own run for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination earlier this year.

Mr. Paul and Mr. Huntsman earlier declined to participate in the debate, but GOP candidates Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum have said they will take part in the event, to be moderated by Mr. Trump.

Mr. Trump created a buzz earlier this year with a pro-Trump, anti-Obama media blitz in which he hammered on questions about the president's birth certificate.

SENATE

Panel to subpoena Corzine on MF Global

A Senate panel has voted to subpoena former Sen. Jon Corzine to testify about his role leading MF Global.

The trading firm filed for bankruptcy on Oct. 31 after a disastrous bet on European debt. Nearly $1.2 billion is estimated to be missing from customer accounts.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow, chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, said Mr. Corzine's testimony at the Dec. 13 hearing is essential to learn what happened. The vote comes just days after the House Agriculture Committee took similar action to force Mr. Corzine to appear at a hearing Thursday.

Mr. Corzine, a Democrat, represented New Jersey in the Senate from 2001 to 2005. He later served as the state's governor. The subpoena marks the first time a member of Congress has been forced to testify before his former peers since 1908.

Regulators are investigating whether MF Global used money from customers' accounts for its own needs as its financial condition worsened. That would violate securities rules. The FBI also is investigating to see if the firm violated any criminal laws.

OHIO

Democrats: Chamber altered lawmaker's photo in ads

COLUMBUS — Ohio Democrats are accusing a leading national business federation of altering a photo of Sen. Sherrod Brown and misrepresenting one of his votes in TV ads airing statewide.

Mr. Brown is a Democrat facing re-election next year. Democrats say the U.S. Chamber of Commerce made him look haggard and unshaven in an Associated Press photo that was used in the ad. The AP says it authorized use of the photo but not alterations.

Chamber spokesman J.P. Fielder says the organization didn't doctor the photo. He says Democrats are distracting from the message of the $1-million-plus ad buy, which casts Mr. Brown's vote to end $4 billion in government subsidies for five large oil companies as an energy tax hike.

WHITE HOUSE

Obama threatens veto on GOP regulation bill

The White House has threatened that President Obama would veto a pending House Republican bill that would make it easier for Congress to kill proposed government regulations.

The White House's budget office calls the legislation a "radical departure" from the separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches of government. It says the legislation would create unprecedented requirements that would delay and even block rules mandated by law.

The House Republican proposal would require Congress to approve any regulation that is estimated to cost the U.S. economy more than $100 million a year, would result in an increase in prices or would have an adverse effect on competition or jobs.

The Obama administration has identified 219 proposed regulations this year that would cost the economy more than $100 million each.

JUSTICE

Alabama police warned against discrimination

The Justice Department has sent a letter to Alabama police agencies warning them not to discriminate against Latinos as they enforce the state's tough new immigration law.

Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez, who heads Justice's civil rights division, sent the letter last week to Alabama's 156 police agencies that receive federal funding. Mr. Perez warned that agencies risk losing funding if they violate federal policies barring discrimination. He also said Justice officials are monitoring the law's implementation to ensure there are no civil rights violations.

The Obama administration has sued Alabama to block the law, which allows local police to detain people suspected of being in the country illegally. Parts of the law have been blocked by a federal judge, but police still can arrest suspected illegal immigrants.

TRANSPORTATION

LaHood: Chevy Volt is safe despite fires

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood says the Chevrolet Volt is safe to drive even though the government is investigating fires caused by damage to the electric car's battery.

Mr. LaHood told reporters Tuesday that his department isn't trying to protect General Motors, maker of the Volt, from possible repercussions from the government's safety investigation.

Mr. LaHood says his department isn't in the business of protecting the automobile industry.

Transportation officials launched a formal safety investigation after a Volt damaged in government crash-testing and two similarly damaged Volt battery packs set off fires.

SENATE

Lawmakers want audit of veterans' wait times

Federal lawmakers are calling for an inspector general's investigation into how long it takes for veterans to get treatment for mental health disorders after they return from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Recent hearings before the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee have featured witnesses who have testified that veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder often have to wait longer than 14 days before getting an initial appointment and that follow-up visits can take much longer.

The Department of Veterans Affairs has greatly increased the resources going into mental health care, but the large number of troops returning from the war continues to stress the system.

Sens. Patty Murray of Washington and Richard Burr of North Carolina said Tuesday congressional hearings have shown that even veterans who attempted suicide had appointments postponed.

SENATE

Hispanic Caucus urges ambassador confirmation

Members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus are pressing the Senate to confirm President Obama's nominee for ambassador to El Salvador.

Seven members of the caucus said at a news conference Tuesday that Republicans opposed to administration policies shouldn't stonewall Mari Carmen Aponte's nomination.

Ms. Aponte is a recess appointee on the job since September 2010, but her temporary tenure expires at the end of the year.

Republicans are upset with a summertime op-ed column she wrote on gay rights and old unfounded rumors that her boyfriend was a Cuban spy.

From wire dispatches and staff reports