A group of U.S. senators on Friday urged the Department of Justice to oppose any efforts by General Motors Co to skirt financial responsibility related to the company's failure to promptly recall vehicles with ignition switch problems linked to 13 deaths. The five Democratic senators, in a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, said the Justice Department should "intervene in pending civil actions to oppose any action by GM to deny responsibility for damages." The senators were referring to the possibility that GM could use a legal loophole to avoid paying damages authorized by pending lawsuits. The company was reorganized in bankruptcy proceedings, with the "new" GM not responsible for the "old," pre-2009 GM. The senators also called on Holder to force GM to establish a victims' compensation fund and to ensure that consumers are adequately warned about driving cars that could have faulty ignition switches.
The G20 pressed the United States Friday to ratify crucial IMF reforms after four years of waiting, suggesting they would find an alternative if Washington does not deliver by year-end. "We are deeply disappointed with the continued delay in progressing the IMF quota and governance reforms" agreed in 2010, the group said. The Group of 20 economic powers, which includes the United States, said it would ask the IMF to develop an alternative plan "if the 2010 reforms are not ratified by year-end." The reforms, which include a funding increase and expansion of emerging economies' roles in the IMF, were originally strongly backed by the United States, the Fund's largest shareholder.
By Steve Holland WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The White House said on Friday that an Iranian official who was in the student group that took U.S. diplomats hostage in 1979 will not be issued a visa to allow him to become Iran's ambassador to the United Nations. President Barack Obama had come under strong pressure from the U.S. Congress not to allow Hamid Abutalebi into the country. White House spokesman Jay Carney said the United Nations and Iran had been told "that we will not issue a visa to Mr. Abutalebi." The decision effectively bars Abutalebi of taking up the U.N. position.
By Ellen Wulfhorst NEW YORK (Reuters) - The estate of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and U.S. singer and activist Harry Belafonte said on Friday they settled their dispute over possession of documents of the late civil rights leader that gives ownership to the entertainer. Belafonte had sued the King estate over the documents that he said were given to him by King and his wife during their long friendship. The documents are an outline of King's "Casualties of the War in Vietnam" speech that Belafonte said he had had in his possession since 1967, the undelivered "Memphis Speech" found in King's pocket after his 1968 assassination and a condolence letter sent by President Lyndon Johnson to King's widow. Belafonte and the King estate said in a joint statement that they had reached a confidential compromise that "resulted in Mr. Belafonte retaining possession of the documents." They said they would have no further comment on the case.
By Roberta Rampton and Steve Holland WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama said on Friday he will promote budget director Sylvia Mathews Burwell to be his next health secretary, who will preside over the next difficult phase of his healthcare law in the months before November congressional elections. Burwell, whose nomination must be approved by the U.S. Senate, will replace Kathleen Sebelius, who became the public face of the disastrous rollout of Obamacare, formally known as the Affordable Care Act, which Republicans plan to exploit as they seek to take control of the Senate. But Obama made it clear he did not blame Sebelius for the problems. "But under Kathleen's leadership, her team at HHS turned the corner, got it fixed, got the job done, and the final score speaks for itself," he said, noting that 7.5 million people have signed up for health insurance under the program, exceeding expectations.
President Barack Obama on Friday nominated budget director Sylvia Mathews Burwell as his new health secretary, seeking to capitalize on an enrollment surge to cement his signature health law. Obama paid tribute to outgoing Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, saying she had pulled off a "historic accomplishment" by securing health insurance for millions of Americans for the first time. Despite Obama's warm endorsement, Sebelius is effectively paying the price for the chaotic rollout of Obamacare last year, which forced the administration to launch an emergency effort to fix a malfunctioning enrollment website. The hurried triage paid off, after 7.5 million people eventually signed up through federal and state exchanges to the health care plan by an end-of-March deadline.
The United States on Friday urged the international community to contribute more to Ukraine's economic rescue, stressing the "immediate" need to fund a huge IMF program for Kiev. "The United States is bolstering the IMF program through a complementary aid package, which includes a $1 billion loan guarantee and additional technical assistance," Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew said in a statement to the IMF. "It is critical that the international community -- multilateral development banks and bilaterals -- take immediate steps to also support the IMF program by providing financing support, given the sizeable financing needs." As Ukraine's economy foundered under a new government and threats from neighboring Russia last month, the International Monetary Fund announced a rescue program of $14-18 billion to stabilize the country's crumpled finances and help restore growth.