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Inside Politics: Lawmakers tackle right to skip immunizations

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VERMONT

MONTPELIER — Vermont is embroiled in a debate about ending the philosophical exemption that allows parents to have their children skip childhood immunizations required for attending school.

The state Senate voted 25-4 recently to end the exemption, while the House has voted 93-36 to preserve it.

Vermont has among the highest number of parents who exempt their children from immunizations. State health officials say Vermont had 102 pertussis cases from January through the first week of April, more than were reported in the state all last year.

Opponents of the exemption say vaccines have eradicated diseases such polio in the United States.

But some vocal vaccine skeptics say it should be up to parents whether to get their children immunized.

IMMIGRATION

Arpaio speech made fun of federal investigations

PHOENIX — An audio recording has surfaced of an Arizona sheriff joking at a Texas fundraiser for an anti-illegal immigration group about his refusal to cooperate in a racial-profiling investigation.

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio ridicules politicians who sought the probe and displayed contempt toward federal authorities who were — and are still — investigating him on two fronts.

In the September 2009 speech in Houston, Sheriff Arpaio boasted of arresting hundreds of illegal immigrants after politicians and federal investigators started to pick apart his patrols. "After they went after me, we arrested 500 more just for spite," the self-proclaimed "America's toughest sheriff" said.

In an interview Thursday, Sheriff Arpaio defended his comments before Texans for Immigration Reform as a collection of humorous off-the-cuff remarks intended merely to show that he wasn't going to back down to critics. "These are not official, under-oath speeches," Sheriff Arpaio said.

Elsewhere in the speech, Sheriff Arpaio makes the Justice Department the butt of his jokes, saying, "It usually takes them two years to open a letter up and then another two years to buy the airline ticket."

The dismissive comments in 2009 came as the U.S. Justice Department already had launched a civil rights probe of his trademark immigration patrols, and the FBI already was examining abuse-of-power accusations concerning the sheriff's investigations of political foes.

CAMPAIGN

Gov. Daniels bows out of VP sweepstakes

Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels of Indiana thought long and hard before deciding not to run for president. Now, with Mitt Romney the likely nominee, he is professing no interest in joining the GOP ticket as a vice-presidential candidate.

Mr. Daniels says that if Mr. Romney came calling, Mr. Daniels would "demand reconsideration" and send Mr. Romney a list of people he thinks would be better suited for the job.

Mr. Daniels tells "Fox News Sunday" that there is a lot of talent in the GOP and Mr. Romney will have a good pool to pick from.

The governor says he has promised the people in Indiana that he would serve out his second four-year term. He won election in 2004 and again in 2008.

Mr. Daniels says he likes "living up to the commitment, showing that it was real."

WHITE HOUSE

Obama adviser views West Virginia as tough sell

A top adviser to President Obama's campaign says he understands the political calculation behind West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin's announcement that he is not sure right now whether he will vote for his party's candidate in November.

Obama strategist David Axelrod says he hopes the Democratic lawmaker ultimately will warm to Mr. Obama before the election.

Mr. Manchin, who also is up for re-election, is citing concerns about Mr. Obama's economic and energy policies. West Virginia has voted Republican in the past three presidential elections.

Mr. Axelrod tells CNN "State of the Union" that West Virginia will be a "tough state for us again" and that Mr. Manchin was "making a political judgment about himself." Mr. Axelrod says he hopes Mr. Manchin will ultimately take into account wider U.S. interests.

WHITE HOUSE

Ho hum: Obama on brink of Democratic nomination

It's official: President Obama will clinch the Democratic nomination for president Tuesday, ending a low-key primary race that many Americans probably didn't realize was happening.

Mr. Obama is certain to reach the 2,778 delegates he needs to secure his party nod for a second time when voters in five states go to the polls Tuesday. He has won almost every delegate so far, with a few exceptions in some Southern states that won't vote Democratic in the fall anyway.

But don't expect a big party, or any party. Campaign officials say they are focused on the general election, as they have been for months, and the all-but-certain Republican nominee, Mitt Romney.

SENATE

Rubio: Vice-presidential process deserves respect

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio has heard all the talk about joining a ticket with likely Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

Mr. Rubio says that until now, the talk about picking a running mate has been theoretical. But now that Mr. Romney's path is clear, Mr. Rubio says "It would be wise for all Republicans to kind of respect that process, myself included."

The Cuban-American and freshman lawmaker says Mr. Romney has made good decisions in his business and political career and "he's going to make a great choice" for a running mate.

Mr. Rubio tells CNN's "State of the Union" that he's not going to discuss the search any more. He says the last thing Mr. Romney needs is to have "us in the peanut gallery … saying what we would or would not do."

HOUSE

FBI source: Lawmaker spent campaign cash freely

Documents released by the FBI show that a source told investigators that an Alaska congressman and his late wife spent campaign money on hunting trips and flights and wrote checks to themselves over years of allegedly profligate spending on his contributors' dime.

The allegations were not enough to convince the FBI that they could convict GOP Rep. Don Young and the matter was dropped in 2010.

The documents were released Friday, more than three months after a federal judge rejected the Justice Department's refusal to turn over records of its criminal investigation.

The source, whose identify was redacted in the documents, appeared to have intimate knowledge of Mr. Young's D.C. office and was familiar with Mr. Young and his wife's conduct during fundraising trips.

Congress asked the Justice Department in 2008 to investigate Mr. Young's role in securing a $10 million earmark to widen a Florida highway.

The project would have benefited a developer who helped raise money for Mr. Young. The congressman was re-elected to a 20th term in 2010.

Mr. Young's press secretary, Luke Miller, said over the weekend that the matter should be considered closed.

TRANSPORTATION

Feds probing oil-line failure in 5,000 school buses

DETROIT — The federal government is investigating 5,000 school buses from the 2008 model year that could stall without warning.

In at least three cases, high-pressure oil lines that connect the oil pump to the fuel injectors allegedly failed on International CE-brand buses. There have been no accidents or injuries reported.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration posted a notice about the investigation on its website Sunday. In one case reported to NHTSA, a bus full of students was going 55 mph when it started smoking and stalled. The driver pulled the bus to the side of the road.

International CE buses are made by Lisle, Ill.-based Navistar Inc. A Navistar spokesman did not immediately respond to an email requesting comment.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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