- - Thursday, March 17, 2011

HOUSE

Lawmakers reject quick drawdown

The House has overwhelmingly rejected a resolution calling for President Obama to withdraw American forces from Afghanistan by year’s end.

The vote was 321-93, with one member voting present on Thursday.

In a show of bipartisanship on national security, Republicans and Democrats had warned that passage of the measure would have dire consequences in the fight against terrorism and put the U.S. at risk of another Sept. 11 strike.

Proponents of the resolution had argued that in a time of soaring deficits, the nation couldn’t afford investing money in a nation led by a corrupt government in Kabul. They also called the war unwinnable.

CALIFORNIA

Fractured GOP aims to rebuild

SACRAMENTO | After major losses in last year’s statewide elections, the California Republican Party is trying to regroup and stay relevant in an increasingly diverse state that has been trending away from Republican ideology.

The state GOP’s three-day spring convention opens Friday with an address by former United Nations Ambassador John Bolton. Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, a potential Republican presidential candidate, is Saturday’s keynote speaker.

Much of the weekend’s drama is likely to center around the budget fight across the street at the state Capitol. Party die-hards are pressuring Republican lawmakers not to support Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget plan.

Mr. Brown, a Democrat, wants to address a $26.6 billion budget shortfall with a mix of spending cuts and a special election in which voters would decide whether to extend recent tax increases.

HOUSE

Lawmaker seeks finance firms’ end

A top Republican lawmaker on Thursday unveiled a bill to shut down the government-controlled mortgage firms Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac within five years, an aggressive stance that may have trouble garnering support.

“We have waited for years to do something. It is time to start doing something,” said Texas Rep. Jeb Hensarling, the fourth-ranking Republican in the U.S. House of Representatives, to reporters as he mounted his third effort to shutter the two mortgage giants.

Mr. Hensarling’s bill would end the government’s conservatorship of the firms within two years. They then would enter receivership or be placed back into the market for “limited” operations for a maximum of three more years. After that, the private market would take over.

The George W. Bush administration seized the companies in September 2008 as losses on loans they had backed spiraled. They have since been given more than $134 billion in taxpayer aid to operate.

Democrats and Republicans alike agree that the status quo cannot last, but they disagree on the amount of support the government should continue to extend the housing market.

Currently, the government, through Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Federal Housing Administration, is backing almost nine in 10 new mortgages.

Mr. Hensarling’s proposal is the most aggressive that has been offered for shutting down Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which own or guarantee more than half of the $10.6 trillion in U.S. mortgages.

UTAH

Pollster, Reagan strategist dies

SALT LAKE CITY | Richard B. Wirthlin, a pollster who served as an adviser to Ronald Reagan, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford and several foreign leaders, has died.

Mr. Wirthlin died in Salt Lake City on Wednesday of natural causes attributable to age, his son Richard L. Wirthlin told the Associated Press. He was 80.

Most of Mr. Wirthlin’s family was at his side when he died, his son said.

A native Utahan who taught economics at Brigham Young University, Mr. Wirthlin in 1969 founded the Los Angeles-based Wirthlin Worldwide, a research firm with offices on four continents that provided marketing research, public affairs and communications strategies. Mr. Wirthlin earned both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in economics and statistics from the University of Utah and went on to earn a doctorate in economics from the University of California at Berkeley.

Mr. Wirthlin worked as an adviser for Reagan for more than 20 years and was a strategist in Reagan’s 1980 and 1984 presidential campaigns. He chronicled his relationship with the president in a 2004 book, “The Greatest Communicator: What Ronald Reagan Taught Me About Politics, Leadership and Life.”

Mr. Wirthlin also advised presidents Nixon and Ford, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and other world leaders, including German Chancellor Helmut Kohl and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, according to information provided by his family.

A lifetime member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Mr. Wirthlin served his faith in numerous leadership roles, including as a member of the administrative body, the Second Quorum of the Seventy.

He is survived by his wife of 54 years, the former Jeralie Mae Chandler, eight children, 27 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

Funeral services are set for Saturday in Salt Lake City.

PENTAGON

Sexual assault reports drop

The Pentagon says sexual assaults in the military declined slightly last year.

The Defense Department’s annual report, released Thursday, said the service branches received 3,158 reports of assaults in the budget year that ended last September, ranging from rape to unwanted touching, a 2 percent decrease from the previous year. The incidents involved assaults on people in uniform by fellow military members and by civilians.

The report says 4.4 percent of active-duty women and just less than 1 percent of active-duty men reported experiencing unwanted sexual contact.

Acknowledging that there is still work to do on the issue, officials credited the improvement to more training and other prevention efforts started in 2005. They said the trend over the past few years shows more victims are coming forward to report the assaults.

NORTH CAROLINA

TSA: Report never ordered sealed

CHARLOTTE | A federal agency says it didn’t order police to seal a report about a teen who died after apparently stowing away in Charlotte in the wheel well of a jet that flew to Boston.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Rodney Monroe had said police recently completed a probe into the November death of 16-year-old Delvonte Tisdale, whose body was found in a Boston suburb after it apparently fell from the plane. Monroe said the report couldn’t be released for security reasons.

Jon Allen of the Transportation Security Administration said Thursday that the federal agency only advised Charlotte authorities that the report contained information that could be sensitive to security.

From wire dispatches and staff reports