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WASHINGTON (AP) — House Democrats are determined to cast an election-year spotlight on Republican opposition to raising the minimum wage and overhauling immigration laws.

To try to accomplish that, Democrats are planning to rely on an infrequently used and rarely successful tactic.

It's known as a "discharge petition."

It requires the minority party — Democrats, in this case — to persuade some two dozen Republicans to defy their leadership, join Democrats and force a vote on setting the federal minimum wage at $10.10 an hour.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi says Democrats will push the wage issue when Congress returns from break Feb. 24.

Forcing a vote on immigration could occur in a few months.

The odds are daunting for Democrats in what clearly is political maneuvering ahead of this fall's elections.

Read more...

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Opponents of same-sex marriage are scrambling to find effective responses, in Congress and state legislatures, to a rash of court rulings that would force some of America's most conservative states to accept gay nuptials.

Some gay-marriage foes are backing a bill introduced in Congress that would leave states in charge of their marriage policies, though it stands little chance of passing. They're also endorsing bills in statehouses — some intended to protect gay-marriage bans, and others to assert a right, based on religious freedom, to have nothing to do with gay marriages.

Federal judges have voided part or all of the same-sex marriage bans in Utah, Oklahoma, Kentucky and Virginia. Each ruling has been stayed pending appeals, and a final nationwide resolution may be a few years away.

Read more...

WASHINGTON (AP) — The number of U.S. soldiers forced out of the Army because of crimes or misconduct has soared in the past several years.

That's as the military emerges from a decade of war that put a greater focus on battle competence than on character.

Data obtained by The Associated Press shows that the number of officers who left the Army due to misconduct more than tripled in the past three years.

The number of enlisted soldiers forced out for drugs, alcohol, crimes and other misconduct jumped from about 5,600 in 2007 as the Iraq war peaked, to more than 11,000 last year.

The data reveals stark differences between the military services, and shows the strains that long, repeated deployments to the front lines have had on soldiers and their leaders.

Read more...

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