Alex Wong/Getty Images(KABUL, Afghanistan) — A top U.S. lawmaker is giving his support to keeping a residual U.S. force in Afghanistan after the planned withdrawal of most coalition forces by the end of 2014.

Meeting with U.S. and Afghan officials in Kabul, House Speaker John Boehner remarked that American troops “fought to bring peace and security to Afghanistan and to ensure it can never again be used as a safe haven for terrorists to attack the United States.”

The Obama administration has been at loggerheads with Afghan President Hamid Karzai over signing a Bilateral Security Agreement that would leave an unspecified number of U.S. soldiers in the country in a training and advisory role past 2014.

Karzai, who wants various concessions from Washington, says he will leave it up to his successor to determine whether a post-war pact is right for Afghanistan.

A week-and-a-half ago, millions of Afghans went to the polls to select a new leader but the outcome may not be known for some time. Even then, a run-off is predicted between the two top candidates, which could further delay the signing of the BSA.

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Alex Wong/Getty Images(KABUL, Afghanistan) — A top U.S. lawmaker is giving his support to keeping a residual U.S. force in Afghanistan after the planned withdrawal of most coalition forces by the end of 2014.

Meeting with U.S. and Afghan officials in Kabul, House Speaker John Boehner remarked that American troops “fought to bring peace and security to Afghanistan and to ensure it can never again be used as a safe haven for terrorists to attack the United States.”

The Obama administration has been at loggerheads with Afghan President Hamid Karzai over signing a Bilateral Security Agreement that would leave an unspecified number of U.S. soldiers in the country in a training and advisory role past 2014.

Karzai, who wants various concessions from Washington, says he will leave it up to his successor to determine whether a post-war pact is right for Afghanistan.

A week-and-a-half ago, millions of Afghans went to the polls to select a new leader but the outcome may not be known for some time. Even then, a run-off is predicted between the two top candidates, which could further delay the signing of the BSA.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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pictureimpressions/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The Obama administration is telling Congress that it’s either the president’s way or funds for highway projects will soon run out.

That message is being delivered by Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, who is currently on a bus tour of eight states.

The Highway Trust Fund is due to be depleted by August. If that happens, states won’t have the money for big projects or even much needed repairs and improvements. That situation will of course lead to layoffs at a time when the economy finally seems to be rebounding.

Congress has been faced with this problem time and time again and the usual course of action is a quick money infusion that usually lasts a couple of months until things turn into crisis mode again.

President Obama is looking a long-term fix that would provide over $300 billion for four years. Some of the money would come from closing corporate tax loopholes, which Republicans are adverse to doing.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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US House of Representatives(WASHINGTON) — “A marathon is a celebration of life and endurance and the human spirit,” Rep. Kyrsten Sinema says. “Runners are such a tight-knit community. Even if we don’t know each other, we treat each other like friends.”

Next week, Sinema, a freshman Democrat from Arizona, will be one of two members of Congress running in the 118th Boston Marathon, joining Rep. Joe Kennedy III, D-Mass.

“Boston is like the Holy Grail of running events,” she told ABC News. “I never thought I would ever find my toe at the starting line at Boston.”

Sinema, 37, is running in honor of Martin Richard, the eight-year-old boy killed by the first blast in last year’s twin bombing. She says she has raised $20,000 for Team MR8, a charity established in memory of Martin by his parents.

Of the 36,000 racing bibs available for the historic occasion, 5,500 slots are reserved for charity runners like Sinema, a self-described “endurance runner” who would not qualify based on speed. She said Martin’s parents chose her and a friend to run in honor of their son.

“I’m so privileged to be running in honor of Martin Richard and for the other victims and survivors,” she said. “That is a big responsibility to carry to that start line and to carry those 26.2 miles across that finish line, so I’m going to spend those four-plus hours with Martin and the other victims and survivors in my heart.”

While most members of Congress would probably struggle to run even one mile, Sinema says she has completed eight marathons as well as an Iron Man triathlon.

“This is going to be by far the most emotional marathon I’ve ever run,” she admitted.

Sinema calculates that she runs about 40 miles per week at a pace of about 10:30 per mile. Her best finish came this January in Phoenix when she completed the P.F. Chang’s Rock N’Roll Marathon in 4 hours and 29 minutes.

“If I’m having a good day on Monday, I can smash that record, so that’s my intention,” she pledged. “It’s also the most exciting course in the world and it’s going to be a really, really emotional day so I have my fingers crossed that that will bring me across the finish line faster.”

Sinema is also holding several events this week in her district to continue raising money for others touched by the tragedy. In addition to Team MR8, she says she has raised nearly $10,000 for One Fund Boston, the foundation established by Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick to support the victims and survivors, and $4,000 for the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Greater New England.

So after last year’s horrific bombings, is she concerned at all about the security surrounding the marathon?

“I have zero concerns about security,” she said. “The City of Boston has done an incredible job preparing for this marathon and I have 100 percent confidence that it’ll be a flawless event.”

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Alex Wong/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — Almost two years after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid repeated an unsubstantiated report that Mitt Romney did not pay taxes, one of the Romney sons fired back.

Josh Romney tweeted a photo of his father standing in line at the post office to mail his tax forms Tuesday evening.

Hey @SenatorReid here’s a shot of @MittRomney paying taxes. Does it every year. It’s how you get your paycheck.

— Josh Romney (@joshromney) April 15, 2014

And then it suddenly felt like we were back in the political brawl of 2012 as Ben LaBolt, a former spokesman for President Obama’s campaign, weighed in.

Pic of the vault in Zurich? MT @joshromney Hey Sen Reid here’s a shot of Mitt paying taxes. Does it every yr. It’s how you get yr paycheck.

— Ben LaBolt (@BenLaBolt) April 15, 2014

In case you forgot about the Harry Reid-Mitt Romney tax spat, here’s a recap.

In the summer of 2012, Reid said someone who worked with Bain Capital, which Romney led, called his office to say that Romney “didn’t pay any taxes for 10 years.”

“He didn’t pay taxes for 10 years! Now, do I know that that’s true? Well, I’m not certain,” Reid told the Huffington Post in an interview. “But obviously he can’t release those tax returns. How would it look?”

Romney denied this, saying Reid needs to reveal his source.

“Harry Reid really has to put up or shut up,” Romney said.

The book Double Down: Game Change 2012 cited Jon Huntsman Sr., whose son Jon Huntsman Jr. ran for president in 2012, as the source of the tax rumor, an accusation Huntsman denied.

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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — President Obama has no plans to enact unilateral immigration overhaul by executive action, faith leaders from across the country said Obama told them Tuesday.

“We did not discuss the need; we did not bring up the issue of the president doing unilateral action,” Luis Cortes, president of Esperanza, a nonprofit law office serving immigrants, said at a news briefing after the Washington meeting.

“We felt it was more important that Congress take action at this time.”

Obama had asked the director of Homeland Security to look at ways to reduce the number of people deported for entering the United States without documentation. But White House press secretary Jay Carney says that is different from implementing immigration overhaul on his own.

The Department of Homeland Security is now performing a “review of practices and implantation of enforcement guidelines.” In other words, the administration is trying to obey the law and still rid the president of a title recently given him by Hispanic leaders, “Deporter in Chief.”

As for his changing immigration law, Carney said that is a nonstarter.

“I think the president believes that there is an opportunity that still exists for House Republicans to follow the lead of the Senate, including Republicans in the Senate, and take up and pass comprehensive immigration reform,” Carney said at Tuesday’s press briefing. “And today’s meeting that the president had with faith leaders demonstrates and reinforces the fact that there is a broad, unusually broad, coalition that supports that effort, that supports comprehensive immigration reform and all the benefits that making reform the law would provide to the country, to our security, to our economy, to our businesses.

“I think it highlights the isolation that House Republicans find themselves in when so many, not just politicians or advocacy leaders, but folks across the country support doing the right thing here and the irony, of course, is that there is a really strong conservative argument to be made on behalf of comprehensive immigration reform,” he said.

In a series of meetings in the past few months, Obama has met with immigration reform activists and leaders on the topic, hoping to gain their support to pressure House Republicans into action.

Tuesday’s meeting with religious leaders was in hopes of gaining their support and influence in pushing Republicans in the House to act.

“While the DACA action that was taken through executive order has been helpful, it was not the ultimate solution,” Noel Castellanos, CEO of the Christian Community Development Association, said of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. “We were here to talk about that ultimate solution…we need to have Congress work.”

DACA is executive action by the president that affects so-called Dreamers, children who arrive in the United States without documentation, and allows them to stay without fear of deportation.

The six faith leaders who met with the president emphasized the agreement on the issue of immigration overhaul.

“For the first time we have in this country the entire religious community, Muslim, Jewish, Christian, Baha’i…all the major denominations and churches and religious bodies of this country believe that it is a moral imperative that we get immigration reform done,” Cortes said. “It is the first and only political issue in this country where we all agree.”

During Tuesday’s meeting, the president stressed, according to a statement from the White House, “the importance of taking action to pass common sense immigration reform.”

“While his Administration can take steps to better enforce and administer immigration laws, nothing can replace the certainty of legislative reform and this permanent solution can only be achieved by Congress,” Obama emphasized, according to the statement.

Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission for the Southern Baptist Convention, said after the meeting, “I disagree with the president on many things, including life, marriage, religious liberty, HHS mandate; this is one of those issues that isn’t a red state, blue state divide.

“Most people agree, across the religious spectrum and across the political spectrum, that our immigration system is broken so we need to have a system that respects the rule of law, secures the border and finds a way forward for this country.”

It has been more than nine months since the Senate passed its comprehensive immigration overhaul bill, and in that time the House has done little. It did release a set of immigration principles in January, but those seemed to stop at their introduction.

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Jared Wickerham/Getty Images(BOSTON) — On the one-year anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombings that killed three people and injured more than 200 others, Vice President Joe Biden paid tribute Tuesday to the bravery and courage of survivors and first responders.

“In my career I’ve been part of or witnessed some incredible tributes, but I have to say…I’ve never, never, never witnessed a tribute like I’ve heard today,” he said. “You are truly, truly inspiring, I’ve never heard anything so beautiful as what all of you just said.”

“I know that no memorial, no words, no acts can fully provide the solace that your hearts and soul still yearn to acquire. But I hope it eases your grief a little bit,” he added.

Biden’s speech followed the stories and testimonies of several survivors of the attacks and people who responded to the injured, as well as musical numbers like Wicked’s “For Good” and Hercules’ “Go the Distance.”

“I want you to know you’re an inspiration, without knowing it, to people all across this country who suffered tragedies and are going through tragedy,” Biden said. “The fact that you’re here, I promise you, gives them hope that maybe, maybe they can overcome what they’re going through right now.”

“Even though I’m not a Boston fan, I love you guys, man,” he said. “And I know politicians aren’t supposed to say that, that you’re not a Red Sox fan. But where I come from, when I was in it, if you root for the Red Sox, you got the living hell kicked out of you. So there was a good reason not to be a Red Sox fan.”

Biden also heralded the courage of the first responders and victims, stating that Boston sent a message to the world about the bravery of the American people.

“You are Boston strong, but America is strong. They’re not unlike you all around America,” he said. “That’s what makes us so proud of this city and this state. That we have never, ever, ever yielded to fear. Ever.”

Biden said that despite the goals of the bombers to terrify the city and the country, the Americans involved in that week’s events showed that Americans never back down.

“They try to instill fear. That’s their objective, that’s what they tried to do in Boston. To make us afraid. Not just Boston afraid — to make America afraid, so that maybe, maybe we begin to change our ways,” he said. “America will never, eve,r ever stand down. We are Boston. We are America. We respond. We endure. We overcome. And we own the finish line.”

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US Senate(WASHINGTON) — A new campaign ad from Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu is drawing criticism from some conservative groups for using re-enactments of statements that the senator made in an Energy Committee hearing last year.

But Landrieu’s campaign is defending the re-enactments as necessary to avoid breaking rules that forbid the use of footage shot by Senate cameras.

“It is against Senate ethics rules to use footage that was shot using Senate cameras in campaign ads,” Landrieu campaign manager Adam Sullivan told ABC News.

The $250,000 ad buy began hitting Louisiana airwaves Tuesday and casts Landrieu, now the chair of the Senate Energy Committee, as a defender of Louisiana’s oil and gas industry who has shown independence from President Obama.

“When we were cheated out of oil royalties,” a voiceover in the ad says, portraying Louisianans watching Landrieu on television, before cutting to a re-enacted clip of an actual statement (occurs at 2:32 in video) that Landrieu made in the Energy Committee last year.

“They have to sit here and listen to the federal government say, ‘We can’t share a penny with you,’” Landrieu says. “I will not rest until this injustice is fixed.”

“You think there are a bunch of fairy god mothers out there that just wave a magic wand?” Landrieu asks in another clip from the re-enacted Senate hearing.

Watch Landrieu’s ad:

The conservative opinion magazine The Weekly Standard first reported that “the video clip doesn’t come from C-SPAN or any other real TV,” and the Republican opposition research super-PAC, America Rising, posted a video that juxtaposes Landrieu’s re-enacted statement from the ad with the real statements from the hearing. The video used in America Rising’s clip was shot originally by Senate cameras, which according to a Senate Resolution 431, prohibits it from being used for campaign purposes.

But American Rising Executive Director Tim Miller said that doesn’t serve as justification for re-enacting the hearing.

“There is no rule that requires their campaign to manufacture a fake news show to cover a staged hearing,” Miller said. “The ad is misleading to voters who are made to think they are looking at real news footage. It is telling that Sen. Landrieu is so desperate for positive news to use in an ad that she needed to fabricate it.”

Watch America Rising’s video:

As she campaigns for a fourth term in the Senate, Landrieu is considered one of the Senate’s most vulnerable Democrats and has been weathering a storm of negative attack ads from conservative advocacy groups, such as the Koch Brothers-backed Americans for Prosperity and Freedom Partners. Landrieu, the only Democrat holding a statewide elected office in Louisiana, is facing off against Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy, as well as tea party candidate Rob Maness, in November’s election.

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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — Every day it seems a new app hits the market seeking to solve the most benign problems facing the smartphone-wielding masses. But how about a much bigger problem — like fixing Congress, an institution with an approval rating hovering around 13 percent?

“If you want to be able to hold Congress accountable, then you have to know what it is doing,” said Ted Henderson, the creator of Capitol Bells. “Living with the 21st century technology we have, you should be able to do that without turning on the TV.”

Henderson, 29, started Capitol Bells almost a year ago in a fit of nostalgia. He had been a staffer for former Rep. Dale Kildee, D-Mich., who retired in January 2013. Henderson found himself out of work and out of the loop on what was going on just miles away from his apartment.

“Being on the Hill, knowing when votes are starting is the thing that kind of drives what’s happening,” Henderson said. “So it kind of became, if I feel this disconnected…no wonder everyone else feels so disconnected.”

Henderson had grown up programming and coded a system that monitors the radio signals that control Congress’ buzzer system to alert lawmakers and their staffers when votes are happening. Users of the app are alerted via push notifications, which Henderson says makes for a “virtual Congress,” that people can follow along with in real time.

The app quickly gained traction in Washington. Henderson said more than half of the House of Representatives currently uses it along with a handful of Senate members and hundreds of staffers.

“I think it’s the one app that’s gone viral in Congress before it went anywhere else,” Henderson said.

That’s when Henderson took his idea and turned it toward constituents.

Now anyone with an iPhone, Android, or the ability to open a web page can put themselves on the floor of the virtual Congress and vote alongside lawmakers on pieces of legislation.

It then creates a private voting record, allowing voters to weigh themselves against their elected representatives by actual votes instead of party affiliation.

Now Henderson is setting his sights on the midterms in November, in a move he says could shift the political landscape if users decide to put the app’s results into practice.

“My big goal for the midterms is to choose three or four battleground districts, from a nonpartisan stance, do some viral marketing and get some of the candidates from the race onto the platform and create their own virtual voting records if they aren’t the incumbent,” Henderson said.

Henderson said it wouldn’t be his mission to unseat a particular lawmaker.

“So much of what happens that leaves people feeling disconnected from Congress is that most of what happens isn’t in front of the public as much as it should be,” Henderson said. “Capitol Bells is a tool that would let representatives know that people are actually starting to keep tabs on them.”

In order to expand his operation to where he expects it will begin to have some national influence, Henderson estimates he’d need to raise $300,000 to $750,000.

Henderson sees the three-or-four state midterm push as a potential means to that end, but he said his hopes are to fund it without having to force users to wade through advertisements.

“To me what really would define whether this works or not is whether you can make it politically relevant in an actual race,” Henderson said.

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The Office of Congressman Ron Barber(WASHINGTON) — When shots rang out on April 2 at the Fort Hood military post in Texas, Rep. Ron Barber, D-Ariz., couldn’t help but remember his own experience with gun violence.

“That takes me back to the day that the shooting occurred in Tucson back in January of 2011,” Barber told ABC News in a recent interview. “I know from talking to my family afterwards how shocking and just scary that first phone call was.”

Barber at the time was the district director to Rep. Gabby Giffords. He was shot twice when Jared Loughner opened fire in Tucson, Ariz., on Jan. 8, 2011. Loughner killed six and nearly took the life of Giffords, who he shot in the head. Barber was wounded in the cheek and leg.

Barber succeeded Giffords after the congresswoman resigned in 2012 and he is currently in a tough re-election fight with a formidable Republican challenger.

Although Barber has been working on gun violence legislation since taking office, he has not spoken out frequently about his personal experience with the shooting. During his two previous congressional bids — first for Giffords’ seat in 2012 and in a race for the re-districted 2nd Congressional District five months later, he spoke little of the shooting.

“I made a decision very early on that I wasn’t going to make it a centerpiece or even a piece of the election or campaign,” he said. “I really felt that I wanted to present myself to the community as someone who I thought would be able to do the job and that was competent and had experience and depth, some roots in the community that would be helpful to serve the community, as I’m now doing.”

The closest he came was in his last campaign ad for the 2nd district seat, which opened with a quote from Tucson Weekly stating: “After nearly losing his life…Ron Barber demonstrated his resilience.”

Recently, however, that’s changed. Barber has recounted his experience publicly, most recently in an Op-Ed in The Hill newspaper and at the White House ceremony honoring fellow Tucson shooting survivor Pam Simon for her efforts to reduce gun violence.

“Sandy Hook was the tipping point for me, and I think millions of Americans, when we saw what happened,” Barber said. “Twenty really beautiful young kids who were just massacred and…I couldn’t believe it.”

Barber said his work on gun violence prevention started in his hospital room after the Tucson shooting. By the time he arrived in Washington, Barber immediately got to work on a Mental Health First Aid bill to help raise public awareness about mental illness. The program, which provides mental health training services to teachers, students, police, firemen and other citizens, received $15 million in funding from a provision in an omnibus spending bill in January.

“I think it has a lot of potential across the country to help get out in front of these tragedies, [because] the truth of the matter is that because of stigma and because people aren’t really aware of what mental health symptoms look like, a lot of things get missed,” Barber said.

Accused Fort Hood shooter Ivan Lopez had a history of pyschological issues and was being evaluated for possible PTSD, which Lopez claimed he had.

In March, Barber took a congressional trip to visit troops in Afghanistan, and even as the war has drawn to an end, he said the experience allowed him to see first-hand the magnitude of stress the war has put on U.S. troops.

“Unfortunately we are seeing all too many people who have fought in Afghanistan and Iraq coming back with very serious mental health issues such as PTSD, and we are not, I believe, prepared to help treat them or deliver the services they need,” Barber stated.

Barber said using the lessons learned about mental health and guns in Tucson, Sandy Hook and Fort Hood can help avert future situations.

“If we do early identification we do early diagnosis and treatment, many of these tragedies could be averted,” he said. “I believe that would be the case in the man that shot us, if he had gotten treatment I think we could have potentially avoided that terrible day.”

The congressman said the other part of preventing gun violence is finding a way to make sure those prohibited from buying guns go through a background check, and called on Congress to end the background check “loophole” that allows people to purchase firearms over the Internet and at gun shows without checks.

“People who want to buy a gun without having a background check can do so [at gun shows or online], and I think that’s an issue we need to resolve,” he said.

The Arizona congressman is facing one of the toughest reelection races this midterm election season against his former Republican opponent, retired Air Force Col. Martha McSally, whom he narrowly beat in 2012. Although McSally still has to win the August primary, she is the clear Republican front-runner, enjoying the support of big spending powers like Americans for Prosperity and the National Republican Congressional Committee.

McSally’s position on gun violence prevention mirrors Barber’s emphasis on mental health, but rejects his calls for background checks.

McSally’s deputy campaign manager, Kristen Douglas, said in a statement that McSally is “pro Second Amendment and believes our focus for preventing shootings should be on strengthening our mental health system and enforcing background check laws already on the books, not expanding those laws that will do little to prevent violence and infringe on the rights of law abiding citizens.”

“I’m a very strong supporter of the Second Amendment, and I believe that people have a right to own a firearm,” Barber stated, stressing that his goal is preventing gun violence, not pushing all gun control initiatives.

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