AP Top News at 4:58 p.m. EDT
Congress passes student loans, highway jobs bill
WASHINGTON (AP) — Congress emphatically approved legislation Friday preserving jobs on transportation projects from coast to coast and avoiding interest rate increases on new loans to millions of college students, giving lawmakers campaign-season bragging rights on what may be their biggest economic achievement before the November elections. The bill sent for President Barack Obama’s signature enables just over $100 billion to be spent on highway, mass transit and other transportation programs over the next two years, projects that would have expired Saturday without congressional action. It also ends a bare-knuckle political battle over student loans that raged since spring, a proxy fight over which party was best helping voters muddle through the economic downturn.
Justice won’t prosecute Holder for contempt
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Justice Department declared Friday that Attorney General Eric Holder's decision to withhold information about a bungled gun-tracking operation from Congress does not constitute a crime and he won't be prosecuted for contempt of Congress. The House voted Thursday afternoon to find Holder in criminal and civil contempt for refusing to turn over the documents. President Barack Obama invoked his executive privilege authority and ordered Holder not to turn over materials about executive branch deliberations and internal recommendations.
GOP plots 2013 strategy on health care repeal
WASHINGTON (AP) — Turned away at the Supreme Court, congressional Republicans sketched a strategy Friday to repeal the nation’s health care law in 2013 that requires a sweeping election victory carrying Mitt Romney to the presidency and the party at least to narrow control of the Senate. Romney sought to turn the court’s decision upholding the two-year-old law into a campaign battle cry, saying the 5-4 ruling had injected ‘‘greater urgency’’ into his challenge to President Barack Obama. ‘‘I think many people assumed that the Supreme Court would do the work that was necessary in repealing Obamacare,’’ he said, adding that the justices ‘‘did not get that job done.’’
White House wants Hill Democrats to fight on taxes
WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House is urging congressional Democrats to engage Republicans in a fight over taxes, pressing them to go on the offensive after the Supreme Court’s health care decision gave prominence to the issue. White House senior adviser David Plouffe is sending a memorandum to the House and Senate Democratic caucuses saying Republicans are misrepresenting Obama’s record. In a memo obtained by the Associated Press, Plouffe said the White House welcomes a debate on taxes.
Egypt president-elect vows to fight for authority
CAIRO (AP) — In front of tens of thousands of cheering supporters, Egypt's first Islamist and civilian president-elect vowed Friday to fight for his authority and symbolically read an oath of office on Cairo's Tahrir Square on the eve of his official inauguration. Mohammed Morsi's strongly worded speech was a show of defiance as he gears up to power struggle with the country's ruling generals who passed a constitutional declaration taking over major presidential powers in the days before election results were announced after a bitter campaign.
Firefighters search for bodies in Colorado blaze
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) — Firefighters went from one smoldering pile to another Friday in search of bodies in the nearly 350 homes burned to the ground by the most destructive wildfire in Colorado history. As crews on the front lines made slow but steady progress against the flames, Police Chief Pete Carey said fewer than 10 people altogether were unaccounted for. The remains of one person were found Thursday in what was left standing of one home, and a second person who lived there was missing.
AP sources: Some at Gitmo could go to Afghanistan
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration is considering a new gambit to restart peace talks with the Taliban in Afghanistan that would send several Taliban detainees from the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to a prison in Afghanistan, U.S. and Afghan officials told The Associated Press. Under the proposal, some Taliban fighters or affiliates captured in the early days of the 2001 U.S. invasion of Afghanistan and later sent to Guantanamo under the label of enemy combatants would be transferred out of full U.S. control but not released. It’s a leap of faith on the U.S. side that the men will not become threats to U.S. forces once back on Afghan soil. But it is meant to show more moderate elements of the Taliban insurgency that the U.S. is still interested in cutting a deal for peace.Continued...