(CNN) – President Barack Obama said Wednesday he wants to get an immigration reform package passed as soon as this summer.
"I'm hopeful that this can get done, and I don't think that it should take many, many months," Obama said in an interview with the Spanish-language network Telemundo. "I think this is something we should be able to get done certainly this year, and I'd like to see if we could get it done sooner, in the first half of the year if possible."
Washington (CNN) - Sen. Robert Menendez's office issued a statement Wednesday saying he had traveled several times on a plane belonging to a Florida eye doctor who had given political donations to Menendez but that all the trips were "paid for and reported appropriately." The office also denied allegations the New Jersey Democrat had engaged the services of prostitutes.
The statement was issued after FBI agents searched the West Palm Beach office of the ophthalmologist, Dr. Salomon Melgen. Investigators were seen carrying out boxes during the search, which began Tuesday night and continued into Wednesday. An FBI spokesman in Florida confirmed there was "law enforcement activity" at the location where the search occurred but did not mention Melgen or anyone else and did not explain what agents were investigating.
(CNN) – When former Sen. Chuck Hagel appears before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday, don’t expect him to dwell on controversial statements from his past. Instead, allies say, he’ll focus on the present.
He will testify that if confirmed to be the next Secretary of Defense, he will be fully supportive of the president’s policies, including a preference for diplomacy but a willingness to use force, an Obama administration official working on the senator’s confirmation hearing told CNN.
(CNN) - Just over a year after Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney battled in the first primaries for the GOP presidential nomination, the former House speaker on Wednesday blasted his ex-political foe for advocating an immigration policy of “self-deportation” during the campaign.
“I said we're not going to deport grandmothers who've been here for 25 years. Romney came and said, ‘Well they'll self-deport,’” Gingrich said on CNN’s “The Situation Room.”
“That is the most anti-human phrase you can imagine,” said the Georgian.
(CNN) - President Barack Obama will take his gun violence platform on the road with a stop in Minnesota next week, a White House official told CNN.
The president will meet with locals, area officials and law enforcement in Minneapolis to discuss his proposals, which he laid out two weeks ago after Vice President Joe Biden and other administration officials held a series of meetings with stakeholders at various points on the gun control and rights spectrum.
Washington (CNN) – With controversial Defense Secretary nominee Chuck Hagel set to face harsh questioning in his confirmation hearing Thursday, Vice President Joe Biden is defending the administration's new foreign policy team against GOP charges that it will be too reluctant to use force–as will the president.
"Where have they (the critics) been for four years?" responded Biden in a recent exclusive interview with CNN Chief Political Analyst Gloria Borger. "The real President Obama has exercised force responsibly as boldly and as bravely as any president in American history. This is the guy who's not backed away. And he's also ended wars that almost every military man out there will tell you we should not be engaged in again."
CNN's GUT CHECK | for January 30, 2013 | 5 p.m.
– n. a pause to assess the state, progress or condition of the political news cycle
HISTORY MAKING: Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick added another page to the nation’s history book Wednesday by naming William “Mo” Cowan to temporarily fill Sen. John Kerry’s seat until Bay State voters choose a successor in June. Cowan, a Democrat, will be the eighth African-American to serve in the Senate. This will also be the first time two African-Americans have served together in the chamber – Sen. Tim Scott, R-South Carolina, was appointed earlier this year to fill the remainder of Sen. Jim DeMint’s term.
Massachusetts Special Election: On the Democratic side: Rep. Ed Markey is in and Rep. Stephen Lynch is expected to announce his candidacy tomorrow. As for a Republican candidate, we wait to hear what former Sen. Scott Brown decides. A source close to Brown tells Gut Check: “He is still undecided. But he knows that he has got to make a decision quickly.”
GOING VIRAL: GUN DEBATE HITTING GRASSROOTS… On one side, a note and a surprise visit from former Rep. Gaby Giffords at Wednesday’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on guns. Meanwhile, the National Rifle Association tells CNN that the organization has gained about a half million members since the Newtown, CT shooting. The NRA now has more than 4.5 million members nationwide – a record for the association.
(CNN) – While speaking in an interview with CNN en Español, Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida appeared to sharpen his rhetoric Tuesday against President Barack Obama in this week's immigration debate.
His remarks were made in a Spanish-language interview with CNN en Español's Anchor/Senior Correspondent Juan Carlos Lopez. Translated into English, the junior senator argued that if Obama "has decided to use this as an opportunity to move (immigration reform) to the left–let's say, to be more flexible–well then he is hurting this effort."
(CNN) - Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan will swear in John Kerry as secretary of state on Friday afternoon, state department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Wednesday.
"He knew her well from the Clinton White House and from Massachusetts," Nuland said.