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Paul Ryan has been elected as the new Speaker of the House of Representatives.

Hesitant to run at first, the Republican from Wisconsin eventually gained support of the majority of Republicans in Congress to succeed John Boehner of Ohio for the job.

Photo Reuters

Photo Reuters

Paul Ryan, 45, was Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s running mate in the 2012 election.

He has helped determine budget and tax policy in Congress and said he only wanted the job to unify Republicans.

In his new position, Paul Ryan will be second in line to the presidency only behind the vice-president.

Among other responsibilities, the speaker acts as presiding officer over the House for administrative and business matters.

Paul Ryan has said he will run for House Speaker if Republicans in the chamber unite behind his candidacy.

The Wisconsin Representative, who ran as Mitt Romney’s vice-presidential candidate in 2012, is seen as his party’s best hope to elect an effective Congressional leader.

A group of ultra-conservative House members have recently rebelled against party leaders.

House Speaker John Boehner resigned last month under pressure.

John Boehner’s handpicked successor House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy withdrew from consideration after it was clear he did not have the support of the ultra-conservative bloc known as the Freedom Caucus.

Photo Getty Images

Photo Getty Images

Freedom Caucus, a group of about 30 to 40 members, demanded key concessions from Kevin McCarthy. The California representative reportedly said he could not effectively lead the House under those conditions.

The very public party infighting has been seen detrimental to the Republicans’ goal of retaining control of Congress and re-taking the White House in 2016.

“We as a conference should unify now,” Paul Ryan told reporters on October 20 after meeting with House Republicans.

“What I told members is if you can agree to these requests and if I can truly be a unifying figure, then I will gladly serve, and if I am not unifying, that is fine as well – I will be happy to stay where I am.”

Paul Ryan gave his colleagues until October 23 to express their support.

He had been reluctant to serve, preferring his role as the chairman of the influential House Way and Means Committee.

Paul Ryan also is the father of three young children and returns home to Wisconsin on weekends to spend time with them.

John Boehner spent many of his weekends raising money for fellow Republican representatives.

Paul Ryan said on October 20 that if elected the role will have to change to accommodate his family life.

To run, Paul Ryan also demanded a House procedure known as “motion to vacate the chair” be abandoned.

The motion allows a small group of lawmakers to challenge the Speaker and is a key source of leverage for the Freedom Caucus.

John Boehner resigned in part because of this tactic.

It is unclear whether Republicans will unite behind Paul Ryan. At least one conservative called Paul Ryan’s demand to end the “motion to vacate the chair” a “non-starter” and others are still uncertain.

John Boehner will resign from his position as speaker of the House and give up his seat at the end of October.

He has been under pressure from the conservative wing of the Republican Party, and in particular over government funding for Planned Parenthood.

Aides say John Boehner had planned to resign since 2014.

The announcement comes one day after the speaker hosted Pope Francis for a major address to the US Congress.

John Boehner is expected to make a public announcement at 10:30 local time.

He assumed the leadership position in January 2011, when Republicans took control of the House.

Photo AP

Photo AP

John Boehner’s resignation comes as Republicans have been deliberating over plans to defund women’s healthcare provider Planned Parenthood.

The organization has come under fire from anti-abortion activists who claimed its employees were selling fetal organs.

Hard-line conservatives have urged the leadership to stall a government funding bill – a move that could see the US government shut down next week for the second time in as many years – if language defunding the healthcare provider is not included.

Reuters is reporting that Rep Steve King has told reporters that Rep Kevin McCarthy is top pick to replace John Boehner as speaker.

Rep Bill Huizenga said in a tweet that the speaker made the announcement to his conference this morning.

In a statement, John Boehner’s staff said that he had intended to resign at the end of last year, but the surprise defeat of then House Majority Leader Eric Cantor “changed that calculation”.

On September 24, Pope Francis became the first pontiff to address a joint session of Congress following an invitation from the catholic House speaker.


Pope Francis has made a historic address to US Congress, where he received a warm welcome from more than 500 lawmakers, justices and officials.

He has become the first pope to address a joint meeting of the US Congress.

The Pope was greeted at the Capitol by Speaker of the House John Boehner, who is Catholic, and then entered the chamber to thunderous applause.

The pontiff began his speech by warning of the dangers of “ideological extremism”.

He emphasized the importance of welcoming immigrants.

Pope Francis said the world is facing a refugee crisis of a magnitude not seen since World War Two, and noted that thousands travel north into the US for a better life every year.

Photo Reuters

Photo Reuters

“We must not be taken aback by their numbers, but rather view them as persons, seeing their faces and listening to their stories, trying to respond as best we can to their situation,” he said.

Pope Francis also related the work of lawmakers to that of Moses, saying they had a responsibility to promote unity through “just legislation”.

The pontiff said the world must be attentive to “fundamentalism, whether religious or of any other kind” but also touched on economic inequality saying “even in the developed world, the effects of unjust structure and actions are all too apparent”.

During his speech, Pope Francis renewed calls for “the global abolition of the death penalty” saying criminals should be rehabilitated.

He also reaffirmed his “esteem and appreciation” to the indigenous people of the Americas who faced “turbulent and violent” contacts with colonizing powers.

Noting that most Congress members were the descendents of migrants, Pope Francis urged them to “treat others with the same passion and compassion with which we want to be treated”.

After finishing with the words “God bless America”, Pope Francis received a prolonged standing ovation.

Thousands of people have gathered on the West Lawn of the Capitol hoping to see the Pope.

Sitting behind the Pope was Vice President Joe Biden and John Boehner, the first and second in line to the presidency, who are both Roman Catholics.

John Boehner, a Republican, is a former altar boy who invited the Pope to speak after failing to persuade his two predecessors to do likewise. He has ruled out fears that Pope Francis – who has a reputation for being politically engaged – will stir up controversy.

“The Pope transcends all of this,” John Boehner wrote in an online essay.

“He appeals to our better angels and brings us back to our daily obligations. The best thing we can all do is listen, open our hearts to his message and reflect on his example.”

Later on the day, Pope Francis is due to share a meal with homeless people.

House Speaker John Boehner plans to visit Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel next month.

Republicans have been highly critical of President Barack Obama over the deteriorating relationship with Israel.

John Boehner’s visit will take place in April, weeks after a clear election victory for Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party.

During the campaign, Benjamin Netanyahu vowed not to allow the establishment of a Palestinian state, angering the White House.

Benjamin Netanyahu has since tempered those remarks, but the White House still warned there would be “consequences”.John Boehner to visit Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel

Barack Obama called Benjamin Netanyahu on March 19 to congratulate him on his election victory, but warned him that the US was reassessing its approach to Israeli-Palestine peace in the wake of Netanyahu’s comments.

John Boehner’s visit will take place at some point during a two-week congressional recess that begins on March 30, according to his spokesman, Kevin Smith.

“He looks forward to visiting the country, discussing our shared priorities for peace and security in the region, and further strengthening the bond between the United States and Israel,” Kevin Smith said.

The Israeli newspaper Haaretz said the visit would include several congressional Republicans.

Kevin Smith declined to comment on specifics of the trip.

In January, John Boehner invited Benjamin Netanyahu to address a joint session of Congress without notifying the White House.

Benjamin Netanyahu used the speech on March 3, two weeks before the Israeli elections, to criticize Barack Obama’s efforts to reach an agreement with Iran on its nuclear program.

Obama Administration officials and several Congressional Democrats criticized Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech, calling it a political ploy.

Many Democrats chose not to attend the speech, and Barack Obama refused to meet with Benjamin Netanyahu.

John Boehner last visited Israel in 2008.

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John Boehner has survived a House rebellion by winning a third term as House speaker after Republicans took control of both chambers for the first time in eight years.

Twenty five Republicans voted against him.

At the top of the Republican agenda is approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, which was the first bill introduced.

Republicans won a majority in the Senate during November’s mid-term election.

They already controlled the House of Representatives.

They have been angered by recent unilateral actions by President Barack Obama including an executive action on immigration policy and a major shift in US policy on Cuba.

Photo AFP/Getty Images

Photo AFP/Getty Images

Both chambers convened at midday, as required by the US constitution, after an early morning storm that left the capital city covered in snow.

“Hard work awaits,” said the new Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell.

“I’m really optimistic about what we can accomplish.”

During prepared remarks on January 6, John Boehner said he wanted Barack Obama to work with Republicans on bills that have stalled in recent years.

He also criticized unnamed fellow representatives for “shadow boxing and show business”.

The first bill to be introduced was the approval for Keystone XL, a controversial oil pipeline extension on hold for years.

It may have enough support to pass a procedural hurdle in the Senate but on Tuesday, the White House has said Barack Obama would veto the legislation if it came to his desk.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the legislation undermined a “well-established” review process and did not take into account a lawsuit still pending in the state of Nebraska over the pipeline’s route.

President Barack Obama has used his power of veto twice in his six years as president, but has said he expects to use it more now that both chambers are controlled by Republicans.

Republicans are also set to take on Barack Obama’s immigration policy changes through a funding fight, legislation to repeal or defund the health law often referred to as “ObamaCare”, and fast-track a Pacific trade deal.

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President Barack Obama was joined by the House and Senate leaders in holding cross-party talks aimed at ending political gridlock in Washington.

The White House luncheon came after the Republicans won control of the Senate in Tuesday’s elections.

Barack Obama, a Democrat, and heads of both parties in the House of Representatives and Senate were to explore avenues of compromise after years of rancor.

Republicans have called their victory a rebuke of Barack Obama’s policies.

On November 7, the president was joined for lunch by 16 senior legislators including presumptive incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Republican House Speaker John Boehner.

“The American people just want to see work done here in Washington,” Barack Obama said, flanked at the dining table by John Boehner, outgoing Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Mitch McConnell, and Democratic House minority leader Nancy Pelosi.

“They are frustrated by the gridlock. They’d like to see some co-operation, and I think all of us have the responsibility – me in particular – to try and make that happen.”

Barack Obama said he hoped to discuss university affordability, infrastructure investment, overhaul of the tax system, and deficit reduction.

President Barack Obama was joined by the House and Senate leaders in holding cross-party talks aimed at ending political gridlock in Washington

President Barack Obama was joined by the House and Senate leaders in holding cross-party talks aimed at ending political gridlock in Washington (photo Getty Images)

“Those are all going to be areas where I’m very interested in hearing and sharing ideas,” he said.

On November 6, the Republicans won control of the Senate and solidified their hold on the House of Representatives.

With the Republicans in control of both houses of Congress, the party can complicate, if not block completely, Barack Obama’s agenda in the last two years of his tenure in the White House.

Control of the Senate could also enable the Republicans to stymie his ability to name new federal judges, cabinet members and senior government officials.

The new Congress will be sworn in on January 3.

Following the election, Barack Obama and senior Republicans pledged to work together to end the political gridlock that has virtually paralyzed Congress and that reached its culmination with the shutdown of the US government in a budget stalemate last year.

The midterm election campaign was characterized by widespread frustration expressed by voters about the inability of the two parties to work together.

In the wake of the Republican gains, Mitch McConnell vowed to make the Senate function and pass bills, after sessions that were the least productive in the chamber’s history.

House Speaker John Boehner has confirmed he will file a lawsuit against the Obama administration for its use of executive actions to change laws.

John Boehner said: “I believe the President is not faithfully executing the laws of our country, and on behalf of the institution and our constitution standing up and fighting for this is in the best long term interest of the Congress.”

He would not say which executive action the lawsuit would target specifically.

The specifics and mechanics of the suit have yet to be worked out, but John Boehner could enlist an organization called the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG) to carry it out.

John Boehner has confirmed he will file a lawsuit against the Obama administration for its use of executive actions to change laws

John Boehner has confirmed he will file a lawsuit against the Obama administration for its use of executive actions to change laws

Because that body is controlled by the Speaker, the Majority Leader, the Majority Whip, the Minority Leader and the Minority Whip, Republicans could order the lawsuit to go ahead even if Democrats objected.

John Boehner insisted Wednesday that the lawsuit does not amount to an effort to impeach the president.

“This is not about impeachment, this is about his faithfully executing the laws of our country,” he said.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest said he is confident President Barack Obama has operated well within the confines of the law and that Republicans have brought the suit simply because they disagree with Obama’s policies.

The GOP’s unwillingness to compromise has forced the president to take more executive actions, Earnest said.

“The fact that they are considering a taxpayer-funded lawsuit against the president of the United States for doing his job, I think, is the kind of step that most Americans wouldn’t support,” Josh Earnest said.

“This lawsuit is not going to consume the attention of the White House,” he added.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-California, on Wednesday called the lawsuit “subterfuge”.

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Florida Republican congressman Trey Radel who was convicted on cocaine possession charges, will resign from Congress on Monday.

Trey Radel’s future in Congress had been in question following his guilty plea to misdemeanor cocaine possession after being arrested in Washington, D.C. in November, and a subsequent leave of absence from his official duties to attend rehab.

“While I have dealt with those issues on a personal level, it is my belief that professionally I cannot fully and effectively serve as a United States Representative to the place I love and call home, Southwest Florida,” the Florida Rep. wrote in a letter to House Speaker John Boehner.

Trey Radel's future in Congress had been in question following his guilty plea to misdemeanor cocaine possession after being arrested in Washington, D.C. in November

Trey Radel’s future in Congress had been in question following his guilty plea to misdemeanor cocaine possession after being arrested in Washington, D.C. in November

News of Trey Radel’s plans to resign was first reported by Politico, and was confirmed by an aide to the congressman.

Trey Radel had sidestepped questions about whether he intended to resign after his arrest and stint in rehab, and returned to Capitol Hill earlier this month. He apologized to fellow Republican lawmakers during a closed-door meeting on January 8.

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Democrats have rejected a proposal from House of Representatives Republicans to extend the debt limit and reopen the federal government.

The White House criticized what it called an attempt to appease a small group of conservatives, but praised a parallel bipartisan Senate plan.

The White House balked at the House’s proposed amendments to President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare law.

The US must raise its $16.7 trillion debt limit by Thursday or risk default.

It remains unclear whether Congress can agree a deal in time to avert the economic calamity in the US and across the world that economists say could result.

The House of Representatives would vote on Tuesday night on its bill to reopen the government and avoid default, said Republicans.

Meanwhile, Fitch credit agency placed the US AAA rating under review for a downgrade.

The Senate plan, outlined on Monday evening, would fund the government through mid-January and raise the debt ceiling until February, creating room for negotiators to agree a longer-term budget.

Democrats have rejected a proposal from House of Representatives Republicans to extend the debt limit and reopen the federal government

Democrats have rejected a proposal from House of Representatives Republicans to extend the debt limit and reopen the federal government

The House plan largely mirrored the Senate timeline until Representative Devin Nunes said on Tuesday afternoon it had been amended to fund the government only until December 15.

The California Republican said the revised House plan also dropped earlier attempts to delay a medical device tax used to pay for healthcare subsidies under the Affordable Care Act.

The House plan would also eliminate healthcare subsidies for the president, vice-president, members of the president’s cabinet, and members of Congress and their staff.

The health law passed in 2010, was subsequently validated by the Supreme Court, and was a central issue in the 2012 presidential election, which Barack Obama won handily. Many key provisions have already taken effect, and more begin next year.

On Tuesday, Barack Obama rejected what an aide described as Republicans’ attempts to extort “ransom” while the government remained shut and the threat of a debt default loomed.

“Unfortunately, the latest proposal from House Republicans does just that in a partisan attempt to appease a small group of Tea Party Republicans who forced the government shutdown in the first place,” said White House spokeswoman Amy Brundage, referring to a faction of hardline conservatives who hold significant sway in the House.

Later, Republican House Speaker John Boehner said that both parties were trying to find a way forward and that Tuesday morning’s House plan was focused on “fairness for the American people under Obamacare”.

“There have been no decisions about exactly what we will do,” he told reporters on Tuesday.

 “There are a lot of opinions about what direction to go.”

But following a meeting with John Boehner and GOP moderates on Tuesday Republican representative Charlie Dent told the media his “best estimate is that there aren’t the votes to pass it”.

House and Senate Democrats immediately joined Barack Obama in denouncing the House Republican proposal.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said the plan was “an extreme piece of legislation and it’s nothing more than a blatant attack on bipartisanship”. He said it would never pass the Democratic-controlled Senate.

President Barack Obama is scheduled to meet House Democrats on Tuesday afternoon as the clock ticks to Thursday’s debt ceiling deadline.

Even if a deal is reached in the Senate, it is unclear whether Congress could act in time to pass legislation that would avert the October 17 default deadline.

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Republicans in the House of Representatives have met President Barack Obama amid renewed efforts to avert a looming debt crisis.

Both sides described the 90-minute meeting as useful but said no decision was made. They agreed to keep talking.

Republicans have offered the president a short-term debt limit increase to stave off default.

A new poll suggests the majority of Americans blame the Republicans for the partial shutdown of government.

A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll suggests 53% of Americans blame the Republicans for the crisis, compared with 31% who say the Democrats are responsible.

“It was a very adult conversation,” said Republican Hal Rogers of the meeting.

“Both sides said they were there in good faith.”

House Majority leader Eric Cantor called the meeting “very useful” and said the talks were continuing.

The White House said in a statement: “The president looks forward to making continued progress with members on both sides of the aisle.”

Officials have warned the US risks default on October 17 if the nation’s borrowing limit is not increased.

Republicans in the House of Representatives have met President Barack Obama amid renewed efforts to avert a looming debt crisis

Republicans in the House of Representatives have met President Barack Obama amid renewed efforts to avert a looming debt crisis

Republicans have offered to extend the government’s borrowing authority beyond the deadline, temporarily putting off a default.

In return they want Barack Obama to further negotiate on the budget dispute that has partially closed the government – the first shutdown for 17 years.

It is not clear if Republicans are willing to drop entirely their attempts to defund or delay Barack Obama’s 2010 healthcare law.

Leading Republican Pete Sessions said the two sides were working on “defining parameters to see if we can make progress”.

Earlier, House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner said Republicans had told Barack Obama they wanted “a temporary increase in the debt ceiling” followed by talks on “a way forward to reopen the government.”

“It’s time for leadership,” the Ohio Republican said.

“It’s time for these negotiations and this conversation to begin.”

A spokesman for John Boehner told reporters the deal offered was a “clean” increase of the debt limit, with no additional policies attached.

It would only last six weeks – until November 22.

Reacting to the offer, White House press secretary Jay Carney told a daily press briefing the president was glad that “cooler heads” seemed to be prevailing in the House.

But he added: “He will not pay ransom in exchange for the Republicans in the House doing their job.

Earlier on Thursday, Democratic Senate leader Harry Reid said the Senate would “look at anything” the House sent to them, but they would not engage in negotiations with Republicans prior to reopening the government.

The impasse over the debt limit has already rattled markets and increased the interest rate for one-month US Treasury bills. But US stock markets rebounded on Thursday on news of a possible breakthrough.

Democratic Senate finance committee chairman Max Baucus said the Republican campaign to undermine the healthcare law in return for agreeing to end the shutdown was “not up for debate” and would not happen.

Hundreds of thousands of federal employees have been out of work since the shutdown began, and private firms, from arms makers to motels, have begun to lay off workers.

About 15,000 private-sector employees have filed for unemployment benefits due to the shutdown, the US labor department said on Thursday.

And governors in at least four western states – Utah, South Dakota, Arizona and Colorado – have asked for authority to reopen national parks within their borders because of the economic impact of the closures.

On Thursday, Barack Obama signed legislation restoring death benefits to families of US troops who have died since the government closed. The shutdown prevented processing of the payments, typically made within days of the soldier’s death.

The president also met House Democrats at the White House on Wednesday and told them he would prefer a longer-term increase to the nation’s $16.69 trillion debt ceiling.

But the president said he was willing to accept a short-term rise in the borrowing cap to “give Boehner some time to deal with the Tea Party wing of his party”, Representative Peter Welch told the Associated Press news agency after the meeting, referring to a Republican faction of hard-core conservatives.

Earlier, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew told a congressional panel that skipping a payment on US debt would trigger a potentially profound financial crisis.

“It would be chaos,” Jack Lew told the Senate hearing.

Since the US hit its debt ceiling in May, the treasury has been using what are called extraordinary measures to keep paying the bills, but those methods will be exhausted by October 17, Jack Lew has said.

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President Barack Obama has announced he is willing to hold budget talks with Republicans, but not until they agree to lift “threats” against the economy.

Republicans “don’t get to demand ransom in exchange for doing their jobs”, Barack Obama said, by demanding concessions in policy before reopening government.

The US government shut down last week when Congress failed to agree a budget.

Republican leaders on Tuesday renewed their calls for Barack Obama to open negotiations over ending the impasses.

Republican House Speaker John Boehner told reporters he was “disappointed that the president refuses to negotiate”.

He said the president’s position not to talk with Republicans “until [they] surrender” was not sustainable, and any discussions regarding the debt ceiling must address how the nation is “living beyond its means”.

At the White House, Barack Obama said he had spoken to John Boehner and was “happy to talk with him and other Republicans about anything”.

But Barack Obama said any negotiations on the ongoing government shutdown or the debt limit “shouldn’t require hanging the threats of a shutdown or economic chaos over the heads of the American people”.

Barack Obama has announced he is willing to hold budget talks with Republicans, but not until they agree to lift "threats" against the economy

Barack Obama has announced he is willing to hold budget talks with Republicans, but not until they agree to lift “threats” against the economy

“We can’t make extortion routine as part of our democracy,” Barack Obama said.

“Democracy doesn’t function this way. And this is not just for me. It’s also for my successors in office, whatever party they’re from.”

He also warned of the repercussions of defaulting on the government’s debt should Congress fail to raise the borrowing limit, currently set to be reached on October 17.

Barack Obama said breaching the borrowing limit could disrupt capital markets, undermine international confidence in America, permanently increase the nation’s borrowing costs, add to its deficits and debt, and pose the “significant risk of a very deep recession”.

The US government partially shut down operations on October 1st after Republicans who control the House of Representatives refused to approve a budget, saying they would only do so if Barack Obama’s healthcare reform law were delayed or stripped of funding.

Barack Obama and the Democrats have thus far refused, noting the law was passed in 2010, subsequently approved by the Supreme Court, and was a central issue in the 2012 election which Obama won.

At the same time, the Republicans have refused to approve an increase in the US debt limit unless it is accompanied by significant spending cuts and other policy concessions.

Barack Obama maintains John Boehner could end the current government showdown by allowing the House to vote on a “clean” budget bill that does not alter the health law, because that could pass with votes from both Democrats and moderate Republicans.

But doing so would risk damaging his standing with the most conservative elements of his caucus, analysts say.

US and foreign officials and economists have warned of severe economic consequences if the US defaults on its debt because the government is unable to borrow money to fund its obligations.

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President Barack Obama’s plans for a military strike on Syria have won backing from key US political figures.

Barack Obama said a “limited” strike was needed to degrade President Bashar al-Assad’s capabilities in response to an alleged chemical weapons attack.

Key Republican leaders John Boehner and Eric Cantor both signaled their support for military action. Congress is expected to vote next week.

The UN earlier confirmed that more than two million Syrians were now refugees.

More than 100,000 people are thought to have died since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began in March 2011.

President Barack Obama and Vice-President Joe Biden met House Speaker John Boehner, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and the chairmen and ranking members from the national security committees in Washington on Tuesday.

John Boehner signaled his support for Barack Obama’s call for action, saying that only the US had the capacity to stop President Bashar al-Assad. John Boehner urged his colleagues in Congress to follow suit.

Eric Cantor, the House of Representatives majority leader, said he also backed Barack Obama.

President Barack Obama’s plans for a military strike on Syria have won backing from key US political figures

President Barack Obama’s plans for a military strike on Syria have won backing from key US political figures

The Virginia Republican said: “Assad’s Syria, a state sponsor of terrorism, is the epitome of a rogue state, and it has long posed a direct threat to American interests and to our partners.”

Nancy Pelosi said she did not believe Congress would reject a resolution calling for force.

Barack Obama said that Bashar al-Assad had to be held accountable for the chemical attack and that he was confident Congress would back him.

He said he was proposing military action that would degrade Bashar al-Assad’s capacity to use chemical weapons “now and in the future”.

“What we are envisioning is something limited. It is something proportional,” the president said.

“At the same time we have a broader strategy that will allow us to upgrade the capabilities of the opposition.”

Secretary of State John Kerry, Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel and the top US military officer, Gen Martin Dempsey, are appearing before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.

John Kerry told the panel that US allies such as Israel and Jordan were “one stiff breeze” away from potentially being hurt by any fresh chemical weapons attacks, and that US inaction would only embolden the Syrian president.

“This is not the time for armchair isolationism,” John Kerry said.

“This is not the time to be spectators to slaughter. Neither our country nor out conscience can afford the cost of silence.

“We have spoken up against unspeakable horror many times in the past. Now we must stand up and act.”

But John Kerry said again that there would be no American boots on the ground in Syria and that Barack Obama was “not asking America to go to war”.

Chuck Hagel said that “the word of the United States must mean something” and echoed John Kerry when adding: “A refusal to act would undermine the credibility of America’s other security commitments, including the president’s commitment to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.”

There will also be a classified briefing for all members of Congress.

Barack Obama will head to Sweden late on Tuesday for a G20 meeting sure to be dominated by Syria.

France has strongly backed the US plan for military action.

President Francois Hollande said on Tuesday: “When a chemical massacre takes place, when the world is informed of it, when the evidence is delivered, when the guilty parties are known, then there must be an answer.”

Francois Hollande called for Europe to unite on the issue, but said he would wait for the Congress vote.

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US Treasury Secretary Jack Lew has warned that the government will reach its debt limit by mid-October unless Congress acts quickly.

The debt ceiling was last raised in January. The government can no longer borrow if it is reached.

Jack Lew said that in such a case it will be unable to meet obligations such as pensions, military salaries and Medicare payments.

The country’s borrowing limit is currently capped at $16.7 trillion.

“Extraordinary measures are projected to be exhausted in the middle of October,” Jack Lew said in a letter to House Speaker John Boehner and other lawmakers.

“At that point, the US will have reached the limit of its borrowing authority, and Treasury would be left to fund the government with only the cash we have on hand on any given day,” he said.

The cash balance at that time is forecast to be about $50 billion, which Jack Lew said, would be “insufficient to cover net expenditures for an extended period”.

The US government will reach its debt limit by mid-October unless Congress acts quickly

The US government will reach its debt limit by mid-October unless Congress acts quickly

He said: “Operating the government with no borrowing authority, and with only the cash on had on a given day, would place the United States in an unacceptable position.”

There have been tense debates between the White House and congressional Republicans over the government’s debt ceiling, spending cuts, and other fiscal matters.

In August 2011, the Republicans and the Democrats took a hard line while debating raising the borrowing limits.

They only reached a compromise on the day the government’s ability to borrow money was due to run out.

The delay in reaching a deal at that time led ratings agency Standard & Poor’s to downgrade the US for the first time ever, which sparked volatility in the financial markets.

The compromise also included a series of automatic budget cuts known as the “sequester” which came into affect earlier this year.

However, in his letter Jack Lew argued that raising the debt limit does not increase government but “simply allows Treasury to pay for expenditures [the] Congress has previously approved”.

He warned that a delay in raising the limit “would cause irreparable harm to the American economy”.

Jack Lew explained that if investors become unwilling to loan to the US, the country could face an immediate cash shortfall.

”Such a scenario could undermine financial markets and result in significant disruptions to the economy,” he said.

The US Senate has passed a broad immigration reform bill that includes a path to citizenship for an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants.

The 68-32 vote comes after months of debate and a recent deal to boost border security spending significantly.

But the legislation faces a tough road in the more conservative House.

House Speaker John Boehner has said he will not advance legislation that lacks support of most of his fellow Republicans, who remain resistant.

After the bill’s passage on Thursday, President Barack Obama said the vote brought the US “a critical step closer to fixing our broken immigration system once and for all”.

“Today, the Senate did its job,” Barack Obama said in a statement.

“It’s now up to the House to do the same.”

Barack Obama has made immigration a top priority for his second term, asking Congress to deliver a bill for him to sign by autumn.

As the vote was held on Thursday afternoon, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat, made the rare request of asking all 99 of his colleagues to be present and to vote from their desks.

“This is not a vote where people should be straggling in,” Harry Reid said.

The US Senate has passed a broad immigration reform bill that includes a path to citizenship for an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants.

The US Senate has passed a broad immigration reform bill that includes a path to citizenship for an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants.

After the vote, members of the bipartisan group that negotiated the original bill, known as the Gang of Eight, thanked the broad coalition that had backed immigration reform efforts.

One member of the group, Democratic Senator Dick Durbin, said the voices of young undocumented immigrants “had made a difference”.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said the bill’s border security measures had “exceeded every expectation I had”, and said the bill had “practically militarized the border”.

Forward movement on the bill comes shortly after two Republican senators this week brokered a compromise to increase the bill’s funding of border security measures. An amendment that added an additional 20,000 border security agents was passed on Wednesday.

Earlier, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimated the legislation, without the increased border funds, would reduce the US budget deficit by $175 billion over 10 years and boost economic growth.

And analysts say many Republicans acknowledge reforming the immigration system will be key for their election prospects in the future as Hispanics become an increasingly important voter bloc.

On Thursday, John Boehner, the Republican House speaker, said the House would not take up the Senate bill directly.

“We’re going to do our own bill… that reflects the will of our majority and the will of the American people,” he said.

John Boehner’s comments cast doubt on the chances legislation will quickly reach Barack Obama’s desk, and could portend failure for immigration reform entirely, analysts say.

Separate bills designed by House Republicans include stricter border and interior security measures, employment checks and most significantly, no path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

Some Republicans believe such a programme rewards those who broke the law by immigrating to the country illegally.

Senator Chuck Grassley, who voted against the Senate bill, said he was counting on the House to pass legislation that is “much more tough”.

What’s in the Senate immigration bill?

  • Path to citizenship for immigrants who arrived illegally before 31 December  2011
  • Billions in funding for border security, including 20,000 new Border Patrol agents, and 700 miles of fencing
  • Requirement border security and fencing goals be met before these immigrants can become permanent residents
  • A start-up visa for foreign entrepreneurs; new visa programmes for low-skilled workers and the agricultural sector
  • All employers must use E-Verify, a programme to verify electronically each employee’s legal status within four years

See Full Bill Text

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Lindsay Marie Boehner, the daughter of House Speaker John Boehner, has tied the knot with her Jamaican-born love Dominic Lakhan in an intimate sunset ceremony set amid a lush Florida garden.

Lindsay Marie Boehner, 35, married construction worker Dominic Lakhan in a flowing white strapless gown that showed off a huge tattoo etched across her arm.

Dominic Lakhan, 38, looked smart in a grey suit with his waist-length dreadlocks on display as he waited for John Boehner to walk Lindsay Marie down the aisle at Sundy House in Delray Beach on Friday.

The couple said their vows with the House Speaker looking proudly on – despite the fact Dominic Lakhan had previously arrested for possessing marijuana.

Dominic Lakhan was arrested in 2006 and this may not have gone down well with John Boehner, a Republican who is a staunch opponent to legalizing the drug.

However, if there was any tension it was firmly pushed to one side as John Boehner, who had donned an orange tie for the occasion, wore a grey suit to match his new son-in-law.

About 60 guests gathered at the wedding, including Lindsay Marie’s younger sister Tricia, 32, who married James Kinney in 2011.

John Boehner and his wife Debbie were later seen joining their daughter for pictures at the venue which features pretty ponds.

Lindsay Marie Boehner, the daughter of House Speaker John Boehner, has tied the knot with her Jamaican-born love Dominic Lakhan in an intimate sunset ceremony

Lindsay Marie Boehner, the daughter of House Speaker John Boehner, has tied the knot with her Jamaican-born love Dominic Lakhan in an intimate sunset ceremony

The newlyweds had registered at Macy’s for wedding gifts – but kept things low-key, with the most expensive gift being a Pistachio-colored KitchenAid for $499.99 – and the cheapest, Kassatex Bath Towels, which were on sale for $7.99

Male guests sported Hawaiian shirts and slacks while the women were clad in sun dresses and semi-formal gowns.

According to Gossip Extra, the ceremony took place under heavy security as wedding guests were handed blue wristbands to separate them from diners at the hotel’s restaurant.

At least a dozen plainclothes cops were seen patrolling the hotel grounds.

A uniformed, shotgun-toting Palm Beach County Sheriff’s deputy stood by his squad car in the parking lot while Delray Beach cops were parked on the street.

The blinds at the restaurant were pulled down and diners who wanted to lift them up to watch the wedding were told they couldn’t.

The wedding guests, meanwhile, took place in the tiny banquet room about 8 p.m. and cheered wildly when John Boehner and his wife, Debbie, and the newlyweds walked in half an hour later.

Guests helped themselves to a buffet prepared by Sundy House Chef Lindsay Autry, a star of the Bravo show Top Chef‘s Season 9.

However, one waitress on hand said she could not believe the wedding party had opted for a buffet, saying: “You’d think that they’d splurge on a five-course, sit-down meal! I thought they’d all be much richer!”

Just after 10 p.m., John Boehner was spotted asking the groom to allow him to dance with his daughter as a three-piece band played The Turtles’ So Happy Together. The congressman also cut a rug with his younger daughter, Tricia.

The Jamaican side of the family, it seems, including Dominic Lakhan’s sister Delicia, reportedly stayed off the dance floor.

David Schnittger, Deputy Chief of Staff, Office of the Speaker, U.S. House of Representatives, tweeted his best wishes to the newlyweds, writing: “Paparazzi rent-a-chopper over Boehner family wedding tonight. Hope you got some good pics. Congrats Lindsay and Dom.”


Dominic Lakhan, the Jamaican-born fiancé of House Speaker John Boehner’s daughter, Lindsay Marie, pictured just weeks before their upcoming nuptials next month.

Dominic Lakhan, a 38-year-old construction worker, was spotted enjoying a McDonalds in Florida recently, with his dreadlocks piled high on his head underneath a knitted cap.

Lindsay Marie Boehner’s fiancé has been arrested for possessing marijuana in the past. This may not have gone down well with John Boehner – who is a staunch opponent to legalizing the drug.

Dominic Lakhan and Lindsay Marie Boehner, 35, are set to marry on May 10 in Delray Beach, Florida.

In 2006, Dominic Lakhan was arrested in Pembroke Pines, Florida for misdemeanor possession of two grams of marijuana during a traffic stop, the National Enquirer first reported.

Dominic Lakhan, the Jamaican-born fiancé of House Speaker John Boehner's daughter, Lindsay Marie, pictured just weeks before their upcoming nuptials next month

Dominic Lakhan, the Jamaican-born fiancé of House Speaker John Boehner’s daughter, Lindsay Marie, pictured just weeks before their upcoming nuptials next month

The police report from the incident states that “upon making contact with the driver”, an officer “observed in plain view a 16 oz. Natural Lite beer can opened in the driver door”.

The officer “also detected the odor of burnt cannabis emitting from the interior of the vehicle”, the police report continues.

“A search of the vehicle revealed two bags containing approximately TWO grams of suspected cannabis… inside the center of the ashtray.”

The arresting officer reported that Dominic Lakhan admitted to possessing the marijuana and said it was for personal use.

Court records show Dominic Lakhan, who is originally from Jamaica, was also arrested in 2003 for possession of an open container while driving.

Lindsay Marie Boehner lives in a four-bedroom home in Hollywood, Florida, less than an hour from Dominic Lakhan’s home in Delray Beach.

John Boehner has one other daughter, 32-year-old Tricia, who lives in Ohio with her husband, James Kinney.

The House Speaker, a Republican representing Ohio, has said in the past that he is “unalterably opposed” to legalizing marijuana, even for medical purposes.

“Whether it is the American Medical Association, the American Cancer Society – all of those people, by and large don’t believe there is any medicinal value in marijuana,” John Boehner told CNN in 2009.

America is “not a deadbeat nation”, President Barack Obama has said, as he warned Republicans unconditionally to approve a rise in the US debt ceiling.

At a White House news conference, Barack Obama said it would be “absurd” to use the borrowing limit as a negotiating chip.

But Republican House Speaker John Boehner said spending cuts should accompany a federal debt ceiling rise.

The US is expected to hit its $16.4 trillion borrowing limit by February unless lawmakers act.

Monday’s press conference came a week before the inauguration ceremony in Washington DC that will begin Barack Obama’s second term.

With an agreement to prevent the so-called fiscal cliff of sharp spending cuts and tax increases barely two weeks old, Barack Obama faces another budget showdown with congressional Republicans.

The Democratic president warned lawmakers: “They will not collect a ransom in exchange for not crashing the economy.”

He demanded that Republicans in charge of the House of Representatives approve a rise in the federal government’s authority to borrow money to pay existing obligations – without seeking policy concessions in return.

President Barack Obama has warned Republicans unconditionally to approve a rise in the US debt ceiling

President Barack Obama has warned Republicans unconditionally to approve a rise in the US debt ceiling

The last debt ceiling battle between Congress and Barack Obama ended in July 2011, after bringing the nation close to default and resulting in a credit rating downgrade as well as financial market turmoil.

“The full faith and credit of the United States of America is not a bargaining chip. And they [Republicans] better decide quickly because time is running short,” Barack Obama said.

He said he was happy to engage in debate over US fiscal policy, but only after an increase in the debt limit.

“We are not a deadbeat nation,” he said.

“While I’m willing to compromise and find common ground over how to reduce our deficits, America cannot afford another debate with this Congress about whether or not they should pay the bills they’ve already racked up.”

He added: “What I will not do is to have that negotiation with a gun at the head of the American people.”

Afterwards, John Boehner, leader of the House Republicans, acknowledged the economic risk of failing to raise the debt ceiling. But he indicated the House would attach spending cuts to any measure to raise the federal borrowing authority.

“The American people do not support raising the debt ceiling without reducing government spending at the same time,” he said in a statement.

Speaking on a day marking a month on from the massacre at a Connecticut primary school that shocked the nation, Barack Obama also said he would present proposals for gun control later in the week.

He said stronger background checks, control of high capacity magazine clips, and an assault weapons ban were all measures he believed made sense.

“Will all of them get through this Congress?” he asked.

“I don’t know.”

The National Rifle Association and some lawmakers have suggested that any plan to ban assault weapons would not pass Congress.

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Republicans have cancelled a tax vote in the US Congress, less than two weeks before a deadline for budget reform.

Republican House speaker John Boehner proposed the bill, which would have raised taxes on high earners. But right-leaning Republicans rejected it.

Analysts say the rejection has weakened John Boehner’s position in negotiations with the White House.

Politicians need to agree fiscal rules by January 1st 2013, or steep tax rises and deep spending cuts will take effect.

Analysts say the so-called fiscal cliff could take the US into recession.

Despite the failure of the vote, major stock markets were little changed, as most analysts had expected this to be a long, drawn out process. European markets were down in the first half hour of trading, but by less than 0.5%.

John Boehner said he had been unable to garner sufficient votes to secure passage of the bill.

Although it would have ensured a tax cut for 99.8% of Americans, it would have imposed a rise on those earning more than $1 million.

He said in a statement that the bill “did not have sufficient support from our members to pass”.

Shortly after, the White House said President Barack Obama would work with Congress.

The White House statement said it was “hopeful that we will be able to find a bipartisan solution quickly”.

Republicans have cancelled vote on John Boehner’s fiscal cliff Plan B, less than two weeks before a deadline for budget reform

Republicans have cancelled vote on John Boehner’s fiscal cliff Plan B, less than two weeks before a deadline for budget reform

Earlier on Thursday, the House narrowly passed a companion bill that would cut domestic spending while protecting the defence budget.

The House is controlled by the Republicans, but the Senate is Democrat-led.

John Boehner’s plan would have had little chance of passing a Senate vote.

Analysts say it was in effect an effort to tell the US public that the Republicans should not be blamed if a deal could not be reached.

But some believe that the White House has now been strengthened by John Boehner’s failure.

White House spokesman Jay Carney earlier said John Boehner’s plan was a “multi-day exercise in futility at a time when we do not have the luxury of exercises in futility”.

John Boehner announced the bill on Tuesday, saying he would bring forward a measure that extended Bush-era tax cuts for those earning less than $1 million per year – but would not address the automatic spending cuts.

On Wednesday, the Republican leadership added a companion bill that would replace the automatic cuts with a proposal to remove cuts from defence and government operating budgets. They would be offset by reductions elsewhere in the budget.

The proposal would cut food stamps, benefits for federal workers and some social services programmes.

Barack Obama had sought tax rises for the wealthy, but was pushing for a lower threshold of $400,000.

He also offered a change to the way Social Security cost of living adjustments are made for some recipients, cuts from government healthcare programmes and a two-year extension of the debt ceiling.

John Boehner’s office called the proposal “a step in the right direction” but not fully “balanced”.

Analysts have painted a grim picture of the consequences of going over the cliff, with some warning that the impact could push the US back into recession.

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) said in its latest economic outlook that the recession from the cliff could become global.

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Republicans in the US House of Representatives are blocking a bill that would prevent a tax increase on the first $250,000 of income earned by all Americans, President Barack Obama said on Saturday.

The Democratic-controlled Senate has approved the measure, but Barack Obama said House Republicans have “put forward an unbalanced plan that actually lowers rates for the wealthiest Americans”.

Barack Obama supports a plan to raise taxes on families earning more than $250,000. In his weekly radio and Internet address, Barack Obama said “the math just doesn’t work” on the GOP plan.

Barack Obama’s comments mark the fourth time since his re-election that he has used the radio address to push for middle-class tax cuts as part of a plan to avert a looming fiscal cliff – and his most sharply partisan tone.

The president said his plan to raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans should come as no surprise to Republicans or anyone else.

“After all, this was a central question in the election. A clear majority of Americans – Democrats, Republicans and independents – agreed with a balanced approach that asks something from everyone, but a little more from those who can most afford it,” Barack Obama said.

His plan is “the only way to put our economy on a sustainable path without asking even more from the middle class”. It also is the only plan he is willing to sign, the president said.

Barack Obama supports a plan to raise taxes on families earning more than $250,000

Barack Obama supports a plan to raise taxes on families earning more than $250,000

Barack Obama’s comments came as House Speaker John Boehner said Friday there has been no progress in negotiations to avert the “fiscal cliff”, a combination of automatic tax increases and spending cuts set to take effect in January.

John Boehner said the White House has wasted another week and has failed to respond to a GOP offer to raise tax revenues and cut spending.

Barack Obama and John Boehner spoke privately by phone on Wednesday. John Boehner described the conversation as pleasant, “but just more of the same”.

Barack Obama said in his address that he stands ready to work with Republicans on a plan that spurs economic growth, creates jobs and reduces the national deficit.

He said he wants to find ways to bring down health care costs without hurting seniors and is willing to make more cuts in entitlement programs such as Medicare.

Florida Senator Marco Rubio said in the Republican response on Saturday that tax increases will not solve the nation’s $16 trillion debt. Only economic growth and reform of entitlement programs will help control the debt, Marco Rubio said.

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Timothy Geithner, the US treasury Secretary, has said there will be no deal to avert a “fiscal cliff” unless Republicans accept a tax hike for the wealthy.

But House Speaker John Boehner has dismissed a 10-year plan, which aims to raise $1.6 trillion through tax rises and spending cuts, as “silliness”.

The two men met on Thursday as time runs out to broker a deal.

Economists warn planned tax rises and spending cuts due to take effect on January 1st could trigger a recession.

Timothy Geithner, negotiating for the White House, has drafted a plan that includes more spending to help for the unemployed and struggling homeowners, as well as cuts in Medicare and other benefits.

On Friday President Barack Obama warned of a “Scrooge Christmas” if soon-to-expire tax breaks for households earning below $250,000 were not renewed as part of the deal to avert the fiscal cliff.

But John Boehner, negotiating for the Republicans who control the House of Representatives, said talks with the administration had so far gone “almost nowhere”.

Timothy Geithner and John Boehner’s appearances on a number of Sunday television talk shows showed how entrenched their positions were.

US treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has said there will be no deal to avert a fiscal cliff unless Republicans accept a tax hike for the wealthy

US treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has said there will be no deal to avert a fiscal cliff unless Republicans accept a tax hike for the wealthy

“There’s not going to be an agreement without rates going up. There’s not,” Timothy Geithner told CNN’s State of the Union.

He called on Republicans to make a counter-offer to the Obama administration’s plan.

But John Boehner said he was “flabbergasted” by Timothy Geithner’s proposals – which he said asked Congress to give up its power to set the nation’s debt limit.

“What do you think would happen if we gave the president $1.6 trillion of new money?” John Boehner asked Fox News Sunday.

“He’d spend it.”

John Boehner says asking the top 2% of US taxpayers to pay more would deal a “crippling blow” to a fragile economy, and has criticized the Obama administration’s proposed spending cuts as inadequate.

The White House has suggested it would not support any deal that did not increase tax rates on the wealthiest.

The fiscal cliff would suck about $600 billion out of the economy.

The measures were partly put in place within a 2011 deal to curb the yawning US budget deficit.

What is the fiscal cliff?

  • Under a deal reached last year by the White House and the Republicans, existing stimulus measures – mostly tax cuts – will expire on 1 January 2013
  • Cuts to defence, education and other spending will then automatically come into force – the “fiscal cliff” – unless Congress acts
  • The economy does not have the momentum to absorb the shock from going over the fiscal cliff without going into recession

Top US Republican John Boehner has called in Congress for action against a White House contraception rule that has angered Catholic leaders.

John Boehner, a Republican from Ohio, said legislation was needed against the rule, which means Church-linked institutions must buy health insurance that covers birth control costs.

Catholic leaders say that would force them to violate religious beliefs.

White House officials say they want to find ways to allay Church concerns.

But one report in the New York Times on Wednesday said the administration would not back down from the rule.

Under President Barack Obama’s healthcare reform law, employers must offer insurance that includes contraceptives.

Churches and other houses of worship were given a waiver under the new law, but institutions including Catholic universities and hospitals are not exempt.

John Boehner took to the floor of the House of Representatives on Wednesday to call for legislation against the rule.

“This attack by the federal government on religious freedom must not stand and will not stand,” he said.

Top US Republican John Boehner has called in Congress for action against a White House contraception rule that has angered Catholic leaders

Top US Republican John Boehner has called in Congress for action against a White House contraception rule that has angered Catholic leaders

The speaker said the House Energy and Commerce Committee were working on legislation related to the rule.

The mandate has also provoked strong condemnation from the Republican presidential candidates on the campaign trail.

In Colorado on Tuesday, Mitt Romney described the policy as a “violation of conscience”.

But the White House and other Republican candidates have hit back at his criticism.

During Mitt Romney’s tenure as governor of Massachusetts, the state implemented legislation that required hospitals – including Catholic ones – to provide emergency contraception to rape victims.

Democratic congresswomen have defended the White House measure, arguing that the policy would control health costs, stop unwanted pregnancies and that overturning the rule would adversely affect staff who may not be Catholic.

Jan Schakowsky, a Democratic Representative from Illinois, said: “Women’s healthcare should not depend on who the boss is.”

Wisconsin Representative Gwen Moore said the church “can’t impose its religious views on people and whether they can have healthcare”.

The uproar began over the weekend, after US Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius defended the policy in an editorial for USA Today.

Catholic bishops called for the rule to be dropped, including Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York, who wrote in an editorial for the Wall Street Journal that the mandate was “an unprecedented incursion into freedom of conscience”.

The Obama administration has sought to portray the issue as a balance between religious freedoms and preventing discrimination under the new healthcare law.

“You are going to have folks of all faiths who work for those large institutions,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said in a Tuesday press briefing.

“Those women ought to be able to have access to the same contraceptive services that other women will have access to.”