- - Wednesday, September 7, 2011


Chairman warns against deeper defense cuts

The chairman of the House panel overseeing the military budget has a simple message for the supercommittee charged with cutting the deficit: “Leave us alone.”

Rep. Howard P. “Buck” McKeon warned on Wednesday against deeper cuts in defense spending beyond the $350 billion over 10 years in the legislation Congress passed last month. In a discussion with reporters, the California Republican said his Armed Services Committee is still trying to get a handle on the first wave of reductions.

The supercommittee begins its work Thursday and is likely to consider further cuts in the military. If the panel fails to produce a plan, or Congress rejects its proposal to slice $1.2 trillion from the deficit, defense would face even more reductions - automatic cuts of up to $600 billion.


Obama honors NASCAR drivers during visit

President Obama says NASCAR and the presidency are alike: Anything that can go wrong will go wrong at some point during the season.

Mr. Obama commented at the White House Wednesday as he welcomed Jimmie Johnson and seven other drivers from last year’s Chase for the Sprint Cup series. Mr. Johnson has won the championship a record five consecutive times.

Mr. Obama also used the occasion to thank NASCAR for its work supporting military families. Mr. Obama said the drivers recently served dinner to 400 wounded troops and their families at the now-closed Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Johnson also visited the Pentagon on Wednesday morning.

Mr. Obama said the drivers are also planning a 9/11 anniversary event in Richmond with military families and first responders before a NASCAR race there this weekend.


Top Republican vows no disaster aid holdup

A top House Republican is promising there will be no holdup in replenishing disaster aid accounts.

Majority Leader Eric Cantor says that new disaster aid money doesn’t have to be paid for with spending cuts elsewhere in the budget.

The Virginia Republican told reporters that he supports a provision in last month’s budget pact that permits lawmakers to add money for disaster aid to the budget as long as it doesn’t exceed historical averages.

In previous comments, Mr. Cantor had said there would be a need to “offset” disaster aid. He’s clarified his stance, saying that disaster aid would only have to be paid for if lawmakers hadn’t adequately budgeted for it and had instead tapped disaster accounts to pay for other programs.


91 charged in fraud crackdown

A nationwide law enforcement crackdown has charged 91 people - including doctors and other medical professionals - with participating in Medicare fraud schemes involving $295 million in false billing.

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said Wednesday that 70 people were charged in indictments unsealed Tuesday and Wednesday and 21 others were charged earlier, beginning Aug. 24. Charges were filed in Baton Rouge, La., Brooklyn, N.Y., Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles and Miami.

At a news conference, the attorney general said those arrested are “jeopardizing the integrity of our health care system.” Mrs. Sebelius called the law enforcement initiative “a powerful warning to those who would try to defraud taxpayers and Medicare beneficiaries.”

In Miami, federal authorities charged 45 defendants, including a doctor and a nurse, with participating in various fraud schemes involving $159 million.

In one of the schemes in Miami involving more than $50 million in false billings, defendants allegedly paid patient recruiters to refer ineligible beneficiaries to a mental health center. And in some instances, beneficiaries who were residents of halfway houses were allegedly threatened with eviction if they did not agree to visit the mental health center.

In Baton Rouge, a doctor, nurse and five other co-conspirators were charged with billing Medicare more than $19 million for skilled nursing and other home health services that were not necessary or never provided.


Threat level up at bases ahead of 9/11 anniversary

The Pentagon said Wednesday that it is raising the security level at military bases nationwide because of the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

The White House said there have been no specific, credible threats of a terrorist attack tied to the anniversary and that the Obama administration will remain vigilant through the anniversary and beyond.

President Obama held a meeting Tuesday in the White House Situation Room with senior members of his homeland security team to ensure that all necessary measures and precautions are being taken in advance of the 9/11 anniversary, White House spokesman Jay Carney said.

Pentagon spokesman George Little said Wednesday that the boost in the “force protection” level at U.S. military bases also was not due to any specific or credible information about any threat.

He said it was due, instead, to the fact that al Qaeda previously has focused on anniversaries. Mr. Little also noted that materials seized at the compound where Osama bin Laden was killed in May mentioned the 9/11 anniversary.

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