By David Lawder and David Morgan WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Health insurance subsidies under the Affordable Care Act will cost slightly less than previously thought, helping to slow down the forecast growth of U.S. deficits over the next decade, the Congressional Budget Office said on Monday. The non-partisan CBO, in revisions to its annual budget estimates, said the reduced subsidy cost estimates partly reflect lower premiums now being charged in government-run "Obamacare" exchanges and accommodations that allow previously canceled health plans to be extended. The reduced health cost estimates made up the bulk of a $286 billion reduction in CBO's cumulative deficit forecast for fiscal years 2015 through 2024, compared with a forecast in February, to $7.62 trillion.
By Rory Carroll SACRAMENTO (Reuters) - A top Democratic lawmaker in California on Monday backed off an unpopular plan to tax gasoline and diesel fuels and instead proposed a less controversial plan to spend up to $5 billion a year from the state's fledgling carbon program on affordable housing and mass transit. California Senate leader Darrell Steinberg proposed building affordable housing near transit hubs, repairing state roads and highways, and helping fund mass transit projects including Democratic Governor Jerry Brown's beleaguered high-speed rail project. His plan also calls for returning a portion of the money collected by the state from the sale of carbon permits to California's drivers, who are expected to see gasoline prices jump by about 12 cents a gallon next year when the state's greenhouse gas reduction program expands to cover distributors of transport fuels. "Cap-and-trade needs a long-term strategy that maximizes the efficiency of its revenues as we seek to curb greenhouse gases," Steinberg said.
By Jeff Mason and Arshad Mohammed WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama told Russian President Vladimir Putin in a tense phone call on Monday that Moscow would face further costs for its actions in Ukraine and should use its influence to get separatists in the country to stand down. Armed pro-Russian separatists seized more buildings in eastern Ukraine earlier in the day, expanding their control after the government failed to follow through on a threatened military crackdown. In a call that the White House said Moscow requested, Obama told Putin that those forces were threatening to undermine and destabilize the government in Kiev. "The president emphasized that all irregular forces in the country need to lay down their arms, and he urged President Putin to use his influence with these armed, pro-Russian groups to convince them to depart the buildings they have seized," the White House said in a statement.
WASHINGTON (AP) — Speaking for the first time in more than two weeks, President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin showed little sign of agreement Monday, with the U.S. leader urging pro-Russian forces to de-escalate the situation in eastern Ukraine and Putin denying that Moscow was interfering in the region.
President Barack Obama warned Monday that religious violence had no place in US society after a gunman with alleged anti-Semitic ties killed three people at a Jewish center and retirement home. No one should have to fear for their safety when they go to prayer," Obama said at the White House, a day after the shooting in Kansas. Alleged gunman Frazier Glenn Cross, now in custody, was a former Ku Klux Klan leader and had a history of anti-Semitism, said the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which tracks hate groups. He reportedly yelled "Heil Hitler" as police escorted him away in Kansas City on Sunday.
A US Army general has denied clemency to the soldier formerly known as Bradley Manning for leaking hundreds of thousands of documents to anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks, upholding a 35-year sentence. Major General Jeffrey Buchanan, the convening authority in Manning's court-martial, approved the August findings and sentence of military Judge Denise Lind last week, but his decision was only made public Monday. Manning, who has requested a name change to Chelsea and publicly announced via her lawyers that she considers herself as female, had filed a request for clemency in March. According to military justice rules, Manning's case will automatically be appealed to the Army Court of Criminal Appeals.
Presidents Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin confronted one another in telephone talks Monday as a standoff over Ukraine escalated after the CIA chief visited Kiev and a Russian war plane "buzzed" a US destroyer. Washington said it was consulting European allies and hinted that more sanctions on Russia's economy could be coming, to punish what it sees as Moscow's sponsorship of pro-Russia violence in eastern Ukraine. The Kremlin said that Putin used the latest in a string of tense phone calls with Obama to brand US charges of meddling in eastern Ukraine as "unfounded." There were no immediate readouts of the call from the White House, which earlier was the first to say it would take place.
America is heading to Brazil "ready to play" in the 2014 World Cup, and Vice President Joe Biden will be leading the cheers for the US to bring home the coveted trophy for the first time. "When it comes to soccer, America is coming on," Biden assured Monday's audience at the State Department, where the 2014 World Cup trophy made its first stop in the United States as part of a global tour before heading later to Brazil. With only nine weeks remaining before the World Cup kicks off in Brazil, coach Jurgen Klinsmann's United States currently stands 13 in FIFA's rankings. The White House announced that Biden would travel to Brazil in June to attend the World Cup, saying he would attend a match by the US side.
But the meeting one recent morning convened deep within the Treasury Department, not the Pentagon. The weapons at hand were not drones or cruise missiles, but financial sanctions, aimed with similar precision at U.S. rivals' economic interests. Before discussing possible next steps against Russia over its annexation of Crimea, Adam Szubin, the slim, boyish-looking director of Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), thanked his team for putting in a string of sleepless nights to devise sanctions against senior Russian officials and associates of President Vladimir Putin. The measures, rolled out in three executive orders signed by President Barack Obama in March, included blocking the Russians and Bank Rossiya, Russia's 17th-largest bank, from access to the U.S. financial system and freezing their U.S. assets.