Nation roundup for May 21
Obama kept in dark about audit
WASHINGTON (AP) — White House chief of staff Denis McDonough and other senior advisers knew in late April that an impending report was likely to say the IRS had inappropriately targeted conservative groups, President Barack Obama’s spokesman disclosed Monday, expanding the circle of top officials who knew of the audit beyond those named earlier.
But McDonough and the other advisers did not tell Obama, leaving him to learn about the politically perilous results of the internal investigation from news reports more than two weeks later, officials said.
The apparent decision to keep the president in the dark underscores the White House’s cautious legal approach to controversies and reflects a desire by top advisers to distance Obama from troubles threatening his administration.
Obama spokesman Jay Carney defended keeping the president out of the loop on the Internal Revenue Service audit, saying Obama was comfortable with the fact that “some matters are not appropriate to convey to him, and this is one of them.”
Immigration bill moving forward
WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate supporters of far-reaching immigration legislation accepted minor changes in public while negotiating over more sweeping alterations in private Monday as they drove toward expected Judiciary Committee approval by mid-week.
In a long day of drafting, the panel voted to begin phasing in a requirement for foreigners to undergo fingerprinting when they leave the country. Lawmakers also agreed to make an immigrant’s third drunk driving conviction a deportable offense in some cases.
At the same time, officials expressed optimism that agreement was in sight in complex private talks over proposed changes to a section of the legislation relating to H-1B high skilled visas.
As drafted, the bill would raise the current cap from 65,000 annually to 110,000, with the possibility of a further rise to 180,000.
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, whose state is home to a burgeoning high tech industry, sought changes to reduce the cost and other conditions on firms that rely on highly skilled foreign labor.
Alaska volcano’s ash nixes flights
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — An Alaska volcano eruption is prompting regional airlines to cancel flights to nearby communities, including a town that reported traces of fallen ash.
The Alaska Volcano Observatory says Pavlof Volcano has released ash plumes as high as 22,000 feet. Clouds obscured the volcano Monday, but scientists say seismic instruments at the volcano 625 miles southwest of Anchorage show continuing tremors.
Geologist Chris Waythomas says the abrasive ash has not risen enough to threaten international air traffic passing over the volcano-rich Aleutian arc. Ash emissions have reached high enough, however, to affect flights of some smaller planes.
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