- - Thursday, June 14, 2012

PHOENIX — The tea party Republican who sought former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ seat in Congress has dropped out of the fall race, two days after losing a special election to serve out her term.

Republican candidate Jesse Kelly made the announcement Thursday after, in his words, “looking at the results from Tuesday.”

Mr. Kelly lost Tuesday’s election to Democrat Ron Barber by 6 percentage points. Mr. Barber was a Giffords staffer when he was wounded in the mass shooting that critically wounded Ms. Giffords and led to her resignation in January.

It was Mr. Kelly’s second losing race for the House seat. He lost to Ms. Giffords in 2010 by about 4,000 votes.

Mr. Barber is expected to be sworn in next week. He will have to win over voters again in the November general election.


Panel blocks new rules on foreign workers

Several Democrats on a key Senate panel have voted with Republicans to temporarily block new organized labor-friendly Obama administration rules for seasonal foreign workers who often perform backbreaking labor at low wages.

The Appropriations Committee voted 19-11 to block the controversial rules for one year when debating legislation setting the Department of Labor’s budget.

The rules are designed to make it more difficult for businesses like seafood processors to exploit foreign workers and to get more Americans into seasonal jobs.

But business groups say requirements like paying transportation costs and visa fees for imported workers are too high. Employers also oppose a requirement to pay workers for three-quarters of the length of a contract, even if weather or other circumstances mean there isn’t that much work.


Lawmakers confirm Obama nominee to El Salvador

The Senate has confirmed President Obama’s nominee to be U.S. ambassador to El Salvador.

Six months after the nomination seemed dead, the Senate voted 62-37 Thursday to cut off debate and pave the way for approval of Mari Carmen Aponte. Her nomination won final confirmation on a voice vote less than an hour later.

The Washington lawyer and Hispanic activist served as ambassador in San Salvador from September 2010 to December 2011. Facing GOP opposition, Mr. Obama had made her a recess appointee, but her temporary tenure ran out at year’s end.

Nine Republicans joined all the Democrats and independents on Thursday’s vote.


Rubio autobiography says he weighed quitting 2010 race

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Sen. Marco Rubio was on the verge of dropping out of the 2010 race for Senate, convinced that then-Gov. Charlie Crist’s popularity, power and money would be too much to overcome in a Republican primary.

He was also afraid any future political ambitions would be crushed by Crist supporters, Mr. Rubio wrote in his autobiography to be released next week.

Mr. Rubio said there was a tremendous amount of pressure to quit when he was far behind in the polls and had little money in the bank. He knew Mr. Crist would attack him and wondered how he could respond with few resources. He considered running instead for attorney general.

While laying the groundwork to switch races, however, he was asked about a rumor he was dropping out and suspected that Mr. Crist’s campaign found out about the plans and was pressuring him out before he was ready to make the announcement.

It angered him into staying in, Mr. Rubio wrote in the 303-page book scheduled to be released Tuesday.


Lawmakers hike spending for IRS, Pell Grants

A Senate panel has divided along party lines on legislation funding implementation of President Obama’s health care and financial services overhaul laws and boosting spending on the IRS and Pell Grants for low-income college students.

The Appropriations Committee vote came on two spending bills for the budget year beginning Oct. 1, but there’s virtually no chance the measures — or any of the 12 annual agency spending bills — become law by then.

Republicans uniformly opposed the measures, chiefly over funding for the new health care and Wall Street rules.

A $159 billion measure funding education and health programs would boost the maximum Pell Grant by $85 to $5,635. It also contains modest increases for health research and schools for the disadvantaged.


Press group asks justices to televise health care decision

News organizations are asking the Supreme Court to allow cameras in the courtroom for the first time for its eagerly awaited decision on President Obama’s health care overhaul.

Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press Executive Director Lucy Dalglish says the court should allow live audio and video coverage of the decision, expected in the next two weeks.

Ms. Dalglish acknowledges the court is unlikely to grant the request, so she also is asking for the speedy release of audio of the opinion announcement in the same way the court released same-day audio of the arguments over three days in March.

Nearly 50 media outlets, including the Associated Press, and media advocacy groups signed a letter Ms. Dalglish sent to Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. on Thursday.


Obama inspects skyscraper being built at 9/11 site

President Obama ventured onto the hallowed ground of the World Trade Center site Thursday, getting a firsthand look at the skyscraper being built to replace the twin towers destroyed in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

“This is what the American spirit is all about,” Mt. Obama said.

The president toured the 22nd floor of One World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan, walking along the unfinished cement floor and stopping at easels set up with renderings of what the completed tower will look like.

Joined by first lady Michelle Obama, the president later came down to the base of the building and signed a large white beam affixed with the words “One World Trade Center” painted in blue  that will be used in the construction. Mr. Obama inscribed on the beam, “We remember we rebuild we come back stronger!” followed by his signature.

• From wire dispatches and staff reports

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