DALLAS — Shortly after Barack Obama was elected in 2008, a fellow reporter who’d covered President George W. Bush all eight years told me she’d had enough of the travel and stress and strain of the White House beat, that she was moving on. We reminisced about all the places we’d been, all the crazy days and wild nights, all the history we’d seen — first hand. Just before we said our goodbyes, I asked her if she’d miss covering President Obama.
Yesterday, a good chunk of Washington was up in arms over a proposal that would — according to early reports — exempt Congress from key provisions of the Affordable Care Act. As reported by Politico, “Congressional leaders in both parties are engaged in high-level, confidential talks about exempting lawmakers and Capitol Hill aides from the insurance exchanges they are mandated to join as part of President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul.”It soon became clear, however, that this was much ado about nothing. Here’s...
Sen. Pat Toomey's job rating is at a record high following the Pennsylvania Republican's sponsorship of legislation to expand gun background checks, according to a poll released Friday.
Pennsylvania voters approved of Toomey's performance by a margin of 48 percent to 30 percent, up a net 7 points from March, the Quinnipiac University survey reports.
He's now slightly more popular in the state than either fellow Sen. Bob Casey Jr. (D-Pa.) or President Barack Obama.
Background checks are supported by 85 percent of Pennsylvania's voters. More than half, including a majority of Democrats and four in 10 Republicans, said that Toomey's co-sponsorship of a bipartisan background check bill improved their opinion of him. Just 12 percent said they saw him less favorably.
Voters approved of the senator's overall handling of gun control issues by a 5-point margin.
"Pennsylvania voters are dissatisfied, and many are angry, with the U.S. Senate's failure to act on gun control," Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, wrote in a release. "By wide, sometimes overwhelming margins, they still want action. Republican U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey gains ground with both parties by calling for stiffer background checks for prospective gun owners."
More than half of the state's voters said reducing gun violence should be more of a priority than protecting gun rights. The poll also found that most aren't single-issue voters when it comes to firearms: 63 percent of gun control supporters and 56 percent of gun rights supporters said they could vote for a candidate who disagreed with them.
The Quinnipiac poll surveyed 1,235 registered Pennsylvania voters by phone between April 19 and April 24.
Tuesday morning, a peculiar announcement trickled out of the White House press office: President Barack Obama would be holding a moment of silence for the victims of the Boston bombings. At the White House. By himself. No press or other intruders allowed.Except the White House photographer.
More than 40 percent of U.S. residents went without health insurance or had coverage that didn't protect them against high medical costs last year, survey results released Friday reveal.
Thirty percent of people in the U.S., or 55 million, were uninsured for at least part of the year prior to the survey, which was conducted from April to August 2012 for the Commonwealth Fund, a New York-based research organization. Another 30 million people, or 16 percent of the population, were "underinsured," meaning their health plans offered too little coverage and exposed them to high out-of-pocket costs, the survey found.
People earning up to four times the federal poverty level, which is $11,490 for an individual this year, were the most likely to be uninsured or underinsured. The lower the income, the more common uninsurance or underinsurance was, according to the survey:
Lower-income and uninsured people reported the most problems accessing medical care they needed because of cost:
And said they faced financial hardships as a consequence of having little or no health insurance coverage protecting them from high expenses, leading in some cases to debts, exhausted savings and damaged credit ratings:
President Barack Obama's health care law offers financial assistance for health insurance to low- and middle-income people earning up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level, which is $45,960 this year for a single person.
Sara Collins, the vice president for affordable health insurance at the Commonwealth Foundation, said Obamacare could mitigate some of the consequences of an expensive health care market.
"Of the 55 million adults in the survey who were uninsured during the year in 2012, more than half have incomes that would make them eligible for coverage under the law's Medicaid expansion if they are legal residents," she said during a conference call with reporters Thursday. "And more than one-third have incomes that would make them eligible for subsidized private plans sold through insurance marketplaces."
The impact of the health care law's Medicaid expansion will be blunted, however, by Republican governors and Republican-led state legislatures that are refusing to broaden the joint federal-state program to more poor people.
And while subsidies for private insurance, in the form of tax credits, will be available, they may not be large enough to offset premium hikes for some people, which health insurance companies say are partially the result of Obamcare's benefit guarantees.
WASHINGTON -- Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) said Thursday that President Barack Obama and the U.S. Treasury Department were "wrong" to claim that the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law ended the too-big-to-fail problem and the threat of future bank bailouts.
"They're wrong," Brown said during an interview on HuffPost Live, when asked about previous comments from Obama and Treasury officials that Dodd-Frank had solved too-big-to-fail.
WATCH Brown's comments in the video above.
Obama declared bank bailouts dead in July 2010 when he signed Dodd-Frank into law and later reiterated the theme during his 2012 reelection campaign. Treasury officials repeatedly stated after the bill's passage that the legislation empowered regulators so they wouldn't be pushed to save major financial institutions with tax dollars in the future.
"The American people will never again be asked to foot the bill for Wall Street's mistakes," Obama said in July 2010. "There will be no more tax-funded bailouts -- period."
"They need to think that," Brown told HuffPost, referring to Obama and Treasury. "They want to think that because they want that chapter closed and not reopened. They don't really want to deal with those issues. But I do think they're wrong. I think the Treasury Department has over the years -- as many of the agencies, like the SEC [Securities and Exchange Commission] and OCC [Office of the Comptroller of the Currency] -- been too close to Wall Street. I think there's no question about that."
Brown said that extensive lobbying at regulatory agencies by the six largest banks has prevented Dodd-Frank from being implemented effectively and argued that most investors still believe big banks would be salvaged by the government in a crisis.
"It really doesn't matter what Treasury thinks. It doesn't matter what I think ... What matters is what the capital markets think. And the capital markets will loan money to Wall Street, to these Wall Street banks at lower interest rates than they loan to the Peoples Bank in Coldwater, Ohio, or loan to the Huntington Bank in Columbus, Ohio ... Why is that? The people investing money understand that there is almost no risk in lending to the big banks, because if they fail, then they think taxpayers will bail them out."
As further proof that too-big-to-fail remains in full effect, Brown pointed to Attorney General Eric Holder's comment that he resists prosecuting officials from big banks out of concern that such cases could damage financial markets.
On Wednesday, Brown held a press conference to unveil bipartisan legislation, co-sponsored by Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), that would force the six largest U.S. banks to break up into smaller institutions, limiting their power in the marketplace and on Capitol Hill.
The bill would cap the total non-deposit liabilities of any bank at 2 percent of the total U.S. economy. If the plan were implemented, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Citigroup, Bank of America, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs would all have to be broken up into two or three smaller banks.
The idea has long had the support of progressives who focus on limiting the power of large corporations, but it also has garnered support from self-styled free-market conservatives like Vitter, who want to eliminate government benefits enjoyed by select firms.
Brown has introduced similar legislation in prior sessions of Congress. He also offered the measure as an amendment to Dodd-Frank, but the amendment failed after garnering just 33 votes. The senator told HuffPost that he's secured at least "a dozen" additional votes for the proposal in the ensuing years.
Brown and Vitter are also pushing separate legislation that would impose steeper capital requirements on big banks. That bill would require banks with at least $400 billion in assets to carry at least 15 percent of those assets in hard capital.
That percentage is five times the threshold required by Basel III international banking standards. High capital requirements limit the amount of money that banks can borrow to finance their operations. This capital makes it less likely that a bank will fail if risky bets backfire and limits the losses to creditors if the bank does fail.
Congressional leaders in both parties are engaged in high-level, confidential talks about exempting lawmakers and Capitol Hill aides from the insurance exchanges they are mandated to join as part of President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul, sources in both parties said.
TUPELO, Miss. — Charges of sending ricin-laced letters to President Barack Obama and others were dropped Tuesday against an Elvis impersonator from Mississippi who has said since his arrest last week that he had nothing to do with the case.
Meanwhile, in Tupelo, numerous law enforcement officers converged on the home of another Mississippi man, Everett Dutschke, including some in hazmat suits. No charges have been filed against him and he hasn't been arrested. Both men say they have no idea how to make the poisonous ricin and had nothing to do with sending them to Obama, U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi and a state judge.
Referring to officials' questions for him about the case, "I thought they said rice and I said I don't even eat rice," 45-year-old Paul Kevin Curtis said after he was released from custody Tuesday afternoon. "I respect President Obama. I love my country and would never do anything to pose a threat to him or any other U.S. official."
A one-sentence document filed by federal prosecutors said charges against Curtis were dropped, but left open the possibility they could be re-instated if authorities found more to prove their case. Prosecutors were not immediately available for comment.
The dismissal is the latest twist in a case that rattled the country already on edge over the Boston Marathon bombing last week.
Curtis was well-known to Wicker because he had written to the Republican and other officials about black-market body parts he claimed to have found while working at a hospital – a claim the hospital says is untrue. Curtis also wrote a book called "Missing Pieces" about his claims and posted similar language on his Facebook page and elsewhere. The documents indicate Curtis had been distrustful of the government for years.
He told The Associated Press Tuesday that he realizes his writings made him an easy target.
"God will get the glory from here on out. It's nothing about me. It's nothing about my book. It's nothing about the hospital. After 13 years of losing everything I have turned it over to God. After all these years God was the missing piece," Curtis said.
The two men the FBI are investigating are not strangers. Dutschke said the two had a falling out and that the last contact they had was in 2010. Dutschke said he threatened to sue Curtis for saying he was a member of Mensa, a group for people with high IQs.
Since his arrest at his Corinth home on April 17, attorneys for Curtis say their client didn't do it and suggested he was framed. An FBI agent testified in court this week that no evidence of ricin was found in searches of his home.
Dutschke (DUHST'-kee) said in a phone interview with the AP that the FBI was at his home for the search connected to the mailings. Dutschke said his house was also searched last week.
"I don't know how much more of this I can take," Dutschke said just before 7 p.m. CDT, as investigators continued to comb his house.
Curtis attorney Hal Neilson said the defense gave authorities a list of people who may have had a reason to hurt Curtis.
"Dutschke came up," he said. "They (prosecutors) took it and ran with it. I could not tell you if he's the man or he's not the man, but there was something there they wanted to look into."
An FBI intelligence bulletin obtained by The Associated Press said the two letters to Obama and Wicker said: "To see a wrong and not expose it, is to become a silent partner to its continuance." Both were signed, "I am KC and I approve this message."
Multiple online posts on various websites that could be seen by anyone under the name Kevin Curtis refer to the conspiracy he claimed to uncover when working at a local hospital from 1998 to 2000. In one post, Curtis said he sent letters to Wicker and other politicians. He signed off: "This is Kevin Curtis & I approve this message."
Curtis attorney Christi McCoy said she doesn't know what new information prosecutors have and that the plot to frame her client was "very, very diabolical."
Curtis, dressed in a black suit, red shirt, necktie and sunglasses, said he met Dutschke in 2005 but for some reason Dutschke "hated" and "stalked" him. "To this day I have no clue of why he hates me."
Dutschke has maintained his innocence and says he doesn't know anything about the ingredients for ricin. Ricin is derived from the castor plant that makes castor oil. There is no antidote and it is at its deadliest when inhaled. It can be aerosolized, released into the air and inhaled. The Homeland Security handbook says the amount of ricin that fits on the head of a pin is enough to kill an adult if properly prepared.
Dutschke said agents asked him about Curtis, whether Dutschke would take a lie detector test and if he had ever bought castor beans, which can be used to make the potent poison.
"I'm a patriotic American. I don't have any grudges against anybody. I did not send the letters," said Dutschke, who was a Republican candidate for the Mississippi House of Representatives in 2007 but lost.
After charges were dropped against Curtis, he said: "I'm a little shocked."
Dutschke said his attorney wasn't with him and he didn't know whether he was going to be arrested.
Tuesday's events began when the third day of a preliminary and detention hearing was cancelled without officials explaining the change. Within two hours, Curtis had been released, though it wasn't clear why at first.
FBI Agent Brandon Grant said in court on Monday that searches last week of Curtis' vehicle and house in Corinth, found no ricin, ingredients for the poison, or devices used to make it. A search of Curtis' computers found no evidence he researched making ricin. Authorities produced no other physical evidence at the hearings tying Curtis to the letters.
All the envelopes and stamps were self-adhesive, Grant said Monday, meaning they won't yield DNA evidence. One fingerprint was found on the letter sent to a Lee County judge, but the FBI doesn't know who it belongs to, Grant said.
The experience, Curtis said, has been a nightmare for his family. He has four children – ages, 8, 16, 18 and 20. It also has made him reflect deeply on his life.
"I've become closer to God through all this, closer with my children and I've even had some strained relationships with some family and cousins and this has brought us closer as a family," he said.
Wagster Pettus reported from Jackson. Associated Press writers Holbrook Mohr in Oxford, Jack Elliott in Jackson and Pete Yost in Washington contributed to this report.
By Suzi Parker
LITTLE ROCK, Ark., April 23 (Reuters) - Arkansas's Democratic governor signed into law on Tuesday a plan to extend health insurance to more of the state's low-income residents in a move that could offer a model for other states wrestling with opposition to the federal government's Medicaid expansion plan.
The Arkansas law uses federal Medicaid funds to buy private insurance for about 250,000 state residents who earn up to 133 percent of the poverty line, or $15,415 per year. The insurance would be purchased through a health insurance exchange that the federal government is due to begin operating with Arkansas at the start of next year.
Arkansas officials plan to travel to Washington in the coming weeks to present their plan to federal officials to gain necessary approval.
"Our work is just beginning," Governor Mike Beebe said after signing the bill. "There's a lot of i-dotting, t-crossing and follow ups that have to occur."
The Arkansas plan has drawn interest from some conservatives in Republican-controlled states such as Texas and Louisiana because it would use federal rather than state funds to buy private insurance as a way to help the most vulnerable citizens without expanding Medicaid.
The Arkansas plan has been closely watched around the United States as an alternative to President Barack Obama's sweeping Medicaid expansion, a major provision of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that aims to extend health coverage to at least 12 million low-income Americans by the end of the decade.
Marilyn Tavenner, the U.S. health official who oversees Medicaid and Medicare and the implementation of the health reform law, said earlier this month that U.S. officials were talking to a handful of states about setting up a program similar to Arkansas's.
Arkansas U.S. Senator Mark Pryor, a Democrat, commended "Republicans and Democrats for working together to improve access to healthcare and using the funding provided through the Affordable Care Act to benefit the people and economy of Arkansas."
Obama's healthcare reform law has run into stiff political resistance in Republican-controlled states, particularly in the South, where leaders have been unwilling to expand Medicaid or set up their own health exchanges.
Provisions of the healthcare reform law have been challenged in court cases around the country. In a landmark ruling last June, the U.S. Supreme Court endorsed the Affordable Care Act on constitutional grounds but allowed states to opt out of the Medicaid expansion.
The expansion has since been accepted by governors in about half of the 50 U.S. states.
WASHINGTON -- An interim report by House Republicans faults the State Department and former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton for security deficiencies at the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, prior to last September's deadly terrorist attack that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.
Senior State Department officials, including Clinton, approved reductions in security at the facilities in Benghazi, according to the report by GOP members of five House committees. The report cites an April 19, 2012, cable bearing Clinton's signature acknowledging a March 28, 2012, request from then-U.S. Ambassador to Libya Gene Cretz for more security, yet allowing further reductions.
"Senior State Department officials knew that the threat environment in Benghazi was high and that the Benghazi compound was vulnerable and unable to withstand an attack, yet the department continued to systematically withdraw security personnel," the report said.
Release of the report comes as dozens of House Republicans separately have pushed for Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, to create a select committee to investigate the Sept. 11, 2012, attack. The Associated Press obtained a copy of the report Tuesday.
The report also is highly critical of President Barack Obama and White House staff. In the days following the attack, White House and senior State Department officials altered what the report said were accurate "talking points" drafted by the U.S. intelligence community in order to protect the State Department.
And contrary to what the administration claimed, the alterations were not made to protect classified information. "Concern for classified information is never mentioned in email traffic among senior administration officials," according to the 43-page report.
Last December, senior State Department officials acknowledged major weaknesses in security and errors in judgment that had been revealed in a scathing independent report on the deadly assault. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns and Deputy Secretary of State Thomas Nides admitted that serious management and leadership failures left the mission in Benghazi woefully unprepared for the terrorist attack.
Clinton, testifying before Congress in the final weeks of her tenure, took responsibility for the department's missteps and failures leading up to the assault. But she insisted that requests for more security at the diplomatic mission in Benghazi didn't reach her desk, and reminded lawmakers that they have a responsibility to fund security-related budget requests.
The report from the House committees is the latest broadside in what has been a long-running and acrimonious dispute between the Obama administration and congressional Republicans who have challenged the White House's actions before and after the Benghazi attack.
House and Senate Republicans for weeks fought for access to information about the attack and used the nominations of two key Obama administration national security officials – Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and CIA Director John Brennan – as leverage to obtain internal documents about the raid.
The Benghazi raid also resonated during the presidential campaign as the Obama administration struggled in the weeks leading up to the Nov. 6 election to tamp down speculation of a cover-up involving the Benghazi attack.
Obama, in his role as commander in chief, failed to anticipate the significance that Sept. 11 held as a date and did not provide the Defense Department with the authority for missions beyond self-defense, according to the report. Military assets were properly positioned across the North Africa region, but had no authority to be in an alert posture that would have permitted offensive operations and were given no notice to defend U.S. diplomatic facilities, the report said.
U.S. Africa Command, which has responsibility for military operations in the region, has serious deficiencies that hindered the Defense Department's response to the attack, according to the report. The command, which was established in 2008, has no Army or Marine Corps units assigned to it. When the attack occurred, the Pentagon had to order units attached to a separate command in Europe to respond.
The report defends U.S. intelligence officials, who are described as being vigilant in gathering information about threats in the region and warning senior U.S. officials of the deteriorating security environment in Benghazi.
The independent report by retired Adm. Mike Mullen and Thomas Pickering, a retired ambassador, as well as testimony from Clinton and other senior Obama administration officials have failed to assuage Republicans. Seven months after the attack, more than 100 House Republicans, led by Rep. Frank Wolfe, R-Va., have backed a resolution calling on Boehner to create a special congressional panel to investigate.
Outside groups also have pressured Boehner, with Special Operations Speaks, a group of Special Operations veterans, demanding that Congress investigate "Benghazigate" and suggesting that the president is guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors.
The group claims that Americans on the ground in Benghazi were denied military support by high-ranking administration officials even though senior Defense Department officials have explained that they didn't have the intelligence to simply send in fighter planes and were uncertain about the location of the ambassador.
Privately, Republicans say the Libya attack and criticism of the Obama administration is an issue that energizes the Republican base, a crucial political calculation ahead of congressional midterm elections in which control of the House and Senate are stake.
The GOP-led House Armed Services, Foreign Affairs, Judiciary, Oversight and Government Reform, and Intelligence committees prepared the interim report. Democrats on these committees said they were not asked to participate.
Ted Cruz has made quite an impression in just three months in the Senate. Like Marco Rubio, he is the son of a Cuban exile. He is a extraordinarily talented guy. Unlike Barack Obama, he had a stellar record both in academia and in the practice of law: he was national debating champion, graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law School, clerked for the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, was named by American Lawyer magazine as one of the 50 Best Litigators under 45 in America, served as Solicitor General of the State of Texas and authored more than 80 briefs in the U.S. Supreme Court. As a...
ATLANTA — A rare open U.S. Senate seat in Georgia promises a scrambled 2014 campaign that already has some Republicans quietly nervous about retaining it.
Democrat Barack Obama lost the state in both of his White House races, and it's a seat that Republicans cannot afford to lose as they try to regain a Senate majority for the final two years of his presidency.
The question is whether a bruising party primary becomes a liability, particularly if voters nominate U.S. Rep. Paul Broun, who once called evolution and the Big Bang Theory "lies straight from the pit of hell."
Broun and U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey, both conservative physicians, are the only Republicans to announce officially since incumbent Saxby Chambliss said he will retire. But the GOP primary field eventually could include as many as a half-dozen candidates with a credible shot at a runoff spot.
Broun, whose district includes the University of Georgia in Athens, drew national headlines last year for that science commentary he delivered at a church. He's flouted GOP leaders on recent fiscal votes, saying the party's position wasn't conservative enough.
In a recent fundraising letter, he boasted that he was the first member of Congress to call Obama "a socialist who embraces Marxist-Leninist policies."
That makes Broun a tea party and evangelical favorite. To other Republicans, however, such comments stir memories of 2012 losses in Senate races in Missouri and Indiana where the GOP nominees, Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock, made controversial comments about women, rape and abortion.
"There's no question that the Republican Party in Georgia and the nation are concerned that we could have another Todd Akin-type scenario here," said Heath Garrett, a Republican campaign consultant and former top aide to U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson.
Democrats control 55 seats in the Senate, and Republicans would need to hang on to the ones they control now and pick up six more next year to take control for the first time since 2006.
At least one more Georgia congressman is likely to jump in, and a trio of Washington outsiders is considering the race: a wealthy Atlanta businesswoman who helped bankroll a Mitt Romney's presidential campaign; the former Susan G. Komen Foundation executive who took on Planned Parenthood; and the cousin of former Gov. Sonny Perdue.
"It's going to be a free-for-all with a lot of dominoes," said Sue Everhart, the head of the state GOP.
Isakson said he's neutral in the primary.
National conservative groups FreedomWorks and Club for Growth, which have helped tea party candidates such as Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas win high-profile races, say many candidates have talked to them about support. For now, both groups say they're watching the field develop. It would be a blow to Broun if he can't harness the support of either.
Democrats believe they can tap into the Missouri-Indiana playbook, particularly if U.S. Rep. John Barrow, a moderate from Augusta, runs. Barrow has survived consecutive elections as one of national Republicans' top House targets.
The state Democratic chairman, Mike Berlon, said Barrow has detractors among core Democrats for his vote against Obama's health care law, but said he'd expect enthusiasm at any opportunity to win back Chambliss' seat.
Berlon said the congressman is an ideal candidate to assemble a majority coalition of African-Americans, white urban liberals, suburban moderates and just enough rural conservatives. "We're already close," he said, noting that Obama got 47 percent in 2008 and 45.5 percent in 2012 "without the national party lifting a finger."
Garrett said that "if the Republican nominee scares suburban whites, John Barrow becomes a very formidable candidate."
Barrow has held meetings with major Democratic donors in Georgia and talked with the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee leaders, but has not announced his intentions.
The only other Democrat making strong overtures is Michelle Nunn, a not-for-profit executive who's the daughter of former U.S. Sen. Sam Nunn, D-Ga.
Berlon said he expects Nunn and Barrow to meet soon to "talk about who's going to run."
On the Republican side, U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston of Savannah is expected to enter the race soon. He raised $843,000 in the first three months of the year, about 10 times what he collected during the same span two years ago when he was preparing only for an easy re-election to his 11th term.
Rep. Tom Price, vice chairman of the House Budget Committee, has said he won't make a move until after Congress passes a budget. But he's also got to consider that many high-profile GOP donors and strategists are lining up behind Gingrey or Kingston.
The longer Price waits, the more likely it is that Karen Handel, a former Georgia secretary of state, will run. The two are close friends.
After losing the 2010 Republican primary runoff for governor, Handel worked for the Susan G. Komen Foundation. She resigned amid controversy over her push to dissociate the organization from Planned Parenthood, a provider of women's health care and abortion services.
Two electoral newcomers would bring their personal wealth to the campaign.
Businessman David Perdue also has name ID as the cousin of a popular former governor.
Kelly Loeffler is a co-owner of the Atlanta-based company that recently bought the New York Stock Exchange and Atlanta's professional women's basketball team. She's never run for office but is one of the top fundraisers for Romney last year. She's been increasingly active in Georgia Republican political circles.
Chip Lake, a paid strategist for Gingrey, said the uncertainty makes it difficult to handicap the race.
Against Broun alone, Gingrey is a mainstream social and fiscal conservative, but he also caught heat earlier this year when he defended Akin.
Gingrey apologized, calling his own remarks "stupid." In a three-man race, Kingston becomes a favorite of many Chamber of Commerce Republicans. But Kingston also is from south Georgia, far from the population center of Atlanta, where Gingrey has won elections for decades.
Broun has just $217,000 in his campaign account, about one-tenth of his House rivals and not enough for one week of television ads in Atlanta. But he's also got a strong grass-roots following.
Handel can capitalize on experience in government, while still being an outsider to an unpopular Congress. She could be a particularly strong candidate if she's the only woman in the race.
But Loeffler could neutralize any gender advantage. Handel can use the Planned Parenthood flap to boost her conservative credentials, but she's had run-ins with staunch anti-abortion groups because she supports policy exceptions for rape, incest and to allow for in-vitro fertilization.
Loeffler can sell her success story and roots on an Illinois farm. But she'd still have to introduce herself to small town and rural Georgia as a millionaire from Atlanta.
Follow Barrow on Twitter: https://twitter.com/BillBarrowAP
BOSTON -- As the lone surviving suspect in the Boston Marathon bombing lay hospitalized under heavy guard, the American Civil Liberties Union and a federal public defender raised concerns about investigators' plan to question 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev without reading him his Miranda rights.
What Tsarnaev will say and when are unclear – he remained in serious condition and apparently in no shape for interrogation after being pulled bloody and wounded from a tarp-covered boat in a Watertown backyard. The capture came at the end of a tense Friday that began with his 26-year-old brother, Tamerlan, dying in a gunbattle with police.
U.S. officials said an elite interrogation team would question the Massachusetts college student without reading him his Miranda rights, something that is allowed on a limited basis when the public may be in immediate danger, such as instances in which bombs are planted and ready to go off.
ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero said the legal exception applies only when there is a continued threat to public safety and is "not an open-ended exception" to the Miranda rule, which guarantees the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney.
The federal public defender's office in Massachusetts said it has agreed to represent Tsarnaev once he is charged. Miriam Conrad, public defender for Massachusetts, said he should have a lawyer appointed as soon as possible because there are "serious issues regarding possible interrogation."
There was no immediate word on when Tsarnaev might be charged and what those charges would be. The twin bombings killed three people and wounded more than 180.
The most serious charge available to federal prosecutors would be the use of a weapon of mass destruction to kill people, which carries a possible death sentence. Massachusetts does not have the death penalty.
President Barack Obama said there are many unanswered questions about the bombing, including whether the Tsarnaev brothers – ethnic Chechens from southern Russia who had been in the U.S. for about a decade and lived in the Boston area – had help from others. The president urged people not to rush judgment about their motivations.
Gov. Deval Patrick said Saturday afternoon that Tsarnaev was in serious but stable condition and was probably unable to communicate. Tsarnaev was at Boston's Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, where 11 victims of the bombing were still being treated.
"I, and I think all of the law enforcement officials, are hoping for a host of reasons the suspect survives," the governor said after a ceremony at Fenway Park to honor the victims and survivors of the attack. "We have a million questions, and those questions need to be answered."
The all-day manhunt Friday brought the Boston area to a near standstill and put people on edge across the metropolitan area.
The break came around nightfall when a homeowner in Watertown saw blood on his boat, pulled back the tarp and saw a bloody Tsarnaev hiding inside, police said. After an exchange of gunfire, he was seized and taken away in an ambulance.
Raucous celebrations erupted in and around Boston, with chants of "USA! USA!" Residents flooded the streets in relief four days after the two pressure-cooker bombs packed with nails and other shrapnel went off.
Michael Spellman said he bought tickets to Saturday's Red Sox game at Fenway Park to help send a message to the bombers.
"They're not going to stop us from doing things we love to do," he said, sitting a few rows behind home plate. "We're not going to live in fear."
During the long night of violence leading up to the capture, the Tsarnaev brothers killed an MIT police officer, severely wounded another lawman and took part in a furious shootout and car chase in which they hurled explosives at police from a large homemade arsenal, authorities said.
Watertown Police Chief Edward Deveau said one of the explosives was the same type used during the Boston Marathon attack, and authorities later recovered a pressure cooker lid that had embedded in a car down the street. He said the suspects also tossed two grenades before Tamerlan ran out of ammunition and police tackled him.
But while handcuffing him, officers had to dive out of the way as Dzhokhar drove the carjacked Mercedes at them, Deveau said. The SUV dragged Tamerlan's body down the block, he said. Police initially tracked the escaped suspect by a blood trail he left behind a house after abandoning the Mercedes, negotiating his surrender hours later in the boat.
Chechnya, where the Tsarnaev family has roots, has been the scene of two wars between Russian forces and separatists since 1994. That spawned an Islamic insurgency that has carried out deadly bombings in Russia and the region, although not in the West.
Investigators have not offered a motive for the Boston attack. But in interviews with officials and those who knew the Tsarnaevs, a picture has emerged of the older one as someone embittered toward the U.S., increasingly vehement in his Muslim faith and influential over his younger brother.
The Russian FSB intelligence service told the FBI in 2011 about information that Tamerlan Tsarnaev was a follower of radical Islam, two law enforcement officials said Saturday.
According to an FBI news release, a foreign government said that Tamerlan Tsarnaev appeared to be strong believer and that he had changed drastically since 2010 as he prepared to leave the U.S. for travel to the Russian region to join unspecified underground groups.
The FBI did not name the foreign government, but the two officials said it was Russia. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk about the matter publicly.
The FBI said that in response, it interviewed Tamerlan Tsarnaev and relatives, and did not find any domestic or foreign terrorism activity. The bureau said it looked into such things as his telephone and online activity, his travels and his associations with others.
An uncle of the Tsarnaev brothers said he had a falling-out with Tamerlan over the man's increased commitment to Islam.
Ruslan Tsarni of Montgomery Village, Md., said Tamerlan told him in a 2009 phone conversation that he had chosen "God's business" over work or school. Tsarni said he then contacted a family friend who told him Tsarnaev had been influenced by a recent convert to Islam.
Tsarni said his relationship with his nephew basically ended after that call.
As for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, "he's been absolutely wasted by his older brother. I mean, he used him. He used him for whatever he's done," Tsarni said.
Albrecht Ammon, a downstairs-apartment neighbor of Tamerlan Tsarnaev in Cambridge, said in an interview that the older brother had strong political views about the U.S. Ammon quoted Tsarnaev as saying that the U.S. uses the Bible as "an excuse for invading other countries."
Tamerlan Tsarnaev studied accounting as a part-time student at Bunker Hill Community College in Boston for three semesters from 2006 to 2008, the school said. He was married with a young daughter. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was a student at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth.
As of Saturday, more than 50 victims of the bombing remained hospitalized, three in critical condition.
Associated Press writers Denise Lavoie and Steve Peoples in Boston; Michael Hill in Watertown, Mass.; Colleen Long in New York; Pete Yost in Washington; Eric Tucker in Montgomery Village, Md.; and AP Sports Writer Jimmy Golen in Boston contributed to this report.
After the Senate failed to advance an amendment that would expand federal requirements for background checks on gun purchasers, President Barack Obama took to the White House’s Rose Garden to denounce the vote, calling it "a pretty shameful day for Washington." Flanked by relatives of some of the slain children from Newtown, Conn., and assassination survivor Gabby Giffords, Obama emphasized how broadly Americans support expanded background checks for gun purchases. At several points in his remarks, Obama invoked his gun-policy adversary, the National Rifle Association. "To the wide majority of NRA households who supported this ...>> More
Just moments after he raised his right hand to take the oath of office at a time of economic despair in 2009, Barack Obama spoke of the resilience of the American people. In that first inaugural address, Obama paraphrased the lyrics from a 1930s Fred Astaire musical as he declared, “Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.” Thursday afternoon, at a memorial service in Boston’s Cathedral of the Holy Cross, Obama invoked the story of 78-year-old marathoner Bill Iffrig who was knocked off...
(CNN) -- When the Manchin-Toomey background check amendment, a modest gun restriction by any reasonable measure, was defeated, President Barack Obama called it a "shameful day in Washington." But as anyone who watches Congress knows, it has more than its share of shameful days.There the deck was stacked against not only this bill, but against any bill that would restrict the proliferation of guns in any way. If those seeking sanity in our gun laws want to succeed, they'd better prepare themselves for a difficult journey.Many people thought that the Newtown massacre changed...
One day after background checks legislation fell short in the U.S. Senate, National Rifle Association (NRA) President David Keene revealed his opinion of what President Barack Obama learned from the vote.
In a Thursday interview with The Washington Examiner, Keene argued that December 2012's shooting in Newtown, Conn. did not "change people's basic values and feelings."
"What he learned is that he bit off a lot more than he can chew and that you can't just talk your way to a victory," Keene told the paper. "You have to have something that makes some sense and he what he was proposing just didn't make much sense."
Last week, the NRA called the bill formulated by Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) a "positive development," while still going against the compromise. Keene voiced opposition, saying that the federal computer system needed to be fixed first.
"Now when when they are so disingenuous and telling members that our legislation, and I quote, 'would criminalize the firearms by honest citizens,'" he said on Wednesday's edition of MSNBC's "Morning Joe." "This bill does not even touch ..."
"That's a lie," host Joe Scarborough interrupted.
"It is a lie, Joe," Manchin responded. "If they lose credibility, they've lost everything in Washington.
President Barack Obama accused the "gun lobby and its allies" of lying about a bipartisan background check proposal that failed Wednesday in the Senate. From the Rose Garden, he charged: "They claimed that it would create some sort of ‘big brother’ gun registry, even though the bill did the opposite. This legislation, in fact, outlawed any registry. Plain and simple, right there in the text. But that didn't matter." The background check amendment, sponsored by Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Pat Toomey, R-Pa., was a compromise intended to replace stricter language in Majority Leader ...>> More
After the Senate failed to advance an amendment that would expand federal requirements for background checks on gun purchasers, President Barack Obama took to the White House’s Rose Garden to denounce the vote, calling it "a pretty shameful day for Washington." Flanked by relatives of some of the slain children from Newtown, Conn., and assassination survivor Gabby Giffords, Obama emphasized how broadly Americans support expanded background checks for gun purchases. At one point, Obama invoked his gun-policy adversary, the National Rifle Association. "Even the NRA used to support expanded background checks," he said. "The current ...>> More
(Recasts with arrest)
By Tabassum Zakaria and Jeff Mason
WASHINGTON, April 17 (Reuters) - The FBI arrested a Mississippi man on Wednesday in connection with letters sent to President Barack Obama and two other officials that are believed to have contained the deadly poison ricin, the U.S. Justice Department said.
Paul Kevin Curtis was arrested at his home in Corinth, Mississippi, and is "believed to be responsible for the mailings of the three letters sent through the U.S. Postal Inspection Service which contained a granular substance that preliminarily tested positive for ricin," the Justice Department said in a statement.
The letters were addressed to a U.S. senator, the White House and a Mississippi justice official, the statement said.
The ricin poison scare hit Washington after bombings at the Boston Marathon killed three people and injured 176 on Monday, but the FBI said there was no indication the incidents were connected.
The FBI said the envelope sent to Obama was received at a mail-screening facility outside the White House and was immediately quarantined. Preliminary tests showed it contained the deadly poison ricin, the FBI said
Washington was put on edge on Tuesday evening when news emerged that authorities had intercepted a letter sent to Republican Senator Roger Wicker of Mississippi that had initially tested positive for ricin.
Following the arrest, Wicker issued a statement thanking the FBI and Capitol Police "for their professionalism and decisive action in keeping our family and staff safe from harm."
Earlier on Wednesday, a flurry of reports of suspicious letters and packages rattled the U.S. capital and caused the temporary evacuation of parts of two Senate buildings. Most of the reports quickly proved to be false alarms, and business was only temporarily disrupted on Capitol Hill.
The letters to Obama and Wicker had identical language, included the phrase, "To see a wrong and not expose it, is to become a silent partner to its continuance." They were signed, "I am KC and I approve this message," according to an FBI operations bulletin reviewed by Reuters.
The envelopes both bore postmarks from Memphis, Tennessee, and were dated April 8. Memphis Mayor A.C. Wharton noted in a statement, however, that it did not mean the letters originated in that city.
An aide to Wharton said many areas near Memphis were included in its postmark - including some in neighboring northern Mississippi, Wicker's state.
For Washingtonians, the situation was an unsettling reminder of events of nearly 12 years ago when letters containing anthrax spores were mailed to the Washington offices of two senators and to media outlets in New York and Florida, not long after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in New York and Washington.
The FBI said White House operations were not affected by the latest scare. It noted that filters at a second government mail-screening facility had preliminarily tested positive for ricin this morning" and mail from that facility was also being tested.
The tests were being conducted at Fort Detrick, in Frederick, Maryland, a government source said.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said Obama had been briefed on the situation.
Ricin is a lethal poison found naturally in castor beans, but it takes a deliberate act to convert it into a biological weapon. Ricin can cause death within 36 to 72 hours from exposure to an amount as small as a pinhead. No known antidote exists.
There was another ricin scare at the U.S. Capitol in 2004, when tests showed positive on a letter in a Senate mail room that served the office of Bill Frist, a Tennessee Republican who was then Senate majority leader.
SERIES OF SUSPICIOUS ITEMS
Law enforcement authorities on Wednesday closed and then reopened parts of the Hart and Russell Senate buildings near the Capitol after tests on suspect items showed there was no threat.
"All test results were negative," U.S. Capitol Police said over the public address system in Senate office buildings.
Police questioned a man with a backpack who had been delivering envelopes to Senate offices, a law enforcement official said. This delivery method broke the normal protocol, because no mail is supposed to be delivered without first being checked at an outside facility, Capitol officials said.
Police also investigated a suspicious package delivered to Alabama Republican Senator Richard Shelby's office in the Russell building on Wednesday, but determined there was no threat, said Jonathan Graffeo, a spokesman for Shelby.
West Virginia Democratic Senator Joe Manchin told reporters he was kept out of his own office in the Hart office building for an hour as officials investigated something deemed suspicious.
In Arizona, the bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said two suspicious letters had been sent to Republican Senator Jeff Flake's Phoenix office. Two staffers and a police officer were taken to the hospital as a precautionary measure after reporting irritation when handling them.
Flake later issued a statement on Wednesday saying no dangerous materials were detected in the mailings. One of them originated in Tennessee, Flake told reporters outside the Senate.
In Ohio, Columbus police responded to a report of a suspicious letter received on Wednesday at Republican Senator Rob Portman's office, but determined it was not dangerous, Portman's office said.
Democratic Senator Carl Levin said one of his Michigan regional offices had also received a suspicious letter, but it was not opened. Authorities are investigating, and a staff member went to the hospital as a precautionary measure, he said.
It is unclear if there was a connection linking the series of suspicious items delivered to politicians.
The Senate's sergeant at arms, Terrance Gainer, sent a memo to all offices telling them only to accept mail from a uniformed Senate post office employee and, when in doubt, to call the police.
He said mail was being delivered that had already been cleared, but there would be no mail delivered on Thursday and Friday to allow more testing and investigation. (Writing by Susan Cornwell; Additional reporting by Susan Heavey, David Ingram, Mark Hosenball, Deborah Charles, Patricia Zengerle, Patrick Temple-West and Kim Palmer; Editing by Jim Loney, Christopher Wilson, Karey Van Hall and Peter Cooney)
The 2013 survey, conducted from April 5-8, indicated that Bush ranked least favorably out of a group of six politicians that included New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (I), Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and President Barack Obama (D).
The poll revealed that 35 percent of Americans view Bush in either a very positive or somewhat positive light, whereas 44 percent view him in a very negative or somewhat negative way.
The polling numbers arrive just a month ahead of the opening of the George W. Bush Presidential Library, which is set for May 1 at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. Time Magazine reported in mid-April that Bush raised more than $500 million for the library.
An activist group named The People's Response has threatened to protest the opening, hoping to "warn the public" of "ideologues" behind Bush policies from the past trying to "write a script for our future."
WASHINGTON -- Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told Congress on Wednesday that the Pentagon is sending about 200 soldiers from an Army headquarters unit to Jordan to assist efforts to contain violence along the Syrian border and plan for any operations needed to ensure the safety of chemical weapons in Syria.
The 1st Armored Division troops are largely planners and will replace a similar number of U.S. forces that have been in Jordan for some months. They will include specialists in intelligence, logistics and operations.
Sending a cohesive headquarters unit will enhance the troops' ability to respond to any security needs, and will provide leadership personnel that could command additional forces if it's determined they are needed in the future.
"Currently, the U.S. forces assisting Jordan now are troops pulled from various units and places," Hagel said in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee. He said that sending a unit that has already served together improves its ability to work as a team.
The unit is based at Fort Bliss, Texas.
Two years of civil war pitting the forces of President Bashar Assad against his foes has killed an estimated 70,000 people and forced more than 1 million refugees to flee their homes.
President Barack Obama has insisted that Assad must go, but has cautioned about sending military assistance to Syrian opposition forces, which could extend the fighting and unintentionally put weapons in the hands of Islamic extremists.
Obama has made clear that Assad would cross a red line if he were to use his suspected stockpile of chemical weapons – including nerve agents and mustard gas – against the Syrian people.
WASHINGTON — To some conservatives, it's amnesty.
To some immigration advocates, it's unnecessarily punitive.
The Senate's new bipartisan immigration bill drew criticism from the right and from the left Tuesday – convincing members of the bipartisan "Gang of Eight" that wrote it that they're on the right track.
"This has something for everybody to hate," said Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz.
Said Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.: "No one gets everything they want."
Schumer and another leader of the effort, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., met with President Barack Obama on Tuesday to brief him on the bill, a top second-term priority for the president. Obama issued a statement after the meeting supporting the Senate effort and urging action.
"This bill is clearly a compromise, and no one will get everything they wanted, including me. But it is largely consistent with the principles that I have repeatedly laid out for comprehensive reform," Obama said. "I urge the Senate to quickly move this bill forward and, as I told Sens. Schumer and McCain, I stand willing to do whatever it takes to make sure that comprehensive immigration reform becomes a reality as soon as possible."
The legislation would dramatically remake the U.S. immigration system, ushering in new visa programs for low- and high-skilled workers, requiring a tough new focus on border security, instituting a new requirement for all employers to check the legal status of their workers, and installing a path to citizenship for 11 million immigrants in the country illegally.
The U.S. immigration system would shift from emphasizing family ties to U.S. citizens or permanent residents in determining who can come to this country, to putting a much bigger focus on their skills or employment opportunities. People who've been deported would have the opportunity to come back to the U.S. if their spouses or children are in the country.
Senators were aiming to file the legislation Tuesday night, and were prepared to keep the Senate floor open late to accommodate that goal. But a press event to roll the bill out was delayed until later in the week after the bombings at the Boston marathon. Nonetheless, outside groups and other senators already had plenty to say.
To some on the left, the details of the path to citizenship were emerging as a concern. It would take 13 years, the first 10 of those in a provisional legal status during which immigrants would not have access to federal benefits. Immigrants would have to pay $2,000 in fines plus hundreds more in fees, and outstanding taxes. No one with a felony conviction or more than three misdemeanors would be eligible, and no one who entered the country after Dec. 31, 2011, could apply.
"The proposed legislation falls short by placing unnecessary obstacles and delays in the path to citizenship and could unfairly exclude some of the 11 million aspiring Americans who are our neighbors, friends, family and fellow-worshippers," said Bishop Ricardo McClin, pastor of the Church of God Restoration in Kissimmee, Fla., and a member of PICO National Network, a faith-based organizing network. "PICO will be pressing for changes to make sure that the path to citizenship is real for the families in our congregations."
The path to citizenship also is contingent on various border security "triggers" first being met, an approach Obama administration officials and others have criticized.
Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., defended the approach, which was sought by Republicans.
"Let me just tell you something. This was the price that Democrats had to pay to make this a bipartisan bill. And it's not too high a price," Durbin said.
On the other side, some Republicans were claiming that the bill amounted to a grant of amnesty for people in the country illegally, while opening a floodgate to immigration that could drive down wages for U.S. workers.
"The amount of immigration is going to be far more than most Americans think," said Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala. He predicted that once the facts on the bill are known, the Senate might reject it. "Matter of fact, I don't think it's going to become law as written. It's far more monumental than people realize," Sessions said.
At the same time, the bill was getting plenty of support from business, labor, immigration rights groups and others. Many were eager to rally behind legislation that they see as representing the best chance in more than a quarter-century for Congress to enact meaningful immigration reforms even if imperfect.
"I don't think there's anybody out there that can say this is my dream legislation," said Clarissa Martinez, director of immigration at National Council of La Raza. "But I think that it's important to keep the whole in perspective, and where we're trying to go."
Members of the Gang of Eight were working to sell the bill to various constituents. At one meeting Tuesday with representatives from about a dozen outside groups, Republicans in the group ticked off the bill's benefits: it doesn't cost the federal government money, won't undermine American workers, and "the pall of illegality will be removed and we can get on with the business of improving the economy. And we agree with all that," said one attendee, Daniel Garza, executive director of the LIBRE Initiative, a center-right organization that advocates for Hispanics.
The bill is expected to contain expenditures of around $17 billion, mostly for border security measures including hiring 3,500 new Customs agents, but should bring in more than that in fines and other revenue, according to a Senate aide Tuesday who spoke on condition of anonymity because the bill had not been released.
The Congressional Budget Office will have to analyze the legislation and confirm those figures, but lawmakers and aides have pledged that the bill won't cost taxpayers and they'll increase fees or fines in the legislation if it looks like it might.
The last serious effort to remake the immigration system, pushed by President George W. Bush, failed on the Senate floor in 2007. The biggest difference this time around is changed public sentiment in favor of reform, McCain said.
A new Associated Press-GfK poll shows 63 percent, including majorities across party lines, support providing a way for immigrants in the U.S. to become U.S. citizens. The poll was conducted by telephone April 11-15 among 1,004 adults and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.9 points.
Associated Press writer Josh Lederman contributed to this report.
Follow Erica Werner on Twitter: https://twitter.com/ericawerner
CHICAGO — It has been six decades since doctors concluded that addiction was a disease that could be treated, but today the condition still dwells on the fringes of the medical community. Only 1 cent of every health care dollar in the United States goes toward addiction, and few alcoholics and drug addicts receive treatment. One huge barrier, according to many experts, has been a lack of health insurance.
But that barrier crumbles in less than a year. In a major break with the past, 3 million to 5 million people with drug and alcohol problems – from homeless drug addicts to working moms who drink too much – suddenly will become eligible for insurance coverage under the new health care overhaul.
The number of people seeking treatment could double over current levels, depending on how many states decide to expand their Medicaid programs and how many addicts choose to take advantage of the new opportunity, according to an Associated Press analysis of government data. The analysis compared federal data on the addiction rates in the 50 states, the capacity of treatment programs and the provisions of the new health law.
The surge in patients is expected to push a marginal part of the health care system out of church basements and into the mainstream of medical care. Already, the prospect of more paying patients has prompted private equity firms to increase their investments in addiction treatment companies, according to a market research firm. And families fighting the affliction are beginning to consider a new avenue for help.
"There is no illness currently being treated that will be more affected by the Affordable Care Act than addiction," said Tom McLellan, CEO of the nonprofit Treatment Research Institute and President Barack Obama's former deputy drug czar. "That's because we have a system of treatment that was built for a time when they didn't understand that addiction was an illness."
But those eager for a new chance at sobriety may be surprised by the reality behind the promise. The system for treating substance abuse – now largely publicly funded and run by counselors with limited medical training – is small and already full to overflowing in many places. In more than two-thirds of the states, treatment clinics are already at or approaching 100 percent capacity.
The new demand could swamp the system before even half of the newly insured show up at the door, causing waiting lists of months or longer, treatment agencies say. In recent years, many rehab centers have been shrinking rather than growing because of government budget cuts for patients who receive public support.
"Advocates just get so excited, but at some point, reality is going to hit and they'll find it's not all it was cracked up to be," said Josh Archambault of the Pioneer Institute, a nonpartisan public policy research center in Boston.
In the coming years, treatment programs and medical colleges will face pressure to ramp up to create a larger system.
But until then, addiction treatment may represent an extreme example of one of the Affordable Care Act's challenges: actually delivering the care that people are supposed to receive.
Many with substance problems are waiting eagerly for January, when the new insurance will become available.
"It's the chance to clean up and not use anymore, so I could live a stable life," said 30-year-old Ashley Lore of Portsmouth, Ohio, who was jailed and lost custody of her 4-year-old daughter as a result of her heroin addiction. "If I get into treatment, I get visitation to my daughter back. And I get her back after I complete treatment."
Only about 10 percent of the 23 million Americans with alcohol or drug problems now receive treatment, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Shame and stigma are part of the reason but about a quarter of them don't have insurance coverage. That compares with the overall uninsured rate of 16 percent.
With money for treatment limited, slots in rehabilitation centers and hospitals are scarce. In Minnesota, which has one of the higher substance abuse rates in the nation – 11.6 percent of the population – there are slightly more than 3,900 inpatient beds for the 491,000 people who need treatment, according to federal data. Occupancy is over 100 percent.
Insurance can mean the difference between getting a spot or waiting indefinitely for publicly subsidized help.
Michelle Hines, an Illinois mother, had both experiences when her 19-year-old son became part of a disturbing new trend: suburban teenagers hooked on heroin.
Because he was uninsured, the wait would stretch to a month or six weeks for a public bed. His parents, who own a small business, couldn't afford the $2,000-per-month injections to block the heroin high. Overall, outpatient programs cost about $10,000, and a residential treatment stay about $28,000.
Everything changed after her son was able to get coverage under the family's insurance plan because of an early benefit of the Affordable Care Act.
They now pay only $40 a month for the shot that helps him stay clean. "He's working hard at getting his life back together," Hines said. "He's in school full time; he's got a job." (Michelle Hines asked that her son's name be withheld to avoid hurting his future employment prospects.)
Nine alumni of Hines' son's high school have died from drug overdoses. "A waiting list for a heroin addict could mean death," Hines said. "So many have died waiting, it's awful."
Today, those without insurance include many lower- and middle-income people who don't get the benefit from an employer – businesses provide coverage for about 50 percent of Americans – don't qualify for Medicaid or Medicare and can't afford their own policies.
The new law would provide subsidies to help many buy private coverage. The government is also pressing states to expand their Medicaid programs to include more working poor people. If 20 states expand their Medicaid programs – roughly the number now planning to do so – an additional 3.8 million prospective patients with addiction problems would get insurance, according to the AP analysis. If virtually all of the states eventually decide to expand, as federal officials predict, the ranks of the newly insured with addiction problems could reach 5.5 million.
Perhaps as important as the expansion, the new law designates addiction treatment as an "essential health benefit" for most commercial plans.
"This is probably the most profound change we've had in drug policy ever," said Michael Botticelli, deputy director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy. "We know one of the most significant reasons for the treatment gap is folks who don't have insurance or who have an inadequate coverage package for substance use disorders."
But will those who suddenly get coverage for treatment have a place to get it?
Haymarket Center in Chicago illustrates what may await many addicts. One Friday morning, seven men slumped in chairs in a small, bare room with only an untouched rack of health brochures to break the monotony of waiting for the chance of a detox bed that night. The six-story brick building is a beehive of programs for 300-plus patients: short term detox, long-term residential treatment, recovery units where people can live sober while looking for work. Everything is overbooked. On this day, the waiting list totaled 91 people who want help.
"Last year the state cut our dollars so we had to cut back our beds," said Dan Lustig, vice president of Haymarket, which gets most of its funding from the government. "We had clients literally pleading for services. Some were sleeping on our front steps."
In Illinois, where 92,000 people get treatment now, nearly 235,000 addicts and alcoholics without insurance will be able to get coverage next year. Not only beds are lacking. The pool of physicians who are addiction specialists must grow by 3,000 nationwide, almost double what it is now, to handle the demand, according to health industry experts.
"The big question for providers is how do we bridge the gap between now and then?" said Bruce Angleman of Heritage Behavioral Health Center, which provides treatment in Decatur, in central Illinois.
There are also questions about how comprehensive and affordable the new coverage will be. Consumers or their employers who choose cheaper policies with high out-of-pocket costs may find themselves unable to afford their share of an expensive program.
The future ideal may end up looking something like the care Shavonne Bullock receives in a neighborhood clinic in Chicago, the metro area with the highest rate of heroin-related emergency room visits. Seven years into her recovery, Bullock, a 54-year-old former heroin addict, still gets counseling and takes medication_ "my blessing" she calls it – at the Access Community Health Network clinic to suppress withdrawal symptoms and reduce craving.
Her doctors and counselors work together. They recognize that addiction is a chronic condition, like diabetes, that needs maintenance.
"I haven't thought about drugs in seven years," she said. Treatment, she said, "works if you work it. It's all up to the individual. And it really works."
AP Medical Writer Carla K. Johnson can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/CarlaKJohnson