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John Kerry Stands by Claim Americans Face 'Less' Daily Threat

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) --  Secretary of State John Kerry said Sunday he stands by his statement that Americans are facing fewer daily threats, even though he's received heavy criticism for his remarks.

In an exclusive interview with ABC News' Martha Raddatz on This Week, Kerry explained the rationale behind his claims to Congress earlier this week, which came at the same time Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, said this has been the most lethal year for global terrorism.

"Well, I understand," he said. "Of course I understand it, Martha, because people are thinking about the day-to-day vision of what is happening on the ground in Syria, in Libya, where 21 Coptic Christians had their heads cut off, where a soldier is burned and a pilot in a cage, where American journalists have been beheaded publicly. We understand that."

"But I still stand by what I said, which is in long terms, compared to the last century, there are, in fact, fewer people dying of the means -- that you look at, by state war, violence, health, etc.," Kerry said.

"But that's not what's important," he continued. "What's important right now is what James Clapper said. There is an uptick in the level of terrorism and specific incidents of people being killed. And that threat is very, very real. Nobody is trying to minimize it."

Kerry told the House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday that "despite ISIL, despite the visible killings that you see and how horrific they are, we are actually living in a period of less daily threat to Americans and to people in the world than normally -- less deaths, less violent deaths."

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Republicans Blocking DHS Funding Are 'Delusional,' Rep. Peter King Says

Photo by Scott J. Ferrell/Congressional Quarterly(WASHINGTON) -- House Homeland Security Committee member Rep. Peter King called some members of his Republican caucus "self-righteous and delusional" for opposing a bill that would fund the Department of Homeland Security on ABC's This Week Sunday.

"I said the other night, when I was at the Republican meeting, that they are self-righteous and delusional," King said on This Week of the Republican contingent holding up the bill because of their opposition to President Obama's executive action on immigration.

"We're talking about maybe 40 or 50 people at most, out of a caucus of 247, out of a Congress of 435. We cannot allow such a small group to be dominating and controlling what happens in the United States Congress, especially at a time when we're confronting terrorism," the New York Republican told ABC News' Martha Raddatz.

House Republicans have tied funding for DHS to legislation that would roll back Obama's executive orders on immigration, a move King calls "irresponsible."

"Listen, I am as opposed to this immigration action as they are. But the fact is, it's essential that we fund the Department of Homeland Security," King said. "We saw what happened in Denmark, in Paris, what ISIS is doing with the beheadings. We had the people being arrested in New York just the other night. And for these people to be threatening to defund the Department of Homeland Security at a time when our threat streams have never been greater at any time since 9/11, it's absolutely irresponsible."

Despite a looming shutdown, the bill to fund the Homeland Security Department has been stalled in Congress for weeks. On Friday night, the House approved a one-week funding extension in order to avoid a partial shutdown, after voting down a longer extension, in a major failure for House Speaker John Boehner.

But King said he maintains his confidence in Boehner's ability to wrangle his party's votes, and he called for a "up or down" vote on a clean funding bill this week.

"We have to stand behind John Boehner and John Boehner has to find a way this week, as soon as possible in the week, once Prime Minister Netanyahu finishes his speech, to bring the clean bill to the floor of the House for a vote, an up or down vote. That's all we're asking for is democracy. Let that come to a vote," King said. "There's no doubt it will pass."

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John Kerry Doesn't Want Benjamin Netanyahu Visit to Become 'Some Great Political Football'

BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Two days before Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is set to speak to a joint session of Congress, Secretary of State John Kerry said the prime minister is welcome to speak in the U.S. but worries it injects far too much politics into the relationship.

“The prime minister of Israel is welcome to speak in the United States, obviously,” Kerry said Sunday in an exclusive interview on ABC’s This Week. “I talk to the prime minister regularly, including yesterday."

But, Kerry added, "we don't want to see this turned into some great political football.”

Kerry echoed frustrations expressed by the White House that House Speaker John Boehner’s invitation to Netanyahu was inappropriate.

“It was odd, if not unique, that we learned of it from the speaker of the House and that an administration was not included in this process," he said. "But the administration is not seeking to politicize this.”

But Kerry’s remarks were far more measured than those of National Security Advisor Susan Rice, who said last week that the speech would be “destructive to the fabric of the relationship.”

The White House has expressed anger with both the Republican-led House of Representatives and with Netanyahu’s office, not only for excluding them from the invitation process, but also for making the invitation so close to Israel’s elections on March 17 and the final stages of a potential American nuclear weapons deal with Iran.

Yet, while departing Israel for Washington, D.C., on Sunday morning, the prime minister seemed to be brimming with confidence. Speaking in Hebrew to reporters at the airport, Netanyahu called it a “crucial and even historical mission.”

“I feel I am representing all the citizens of Israel, even those who do not agree with me,” Netanyahu said. “I feel a deep and sincere concern for the safety of all the citizens of Israel and the fate of the state and the fate of our people. I will do everything in my power to secure our future."

The prime minister’s critics say he’s too hawkish on Iran and that he’s been warning for decades they are on the cusp of building a bomb. His supporters say a U.S. nuclear deal with Iran won’t work and that the only way to stop them is to punish them with further economic sanctions. Even many House Democrats say that they will vote for further sanctions if a deal isn’t reached by the end of the month.

Kerry told This Week that the negotiations with Iran have benefited Israel.

“Israel is safer today because of the interim agreement that we created,” he said. “The 20 percent enriched uranium has been reduced to zero. We have stopped the centrifuge production. We are inspecting inside of their facilities.”

Kerry also said the defense relationship with Israel has never been stronger.

“We have a closer relationship with Israel right now in terms of security than at any time in history," he said. "I was reviewing the record the other day - we have intervened on Israel's behalf, in the last two years, more than several hundred - a couple of hundred times in over 75 different fora in order to protect Israel.”

After the interview, Kerry left Washington for Geneva, Switzerland, where he’ll be attempting this week to finalize and nuclear deal with Iran.

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Secret Service Working to 'Regain the Trust of the American People,' Says Director

ABC News(WASHINGTON) --  The new head of the Secret Service has this piece of advice for anyone thinking about trying to breach White House security: Don’t.

“I wouldn’t suggest it,” Secret Service director Joseph Clancy told ABC News in an expansive sit-down interview that explored the scandals that have rocked his agency and the path he’s now charting to protect the First Family and “regain the trust of the American people.”

“We have not received an unfair rap,” he conceded to ABC News’ Pierre Thomas. “I think when you fail, and we have failed, we own it. Now, it’s up to us to correct it.”

In September, a man with a small knife in his pocket jumped the White House’s perimeter fence and made it deep inside the presidential building. That came more than two years after the Secret Service was shaken by the 2012 prostitution scandal out of Cartagena, Colombia.

At the time those scandals and others unfolded, Clancy was the head of security for Comcast, having left the government in 2011 after 27 years with the Secret Service. Clancy was “shocked” by what happened, he said.

Then, last month, a small drone flew over the fence and crashed on the White House grounds - prompting a pre-dawn security scare. President Obama was in India at the time, and although the incident turned out to be a recreational flight gone awry, Clancy said he's “certainly concerned” about the threat a drone like that could pose.

The newly-appointed Secret Service director was with President Obama in India, and the president “was very concerned, as he should be” about the breach, said Clancy, who found himself briefing the commander-in-chief on the matter.

"He wanted to know what happened," and he "had very specific questions," Clancy recalled. "But he has faith in the work that we’re doing."

Clancy said the Secret Service and other federal agencies “have been doing a lot of research” to develop countermeasures related to drones. He declined to discuss specific ones already in place.

In retrospect, Clancy said, the poor judgment in Cartagena and the failures at the White House five months ago came down to one thing: “Just a lack of self-discipline.”

He dismissed suggestions the high-profile scandals were the product of a culture within the Secret Service that condones poor behavior. He said he “can certainly respect” such claims but insisted the only culture at the Secret Service is quite a different one.

As an example, he pointed to a recent trip he took with President Obama to China, Burma and Australia. An agent became so sick that he had to be hospitalized, but when Clancy visited the agent at the hospital, one of the first things the agent said was, “Sir, I’m sorry I’m out of the mix. I’m sorry I’m not there to pick up my post there,” Clancy recalled.

“That’s the culture that we have,” said Clancy. “Nobody wants to let the agency down, the president down, or the American people. Most importantly, we don’t want to let the American people down.”

Clancy said the more time he spends leading the Secret Service, the more he realizes an insider like himself is the only one who could get that job done.

Two months ago, a bipartisan, independent panel commissioned by the Obama administration to analyze the embattled agency recommended someone with no experience inside the Secret Service, saying “only a director from outside” can “do the honest top-to-bottom reassessment” needed.

“You need some experience in this position,” Clancy told ABC News, adding he plans to win over skeptics.

Clancy said he has three changes in mind to help make that happen: Hire more people, improve training, and raise the fence around the White House.

“We’ve got to do a better job of mentoring, coaching, teaching, and training our people,” he said. “[And] if we can build up our staffing, it will allow us to get more people out to training. With that, as we get more people trained, it’ll help our morale.”

As for the fence, Clancy said he is “very anxious” to make it taller, but that is “a long-term process.” So in the meantime, the Secret Service is planning to implement a series of interim enhancements, including “additional features” atop the fence, according to Clancy.

Those changes will be in place in the “near future,” he said, without offering any more details about the planned enhancements.

The need for a taller fence and better training is only growing, Clancy indicated. In recent years, the Secret Service has seen what he called “a large number” of people, many with some form of mental illness, coming to the White House or Capitol looking to air their grievances.

“That's where our people have to be so well-trained,” he said. “You have to be able to distinguish those that have some mental illness and need help, and those who really have a desire to cause harm. So our people have to show great restraint, but also a great expertise in how to handle these.”

Furthermore, the Secret Service has some big assignments coming up in the next year – Pope Francis is expected to visit as many as three U.S. cities in September, the following month about 190 heads of state will come to New York to celebrate the United Nations’ seventieth anniversary, and then the 2016 presidential race gets underway.

“It’s going to be a huge challenge for us,” Clancy said. “But we have had these challenges before … Our people will be very busy during that time frame, but we’re up to the challenge.”

Clancy became acting director of the Secret Service in October. President Obama officially appointed him as the Secret Service’s 24th director a little over a week ago.

“I think we’re on the right track,” he said.

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White House Threatens to Veto Latest Iran Bill

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) -- The White House says President Obama would veto a bill requiring congressional approval of any nuclear deal with Iran, as the two sides appear to be making progress toward an agreement.

"The president has been clear that now is not the time for Congress to pass additional legislation on Iran," National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan told ABC News. "If this bill is sent to the president, he will veto it."

Along with Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker, R-Tenn., introduced a bill this week that would allow Congress 60 days to review, and potentially reject, any deal to roll back U.S. nuclear sanctions on Iran.

In a statement issued by his office, Corker called the White House's veto threat "disappointing."

The framework for the current negotiations calls for an ultimate deal to "lift" nuclear sanctions on Iran, and some observers have concluded that would necessitate an eventual vote from Congress anyway, even if sanctions are only gradually eased in the nearer term.

Negotiations between Iran and world powers including the U.S., UK, France, Germany, Russia, and China have entered their final phase ahead of a March 31 deadline.

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Rand Paul Wins CPAC Straw Poll for Third Consecutive Year

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images(NATIONAL HARBOR, Md.) -- The Conservative Public Action Conference ended on Saturday, and the results of the event's straw poll revealed that Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul may have an edge as the 2016 election season nears.

After three days of speeches and jockeying, CPAC announced that Paul received support from 25.7 percent of voters -- tops out of the 17 options voters were presented with. Paul had won CPAC's straw poll the last two years as well.

More than 3,000 people participated in the straw poll, a more than 20 percent increase over last year's figure.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (21.4 percent) was a close second place in the straw poll, with Texas Gov. Ted Cruz (11.5 percent), Dr. Ben Carson (11.4 percent) and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (8.3 percent) rounding out the top five.

The poll aims to get in participants' heads to determine the prospective candidate that they most favor to win the GOP nomination in the next presidential election.

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Jeb Bush 'Will Not Sign Any Pledges' In 2016

NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Anti-taxman Grover Norquist recently told ABC News he believes Jeb Bush will likely sign his no-new-taxes pledge if and when he officially becomes a candidate for president.

But, as Dana Carvey might say, "Not gonna happen."

Norquist may have had good reason to believe Bush would sign the Taxpayers Protection Pledge, where candidates vow to oppose "any and all efforts to increase taxes." After all, the vast majority of Republican candidates for national office and many for local and statewide office have been signing it ever since Norquist started Americans for Tax Reform in 1985.

But Jeb Bush didn't sign Norquist's pledge (or any other pledge) in any of his three campaigns for governor of Florida and Bush spokeswoman Kristy Campbell says he is not going to start now.

"If Governor Bush decides to move forward, he will not sign any pledges circulated by lobbying groups," Campbell told ABC News.

Norquist was quick to reply to that via Twitter.

@jonkarl @kristymcampbell Really? Jeb Bush thinks all American taxpayers (to whom the pledge is written) are a "lobbying group?"

— Grover Norquist (@GroverNorquist) February 28, 2015

Campbell says what is more important than a pledge is Bush's record on taxes.

"He didn't raise taxes," Campbell said. "He cut them every year as Governor for a total of more than $19 billion in tax relief. He does not support raising taxes and believes cutting taxes and reforming the tax code will lead to greater economic growth and more prosperity for Americans."

Norquist isn't buying it.

"Most pledge takers keep the pledge," Norquist said via Twitter. "Those who refuse to sign all raise taxes when pushed hard enough by spenders."

Watch ABC's full interview with Norquist:

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CPAC: Possible Presidential Candidates Choose Favorite Fictional Presidents

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- While House of Cards may have returned for season three on Netflix on Friday morning, the potential Republican candidates at the Conservative Public Action Conference would be loathe to call Kevin Spacey's Frank Underwood character their favorite fictional president.

Instead, ABC's Rick Klein and David Wright asked some of the possible candidates whether they had a preferred fictional commander-in-chief.

"I know he was a Democrat...I know the show was somewhat liberal," Bobby Jindal said, "but look, I thought the writing on The West Wing was really good." Former Sen. Rick Santorum agreed, choosing Martin Sheen's Josiah Bartlet character as his favorite fictional president. "Not an easy choice for someone like me," Santorum said, adding that "Kevin Spacey's no conservative as far as I know."

Grover Norquist, President of Americans for Tax Reform, went a different route, choosing Harrison Ford's butt-kicking character in Air Force One.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Donald Trump both went with a different actor -- telling ABC's David Wright that their favorite president was Ronald Reagan.

Perhaps the most obscure choice was the former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson's selection of Bill Mitchell, the president played by Kevin Kline in the movie Dave.

Rep. Mia Love from Utah put it simply -- "Certainly not Frank Underwood...I'm actually even embarrassed to mention that I've seen a couple of episodes of House of Cards, but you know, I think if I could do anything, I would resurrect Ronald Reagan."

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Rick Perry and Rick Santorum Bro-Out at CPAC

Rick Perry (L): ABC/Matthew Putney Rick Santorum (R): ABC/Ida Mae Astute(WASHINGTON) -- It isn’t something you see every day: Two potential 2016 contenders bro-ing out.

But it happened Friday when former Texas Governor Rick Perry and former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum unexpectedly hugged it out in the halls at CPAC.

“Ricky! Don’t run off!” Perry shouted at Santorum in between interviews. “How are you brother? The only other guy I can call Ricky.”

The two men campaigned against each other for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012, but on Friday, there was no tension between Perry and Santorum despite the fact they may face off again in the next election.

“This is one of the good things that happened from the last campaign,” Santorum said of his friendship with the Texas governor.

Perry asked Santorum to pray for his new granddaughter who was born Friday morning, and Santorum’s children waded through the crowd to tell the former governor hello.

When they parted ways, Perry said to Santorum, “Love you brother.”

While the interaction was surprisingly friendly, there's no telling if that same spirit will find its way to the debate stage if the two run against each other again in 2016.

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Pentagon Not Pushing Timeline for Mosul Offensive

Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Pentagon spokesperson Rear Adm. John Kirby said at Friday's press briefing that the U.S. was not putting pressure on Iraqi forces to be ready for an offensive against ISIS militants in Mosul.

Asked whether a timeline that would lead to a spring offensive in Mosul was realistic, Kirby said that he feels it would be unfair to describe the situation as "the Pentagon or the military...pushing the Iraqis on any specific timeline."

"I think the most general that I've been willing to go," Kirby said, "is that we were looking at roughly the spring timeframe. I never pinned it down to a month," he noted.

"Number two," Kirby added, "we're not pushing or aggressively trying to nudge them towards a faster timeline than they're going to be ready." He also said that the U.S. would "work with them and make sure that they're ready on their timeline."

"With the exception of the Iraqis, nobody has a greater stake in the ultimate success of operations inside Iraq, particularly in a place like Mosul, than the Pentagon," Kirby explained.

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President Obama Stumps for Retirement Rule in Weekly Address

Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama used his weekly address on Saturday to stump for the IRA/401k rule he ordered the Labor Department to craft, which will require retirement-plan brokers and advisors to act in clients' best interests, with some exceptions.

“Middle-class families cannot afford to lose their hard earned savings after a lifetime of work.  They deserve to be treated with fairness and respect.  And that’s what this rule would do,” Obama said.

The president also said he that he also anticipates some industry criticism and pledges not to bend in principle.

“While we welcome different perspectives and ideas on how to move forward, what I won’t accept is the notion that there’s nothing we can do to make sure that hard-working, responsible Americans who scrimp and save can retire with security and dignity,” he said.

Read the full transcript of the president's address:

Hi everybody.  In America, we believe that a lifetime of hard work and responsibility should be rewarded with a shot at a secure, dignified retirement.  It’s one of the critical components of middle-class life – and this week, I took new steps to protect it.  
Six years after the crisis that shook a lot of people’s faith in a secure retirement, our economy is steadily growing.  Last year was the best year for job growth since the 1990s.  All told, over the past five years, the private sector has added nearly 12 million new jobs.  And since I took office, the stock market has more than doubled, replenishing the 401(k)s of millions of families.
But while we’ve come a long way, we’ve got more work to do to make sure that our recovery reaches more Americans, not just those at the top.  That’s what middle-class economics is all about—the idea that this country does best when everyone gets their fair shot, everybody does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules.  
That last part—making sure everyone plays by the same set of rules—is why we passed historic Wall Street Reform and a Credit Card Bill of Rights.   It’s why we created a new consumer watchdog agency.  And it’s why we’re taking new action to protect hardworking families’ retirement security. If you’re working hard and putting away money, you should have the peace of mind that the financial advice you’re getting is sound and that your investments are protected.
But right now, there are no rules of the road.  Many financial advisers put their clients’ interest first – but some financial advisers get backdoor payments and hidden fees in exchange for steering people into bad investments.  All told, bad advice that results from these conflicts of interest costs middle-class and working families about $17 billion every year.  
This week, I called on the Department of Labor to change that – to update the rules and require that retirement advisers put the best interests of their clients above their own financial interests.  Middle-class families cannot afford to lose their hard earned savings after a lifetime of work.  They deserve to be treated with fairness and respect.  And that’s what this rule would do.
While many financial advisers support these basic safeguards to prevent abuse, I know some special interests will fight this with everything they’ve got.  But while we welcome different perspectives and ideas on how to move forward, what I won’t accept is the notion that there’s nothing we can do to make sure that hard-working, responsible Americans who scrimp and save can retire with security and dignity.
We’re going to keep pushing for this rule, because it’s the right thing to do for our workers and for our country.  The strength of our economy rests on whether hard-working families can not only share in America’s success, but can also contribute to America’s success.  And that’s what I will never stop fighting for – an economy where everyone who works hard has the chance to get ahead.
Thanks, and have a great weekend.

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GOP Weekly Address: Obama Should Back College Savings Plan

US Congress(WASHINGTON) -- In this week's Republican Address, Rep. Jim Renacci of Ohio called on President Obama to back a bipartisan savings plan passed by the House this week.

Renacci says that to adapt to the times, 529 college saving plans should be clarified to include computers as qualified expenses and remove unnecessary paperwork burdens for the administrators of these plans.

“We talk all the time about rewarding people who work hard and play by the rules – well, that’s what 529 plans are,” Renacci said. “They empower families to set up accounts for their children – right from when they’re born – and then down the line they can use that money – tax-free – on books, fees, tuition, and room-and-board.”

Renacci argues the president should follow actions taken by the House this week that would modify 529 plans.

Read the full transcript of the Republican address:

Good morning, I’m Jim Renacci, and I have the honor of representing the good people of Ohio’s 16th Congressional District.

This week, the House of Representatives passed a good, bipartisan bill that could help many middle-class families.  I’d like to take a moment to tell you about it.

First, a story.  Like many of you, I was the first in my family to go to college.  Ours was a working class union family so I had to pay my own way through school.  To do that, I worked any number of jobs: truck driver, mechanic, a road crew, you name it.

As an accountant, I’ve seen countless parents struggle with putting away money for their kids’ tuition.  You know how it is: you want to make sure they have it better than you do. But at a time when the cost of just about everything is going up and incomes are barely moving, that job’s only gotten harder.

So last month, when President Obama proposed taxing 529 plans, people were understandably outraged.

Why would we make saving for college even harder?  We talk all the time about rewarding people who work hard and play by the rules – well, that’s what 529 plans are.   They empower families to set up accounts for their children – right from when they’re born – and then down the line they can use that money – tax-free – on books, fees, tuition, and room-and-board.

All told, there are nearly 12 million of these accounts open in all 50 states.  That’s up from 1 million accounts in 2001.  Why would we stop that growth?  So the government can take even more of the money we’ve worked so hard to put away?

Thankfully, after a public outcry, the president was forced to drop the idea.

But we can do more. With all the challenges middle-class families are facing right now, we need to make it easier – not harder – to save.

That’s why the House acted this week to expand and modernize 529 plans.

Our plan will do a few simple things.

First, to adapt to the times, we clarify that computers are qualified expenses under 529 accounts.

Second, we remove unnecessary paperwork burdens for the administrators of these plans.

And third, we allow families to re-deposit refunds from colleges without taxes or penalties.  This might be useful if something happens and a student has to withdraw early for an illness.  It’s just good peace of mind to have.

I’m pleased to report that the bill passed with more than 400 votes.  Now we just need President Obama to help us get this done.

Together, let’s make sure that 529 plans will be there for middle-class families for years to come.

Because we all know that a good education leads to greater opportunity and a stronger economy.  So let’s take this step to make college more affordable and easier to plan.

Thank you for giving me a few minutes of your time.

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Homeland Security Dodges Partial Shutdown After President Obama Signs One-Week Extension

DHS(WASHINGTON) -- Lawmakers narrowly avoided a partial shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security and furloughing thousands of employees Friday when they reached a last-minute deal to approve a one-week funding measure for the department.

Just two hours before the midnight deadline, the House voted 357 to 60 to fund the department for one week. The Senate passed the measure earlier in the evening by a voice vote.

Less than one hour before the vote, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi sent her Democratic colleagues a letter urging them to advance the seven-day measure.

Though the department will be funded, the one-week measure will set up a new round of fighting for lawmakers on Capitol Hill. The dysfunction that has become all too familiar on Capitol Hill was on full display today as the House earlier failed to secure enough votes to pass a short-term funding bill that would have kept the department open for three weeks.

That last-minute strategy proposed by House Republicans failed with a vote of 203 to 224. Fifty-two Republicans opposed the measure while 12 Democrats supported it.

President Obama held a meeting in the Oval Office late Friday with DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson and OMB Director Shaun Donovan to discuss the potential shutdown, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said. The president personally phoned House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid to receive an update on the situation.

The evening’s drama rounds out months of fighting between Democrats and Republicans over the funding. Republicans have wanted to link any funding for the department to immigration. Earlier this month, the House passed a bill that would fund the department through the end of the fiscal year while also blocking President Obama’s recent executive actions on immigration.

But Democrats opposed that plan, instead pushing for a clean funding bill. Earlier in the day, the Senate passed a clean funding measure with a vote of 68 to 31 to fund the Department of Homeland Security through Sept. 30.

“We passed a full-year funding for the Department of Homeland Security,” Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., said. “It means we did our job so that those men and women working in every agency can do their job to protect America. The Senate has done its job. Now, the House has to do its job.”

Lawmakers will now have one week to hammer out their differences on the funding and immigration. If not, the Department of Homeland Security will have to furlough approximately 40,000 workers. But 80 percent of its 240,000-person workforce would be required to work without pay.

That figure includes 40,000 Customs and Border Protection officers, 5,000 Transportation Security Administration security screeners, and 13,000 Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.

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CPAC: Jeb Bush Answers Boos With Defense of Immigration and Common Core Positions

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, despite a smattering of boos, stuck to his views on immigration and education, controversial with some conservatives, in his question-and-answer session Friday at the Conservative Political Action Conference, saying any immigration overhaul needs to include a “path to legal status” for undocumented immigrants.

“The simple fact is there is no plan to deport 11 million people,” Bush told the audience and moderator, Fox News host Sean Hannity. “We should give them a path to legal status where they work, where they don’t receive government benefits, where they don’t break the law, where they learn English, and where they make a contribution to our society. That’s what we need to be focused on.”

He stressed “first and foremost” the nation’s borders need to be “enforce(d)” for “national security purposes, public health purposes, and the rule of law.”

He noted some in the audience were “angry” over his stance, but he said the country needs “economic driven immigrants.”

“Those that want to come here to work to invest in their dreams in this country to create opportunities for all of us,” he said at the CPAC gathering in National Harbor, Maryland. “And that’s what we need to get to and so … the plan also includes a path to legal status.”

The likely 2016 presidential candidate did say he disagrees with the president’s executive action on immigration, adding he used “authority he doesn’t have” and has “gone way beyond his constitutional powers to do this.”

Bush, 62, was greeted at times with boos, but they were drowned out by applause from his supporters in the hall. A few dozen CPAC attendees quietly walked out of the room during the session and once outside the small group chanted “USA, USA.”

Bush also stood by his stance on Common Core education standards. When asked by Hannity whether it is a federal takeover of education, Bush answered, “No, and it shouldn't be," stressing the education standards created “more school choice.”

"My belief is that our standards have to be high enough where a student going through our system is college- or career-ready, and that's not what's happening right now," Bush said.

He stressed the federal government should have “no role” in creation of “standards" or "curriculum,” nor have “access” to student information, adding the federal government should have “no role in the creation of standards, either directly or indirectly.”

Bush has been criticized by some Republicans for not being conservative enough or too moderate on immigration and education, specifically his support for the Common Core State Standards Initiative. But when asked by Hannity whether he is a moderate, Bush replied: “I would describe myself as a practicing, reform-minded, conservative.”

He directly addressed those who booed him, saying he was “marking them down as neutral” and “I want to be your second choice if I decide to go beyond this.”

He did seem all in, though, noting he has to use “legal terminology” that he is still considering the “possibility of running.” He told supporters gathered in a ballroom after his session, “I hope that I’ll see you on the trail.”

In a lighter moment, Hannity asked Bush whether he was “mad” at his mother because of her previous comments that there had been “enough Bushes” in the White House. Bush said at the time it was “a little difficult, but since that time she’s had a change of heart and that’s all right by me.” As he has recently, Bush again stressed his “love” for his family, including his father and brother, both former presidents, but he said if he runs, he needs to show voters “what’s in my heart.”

“I have to show that I care about people about their future,” he said. “It can’t be about the past, it can’t be about my mom and dad and brother who I love. I love them all. It has to be about the ideas that I believe in to move our country forward.”


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President Obama Mourns Leonard Nimoy: 'I Loved Spock'

Frazer Harrison/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama has joined thousands of Americans in mourning the loss of iconic actor Leonard Nimoy, who died Friday at the age of 83.

"Long before being nerdy was cool, there was Leonard Nimoy," Obama said in a statement released by the White House. "Leonard was a lifelong lover of the arts and humanities, a supporter of the sciences, generous with his talent and his time. And of course, Leonard was Spock."

Mr. Obama said Nimoy's signature role as first officer to William Shatner's Captain Kirk on the hit series Star Trek defined his career. It also inspired viewers to adopt the character's "cool, logical, big-eared and level-headed" outlook on the world, he said.

Nimoy was "the center of Star Trek's optimistic, inclusive vision of humanity's future," Obama said. "I loved Spock."

The president said he met Nimoy in 2007 and greeted him with "the Vulcan salute, the universal sign for 'live long and prosper.'"

Nimoy was among a crowd of Hollywood celebrities that backed two Obama presidential campaigns. He donated $2,500 to Obama in 2007 and $2,500 in 2012, according to Federal Election Commission records. He was also spotted a several high-profile fundraisers for the president during both election cycles.

"I do believe that President Obama means it when he says that he is 100 percent interested in space," Nimoy told reporters at the National Space Symposium in 2010, according to "I know for sure he's a Star Trek fan."

Nimoy died in Bel-Air, Calif., his granddaughter Madeleine Nimoy confirmed to ABC News on Friday.

"After 83 years on this planet -- and on his visits to many others -- it’s clear Leonard Nimoy did just that," Obama said, invoking the Vulcan phrase "live long and prosper."

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