National briefs: Immigration deal shaping

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WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama, trying to broker a deal between business and labor leaders over a controversial guest-worker program for foreigners, met Tuesday with each side in an effort to resolve a long-standing sticking point that has created political peril for Mr. Obama in the past.

The White House is treading cautiously, sensing that business and labor leaders are closing in on an agreement that would make the two sides powerful allies in Mr. Obama's push to overhaul the nation's immigration laws this year.

"We talked about a data-driven system that is actually driven by needs and not by aspirations of employers," said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, who attended the meeting with labor leaders. "We talked about a fair system. ...We're working on it now. We're hopeful."

In the first immigration hearing at the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, early partisan cracks emerged on issues such as a path to citizenship and a guest-worker program. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., announced a change of position in a speech at the American Enterprise Institute, saying he backs legal residence and citizenship for people brought to the United States illegally.

Running out of guns

WASHINGTON -- The number of federal background checks for firearms sales declined 10 percent in the U.S. between December and January, as retailers continue to run out of guns to sell during a buying spree driven by Washington's new focus on gun control.

Large declines were seen in the Southern states of Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee and Virginia as well as Texas, according to an Associated Press analysis of new FBI data published Tuesday.

Benefits to expand

WASHINGTON -- Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta is preparing to expand benefits to same-sex partners of military personnel, officials said Tuesday -- including issuance of military identification cards, which would bring privileges to shop at military commissaries, as well as access to gymnasiums, movie theaters and various family support programs.

Offering full medical, dental and housing allowances desired by gay and lesbian couples would require the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, a 1996 law that defined marriage as the union of a man and a woman. The Supreme Court is expected to rule this summer on whether the law is constitutional.

Trial delay denied

SANFORD, Fla. -- During an often heated one-hour hearing Tuesday, Circuit Judge Debra Nelson has denied George Zimmerman's request to delay his June 10 trial in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin.

Mr. Zimmerman is the former Neighborhood Watch volunteer charged with second-degree murder for shooting Martin, who was unarmed, after calling police and describing him as suspicious. Mr. Zimmerman says he fired in self-defense after the teen attacked him.



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