By David Lawder WASHINGTON (Reuters) - House of Representatives Republican leaders on Wednesday predicted passage of a budget blueprint offered by Representative Paul Ryan, despite criticism from conservative Tea Party activists who said the plan would not eliminate federal deficits quickly enough. "It'll pass," said Republican Representative Kevin McCarthy, the No. 3 Republican in the House who, as Majority Whip, is responsible for rounding up votes for legislation. The Ryan plan, which proposes deep cuts to healthcare, social safety net and other domestic programs in order to reach a small surplus by 2024 while boosting defense spending, could face resistance from the most conservative Republicans in the House. That's the most I can say right now," said Representative Justin Amash, a libertarian Republican from Michigan, when asked if he would support the plan from Ryan, who chairs the House Budget Committee.
Senators accused General Motors of "criminal deception" over a decade-long ignition problem linked to 13 deaths, as the US automaker's boss faced a second straight day of congressional anger Wednesday. Defending her company's battered reputation, chief executive Mary Barra repeated her pledge that GM will be forthcoming with results of a sweeping internal investigation into what led it to keep using ignition switches it knew were faulty for years, then change the parts without alerting the public or regulators. They instead noted that GM has yet to sack anyone over the debacle, despite its own evidence that the defects were posing a deadly hazard. The manufacturer is under fire for not recalling Chevrolet Cobalts, Saturn Ions and other GM models fitted with the switches.
By Jeff Mason ANN ARBOR, Michigan (Reuters) - President Barack Obama, needing a spark to nudge Democratic voters to the polls in November, pressed his case on Wednesday for job-creation measures that have little chance of passing Congress. With his shirt sleeves rolled up and his suit jacket off, Obama delivered a campaign-style speech to a gymnasium of young people in Michigan in an effort to rev up his base for critical congressional elections, in which his party risks losing control of the U.S. Senate and seats in the House of Representatives. On Tuesday, he announced 7.1 million people had signed up for coverage under Obamacare, his signature healthcare law, which has dogged him for months because of a disastrous rollout and a glitchy website. Obama, who was to headline a pair of fund-raising events in Chicago later on Wednesday, took note of the healthcare enrollment number.
US Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Algiers on Wednesday evening at the start of a North African tour expected to be dominated by the threat posed by Al-Qaeda. Kerry was greeted at the airport by Algeria's Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamra, an AFP journalist reported. "The question of the Sahel will be a central issue in the discussions," Ramtane's spokesman Abdelaziz Cherif Benali told state radio earlier. Jihadist violence has plagued the vast Sahel-Sahara region since the 2011 overthrow of Libyan dictator Moamer Kadhafi, prompting a French-led military intervention in Algeria's southern neighbour Mali in January last year.
By Patricia Zengerle and Mark Hosenball WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Two members of the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee came out on Wednesday in favor of declassifying parts of a report on the CIA's use of "enhanced interrogation" methods, saying they had concluded some detainees "were subjected to techniques that constituted torture." The announcement by Maine Senators Susan Collins, a Republican, and Angus King, an Independent aligned with the Democrats, was an important boost for the declassification push a day before the panel is expected to vote on the issue. The committee had been expected to recommend the declassification of the "Findings & Conclusions" and Executive Summary from the 6,000-page report. "Further, the report raises serious concerns about the CIA's management of this program." A congressional aide said that the Senate panel will ask the White House - not the CIA itself - to declassify the politically sensitive report. U.S. President Barack Obama has repeatedly said he wants to see a version of the report made public.
By Dmitry Solovyov ALMATY (Reuters) - The United States will "fundamentally stand" with post-Soviet Central Asian nations to protect their territorial integrity and independence, a senior U.S. official said on Wednesday, sending a signal to Russia after its annexation of Crimea from Ukraine. Russia's seizure of the Black Sea peninsula two weeks ago sent jitters across Central Asia, whose mainly autocratic rulers tacitly accepted Moscow's actions, fearing their former overlord may use a similar tactic in their states. Russian President Vladimir Putin is now seen turning to Central Asia as he pursues his goal of creating the Eurasian Economic Union, which critics see as an attempt to restore the former Soviet Union.
By Lawrence Hurley WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday struck down a key pillar of campaign finance law by allowing wealthy donors to give money to as many political candidates, parties and committees as they wish. Wednesday's Supreme Court decision is the latest in a series of rulings by the conservative-led court to give big-money donors more influence in U.S. elections. Democrats typically argue for tighter restrictions, fearing that wealthy individuals could otherwise hold undue influence over the political process. Election lawyers said the ruling means wealthy donors can give to more candidates ahead of this November's mid-term congressional elections than was previously allowed.
By Ben Klayman and Eric Beech WASHINGTON (Reuters) - General Motors Co came under withering attack for its decade-long failure to notify the public about defective parts linked to fatal crashes, as a U.S. Senate hearing opened on Wednesday with accusations that the company fostered "a culture of cover-up." Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill rebutted some of GM CEO Mary Barra's testimony to a House of Representatives panel on Tuesday that her company had recently cleaned up its act. "It might have been the 'Old GM' that started sweeping this defect under the rug 10 years ago. Even under the 'New GM' banner, the company waited nine months to take action after being confronted with specific evidence of this egregious violation of public trust," the Missouri senator said. McCaskill chairs a Senate subcommittee on consumer protection and product safety that is investigating GM.