(CNN) – The bipartisan leaders of the two Senate Committees in charge of writing a health care reform bill met Thursday afternoon to begin tackling what they said are the more difficult and complicated issues.
After the meeting the four leaders – Sen. Max Baucus, D-Montana, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Connecticut, in place of the ailing Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Massachusetts, and Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyoming – reported they are holding constructive talks but acknowledged steep differences remain between the Democrats and Republicans on the panels, particularly on the issue of a government-sponsored insurance option.
Despite the differences, both Baucus and Dodd expressed optimism a bill could be passed by the fall.
Republicans were less positive.
“We’re finding this to be a very formidable task and that there are a lot of things that have to be resolved,” Enzi said.
(CNN) – Alaska governor Sarah Palin let loose Wednesday on the Obama administration for enacting fiscal policies that "fly in the face of principles" and "defy Economics 101."
In a speech introducing Michael Reagan - the son of former President Ronald Reagan - to an audience in Anchorage, Palin warned that the government is planning to "bail out debt ridden states" so it can "get in there and control the people."
"Since when can you get out of huge national debt by creating trillions of dollars of new debt?" Palin asked. "It all really is so backwards and skewed as to sound like absolute nonsense when some of this economic policy is explained."
"We need to be aware of the creation of a fearful population, and fearful lawmakers, being led to believe that big government is the answer, to bail out the private sector, because then government gets to get in there and control it," she said. "And mark my words, this is going to be next, I fear, bail out next debt-ridden states. Then government gets to get in there and control the people."
"Some in Washington would approach our economic woes in ways that absolutely defy Economics 101, and they fly in the face of principles, providing opportunity for industrious Americans to succeed or to fail on their own accord," she said. "Those principles it makes you wonder what the heck some in Washington are trying to accomplish here."
Though the bulk of her remarks focused on government encroachment into the private sector, and praise for former President Reagan's views on limited government, the former vice presidential candidate briefly touched on national security. She told the crowd that "the terrorists are still dead set against us" and that her son Track is still deployed in Iraq.
(CNN) – Reacting to the South Carolina Supreme Court's ruling that he must take $700 million in federal stimulus funds dedicated to education, Gov. Mark Sanford said Thursday he will abide by the court's decision and sign paperwork requesting the money on Monday.
But Sanford, a possible 2012 presidential candidate, also called the ruling "terribly flawed" and said the decision reinforced his long-held belief that South Carolina's political system places too much authority in the hands of the state legislature.
"We have a fundamentally flawed governmental structure that impedes and hurts progress in the state of South Carolina, and by extension impedes and hurts the quality of peoples' lives in South Carolina," he said at a press conference in Columbia.
Pointing to California as an example of "an absolute disaster case when it comes to fiscal stewardship," Sanford lamented that his state missed a chance to show other states "a different way than simply taking this money and spending it."
Still, he called the prolonged fight over the money an "incredibly important debate" over the balance of power and taxpayer rights.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - President Obama's speech to the Muslim world on Thursday faced mixed reaction abroad - and a very clear directive at home from Republicans and conservatives: The United States cannot ruin its relationship with Israel.
Speaking in Cairo, Egypt, the president took on the heated and controversial Palestinian-Israeli conflict by endorsing a two-state solution and urging compromise between "two peoples with legitimate aspirations."
The United States, he said, "does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements."
Those Jewish settlements are spread throughout the Palestinian-controlled West Bank. Israel maintains the settlements are needed, while Palestinians say they are an obstacle to the peace process.
Calling America's "strong bond" with Israel "unbreakable," he said, "It is based upon cultural and historical ties and the recognition that the aspiration for a Jewish homeland is rooted in a tragic history that cannot be denied."
House Minority Leader John Boehner on Thursday blasted Obama's approach to the Israeli-Palestinian question.
"He seemed to ... place equal blame on the Israelis and the Palestinians. I have concerns about this," the Ohio Republican said. "The Israelis have the right to defend themselves."
Boehner's Republican colleague, Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana, added that "there was a sense in here of a moral equivalency between those who are driving for a Palestinian state and the state of Israel."
(CNN) – South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford's prolonged campaign to reject $700 million in federal stimulus funds - an effort that earned him praise from some national conservatives but also angered many in his own state - appears to have come to an end.
The South Carolina Supreme Court has ruled that the governor must accept the federal cash designated for education funding.
Sanford, who might run for president in 2012, had resisted taking the money even when the Republican-controlled state legislature passed a budget that included the funds.
The court on Thursday stated that "under South Carolina law, the General Assembly has the sole authority to direct the appropriation of funds and, therefore, is the entity which decides whether the State desires to receive the funds."
Students and education officials in the state filed lawsuits last month demanding that the governor take the money, and Sanford tried to have the lawsuits merged and heard in federal court. On Monday, however, a federal judge rejected that attempt, and said that the South Carolina Supreme Court must decide what to do.
Sanford has scheduled a press conference on the decision this afternoon. He said earlier this week that he will not appeal the South Carolina Supreme Court's decision.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - A new poll of Virginia Democrats suggests that there's no front runner in the three-way battle for the state's gubernatorial nomination.
The Suffolk University survey's Thursday release comes just five days before the state's Democratic primary.
The poll indicates that 29 percent of likely Democratic primary voters support state senator Creigh Deeds, with 26 percent backing former
Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe and 23 percent supporting former house delegate Brian Moran.
Taking into account the survey's 4.4 percent sampling error, the contest is statistically a dead heat. And to make matters even more unpredictable, 22 percent of Virginians questioned in the poll said they were still undecided at this late date.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – President Obama will be joined by the first lady and the couple's two daughters in Paris Friday as he winds down his latest overseas trip.
While the president will return to Washington Sunday, 10-year-old Malia and 7-year-old Sasha will stay in France with their mother for a few days next week, CNN has confirmed.
The first lady will have a public event in Normandy, France on Saturday.
The rest of the first family's itinerary while sightseeing in France will be private, according to the first lady's office.
(CNN)–House Republican leader John Boehner on Thursday praised the tone of President Obama's address in Cairo but slammed the president's remarks on Israel and Palestine, and on engagement with Iran.
"I think the president delivered a thoughtful and optimistic speech, but I do have some concerns about some things that were mentioned in the speech," he said.
Boehner said he was concerned the president seemed to "place equal blame on the Israelis and the Palestinians."
"The Israelis have the right to defend themselves," he said "....Because Hamas is a terrorist organization, they have been funded by the Syrians and the Iranians, and I just don't think the Israelis deserve to be put into the same playpen with terrorists."
WASHINGTON (CNN) – A lengthy questionnaire filled out by Judge Sonia Sotomayor was delivered to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday in preparation for Sotomayor's expected U.S. Supreme Court confirmation hearing this summer.
The questionnaire, required of all federal judicial nominees, covers a range of topics, including a summary of an individual's net worth and legal career.
See the completed questionnaire here and here.
Sotomayor currently has assets worth a total of almost $1.16 million, including a home valued at almost $1 million, according to her responses, which were posted online by the Judiciary Committee.
Her financial liabilities total almost $420,000, including a mortgage totaling slightly less than $382,000, she wrote.