- - Monday, March 26, 2012

Facing an end-of-the-week deadline, House Republicans are running into trouble passing a bill to temporarily keep federal highway and transit aid flowing to states.

Democrats are opposing a 90-day extension of highway aid. They are trying to keep pressure on the GOP to take up a bipartisan $109 billion Senate bill that would overhaul transportation programs while extending them through the end of the 2013 federal budget year.

Instead, Republicans want to pass a three-month extension to buy more time to line up votes for their five-year bill.

The Democratic opposition could prevent passage of the GOP’s short-term extension in a vote later Monday. A two-thirds vote is necessary under House rules that allow expedited consideration of bills. Without an extension, construction projects across the country could be shut down.

WHITE HOUSE

Obama draws suspicion with Korean contest

SEOUL — That maven of social media, President Obama, brought his act to Korea this week and got accused of disguising himself as a phony supporter in an online contest.

In advance of Mr. Obama’s visit, the U.S. Embassy here sponsored a competition called Ask President Obama. The three winning questions from Koreans received written responses from Mr. Obama.

But the president noted in a nuclear-policy speech Monday at Hankuk University that somebody who posted comments in the contest accused him of posting positive remarks about himself using a fake name.

“One of you … this is true … asked this question: ‘Have you posted, yourself, a supportive opinion on a website under a disguised name, pretending you are one of the supporters of President Obama?’ ” Mr. Obama said to laughter from the largely student audience.

He added, “I hadn’t thought of this. But the truth is I have not done this. Maybe my daughters have. But I haven’t done that myself.”

The president told students in the audience that they are inheriting a “dynamic” Korea.

“You know that in our digital age, we can connect and innovate across borders like never before - with your smartphones and Twitter and Me2Day and Kakao Talk,” he said. “It’s no wonder so many people around the world have caught the Korean Wave, Hallyu,” a reference to the rapid spread of Korean culture in the past decade or more.

NORTH CAROLINA

Edwards lawyers seek leeway in questioning

GREENSBORO — Prosecutors have asked the federal judge overseeing the upcoming criminal trial of John Edwards to limit how much evidence can be introduced from the recent legal fight over ownership of a sex tape featuring the former candidate.

Both sides agreed at a pretrial hearing Monday that the intimate video made by Mr. Edwards’ mistress, Rielle Hunter, should not be shown to jurors deciding whether the Democrat is guilty of campaign finance violations.

However, Mr. Edwards’ defense-team attorneys say they should be free to question former campaign aide Andrew Young about inconsistent testimony he gave after Ms. Hunter sued him in state court to regain possession of the tape. Mr. Young is expected to be a key witness against his former boss.

Mr. Edwards’ trial is set to begin April 12. He has pleaded not guilty.

DELAWARE

Gingrich says Delaware could shake up the race

WILMINGTON — Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said Monday that Delaware’s small size could provide him the opportunity to pick up the state’s 17 winner-take-all delegates on April 24 and shake up the GOP presidential primary race.

“I think Delaware is a great opportunity for us because it is the size state where a candidate with limited money can really make an impact by personal contact,” Mr. Gingrich told reporters during the first visit to Delaware by a contender in this year’s GOP presidential race. “I think that winning Delaware would be part of resetting the whole race.”

CAMPAIGN

AFL-CIO calls on Romney to dismiss labor adviser

The AFL-CIO on Monday called for Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney to dismiss a campaign labor adviser linked to an ethics investigation at the National Labor Relations Board.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said Peter Schaumber, a former Republican member of the NLRB, used his connections to obtain inside information from a current board member.

Mr. Schaumber has not been accused of wrongdoing. But a report last week from the agency’s inspector general found that current board member Terence Flynn violated ethics rules by leaking details of internal board deliberations to Mr. Schaumber and others.

The inspector general’s report has been referred to the Justice Department for further investigation.

A Romney campaign spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Mr. Schaumber, now a labor relations consultant, also did not respond to an email and phone call requesting comment.

MICHIGAN

Governor: Progress made on finances deal for Detroit

DETROIT — A deal aimed at rescuing Detroit before it goes broke appeared imminent Monday after city and state negotiators reported major progress in their often-contentious talks and a review panel appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder decided not to recommend an emergency manager to take over the reins of city government.

Mr. Snyder has 10 days to negotiate a compromise with city officials, but he and the city council predicted a “financial stability agreement” would be reached by the end of the week. Regardless of the final version, the compromise being worked out wouldn’t strip nearly as much authority from city leaders as the emergency manager process would.

“My role is not to run the city of Detroit. My goal is for the state to provide a supporting resource, be a partner,” the Republican governor said. “Much of this agreement is pretty far along. We need to make some reviews. Both the City Council and mayor need to make some reviews.”

Snyder spokeswoman Geralyn Lasher said the two sides “could be a paragraph or two” away from a deal.

Later Monday, a financial review team concluded Detroit is in “severe financial stress” but stopped short of appointing an emergency manager.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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