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Obama Blasts Some US Companies as 'Corporate Deserters'

White House(LOS ANGELES) -- At a campaign-style event in Los Angeles, President Obama delivered an unusually blistering indictment Thursday of American businesses that have reincorporated overseas to avoid some U.S. taxes -- calling them “corporate deserters” who are “cherry picking the rules.”

While not singling out any by name, Obama said they had tapped into the, “holy grail of tax avoidance schemes” by exploiting a legal “loophole” in the tax code.

“My attitude is, I don’t care if it’s legal, it’s wrong,” he said.

The president said it's a “small but growing group” of companies taking advantage of the provision – keeping a headquarters and most operations here in the U.S. but establishing corporate citizenship elsewhere.

“Technically they’re renouncing their U.S. citizenship,” he claimed.

Obama explained that the issue is easily fixable through corporate tax reform. He called on Congress to close the loophole, part of a new line of populist messaging that comes as the president returns to active campaign mode ahead of the November elections.

Republicans have expressed some openness to addressing the so-called “inversion” issue Obama raised Thursday, but only as part of broader corporate tax reform.

A spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner said: “until the White House endorses our tax reform plan or convinces Senate Democrats to act, every pink slip from companies moving overseas may as well be signed, ‘President Barack H. Obama.’”

“I’m not interested in punishing these companies, but I am interested in economic patriotism,” Obama said, invoking a line that has become something of a slogan for the Democrats’ 2014 campaign.

“We rise and fall together as one nation and one people,” he said.

The president’s appearance was interrupted however, by a man screaming about “God almighty, Jesus Christ” and how Obama “will be destroyed.”

“You will be destroyed. You will be destroyed. You will be destroyed,” the man kept yelling. He was eventually drowned out by the crowd.

“I actually met that guy before. He used the same line,” Obama quipped. “He needs to update his material.”

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Lawsuit Against Obama One Step Closer to Courthouse Door

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The House cleared a procedural hurdle on Thursday to set up a showdown between House Speaker John Boehner and President Obama next week.

The House Rules Committee voted 7-4 to approve a markup of H. Res. 676, which provides authority to initiate litigation for actions by the president or other executive branch officials inconsistent with their duties under the Constitution of the United States.

Next week, the measure will require a rule before floor consideration by the full House. A vote on the bill is likely to be among the final acts the House takes before lawmakers enjoy a five-week break for the August recess.

Even after the House approves the resolution, the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group, known as BLAG, would have to meet to vote on the matter. Republicans enjoy a three to two edge on the panel.

BLAG is comprised of the speaker, minority and majority leader, and minority and majority whip. If it happens after July 31, Majority Leader Eric Cantor will not be among the Republicans voting. Instead, Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., would slide into the mix after Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., ascends to majority leader.

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Former Olympic Skater Michelle Kwan Stars in Political Ad for Hubby

Frazer Harrison/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Former Olympic figure skater Michelle Kwan is pirouetting into the Rhode Island gubernatorial race. Kwan is featured in a new ad supporting her husband, Clay Pell, in the state’s Democratic primary.

The 30-second ad titled “Equality” is Kwan’s attempt to appeal to the state’s female voters.

“One of the reasons I’m so excited about my husband, Clay Pell’s candidacy is because Clay is committed to a women’s-equality agenda that strengthens protection for women in areas like pay equity, sexual harassment and domestic violence,” Kwan says in the ad. “Clay knows Rhode Island can be ready for tomorrow by making it one of the best places for women to live and work. Clay believes what I believe: We need equality for all women.”

In a May WPRI 12/Providence Journal poll, Pell placed third among the four Democrats vying for the nomination. Pell trailed behind Providence Mayor Angel Taveras and Treasurer Gina Raimond with only 12 percent of respondents supporting his candidacy -- though 22 percent had yet to make up their minds.

“Throughout her career as an Olympic figure skater, and her time as a public policy envoy with the U.S. Department of State (where she’s served since 2006), Michelle has been a strong advocate for the empowerment of girls through sports, and for women’s rights,” the Pell campaign wrote in a press release Thursday.

The primary election will be held on Sept. 9.

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Obama Talks Basketball During Surprise Lunch Stop in LA

Official White House photo by Pete Souza(LOS ANGELES) -- President Obama's basketball game isn't what it used to be, he revealed during a surprise stop for lunch at Canter's Deli in Los Angeles Thursday.

After shaking hands with the people behind the counter at this family-owned landmark, the president talked a little basketball with two older gentleman sitting in a booth.

Asked about his game, Obama told them, "My shot's broken... My elbow keeps going out."

Rubbing his shoulder, he told them he probably makes about 80 percent of his shots (free throws, not in a game).

"I get that chicken wing," Obama said, motioning with his elbow. "I'm just getting old."

The president then made his way to a booth in the back where he sat with four Americans who wrote him letters, part of his ongoing effort to "meet with folks from across the country to listen to their stories, struggles, and successes, as well as the issues in their lives that matter most," according to the White House.

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Five Ways Paul Ryan Thinks He Can End Poverty

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Rep. Paul Ryan thinks the federal government should stop its habit of treating poverty as a series of isolated problems and start listening to the “boots on the ground,” local community leaders fighting for different results.

On Thursday, Ryan, R-Wis., released an anti-poverty proposal he coined an “Opportunity Grant” that concentrates 11 safety-net programs -- food stamps, housing assistance, child care and cash welfare, among them -- into a single stream of funding offered to states that agree to the program.

The proposal is budget neutral, meaning states would receive the exact same amount of money for safety-net expenditures as they currently do under law, he told those gathered at the American Enterprise Institute. He believes the grant addresses poverty in a more holistic, “collaborative” way.

“This isn’t your garden variety block grant,” he said.

The speech and a short panel that followed were pitched as a call for economic solidarity.

Arthur Brooks, AEI’s president, told the crowd, “Patriots fight for America, no matter how they vote.”

Here are five ways Ryan believes he can help end poverty:

1. Establish a new spirit of togetherness.

Ryan framed the problem in a language normally unfamiliar to Republicans, incorporating individual enterprise into a group-oriented, populist vocabulary: “The secret of our country’s success is collaboration: people working together, learning together, building together. …The fact is, each person’s needs fit into a coherent whole: a career. And each person fits into a coherent whole: a community.” He told the audience after his speech, “We have a lot of silos that are isolating the poor from our communities,” adding that most people expect their tax money and the federal government to take care of the problem. Ryan’s support for local service providers is supposed to encourage the poor to develop short-, medium-, and long-term plans with help from the providers, using contracts, timelines and rewards for meeting different “benchmarks of success.”

2. Turn anti-poverty measures into a grassroots, bottom-up operation.

Ryan believes his proposal is “reconceiving the federal government’s role” in anti-poverty programs: “No longer will it try to supplant our communities but to support them…the people on the ground. They’re the vanguard. They fight poverty on the front lines. They have to lead this effort and Washington should follow their lead.” He called for an end to the red tape he thinks is holding back low-income families, suggesting that if federal agencies propose any kind of regulation that would negatively affect the poor, they have to see it approved by Congress. A more localized anti-poverty strategy can present a more “personalized, customized form of aid.”

3. Don’t just counsel low-income people and families. Counsel convicts, too.

Instead of punishing non-violent, low-risk criminals with harsh sentences, offer them counseling, job training, and the opportunity to trade prison time for pre-release custody, “as long as they complete a program with a proven track record.” Ryan pointed to the recent Public Safety Enhancement Act, which looks to get ex-cons at risk of re-incarceration out of a life of crime. Those who aren’t crowding the criminal justice system are more likely to contribute to the work force in ways that help combat poverty, he argued.

4. Start accrediting more colleges.

Ryan cited legislation supported by Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., which seeks fewer constraints on accrediting universities, vocational schools, and even curricula and individual courses, as a major influence on the Opportunity Grant plan. Ryan’s plan looks to let more schools in on federal oversight normally reserved for four-year institutions. On a panel after his speech, he praised the vocational schools near him in Wisconsin, indicating their stature as in keeping with many four-year institutions that don’t offer formal job-training programs.

5. Use the Earned Income Tax Credit to the advantage of childless workers.

The Earned Income Tax Credit has become a hot issue for reform-minded conservatives looking to appeal to a wider swath of working-class Americans. Ryan suggested doubling the maximum credit for childless workers to $1,005 and lowering the minimum eligibility age from 25 to 21. “This is one of the few programs that have shown results,” he noted. Ryan believes President Obama has wrongly proposed raising taxes to pay for the credit, and Ryan wants to pay for it by “eliminating ineffective programs and corporate welfare, like subsidies to energy companies.” For Ryan, the tax credit is a way to ensure that “it always pays to work.”

On a panel after the speech, Ryan was praised by Ron Haskins of the Brookings Institution, who co-directs the Brookings Center on Children and Families, and who was a longtime congressional adviser on welfare reform. Haskins believes that almost everything in Ryan’s proposal could garner bipartisan agreement.

“This is a sweeping proposal. It’s worthy of a think tank,” he said. “It’s a spectacular document. I have not seen anything like this from an individual member in Congress for many years.”

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The One Issue Bob Dole Is Still Fighting For

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole is making the rounds -- everywhere from the plains of Kansas to the marbled halls of Capitol Hill.

Dole, who celebrated his 91st birthday this week, returned to Capitol Hill for what could be his final legislative push -- ratifying an international treaty for people with disabilities.

“This is not a Republican or Democrat treaty. It’s not liberal or conservative,” Dole said at a news conference Wednesday. “As a Republican, I don’t want to see a headline saying ‘Republicans vote against disabled Americans and disabled veterans.’”

In 2012, Dole sat on the Senate floor as he watched a vote to ratify the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities fail by just five votes. Dole recounted that moment in an interview with ABC News’ Jeff Zeleny.

“We knew we had an uphill battle, and when my Kansas senators voted against it I knew we were in trouble because one had been a co-sponsor and the other had been for it,” Dole explained. “But again the home-schoolers flooded their phones for days and I can understand why it might have altered their judgment. I don’t agree but that’s their right.”

The home-schooling movement, which helped derail the treaty two years ago, is pushing back against the measure again this year, saying it would impede their ability to home school their children.

In recent months, Dole has embarked on a thank you tour of his home state of Kansas, trying to stop in all 105 counties one last time.

“We’ve been in 63 counties. We have 42 left and I’ve had a lot of cookies and brownies and a lot of lemon bars and a lot of fun,” Dole told Zeleny.

“What are you campaigning for?” Zeleny asked.

“Nothing. That’s what I tell them, I’m just here to thank you,” Dole said.

Dole reflected on the state of the Republican Party, saying there’s a need for greater compromise between Republicans and Democrats.

“You need to compromise sometimes. You need to work across the aisle. We don’t have all the wisdom in our party and they don’t have it all in the Democratic party,” Dole said. “We just need a nominee in 2016 that has an agenda that attracts and resonates with people and that will be a big help.”

“I don’t think we’ve seen the Republican candidate yet. A lot of people want to be president. So did I, think of it!” he added.

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Republican Governors Split with Chris Christie over NY Candidate

Andrew Burton/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Once upon a time, the Republican governors in the country were unified behind New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. Not anymore.

The unity was fractured this week over Christie’s decision to withhold Republican Governors Association support from New York gubernatorial contender Rob Astorino.

Instead of backing Christie’s decision on the basis that Astorino is lagging in the polls behind incumbent Democrat Andrew Cuomo, three high-profile GOP governors are breaking with Christie to promote the New Yorker.

News of the split came Thursday morning after Astorino, the county executive in suburban Westchester County, confronted Christie at the RGA summer meeting in Aspen, Colorado. An Astorino aide confirmed that Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence -- all possible Christie rivals for the GOP presidential nomination in  2016 -- have decided to help Astorino by either campaigning or fundraising or both.

Another possible Christie opponent in 2016, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, already held a fundraiser for Astorino last month in New York City. And South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley has also pledged to help the man looking to make Cuomo a one-term governor in the Empire State.

“Glad to be with my buddy @RobAstorino in Aspen,” Perry, former head of the RGA, even tweeted, showing off a photo of him with Astorino.

Astorino was confident on Wednesday that once he met with Christie out West he would be able to convince the RGA chairman to support his candidacy. On Thursday, an Astorino aide confirmed the two met last night “very briefly,” revealing the session did not go very well.

“The Aspen trip made it clear that governors from around the nation will be helping County Executive Astorino become Governor Astorino,” spokeswoman Jessica Proud said. “It also made it clear that RGA Chairman Chris Christie will not be among them. We can live with that and we will move on.”

Earlier in the week while campaigning in Connecticut for GOP gubernatorial candidate Tom Foley, Christie was asked whether he would hit the campaign trail for Astorino and he answered that he “will spend time in places where we have a chance to win, I said that right from the beginning.”

“We don’t pay for landslides and we don’t invest in lost causes,” Christie continued. “If the New York race becomes competitive, I’ll consider campaigning in the New York race, but right now, by the public polls, there’s a lot more competitive races like this one in Connecticut.”

It set off both Astorino and the New York GOP, with Astorino holding a press conference Tuesday saying if Christie is “unable to help a Republican candidate for governor, then maybe he should consider stepping down as chairman of the RGA. That’s his job,” according to the New York Daily News.

In the same press conference, Astorino even speculated that Cuomo and Christie were scheming over the George Washington Bridge lane-closing scandal that has engulfed Christie’s administration in New Jersey.

In a conference call with reporters Wednesday, Astorino stressed he did not believe he burned any bridges with Christie and instead was confident he could “change his mind.”

New York GOP Chairman Ed Cox is also in Aspen and did not shy away from his anger earlier this week when in a statement he said Christie’s comments indicated he “seems to have forgotten from whence he came,” noting Christie’s successful “underdog challenge” against Gov. Jon Corzine in 2009.

The situation is different. A Wall Street Journal/Marist/NBC Four New York poll from earlier this month put Cuomo up 35 points against Astorino. A Quinnipiac University poll from the July before Christie’s election in November 2009 had Christie up 12.

An aide to Cox says he has not yet met with Christie in Aspen, but he did meet with executive director Phil Cox (no relation) and described the meeting as “positive and productive.”

Christie’s office declined to comment.

Word of the internecine turmoil comes the same day as Christie’s hometown newspaper called out the New Jersey governor for being hypocritical in making campaign decisions based on polls. The Star-Ledger of Newark pointed out that Christie has no problem campaigning with New Hampshire’s Walt Havenstein despite his own steep deficit in the polls, considering that the Granite State hosts the first presidential primary in the nation.

“Gov. Chris Christie says he won’t campaign for the Republican gubernatorial candidate in New York because the cause is hopeless: Gov. Andrew Cuomo is ahead by more than 30 points. But he will campaign in New Hampshire, over and over, where the Republican is also trailing by more than 30 points. What’s the reason? It may be that New Hampshire holds the nation’s first presidential primary. It may be that he doesn’t want to mess with Cuomo, who knows where the skeletons are buried,” the editorial reads.

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How Congress Saved the Baseball Hall of Fame

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- A two-time MVP outfielder and a United States senator say the congressional hearings on steroids in baseball nearly a decade ago had a direct impact on preventing players tainted by the baseball’s steroids era from being considered for the Hall of Fame.

Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., told the ESPN’s Perspectives podcast “Capital Games” that while he thought at the time the hearings shouldn’t have been a congressional priority, they doomed the candidacies of high-profile players like Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro and Sammy Sosa. That, in part, paved the way for this weekend’s crop of three clean players from the same era gaining induction in the Hall.

“What I think the hearing helped do was, that the American people looked up and said, ‘You know, it’s maybe the first time that it really hit us between the eyes that we have a real problem here.’ And I think it helped to change things,” said Donnelly.

Former Atlanta Braves outfielder Dale Murphy wasn’t a fan of the 2005 hearings, either, and wanted the commissioner to do more and to push for “amnesty” so former players could come clean about past steroid use. Still, he said, the hearings were effective, and helped baseball move beyond a dark period.

“I reluctantly have to say I think they made a difference,” said Murphy. He added that Hall voters are ”going to remember what you did or what you didn’t say and hold you accountable. ...I think it directly affects them.”

Murphy, who fell short in being elected to the Hall in his final year of voting eligibility last year, added that he would be upset if players who were proven to be cheats from that era were admitted into the Hall of Fame.

“That is a concern for guys that, you know, played in the ’70′s and ’80′s most of the time,” Murphy said during the podcast. “I guess the best way to say it, is that right now they’re not letting the guys in that are associated with those huge inflated numbers and steroids. If it comes to the point eventually -- which some people speculate will happen with the turnover of the voters and the age of the voters, which will take a long time -- if it does happen eventually where they get in, then I got a real beef. ...I got a problem with that.”

Murphy doesn’t anticipate any of those candidates getting in soon.

“It’s going to take such a long time, I think, and I really think the lack of honesty and openness has hurt the guys,” said Murphy. “I think eventually it’s going to happen, but I think it’s going to be decades.”

The Baseball Hall of Fame will add six new members to its ranks at this weekend’s ceremony in Cooperstown, New York. Three players and three managers -- all of whom were active and clean of drug allegations during some of baseball’s darkest days -- will get their plaques.

Though the now-famous congressional hearings drew criticism at the time, it’s quite possible baseball wouldn’t see a moment like this if not for Congress. The March 2005 session on steroids in baseball served as a wake-up call for baseball to clean itself up, ultimately opening the doors for the players who were clean during a tainted era to gain election to the Hall, according to ESPN baseball analyst Tim Kurkjian.

“It was really important at the time, and looking back it’s probably even more important today,” Kurkjian said.

“It showed that baseball needed congressional help to get to the bottom of this. We still haven’t gotten to the bottom of it,” said Kurkjian. “It was the start of cleaning up the game -- which still isn’t completely clean I’m sure. But it was a giant step in the right direction.”

This year’s Hall of Fame class includes pitchers Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux, slugger Frank Thomas, plus managers Bobby Cox, Joe Torre and Tony La Russa. The star-studded class comes a year after no former player won election to the Hall. All three of 2013′s inductees, in fact, died before the U.S. entered World War II.

The Hall notably still doesn’t include players implicated for using performance-enhancing drugs -- men including McGwire, Bonds, Sosa, Clemens and Palmeiro -- whose conduct received the now-famous congressional scrutiny nine years ago.

Donnelly, a Chicago White Sox and New York Yankees fan, said he was skeptical of Congress’ involvement in a baseball matter. But time has proven the value of that scrutiny, culminating with his son’s childhood hero, Frank Thomas, gaining entry on Sunday -- an important moment for fans of his generation, he said.

“Frank [Thomas] was doing it the right way. Frank’s kind of numbers were the numbers that people who just work hard every day would be able to achieve. And so, I think we’re in a different place now. I think the game is better for having that passed. And I think as we look, baseball is in a good place right now,” he added.

Murphy was a seven-time all-star who was a teammate of Glavine’s and played for Cox and Torre with the Atlanta Braves.

“It’s a good time for baseball,” Murphy said of the current Hall of Fame class. “I think we can maybe have an opportunity to show what guys can do, that you don’t really need that stuff… You need to have some talent, you need to have some brains, and you need to work hard.”

Murphy said the steroids era also had an impact on some of the players -- including himself -- who preceded it, since their statistics aren’t as gaudy as those who dominated the late 1990s and early 2000s.

He said he’d like to see an “adjustment” in statistics to take that into consideration. But for now, Murphy said he’s satisfied that players with tainted numbers aren’t getting in.

Kurkjian, who is among the writers who vote for the Hall every year, said he and other voters need more clarity on how to handle the steroids era. He suggested a commission made of representatives of Major League Baseball, baseball writers, Hall officials and even Hall-of-Famers themselves to chart a path forward.

“I still don’t know what the right answer is any more with all the steroid people. I think we need a nationwide discussion over what we’re supposed to do here. Should we be voting for steroid guys or not?” he said.

“The responsibility is enormous. It should be taken seriously, and yet at the same time I think we need somebody to clarify what we should be doing here. Because I, for one, am not sure what to do anymore,” he added.

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Nominee for Veteran Affairs Secretary Passes Big Test

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Former Procter & Gamble executive Robert McDonald is one important step closer to becoming the next secretary of Veteran Affairs, after a Senate panel Wednesday unanimously backed his nomination. The vote was 14-0.

The agreement by both Democrats and Republicans that McDonald is qualified to take over the embattled agency should mean he'll face little resistance when the full Senate votes to confirm, most likely this week.

McDonald, a former military man as well, told the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs that, "Veterans are in need. There is much to do. I can think of no higher calling than to serve our veterans who have so selflessly served our country."

If confirmed, he promised better communications with VA offices and more transparency with Congress over funding needs.

Meanwhile, members of the House and Senate are working hard to reach a compromise bill that would give the next VA secretary more power to fire subordinates for mismanagement as well as allow vets to seek private care if they can't get the attention they need from VA clinics.

Although hired for his management skills, P&G had financial problems during McDonald's tenure as CEO from 2009 through 2013, and he was eventually replaced by the former P&G executive who held the position before him.

McDonald was a West Point graduate, serving five years in the Army, earning the rank of captain, before joining P&G. Recent VA secretaries have been generals and colonels.

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Report: Montana Senator Walsh Accused of Plagiarism

US Senate(NEW YORK) -- Democrats' chances of retaining the Senate may have taken a major hit Wednesday after allegations of plagiarism were leveled at Montana Senator John Walsh.

As reported by The New York Times, Walsh, who is running for re-election in November, apparently lifted major portions of his thesis to graduate from the United States Army War College in 2007 from other sources available on the Internet.

The Iraq war vet and one-time National Guard adjunct general's paper on American Middle East policy also lists no attributions.

Although Walsh said he believes he did nothing wrong, an aide to the senator did not dispute the charges of plagiarism, but said it should be taken in the context of his military career, according to the Times.

Walsh spoke later about the brewing scandal, explaining that he committed an unintentional mistake due to post-traumatic stress resulting from his service in Iraq and medication he was taking at the time. He said a fellow veteran's suicide added to the stress.

Johnson was tapped to replace Montana Senator Max Baucus earlier this year, who became ambassador to China.

However, even before the charges of plagiarism surfaced, polls showed Walsh running behind his Republican opponent, as Democrats try desperately to keep control of the Senate.
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House Republicans Announce Recommendations to Address Border Crisis

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- House Republicans unveiled a plan Wednesday to address the southern border crisis, recommending that the National Guard assist in humanitarian care of the influx of minors entering the country.

House Speaker John Boehner has already called on President Obama to implement the reserve military force, while Texas Gov. Rick Perry already made the decision on his own.

Both Boehner and Perry have not been shy about blaming the president's policies for inviting the influx of illegal immigrants, and both have stressed how the crisis has taxed both the U.S. Border Patrol and local municipalities that have been dealing with the tens of thousands of people coming across the border.

Following prompting, the president sent a team to Texas to evaluate whether deploying the National Guard would tackle the immigration issues, White House officials confirmed.

Congresswoman Kay Granger (R-Texas), chairwoman of the House Working Group, announced the committee's solutions Wednesday.

"Our focus has been to ensure the safety of the children and it has remained a top priority throughout this process,” Granger said in a statement. “In our personal meetings with the Presidents of Honduras and Guatemala they both stated that they wanted their children back, and we believe that is in the best interest of all the countries involved in this crisis. We look forward to working with these countries as they prepare to receive their children back.”

In addition to deploying the National Guard, the group suggested establishing an independent third-party commission to develop border security metrics, along with the creation of repatriation centers in other countries to secure the return of families and unaccompanied minors. Lawmakers also called for tougher penalties for individuals participating in the smuggling of children.

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Boehner Honors Doctor Who Saved Lawmaker's Baby

United States House of Representatives(WASHINGTON) -- Speaker John Boehner praised a "special guest" on the House floor Wednesday, prompting applause and a standing ovation for a doctor who helped deliver a congresswoman's baby born with a prenatal condition.

Boehner honored Dr. Jessica Bienstock, the residency program director for the Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

“In her career, she has delivered nearly 1,000 babies," Boehner said, at one time wiping his eye. "One of them is well-known to us, and she is Abigail Rose Beutler, who of course is the daughter of our friend."

The child was born to Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Wash., and was diagnosed with Potter's Syndrome, a condition that prevents the development of kidneys and lungs. Beutler held her one-year-old daughter on the floor Wednesday.

“We’re all familiar with Abigail’s story, and the odds that she overcame. If she is a happy, healthy miracle, Dr. Bienstock is the miracle worker who helped give the gift of hope and life to this family," Boehner said. "I think our House owes a debt of gratitude to her and to all of our doctors, nurses and medical professionals.”

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GOP NY Governor Candidate to Confront Chris Christie over Remarks on Viability

Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images(ASPEN, Colo.) -- Expect it to be rocky in Aspen.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino is planning on confronting New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie over comments he made earlier in the week about his campaign’s viability against New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

On Monday while campaigning in Connecticut for GOP gubernatorial candidate Tom Foley, Christie was asked whether he would hit the campaign trail for Astorino and he answered that he, “will spend time in places where we have a chance to win, I said that right from the beginning.”

“We don’t pay for landslides and we don’t invest in lost causes,” Christie continued. “If the New York race becomes competitive, I’ll consider campaigning in the New York race, but right now, by the public polls, there’s a lot more competitive races like this one in Connecticut.”

Astorino, as well as the New York GOP, were livid. Both he and Christie are now in Aspen, Colorado, for Republican Governors’ Association events and Astorino said he expected to talk to Christie–the RGA chairman–about his comments.  Astorino said he planned already to travel to the area, but an aide said he expected the meeting to be a “frank chat.”

In a conference call, Astorino told reporters he had not seen the New Jersey governor yet, but he plans on seeing him this evening at a group dinner, saying it’s, “the first time we will all be together.”

At a press conference Tuesday, Astorino said, “If Gov. Christie is unable to help a Republican candidate for governor, then maybe he should consider stepping down as chairman of the RGA. That’s his job,” according to the New York Daily News.

He said Wednesday he stood by those comments and he does not believe he has burned any bridges with Christie, and instead the Westchester County Executive thinks, “once he and I have a chance to talk about the campaign and I can fill him in on things he may not know and how we are going to win this race then he may change his mind.”

The purpose of Wednesday’s call was in response to a story on the cover of Wednesday’s New York Times, showing Cuomo had interfered with a commission that attempted to root out corruption in state politics.

Astorino said this development will also make the RGA more interested in supporting his candidacy, noting it could “change perceptions on this race.” He wouldn’t name names, but said other governors already have plans to campaign with him in New York.

“His job as the chairman of the RGA is to help get Republican governors re-elected and Republican candidates for governor elected and it would obviously be very convenient for him to come across the river into New York where he is frequently fundraising and to do things for me in New York and I’m sure that’s what’s going to happen,” he said Wednesday.

In the same press conference, Astorino even speculated Cuomo and Christie were scheming over the George Washington Bridge lane-closing scandal that has engulfed Christie’s administration in New Jersey. He said he doesn’t, “know if there’s a connection between him and Andrew Cuomo on Bridgegate, or if Cuomo has something that he’s holding back, information that could be damaging to the governor.”

“My take is maybe it’s inconvenient to come over the bridge to New York to help a Republican candidate for governor here,” Astorino said. “That’s his call, whether he wants to or not, but as RGA chair he has governors and candidates who have a chance to win … and it’s incumbent upon him to help all of us.”

When asked about it Wednesday, Astorino didn’t go as far, saying, “There’s no secret the Port Authority is represented by the governor of both states and their respective appointees and staff.”

Astorino said he doesn’t feel betrayed and instead he and Christie are “friends," and he's “admired” his work as RGA chairman and as governor of the Garden State.

New York GOP Chairman Ed Cox will also be in Aspen. He too chose not to hold his fire saying in a statement this week that he was “disappointed” to hear Christie’s comments and that the New Jersey Governor, “seems to have forgotten from whence he came,” noting Christie’s “underdog challenge” against Gov. Jon Corzine in 2009.

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Former President HardingÂ’s Love Letters to Mistress May Actually Help His Image, Historians Say

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The now notorious love letters of former President Warren Harding ironically may be the basis of a belated campaign to improve the image of the man generally considered to be one of the country’s worst leaders.

Harding’s grandnephew Richard Harding made the case before a packed Library of Congress assembly Tuesday by saying, “It is with some ambivalence, but with a sense of history, that we are present.”

Richard Harding and a battery of historians and archivists said Tuesday that the salacious letters – some of them 40 pages long – give new insight to the man who has been called America’s worst president.

“Warren Harding doesn’t need protecting. He needs honest and hard-working historians to tell the story like they see it,” Richard Harding told the gathering.

The roughly thousand pages were written by Harding between 1910 and 1920 to Carrie Phillips, when he was lieutenant governor of Ohio and a U.S. senator. They were found in 1964 but protected by the Harding family, which gave the collection to the Library of Congress on the condition that they be held in a safe for 50 years. The letters will become available to the public next Tuesday.

The panel included James Robenalt, author of The Harding Affair: Love and Espionage During the Great War; James Hutson, chief of the Manuscript Division at the Library of Congress; Library of Congress archivist Karen Femia; and Richard Harding.

Robenalt, who published a smaller trove of microfilms of Harding letters in his book in 2009, referred to the correspondence as “one of the great stories of the 20th century.”

The allure of the letters centers on Harding’s often explicit relationship with Phillips, who Robenalt ventures was a German spy who managed to discourage Harding from running for president in 1916, right in the middle of World War I. The affair ended when Phillips blackmailed Harding after he entered the White House in 1921.

A sampling of the letters Robenalt discovered at the Western Reserve Historical Society gives an indication as to what’s coming next Tuesday, when historians can start crafting what could be an entirely new portrait of the former president. In one letter to Phillips on Sept. 15, 1913, Harding writes, “I hurt with the insatiate longing, until I feel that there will never be any relief until I take a long, deep, wild draught on your lips.” On Jan. 5 the same year, he wrote: “…so I got up, had a luxurious bath and donned my bathrobe in which to breakfast. Three weeks ago [the robe] touched and covered your beautiful form, and that made it hallowed to me, and I wanted contact with it, to make me seem nearer to you.”

The standard interpretation of Harding was that he was “an intelligent man, too trusting of his cronies, too passive as a leader…and too passive for a nation that needed activist leadership,” as the historian Gary Alan Fine put it. His administration is notorious for the Teapot Dome scandal, an oil leasing scandal that consumed one of Harding’s top cabinet members.

The panel Tuesday argued that his image is still much more imprecise than most historians assume.

Femia claimed the legacy “was like an empty room, an echo chamber for rumor, gossip, and absolute fabrication.” Hutson agreed, using his introduction as something of a call to those in the room to fill the gaps in Harding scholarship.

“It’s astonishing the amount of misinformation about Harding, and everyone connected to him,” Hutson added. “The question arises: what’s wrong with the picture here? Why didn’t historians correct this stuff?”

The letters may reveal that Harding’s infatuation with Phillips delayed his ascension to the White House, and perhaps caused an entirely different outcome to the Great War and the trajectory of 20th-century American history since, at Phillips’ urging, he wanted to keep America out of the war.

“Had Harding become president in 1916, and he had a good chance to do so, the world would have been a lot different,” Robenalt said. “The world changed because of this relationship.”

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Why Kerry Could Fly into Tel Aviv Despite FAA Flight Ban

State Department photo/ Public Domain(WASHINGTON) -- Just hours after Secretary of State John Kerry told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that a temporary Federal Aviation Administration ban on U.S. flights to Tel Aviv was in the best interest of Americans, Kerry himself flew into Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport.

The FAA’s prohibition does not apply to military aircraft, including the 757 Kerry is flying on. Plus, Kerry traveled to Israel to meet with Netanyahu and others as part of his efforts to bring about a cease-fire to the fighting between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, spokesperson Jen Psaki said.

“Secretary Kerry is on the ground to continue his efforts to achieve a ceasefire and bring an end to the rocket attacks that led to the FAA notice,” she wrote in a statement.

The U.S. flight ban for Ben Gurion Airport went into effect Tuesday after a rocket from Hamas struck ground about a mile from the airport. It only affects U.S. carriers and has no effect on foreign airlines, but after the U.S. announcement, numerous foreign air carriers announced they would also suspend flights into the Israeli airport.

Netanyahu spoke on the phone with Kerry Tuesday night and urged him to help call off the ban. But according to Psaki, Kerry explained that the ban was intended only to keep Americans safe, not to discourage anyone from traveling to Israel.

“The only consideration in issuing the notice was the safety and security of our citizens,” Psaki said.

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