R.I.'s Chafee stirs seasonal brouhaha

PROVIDENCE, R.I. - Carolers singing "O Christmas Tree" crashed Rhode Island's Statehouse tree-lighting Tuesday after Gov. Lincoln Chafee unwrapped a holiday hubbub by calling the 17-foot spruce a "holiday" tree.

Chafee insisted his word choice was inclusive and in keeping with Rhode Island's founding as a sanctuary for religious diversity. But it incensed some lawmakers, the Roman Catholic Church, and thousands of people who called his office to complain that the independent governor was trying to secularize Christmas.

After Chafee lit the tree, a few dozen carolers interrupted a performance by a children's chorus to sing "O Christmas Tree." The dispute also prompted the Providence Diocese to schedule a competing Christmas tree-lighting a block from the Statehouse. - AP

Alabama AG: Alter immigration law

MONTGOMERY, Ala. - Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange has become the highest-ranking Republican official to suggest throwing out parts of his state's tough new immigration law, recommending that lawmakers repeal some parts of it that have been put on hold by federal courts and clarify others.

In a letter to legislative leaders, Strange said the proposed changes would make the law easier to defend in court and "remove burdens on law-abiding citizens."

The letter, acquired by the Associated Press, marks the first time he has expressed concerns since he started defending the law against a legal challenge filed by about 30 groups and individuals. Legislative leaders said they were working with business leaders on possible changes to keep Alabama business-friendly.

Strange recommended repealing sections that make it a crime for an illegal immigrant to fail to carry registration documents, and that require public schools to collect information on students' immigration status. - AP

House GOP: Raise premiums for rich

WASHINGTON - House Republicans intend to propose a gradual increase in Medicare premiums for wealthy seniors to help cover the cost of renewing Social Security payroll tax cuts and benefits for the long-term unemployed, officials said Wednesday.

The precise details remain to be worked out as the leadership consults with rank-and-file Republicans about the legislation, which is expected on the House floor next week.

GOP officials described the plan on condition of anonymity because no final decision has been made.

In addition to the extension of payroll-tax cuts and jobless benefits that are at the heart of President Obama's jobs program, House Republicans plan to include a provision to avert a 27 percent cut in payments to doctors who treat Medicare patients. All three face a Dec. 31 deadline for action. - AP

Elsewhere:

The White House has threatened a veto by President Obama of a pending House Republican bill that would make it easier for Congress to kill proposed government regulations.

Indiana is offering at least $300,000 to families of each of the seven people who died after a stage collapsed Aug. 13 at the Indiana State Fair, Attorney General Greg Zoeller said.