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Inside Politics

- - Thursday, May 26, 2011

HOUSE

Vote OKs ban on funds to teach abortions

The House voted Wednesday to ban teaching medical centers from using federal money to train doctors on how to perform abortions, the latest in a series of pro-life measures pushed by the Republican majority.

The author of the measure, Rep. Virginia Foxx, North Carolina Republican, said she wanted to make it "crystal clear that taxpayer money is not being used to train health care providers to perform abortion procedures."

The proposal was presented as an amendment to the latest of several GOP bills to restrict funding for the health care law that was enacted last year. This bill gives Congress control over spending for a program to encourage health care centers to provide training to medical residents. The amendment applies to funding in that grant program.

The Foxx amendment passed by a vote of 234-182 despite the objections of some Democrats that it would prevent health care centers from teaching a basic medical technique that can be critical to saving a woman's life during an emergency.

The Foxx amendment and the overall bill to restrict the health care act are likely to die in the Democrat-controlled Senate.

FLORIDA

Scott holds lowest approval rating among governors

Gov. Rick Scott has been in office less than five months, but voters already have grown weary of the Republican by a 2-to-1 ratio, a poll shows.

Results of a Quinnipiac University survey released Wednesday show that 57 percent of Florida voters disapprove of Mr. Scott's performance and 29 percent approve - the worst score of any U.S. governor surveyed by the independent polling organization. Fourteen percent didn't answer the question or said they didn't know.

A Quinnipiac survey from early April showed Mr. Scott with a rating of 48 percent disapproval and 35 percent approval.

Dissatisfaction extends to followers of Mr. Scott's party. Among GOP voters, 37 percent disapprove of his job performance and 51 percent approve, the poll shows. His ratings are 72 percent disapproval and 13 percent approval among Democrats and 57 percent disapproval and 28 percent approval among independent voters.

SENATE

Reid moves Patriot Act toward extension

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says he has struck the first of several agreements needed to pass a four-year Patriot Act extension before three provisions expire at midnight Thursday.

The agreement to hold a test vote Thursday morning is the first progress all week in a standoff between Senate leaders and Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, who opposes the Patriot Act. Mr. Paul has stalled the renewal, saying he wanted Mr. Reid to make good on a promise to allow debate on amendments. Mr. Reid said there was no time for that.

Congress is under unusual pressure to quickly extend the law, designed to help the government find terrorists on American soil. Once passed by the House and Senate, the extension must be flown to Europe for President Obama's signature.

NEVADA

Angle to stay on sidelines of special election for House

CARSON CITY — Sharron Angle, who has been backed by the tea party movement, took herself out of the running Wednesday for Nevada's special election for the U.S. House and called a recent court ruling on how candidates will be chosen an ?illegitimate process? that disenfranchises voters.

Mrs. Angle said in a statement that a judge's ruling that the central committees for Nevada's major political parties must pick their candidates for the Sept. 13 ballot makes a mockery of free elections. Although that ruling is under appeal, the Nevada Supreme Court isn't expected to make a decision until late June.

"Cleary, no solution that the Supreme Court can make will correct the injury to free and open elections caused by ambiguous laws and subsequent lawsuits," Mrs. Angle said.

Mrs. Angle, a former state Assembly member, overcame a crowded Republican field last year in her U.S. Senate race, but lost to Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat who was a prime target of the GOP.

WHITE HOUSE

Liu calls it quits in quest for judgeship

Goodwin Liu, a polarizing Obama administration judicial candidate, has asked the president to withdraw his nomination from consideration for an appeals court judgeship after his bid was blocked last week in the Senate by a Republican filibuster.

Mr. Liu, in a letter sent Wednesday to President Obama, said that "with no possibility of a up-or-down vote on the horizon, my family and I have decided that it is time for us to regain the ability to make plans for the future."

"In addition, the Judicial Council of the 9th Circuit has noted the 'desperate need for judges' to fill current vacancies, and it is now clear that continuing my nomination will not address that need any time soon."

Republicans said they opposed Mr. Lius nomination because they worried the University of California at Berkeley law professor would be an liberal activist judge who would play fast and loose with the Constitution from the bench. They also cited statements he has made suggesting support for affirmative action and gay marriage as individual rights.

STATE

U.S. orders nonessential envoys to leave Yemen

The State Department is ordering nonessential U.S. diplomats to leave Yemen as security conditions deteriorate with the country's embattled leader refusing to step down. It is also urging private American citizens to leave.

Wednesday's decision to tell most nonessential personnel and the families of American staff at the U.S. Embassy in Sanaa to leave is a sign of Washington's increasing concern about the situation in Yemen, where street battles between supporters and opponents of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh raged for a third day.

Speaking in London earlier Wednesday, President Obama called on Mr. Saleh to "move immediately" to transfer power. Mr. Saleh has balked three times at following through on commitments to step down.

EDUCATION

$500M in grants ready for Race to the Top

The Obama administration plans to distribute $500 million in education grants aimed at helping children in the third round of its Race to the Top state competition for federal money.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced the Early Learning Challenge at an event Wednesday.

The administration also announced that nine finalist states that did not win grants in the first two rounds of Race to the Top for students in kindergarten through 12th grade can compete for $200 million in grants in the next round. The grants range from $10 million to $50 million. The states are Arizona, California, Colorado, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and South Carolina.

From wire dispatches and staff reports