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Inside Politics: Maine’s King sees no reason to oppose Hagel

- - Thursday, January 17, 2013

SENATE

BOSTON — Maine Sen. Angus S. King Jr. sees no strong reason to oppose President Obama's pick for secretary of defense.

The newly elected senator, an independent, said he won't make a final decision on former Sen. Chuck Hagel's nomination until confirmation hearings are finished. But Mr. King says there is not, in his words, "a strong disqualifying element or quality to the nominee."

Mr. King serves as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, which is scheduled to hold a confirmation hearing on Jan. 31.

A handful of Republicans have expressed their opposition to Mr. Hagel, a Republican who served two terms as senator from Nebraska. Democrats have been slow to embrace Mr. Hagel as well, but appear to be warming to the president's pick.

PUNDITRY

Fox News signs Rove for four more years

NEW YORK — Karl Rove enlivened Fox News Channel's election coverage last year by questioning the network's declaration that President Obama had been re-elected. It hasn't affected Fox's desire to keep him on the air.

The network announced Thursday that it had signed Mr. Rove to a new contract as a contributor. The deal runs through the 2016 election.

Mr. Rove was once President George W. Bush's political right-hand man and the force behind a powerful political action committee that sought to oust Mr. Obama. He caused a stir with his election night doubts, which led anchor Megyn Kelly to interview Fox's own election experts on the air to defend their call.

Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes says Mr. Rove's detailed knowledge of politics, fundraising and strategy make him an important player in Fox's coverage.

EDUCATION

Duncan: Hard to teach pupils scared of dying

Education Secretary Arne Duncan says it's tough to prepare students for college when they're more worried about being killed than making it to graduation.

Mr. Duncan said too many students are "trying to survive, day to day, wondering if they're going to make it past 16, 17 and 18." He says such fears block out the work teachers are trying to do to prepare those students for college.

Mr. Duncan, the former head of Chicago's public schools, was a key adviser for the gun-control package the White House released this week in the wake of the Newtown, Conn., elementary-school shootings.

He said those efforts, including 23 executive orders President Obama signed on Wednesday, were a good step. But Mr. Duncan added: "This was only a first step."

WHITE HOUSE

First lady launches new Twitter account: FLOTUS

Trying to find Michelle Obama on Twitter? Try tweeting her at @FLOTUS, which is Washington shorthand for "first lady of the United States."

Mrs. Obama's office unveiled her new Twitter identity on Thursday, largely to replace a previous Twitter account under the handle of @Michelle Obama. That account was launched a year ago and run by President Obama's re-election team. It will now be managed by the Democratic National Committee.

The site's initial tweet promised updates and pictures. Tweets by the first lady herself will be signed "-mo."

Followers also were asked to re-tweet that initial message to wish Mrs. Obama a happy birthday. She turned 49 on Thursday.

ENERGY

Chu becomes latest to leave Obama Cabinet

Energy Secretary Steven Chu, whose stormy tenure was marred by his support for loans to Solyndra before the solar-panel maker went bankrupt, will announce his departure from the Obama administration as soon as next week.

Bloomberg News, citing two sources, said a replacement for Mr. Chu has not been identified.

His departure will leave the administration with multiple vacancies in top administration jobs dealing with energy policy. Interior Secretary Kenneth L. Salazar and EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson also are leaving.

Mr. Chu, who said in 2008 that gas prices in the U.S. should rise to European levels to encourage fuel efficiency, faced criticism through much of Mr. Obama's first term over his support of Solyndra's $535 million U.S. loan guarantee and other clean-energy projects.

• From wire dispatches and staff reports