26 U.S. SENATORS WRITE CLAPPER, DEMAND ANSWERS

Twenty-six U.S. Senators wrote to Director of National Intelligence James Clapper on June 27, demanding some answers on NSA secret surveillance of Americans. The letter was organized by Oregon Democrat Ron Wyden, but the signers included four Republicans: Mark Kirk of Illinois, Mike Lee of Utah, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and Dean Heller of Nevada, the London Guardian reported.

Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR)

Among their questions were:

“* How long has the NSA used Patriot Act authorities to engage in bulk collection of Americans’ records? Was this collection underway when the law was reauthorized in 2006?

“* Has the NSA used USA Patriot Act authorities to conduct bulk collection of any other types of records pertaining to Americans, beyond phone records?

“* Has the NSA collected or made any plans to collect Americans’ cell-site location data in bulk?

“* Have there been any violations of the court orders permitting this bulk collection, or of the rules governing access to these records? If so, please describe these violations.”

The Senators signing the letter are: Ron Wyden (D-Or), Mark Udall (D-Co), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt), Mark Kirk (R-Il), Dick Durbin (D-Il), Tom Udall (D-NM), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Jon Tester (D-Mt), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Dean Heller (R-Nev),Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt), Patty Murray (D-Wash), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Al Franken (D-Minn), Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Chris Coons (D-Del), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn), Max Baucus (D-Mont), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc) and Mike Lee (R-Utah).

DEVELOPER GUILTY OF ILLEGAL CONTRIBUTIONS TO REID

By SCOTT SONNER | Associated Press

RENO, Nev. (AP) — A Nevada powerbroker who headed a billion-dollar real estate company and pulled the strings of state politics as a prominent lobbyist for more than a decade was convicted Wednesday of making illegal campaign contributions to U.S. Sen. Harry Reid.

Harvey Whittemore, 59, could face up to 15 years in prison and hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines after a federal jury returned guilty verdicts on three counts tied to nearly $150,000 illegally funneled to Reid’s re-election campaign in 2007.

Later in the day, U.S. District Judge Larry Hicks declared a mistrial on a count of lying to the FBI after jurors said they were deadlocked on that charge.

Whittemore stood with his arms behind his back and shook his head slightly after the verdicts were read. He was convicted of making excessive campaign contributions, making contributions in the name of another and causing a false statement to be made to the Federal Election Commission.

Each count carries a maximum penalty of up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The judge set sentencing for Sept. 23.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Myhre said prosecutors will review the case before deciding whether to refile the charge of lying to the FBI during a February 2012 interview.

Dominic Gentile, Whittemore’s lead defense counsel, said the convictions will be appealed to the 9th U.S. Circuit of Appeals. He said a case pending before the U.S. Supreme Court touches on similar issues related to the constitutionality of federal limits on campaign contributions.

Among other things, Gentile said the defense will challenge Hicks’ refusal to allow the defense to reference an Alabama case against the Federal Election Commission.

“His conduct was protected by the First Amendment,” Gentile told reporters at a news conference with Whittemore and his wife, Annette, shortly after leaving court.

Whittemore said he would reserve immediate comment on his conviction because of the emotional toll the two-week trial has taken on his family.

“My family and I have been through quite a bit,” he said.

He said he will hold a news conference when all appeals are resolved to give the “complete and true story about who was behind this and how it got started.”

Annette Whittemore said the couple is fortunate to have such a close, “strong-willed” family to support them.

“Harvey said throughout the trial the one thing they can’t take away is our family and friends,” she said.

Prosecutors said Whittemore gave money to family members and employees in 2007 to make contributions he had promised to Reid while concealing himself as the true source to skirt campaign finance laws.

Defense attorneys argued Whittemore broke no laws by giving $5,000 checks as gifts to family members and as gifts or bonuses to 29 employees and their spouses, who then each wrote checks for the maximum allowable $4,600 to the Senate majority leader’s campaign fund, Friends of Harry Reid.

Myrhe said he hopes the verdicts send a strong message that U.S. campaign finance violations are serious offenses that will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

“These laws exist to protect the election process from undue influence and to provide transparency to the voting public,” he told reporters outside the courthouse.

Assistant U.S. Attorney General Mythili Raman said Whittemore used “straw donors” to evade federal contribution limits.

“The cornerstones of our campaign finance laws are contribution limits and transparency, and Mr. Whittemore’s crime was designed to undermine both,” Mythili said in a statement from Washington.

Prosecutors said in closing arguments Tuesday that Whittemore had been the “king of the hill” in Nevada political circles, an insider who had worked his way onto the short list of many U.S. senators and representatives as someone to call when they needed to quickly find donors.

Whittemore once hosted an event for Sen. John Edwards, then a Democratic presidential hopeful, and a fundraiser at Reid’s request for then-Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle. He also helped arrange a reception attended by President Clinton during an environmental summit at Lake Tahoe.

“When he made these contributions, he was the ultimate insider,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric Olshan said during his closing argument. “He was making millions of dollars and getting personal thank-you notes from the most prominent politicians in the country.”

Reid had no comment on the verdicts, said Kristen Orthman, a spokeswoman for the senator.

Reid was not accused of any wrongdoing. He has said he was unaware of any potential problems with the money he received.

“I received $25 million. He raised $150,000,” Reid told the Las Vegas Sun earlier this week. “I had money coming in from other places.”

Myhre told jurors Whittemore was driven solely by greed – “not to get more money but greed in the sense of more power.”

“It’s about trying to be on the short list that senators and congressmen call when they need money,” he said. “That’s why he did it.”

Myhre said after the verdicts that he couldn’t comment on why the prosecution chose not to call Reid as a witness, or whether the case involving Whittemore has been completely closed.

RAND PAUL: SENATE IS ARMING AL-QAEDA AND RUSHING TO WAR IN SYRIA

Rand Paul: Senate Is Arming Al-Qaeda and Rushing to War in Syria

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Written by  Joe Wolverton, II, J.D. | The New American

“This is an important moment. You will be funding, today, the allies of al Qaeda.”

That was the declaration Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.; pictured) made on May 21 during a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Paul’s comments were directed at his colleagues, nearly all of whom voted to send arms to Syrian rebels.

Senators Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) co-sponsored the bill that authorizes “critical support to the Syrian opposition through provision of military assistance, training, and additional humanitarian support.”

The bill sailed through the committee, passing with bipartisan support by a vote of 15-3.

Senator Paul offered two amendments to the bill — officially styled the Syria Transition Support Act — one that would have forbidden the transfer of weapons to the rebel forces fighting to oust the government of current Syrian president Bashar al-Asad, and another that would have prevented the use of U.S. military armed forces in Syria.

Both of Paul’s amendments were rejected by the committee.

Apart from supplying lethal and non-lethal weaponry to Syrian opposition forces, the Menendez-Corker bill contains several other regime-toppling provisions, all of which are boastfully reported by Mendendez on his website. They include:

• “Creation of a $250 million transition fund each year through FY2015 drawn from funds otherwise appropriated for regional transition support”;

• “Sanctions on arms and oil sales to Assad: Targeting any person that the President of the United States determines has knowingly participated in or facilitated a transaction related to the sale or transfer of military equipment, arms, petroleum, or petroleum products to the Assad regime.”; and

• “Amendment to the Syria Accountability Act: To allow for sanctions removal once a transitional government is in place and certain terrorism and WMD criteria have been met.”

Neither Paul’s warnings nor his amendments were enough to counteract the powerful politicians pushing to arm the Syrian rebels. A cadre of lawmakers from seemingly distinct bands of the political spectrum lined up behind the move to add Syria to the list of Middle Eastern countries with U.S.-approved ruling parties. As in the case of Iraq and Afghanistan, these dictators-in-waiting will walk a path to power paved with American money and likely covered in the blood of American soldiers.

Rubio, described by many as a Tea Party favorite, chastised Senator Paul, refuting his allegation that a vote for arming the Syrian rebels was tantamount to giving guns to al-Qaeda.

“I don’t think any member of this committee would vote for anything we thought was going to arm al Qaeda,” said Rubio.

Mendendez piled on, saying, “Al Qaeda, unfortunately, is well-armed. That is the present reality in Syria.”

Senator Corker tried striking a less hostile tone, arguing that arming rebels vetted by Congress — as called for in his bill — would prevent U.S. weaponry from being funneled into more radical segments of the coalition of anti-Assad armed forces.

Seeing through Corker’s false dilemma, Paul responded, saying, “It’s impossible to know who our friends are.” He later said that the vote was nothing more than a “rush to war.”

In an exclusive interview with The New American, Senator Paul pointed out the irony in the fact that the original Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) enacted after September 11, 2001 called for finding and destroying al-Qaeda, while the legislation passed on May 21 by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee would arm known associates of that very organization.

“These people [Syrian rebels] will say they love America knowing that that’s how to get weapons. They lie to us and then shoot us in the back,” Paul explained.

Another bit of irony apparently lost on 15 members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is the fact that the United States has walked this road before. In the 1980s, Congress voted to arm militant Islamic forces under the pretext that the enemy of our enemy was our friend. Then, within 20 years, the very beneficiaries of U.S. military largesse in Afghanistan seized control of that country and reportedly sheltered and trained the men who carried out the attacks of September 11.

One wonders how (or if) the Senate fails to appreciate the destruction that will surely come from once again sowing the wind and reaping the whirlwind that comes from arming those who would do us harm. Some senators, however, seemed determined to deploy troops in every corner of the planet, regardless of the fact these young men and women could be killed by militants armed with weapons supplied by their very own government.

Never one to miss a chance to take his turn banging on the war drum, Senator John McCain mocked an amendment offered by Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M.) that would have placed more stringent controls on the type of weapon shipped to Syrian rebels.

“The senator from New Mexico wants to use shotguns against SCUD missiles,” McCain said.

Rand Paul has been banging another drum, however. During the hearings on the attack on the American mission in Benghazi, Libya, Paul brought up the possibility that the Obama administration was covering up the existence of a gun running pipeline running throughout the Middle East.

Paul, in fact, tried to get answers to these questions from then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during the Senate’s investigation of the Benghazi raid that left four people dead, including U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens. Addressing Secretary Clinton, Paul asked directly, “Is the U. S. involved with any procuring of weapons, transfer of weapons, buying, selling, anyhow transferring weapons to Turkey out of Libya?”

Clinton demurred, claiming that she’d never heard about that allegation.

Undaunted, Paul continued, “It’s been in news reports that ships have been leaving from Libya and that may have weapons, and what I’d like to know is the annex that was close by, were they involved with procuring, buying, selling, obtaining weapons, and were any of these weapons being transferred to other countries, any countries, Turkey included?”

Always the savvy politician, Clinton responded, “Well, Senator, you’ll have to direct that question to the agency that ran the annex. I will see what information is available.”

“You’re saying you don’t know?” asked Paul.

“I do not know,” Clinton said. “I don’t have any information on that.”

Americans have a right to know, however, who’s receiving millions in tax dollars taken from them.

A Reuters article from last August, which detailed a secret order signed by President Obama providing support to Syrian rebel forces opposing the regime of Bashar al-Assad, noted, “Recent news reports from the region have suggested that the influence and numbers of Islamist militants, some of them connected to al Qaeda or its affiliates, have been growing among Assad’s opponents.”

Later, The New American covered the same story, writing that “Western governments, brutal Sunni-Arab dictatorships, an assortment of terror groups including al-Qaeda, and other powerful interests have all been backing the uprising since long before violence even broke out last year.”

In a story covering the violence of the Syrian uprising, the BBC added credibility to the accusations:

The al-Qaeda-styled group in Syria is Jabhat al-Nusra li-Ahl al-Sham (the Front for the Protection of the Syrian People).

Like other al-Qaeda affiliated groups, al-Nusra’s statements and videos are usually issued by its own media group, al-Manara al-Baida (the White Minaret) in Syria.

Al-Nusra has claimed responsibility for several attacks against the Syrian army, security and shabiha (state-sponsored thugs) since it announced its formation early this year.

Finally, under a headline reading “Al-Qaida turns tide for rebels in battle for eastern Syria,” The Guardian (U.K.) reported:

They try to hide their presence. “Some people are worried about carrying the [black] flags,” said Abu Khuder. “They fear America will come and fight us. So we fight in secret. Why give Bashar and the west a pretext?” But their existence is common knowledge in Mohassen. Even passers-by joke with the men about car bombs and IEDs [improvised explosive devices].

According to Abu Khuder, his men are working closely with the military council that commands the Free Syrian Army brigades in the region. “We meet almost every day,” he said. “We have clear instructions from our [al-Qaida] leadership that if the FSA need our help we should give it. We help them with IEDs and car bombs. Our main talent is in the bombing operations.” Abu Khuder’s men had a lot of experience in bomb-making from Iraq and elsewhere, he added.

Regardless of Rand Paul’s efforts to keep the U.S. from running headlong into an armed conflict in Syria and his accurate depiction of the duplicity of those Syrian opposition forces waiting for the shipment of weapons from the United States, the Senate is speedily moving toward awarding al-Qaeda with crates of technologically advanced U.S. weaponry.

The Menendez-Corker bill will now move to Senate floor for debate by the entire body. A member of the staff of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) told The New American that he was unsure when the bill would be put on the calendar.

U.S. SENATE WILL BACK ISRAELI ATTACK ON IRAN

Foreign Relations Committee of the US Senate votes in favor of resolution stipulating that US will support Israel in case it was forced to take military action against Iran

By Yitzhak Benhorin | Ynet News

WASHINGTON — Members of the US Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee have adopted “Senate Resolution 65,” according to which the US will support Israel in case it is compelled to take military action and actualize its right to self defense in the face of an Iranian threat.

The resolution stipules that Israel will enjoy Washington’s diplomatic, economic and military aid.

According to the resolution, sponsored by Sen. Robert Menendez and Sen. Lindsey Graham, the US’s policy is to halt Iranian nuclear ambitions.

Senate Resolution 65 has successfully gained the support of 70 of the 100 senators.

In a statement issued by AIPAC it was noted that “The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has sent a very clear and enormously important message of solidarity with Israel against the Iranian nuclear threat—which endangers American, Israeli, and international security.”

President Barack Obama sent his holiday wishes to Israel on its 65th Independence Day, stating: “On this date 65 years ago, the Jewish people realized their dream of the ages – to be masters of their fate in their own sovereign state.”

“The strong and prosperous Israel we see today proves Herzl’s vision – ‘if you will it, it is no dream,” the US president added.

REP. FRANK WOLF URGES NEW BENGHAZI INVESTIGATION

Published on Apr 10, 2013

Rep. Frank Wolf called a press conference outside the capitol to discuss his sponsorship of H. Res. 36, which would create a special congressional committee to investigate the failures that contributed to the deadly jihadist attack in Benghazi, Libya last year. He was joined by Family Research Council’s Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin, former Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence and former member of Delta Force. Boykin represented Special Operations Speaks, a group of ex-special forces operators who came together to write a letter to Members of Congress, urging them to commit to getting to the bottom of what happened in Benghazi, and to end the administration’s cover-up. Finally, the Center for Security Policy’s Frank Gaffney spoke about the implications of the attack in Libya on America’s national security and foreign policy in the Middle East/North Africa region.

Write a letter to your congressman at http://www.endthecoverup.com

CONGRESS REPEATING THE SECOND BASIC LAW OF STUPIDITY

By Frosty Wooldridge
April 9, 2013
NewsWithViews.com

As you read in the First Basic Law of Stupidity, our U.S. Congress works on yet another mass amnesty for 20 million illegal alien migrants now working and residing in our country in violation of dozens of our laws. Notice that Congress failed to enforce the employment laws from the 1965 Immigration Reform Law as well as the 1986 Amnesty that gave four million Mexicans instant citizenship. All totaled, those two new laws by Congress flooded this country with over 120 million more people since 1965. This next amnesty will flood the country with yet another 100 million immigrants at the bare minimum.

Today, we live in 2013 with a few other interesting facts Congress bestowed on the American people:

Congress placed our country into a $16.5 trillion national debt. It’s wrecking the foundation of our republic and our financial ability to survive.
Congress waged two useless, worthless and meaningless wars for the past 10 years at a cost of $3 trillion. Trillions more when it comes to the emotional, physical and psychological chaos incurred by our military veterans.
Congress outsource, insourced and offshored millions of US jobs so we now suffer 14 million unemployed and 7 million underemployed.
Congress killed so many jobs and job training that 47 million Americans subsist on food stamps in April of 2013.
Congress refuses to enforce internal immigration employment, housing and transport laws—so that we face 20 million illegal aliens scamming American workers out of jobs as well as using $346 billion annually in taxpayer services like education, medical care, anchor babies, incarceration, drug distribution, shop lifting and more.
Congress refuses to aid lawful American citizens with jobs, but it works its magic in allowing over eight million illegal aliens full time work in our country—and much of it off the books and no taxes collected, but we subsidize their children, health care and prison costs.
Congress huddles in Washington, DC to gift another 20 million illegal aliens with instant citizenship and all the cash and welfare benefits that entails. Heritage Foundation estimates $3 to $5 trillion for the cost of this new amnesty paid for by you, the legal American taxpayer.

Which brings us to the “Second Basic Law of Stupidity” by Carlo M. Cipolla, Professor of Economics, UC Berkeley in Whole Earth Review, Spring 1987

Cipolla said in the Second Basic Law of Stupidity, “Cultural trends now fashionable in the West favor an egalitarian approach to life. People like to think of human beings as the output of a perfectly engineered mass production machine. Geneticists and sociologists especially go out of their way to prove, with an impressive apparatus of scientific data and formulations that all men are naturally equal and if some are more equal that others, this is attributable to nurture and not to nature.

“I take an exception to this general view. It is my firm conviction, supported by years of observation and experimentation, that men are not equal, that some are stupid and others are not, and that the difference is determined by nature and not by cultural forces or factors. One is stupid in the same way one is red-haired; one belongs to the stupid set as one belongs to a blood group. A stupid man is born a stupid man by an act of Providence.”

The collective IQ of America declines below three digits. Notice that 7,000 high school kids drop out or flunk out of high school every day in America. Notice those failure rates correspond to the millions of third world immigrants imported into America. Not only does our Congress import illiteracy, it imports poverty and cultures of poverty. One look at Los Angeles today provides ample proof where a teenager cannot read the bus schedule. Unemployment screams off the charts and immigrants ride the welfare gravy train like a new art form.

“Although convinced that fractions of human beings are stupid and that they are so because of genetic traits,” said Cipolla. “I am not a reactionary trying to reintroduce surreptitiously class or race discrimination, I firmly believe stupidity is an indiscriminate privilege of all human groups and is uniformly distributed according to a constant proportion. This fact is scientifically expressed by the Second Basic Law with states that: The probability that a certain person be stupid is independent of any other characteristic of that person.”

Today in America 42 million Americans cannot read, write or perform simple math problems. Another 50 million cannot read past the 4th grade level. It will be interesting when we import the projected 100 million more immigrants from the burgeoning third world by 2050—as to what kind of a completely stupid, dumb, dysfunctional and totally illiterate civilization the majority of our citizens will have become.

The democrats and republicans will probably tell us we need more immigrants to revitalize the nation, freshen it and bring new ideas to solve all our problems.

CONGRESS RETURNS TO TRY TO REACH FINAL DEALS ON MAJOR ISSUES OF IMMIGRATION AND GUN CONTROL

FoxNews.com

Congress returns Monday for a pivotal week in which lawmakers will attempt to reach agreements on proposals for gun-control and immigration-reform — perhaps the two biggest issues in Washington this year.

Though the Senate has been working on both issues only since the new Congress began in January, Washington lawmakers have tried for years to draft comprehensive immigration reform, while the issue of gun-control was thrust upon them after 20 first-graders were killed in a December 2012 mass shooting.

A contentious public debate over the country’s flawed immigration system is expected as a bipartisan group of eight senators finalizes a bill to secure U.S. borders, allow tens of thousands of foreign workers into the country and grant eventual citizenship to the estimated 11 million people living here illegally.

Lawmakers came close to an immigration deal on the Senate floor in 2007, but it collapsed amid interest group bickering and public backlash.

Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain, a member of the so-called “Gang of Eight,” was already warning about the sharp edges of compromise on Sunday.

“There will be a great deal of unhappiness about this proposal because everybody didn’t get what they wanted,” he said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

The group planned to have a final proposal ready in March. However, talks have been slowed in part because of wrangling over the extent to which securing U.S. borders, specifically the one with Mexico, will set the stage for the path to citizenship.

New York Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer told CBS the group hopes to reach a final deal by week’s end. He also said the legislation would be introduced in the Senate Judiciary Committee with all 50 senators voting by May.

Immigration reform is a top, second-term priority for President Obama.

On Sunday, White House adviser Dan Pfeiffer said the negotiators’ proposal is “100 percent consistent with what the president is doing so we feel very good about it.”

However, he declined to say on “Fox News Sunday” whether Obama  would sign legislation making a path to citizenship contingent on first securing the border.

Pfeiffer also went on TV on Sunday to garner support for the president’s gun-control proposal.

With proposed bans on semi-automatic weapons and high-capacity gun magazines off the table for now, Obama appears to be focusing his efforts on garnering public support and getting Congress to agree to universal background checks for gun buyers.

Pfeiffer said the president has “marshaled people to his side” and polls show a large majority of the public supports background checks.

“You cannot get 90 percent of the people to agree on the weather,” he told Fox. “The question is whether Congress is going to do the right thing.”

Pfeiffer said the president agrees with the efforts so far of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and the other senators, following the mass shootings at the Newtown, Conn., elementary school.

“This is the best response to Newtown and gun violence in the country,” he said.

The president is going Monday to the University of Hartford, in Connecticut, to talk about gun control.

A White House official told Fox News on Sunday that Obama will speak about “the obligations we have to children lost in Newtown and other victims of gun violence” and the need to act on gun-control proposals.

Senators could start debating Democratic-written gun legislation before week’s end. But leaders also might decide to give negotiators more time to seek a deal on expanding background checks for firearms buyers.

Passing expanded background checks would be viewed as a victory for gun-control advocates, after Democratic leaders made it clear that supporters were nowhere close to getting a majority of votes in favor of re-instituting an assault-weapons ban.

The National Rifle Association opposes the assault-weapons ban and the expanded background checks.

Even with a background check deal, Senate debate on gun legislation may begin at a slow crawl with some conservatives promising delays and forced procedural votes.

The Senate gun legislation would toughen federal laws against illegal firearms sales, including against straw purchasers, or those who buy firearms for criminals or others barred from owning them. The legislation also would provide $40 million a year, a modest increase from current levels of $30 million, for a federal program that helps schools take safety measures such as reinforcing classroom doors.

Many experts agree that the proposal with the widest potential reach is a broadening of background checks, now required only for transactions by the roughly 55,000 federally licensed firearms dealers. Proponents want to cover private sales, such as those between individuals at gun shows or online.

One major hang-up has been Democrats’ insistence on retaining records of private sales, which they say is the best way to ensure background checks are actually conducted.

The system is aimed at preventing guns from going to criminals, people with severe mental problems, some drug abusers and others.

The NRA and other critics say the checks are ignored by criminals, and they fear that expanding the system could be a prelude to the government maintaining files on gun owners.

However, Senate aides said Sunday that West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin and Pennsylvania Republican Sen. Pat Toomey are working on a compromise to expanding required federal background checks to gun shows and to online firearms sales.

Manchin is a moderate with an A rating from the NRA, while Toomey has solid conservative credentials. The aides spoke on condition of anonymity.

With immigration reform, a major breakthrough occurred a couple of weeks ago when the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO reached a deal to allow as many as 200,000 low-skilled workers into the country each year to fill jobs in construction, hospitality, nursing homes and other industries in which employers say they have a difficult time hiring Americans.

The eight negotiators also have pledged to move the bill through the Senate Judiciary Committee, then to the chamber floor to head off complaints that the legislation is being rammed through.

Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio — a potential 2016 presidential candidate who has been frustrated by efforts since being elected to the Senate in 2010 to pass immigration reform — has emerged as a key figure in negotiations.

On Sunday, South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham called Rubio a “game changer” for their party and assured people Rubio will not walk away from final negotiations.

“He will be there,” Graham said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

He also suggested, ahead of Obama releasing his 2014 budget Wednesday, Congress cannot reach a so-called “grand bargain” until it fixes immigration.

“I think if you do immigration and the grand bargain, this year will dominate the 21st century,” Graham told NBC. “The key to the grand bargain is can we solve immigration.”

Some sticking points remain — including the plan for a program to bring in agriculture workers, who weren’t included in the deal between the chamber and organized labor.

But Republicans are as interested as the president and other Democrats in reaching a comprehensive deal.

Roughly 71 percent of Hispanics voted to reelect Obama, a wakeup call to Republicans that Democrats may continue to hold the White House unless they make a better effort to bring Latino voters into the party.

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PROMISES, PROMISES: OBAMA’S IOU’S START COMING DUE

By CALVIN WOODWARD | Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — Presidential campaigns are long in the making, quick to be forgotten. But one part of them lives on for years: the victor’s promises.

President Barack Obama paved his path to re-election with fewer promises than in 2008. The ones he did lay down, though, are meaty, legacy-shaping for him and consequential to ordinary lives today and for generations to come, for better or worse.

They also are extraordinarily difficult to achieve in a time of gridlock grief and budgets that are tight when they are not paralyzed.

He’s promised to set a course in law against global warming, stop Iran from gaining the ability to make nuclear weapons, slash America’s use of foreign oil, restrain college costs, take a big bite out of the national debt even while protecting the heart of the big entitlement programs and overhaul immigration law.

He’s promised to make health insurance not only universally accessible, but “affordable,” through a 2010 health care law that is finally entering prime time and will soon be tested.

It’s a sure bet that many who voted Republican want some of Obama’s promises to fail. They didn’t sign up for tax increases on the wealthy or a path to citizenship for immigrants living in the country illegally.

But as closely divided as the country is, most Americans support Obama’s ends, if not the means. Who doesn’t want a lighter national debt or better health care for less?

In that sense, everyone’s got a stake in seeing him make good on his broad-brush promises.

Whatever a candidate’s promises, legacies are made by how a president manages matters of war and peace, economic growth and weakness, social change and traditional values, and whatever crises come out of the blue.

If this decade somehow becomes the Roaring Teens, history may not care much about a big broken promise or two. If jobs are demolished, that’s what will be remembered, not that 9 out of 10 promises might have been kept.

But Obama made a pact with voters, not historians, and he’s got IOUs outstanding.

Republican lawmakers do, too.

They don’t inherit the promises of GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney and did not campaign with one voice. But they presented themselves unmistakably as the party of smaller government, low taxes, a strong military capability and fiscal restraint. They have to answer to voters in 2014 for what they deliver and fail to do.

So must Democrats.

Voters can’t throw Obama out of office if he botches his job this term. But the president still has skin in the game.

With a chunk of the Senate and all of the House up for grabs in 2014, Obama would have an easier time making good on his promises if Democrats were able to hang on to the Senate, win back control of the House or both. That’s a tall order, given that the party holding the White House historically has lost seats in the sixth year of a presidency.

In this series, Associated Press writers who cover subjects key to Obama’s agenda and that of the GOP examine his main campaign promises, their chances of being kept and their likely impact on people.

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OBAMA MUST WALK FINE LINE AS CONGRESS TAKES UP AGENDA

By: Jackie Calmes | The New York Times

WASHINGTON — The days ahead could be decisive ones for the main pieces of President Obama’s second-term agenda: long-range deficit reduction, gun safety and changes to immigration law.

With Congress back this week from a recess, bipartisan groups of senators who have been negotiating about immigration and gun violence are due to unveil their agreements, though prospects for a gun deal are in question as the emotional impact of the massacre in Newtown, Conn., has faded and the National Rifle Association has marshaled opposition. And on Wednesday, Mr. Obama will send his annual budget to Capitol Hill intended as a compromise offer, though early signs suggest that Republican leaders have little interest in reviving talks. (Read More: Obama Budget to Cut Spending, Call for Higher Taxes)

Members of both parties say Mr. Obama faces a conundrum with his legislative approach to a deeply polarized Congress. In the past, when he has stayed aloof from legislative action, Republicans and others have accused him of a lack of leadership; when he has gotten involved, they have complained that they could not support any bill so closely identified with Mr. Obama without risking the contempt of conservative voters.

Representative Chris Van Hollen, Democrat of Maryland, called this predicament Mr. Obama’s ”Catch-22.” And Senator Mark Warner, Democrat of Virginia, said he had often seen it at work since 2010 while negotiating with Republican lawmakers to reach a long-term budget agreement.

At times, Mr. Warner said, Republicans would urge him to get Mr. Obama more involved, saying, ”Gosh, Warner, we’ve got to have the president.” Other times, he said, the same lawmakers would plead otherwise, saying, ”If the president comes out for this, you know it is going to kill us in the House.”

”Everybody wants him involved to the right degree at the right moment,” Mr. Warner said, ”but not anytime before or after.”

The challenge for Mr. Obama became evident as soon as he took office, when Republicans almost unanimously opposed his economic stimulus package even as the recession was erasing nearly 800,000 jobs a month. The author Robert Draper opened his recent book about the House, ”Do Not Ask What Good We Do,” with an account from Republican leaders who dined together on the night of Mr. Obama’s 2009 inauguration and agreed that the way to regain power was to oppose whatever he proposed.

Though Mr. Obama was able to prevail over Republican opposition in his first two years as president because Democrats had majorities in the House and the Senate, that changed when Republicans won control of the House in 2010, giving them a brake to apply to the president’s agenda.

Other than the stimulus experience in early 2009, the moment that most captured that polarization for the White House occurred a year later. In early 2010 Republican senators, including the minority leader, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, demanded that Mr. Obama endorse bipartisan legislation to create a deficit-reduction commission. But when he finally did so, they voted against the bill, killing it.

Now the president’s three pending priorities are shaping up as test cases for how he and Republicans will work together—or not—in his second term.

Each measure—on the budget, guns and immigration—in its own way illustrates the fine line that Mr. Obama must walk to succeed even with national opinion on his side. Privately, the White House is optimistic only about the prospects for an immigration bill, which would create a path to citizenship for about 11 million people in the country illegally.

That is because an immigration compromise is the only one that Republicans see as being in their own interests, given their party’s unpopularity with the fast-growing Latino electorate. In contrast, most Republicans see little advantage in backing gun legislation, given hostility toward it in their states or in districts throughout the South and the West and in rural areas. A budget compromise would require agreeing to higher taxes, which are anathema to conservative voters, in exchange for Mr. Obama’s support for the reductions in Medicare and Social Security that they want.

Yet even on immigration, many Republicans are weighing their party’s long-term interests in supporting a compromise against their own short-term arguments for opposing one: antipathy remains deep in conservative districts to any proposal that would grant citizenship. That calculation also holds for Republicans planning to seek the 2016 presidential nomination.

Against this backdrop, Mr. Obama early on outlined elements that he wanted in the immigration and gun measures. Then he purposely left the drafting to Congress. Senior aides, mainly the chief of staff, Denis R. McDonough, and the deputy chief of staff, Rob Nabors, check in daily with senators. Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. stays in touch with his former Senate colleagues about the gun bill talks.

On immigration, Mr. Obama had wanted to propose his own measure because he had promised Latino groups he would do so. But Senate Democrats advised against it, fearing an ”Obama bill” would scare off Republicans like Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, who has presidential ambitions. Indeed, Mr. Rubio’s office once issued a statement to deny that he was discussing immigration policy ”with anyone in the White House,” even as it criticized the president for not consulting Republicans.

”I think he’s handled it just perfectly,” Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York, a Democratic leader who is part of the bipartisan negotiations on both issues, said of Mr. Obama. ”He’s mobilizing public opinion. He’s staying on top of the issues and being helpful. But at the same time he’s given us—in the House and Senate—space to craft a bipartisan agreement.”

While Mr. Obama is said to be actively involved in the immigration talks behind the scenes because of that bill’s better odds, on gun measures like tighter background checks of firearms purchasers he is waging his fight mostly in public settings far from Washington. On Monday he will travel to Connecticut to meet again with the families of those killed in the school shooting in Newtown last year. At the University of Hartford, he will give another speech calling for passage of gun legislation.

Even Democrats say these speeches are having no effect on Republican lawmakers. Mr. Schumer and Senator Tom Coburn, Republican of Oklahoma, spoke again over the weekend but have been unable to reach a deal, raising interest in a fallback proposal that two other senators—Patrick J. Toomey, Republican of Pennsylvania, and Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia—are working on.

Yet White House aides predict that if the gun issue dies, Mr. Obama will at least get credit for trying and Republicans will be blamed by the majority of Americans who favor tighter controls.

On Sunday, Dan Pfeiffer, a senior adviser to Mr. Obama, intensified the White House‘s efforts to shame Republicans who are threatening to filibuster a Senate vote on gun measures.

”Now that the cameras are off and they are not forced to look the Newtown families in the face, now they want to make it harder and filibuster it,” Mr. Pfeiffer said on the ABC News program ”This Week.”

On the budget, Mr. Obama has tried both strategies—negotiating personally with Speaker John A. Boehner on a ”grand bargain” for taxes and entitlement-program reductions, and when that failed, letting Congress try, which also failed. Now, with the bipartisan effort moribund, the president has decided he has no option but to publicly take the lead to revive negotiations with hopes of drawing some Republican support.

So the budget he is sending to Congress will embody his last compromise offer to Mr. Boehner in December. For the first time, Mr. Obama is formally proposing to reduce future Social Security benefits, if Republicans will agree to higher taxes on the wealthy and some corporations.

Republican leaders already have rejected the overture, based on early reports about it. But Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, said on NBC’s ”Meet the Press” on Sunday that Mr. Obama is ”showing some signs of leadership that’s been lacking. I’m encouraged.”

On Wednesday, Mr. Obama is to dine with a dozen rank-and-file Republican senators, hoping they might deal with him on the budget, as well as on immigration and gun measures.

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POLL: OBAMA UNDERWATER ON GUNS, IMMIGRATION, DEFICIT

By DONOVAN SLACK | POLTICO

A new CNN/ORC International poll found President Obama’s overall approval rating has ticked up to 51 percent but ratings have fallen on his handling of the key issues on his agenda: immigration, guns, and the deficit.

On immigration, 44 percent approve of the way he is handling the issue, down from 51 percent in January. At the same time, disapproval has jumped to 50 percent, up from 43 percent in January.

On guns, 45 percent approve and 52 percent disapprove, the poll found. In January, 46 percent approved and 49 percent dispproved.

And on the deficit, 38 percent approve of his handling of the issue, down from 41 percent in January, while disapproval ticked up slightly to 58 percent from 57 percent.

Overall, his approval rating inched up 4 points and his disapproval rating fell 3 points since last month to 47 percent, the poll found.

ORC International surveyed 1,012 adults across the country from April 5-7, CNN reported. The margin of error is +/- 3 percentage points.

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