Washington (CNN) - After President Barack Obama's doctor gave him a "clean bill of health" over the weekend - with a recommendation to lower his cholesterol and continue to try to quit smoking - the White House was flooded Monday with questions about the president's habits and health.
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs blamed Obama's elevated cholesterol level on a less-than-ideal diet he ate during the course of the campaign.
"I think he would be also the first to tell you that he has probably had a few more cheeseburgers and I think he would admittedly tell you he's had more desserts in the last year than I've seen him eat prior to this," Gibbs said.
He also said, now as president, Obama enjoys a White House kitchen and chef, completely at his disposal.
"I think most people will tell you that if it's available you're more likely to eat it. And I think he's had more access to sweets and desserts in the past year than he - look, those guys make good desserts over there and I think he's on more than one occasion sampled more than he needed to," Gibbs said.
The president's eating habits are not as healthy as people believe, Gibbs said.
(CNN) - Former Democratic congressman Harold Ford, Jr. has decided to pass on a bid to unseat Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-New York.
Gillibrand was appointed last year by New York Gov. David Paterson to replace Hillary Clinton, who stepped down to become secretary of state. The Democratic establishment has lined up behind Gillibrand, effectively clearing the field of any primary challengers who might have been thinking about taking on the freshman senator.
But Ford recently emerged as a possible challenger to Gillibrand, who previously represented a congressional district in upstate New York.
The Tennessee Democrat, who moved to New York City in 2006 after losing a Senate race against Bob Corker, explained his decision not to mount a primary challenge to Gillibrand in an op-ed published on the New York Times Web site Monday.
New York (CNNMoney.com) - Democratic Senators Monday unveiled a $150 billion bill that pushes back the deadline to file for unemployment insurance until year-end and extends dozens of expiring corporate and personal tax credits.
The wide-ranging legislation, which could be voted on as soon as this week, would allow the jobless to apply for extended federal unemployment benefits and the COBRA health insurance subsidy through Dec. 31. It would also make the prevision retroactive to March 1, so the unemployed would not miss any payments.
Federal unemployment benefits kick in after the basic state-funded 26 weeks of coverage expire. These federal benefits, worth up to 73 weeks, are divided into tiers, and the jobless must apply each time they move into a new tier.
But last week the Senate failed to pass a 30-day extension of the filing deadline, which expired on Feb. 28, because one Republican Senator objected. As a result, more than a million people are set to lose their federal unemployment benefits this month.
Full story from CNNMoney.com
Washington (CNN) - An angry Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Kentucky, refused to answer questions from CNN and ABC News Monday afternoon about his decision to block a bill that would extend unemployment benefits to millions of jobless Americans. An ABC News producer who was there says Bunning gave him the middle finger in response to a question.
CNN's Dana Bash and a CNN camera crew tried to get Bunning to comment more extensively on the controversy on Monday. But the senator "got very angry," she said.
"Excuse me," the agitated senator told Bash while entering a Senate elevator. "I need to get to the (Senate) floor."
Moments earlier, and ABC News reporter and crew also attempted to question Bunning as he was getting on the Senate elevator.
A posting on the ABC News website details the exchange: "Excuse me! This is a Senator's only elevator!" Bunning responded as he was asked a question by ABC's Jonathan Karl.
"Excuse me!" Bunning yelled. "I've got to go to the floor!"
ABC News producer Z. Bryon Wolf spotted Bunning as he exited his office. When Wolf asked Bunning to stay and talk to cameras, Wolf says Bunning walked away and shot his middle finger over his head.
CNN reached out to Bunning’s office for comment. A spokesman for the senator said "I don't have any comment," when asked about the obscene gesture.
Los Angeles (CNN) - Steve Poizner officially threw his hat into the ring Monday in the race to be California's next governor. The Republican, who is currently the state's insurance commissioner, filed papers in Santa Clara declaring his candidacy.
"I want to deploy a series of smart, common sense, conservative solutions that will get this great state back on track," Poizer said the written statement announcing his candidacy. "My campaign is about cutting taxes across-the-board to bring jobs back to California."
Poizner is running against another former Silicon Valley executive, ex-eBay CEO Meg Whitman. Poizner sold his Internet start-up company SnapTrak to technology and communications behemoth Qualcomm prior to entering politics.
Whitman, who announced her candidacy for governor six months ago, has opened up a substantial lead over Poizner. A Field Poll conducted January 5-17 found Whitman leading Poizner by twenty-eight points, 45% to 17%, with 38% of likely voters in the GOP primary undecided.
Democrat Edmund G. "Jerry" Brown is expected to announce Tuesday that he's also launching a gubernatorial bid. Brown previously served two terms as the state's governor and is now California's attorney general.
Washington (CNN) - While Democrats have recently threatened to use a parliamentary procedure to pass the health care reform bill, it is unclear whether their caucus will even have enough votes to take the first step.
Congressional negotiators have been working toward melding both chambers' bills - which passed last year - so the legislation can move forward. It stalled when Democrats lost their supermajority in the Senate with the upset victory of Republican Scott Brown in the Massachusetts special election.
Democrats have been weighing the use of budgetary reconciliation. It's a parliamentary procedure that allows a measure to pass on a simple majority vote of 51, rather than the 60 needed to break a filibuster.
But Republicans have warned that use of the procedure or any other tactics to get health care reform passed will have consequences for Democrats come November. Fearing a backlash over using reconciliation, Democratic leaders and the White House have noted Republicans used reconciliation many times for their legislation.
Democrats, meanwhile, are pushing forward - but running into some hurdles.
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Washington (CNN) - President Barack Obama is likely to lay out a political road map Wednesday for passage of sweeping health care legislation, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Monday.
Gibbs said the president will talk about "the way forward" to pass a bill. Among other things, Obama is expected to advocate for an "up or down vote" in Congress if necessary, Gibbs added.
Multiple Democratic sources have told CNN that the emerging consensus plan is for the House of Representatives to pass the Senate bill and send it to Obama. A package of changes that mirror the president's plan would then be passed through both chambers under reconciliation rules, which require only 51 votes in the Senate.
Democrats lost their 60-vote, filibuster-proof Senate majority in January, when GOP Sen. Scott Brown won the Massachusetts Senate seat previously held by the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, a Democrat.
Observers note, however, that it remains unclear exactly which health care provisions can be approved under reconciliation, which is reserved for legislation pertaining to the budget. Republicans have angrily criticized the Democrats' potential use of reconciliation, arguing that the maneuver was never intended to be used for major policy overhauls along the lines of the health care bill.
Obama's mid-week remarks will also deal with the "substance" of health care reform, Gibbs added. White House aides say the president's speech will largely mirror the nearly $1 trillion compromise package Obama laid out one week ago. It may, however, be scaled back in some aspects, they added.
(CNN) - California Attorney General Jerry Brown plans to announce Tuesday that he's entering the race to be his state's next governor, three sources confirm to CNN.
If elected, this would be the second time around for Brown, who served two terms as California Governor from 1975-1983. Already Brown has amassed at least a $12 million dollar war chest and he has attracted the support of big Hollywood kingmakers; David Geffen, Jeffrey Katzenberg and Steven Spielberg are among those who have publicly endorsed him. So far no other big name Democrats are in the race; San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, once presumed to be Brown's fiercest primary opponent, dropped out of the contest last October.
The most recent surveys of California voters, conducted in mid-January by the Public Policy Institute and the Field Poll, indicate Brown leading the top Republican candidates – besting Meg Whitman by 5 to 10 points; and topping State Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner by 15 to 17 points.
One top Democratic donor who was torn between backing Brown and former eBay CEO Whitman tells CNN," this is not the time in California's history to have someone who has never served in Government deal with our problems." This would be Whitman's first time in public office; both she and Poinzer are pouring tens of millions of dollars from their own fortunes into their races.
Washington (CNN) - There's a lot of talk in nation's capital about failure. The failure of Congress to pass health care reform. The failure of the Senate to extend unemployment benefits. The failure of the House to pass bills the Senate supermajority will find palatable.
You get the idea.
Then there's the kind of failure that House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer addressed Monday at a Brookings Institution speech on "fiscal responsibility."
Hoyer, a Maryland Democrat serving his 15th term, was warning about failure of a different magnitude entirely: The decline of America's economic dominance because of the growing weight of its debt.
"This, then, is our turning point and our choice: the point at which we join the debt-ridden powers who saw the story of their greatness end in fiscal ruin, or the point at which we as a nation refuse that ending and write a new chapter," Hoyer said.