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AP Political NewsBrief at 11:58 p.m. EST

WASHINGTON (AP) — A bitterly divided Supreme Court vastly increased the power of big business and unions to influence government decisions Thursday by freeing them to spend their millions directly to sway elections for president and Congress. The ruling reversed a century-long trend to limit the political muscle of corporations, organized labor and their massive war chests. It also recast the political landscape just as crucial midterm election campaigns are getting under way.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Businesses, unions freed to spend big on elections

WASHINGTON (AP) — A bitterly divided Supreme Court vastly increased the power of big business and unions to influence government decisions Thursday by freeing them to spend their millions directly to sway elections for president and Congress. The ruling reversed a century-long trend to limit the political muscle of corporations, organized labor and their massive war chests. It also recast the political landscape just as crucial midterm election campaigns are getting under way.

Obama hits Wall Street, pushes for bank limits

WASHINGTON (AP) — Embracing Depression-era policy and populist politics, a combative President Barack Obama chastised big Wall Street banks Thursday and urgently called for limits on their size and investments to stave off a new economic meltdown. Investors responded by dumping bank stock.

Gates praises Pakistan's fight against militants

ISLAMABAD (AP) — U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Friday he was deeply impressed with Pakistan's military offensive against militants within its borders and said he will leave it to that country's leadership to decide whether or when to expand the fight. "The Pakistani leadership will make its own decisions" about when or whether they are going to do something. "That's just fine with me," Gates said during an interview with Pakistani and U.S. journalists near the close of his two-day visit to the Pakistani capital.

Obama health plan in doubt as Dems reject fast fix

WASHINGTON (AP) — Though reeling from a political body blow, House Democrats rejected the quickest fix to their health care dilemma Thursday and signaled that any agreement on President Barack Obama's signature issue will come slowly, if at all. Democrats weighed a handful of difficult options as they continued to absorb Republican Scott Brown's election to the Massachusetts Senate seat long held by Edward M. Kennedy. Several said Obama must forcefully help them find a way to avoid the humiliation of enacting no bill, and they urged him to do so quickly, to put the painful process behind them.

Politics of terrorism emerge anew in election year

WASHINGTON (AP) — Terrorism is creeping back to the forefront of the American mindset, creating an election-year issue for emboldened Republicans and forcing President Barack Obama to reassert himself after a wobbly period of homeland protection. Republican Scott Brown's startling Senate win in Massachusetts, propelled in part by his opposition to Obama's terror-fighting approach, has weakened Obama's legislative hand just as Congress is demanding answers about security. And although health care reform is the matter most immediately affected by Obama's sudden loss of the minimum 60 votes he needs in the Senate on big legislation, his entire agenda will be reshaped in some way by the political fallout.

GOP's 41st senator gets movie star's greeting

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Republican state senator who shook the political landscape from Massachusetts to California this week descended on Capitol Hill to a celebrity's welcome Thursday as he to introduced himself to a Congress he says has lost its way. Sen.-elect Scott Brown acknowledged that winning the seat held since 1962 by the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy in Tuesday's special election upset presented unique challenges.

Candidates rethink nationally after Mass. results

BOSTON (AP) — Former Massachusetts Treasurer Joe Malone said Thursday he expects to run against an incumbent congressional Democrat this fall, part of a wave of political recalibrations occurring nationally after Republican Scott Brown's upset win in the special election to replace Sen. Edward M. Kennedy. California Sen. Barbara Boxer, a liberal Democrat facing a re-election challenge, declared "every state is in play now." The anti-spending group Club for Growth said it's trying to recruit conservative Rep. Mike Pence to challenge Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh in Indiana.

PROMISES, PROMISES: Gitmo closing deadline missed

WASHINGTON (AP) — As President Barack Obama neared his self-imposed deadline to close the Guantanamo Bay prison, the Justice Department offices of the terrorist detention task force were bustling — not with lawyers but construction workers tearing apart the walls, ripping out any trace of the secretive work, though Obama's goal is still far off. The staffers were gone, having completed recommendations on detention policy. This Wednesday, the Guantanamo task force made its final recommendations for all of the 196 remaining detainees awaiting transfer, trial or further detention.

Firm will remove Bible references from gun sights

WASHINGTON (AP) — A Michigan defense contractor will voluntarily stop stamping references to Bible verses on combat rifle sights made for the U.S. military, a major buyer of the company's gear. In a statement released Thursday, Trijicon of Wixom, Mich., says it is also providing to the armed forces free of charge modification kits to remove the Scripture citations from the telescoping sights already in use. Through multimillion dollar contracts, the Marine Corps and Army have bought more than 300,000 Trijicon sights.

Clinton: US to boost aid Yemen

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration will provide more counterterrorism and development aid to embattled Yemen, but the country must show results for assistance to continue to flow, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Thursday. After meeting with Yemeni Foreign Minister Abu Bakr al-Qirbi at the State Department, Clinton told reporters the U.S. was pleased with steps the Yemeni government was taking to combat violent extremists, including al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula. That group has claimed responsibility for the attempted Christmas Day bombing of a Detroit-bound American airliner.