Lawmakers remove confirmation requirement
The Senate took the rare step of curbing its own power Wednesday, voting to no longer require Senate confirmation for 169 high-level federal jobs filled through presidential appointments.
Most of those jobs are second-tier Cabinet positions such as assistant secretaries and deputy directors that typically don't inspire partisan wrangling. Nonetheless, the nominees often hang in limbo — and the jobs go unfilled for months because their confirmations get drawn into other fights.
The bill, passed 79-20 and sent to the House, is part of a broader bipartisan effort to make the famously fickle Senate work more efficiently.
"There is nothing wrong with the Senate doing a little prioritizing of pending business," said Sen. Charles Schumer, New York Democrat, a co-sponsor of the legislation with Sen. Lamar Alexander, Tennessee Republican.
Critics said the bill only puts a bandage on the bigger problem of a mammoth government that should, itself, be trimmed.
"We're moving to make it somewhat less accountable," said Sen. Jim DeMint, South Carolina Republican.
Gay marriage foes target 7 state senators
ALBANY — A group that opposes gay marriage says it will spend at least $2 million to oust seven New York state senators who changed their positions on gay marriage.
The Washington-based National Organization for Marriage says in an email to supporters that it is committed to helping elect majorities in 2012 that support marriage as being between only a man and a woman.
President Brian Brown says his group also wants to ensure that the Senate Republicans who broke party ranks "understand that voting for gay marriage has consequences."
The four Republicans and three Democrats who changed their votes were key in last week's decision making New York the sixth state to legalize same-sex marriage.
The group's solicitation shows photographs of the seven senators.
FEC attorneys urged finding against O'Donnell
DOVER — Records show that the Federal Election Commission dismissed a campaign finance complaint against former U.S. Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell even though staff attorneys recommended finding that the Delaware Republican had violated election laws.
Documents released this week show that FEC attorneys recommended in a March report that the commission find reason to believe that the Tea Party Express and its treasurer, and Miss O'Donnell and her campaign, violated election laws. The FEC attorneys said the parties individually made, accepted or failed to report excessive in-kind contributions in the form of coordinated expenditures.
Miss O'Donnell's campaign attorney said earlier this month that the FEC was forced to drop the complaint filed by the Delaware Republican Party because there was no evidence of any wrongdoing or violation. Miss O'Donnell has denied any wrongdoing.
GOP candidate Cain: cut taxes, create jobs
GREENVILLE — Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain rolled out an economic plan in this pivotal primary state Wednesday firmly believing it would drop unemployment to no more than 5 percent, but he acknowledged that he was still crunching the numbers.
Mr. Cain's first campaign stop in this early-voting state was greeted with applause by about six dozen people at the Next Innovation Center, which supports high-tech start-ups and entrepreneurs.
The former CEO of Godfather's Pizza advocated a maximum tax of 25 percent on company profits and personal income and an end to the capital gains tax.
He said the U.S. must get its debt under control and that companies should not pay taxes on overseas profits that are invested back home.
A national sales tax should replace the federal income tax, he said, giving individuals and companies "certainty" about making purchases and investments. He wants a "restructuring" of Social Security so people can invest in their own retirement funds.
"This economic vision will produce a job for every home," he said. "Get government out of the way, get government off our backs and get the government out of our pockets."
Bachmann defends Medicaid funds to spouse's clinic
ST. PAUL — Republican presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann is deflecting questions about federally subsidized health dollars that have flowed to her husband's mental health clinic.
As the tea party hero tours the nation attacking the size of federal government, the Minnesota congresswoman has come under heightened scrutiny about public dollars flowing to family business interests. That includes $137,000 that Bachmann and Associates has received for treating patients in Medicaid-backed programs.
Mrs. Bachmann's press secretary, Alice Stewart, said Wednesday in a statement that it "would be discriminatory" for the clinic to turn away Medicaid patients. She says Marcus Bachmann's business has the responsibility to provide the care "regardless of a patient's financial situation."
Neither Bachmanns would respond to questions about the arrangement during a campaign stop in South Carolina.
From wire dispatches and staff reports.