By Sarah N. Lynch and Emily Stephenson WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The sudden primary defeat of House of Representatives Majority Leader Eric Cantor not only paves the way for a new party leader - it could also open the door for a new chairman of the House Financial Services Committee. When Jeb Hensarling, chairman of the committee, emerged on Wednesday as a possible contender for Cantor's job, a handful of Republican lawmakers began to be mentioned as a possible successor to the Texas Republican as head of the panel. The possible contenders include Representatives Ed Royce of California, Frank Lucas of Oklahoma, Scott Garrett of New Jersey, Patrick McHenry of North Carolina and Randy Neugebauer of Texas.
By Richard Cowan and Susan Cornwell WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A shock primary election defeat for Eric Cantor, the No. 2 Republican in the U.S. House of Representatives, left his political party in chaos on Wednesday as financial markets worried the shakeup might renew budget fights that in the past have caused government shutdowns and near credit defaults. ...
By Steve Holland WESTON Mass. (Reuters) - President Barack Obama weighed in on the shock election defeat of Republican Eric Cantor on Wednesday, rejecting the argument that the ouster of the House of Representatives' No. 2 will spell the death knell for immigration reform. Cantor's ouster by a Tea Party-backed conservative in his Virginia district on Tuesday has sent political shock waves coursing through Washington, and a leading school of thought is that the move means Obama's long-sought attempt to rewrite immigration laws is dead. Cantor was seen by his opponents as flirting with trying to steer the House into supporting immigration legislation, although White House spokesman Josh Earnest noted that Cantor had campaigned against an immigration deal.
Palestinian militants fired a rocket on Israel from the Gaza Strip Wednesday, prompting Israel's premier to hold Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas responsible for such attacks. Abbas condemned the rocket fire, which Israeli officials said hit the Eshkol region without causing any casualties or damage. The attack came just over a week after the Palestinians formed a unity government for both Gaza and the West Bank, as part of efforts to end years of division. From 2007, when Hamas drove Abbas's forces from Gaza, the territory was ruled by Islamist movement Hamas, which Israeli routinely blamed for all attacks on the Jewish state.
The United States on Wednesday denounced as "unprovoked aggression" a rocket attack launched from the Gaza Strip into Israel, but said it would still work with the new Palestinian government. "We condemn all rocket fire from Gaza. It is unprovoked aggression against civilian targets and is totally unacceptable," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.
Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel staunchly defended Wednesday the swap of five Taliban detainees for a US soldier as a "tough" but necessary move to secure Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl's release. Facing a barrage of criticism from lawmakers, Hagel said the exchange with the Taliban was part of the "brutal, imperfect realities" that come with war and that the deal brokered by Qatar represented the "last, best opportunity" to ensure the soldier's freedom. "We made the right decision, and we did it for the right reasons -- to bring home one of our own people," a defiant Hagel told the House Armed Services Committee. Hagel described a dramatic chain of events leading up to Bergdahl's release, with US officials worried about Taliban militants staging an attack on special operations forces receiving the American soldier.
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development on Wednesday urged Canada to raise taxes on non-renewable resources including its oil reserves, which are the third largest in the world. Western provinces such as Alberta and Saskatchewan with vast oil and gas reserves have seen a jump in incomes since 2002, while eastern Ontario -- the nation's manufacturing hub -- is facing a massive budget deficit. "Incomes have risen in resource-rich provinces, but the resulting currency appreciation has placed pressures on manufacturing," the OECD said in the report. It urged increasing royalties on non-renewable resources and distributing it more fairly to provinces that are not blessed with an abundance of oil, gas or minerals.
The United States vowed Wednesday to boost aid to Iraq amid fears the US-backed Iraqi army is increasingly powerless against emboldened militants more than two years after American forces withdrew. But State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki denied the offensive by the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant had caught Washington by surprise or that it marked a failure of US policy in the country it invaded in 2003. Washington is committed to "working with the Iraqi government and leaders across Iraq to support a unified approach against ISIL's continued aggression," Psaki told reporters, adding that the US administration had long warned of the dangers posed by the militants now sweeping toward Baghdad.
Eric Cantor, the Republican star unexpectedly bounced from the US Congress by a political novice, said Wednesday he will step down as House majority leader. "While I intend to serve out my term as a member of Congress from the 7th District of Virginia, effective July 31st I will be stepping down as majority leader," Cantor told reporters a day after his shock primary loss to economics professor Dave Brat. The move sets off a scramble for the number two post in the House Republican leadership, just as lawmakers crank up their campaigns ahead of November's mid-term congressional elections. Shortly before addressing reporters, Cantor broke his news to the Republican caucus in a closed-door conference in the US Capitol basement, where lawmakers said House Speaker John Boehner wept as he praised his outgoing deputy.
Direct meetings this week between Iran and world powers, including the US, aim to deliver what diplomats are calling a "trust mechanism" meant to ensure both sides honour a nuclear deal. The announcement of separate talks with the United States, Russia, France and Germany -- all members of the P5+1 that is negotiating with Iran -- underscores that serious differences remain. Iran has in the past few weeks repeatedly declared its "inalienable" right to pursue a nuclear programme for peaceful purposes, while insisting that sanctions be lifted. While the Western powers and Iran both say they want an agreement, neither is yet willing to cede sufficient ground.
United Nations (United States) (AFP) - Uganda's foreign minister was elected president of the UN General Assembly's 69th session Wednesday, side-stepping criticism from US activists opposed to its tough anti-gay laws. Sam Kutesa was acclaimed president unopposed and to a round of applause from member states, then congratulated by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon four months after the legislation was signed. Kutesa stepped down as foreign minister in 2011 for 10 months after prosecutors filed graft charges against him over a $4.8 million hotel deal for a 2007 Commonwealth summit in Kampala. Questioned about his relationship with Entebbe Handling Services, a company he once chaired, and its contracts with UN peacekeeping missions, Kutesa declared an end to his business links.