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Inside Politics: GOP moves to abolish AmeriCorps, stop funding

- - Tuesday, July 17, 2012

House Republicans on Tuesday unveiled legislation to get rid of AmeriCorps, the national service program, and cut off federal funding for National Public Radio, public television and Planned Parenthood.

The moves would come in a controversial spending bill that pays for labor, health and education programs for the budget year beginning Oct. 1.

The measure is dead on arrival with Democrats but contains many provisions to please tea party conservatives.

"This bill is an extremely partisan proposal, stands little chance of even being brought up on the House floor, and will rightly be disregarded by both the Senate and the president," said Rep. Norman D. Dicks of Washington, top Democrat on the Appropriations Committee.

It's the last of 12 annual spending bills for the upcoming budget year to be released. The GOP-controlled House has passed six of the measures but the Democratic Senate has yet to debate a single measure, and lawmakers are sure to have to pass a stopgap funding bill in September to avoid a government shutdown when the fiscal year ends Sept. 30.

The bill would deny funding to implement President Obama's health care law but, Democrats say, funnels more than $3 billion of those savings to cover other expenditures such as keeping grants for community health centers at current levels. Overall, the measure cuts funding under lawmakers' direct control by 4 percent to $150 billion.

Many of the proposed cuts have been rejected in the past, like a bid to eliminate family planning programs.

The cuts to community service programs, funded at $1 billion this year, would slash such programs by 74 percent on the path to eliminating them entirely, save for a program for senior citizens. National Public Radio and the Public Broadcasting Service are familiar targets, too, but have been rejected before. NPR is seen as left-leaning while Republicans say PBS could get along just fine without taxpayer help.

TEXAS

George H.W. Bush, Barbara to skip GOP convention

HOUSTON — A spokesman says former President George H.W. Bush and his wife, Barbara Bush, will skip the Republican National Convention next month in Tampa, Fla., because of health reasons.

The spokesman, Jim McGrath, says it will be the first time since 1976, when Mr. Bush was director of the CIA and refrained from partisan activities, that he won't attend the Republican Party gathering.

The 88-year-old Mr. Bush has a form of Parkinson's disease that afflicts his legs. He now gets around using a wheelchair or motorized scooter.

Mr. McGrath said Tuesday that the situation surrounding Mr. Bush's mobility will keep the couple from attending the late August convention.

Mr. Bush and his wife have endorsed Mitt Romney, the expected GOP presidential nominee.

TEXAS

Perry calls on Romney to release tax returns

AUSTIN — Texas Gov. Rick Perry is calling on fellow Republican and former rival Mitt Romney to release his tax returns.

Mr. Perry said anyone running for office should make public as much personal information as possible to help voters decide.

Mr. Perry has released his tax returns dating to 1992.

Mr. Romney has come under increasing pressure from Democrats and Republicans to release more than the two years of returns he has promised to make public. He has released his 2010 return and has said he'll release the 2011 when it's completed later this year.

Mr. Romney has said releasing additional information will only lead to more attacks from President Obama's campaign.

Mr. Perry challenged Mr. Romney for the GOP presidential nomination. He has endorsed Mr. Romney and recently campaigned for him in Nevada.

OHIO

Obama team files suit over election rules

COLUMBUS — President Obama's re-election campaign Tuesday filed a federal lawsuit against Ohio's top elections official in a dispute over the battleground state's law that restricts early, in-person voting during the three days before Election Day.

The lawsuit filed in Columbus comes after a series of election law changes cleared the state's Republican-controlled legislature and were signed by Republican Gov. John Kasich.

Mr. Obama's campaign and Democrats argue that the law unfairly ends early, in-person voting for most Ohioans on the Friday evening before the Tuesday election, while allowing military and overseas voters to cast a ballot in person until Monday.

Before the changes to the law, local boards of election had the discretion to set their own early, in-person voting hours on the days before the election. And in-person voting on the weekend varied among the state's 88 counties.

The state's elections chief, Secretary of State Jon Husted, has argued that all counties should have the same early voting hours and be open on the same days. Mr. Husted and his fellow Republicans contend it's unfair that a voter in one county can cast an early ballot on a day when a voter in a neighboring county cannot.

"I didn't see a lawsuit occur when six counties had weekend voting and extended hours and 82 of them didn't," Mr. Husted said. "I'm sympathetic to the idea that we should have consistency because that's exactly what we've been doing on a number of fronts."

Obama for America was joined in the lawsuit by the Democratic National Committee and the Ohio Democratic Party.

Ohio is one of 32 states that allow voters to cast an early ballot by mail or in person without an excuse. About 30 percent of swing state's total vote — or roughly 1.7 million ballots — came in ahead of Election Day in 2008.

FEDERAL RESERVE

Industrial production increased last month

U.S. industrial production rose in June as factories made more cars, machines and business equipment, the Federal Reserve said Tuesday. Factory output recovered to levels reached earlier this spring but appears to be leveling off.

Factory output rose 0.7 percent last month after falling by the same amount in May, the Fed said. Factories produced more machines and vehicles used by businesses. Production of consumer goods edged higher. Auto production rebounded after its first decline of the year.

Overall industrial production, which includes mining and utilities, rose 0.4 percent in June. Mining activity increased 0.7 percent, while utility output fell 1.9 percent.

June's strong results follow a period of shaky growth for the factory sector, which is a crucial contributor to economic expansion. Factory output fell in two of the past four months.

"The trend has downshifted," said Jim O'Sullivan, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics. "I wouldn't extrapolate the rebound in June as a sign that momentum is picking up again." Factory growth slowed in the second quarter to an annual rate of 1.4 percent after leaping 9.8 percent in the first quarter, Mr. O'Sullivan noted.

Other indicators of factory output also have weakened. A manufacturing survey by the Institute for Supply Management fell in June for the first time in nearly three years. Indexes for exports, production and new orders all softened.

Demand for exports has weakened in recent months as Europe battles a deep recession and China's economy grows more slowly.

NEW YORK

Not guilty plea planned in Kennedy driving case

ARMONK — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's ex-wife, Kerry Kennedy, plans to plead not guilty at her arraignment this week on a drug-impaired driving charge.

Ms. Kennedy is the daughter of the late Sen. Robert F. Kennedy and niece of the late President John F. Kennedy.

Police say she was arrested Friday after her car struck a tractor-trailer on an interstate north of New York City and she took an exit off it. They say an investigation found she was impaired by drugs.

A spokesman for Ms. Kennedy says breath, blood and urine tests revealed no drugs or alcohol in her system. Her lawyer says she'll plead not guilty.

Ms. Kennedy's sister-in-law, Mary Kennedy, hanged herself in May. Her brother, Douglas Kennedy, is fighting charges stemming from his attempt to take his newborn son from a maternity ward.

From wire dispatches and staff reports