In other news Wednesday, a key border security amendment to the immigration bill won formal approval in the Senate. Meanwhile, gay rights supporters dropped an amendment to let Americans sponsor their same-sex spouses for admission to the U.S. Also, President Barack Obama began a week-long trip to Africa.
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Immigration reform easily passed its latest tests in the U.S. Senate today. A key border security amendment won formal approval. It doubles the Border Patrol, among other steps. And supporters of gay rights dropped an amendment to let Americans sponsor same-sex spouses for admission to the U.S.
The proposal was potentially divisive, but Vermont Democrat Patrick Leahy said it's no longer necessary, given today's Supreme Court decisions.
SEN. PATRICK LEAHY, D-Vt.:
It appears that the anti-discrimination principle that I have long advocated will apply to our immigration laws and to binational couples, and their families can now be united under the law. As a result of this very welcome decision, I will not be seeking a floor vote on my amendment.
Even opponents of the bill acknowledged it is likely headed for final passage by Friday. But Republican Dan Coats of Indiana said he still doubts the bill will live up to its promise, despite some helpful additions.
SEN. DAN COATS, R-Ind.:
The employee verification has been strengthened. The border security has been strengthened. The exit visa problem has been strengthened, if the promises come true. But they have only been strengthened on a piece of paper, and we need to see it strengthened for real.
The Senate's newest member will not arrive soon enough to vote on the bill. Democrat Edward Markey won a special election in Massachusetts yesterday. He will be sworn in after the Fourth of July recess, succeeding John Kerry, who's now the secretary of state.
President Obama has embarked on a weeklong trip to Africa. He arrived this evening in Dakar, Senegal, beginning his second visit to sub-Saharan Africa since taking office. The president is also scheduled to make stops in South Africa and Tanzania. The visit comes as former South African President Nelson Mandela remains hospitalized in Pretoria in critical condition.
Federal agents today launched the largest crackdown yet on makers of synthetic designer drugs. They served 150 warrants and seized 2,000 pounds of chemicals used to make synthetic marijuana, bath salts and other drugs across 35 states. Meanwhile, the U.N. drug control agency warned the spread of designer drugs is getting out of control. It said new variants appear faster than governments can ban them.
BP has launched an aggressive campaign to challenge alleged overpayments in its Gulf oil spill settlement. In full-page ads today, the oil giant charged trial lawyers and politicians have encouraged businesses to submit claims for inflated or nonexistent losses. BP also said it's sending hundreds of warning letters to businesses. The company faces thousands of claims.
Pope Francis created a special commission today to review the Vatican Bank amid new allegations of money-laundering. It was the latest step in the pontiff's efforts to reform the highly-secretive financial institution. Leaked documents last year told of dysfunction and corruption within the bank. The new, five-member commission is to report directly to the pope, bypassing the Vatican bureaucracy.
Wall Street rallied for a second straight day. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 150 points to close at 14,910. The Nasdaq rose 28 points to close at 3,376.
Those are some of the day's major stories — now back to Jeff.