WASHINGTON (CNN) - The White House said Wednesday President Barack Obama doesn't believe that he's being attacked by critics because of his race.
"The president does not believe that that criticism comes based on the color of his skin," White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters.
"We understand that people have disagreements with some of the decisions that we've made and some of the extraordinary actions that had to be undertaken by both this administration and previous administrations to stabilize our financial system, to ensure viability of our domestic auto industry. I don't think that – the president does not believe that it's based on the color of his skin."
The issue was raised Tuesday by former President Jimmy Carter, who said racial politics played a role in some of the opposition Obama has faced since taking office. Carter also said that race was a factor in South Carolina Rep. Joe Wilson's outburst last week during the president's address to a joint session of Congress.
–CNN Deputy Political Director Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report
WASHINGTON (CNN) - A House ethics panel says it is investigating allegations against three representatives including Jesse Jackson Jr., who allegedly launched a "public campaign" to be appointed to President Barack Obama's former Senate seat.
The preliminary investigation into Jackson's activities by the Office of Congressional Ethics became known in April. At the time, Jackson, an Illinois Democrat, issued a statement saying he was cooperating and was "eager to answer any questions and provide any information to the OCE about my actions related to last year's vacant Senate seat."
The House ethics panel, the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, said in a statement Tuesday it had received a referral on the matter from the ethics office.
Transcripts of recordings from former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich "contain statements that an 'emissary' from Representative Jackson had offered to raise money for Blagojevich and provide 'money up-front' if Blagojevich nominated Representative Jackson to the (U.S.) Senate seat vacated by President Obama," the ethics office report says. "If this 'emissary' acted either at the direction of Representative Jackson or with his knowledge and acquiescence, Representative Jackson may have violated federal law and House rules."
The main points include:
· $856 billion over 10 years and mandatory insurance coverage for every American by 2013.
· Baucus claims the bill would not add to the federal deficit.
· The plan is financed by more than $500 billion in various spending reductions, including Medicare, while calling for almost $350 billion in new taxes and fees.
· Insurers would be hit with $6 billion in new fees, with another $4 billion coming from the medical device manufacturing sector.
· Smaller sums would come from drug makers and clinical laboratories.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - The Senate voted Wednesday to prohibit federal funding for Amtrak unless it allows licensed gun owners to transport their weapons on the passenger trains by next year.
The measure, an amendment to the Transportation and Housing Appropriations bill, passed 68-30.
The House passed its version of that appropriations bill in July. It did not include a provision to allow guns on Amtrak.
The Senate legislation says Amtrak would lose federal subsidies if it prohibits passengers from bringing their guns on board under security
restrictions similar to those imposed on airlines.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney has planned a flurry of appearances in the Washington area this weekend, an indicator of the kind of hectic schedule he's been keeping as he looks ahead to a possible presidential bid in 2012.
His D.C. itinerary will be dominated by fundraisers, but Romney has planned a pair of high-profile speeches to conservative groups that are sure to draw attention: On Saturday he is slated to address the Values Voters Summit, and on Monday he'll deliver remarks to a luncheon at the Foreign Policy Initiative, a neoconservative think tank founded by William Kristol.
The former Massachusetts governor has four finance events planned - including a Thursday night gathering dubbed "Sundaes with Mitt" that will benefit his own political action committee, Free and Strong America PAC. The confab will held at the Washington home of Charlie Spies, who was Romney's top money man during his presidential bid.
He'll also raise money for three GOP candidates in Virginia. On Friday he's hosting a fundraiser in Alexandria for Virginia Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, now running for re-election. On Sunday, he heads to Great Falls to help former campaign staffer Barbara Comstock, who is seeking a House of Delegates seat in Virginia.
Romney's visit to the area will be capped off on Monday, when he will host a fundraiser for Virginia gubernatorial candidate Bob McDonnell at the American Gas Association, a trade group representing the gas industry. The event is expected to pull in $100,000 for McDonnell.
Romney last raised money for McDonnell in May.
(CNN) - The Republican National Committee is hitting back at former President Jimmy Carter's recent comments stating racial politics has played a role in some of the opposition the president has faced since taking office and in South Carolina Rep. Joe Wilson's outburst during Obama's speech to Congress last week.
"President Carter is flat out wrong. This isn't about race. It is about policy," RNC Chairman Michael Steele said in a statement Wednesday. "This is a pathetic distraction by Democrats to shift attention away from the president's wildly unpopular government-run health care plan that the American people simply oppose."
"Injecting race into the debate over critical issues facing American families doesn't create jobs, reform our health care system or reduce the growing deficit. It only divides Americans rather than uniting us to find solutions to challenges facing our nation," Steele, the RNC's first African-American chairman, also said.
Carter's comments came in an interview with NBC News Tuesday, during which he stated, "I think an overwhelming portion of the intensely demonstrated animosity toward President Barack Obama is based on the fact that he is a black man, that he's African-American."
Carter made similar remarks at an event at his presidential center in Atlanta, Georgia, pointing to some protesters who have compared Obama to a Nazi. "Those kind of things are not just casual outcomes of a sincere debate on whether we should have a national program on health care," the former president said at the Carter Center, according to AP. "It's deeper than that."
Steele said such comments are indicative of Democratic efforts to "disparage all who disagree with them."
"Playing the race card shows that Democrats are willing to deal from the bottom of the deck. Our political system has no place for this type of rhetoric," said Steele.
(Steele will visit The Situation Room Wednesday afternoon at 5 pm ET)
Follow Alex Mooney on Twitter @awmooneycnn
WASHINGTON (CNN) - As the Senate struggles with a second, competing version of health-care reform, a key player in House negotiations says pivotal committee chairmen in that chamber have coalesced around one position for a final House bill.
House Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller, D-California, made the comment to CNN Wednesday, pointing to discussions with Energy and Commerce Chair Henry Waxman, D-California, and Ways and Means Chairman Charlie Rangel, D-New York.
"We've come together around a position we would want to present to the leadership to go through," Miller said.
Unlike a proposal unveiled Wednesday by Sen. Max Baucus, the House version would include a public option - a government agency that would provide health insurance alongside private companies.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - The chairman of the Senate Finance Committee unveiled a summary of his long-awaited health-care plan Wednesday, setting the stage for a legislative showdown on President Barack Obama's top domestic priority.
The bill, crafted by Sen. Max Baucus, D-Montana, would cost $856 billion over 10 years and mandate insurance coverage for every American.
In a written statement, Baucus claimed the bill - released with no Republican support - would not add to the federal deficit.
The measure drops the public-health-insurance option favored by Obama and many Democratic leaders, according to the summary. As expected, the plan instead calls for the creation of non-profit health-care cooperatives.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Pro- wrestling businesswoman Linda McMahon announced Wednesday she would run for Senate in Connecticut next year as a Republican.
McMahon, former CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment, describes herself as a "different kind of candidate" who will run a "different kind of campaign."
"With your help, we are going to change Washington and start making Washington work for ordinary people," she said in a statement posted on her campaign Web site.
She pledged to "help" finance the campaign with the fortune she made from her wrestling empire and limit contributions to $100.
McMahon joins a crowded primary of Republicans hoping to challenge embattled Democratic Sen. Chris Dodd in 2010.
Follow Mark Preston on Twitter @prestoncnn
(CNN) - Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado already has half a dozen Republican candidates who say they'll challenge him next year when he's up for election.
Now, he has a challenger from his own party as well.
Former Colorado House Speaker Andrew Romanoff is expected to officially announce his bid for the Democratic Senate nomination, with a formal announcement scheduled for Pueblo this morning, followed by events later in the day in Colorado Springs and Denver.
Bennet was considered by many to be a surprise choice by Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter to replace Sen. Ken Salazar, who stepped down from his seat in January to serve as President Barack Obama's Interior Secretary. Bennet, who was superintendent of the Denver public school system, will have to defend the seat next year.