Blog Posts by Liz Goodwin, Yahoo News

  • Obama: I’ll introduce my own immigration bill if Congress doesn’t move

    Undocumented immigrant Katherine Taberes watches Obama's immigration speech from New York. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

    President Barack Obama unveiled his vision for immigration reform in a speech on Tuesday afternoon in Las Vegas, Nev., telling Congress that he will send them his own bill and call for a vote if they don't move fast.

    "If Congress is unable to move forward in a timely fashion, I will send up a bill based on my proposal and insist that they vote on it right away," Obama said to applause from students at Del Sol High School.

    "It looks like there's a genuine desire to get this done soon, and that's very encouraging," Obama said, mentioning a blueprint put forward by a bipartisan group of eight senators on Monday. "But this time action must follow."

    Obama's speech was the latest move in a chess match between the White House and some Republicans in Congress to craft an outline for reform that can both be enacted into law while meeting the expectataions of the growing population of Hispanic voters who now overwhelmingly favor Democrats.

    Some Republicans want to support immigration reform in part to combat the party's demographic challenges, but the more involved the president is with the bill, the politically riskier it becomes to support it.

    In his speech, Obama laid out "markers" for reform, saying any comprehensive immigration bill must give most of the nation's 11 million illegal immigrants a chance to earn their citizenship gradually if they pay a fine, learn English and pass a background check. Immigrants would also have to get to "the back of the line," which means people who have already applied for green cards would have their applications processed first.

    The president's bill would also include an employment verification system, more border security and a revamping of the legal immigration system to provide more visas for top graduates of U.S. universities and to reduce lengthy wait times for visas for relatives of U.S. citizens.

    The president mentioned the blueprint for reform laid out by senators including rising Republican star Marco Rubio of Florida and John McCain of Arizona, Obama's 2008 GOP presidential rival.

    The principles of that outline "are very much in line with the principles I’ve proposed and campaigned on for the last few years," Obama said.

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  • Women in combat: Q&A with a female soldier

    Shannon McLaughlin, left, and a colleague (Massachusetts National Guard)Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced Thursday that the Pentagon is dropping its remaining rules excluding women from ground combat. The decision ends a nearly 20-year ban that kept women from about 230,000 positions.

    Women are already on the front lines—more than 150 have lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan—but are in roles categorized as "combat support." This has led some servicewomen, including a group that filed suit against the military, to argue that they take on similar combat risks as their male peers but are not granted the same recognition for their service.

    The change will most likely allow women to become battlefield medics and take on other dangerous combat jobs, but it's still unclear if the military's elite special operations jobs will be open to them, the Wall Street Journal reported.

    Shannon McLaughlin, a U.S. Army major in the Massachusetts National Guard and a judge advocate general, shares her thoughts on the announcement. She has been in the military for 15 years. (McLaughlin is currently a plaintiff in a suit challenging the federal government's Defense of Marriage Act, which denies military benefits to her spouse because McLaughlin is married to a woman.)

    Q: What do you think of the recent decision by the Pentagon to open up all combat roles to women?

    A: It's a great move. I've been in for 15 years, and that includes the last 10 years that we've been in war, and I think that it will be an opportunity for us to truly reflect what's happening in the field. The reality is that women might be in noncombat or combat-support roles, but they frequently end up in combat, and we've certainly had many women injured and killed in combat. I think it's really in many ways a reflection of reality.

    Q: Were you ever engaged in combat while you were deployed?

    Yes. I've been fired upon. I've fired. I was never injured in the line of duty by enemy engagement or anything like that. But sure, like most people that ended up deployed, we found ourselves in very tough combat-like situations from time to time. We were at a forward operating base and enemy fire was coming in, and we had to take cover and return fire. It was a very short duration, but it was nonetheless very real and very harrowing. (McLaughlin was deployed for Operation Enduring Freedom.)

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  • New York Post says Clinton ‘exploded with rage’ in Benghazi testimony

    Thursday's New York Post cover.

    The New York Post took an interesting approach to Hillary Clinton's congressional testimony on the attack in Benghazi, blasting a photo of the secretary of state with fists clenched alongside a headline that screams, "No Wonder Bill's Afraid."

    We're not sure what former President Bill Clinton has to do with Clinton's testimony, but the Post features his photo in the corner of the arguably sexist cover, as well. His face appears beside the words: "The lady has some temper! Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton came out breathing fire yesterday at a congressional hearing where pols ripped her handling of the Benghazi debacle."

    On Wednesday, Clinton raised her voice and banged her fists against the table for emphasis after Republican Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin questioned her aggressively about the department's actions following the killing of four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens, in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 11, 2012. Republicans have criticized the Obama administration for at first suggesting that the attack could have been borne out of a spontaneous protest sparked by an anti-Islam video.

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  • Conservatives react to Obama inaugural speech

    President Barack Obama waves to the crowd after his speech on Monday. (Scott Andrews-Pool/Getty Images)

    President Barack Obama's inaugural address advanced an unapologetically liberal agenda for his second term, a vision that has raised the ire of some conservatives.

    Obama specifically rebuked conservative arguments against his policies in the speech, rejecting the notion that entitlement programs make America a "nation of takers."

    "The commitments we make to each other—through Medicare, and Medicaid, and Social Security—these things do not sap our initiative; they strengthen us," he said in his address on Monday. "They do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great."

    Sen. John McCain, who unsuccessfully ran against Obama in 2008, told The New York Times he did not like the tone of the speech. “I would have liked to see a little more on outreach and working together,” McCain said. “There was not, as I’ve seen in other inaugural speeches, ‘I want to work with my colleagues.’”

    Obama also mentioned climate change, immigration and gay rights in his speech, but most conservative critics focused on a topic the president didn't talk about much: the deficit.

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  • Obama embraces progressive agenda in second inaugural address

    President Barack Obama speaks during the presidential inauguration on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

    President Barack Obama delivered a forceful defense of the nation's safety net programs, and vowed to expand gay rights and tackle the problem of climate change in his second inaugural address Monday afternoon.

    The speech was a bolder and more specific defense of the president's liberal governing vision than the address he gave four years ago. For his first inaugural address, Obama stuck to a broader outline of his ideals and called on politicians to overcome partisan differences and work together in the face of economic crisis.

    On national television and before a crowd of hundreds of thousands of spectators who descended on the Mall, Obama staunchly reiterated his belief that gay people should be allowed to marry.

    "Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law–-for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well," Obama said. He also mentioned the gay rights Stonewall Riots of the 1960s in the same breath as the Selma civil rights marches.

    In the same section of the speech, the president made oblique references to gun violence, equal pay for women and immigration reform. He called for "all our children, from the streets of Detroit to the hills of Appalachia to the quiet lanes of Newtown" to be kept safe from harm.

    The president did make a plea for bipartisanship and unity. "My fellow Americans, we are made for this moment, and we will seize it — so long as we seize it together," Obama said.

    Earlier in the speech, Obama said to avoid the problem of climate change would "betray our children and future generations," signaling he may also make that issue a key piece of his second-term agenda. He abandoned efforts during his first term to push for so-called "cap and trade" legislation to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

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  • Sen. Harry Reid: No immigration reform bill without citizenship

    Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., drew a line in the sand on immigration reform. (T.J. Kirkpatrick/Getty Images)

    Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is drawing a line in the sand on any congressional immigration reform proposals: No citizenship, no bill.

    “There will be nothing done in my Senate [on immigration reform] without a pathway to citizenship,” the Democrat told the Las Vegas Sun on Thursday.

    This could be a problem in the Republican-controlled House, where members have expressed reservations about letting any of the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants who could benefit from an immigration reform bill become citizens.

    The Obama administration wants immigrants who overstayed their visas or crossed the border illegally to prove they've resided in the country for several years, have not committed any crimes and will pay any owed back taxes. In exchange, they'll receive temporary legal status that could lead to citizenship in about 15 years.

    Republican House Judiciary Chairman Robert W. Goodlatte of Virginia said on Wednesday that he would most likely not sign on to a citizenship-inclusive

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  • Rand Paul: Teachers should be armed

    U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., speaks at the Republican National Convention. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

    Sen. Rand Paul said on Thursday that teachers and principals should carry concealed weapons in the classroom to prevent another mass shooting from happening.

    “Is it perfect? No. Would they always get the killer? No. Would an accident sometimes happen in a melee? Maybe,” the Kentucky Republican told a group of business leaders in Oldham County, Ky., according to the Courier-Journal. “But nobody [at Sandy Hook Elementary] had any defense, and he just kept shooting until he was tired and he decided to shoot himself.”

    The National Rifle Association pushed the idea of arming teachers after the Dec. 14 shooting in Newtown, Conn., and Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert, both Republicans, have also embraced the idea. The leaders of the nation's two largest teachers' unions have rejected the suggestion, calling it "disturbing." Newtown School Superintendent Janet Robinson told a House hearing on gun violence on Wednesday that calls to arm teachers are "insensitive," and

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  • Can Obama end the long fight over gun violence research?

    Handguns are displayed at Firing Line in Aurora, Colo., on July 22, 2012. (Joshua Lott/Getty Images)

    As part of his 23 executive actions addressing gun violence, President Barack Obama announced on Wednesday that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) must begin researching the causes of that violence.

    “We don't benefit from ignorance,” Obama said at the White House. “We don't benefit from not knowing the science of this epidemic of violence.” The president also asked Congress to infuse the agency with an extra $10 million for this research, which will include studying whether violent video games and other media images have an effect on violence levels.

    For those who didn't tune in to the congressional battles of the '90s, this announcement might seem odd. Why doesn't the CDC, which is dedicated to helping Americans prevent disease and injury, already study the causes and effects of firearm-related violence?

    As with most highly charged political battles, it depends on which side you ask.

    The CDC used to conduct extensive research into gun violence, but comments by CDC

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  • INAUGURATION 2013: In second-term speech, Obama as orator faces test

    U.S President Barack Obama waves after giving his inaugural address four years ago. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)The crowds will be smaller and President Barack Obama will be grayer when he takes the stage on Monday to deliver his second inaugural address. Will the orator in chief reclaim his mantle of eloquence with a big, bold speech? Or will he play it safe and keep it short?

    White House spokesman Jay Carney said Thursday Obama is still working on his address, and that he had no preview of what the president might say.

    Obama, Carney said, is “very appreciative of the fact that the American people have given him the opportunity to deliver a second inaugural address. He takes very seriously speeches of this kind and is very engaged in the process."

    Four years ago, the country had outsize expectations for Obama's first inaugural. The president's reputation for eloquence is so integral to his public image that even his political opponents are often the first to bring it up. It's also a part of his origin story: Thanks to a speech he gave at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, Obama rocketed

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  • Report: National background check system is full of holes

    Licensed dealer Jacob Dewell discusses the legal aspects of a gun sale with a private seller in Colorado. (Kevin Moloney/Liaison)

    President Barack Obama, expected to announce Wednesday "a package of concrete proposals” to prevent another tragedy like the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in December, is likely to ask that Congress expand the federal criminal background check system used before every gun purchase.

    But the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, which is supposed to determine whether the buyer is a felon, has been declared mentally ill by a judge or is otherwise disqualified from purchasing a weapon, is riddled with gaps that leave out millions of people who are barred from buying guns, the Wall Street Journal reports today. States are often slow to update their criminal records to the system, especially when it comes to people recently convicted of drug crimes, who are temporarily barred from purchasing weapons even if their crimes do not rise to the felony level.

    Additionally, a 1997 Supreme Court decision said states cannot be forced to provide mental health records to the

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