WASHINGTON (CNN) - A source close to Supreme Court Justice David Souter has confirmed to CNN he plans to retire from the court after the term recesses in late June. A court spokesperson said tonight the justice would have no comment on the report.
(CNN) - The White House apologized Thursday "if anybody was unduly alarmed" by Vice President Joe Biden's comments that seemed to suggest Americans should avoid air travel or confined spaces of any kind.
"What the vice president meant to say was the same thing that many members have said in the last few days," White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said. "And that is, if you feel sick, are exhibiting flu-like symptoms….that you should take precautions, that you should limit your travel."
In an appearance on NBC's Today Show earlier Thursday, Biden said he had urged his family not to go "anywhere in confined places now."
Related video: Biden flu gaffe off message
"I would not be, at this point, if they had another way of transportation, (be) suggesting they ride the subway. … So from my perspective, what it relates to is mitigation. If you're out in the middle of a field and someone sneezes, that's one thing, if you're in a closed aircraft or closed container or closed car or closed classroom it's a different thing," he said.
(CNN) - A suburban Philadelphia congressman says he has not ruled out a run for the U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania in 2010 - even if that means bucking the Democratic leadership to challenge newly minted Democrat Arlen Specter.
Rep. Joe Sestak, a retired admiral, told CNN that he had paid no mind to the Democratic leadership when he ran for Congress in 2006.
"They said, 'We don't want you in the race,'" Sestak, 57, told CNN's Rick Sanchez. "'We have someone else.' Called me back the next day to say the same thing. I said, 'I wasn't asking. I was informing you.'
"Here's what I believe. The Democratic political establishment in Washington, D.C., can say whatever they want, and we need to listen to it," he said. "But at the end of the day, this decision is going to be made by us, very independent-minded Pennsylvanians. I'm in a district that's 53 percent Republican, 37 percent Democrat. I wouldn't have gotten elected as a Democrat unless they were independent-minded."
WASHINGTON (CNN) – The Obama administration is sending two senior US envoys to Syria next week, another sign of warming ties between the two countries, according to US and Syrian officials briefed on the talks.
Assistant Secretary Jeffrey Feltman, the top State Department official on the Middle East, and National Security Council official Daniel Shapiro will be will be making their second trip to Damascus in less than two months as the United States seeks to upgrade relations with Damascus.
Since his last trip to Damascus in March, Feltman and Imad Moustapha, Syria's ambassador in Washington, have held several meetings aimed at nailing down areas of cooperation. The meetings have suggested the start of more regular contacts between Washington and Damascus through normal diplomatic channels since President Obama took office.
Syrian officials said the meetings in Damascus and Washington have helped the two sides develop common strategies which they now hope to put into action.
US officials briefed on the visit said the talks will focus in part on convincing Syria to seal its border with Iraq. Washington has criticized Damascus for turning a blind eye to foreign fighters traveling through Syria into Iraq.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - The Department of Homeland Security told its immigration enforcement agents Thursday to target employers who hire illegal workers, but also to continue to arrest the illegal immigrants it encounters.
Some Republicans said they see little change in the move.
The call by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to focus enforcement efforts on employers comes after more than a decade of raids against companies that employ large numbers of illegal workers.
"These guidelines reflect a new department-wide focus to target, through criminal prosecution, abusive employers who cultivate illegal workplaces by breaking our country's laws and knowingly hiring illegal workers," said department spokesman Matt Chandler. "At the same time, ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) will continue to arrest and process for removal any illegal workers who are found in the course of these worksite enforcement actions," Chandler said. FULL POST
WASHINGTON (CNN) – Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich opened up another front Thursday in the Republican Party's battle for self-definition and control - and, in process, expressed sympathy for embattled national party chairman Michael Steele.
Reacting to recent reports that some members of the RNC are trying to limit Steele's ability to spend the committee's money without authorization from other party leaders, Gingrich said RNC members "all think they're precious, and they all think they should be taken care of, and they all think the job of the chairman, first of all, is to make the RNC members happy."
Those expectations were part of the reason Gingrich "would not have dreamed" of running for RNC chairman. And Gingrich speculated that Steele "probably has not yet learned the art of massaging the egos of RNC members."
But Gingrich suggested that Steele could still repair his relationship with some members of the national committee. "I hope Steele continues to evolve and grow and learn," the prominent Republican said. "He's had a challenging opening couple of months."
Gingrich's comments come a day after reports that several prominent Republicans including former GOP presidential hopeful Sen. John McCain have formed of a new group designed to revive the GOP's tarnished brand and to counter the Democratic talking point that Republicans have become "the party of no" since President Obama's swearing-in. In a series of town-hall-style events, the group, The New Council for a New America, plans to use the lens of core Republican principles to engage the public in a discussion about many of the challenges the country is facing. The first event is planned for Saturday in Northern Virginia.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - A government official who traveled to Mexico City to support the delegation accompanying President Barack Obama later came down with flu-like symptoms, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Thursday.
Testing is underway to determine if the individual - an Energy Department staffer - contracted the swine flu virus.
The H1N1 virus outbreak originated in Mexico.
The unnamed individual has since recovered.
Gates told a Senate panel that a military option would only delay Iran's nuclear ambitions and drive the program further underground, making it more difficult to monitor, he said.
He said the better option would be for the United States and its allies to convince Iran that building a nuclear program would start an arms race that would leave the country less secure.
"Their security interests are actually badly served by trying to have nuclear weapons," Gates said. "They will start a nuclear arms race in the Middle East and they will be less secure at the end than they are now."
Gates was joined by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in an appearance before the Senate Appropriations Committee to discuss the 2009 supplemental request.
Clinton and Gates told the panel the United States and its allies should pressure Iran with tougher sanctions.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - The Senate voted 51-45 Thursday against legislation that would have allowed bankruptcy judges to rewrite mortgage terms for struggling borrowers before they faced foreclosure - the so-called mortgage "cram-down" bill.
President Obama had called for the measure's passage because of the help it would have given hundreds of thousands of homeowners who cannot get better terms from banks.