Inside Politics: Panetta hints punishment for bin Laden book author

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The measure would set a minimum rate for the annual premiums paid for mortgage insurance, exclude unscrupulous lenders from the program and require those who commit fraud to repay the FHA.

The reserve fund of the FHA, which insures more than $1 trillion worth of mortgages, is near depletion.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Judy Biggert, Illinois Republican, sets the minimum rate at 0.55 percent of the mortgage balance and gives the housing secretary discretion to raise that to 2.05 percent.

Last December, Congress agreed to raise the FHA’s mortgage-insurance premium to pay for a temporary extension of the payroll-tax cut.

HOUSE

Lawmakers undertake changes in bag screening

The House on Tuesday took steps to eliminate a requirement that passengers flying from certain foreign airports have their checked bags screened a second time when they arrive in the United States and continue on an additional flight.

Current law already stipulates that passengers arriving from one of 14 pre-clearance foreign airports do not need to go through a second full security check when they transfer to a domestic flight. The measure passed by the House on a voice vote would give the Transportation Security Administration the authority to extend that rescreening waiver to their bags as well.

The TSA has determined that those 14 airports — eight in Canada, four in the Caribbean and two in Ireland — have security staff and procedures that are at or above U.S. standards.

Rep. Joe Walsh, Illinois Republican, the sponsor of the legislation, said passengers arriving from those destinations must now claim their bags, have them screened again and then go back through security. “This double security does not equal double safety,” he said. “It equals missed flights, more hassles and wastes taxpayer dollars.”

MISSOURI

Akin keeps endorsement from state’s Farm Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY — The Missouri Farm Bureau reaffirmed its endorsement of Missouri Senate candidate W. Todd Akin on Tuesday, weeks after the Republican congressman made remarks about women’s bodies being able to avoid pregnancy in cases of what he called “legitimate rape.”

The Farm Bureau’s decision comes just over a month after members of its political action committees voted by an overwhelming 99 percent to support Mr. Akin over the incumbent Democrat, Sen. Claire McCaskill. The Farm Bureau did not disclose the exact percentage of support Mr. Akin won in the new vote, but it said the results were similar.

In an unprecedented move for the Farm Bureau, its political committees decided to reconsider their endorsement after Mr. Akin’s remarks about rape aired Aug. 19 on a St. Louis television station. Mr. Akin has apologized repeatedly since then and has rejected numerous calls by top Republicans — including GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney — to drop out of the Senate race so that the state Republican committee can pick a replacement candidate.

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