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Feb. 6, 2013 at 10:19 PM
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Hagel vote up in air

WASHINGTON, Feb. 6 (UPI) -- Senate Republicans are trying to hold up the confirmation vote on President Obama's defense secretary nominee, Chuck Hagel, a Senate aide said Wednesday.

Hagel's nomination was expected to come up for a vote Thursday, but Republicans want more financial information from him, an unidentified Senate aide told The Hill. Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., was trying to resolve the issue and so had not scheduled a vote, the Washington publication said.

Some GOP senators say they have questions about paid speeches Hagel, a Republican former senator from Nebraska, has made and want more financial documentation for organizations with which he is affiliated.

Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., told The Hill she signed a letter circulating among GOP senators urging a delay on the confirmation vote until they get what they want.

"Let's get everything we need. That's what I want," Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma, the ranking Republican on the committee, said.

Hagel sent a letter to the Republicans Tuesday saying he had "made every effort" to meet the committee's disclosure requirements.

Gov. Brown: Perry pitch 'not serious'

SACRAMENTO, Feb. 6 (UPI) -- California's combined state and U.S. income tax rate is the highest in the nation, but analysts differ on whether it will drive people out of the state.

Income over $1 million is taxed at a combined federal and state rate of 51.9 percent, as a result of new rates adopted in Washington and Sacramento. The state's top rate is 13.3 percent -- the highest in the nation and the highest for California since World War II, The New York Times said Wednesday.

Republican Texas Gov. Rick Perry bought ad time on California radio stations this week intended to capitalize on potential disaffection among business owners with the state of taxes in California.

"I have a message for California business: Come check out Texas," Perry said in the ad.

California -- the scene of a taxpayers' revolt in the 1970s that resulted in Proposition 13, severely limiting governments' ability to increase property taxes -- has managed to balance the state budget -- after years of coping with multibillion-dollar deficits -- through a combination of deep spending cuts and higher income tax rates on the wealthiest earners.

Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown told reporters this week high earners consider more than tax rates when they decide where to live and work.

"People invest their money where these big things have occurred," he said. "The ideas, the structures, the climate, the opportunity is right here on the Pacific Rim."

He said Perry's pitch is "not a serious story," The Sacramento Bee reported.

"It's not a burp," Brown said. "It's barely a fart."

U.S. places more sanctions against Iran

WASHINGTON, Feb. 6 (UPI) -- The U.S. Treasury Department Wednesday announced additional sanctions aimed at limiting Iran's access to oil revenues and punishing its censorship activities.

The sanctions, announced Wednesday, target the Central Bank of Iran and other Iranian financial institutions, restricting their ability to use oil revenue held in foreign banks, and preventing the money from reaching Iran.

The sanctions also include Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting and three other organizations within Iran, the Iranian Cyber Police, Iran Electronics Industries and the Communications Regulatory Authority, for restricting "the free flow of information to or from the Iranian people," the statement said.

The sanctions prohibit U.S. citizens from engaging in transactions with those groups and blocks the use of any property they have in the United States.

Poll: BSA should drop ban on gays

HAMDEN, Conn., Feb. 6 (UPI) -- U.S. voters say the Boy Scouts of America should drop its ban on admitting gays and lesbians, a Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday indicates.

A telephone survey of 1,7772 registered voters, conducted Jan. 30-Feb. 4, found 55 percent said the organization should allow gays and lesbians to join and 33 percent said the ban on gay members should be retained.

Women support dropping the ban 61 percent to 27 percent. Men support allowing gays and lesbians to join the Boy Scouts, 49 percent to 39 percent, the poll found.

Support for retaining the ban comes from white Catholics [63-25 in favor of the ban], white Protestants [44-41] and white evangelical Protestants [56-33], Quinnipiac said in a release.

"Now that the armed forces ban on openly gay service members has been lifted, and polls show increasing acceptance of same-sex marriage, most American voters think it's time to open up the Boy Scouts too," said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

The BSA, whose board is meeting this week in Texas, said Wednesday it has delayed a decision on revoking its policy on membership for gays and lesbians "due to the complexity of this issue."

A decision on the policy is to be made by the organization's 1,400 voting members during the annual meeting in May, the statement added.

The poll had a margin of error of 2.3 percentage points.

Poll: NRA backing not popular

RALEIGH, N.C., Feb. 6 (UPI) -- U.S. voters are more likely to view an endorsement by the National Rifle Association negatively than positively, a Public Policy Polling survey indicates.

A bare majority also support a ban on assault weapons.

The PPP poll found 39 percent say they would be less likely to vote for a candidate who had the NRA's backing, compared to 26 percent who say they'd be more likely to vote for a candidate with NRA backing.

The poll said 32 percent said it wouldn't influence them one way or the other. Among independents, 41 percent consider an NRA endorsement negatively compared to 27 percent who view it positively.

The PPP poll indicated 53 percent of voters say they support stricter gun laws in the country, compared to 39 percent opposed.

In a statement, PPP said the figures are basically identical to a 53/40 percent spread a month ago -- indicating the desire for stronger legislation has not receded as the Newtown, Conn., massacre fades from voters' minds.

The poll also said 51 percent of voters back an assault weapons ban, compared to 42 percent opposed.

Congressional Republicans saw some improvement in their support in the last month: They have a 22 percent approval rating with 68 percent disapproving -- up from a 15/75 spread a month ago, the poll said. Most of the improvement came from GOP voters, with anger over the fiscal cliff subsiding, the poll said.

On the immigration front, 64 percent of voters nationally think illegal immigrants should be given a chance to apply for citizenship, compared to 27 percent who think they should be deported.

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