By Caren Bohan WASHINGTON (Reuters) - On the eve of the expiration of federal benefits for the long-term unemployed, U.S. President Barack Obama and his Democratic allies are stepping up pressure on Republicans to renew the program. Top White House economic adviser Gene Sperling said in a statement issued on Friday that a failure to renew emergency jobless benefits would harm the economy and he urged Congress to move quickly to pass a short-term extension of the aid. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat, has vowed to bring to a vote a bill extending federal unemployment insurance benefits as soon as Congress returns from its holiday recess on January 6. "While we remain disappointed that Congress did not heed the president's call to extend emergency unemployment benefits for next year before the holidays, the president as well as the Democratic congressional leadership have made clear the importance of extending the benefits immediately upon Congress's return," Sperling said in a statement.
A U.S. judge ruled the National Security Agency's program that collects records of millions of Americans' phone calls is lawful, rejecting a challenge by the American Civil Liberties Union to the controversial counter-terrorism program. Friday's decision by U.S. District Judge William Pauley in Manhattan diverges from a December 16 ruling by U.S. District Judge Richard Leon in Washington, D.C., who said the "almost Orwellian" program was likely unconstitutional. The program's existence had first been disclosed by Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor whose leaks have detailed the breadth of U.S. electronic surveillance and sparked a debate over how much leeway to give the government in protecting Americans from terrorism.
By Ros Krasny HONOLULU (Reuters) - President Barack Obama on Thursday signed a compromise budget that reduces the risk of another government shutdown and a defense bill that cracks down on sexual assault in the military and smooths the path for transferring detainees from the U.S. prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The two-year U.S. budget agreement, negotiated by Congress earlier this month, and the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2104 were among seven pieces of legislation signed by Obama, who is vacationing with his family in Hawaii. The U.S. Senate passed the budget deal on December 18 to ease automatic spending cuts and reduce the risk of a government shutdown. Obama at that time praised the measure - the first budget agreed to by a divided Congress since 2009 - saying it was "a good first step away from the shortsighted, crisis-driven decision-making that has only served to act as a drag on our economy." He did not comment further on Thursday.
HONOLULU (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama on Thursday signed the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2014, authorizing appropriations for Department of Defense programs and related spending at other agencies. The act sets out a Pentagon base budget of $526.8 billion in the 2014 fiscal year. It boosts the Pentagon's ability to help destroy Syria's chemical weapons and also makes it easier for the White House to transfer prisoners from the military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to countries willing to accept them. ...