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July 27, 2010 at 10:00 PM
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House OKs war funding bill

WASHINGTON, July 27 (UPI) -- Legislation providing another $60 billion to finance the U.S. wars in Iraq an Afghanistan was sent to President Obama Tuesday.

The House of Representatives voted 308-114 in favor of the war spending measure, Fox News reported. On the "no" side were 102 Democrats and 12 Republicans, the network said.

The final bill sent to the president was not the one the House had approved initially. That one had been loaded with billions more in domestic spending, but the Senate stripped those provisions out and sent the bill back to the lower house.

House doves also were unable to marshal support to cut or end funding for the wars, Fox said. Without the additional funding, the war effort would have been affected next month, military leaders said.

Tuesday's vote was conducted under special House rules that required a two-thirds vote for approval. That meant it needed at least 281 votes to pass.

DISCLOSE Act vote fails in Senate

WASHINGTON, July 27 (UPI) -- Democrats failed to bring to the Senate floor Tuesday legislation designed to make sure corporate and union political financing is public.

The procedural vote on the Democracy is Strengthened by Casting Light on Spending in Elections Act was 57-41, falling three votes shy of the 60 needed to head off a Republican filibuster, NBC reported.

Democratic leaders had sought support from Republican Maine Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, along with Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass. The moderate GOP trio had previously indicated they would vote against allowing the DISCLOSE Act to come up for floor debate.

Sen. Joe Lieberman, Ind-Conn., did not vote because he was out of town for a funeral, NBC said. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada also cast a negative vote because under Senate rules only someone on the losing side can resurrect it, the network said.

Democrats contend the measure is necessary after a decision last term by the U.S. Supreme Court in Citizens United vs. FEC, which essentially outlawed federal restrictions on political spending by corporations, unions and non-profits. The court said the restrictions violated free speech.

The White House issued a statement of policy earlier Tuesday, saying the Obama administration "strongly supports Senate passage" of the legislation.

"The administration believes the DISCLOSE Act is a necessary measure so that Americans will know who is trying to influence the nation's elections," the statement said.

The policy statement said the proposal "also prevents those who should not interfere in the nation's elections -- such as corporations controlled by foreign interests -- from doing so. Unless the strong new disclosure rules ... are established, the Supreme Court's decision in the Citizens United case will give corporations undue power to influence elections."

The statement went on to say the bill "is not perfect" but would be a major step in the right direction.

"For example, the administration would have preferred no exemptions. But, by providing for unprecedented transparency, (the Senate legislation) takes great strides to hold corporations that participate in the nation's elections accountable to the American people," the administration said.

New oil spill afflicts Louisiana bayou

JEFFERSON PARISH, La., July 27 (UPI) -- A tugboat struck a wellhead in a Louisiana bayou early Tuesday, sending oil and natural gas into wetlands south of New Orleans.

Jefferson Parish Councilman Chris Roberts told New Orleans radio station WWL vessels had been dispatched to Bayou St. Denis to begin the cleanup. He said signs of oil had been found in marshlands near the wellhead.

The U.S. Coast Guard said no one on the tugboat Pere Ana C. had been hurt in the collision near Muddy Lake.

Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser told the New York Daily News oil sprayed 20 feet up hours after the collision.

The oil spill comes three months after the disastrous explosion and fire on the BP Deepwater Horizon drilling platform off the Louisiana coast. That offshore spill, the worst in U.S. history, sent millions of barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, where it has washed up in Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and Florida.

Defense: Blago big talker but not corrupt

CHICAGO, July 27 (UPI) -- Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich's lawyer wrapped up his closing arguments Tuesday, saying his client was foolish but not corrupt.

"As much as I like him, and as much as he's loved around the world, this is a man who considered appointing Oprah Winfrey (to the U.S. Senate seat vacated by President Obama)," Sam Adam Jr. told the U.S. District Court jury, mocking his client as a foolish, ineffective governor. "No one's going to say he's the sharpest knife in the drawer, but he's not corrupt."

The Chicago Tribune reported Judge James Zagel indicated he would turn the case over to jurors Wednesday after reading them a list of instructions on how to interpret the law and the charges.

Blagojevich -- who is accused of racketeering, corruption, extortion, lying to federal agents and of trying to sell Obama's Senate seat for personal gain -- was impeached by the Illinois House and removed from office by the state Senate in January 2009.

Adam argued that the governor's aides and advisers should have stopped him if any of his plans or discussions -- hours of which were recorded in federal wiretaps -- were against the law, the Tribune said. He said the testimony of prosecution witnesses had proven Blagojevich's innocence.

Adam, an animated, streetwise orator, spoke to the jury for more than 90 minutes, drawing more than 25 objections from prosecutors and the judge. He ended by asking jurors to ask during deliberations, "What would Sam say?"

The prosecution said in its rebuttal that Blagojevich was a smart man and not an innocent victim.

Prosecutor Reid Schar told the jurors Blagojevich was trained in the law and so was not an "accidentally corrupt governor."

"He seems to have forgotten the first thing you learn in kindergarten," Schar said. "We're all responsible for our own actions … . The time for accountability for these crimes is now."

The Tribune said Blagojevich shook hands with onlookers as he left the courtroom.

"I hope you have an extra prayer for us," he called out to one woman.

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