- - Wednesday, March 30, 2011


Lawmakers seek IRS probe of AARP

House Republicans want the IRS to investigate whether AARP’s lucrative insurance business violates its status as a tax-exempt organization.

The seniors lobby pushed for President Obama’s health care law, which was solidly opposed by Republicans. On Wednesday, three senior GOP lawmakers released a report estimating that AARP could make an added $1 billion over 10 years on insurance plans with sales that are likely to pick up under the new law.

The report from Reps. Wally Herger of California, Charles W. Boustany Jr. of Louisiana and David G. Reichert of Washington found royalties on insurance sales are AARP’s biggest source of revenue, far above dues paid by its 40 million members.

An AARP spokesman says support for the health care law was “in no way, shape, or form influenced by revenue considerations.”


Authorities again denying visa applications

After a brief reprieve, immigration authorities are once again denying applications for immigration benefits for same-sex couples following a legal review.

Chris Bentley, a spokesman for the U.S. Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services, said Wednesday that after a review by lawyers from the Homeland Security Department, it was concluded that a law prohibiting the government from recognizing same-sex marriages must be followed, despite the Obama administration’s decision to stop defending the constitutionality of the law in court.

The law, the Defense of Marriage Act, defines marriage as being between a man and a woman.

Earlier this week, USCIS announced that applications from foreigners married to U.S. citizens of the same sex would be held in “abeyance” while the legal review proceeded. Mr. Bentley said Tuesday that the temporary hold on application decisions was not a change in policy.

In February, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. announced that the government would no longer defend the law, which gay rights activists have said is discriminatory.

Bob Deasy of the American Immigration Lawyers Association said the latest ruling is a “disappointment.”

“The administration has the authority to put these cases on hold” while the fate of the marriage law is decided in court, he said.


Biden sees budget progress

Vice President Joseph R. Biden says there’s “good progress” being made in talks with Congress on a government funding bill to avoid a government shutdown next week.

Mr. Biden said the White House and Republicans controlling the House were working on a plan that would cut $73 billion from President Obama’s budget request for the current budget year.

The vice president said that there’s no reason why the administration and Republicans can’t avoid a government shutdown next Friday at midnight.

Mr. Biden stressed that there’s no official deal yet and that the outcome depends on the makeup of the spending cuts, as well as GOP policy provisions disliked by the administration.


Prostate cancer drug to be covered

Medicare officials said Wednesday that the program will pay the $93,000 cost of prostate cancer drug Provenge, an innovative therapy that typically gives men suffering from an incurable stage of the disease an extra four months to live.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said the biotech drug made by Dendreon Corp. is a “reasonable and necessary” medicine. The decision ensures that millions of men would be able to afford the drug through the government-backed health care coverage. With government reimbursement, analysts estimate Provenge could rack up $1 billion in sales next year. The decision, which will be finalized by June 30, is important for Dendreon because most prostate cancer patients are 65 or older.

The infused drug is a first-of-a-kind treatment in that each dose is customized to work with a patient’s immune system.


Brady still fighting for gun laws

Jim Brady, President Reagan’s smooth-talking press secretary, hasn’t stopped speaking his mind, forcefully and poignantly, and that was clear Wednesday on the 30th anniversary of the assassination attempt that paralyzed him.

“I wouldn’t be here in this damn wheelchair if we had common-sense legislation,” he said Wednesday at a Capitol Hill news conference. He was joined by his wife, Sarah, and lawmakers in calling for gun control legislation. The Bradys head the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.

“Fight fiercely,” Mr. Brady, 70, told the audience.

The gunman, John Hinckley Jr., tried to kill Reagan and shot Mr. Brady in the head during the attack outside a Washington hotel.

Hinckley, who said he was trying to impress actress Jodie Foster, also wounded a Secret Service agent and a District of Columbia police officer. Hinckley was declared mentally incompetent and consigned to a Washington mental institution where he remains today, with family visiting rights.

Asked what he remembers about that day, Mr. Brady said, “Not being the same person that I was. I used to be a track runner. No more. But I am not going to run away from this.”

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