By Marty Graham SAN DIEGO (Reuters) - Voters in California's second-largest city went to the polls on Tuesday to choose from among 11 candidates vying to succeed former San Diego Mayor Bob Filner in a special election, less than three months after he resigned in the face of a sexual harassment lawsuit. With none of the candidates likely to clinch the majority vote needed to win outright, the race was expected to set the stage for a run-off between the leading Republican contender, City Councilman Kevin Faulconer, and one of two Democrats battling it out for second place. Local election officials projected about 40 percent of San Diego's 683,000 registered voters - or about 273,000 - would turn out for the officially non-partisan contest to succeed Filner, the first Democrat elected mayor in two decades. About 140,000 mail-in ballots were collected by the time polls opened, and election officials expected to have most of those counted by 9:30 p.m., about 90 minutes after polls closed, said Michael Vu, spokesman for the registrar of voters.
By David Alexander WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. lawmakers clashed on Tuesday over how to deal with sexual assault in the armed forces and what to do about terrorism suspects at the Guantanamo Bay military prison in the opening of Senate debate on the annual defense policy bill. Senators rejected an amendment that could have helped close the Guantanamo prison over time by making it easier to transfer inmates to the United States for trial or imprisonment. Lawmakers set the stage for an emotional discussion of sexual assault in the military on Wednesday, with Senate leaders agreeing to six hours of debate on the issue. Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York rallied support for her amendment to place decisions about whether to prosecute sex crimes in the hands professional military prosecutors and remove it from the victim's commanders.
The Republican leader of a U.S. House of Representatives investigative committee asked the Census Bureau on Tuesday for more information related to a media report that the monthly unemployment rate was manipulated ahead of the 2012 presidential election. The New York Post reported that data used in the closely watched survey was faked in the final stretch of President Barack Obama's re-election campaign, when the monthly unemployment rate fell by 0.3 percentage points to 7.8 percent from 8.1 percent. The Census Bureau rejected the allegations and said it had reported the claims to the Office of the Inspector General as soon as it learned of them. "These allegations are shocking," Republican Representative Darrell Issa of California, the chairman of the House Oversight Committee, said in a letter to Census Bureau Director John Thompson.
By Richard Cowan and Caren Bohan WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Signs of progress began to emerge in U.S. budget talks on Tuesday as top Senate Democratic negotiator Patty Murray said she sees a path toward an agreement to ease automatic spending cuts known as the "sequester." Murray, asked if there was a path forward in her talks with her counterpart, Republican Representative Paul Ryan, said: "I believe there is." The lawmakers are racing against a December 13 deadline for a deal, as Republican resistance to including new tax revenues continued to be a sticking point, according to a senator on the negotiating committee headed by Murray and Ryan. Without a budget deal by then, another government shutdown could occur. Senator Murray, chairwoman of the Senate Budget Committee, did not elaborate on possible consensus in the talks but said the two were working toward a small deal. King told reporters it was his impression the regular meetings between Ryan, chairman of the House Budget Committee, and Murray were yielding progress in the talks.
By Roberta Rampton and Caren Bohan WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama, who has portrayed himself as surprised by technical problems with the government's new health care website, was briefed earlier this year on a consultant's report that warned of possible widespread site failures, the White House said on Tuesday. There have been weeks of questions about whether Obama understood the depth of the site's problems and let it open anyway, or simply "did not have enough awareness" of them, as the president stated at a November 14 news conference. Even as the administration fended off criticism of the so-called "front end" of the system, officials revealed Tuesday that they had not completed development of the "back end," the financial management component needed to finalize federal subsidies for consumers who buy health plans. A spokeswoman for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the lead agency for the website, said it would not be completed until mid-January, weeks after the first enrollees are scheduled to begin receiving benefits under the Affordable Care Act, passed in 2010 as Obama's signature domestic policy.
President Barack Obama is not depressed over his low job approval ratings, a top adviser said on Tuesday. A Washington Post-ABC News poll on Tuesday said the troubled rollout of the Affordable Care Act had pushed Obama down to a 42 percent job approval rating, the lowest he has experienced in this survey. The Post-ABC poll said opposition to the healthcare law hit a record high with 57 percent saying they opposed it. Susan Rice, Obama's national security adviser and a long-time member of Obama's inner circle, told CNN that Obama is not letting the polls bother him.
By Patricia Zengerle WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Senior U.S. lawmakers urged the Obama administration on Tuesday to take a tougher line in negotiations with Iran over its nuclear ambitions, saying Tehran should roll back its nuclear program before economic sanctions are eased. Democratic Senators Charles Schumer, Robert Menendez and Bob Casey, as well as Republicans John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Susan Collins signed the letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, released a day before a third round of talks in Geneva between Iran and six world powers.