House approves more security for health site
The Republican-led House voted overwhelmingly Friday to attach new security requirements onto President Barack Obama's health care law, with 67 Democrats breaking ranks to join with the GOP. It was the first skirmish of what is certain to be a long and contentious election-year fight.
The bill would require the secretary of health and human services to notify an individual within two business days of any security breach involving personal data provided to the government through the health care website HealthCare.gov.
White House press secretary Jay Carney said Friday that the administration opposes the measure as an unnecessary and costly burden. He said the government already has imposed stringent security standards, uses sensors and other tools to deter unauthorized access and conducts regular testing. He said Americans will be notified if personal information has been compromised.
59 senators support new sanctions for Iran
Fifty-nine senators now back a new sanctions package they say would increase the pressure on Iran to make nuclear concessions, congressional aides said Friday. The count brings Congress closer to passing a bill the Obama administration considers a threat to a historic diplomatic opportunity.
With the House of Representatives strongly backing more economic pressure on Tehran, the Senate is now close to the 60 votes needed to pass most legislation. And advocates are not far away from rounding up the 67 votes they would need to override a presidential veto, which the White House has vowed if the bill makes it out of Congress.
Administration officials fear the new economic restrictions could jeopardize a breakthrough interim nuclear deal that world powers reached with Iran in Geneva in November, as well as ongoing negotiations on a final agreement that would end the threat of Iran developing nuclear weapons. By scuttling the diplomatic chances, the administration argues, Congress would be making a potential war with Iran more likely.
Federal government to recognize gay unions
The U.S. attorney general said Friday that the federal government would recognize same-sex unions in Utah, marking the latest significant show of support for gay marriage from the Obama administration.
The action means that more than 1,000 same-sex couples who were married in Utah in the past month can file federal taxes jointly, get Social Security benefits for spouses and request legal immigration status for partners, among other benefits.
The declaration by Attorney General Eric Holder marked the latest chapter in the legal battle over same-sex marriage in Utah over the past three weeks, since a judge overturned a state ban.
In other news
Arkansas Lt. Gov. Mark Darr said Friday that he would leave office Feb. 1, giving in to pressure from Democrats and fellow Republicans who said his impeachment was inevitable over ethics violations tied to his campaign and office spending.