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Wisconsin passes law to curb private custody transfers of children

By Megan Twohey NEW YORK (Reuters) - Wisconsin has adopted a law to limit private custody transfers of children, the first law of its kind in the United States, responding to a Reuters investigation that exposed the dangers of the unregulated practice.

Rum, race cars, windmills win Senate tax favor

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Senate's tax committee approved a package of special-interest tax breaks on Thursday, including three measures that were left off the list two days ago in a brief bipartisan nod toward fiscal reform. In a sign of business-as-usual on Capitol Hill, the Senate Finance Committee backed tax breaks for auto race tracks, wind energy, multinational corporations, Hollywood, school teachers, Puerto Rican rum producers, college tuition and more.

Congress renews annual temporary tax laws fight

By Kevin Drawbaugh (Reuters) - The annual battle in the U.S. Congress over renewing scores of temporary tax breaks, including the corporate research tax credit and individual deductions for teachers' supplies and college tuition costs, got under way on Tuesday. In the Senate, the new chairman of the tax-writing Finance Committee unveiled legislation that would modestly trim the list of about 55 laws known as the "tax extenders" because they expire every year or two and need to be regularly extended.

Obama seeks change in how U.S. pays to fight wildfires

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama will ask Congress in his budget proposal next week to change the way it pays for the soaring costs of fighting wildfires, the White House said on Monday, noting the new approach will ensure more money goes to preventing fires. Obama met on Monday with governors from western states that have had massive fires in recent years, including Arizona, Colorado and Oregon, to discuss the approach.

Ore. Sen. Wyden, incoming Finance Committee chairman, sets income tax revamp as top priority

Sen. Ron Wyden, the incoming chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said Friday his first priority in the job will be overhauling the nation's tax system, which he called a "dysfunctional, rotten mess." In a telephone interview with The Associated Press, Wyden said he was inspired by the bipartisan income tax changes of 1986, when former Oregon Republican Sen. Bob Packwood was Senate Finance chairman and Ronald Reagan was president.

Senate approves Baucus as ambassador to China

By Patricia Zengerle WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Senate voted unanimously on Thursday to approve President Barack Obama's nomination of Senator Max Baucus, who has helped steer trade policy with China, as ambassador to Beijing. The Senate voted 96-0, with Baucus voting present, to confirm the 72-year-old Montana Democrat to the high-profile appointment.

Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden, a critic of NSA surveillance programs, in line to chair finance panel

WASHINGTON - The Democrat in line to chair the Senate's most powerful committee is a liberal Oregonian who has been an occasional thorn in the side of the intelligence community, the Obama administration and his own party. For Sen. Ron Wyden, the only job better than leading the Senate Finance Committee and its jurisdiction over taxes, trade and health care policy might be starting forward for the Portland Trailblazers. "After the NBA, it's probably his dream job," said Jennifer Hoelzer, a former aide to the lanky, 6-foot-4 former college basketball player.

U.S. lawmakers call for action to curb Internet child trading

By Megan Twohey CHICAGO (Reuters) - U.S. lawmakers called Tuesday for federal action to prevent parents from giving unwanted adopted children to strangers met on the Internet, and the Illinois attorney general urged Facebook and Yahoo to police online groups where children may be advertised. The demands come as nations whose orphans have been adopted by Americans contend that the U.S. government isn't doing enough to stop the practice, known as "private re-homing."

Lawmakers mostly support surveillance programs

By Patricia Zengerle WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The strongest criticism of President Barack Obama normally comes from the U.S. Congress, but reports the government engaged in sweeping surveillance of Americans' phone and Internet activity left even many of his critics uncharacteristically supportive. A few lawmakers called for probes or closed-door hearings after the reports surfaced this week and a small group introduced a bill seeking to "stop the National Security Agency from spying on citizens of the United States."

Forest Service push for return of subsidy money stokes concern about breadth of spending cuts

WASHINGTON - The U.S. Forest Service is demanding that states give back $17.9 million in federal subsidies, saying the taxpayer cash is subject to automatic spending cuts called "sequestration." But Republicans and Democrats from Capitol Hill to the nation's governor's offices are saying no. The money, they argue, was given to the states before the cuts went into effect March 1 and are exempt. It's unclear who gets to decide and whether the matter lands in court.
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