WASHINGTON (CNN) - Score a big one for John Cornyn.
The Texas senator and chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee Tuesday reeled in a big catch as popular GOP Florida Gov. Charlie Crist announced he'll forgo a re-election bid and instead run for the seat being vacated by retiring Republican Sen. Mel Martinez.
"The challenges that Florida faces are not just Florida's challenges, they are national issues and as a result of that I believe I can best serve the people of Florida if they're willing to allow me as their next United States Senator," Crist said Tuesday morning.
Minutes after Crist's announcement, Cornyn quickly put out a statement saying "the National Republican Senatorial Committee will provide our full support to ensure that he is elected the next United States Senator from Florida."
About an hour later, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell also backed Crist, yet another sign that national Republicans want to avoid a potentially fractious GOP primary in the Sunshine State.
Crist will face former state House Speaker Marco Rubio in the Republican primary. A Quinnipiac poll released last month indicated Crist commanded a lead over the more conservative and much less-known Rubio in a hypothetical matchup, but there are concerns that a primary battle could turn ugly. Rubio was quick to denounce Crist's entrance into the race Tuesday.
(CNN) - A snake caused trouble in the Missouri State Capitol Tuesday.
That's not a personal attack on a politician or a lobbyist. A real-life snake slithered into underground power cables in downtown Jefferson City, plunging the Capitol Building into darkness right in the middle of the debates in the House and Senate.
The blackout happened during the final week of a contentious legislative session. In the Senate, lawmakers were debating a resolution to block any Guantanamo Bay detainees from being moved to prisons in the state. Representatives in the House were about to vote on an anti-bullying measure.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch political reporter Tony Messenger, who was in the chamber when the lights went out, said the leadership decided they could see, so the sessions continued. With candles burning in hallways and offices, Messenger said it became "a hat tip to the senators who served in the building many, many years ago."
With no power for the automated boards, lawmakers voted the old-fashioned way. Procedures took a long time, Messenger said, as opposed to the instant electronic votes. Since the bells to notify members of votes were inoperable, legislative doormen were sent to bring everyone into the chambers.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Saying public service is near and dear to her heart, first lady Michelle Obama on Tuesday encouraged Americans to lend each other a hand.
Speaking to nearly 200 employees of the Corporation for National and Community Service, she told the story of how she left a job at a high-powered Chicago law firm to found the volunteer group Public Allies in 1993.
"I could have been some rich lawyer somewhere," she joked, "… writing a check here and there to the Obama campaign."
Public Allies was among first recipients of AmeriCorps grants, one of many programs overseen by the Corporation for National and Community Service. The acting CEO of the corporation, Nicola Goren, who introduced the first lady, praised the Obama administration for what she called "skyrocketing" volunteerism and the passage in April of the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act.
The health insurance, drug and hospital industries are promising they can save $2 trillion over the next 10 years to reduce the cost of health care for millions of Americans. Some steps they will take include: Cutting excess administrative costs, making sure patients take the proper medicine, and greater collaboration among providers.
President Obama calls this agreement to work toward affordable and high-quality health care a watershed event; and some experts say it’s unprecedented that the president has been able to keep these interest groups at the table. Especially when you consider some of these groups are the very ones that derailed previous attempts at reform.
One health economist who worked on Clinton’s failed attempt tells the Los Angeles Times that things are different this time. He says in the 1990s, the mood was negative and skeptical; whereas now there’s a real sense of momentum and people don’t want to give up.
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WASHINGTON (CNN) – Americans are "geared up" to reform the country's health insurance system, but no "silver bullet" will resolve the issue, President Barack Obama said Tuesday.
The Obama administration launched a high-profile push toward extending health coverage to more Americans this week. Obama met Tuesday morning with business and union leaders he said have produced "huge reductions" in their insurance costs by emphasizing preventive care and efforts to reduce chronic illness.
"What we've done here today is to gather together some of these stories and best practices and make sure they are going to be informing the health care reform discussions that take place here in Washington," the president told reporters after the session.
"There's no quick fix. There's no silver bullet," Obama added. But if companies could keep more employees covered at less costs, "There's no reason we can't do that for the country as a whole," he said.
Obama campaigned on a promise to push for universal health coverage, using a mixture of government mandates and subsidies and existing private insurers.
"I think the country is geared up, businesses are geared up, families are geared up to go ahead and start solving some of our health care system problems," he said.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - From Middle East peace to partisan politics, May 26 will be a busy one for President Obama.
Obama will start the day in Washington meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to discuss peace in the Middle East, the White House announced Tuesday. As part of Obama's initiative to work on achieving peace in the region, he will also meet with the presidents of Israel and the Palestinian Authority later this month and travel to Egypt at the beginning of June.
Later on May 26, Obama will change gears and jet off to Las Vegas to participate in a star-studded fundraiser at the Colosseum for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, the Nevada senator's press office confirmed Tuesday. Bette Midler and Sheryl Crow are slated to perform.
As president, Obama has helped raise money for Democratic candidates by attending two DNC-sponsored fundraisers in Washington. This is his first appearance at an event for an individual candidate.
TALLAHASSEE, Florida (CNN) – Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, endorsed Florida Gov. Charlie Crist for Senate Tuesday, yet another sign that national Republicans are looking to avoid a GOP primary in the Sunshine State.
Crist announced earlier in the day that he would not seek another term as governor, opting instead for a senatorial bid. National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn immediately announced that he was backing Crist over former state House Speaker Marco Rubio in the GOP primary.
Rubio criticized the NRSC's decision.
Like Cornyn, McConnell said Crist would receive his full support in the Florida governor's bid to keep retiring Sen. Mel Martinez's seat in Republican hands.
"Decisions are being made every day in Washington that have a direct impact upon the lives of all Americans and we need Charlie Crist in the U.S. Senate to ensure that those decisions will benefit the citizens of Florida," McConnell said in a statement released by Crist's campaign.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Although President Obama cut funding for abstinence-only sex education from his new budget, a White House official said Tuesday that some programs could eventually receive government money.
"The President is deeply committed to reducing levels of teen pregnancy and believes that parents, families, communities, and the government must come together to address this issue," a White House official told CNN contributor David Brody. "The budget increases overall funding for teenage pregnancy prevention, which may include education on abstinence, and supports programs based on research."
The official told Brody that 75 percent of funding for teen pregnancy prevention will go towards programs that are proven to lower rates, and that some abstinence-only education could qualify.
The official added that the rest of the funds will be directed to "promising, but not yet proven" programs which have given "some indication" of effectiveness in preventing teen pregnancy. "Those programs would have to agree to participate in a rigorous evaluation, and abstinence-only programs could qualify," said the aide.
The president's budget, unveiled last week, eliminated funding for Community-Based Abstinence Education," but allocated millions of dollars to "community-based and faith-based efforts to reduce teen pregnancy using evidence-based and promising models."
WASHINGTON (CNN) – In an unusual move for the person tasked with being his party's top cheerleader, Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele is shining a light on the political vulnerabilities of one of the GOP's top figures and a likely frontrunner for the 2012 Republican nomination - former presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
Now Romney's team is hitting back.
Steele, guest-hosting on Bill Bennett's radio show Friday, cast doubt on Romney's conservative bona fides and blamed the Republican base for rejecting Romney last year because "it had issues with Mormonism" and was unsure of Romney's commitment to opposing to abortion rights. Those comments aren't sitting too well with Romney's political team.
"Sometimes when you shoot from the hip, you miss the target," said Romney spokesman Eric Ferhnstrom. "This is one of those times."
A Romney aide noted that the former Massachusetts governor won the Conservative Political Action Conference's annual straw poll the past three years, won 11 presidential primaries and caucuses, and earned 4.2 million votes by the time he left the race in February of last year.
(CNN) – Marco Rubio, the former Republican Florida House speaker who is running for Senate, was quick to denounce Gov. Charlie Crist's entrance into the race Tuesday, linking the popular Florida governor to President Obama in a new Web video.
"Some politicians support trillions in reckless spending," the ad's narrator says as a picture of Obama and Crist is shown. "Borrowed money from China and the Middle East, mountains of debt for our children, and a terrible threat to a fragile economy. Today, too many politicians embrace Washington's same old broken ways."
In an e-mail to supporters, Rubio echoed a similar theme.
"I can't stand by and watch President Obama, Democrats, and too many Republicans blow holes in the budget and leave the messy debt to our children and grandchildren," he said in the message sent Tuesday.
Crist, who was formally backed by the National Republican Senatorial Campaign Tuesday, supported President Obama's stimulus package earlier this year - a measure many conservatives opposed.
In a press conference Tuesday, Crist addressed his conservative critics.
Listen: CNN's Mark Preston discusses the Florida Senate race
"I think what's important to bear in mind is that we do things a little bit differently here in Florida and that's another reason that I run for the United States Senate. We work together to solve problems and do what's right for the people of our state," he said. "The people are the boss. And I think, regardless of party, we have to work together to get things done. And that's what I'd like to take to Washington, D.C."