Washington (CNN) - Frustrated Democrats plan to go to the Senate floor Friday to seek Republican approval of 53 administration nominees they say are currently blocked by the secret holds placed by GOP senators.
"If there is a legitimate complaint or grievance against any nominee, I think any senator has a right to be heard and appeal to the body for a vote," said Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the number two Democrat. "But secret holds, I think, have become a reprehensible part of the process here and need to end."
Democrats are especially upset because they think Republicans are getting around a Senate rule adopted three years ago that requires senators to make public their holds once they've had them in place for six legislative days.
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-Rhode Island, called the practice "hold-laundering," which is when senators pass a secret hold off to one another before hitting the six-day trigger for making their names public and thereby keep a hold in place indefinitely.
Republicans don't deny using the method but argue it's allowed by Senate rules which could be changed if Democrats want.
"If they think the rule needs to be tightened up they can offer to change the rule," suggested a GOP leadership aide.
New York (CNNMoney.com) – House lawmakers on Thursday approved a $6 billion measure that aims to provide rebates to homeowners who invest in energy efficiency improvements - but not without a fight from Republicans.
The bill, officially known as the Home Star Energy Retrofit Act but better known as "cash for caulkers," has been touted by President Obama since February as one of the signature pieces of his administration's larger job-creation strategy.
The act "is a common-sense bill that will create jobs, save consumers money, and strengthen our economy," President Obama said after the House passed the measure. "We have workers eager to do new installations and renovations, and factories ready to produce new energy-efficient building supplies."
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, estimates that the legislation will create nearly 168,000 jobs in construction, manufacturing, and retail.
Washington (CNN) – A bipartisan group of legislators on Thursday introduced legislation in Congress to strip citizenship from any American found to be involved in terrorism.
If the Terrorist Expatriation Act passes, an American could lose citizenship if the State Department found that person had provided material support or resources to a foreign terrorist organization - as designated by the secretary of state - or participated in actions against the United States.
Sens. Joe Lieberman, I-Connecticut, and Scott Brown, R-Massachusetts, co-sponsored the bill. An identical bill is being introduced in the House by Reps. Jason Altmire, D-Pennsylvania, and Charlie Dent, R-Pennsylvania.
"As the attempted terrorist attack on Times Square showed us again, our enemies today are even more willing than the Nazis or fascists were to kill innocent civilian Americans," Lieberman, chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, told reporters. "Our enemies today are stateless actors who don't wear uniforms and plot against Americans abroad and here in the United States."
Washington (CNN) – Sen. Bob Bennett, R-Utah, told CNN Thursday that he is working hard to overcome the anti-Washington, anti-incumbent political mood gripping the nation as the midterm election approaches.
The Republican senator faces his first re-election challenge on Saturday, when he must finish first or second in the balloting at the state GOP convention in order to get a spot on the primary ballot.
"Why is your party so restless? What is in the water?," CNN Chief National Correspondent John King asked Bennett in an interview that will Thursday on CNN's "John King, USA."
"Well there's a great anger about Washington," Bennett said. "A lot of people say, 'We hate what's going on, we hate everybody who's there.' And in Utah, the only 'anybody' they can vote, vote against who happens to be there turns out to be me. I keep telling them: I'm not part of the problem. I'm part of the solution, and we'll see at the convention whether I can make that sale."
"But is that anger out there so palpable that maybe there's nothing you can do?," King asked.
"Well I think there is something I can do," the senator responded. "The anger is palpable. The anger's very strong and that's why I am in trouble. But if I meet with the [convention] delegates, if I spend time with them going through the facts, I find I can turn them around."
Washington (CNN) - It's not often that one of President Obama's major backers expresses support for him, but openly works against a candidate he is backing. But that is what's happening in the Arkansas Democratic Senate primary.
The Service Employees International Union released a new television ad on Thursday, complimenting a radio spot put out on Wednesday, that call for Sen. Blanche Lincoln's defeat. Earlier in the week, the Lincoln campaign released a radio ad featuring Obama.
Lincoln, seeking a third term, is running against Lt. Gov. Bill Halter in the primary.
The SEIU, a strong supporter of the president, is delicately using political strategy to make its case, essentially telling Democrats who like the president that they can still defy his wishes in this primary.
(CNN) - Regarding Arizona's new immigration law, a leader of a Hispanic advocacy group said Thursday that the law "is so unjust, and it's so beyond the pale," that a boycott of Arizona is needed.
Clarissa Martinez of the National Council of La Raza explains why with CNN Radio's Bob Costantini
Listen to Costantini's report:
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New York (CNNMoney.com) – The Obama administration took the first concrete steps Thursday to make good on its pledge to halt new offshore drilling projects, suspending the approval process for new wells off of the Virginia coast.
The Minerals Management Service, part of the Interior Department and the agency charged with issuing new drilling leases, had scheduled three public hearings in Virginia this month to solicit public comment about new wells off of the state's coast.
The agency said on Thursday that these meetings are now suspended indefinitely, pending a government safety review of offshore drilling.
The process was halted "so that information from the ongoing review of outer continental shelf safety issues that the President has directed can be appropriately considered in those meetings," according to an MMS statement.
Washington (CNN) - President Obama will travel to Buffalo, New York, next Thursday to discuss the economy.
Obama has taken several trips in recent weeks as part of his "White House to Main Street" tour. Most recently he traveled to Iowa, Illinois, and Missouri during a multi-stop trip.
Buffalo suffers from one of the country's highest poverty rates with nearly 30% of its population living at or below the poverty line. The city has struggled in recent decades with the loss of industrial employers like steel and auto-related manufacturers, but has weathered the most recent recession a little better than the national average. The unemployment rate in Buffalo currently stands at 8.6 percent while the national average is 9.7 percent.
Washington (CNN) – Sarah Palin broke ranks with the conservative movement on Thursday and endorsed former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina in California's Republican Senate primary, prompting a flurry of criticism from many of her loyal supporters.
After Palin announced the endorsement on her Facebook page, a number of her followers questioned why she would side with Fiorina instead of the more conservative candidate in the race, Assemblyman Chuck DeVore.
DeVore has the backing of several leading voices in the conservative movement, including Sen. Jim DeMint, RedState.com editor Erick Erickson and the Tea Party Express.
Though a handful of readers agreed with Palin's decision, most were upset.
"This is very, very disappointing," Rick Sheridan, one of her supporters, posted on Palin's page. "Sarah, you've got to be more careful. This woman does not represent conservative values. And the choice is so clear. Serious damage to your base here."
Washington (CNN) - California politicos just can't seem to get their fill of mutton.
Following in the footsteps of Republican Carly Fiorina's Senate campaign, the California Democratic Party and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee have released a "demon sheep" Web video of their own.
In February, Fiorina released a quirky Web video accusing fellow Republican Rep. Tom Campbell of being a fiscal liberal – a jab that took the form of an ominous three-minute clip depicting gathering storm clouds and evil-looking livestock.
Fast forward three months and the tables have turned on Fiorina with the release of "Demon Sheep II," a faux movie trailer complete with plenty of red-eyed sheep and a narrator that says in a booming voice: "Carly has been very, very B-A-A-A-A-A-A-D."
The video, subtitled "The Fleecing of California," mainly targets Fiorina, but also mentions her fellow Republican candidates Tom Campbell and Chuck DeVore.