By Patricia Zengerle WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Legislation to impose tough new sanctions on Iran could come to the Senate floor next week, just as diplomats head to Geneva for a third round of talks aimed at curbing Tehran's suspected nuclear weapons work. President Barack Obama has appealed to Congress to hold off on new sanctions to allow time to pursue a diplomatic deal. But Congress is generally more hawkish about Iran than the administration, and both Republicans and some of Obama's fellow Democrats have balked at any further delay. Frustrated that the Senate Banking Committee has delayed a tough new sanctions package at the White House's request, several Republicans said they were considering forcing the issue by offering more restrictions on Iran as an amendment to a defense authorization bill expected to come to the Senate floor by the middle of next week.
By Mark Felsenthal WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Vice President Joe Biden will discuss with Panamanian officials next week the disposal of American chemical weapons left on an island off Panama's coast during the 1940s when he visits the Central American nation, U.S. officials said on Friday. The issue of the chemical munitions on San Jose island, located 60 miles off Panama's Pacific coast, has been an irritant in relations between the two countries. Panama in May formally requested through the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons that the United States dispose of the weapons, which are the legacy of U.S. military tests conducted on the island. A U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity ahead of the Biden trip, said that Biden will be prepared to talk about the matter during the visit "based on the conversations that we've been having with Panamanian officials." "We're aware of Panama's formal request in May to have eight U.S.-origin chemical munitions destroyed," the official told reporters on a conference call.
By Robin Emmott and Philip Blenkinsop BRUSSELS (Reuters) - U.S. and EU trade negotiators rejected accusations on Friday that they are pandering to multinational companies in their push to agree the world's largest free-trade deal, saying food safety and the environment will not be put at risk. "We are not in the business of lowering standards," the European Union's chief trade negotiator Ignacio Garcia Bercero told a news conference after the second round of negotiations in Brussels on an EU-U.S. free trade pact. His U.S. counterpart Dan Mullaney insisted: "We have received a clear message that whatever we do in regulation, we should not be undercutting the levels of protection that we have for the environment and for human health and safety." Following the collapse of marathon global trade talks, the world's largest economies are trying to agree a series of all-encompassing bilateral or bloc-to-bloc trade deals that go far beyond just lowering tariffs and seek to make life easier for businesses by harmonizing rules.
President Barack Obama will urge insurance companies at a meeting on Friday to offer quickly to renew healthcare policies that were canceled because they did not meet standards in the new Obamacare program, the White House said. Obama will also discuss with chief executives ways that insurance companies can help Americans meet the deadlines to sign up for new health care insurance - now more important because of problems with the HealthCare.gov website.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The House of Representatives on Friday approved a Republican bill that would allow insurers to continue to offer for another year healthcare plans that do not comply with the higher standards of benefits under President Barack Obama's healthcare reform law. The vote in the Republican-majority chamber was 261-157 for the measure sponsored by Republican Representative Fred Upton. Thirty-nine Democrats supported it despite a White House veto threat. The bill is unlikely to pass the Democratic-controlled Senate and become law. ...
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The White House on Friday expressed confidence in President Barack Obama's choice to lead the Federal Reserve, Janet Yellen, and called on the Senate not to hold up her confirmation. "We're very confident that Janet Yellen is absolutely the right candidate for the job," White House spokesman Jay Carney said at a briefing. "Her hearing yesterday we felt went very well." Carney urged lawmakers not block any of the president's nominees. (Reporting by Mark Felsenthal; editing by Jackie Frank)
By Mark Felsenthal and Susan Cornwell WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama was due to meet health insurance chief executives on Friday, a day after insurers expressed concerns about his plan to help Americans who are losing their coverage because of his healthcare overhaul. Obama, facing the biggest crisis of his presidency, unveiled a plan on Thursday which would allow insurers to extend by at least one year policies due to be canceled because they do not comply with new minimum requirements under the 2010 Affordable Care Act, widely known as Obamacare. With several million people facing the prospect of having their policies canceled, Obama is trying to stem the damage to his credibility over his repeated promise that if people liked their policies they could keep them. Obama's announcement on Thursday was designed to short-circuit a push for more far-reaching changes in Congress and end a growing revolt by Democrats worried that popular anger over the cancellations, and the glitch-ridden online insurance website that is central to the healthcare overhaul, would threaten their re-election bids in 2014.