- - Tuesday, March 6, 2012

President Obama is announcing new mortgage relief for members of the military and veterans as well as homeowners with government-insured loans. The initiatives are the administration’s latest attempts to help borrowers struggling under a depressed housing market.

Mr. Obama spelled out the plan Tuesday at the start of his first news conference of the year.

Borrowers with mortgages insured by the Federal Housing Administration would be able to refinance at half the fee that the FHA charges. The administration says a typical FHA borrower who refinances could save more than $1,000 a year from the changes.

For service members and veterans, Mr. Obama says, major lenders will review foreclosures or denials of lower interest rates. For wrongful foreclosure, service members will be paid their lost equity and receive additional compensation.


Sen. Brown asks PAC to pull campaign ads

BOSTON — The campaign of Sen. Scott P. Brown, Massachusetts Republican, is promising to donate money to charity after learning that a political action committee ran online ads on his behalf.

Mr. Brown’s campaign said Tuesday that it was the first time Mr. Brown or his chief Democratic rival, Elizabeth Warren, has enforced a pledge against third-party ads in the Senate race.

Mr. Brown’s campaign manager, Jim Barnett, said the Coalition of Americans for Political Equality has been asked to stop the ads.

In keeping with the Jan. 23 pledge, Mr. Barnett said, Mr. Brown’s campaign would donate the equivalent of half the PAC’s spending on the ads to a charity of Ms. Warren’s choice.

Ms. Warren’s campaign says it is disappointed that what it called a “pro-Mitt Romney super PAC” broke the pledge.

A message left with the organization wasn’t returned Tuesday.


Levin says Israeli attack on Iran likely

Sen. Carl Levin, Michigan Democrat, says he thinks an Israeli attack on Iran is likely if Tehran doesn’t follow international demands to stop uranium enrichment and allow inspections of its nuclear program.

Mr. Levin, who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee, made his remarks to reporters Tuesday after meeting privately with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Mr. Levin said Tehran was violating a half-dozen U.N. resolutions. He said that as long as Iran refuses to open up its uranium enrichment facilities to U.N. inspections and refuses to stop the nuclear processing, “then I would say an attack on them by Israel is very likely.”

Iran maintains that its nuclear development program is for peaceful uses only.


Highway bill stalls, layoffs loom in construction industry

A bipartisan transportation bill failed to clear a procedural hurdle in the Senate, ratcheting up pressure on lawmakers to find a way to keep federal aid flowing to highway and transit programs beyond the end of this month or face widespread construction industry layoffs.

Senate Democrats on Tuesday fell eight votes short of the 60 needed to limit debate on a two-year, $109 billion transportation bill. All but two Republicans voted against the motion.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, accused Republicans of political obstruction. Senate Republicans said they were trying to preserve their right to offer amendments, including on such unrelated issues as the Keystone XL oil pipeline project and pollution controls for industrial boilers.

The government’s power to fund transportation programs is due to expire March 31.


County GOP wants hopefuls to sign pledge of purity

COLUMBIA — The Republican Party in a small, conservative South Carolina county expects its candidates to lower taxes. They also expect them to not watch porn, be faithful to their spouses and not have sex outside of marriage.

The Laurens County Republican Party originally decided that anyone who wanted to run for office with the GOP’s blessing would have to sign a pledge and be approved by party leaders. They backed off that idea after the state party told them it was illegal and the pledge received international attention, becoming another cultural issues nightmare for Republicans.

The 28-point pledge passed last week appeared to be at least in part a response to an extramarital affair had by the county sheriff, who also was accused in a lawsuit of driving his mistress to get an abortion in a county-owned vehicle, leading to an interparty squabble when the local group’s leader called for the sheriff to resign.

The pledge is full of traditional Republican talking points in a conservative state — balancing budgets, opposing gun control laws and abortion, supporting school choice and a statement that marriage is “fundamental to the stability, betterment and perpetuation of our society.”


Gingrich takes page from pro wrestler

Newt Gingrich is a Real American — and is begging for other Hulk Hogan comparisons.

When the former House speaker came out to the podium to thank supporters Tuesday night, the campaign headquarters in Atlanta was rocking to “Real American,” the iconic song played as the professional wrestling superstar made his way to the ring.

Supporters in the room also waved signs proclaiming “Newt-A-Mania,” another bow to Mr. Hogan, who proclaimed that “Hulk-A-Mania” was running wild across the country in the 1980s.

Mr. Gingrich has used both the song and the slogan in campaign rallies in recent days.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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