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WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate stepped away from the brink of a meltdown on Tuesday, clearing the way for confirmation of one of President Barack Obama's nominees long blocked by Republicans, nearing a deal to fill several other vacancies and finessing a Democratic threat to overturn historic rules that protect minority-party rights.

"Nobody wants to come to Armageddon here," said Sen. Chuck Schumer, the New York Democrat whose talks with Arizona Republican John McCain were critical in avoiding a collision that had threatened to plunge the Senate even deeper into partisan gridlock.

McCain, a veteran of uncounted legislation struggles, told reporters that forging the deal was "probably the hardest thing I've been involved in."

There was no immediate response from the White House, although Democratic senators said the terms of the compromise were acceptable to the administration.

Under the agreement, which both sides were reviewing at midday, several of seven stalled nominees would win confirmation quickly, including Labor Secretary-designate Tom Perez; Gina McCarthy, named to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, and Fred Hochberg to head of the Export-Import Bank.

Even before the agreement was ratified by the rank and file, Richard Cordray's long-stalled nomination to head the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau advanced toward approval on a test vote of 71-29, far more than the 60 required.

Two nominees to the National Labor Relations Board, Richard Griffin and Sharon Clark, were to be replaced by new selections, expected to be submitted by President Barack Obama later Tuesday and steered toward speedy consideration by Senate Republicans. Obama installed Griffin and Clark in their posts by recess appointments in 2011, bypassing the Senate but triggering a legal challenge. An appeals court recently said the two appointments were invalid, and the Supreme Court has agreed to review the case.

The seventh nomination at issue, Mark Pearce's selection to a new term as NLRB chairman, was relatively uncontroversial, and is likely to be approved along with the replacements for Griffin and Clark.

"I think we get what we want, they get what they want. Not a bad deal," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.

There was more to it than that.

Scarcely 24 hours earlier, Reid had insisted that if Republicans didn't stop blocking confirmation of all seven, he would trigger a change in the Senate's procedures to strip them of their ability to delay. At the core of the dispute is the minority party's power to stall or block a yes-or-no vote on nearly anything, from legislation to judicial appointments to relatively routine nominations for administration positions.

While a simple majority vote is required to confirm presidential appointees, it takes 60 votes to end delaying tactics and proceed to a yes-or-no vote. Reid's threat to remove that right as it applied to nominations to administration positions was invariably described as the "nuclear option" for its likely impact on an institution with minority rights woven into its fabric.

The same term was used when Republicans made a similar threat on judicial nominations in 2005 — an earlier showdown that McCain helped defuse when it was his own party threatening to change the rules unilaterally.

As part of the deal over Obama's nominees, Republicans agreed to step aside and permit confirmation of several, some of whom they had long stalled. Cordray was first appointed in July 2011, but a vote was held up by GOP lawmakers who sought to use his confirmation as leverage to make changes in the legislation that created his agency.

McCarthy was named to her post in March, and Republicans dragged their feet, demanding she answer hundreds of questions about the EPA. At one point, they boycotted a committee meeting called to approve her appointment.

Perez, also nominated in March, is a senior Justice Department official, and was accused by Republicans of making decisions guided by left-wing ideology rather than the pursuit of justice.

As described by officials, the deal is strikingly similar to a proposal that Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell floated in remarks on the Senate floor last week during an unusually personal exchange with Reid. At the time, the Kentucky Republican also said he had told Obama last January to drop his hopes of confirmation for Griffin and Clark and instead name two replacements. He relayed the same message again last month to Vice President Joe Biden, a former senator with whom he has a long relationship.

Tuesday's developments unfolded the morning after a closed-door meeting of nearly all 100 senators, many of them eager to avoid a rules change that could poison relations between the two parties at a time the Senate is struggling in an era of chronic gridlock. About three dozen lawmakers spoke in the course of a session that lasted more than three hours, and while few details have emerged, several participants said later it had been a productive meeting.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said she had urged others to "look ahead and think about the time when we would have a Republican president with Republican Senate and there could be someone appointed who was completely unacceptable to my Democratic colleagues and was nominated to run their favorite program" She said she asked if they "really want to give away their right to filibuster that individual."

Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., said the sense of history hung over the meeting, which was held in the Old Senate Chamber, where lawmakers had debated slavery and other great national issues for much of the 19th century. "Senator McCain talked about Webster, Jefferson and Madison. We knew that we were on sacred political ground," he said.

McCain told reporters that with McConnell's knowledge, he had been involved in talks for several days in search of a compromise, speaking with Biden, White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough and numerous senators.

"At least 10 times it came together, and then fell apart because there's always some new wrinkle," he said.

___ Associated Press writers Alan Fram, Charles Babington, Donna Cassata, Josh Lederman and Sam Hananel contributed to this story
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WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama on Tuesday conceded that an immigration overhaul cannot be achieved by his August deadline. With House Republicans searching for a way forward on the issue, the president said he was hopeful a bill could be finalized this fall — though even that goal may be overly optimistic.

The president, in a series of interviews with Spanish language television stations, also reiterated his insistence that any legislation include a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million people in the U.S. illegally. Many House GOP lawmakers oppose the citizenship proposal, hardening the differences between the parties on the president's top second-term legislative priority.

"It does not make sense to me, if we're going to make this once-in-a-generation effort to finally fix this system, to leave the status of 11 million people or so unresolved," he said during an interview with Telemundo's Denver affiliate.

The White House sees the president's outreach to Hispanics as a way to keep up enthusiasm for the overhaul among core supporters even as the legislative prospects in Washington grow increasingly uncertain.

Some Republicans view support for immigration reform as central to the party's national viability given the growing political power of Hispanics. But many House GOP lawmakers representing conservative — and largely white — districts see little incentive to back legislation.

The president said the lack of consensus among House Republicans will stretch the immigration debate past August, his original deadline for a long-elusive overhaul of the nation's fractured laws.

"That was originally my hope and my goal," Obama said. "But the House Republicans I think still have to process this issue and discuss it further, and hopefully, I think, still hear from constituents, from businesses to labor, to evangelical Christians who all are supporting immigration reform."

Supporters are working on strategy to get the House to sign off on an overhaul. On Tuesday, most members of the so-called Gang of Eight — the bipartisan group of senators that authored the Senate immigration bill — met in the Capitol with a large group of advocates from business, religious, agriculture and other organizations to urge everyone to work together to move the issue through the House.

The senators distributed a list of 121 House Republicans seen as persuadable in favor of the bill and discussed honing a message for Congress' monthlong August recess, when House members will meet with constituents and potentially encounter opposition to immigration legislation.

"When we go into the August break we want to be sure everybody's working hard and trying to make our case," said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., after the meeting.

The landmark bill passed by the Senate last month would tighten border security, expand the highly skilled worker program and set up new guest worker arrangements for lower-skilled workers and farm laborers. It would also provide a pathway to citizenship for many of the 11 million immigrations illegally in the U.S., one that includes paying fees, learning English and taking other steps.

During his interview with Univision's Los Angeles affiliate, Obama said the citizenship pathway "needs to be part of the bill."

House Republicans have balked at the Senate proposal, with GOP leaders saying they prefer instead to tackle the issue in smaller increments. Many GOP representatives also oppose the prospect of allowing people who came to the U.S. illegally to become citizens.

House Republicans are considering other options, including proposals to give priority for legalization to the so-called Dreamers — those who were brought the U.S. illegally as children. Allowing only those individuals to obtain citizenship could shield Republicans from attacks by conservatives that they're giving a free pass to those who voluntarily broke the law.

"I think that group of people — some call Dreamers — is a group that deserves perhaps the highest priority attention," Rep. Bob Goodlatte, who chairs the House Judiciary Committee, said at an immigration-related conference in California Monday. "They know no other country."

Goodlatte and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, both Virginia Republicans, are working on a bill to address the status of those immigrants, although the timing is uncertain. And Goodlatte cautioned that any such measure should hinge on completion of enforcement measures to prevent parents from smuggling their children into the U.S. in the future.

The House is not expected to act on any legislation before the August recess, though the House Judiciary Committee could hold a hearing on the bill dealing with people brought to the U.S. when they were young.

Obama also spoke with the Telemundo station in Dallas and the Univision station in the New York/New Jersey area.

_ Associated Press writer Erica Werner contributed to this report.

_ Follow Julie Pace at http://twitter.com/jpaceDC
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By Anthony Castellano

Jul 17, 2013 7:32am

Rolling Stone magazine put Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaevon the cover of its August issue, drawing harsh criticism from the online world that it glorifies the alleged bomber.

The cover, often reserved for rock stars and top celebrities, features the 19-year-old teen suspect in a photo taken from one of Tsarnaev’s social media accounts. In the photo, Tsarnaev is sporting shaggy hair and staring intently into the camera.

The headline on the cover reads, “The Bomber. How a popular, promising student was failed by his family, fell into radical Islam and became a monster.”

More than 5,000 people have left comments on the legendary magazine’s Facebook page, most denouncing Rolling Stone’s decision to feature Tsarnaev.

“I think it’s wrong to make celebrities out of these people,” one person wrote on the magazine’s Facebook page. “Why give the guy the cover of Rolling Stone? TIME gave Charles Manson the cover and all the magazines carried pictures of the Columbine shooters on the covers, too. Don’t make martyrs out of these people.”

Another person wrote, “Jeff Bauman, who lost both legs, should be on cover.”

Rolling Stone published a preview of Janet Reitman’s story online Tuesday, including “five revelations” uncovered in the article. One of the revelations sheds light on Tsarnaev’s feelings about the 9/11 terrorist attacks:

“Jahar never spoke about 9/11. Once, though, he let slip to a high school friend that he thought the terrorist attacks could be justified, and pointed to US policies towards Muslim countries and US drone strikes and other attacks as his rationale.”

The magazine says Reitman spent two months talking to “childhood and high school friends, teachers, neighbors and law enforcement agents” about Tsarnaev and the investigation into the bombing.

Tsarnaev pleaded not guilty last week to 30 counts associated with the bombing. Tsarnaev is accused of working with his older brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, to set off a pair of bombs near the finish line of the Boston Marathon April 15, killing three and injuring more than 260 others.

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