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Inside Politics

- - Monday, May 23, 2011

FREE TRADE

Senate Democrats back Obama on delaying deals

Forty-one Senate Democrats told President Obama on Monday that they agreed with his decision to not send three free-trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama to Congress until Republicans agree to renew an expanded worker-retraining program.

The letter from more than three-quarters of the 51 Democrats in the Senate shows that hard bargaining is still needed to win approval of the free-trade agreements with the three nations left over from the administration of George W. Bush.

SUPREME COURT

Ruling rejects detainees' appeal on transfer notice

The Supreme Court on Monday turned down an appeal from detainees who fear they may be tortured or imprisoned if they are released from U.S. Naval Base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The detainees say they should have 30 days' notice to challenge their transfer to countries where they have a reasonable fear of torture or even continued confinement.

The government says it has a policy not to send detainees anywhere they are likely to be tortured, and courts have ruled that the government's word is sufficient.

HOUSE

Cantor suggests Ryan as presidential candidate

Rep. Paul Ryan, the author of a plan to overhaul government health care programs, would make a good presidential candidate, the No. 2 House Republican said Monday.

Majority Leader Eric Cantor, from Virginia, suggested that Republicans who have not been mentioned as candidates might enter the race to unseat President Obama in the 2012 election.

Several other Republicans also have called on the Wisconsin Republican, who is chairman of the House Budget Committee, to enter the race. Party members worry that the candidates who have declared so far will struggle to defeat Mr. Obama.

Mr. Ryan said Sunday that he was not planning to run for president.

BUDGET

Hoyer urges debt deal 'sooner rather than later'

Political leaders in Washington should wrap up talks to increase the nation's borrowing authority by June 8 to avoid spooking financial markets, the House minority Whip said Monday.

Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, Maryland Democrat, said negotiators should avoid the brinkmanship that has marked other budget disputes this year as they try to forge a deal that would give lawmakers political cover to back an increase in the $14.3 trillion U.S. debt limit.

"If we're going to have to do it, my view is doing it sooner rather than later roils the markets less," Mr. Hoyer said in a speech at the Bipartisan Policy Center, a think tank.

SURVEY

Majority of Americans doubt necessity of Medicare cuts

They're not buying it. Most Americans say they don't believe Medicare has to be cut to balance the federal budget, and ditto for Social Security, a poll shows.

The Associated Press-GfK poll suggests that arguments for overhauling the massive benefit programs to pare government debt have failed to sway the public. The debate is unlikely to be resolved before the presidential and congressional elections next year.

In the poll, 54 percent said it's possible to balance the budget without cutting spending for Medicare, and 59 percent said the same about Social Security.

WASHINGTON

Lincoln joins other former lawmakers at D.C. law firm

Former Sen. Blanche Lincoln, Arkansas Democrat, has joined the legislative and public policy group of Washington law firm Alston & Bird.

Mrs. Lincoln, who lost her bid for a third Senate term last fall, joins a growing list of high-powered former lawmakers at Alston & Bird - including former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, Kansas Republican, and former Rep. Billy Tauzin, Louisiana Republican.

Also joining the firm is the former staff director of the Senate Agriculture Committee, Robert Holifield, who served in that role while Mrs. Lincoln was chairman.