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Yarmuth Supports President’s Plan to Cut Dependency on Foreign Oil

In an attempt to reduce nation’s dependence of foreign oil, President Barack Obama is encouraging oil companies to begin drilling the thousands of acres of land they currently lease in the United States. Mr. Obama’s suggestion is similar to one made by Third District Congressman John Yarmuth in 2008.

In response to oil companies’ requests for increased offshore drilling rights, Yarmuth proposed a bill that would require the companies to explore and drill the land they currently lease or else lose their leases.

Mr. Obama’s proposal to relies on financial incentives, and Yarmuth says that may make it more successful. He supports the plan, but says alternative energy sources need to be explored as well.

“We know that fossil fuel—well, most people know that fossil fuel—is not the long-term answer to our energy requirements. But we also know that there are millions and millions of vehicles on the road that are going to rely on gasoline for a long time to come,” he says.

Domestic drilling is expensive and time consuming, and the new sources won’t likely reduce gas prices. Yarmuth says high gas prices are a concern, but pollution and the dangers associated with importing oil are pressing issues.

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Yarmuth Says White House Should Be More Open on Libya

Third District Congressman John Yarmuth says he has a number of questions about the ongoing military action in Libya, and many of them stem from what he calls a lack of clarity from the White House. (For the national perspective on this topic, listen to this NPR report.)

Yarmuth agrees with President Barack Obama that Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi should not be in power. But he says the president should’ve been more open with congress before launching military strikes to enforce a no-fly zone.

Yarmuth has been a vocal critic of the war in Iraq. He says the situation in Libya doesn’t compare.

“But it’s not over,” he says. “When you start moving from enforcing a no-fly zone to actually bombing buildings in the compound of Gadhafi that raises questions about what the true mission is.”

Yarmuth is also worried military leaders won’t stick to their timeline to end the strikes.

“I don’t think there’s any question that members of both sides of the aisle are a little bit confused as to exactly what our objective and what our measurements for success are,” he says. “There is potential for prolonged involvement. I don’t think the American people support that, I don’t think they’d be ready for it, I don’t think the congress would be willing to pay for it or endorse it. I think that’s why we need a clear picture of why we’re there, how long we’re going to be there.”

Yarmuth says despite the backing of many European and Middle Eastern countries, it looks like the U.S. is leading the military action, and that’s a cause for concern. Further, he’s wary that the impending NATO-led humanitarian mission won’t go as planned.

Republican Congressman Todd Young of southern Indiana is also critical of the military action in Libya. He raised several concerns in a statement posted on Facebook, but was not available for comment.

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Political Bracketology

Adept NCAA brackets can win you money in an office pool, respect among your friends or…political capital. At least, that’s the thoughts of some observers.

Last year, the candidates for U.S. Senate sniped at each other over their bracket choices. And this year, there’s no shortage of coverage of President Barack Obama’s NCAA picks. Some outlets have questioned the President’s choices (too safe–he has the number one seeds in the final four). Others have dug for political meaning (where does he rank schools from 2012 battleground states?). And other outlets have said there’s too much happening in the world for the President to bother with college basketball (we could say the same about some news outlets).

The best coverage, though, comes from the Awl, which parses Mr. Obama’s choices on politics and stats, then compares his picks to the national averages.

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Live Coverage of President Obama’s News Conference at 11:00 on WFPL

WFPL will air live coverage of President Barack Obama’s news conference this morning at 11 am. Mr. Obama is expected to discuss rising oil and gasoline prices. As the AP reports, “Fuel prices have been rising amid continued turmoil in Libya, an oil-producing country. News that police opened fire to break up a protest Thursday afternoon in Saudi Arabia also has sparked fears that the unrest could spread to that country. Saudi Arabia is the world’s largest oil exporter.”

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Environment Local News Politics

Beshear Returns From Washington, Says Environmental Regulation Is “Balancing Act”

Weeks after calling for the federal government to get off the state’s back when it comes to coal regulation, Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear had the chance to discuss the issue with the White House.

Beshear returned this week from a meeting with other governors and the president. He says he talked with cabinet members about his frustrations with environmental restrictions on the coal industry.

“It is a balancing act and we all know that,” says Beshear. “There are good regulations that protect the public, protect the environment. At the same time those have to be balanced with the need to allow a business to operate so it can employ people.”

Environmental groups have criticized Beshear for his comments about the EPA. Beshear says he believes there is a safe, ecologically-friendly way to use coal. Others disagree, saying that mining and burning coal both damage the environment.

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Yarmuth Has Concerns About Budget, Hopes For Compromise

In a news conference Tuesday, President Barack Obama said he’s hopeful he and Congress can have an “adult conversation” about his latest federal budget proposal, and Third District Congressman John Yarmuth says he thinks civil cooperation is possible.

Many Republicans have called for deeper cuts than those proposed by Mr. Obama. Yarmuth says compromise has been difficult on some issues in the GOP-led House, but he has hope for bipartisan budget negotiations.

“Last week, in the discussions we had in the Budget Committee, the tone was very cooperative and respectful and I think there’s a possibility we can work together,” he says.

Yarmuth says he appreciates the overall goal of the budget, which is to reduce the deficit over the next few years without hurting programs that benefit the economy, but he doesn’t like the proposed cut to heating assistance for low-income Americans, and he’s open to finding a way to restore those funds.

“Everything’s negotiable, and I think we certainly ought to look at every program as to its effectiveness and as to whether the expense is justified. I think there are ways to compromise an all these,” he says. “A lot of us, for whom some of these cuts the Republicans have proposed and even cuts like the ones the Obama administration has proposed would be much more acceptable if we didn’t have 10% unemployment and so many people suffering.”

Yarmuth says he would also like to see more changes in military spending. Specifically, the congressman wants the government to spend less on war efforts, though he admits that sort of change is unlikely.

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Live Coverage Of President Obama’s News Conference Today At 11:00

WFPL will air live coverage of President Barack Obama’s news conference at 11 am on Tuesday. Mr. Obama is expected to discuss his budget proposal.

From NPR:

NPR’s Neal Conan will host the coverage. He will be joined in the studio by NPR Correspondent John Ydstie, NPR’s Diplomatic Correspondent Michele Kelemen and NPR’s White House Correspondent Ari Shapiro.

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McConnell Says GOP Doesn’t “Intend To Make Any Bad Deals”

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell says President Barack Obama’s legislative agenda is “over.” The comment came during a speech McConnell gave to Louisville Republicans Saturday night.

Audio MP3

Kentucky’s newest U.S. Senator, Rand Paul, introduced Senator McConnell at the annual Jefferson County Republican Party Lincoln Day Dinner in Louisville. It was the first time the two men had publicly appeared together in Kentucky since the November election. McConnell endorsed Paul’s opponent in the primary last year, but says Paul is bringing new energy and conservative ideas to Washington, and the two men make a good team.

“Now we have control of the House of Representatives,” said McConnell. “We have 47 in the Senate and for some of you who are disappointed in that, it takes 60 votes to control the Senate. The legislative agenda of Barack Obama is over.”

But McConnell says Republicans still don’t control government, and they’re prepared to do business with Mr. Obama “to the extent that the president wants to do what we think is right for America.”

“We’re not going to use the next election as an excuse not to do important things for the country if the president’s willing to do what we think ought to be done,” said McConnell. “Interpret that to mean, we don’t intend to make any bad deals.”

Noting President Obama’s shift toward the political center since the November election, McConnell derided Mr. Obama for performing “Clintonian back flips.” But McConnell says it’s unclear if the more moderate tone of the president and some Senate Democrats is “rhetoric or reality.”

“There are 23 Democrats up in ‘12, many of whom seem to be at least rhetorically like the president, having an epiphany,” joked McConnell. “And we shall see, how many of them want to come over and join us and begin to tackle our annual deficit.”

Laying out the Senate Republican strategy, McConnell said, “Whatever the House can get out of the House with a majority vote is the goal of the Senate.”

Turning to Kentucky, McConnell praised Senate President David Williams for helping Republicans maintain control of the Senate since 1999. One of 11 statewide candidates to follow McConnell to the podium, Williams used his three minutes to bash Gov. Steve Beshear, whom Williams says has no agenda.

“The only bill he has is an 18 year old drop out bill and that’s just an acknowledgement of the fact that he knows nothing about education,” said Williams. “What does he expect to do with an unfunded mandate to our school system to do something about the educational problems that have been caused by the lack of change in education in this state?”

Louisville businessman Phil Moffett and Jefferson County Clerk Bobbie Holsclaw didn’t attack Senator Williams or Gov. Beshear by name, but both were critical of the leadership in Frankfort and said they are the better candidates for governor. Stumping for votes in the Republican primary for Secretary of State were Bill Johnson and Hilda Legg.

“We cannot let this younger generation grow up and not know what government is about, and their responsibilities and their role – just like you have given so much of yourself to making Kentucky a state that has a two-party system,” said Legg.

Other Republican candidates making pitches to the crowd were Todd P’Pool for Attorney General; John Kemper and Addia Wuchner for State Auditor; K.C. Crosbie for State Treasurer; and James Comer and Rob Rothenburger for State Agriculture Commissioner.

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McConnell Says Obama’s Agenda Is “Over” At Lincoln Days Dinner

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky says President Barack Obama’s legislative agenda is “over.” McConnell spoke to hundreds of Republicans at a Lincoln Day dinner in Louisville Saturday night.

Senator McConnell says since November, President Obama–in an effort to reinvent himself as a moderate–has been engaged in a series of “Clintonian back flips.” And McConnell says he appreciates the voters sending more Republicans to Washington.

“Now we have control of the House of Representatives. We have 47 in the Senate and for some of you who are disappointed in that, it takes 60 votes to control the Senate. The legislative agenda of Barack Obama is over.”

But McConnell says Republicans are prepared to do business with Mr. Obama, “if the president’s willing to do what Republicans think needs to be done.” And McConnell says he’s waiting to see how many Democrats are willing to join the Republicans in cutting the national deficit.

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Yarmuth May Clash With Issa On Oversight Committee

Third District Congressman John Yarmuth has been appointed to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

The high-profile post places Yarmuth across the table from California Republican Darrell Issa, who chairs the committee. Issa has said he intends to use the committee’s power to conduct hundreds of interviews and investigate the Obama administration.

Issa has been asked to back off from his aggressive stance, and Yarmuth says he wants to stop any potential witch hunts in Congress.

“It remains to be seen how aggressive he’ll be. We want aggressive oversight of all activities of government. That’s important. But you don’t just go issuing thousands and thousands hoping you’re going to uncover something. You have to have a reason for an investigation,” he says. “When you have a chairman who has gone on the record and said publicly that he thinks the Obama administration is the most corrupt administration in history and that he plans to aggressively pursue investigations. That, to me, reeks of witch hunt potential.”

Yarmuth will serve on subcommittees on national security and financial services. The first full committee meeting is next Wednesday. The panel will discuss the Troubled Asset Relief Plan, also known as the bailout. Yarmuth previously served on the Ways and Means Committee, but lost his seat when the GOP gained the majority