Washington (CNN) - President Barack Obama said Wednesday he wants Congress to work on comprehensive immigration reform this year because that would be the best way to fix the nation's broken immigration system.
Speaking at a Cinco de Mayo celebration at the White House, Obama again criticized the recently enacted Arizona immigration law as the wrong approach.
"The answer isn't to undermine fundamental principles that define us as a nation," Obama said to applause. He called instead for "common-sense comprehensive immigration reform."
Obama said Congress should begin work now on the issue, in an apparent effort to clarify his comment last week that the political climate might be too difficult to take up immigration reform.
"I was pleased to see a strong proposal for comprehensive reform presented in the Senate last week, and I was pleased it was based on a bipiartsan framework," Obama said. "I want to begin work this year. And I want Democrats and Republicans to work with me."
Washington (CNN) - Just how bad is the political environment for incumbents?
Even the GOP Senator in charge of electing Republicans to the U.S. Senate admitted to CNN he's glad he's not on the ballot.
"Thank goodness I'm not running this time," said Senator John Cornyn, R-Texas, Chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
Cornyn was responding to a question about dim prospects for his colleague from Utah, Sen. Robert Bennett, a third-term incumbent who could lose his place on Utah's ballot as GOP candidate for re-election.
Utah Republicans will vote at their convention this weekend, and many conservatives are angry about some of Bennett's positions and votes in Washington, such as his support for the bank bailout in 2008.
Washington (CNN) - Three members of the Republican National Committee's communications team are leaving the party organization, an RNC official told CNN Wednesday.
Director of Media Affairs LeRoy Coleman, Director of Surrogates Amber Lyons and Southwest Regional Press Secretary Sara Sendek are moving on to other political jobs.
Coleman is signing on with the Oregon gubernatorial campaign of former NBA player Chris Dudley. Sendek will become press secretary for Rep. Pete Hoekstra's gubernatorial bid in Michigan. Lyons is taking a job with the DCI Group, a global public affairs firm based in Washington.
The official stressed that the departures had nothing to do with the turmoil that has rocked the RNC in recent months. Several top officials were either fired or quit the committee last month in the wake of a spending scandal involving a risqué nightclub.
"It's no surprise that as we gear up into the political season that the national committee is seen as fertile ground to find seasoned professionals to help win campaigns," the official said. "This is what happens when you have great staff and we are excited for their new opportunities. We look forward to continuing to work with them to achieve victory in November."
Washington (CNN) - Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid lobbed an unusual accusation at his Republicans colleagues Wednesday, saying they are looking for a way to "continue making love to Wall Street."
"Republicans are having difficulty determining how they are going to continue making love to Wall Street," Reid said at a news conference, before adding that "It's obvious that they don't want to put any decent restrictions on what Wall Street has done or are doing."
While Democrats and Republicans have accused each other of being to cozy with Wall Street, Reid's remarks went a step too far for the GOP.
Washington (CNN) - As petroleum giant BP comes under congressional scrutiny as its ruptured oil rig pumps thousands of barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, its political contributions are being scrutinized, too.
The top recipient of BP-related donations during the 2008 presidential election was Barack Obama, who collected $71,000, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.
When questioned about the donations Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs made a point of noting that the money came from employees and not the company itself.
White House spokesman Ben LaBolt added that Obama wasn't tied to big oil companies.
Washington (CNNMoney.com) - Top senators on the banking panel released the details of a bipartisan deal on how to unwind big financial firms that are considered too big to fail.
Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., said he's finished making changes to an amendment to the Wall Street reform bill that concerned Republicans like Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala.
Dodd and Shelby reached an agreement in principle last week, and now the Senate will vote on this amendment later this afternoon.
Among the more significant changes, Democrats are officially dropping the tax on banks that would have funded a $50 billion pot of money that regulators could tap to help take down failing banks. Now the bill stipulates that banks will be taxed to pay unwinding banks after a collapse.
Full story on CNNMoney.com
Washington (CNN) - The New Hampshire Republican hoping to keep an open Senate seat in GOP hands released her first campaign ad on Wednesday.
Former Attorney General of New Hampshire Kelly Ayotte, the first female to hold that post, uses the ad to tout her record in law enforcement.
"As Attorney General, I made tough decisions that put murderers behind bars and held corrupt public officials accountable," Ayotte says in the ad. "And I'll make tough decisions in Washington with common sense spending cuts that make government work for us again."
In the ad's opening lines, Ayotte portrays herself as a Washington outsider, saying "400 million an hour. Every single hour, of every single day. That's what Washington is spending."
Washington (CNN) – South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint announced his support for Rand Paul Wednesday in the Kentucky Republican Senate primary, the latest endorsement that has put DeMint at odds with GOP leaders.
DeMint's backing of Paul stands in disagreement with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's endorsement of Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson, who is Paul's main competition to be the GOP nominee for the November election. McConnell is the senior senator from Kentucky. Paul is the son of Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, and is one of several Republicans seeking his party's nomination.
DeMint acknowledged that he and McConnell are backing different candidates in this intraparty battle, but emphasized that he continues to support McConnell as the top Republican in the Senate.
"Senator McConnell and I are on different sides in this race but I support him as our leader," DeMint said in a statement issued by his Senate Conservatives Fund political action committee.
Washington (CNN) - President Barack Obama signed a $3.6 billion bill Wednesday significantly boosting federal support for disabled military veterans and their caregivers.
Among other things, the new law expands resources available for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans' mental health counseling, provides expanded access to hospitals and clinics outside of the traditional Veterans Affairs system, and provides stronger transportation and housing assistance for homeless veterans and retired military service members living in rural areas.
The measure, which directs the Department of Veterans Affairs to designate a primary personal care attendant for each eligible veteran, also expands veterans' maternity care while offering greater counseling, training and financial aid for family caregivers.
The country's veterans are "the very embodiment of service and patriotism," Obama said. "Our obligations to our troops don't end on the battlefield. ... We have a responsibility to take care of them when they come home."
Both the House and the Senate passed the measure by overwhelming margins.