EPA administrator at Vatican ahead of encyclical

VATICAN CITY (AP) — The head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency met Friday with Vatican officials who helped draft Pope Francis' upcoming encyclical on ecology, evidence that the Obama administration is seeking to hitch its climate-change message onto that of the popular pope.

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy told reporters that her aim in visiting was to show the Vatican how aligned President Barack Obama and Francis are on climate change. She said she wanted to stress that global warming isn't just an environmental issue, but a public health threat, and yet also a chance for economic opportunity.

Obama calls for spending surge, buoyed by rising economy

WASHINGTON (AP) — Declaring an end to "mindless austerity," President Barack Obama called for a surge in government spending Thursday, and asked Congress to throw out the sweeping budget cuts both parties agreed to four years ago when deficits were spiraling out of control.

Obama's proposed $74 billion in added spending — about 7 percent — would be split about evenly between defense programs and the domestic side of the budget. Although he's sought before to reverse the "sequester" spending cuts, Obama's pitch in this year's budget comes with the added oomph of an improving economy and big recent declines in federal deficits.

Obama budget to call for $1 billion for Central America

WASHINGTON (AP) — Vice President Joe Biden says President Barack Obama's budget will call for $1 billion in aid for Central America. He says that's three times what the U.S. typically gives the region.

Biden writes in an op-ed in The New York Times that the aid will help Central American leaders make tough reforms needed to address security, political and economic challenges.

EnergyGuardian Photo

Keystone XL clears Senate, veto battle ahead

After years of vocal support for the Keystone XL oil sands pipeline and three weeks of debate on the Senate floor, Republicans on Thursday passed an approval bill with the help of moderate Democrats, setting the stage for a veto fight with President Barack Obama.

Senators voted 62-36 to approve the bill by Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., a majority that included nine moderate Democrats who voted to approve the $8 billion Canadian project in November.

Senate panel approves Iran sanctions bill

WASHINGTON (AP) — A bill that would levy tough new sanctions on Iran if it fails to sign an agreement to curb its nuclear program cleared a Senate committee on Thursday. But lawmakers are holding off on a full Senate vote to see whether diplomatic negotiations yield a deal.

Republican and Democratic members of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee voted 18-4 to pass the bill aimed at ramping up economic pressure on Iran starting in July if it doesn't ink an international deal preventing it from having the capability to develop a nuclear weapon.

Associated Press

More Keystone votes in Senate as GOP looks to end debate

The Senate is back on track in a push to bring the Keystone XL approval bill to a final passage vote as soon as this week, Republican leaders said, after Democrats had stopped an attempt to end debate on Monday.

By Tuesday night an agreement had been reached to hold votes on 18 amendments Wednesday afternoon, among 30 that are pending, including one on a proposal by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, to speed up the exports of liquefied natural gas.

Budget for Koch-backed network almost $1 billion for 2016

WASHINGTON (AP) — Flexing its financial might, the political machine backed by billionaires Charles and David Koch on Monday told its allies that spending across its conservative network would approach $1 billion ahead of 2016's elections.

The stunning sum from Freedom Partners would dwarf expected spending from official GOP committees and many of the hopefuls expected to seek the party's presidential nomination in 2016. The $889 million budget is almost twice what 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney spent from his campaign accounts.

Associated Press

McConnell fails in first bid to end Keystone debate

A cloture motion by Sen. Mitch McConnell to put the Keystone XL approval bill on track for passage by the Senate failed 53-39 Monday night, extending for now the increasingly partisan debate over the $8 billion project.

The majority fell short of the 60 needed to end open debate and potentially pass the bill as soon as this week. Just four Democrats voted for the motion, while eight senators did not vote.

Analysis: GOP changes tune, calls for bipartisanship

WASHINGTON (AP) — Winners by far in last fall's elections, Republicans now demand bipartisanship from President Barack Obama as their due and the voters' desire.

But achieving a cooperative working relationship may be a major challenge.


Keystone debate to resume Monday, final vote looms

Debate over the Keystone XL oil sands pipeline ground to a temporary halt for the weekend late Thursday night as partisan tensions flared, setting the stage for a possible final vote next week.

Senators earlier in the day voted down all but two of 10 amendments to the approval bill, including one by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., that called for the transition away from fossil fuels as a way to address climate change, and another by Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., to disavow President Barack Obama's carbon emissions pact with China.


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