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Inside Politics: Akin faces critical time for bid in Missouri

- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 23, 2012

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Republican congressman W. Todd Akin has been slowly rebuilding his Senate campaign in Missouri after apologizing for inflammatory remarks about pregnancy and rape.

Now Mr. Akin is approaching a critical week that could determine whether his re-emerging campaign can gain enough momentum to put Missouri back in the battleground column as Republicans attempt to win control of the Senate from Democrats.

Tuesday is the deadline for Mr. Akin to get a court order to drop his challenge of Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill. But Mr. Akin says he won't quit.

Instead, Mr. Akin plans to ramp up his campaign. He's holding a fundraiser Monday with former Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich. He's addressing a potentially influential group of pastors Tuesday morning. Then as the dropout clock ticks down, he's embarking on a statewide bus tour.

HOUSE

GOP leaders reject plan for welfare

Republican leaders Friday pushed back against Obama administration efforts to allow states to waive federally mandated work rules in their welfare programs for needy families.

By a 250-164 vote, the House passed a resolution Friday rejecting the Department of Health and Human Services' July notice to states that they could seek permission to devise their own definitions of work and participation rates in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program.

Nineteen Democrats joined their Republican colleagues to block the HHS policy.

Also on Friday, Rep. Dave Camp, Michigan Republican and chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, and Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, Utah Republican and ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, released a letter to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, which asks her to explain by Oct. 25 how her agency reached its July 12 decision to grant states waivers on TANF work rules. A recent Government Accountability Office report said such waiver policy requires congressional approval, the Republican leaders said.

An HHS spokesman said Friday that the agency was standing by a July 18 letter from Mrs. Sebelius to Mr. Hatch and Mr. Camp that said HHS "is clearly authorized" to offer waivers. The goal is to allow states more flexibility to design their TANF work programs, and no state will be permitted to start a policy that "undercuts" or "waters down work requirements," the HHS letter added.

SENATE

Hunting bill passes procedural hurdle

A sportsmen's bill that could help a Democratic incumbent in Montana has survived a procedural hurdle in the Senate.

The bill would allow hunters to bring back 41 polar bear carcasses from Canada as big-game trophies. The bill also would permit more hunting and fishing on federal lands and let bow hunters cross federal land where hunting isn't allowed.

Other provisions would encourage federal land agencies to cooperate with state and local authorities to maintain shooting ranges, exclude ammunition and tackle from federal environmental laws that regulate lead, boost fish populations and protect animal habitat.

Republicans contend the only reason for the vote was to benefit Democratic incumbent Jon Tester's re-election prospects in Montana. The vote was 84-7.

CAMPAIGN

GOP ad notes Obama's return to Wisconsin

The Republican National Committee, noting President Obama's first visit to battleground state Wisconsin in 220 days, dropped a new ad noting the political landscape has changed in the state over the past year.

The ad, titled "Since You've Been Gone," notes that Republican Gov. Scott Walker triumphed earlier this year over a union-led recall effort and favorite son Rep. Paul Ryan was named Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's running mate.

Those developments, among others, have transformed reliably blue Wisconsin, which Mr. Obama won in 2008 by almost 14 points, into a state Republicans think they can steal in 2012.

WHITE HOUSE

First lady: Voting rights is 'march of our time'

Michelle Obama says protecting the right to vote has become the nation's most important civil rights issue.

The first lady Saturday told a gathering of black lawmakers and leaders that they owe it to those who fought and died for equal rights in the 1960s to make sure every voter can freely cast a ballot.

Her comments at an annual awards banquet in the District for the Congressional Black Caucus came amid a push in more than a dozen states to pass laws requiring voters to show ID at the polls.

Critics say the laws unfairly harm minorities, poor people and college students — all groups that tend to vote Democratic.

Comparing it to the civil rights movement, Mrs. Obama called voting rights "the march of our time" and "the sit-in of our day."

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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