(Reuters) - U.S. Senator Tom Coburn, a Republican from Oklahoma, said on Thursday that he would leave Congress at the end of this year. Coburn, 65, said in a statement that although he is battling cancer, that was not the reason he decided to resign. "In the meantime, I look forward to finishing this year strong." Coburn's departure is not likely to alter the political calculus of the Senate, since he comes from a solidly Republican state.
By David Lawder WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Washington's battles over government funding ended with a whimper on Thursday as the U.S. Senate approved a $1.1 trillion spending bill that quells for nearly nine months the threat of another federal agency shutdown. President Barack Obama is expected to sign it into law by Saturday. The vote came exactly three months after the end of a 16-day government shutdown in October that was waged over disputed funding of "Obamacare," the president's signature health care law. "We're a little late, but we have gotten the job done," Senate Appropriations Committee Barbara Mikulski said on the Senate floor.
By David Alexander WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The most effective way to control the rising expense of the military healthcare system is to boost cost-sharing among retirees, the Congressional Budget Office said on Thursday, endorsing an unpopular step Congress has repeatedly rejected. The non-partisan CBO said the Defense Department spent some $52 billion in 2012 for its TRICARE healthcare program, which covers about 1.8 million troops and their 2.6 million family members, plus 5.2 million military retirees and their families. That's nearly 10 percent of the Pentagon's $530 billion budget base budget for 2012 and about $5,400 per person. The budget office, in a 42-page report, said policymakers had considered several initiatives to control costs, including better management of chronic diseases, more effective administration of the healthcare system and increasing cost-sharing among military retirees.
By Thomas Ferraro WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Voting Rights Act of 1965 would be modernized under a bipartisan bill introduced in the U.S. Congress on Thursday in response to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year that gutted a core part of the landmark law. The legislation would provide a new formula to determine if any state or locality - not just those with a history of racial discrimination - should be required to obtain prior federal approval to changes in its election rules. A top Republican, Representative Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin, joined two Democrats - Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Representative John Conyers of Michigan - to take the lead in drafting the measure. But it was unclear when the Democratic-led Senate and Republican-led House of Representatives, which have clashed on most issues in recent years, would take it up.
Washington's battles over government funding ended with a whimper on Thursday as the U.S. Senate approved a $1.1 trillion spending bill that quells for nearly nine months the threat of another federal agency shutdown. The measure, which funds thousands of government programs from the military to national parks through the September 30 fiscal year-end, passed by a strong, 72-26 majority. President Barack Obama is expected to sign it into law. The vote came exactly three months after the end of a 16-day government shutdown in October that was waged over disputed funding of "Obamacare," the president's signature health care law.
U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is willing to consider offering additional incentives to bolster America's nuclear missile force, the Pentagon said on Thursday, as an exam cheating scandal raises questions about trouble within its ranks. The Air Force on Wednesday disclosed that 34 nuclear missile officers were implicated in cheating on a key proficiency exam at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana. It was only the latest incident involving America's nuclear missile officers, some of whom are also wrapped up in a separate Air Force probe over illegal drug possession. The head of the ICBM force, Air Force Major General Michael Carey, was also fired in October for getting drunk and carousing with women while leading a government delegation to Moscow for talks on nuclear security.
By Edith Honan NEW YORK (Reuters) - New Yorkers are overwhelmingly optimistic about new mayor Bill de Blasio though most disagree with his plan to ban horse-drawn carriages in Central Park, a poll shows. "New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is having a honeymoon," said Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University poll released on Thursday. Two thirds of New York City voters expect good things from de Blasio, who took over on January 1 after the exit of three-term mayor Michael Bloomberg, and just over half approve of the job de Blasio has done so far. But de Blasio's plan to do away with horse-and-buggy rides - a beloved and time-honored tourist tradition that has also drawn the ire of animal welfare groups - does not sit well with a majority of New Yorkers.
President Barack Obama on Thursday discussed a review of U.S. intelligence gathering with British Prime Minister David Cameron a day before the president's announcement of reforms triggered by revelations about U.S. spying, the White House said. "President Obama ... updated the Prime Minister on the ongoing U.S. signals intelligence review and both leaders noted the intensive dialogue that the United States and United Kingdom have had on these issues, at all levels," the White House said in a statement about the phone call.