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WASHINGTON (AP) — Democrats doggedly pursuing a far-reaching immigration bill are counting on help from Republican Rep. Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney's running mate last year and an unlikely candidate for delivering the centerpiece of President Barack Obama's second-term agenda.

Ryan, the House Budget Committee chairman who is frequently mentioned in the GOP lineup of possible 2016 presidential candidates, stands apart from many fellow House Republicans in favoring a way out of the shadows for the 11 million immigrants living in the U.S. in violation of the law.

He casts sweeping overhaul as a necessity to ensure both economic and national security — a fitting argument for an acolyte of Jack Kemp, the late Republican congressman and 1996 vice presidential candidate who backed an ill-fated effort in 2006 to overhaul the immigration system.

"Paul Ryan says we cannot have a permanent underclass of Americans, that there needs to be a pathway to citizenship," says Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., who has been working relentlessly on immigration legislation. "He is my guiding light. I know I get him in trouble every time I say it."

Senior White House aides often mention the Wisconsin Republican as crucial to the prospects for legislation this year, hoping the Republican with impeccable conservative credentials will sway recalcitrant House members. Ryan also is a reminder of two other powerful forces backing an overhaul of immigration laws — the Catholic Church and business.

Ryan is a practicing Catholic who made a point of attending Mass every Sunday during the jam-packed 2012 campaign; the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops strongly favors the first major changes to immigration in 27 years.

Ryan also represents a southeast Wisconsin district in a state that relies on the manufacturers of Waukesha engines, Kohler generators and numerous supply chains. The companies are counting on immigrants to fill future factory jobs.

"The American economy needs immigration reform, certainly the Wisconsin economy does," said Kurt Bauer, the president and CEO of Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, the state's chamber of commerce.

Ryan made his appeal at last week's closed-door GOP meeting, urging Republicans to seize the moment and opportunity.

He "made some very good points about how immigration is part of our history, it's made us great as a country. The diversity of America is one of its greatest strengths," recalled Rep. Tom Reed, R-N.Y. "I will heartily agree with that. I think all of us in the conference accept that and believe that, and that's where we recognize that this is a problem that has to be dealt with."

The difficulty for Ryan — and proponents of immigration legislation — is the fracture within the Republican Party. National Republicans are pressing for immigration legislation and consider it vital to helping the party improve its standing with the nation's fastest-growing minority, Hispanics. The Romney-Ryan ticket got just 27 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2012, a downward trend that GOP leaders fear will undermine the party in future presidential elections.

Ryan says any immigration legislation has to address the question of the 11 million living in the U.S. unlawfully. Improving border security alone is not enough.

"You can't fix the system, in my opinion, this is my personal opinion, without coming up with a viable solution for the undocumented and it's got to be a solution that respects the rule of law, that doesn't grant amnesty, that respects the person who came legally from the beginning by making sure that those who are undocumented go to the back of the line, and I think we can come up with that," he said.

But House Republicans in gerrymandered districts with few Hispanic voters have shown little inclination for addressing a path to citizenship, let alone an urgency to deal with immigration at all. Forces of personalities — Republicans Marco Rubio and John McCain and Democrat Chuck Schumer — helped steer a comprehensive bill to passage in the Senate on a strong, bipartisan vote of 68-32. The House, which has adopted a piecemeal approach, is unlikely to consider any legislation before the August break, a timetable that raises doubts of any immigration legislation passing Congress this year.

Ryan is undeterred. He is working away from the spotlight, staying in contact with the bipartisan "Gang of Seven" House lawmakers trying to craft a bill. He doesn't see himself in a high-profile role like Rubio, arguing it's an approach that doesn't work in the House.

"There are lots of different pockets of parties here in the House. And I've always believed from passing budgets and other big pieces of legislation that listening to members, talking with members, negotiating is the most effective way of getting things over the finish line," he said in a recent interview. "It's kind of more of a workhorse role than a show horse role only because I just find that's the most effective way of getting things through the House."

Ryan is hardly a newcomer to the issue. In 1994, when he worked with Kemp, he wrote a 4,000-word rebuttal to proponents of Proposition 187, the California ballot initiative that denied benefits to immigrants in the country illegally. He backed the immigration overhaul bill crafted by McCain and the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., that nearly became law in 2007.

In April, he joined Gutierrez at the City Club of Chicago to speak out for changes to the immigration system.

The Budget Committee chairman, whose next job may be head of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee, makes his case based on numbers.

"Baby boomers are retiring to the tune of 10,000 people a day for the next 10 years," Ryan said. "We're going to have labor shortages in this country in the next decade. We need to have our immigration system prepared for that. It's going to take time to do that and that's why I think we need to do it now."
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MARSHALL, Mo. (AP) -- A Canadian company's plan to build an oil pipeline that will stretch for hundreds of miles through the Midwest, including through many sensitive waterways, is quietly on the fast-track to approval - just not the one you're thinking of.

As the Keystone XL pipeline remains mired in the national debate over environmental safety and climate change, another company, Enbridge Inc. of Calgary, Alberta, is hoping to begin construction early next month on a 600-mile-long pipeline that would carry tar sands from Flanagan, Ill., about 100 miles southwest of Chicago, to the company's terminal in Cushing, Okla. From there the company could move it through existing pipeline to Gulf Coast refineries.

The company is seeking an expedited permit review by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for its Flanagan South pipeline, which would run parallel to another Enbridge route already in place. Unlike the Keystone project, which crosses an international border and requires State Department approval, the proposed pipeline has attracted little public attention - including among property owners living near the planned route.

Enbridge says it wants to be a good neighbor to the communities the pipeline would pass through, and it has been touting the hundreds of short-term construction jobs it would create. The company also scheduled a series of "open houses" for this week in Missouri, Kansas and Illinois in which it invited the public to come discuss and learn about its plans.

A session Tuesday in Marshall, 90 miles east of Kansas City, drew a handful of Sierra Club protesters armed with fliers denouncing what's been called one of the country's costliest oil spills. It also attracted local politicians, concerned landowners and prospective pipefitters looking for work.

Enbridge responded with an array of free products, from tote bags and tape measures to cookies and key rings.

Wayne McReynolds, one of the 55 people who stopped by the open house in Marshall, said he hoped to learn more about the company's plans to prevent construction runoff from flooding valuable farmland. He said he left the event with only vague assurances, not specific answers.

"You never put the soil back in the trench to the same extent it was taken out," said McReynolds, a retired soil and conservation worker. "It can't be done."

Mike Diel of Macon, Mo., said he's had no luck getting Enbridge or the corps to give him specific details about the project, including a precise pipeline map and copies of emergency response plans.

"We're all worried about oil spills and the tar sands getting into the drinking water," Diel said.

"Until I know where the pipeline is going, how am I supposed to know what I'm supposed to be worried about?" he said.

Enbridge spokeswoman Katie Lange said fears about the pipeline's safety are overblown. She described routine aerial patrols of the pipeline and its seven pump stations and round-the-clock computer monitoring in Calgary that "can shut it down from just a touch of a button" if necessary.

"Once the pipeline is in the ground, there's a very rigorous and robust operations and maintenance program," Lange said.

But Sierra Club lawyer Doug Hayes said those assurances are insufficient, given recent history. A July 2010 rupture of an Enbridge pipeline in Michigan dumped an estimated 1 million gallons of the heavier diluted bitumen into the Kalamazoo River, a 35-mile portion of which remained closed to public access for two years. The U.S. Department of Transportation subsequently fined Enbridge $3.7 million.

More recently, an ExxonMobil pipeline spill in Mayflower, Ark., led to the evacuation of 22 homes and further scrutiny of the long-distance transportation of tar sands oil, a denser substance that is more difficult to clean up.

Lange confirmed that Enbridge is seeking regulatory approval under the Nationwide 12 permit process, which would mean the company wouldn't be obligated to follow more rigorous Clean Water Act requirements such as public notification or lengthy environmental reviews. Those permits are limited to utility projects in which each water crossing disrupts no more than one-half acre of wetlands. The Flanagan South pipeline would cross the Missouri and Mississippi rivers as well as hundreds of smaller tributaries.

"This is a 600-mile project that will clear everything in its path for a 100-foot right of way," Hayes said. "And they're treating it as thousands of separate, little projects."

The Sierra Club lawyer said the Army Corps rejected several Freedom of Information Act requests seeking more project details, citing an exemption for "deliberative process privilege" designed to protect internal decision-making.

TransCanada of Calgary is also seeking Nationwide 12 status for the Keystone XL project, prompting the Sierra Club to file suit alleging violations of the Clean Water Act and the National Environmental Policy Act. Hayes declined to discuss whether the environmental group also plans a legal challenge to the Flanagan South project.

A spokeswoman in the Army Corps' Kansas City office on Tuesday referred questions about the project's permit status to a regulatory colleague who did not respond.

In western Illinois, local officials eagerly anticipate Enbridge's arrival, said Kim Pierce, executive director of the Macomb Area Economic Development Commission. The company plans to build four pumping stations in the state, including one near Quincy along the Missouri border. In addition to the temporary construction jobs, the region can also expect a purchasing boost at area restaurants, hotels and in equipment sales, she said.

"Come Saturday at quitting time, we can expect a lot of people out, relaxing and purchasing things," she said. "We truly see this as an opportunity. You don't always get that handed to you."

Count Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon among the project's supporters. The two-term Democrat said in March 2012, when Enbridge announced its plans, that the company could add "thousands of jobs" to the state while also providing "a boost to America's energy independence."

--- Follow Alan Scher Zagier on Twitter at HTTP://TWITTER.COM/AZAGIER

© 2013 THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. THIS MATERIAL MAY NOT BE PUBLISHED, BROADCAST, REWRITTEN OR REDISTRIBUTED. Learn more about our PRIVACY POLICY and TERMS OF USE.
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CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — In one of the most harrowing spacewalks in decades, an astronaut had to rush back into the International Space Station on Tuesday after a mysterious water leak inside his helmet robbed him of the ability to speak or hear at times and could have caused him to choke or even drown.

Italian Luca Parmitano was reported to be fine after the dangerous episode, which might have been caused by an unprecedented leak in the cooling system of his suit. His spacewalking partner, American Christopher Cassidy, had to help him head inside after NASA quickly aborted the spacewalk.

No one — neither the astronauts in orbit nor flight controllers in Houston — breathed easier until Parmitano was back inside and his helmet was yanked off.

"He looks miserable. But OK," Cassidy assured everyone.

It was the first time in years that a spacewalk came to such an abrupt halt and the first time since NASA's Gemini program in the mid-1960s that a spacewalker became so incapacitated. Spacewalking always carries high risk; a puncture by a micrometeorite or sharp edge, if big enough, could result in instant death.

In a late afternoon news conference, NASA acknowledged the perilous situation that Parmitano had found himself in, and space station operations manager Kenneth Todd promised to "turn over every rock" to make sure it never happens again.

Spacewalking is dangerous already, noted flight director David Korth. Then on top of that, "go stick your head in a fishbowl and try to walk around. That's not anything that you take lightly," he said. "He did a great job of just keeping calm and cool" as the amount of water ominously increased.

"Grace under pressure," Korth said.

The two astronauts were outside barely an hour, performing routine cable work on their second spacewalk in eight days, when Parmitano reported the leak. It progressively worsened as the minutes ticked by, drenching the back of his head, then his eyes, nose and, finally, mouth by the time he was in the air lock, the pressure chamber. He could have choked or drowned on the floating globs of water, NASA officials said.

Between 1 and 1½ liters of water leaked into his helmet and suit, NASA estimated.

The source of the leak wasn't immediately known, but the main culprit appeared to be iodine-laced water that is piped through the long underwear worn under a spacesuit, for cooling. The system holds nearly 4 liters, or 1 gallon. Less likely was the 32-ounce (about 1 liter) drink bag that astronauts sip from during lengthy spacewalks; Parmitano reported the leaking water tasted odd.

At first, Parmitano, 36, a former test pilot and Italy's first spacewalker, thought it was sweat accumulating on the back of his bald head. But he was repeatedly assured it was not sweat. He agreed. "How much can I sweat?" he wondered aloud.

It was only his second spacewalk; his first was last Tuesday, six weeks after moving into the space station.

The water eventually got into Parmitano's eyes. That's when NASA ordered the two men back inside. Then the water drenched his nose and mouth, and he had trouble hearing on the radio lines.

Cassidy quickly cleaned up the work site, then joined Parmitano in the air lock.

The three Russians and one American who anxiously monitored the drama from inside hustled to remove Parmitano's helmet. They clustered around him, eight hands pulling off his helmet and using towels to mop his head. Balls of water floated away.

Parmitano blinked hard several times but otherwise looked fine as he gestured with his hands to show his crewmates where the water had crept around his head.

Cassidy told Mission Control: "To him, the water clearly did not taste like our normal drinking water." A smiling Parmitano then chimed in: "Just so you know, I'm alive and I can answer those questions, too."

He later tweeted: "Thanks for all the positive thoughts!"

Mission Control praised the crew for its fast effort and hooked them up with flight surgeons on the ground.

Parmitano used the same suit during last week's spacewalk without any problems. Before the gush of water made its way into his helmet, the astronaut reported a bad sensor for measuring carbon dioxide in his suit. NASA managers concluded the sensor likely failed due to all the water.

Spare spacesuits and equipment are on board for future NASA spacewalks.

The four remaining spacewalks planned for this year involve Russian astronauts wearing Russian suits, different than the U.S. models. They're preparing for the arrival later this year of a new Russian lab. The year's previous four spacewalks encountered no major snags. This was the 171st spacewalk in the 15-year history of the orbiting outpost.

There was no immediate word on when Tuesday's undone tasks might be attempted again. None of the chores was urgent, simply things that had piled up over the past couple years.

It was the fastest end to a spacewalk since 2004 when Russian and American spacewalkers were ordered back in by Mission Control outside Moscow because of spacesuit trouble. That spacewalk lasted a mere 14 minutes. Tuesday's spacewalk lasted one hour and 32 minutes.

During NASA's old shuttle program, spacewalks occasionally were stymied by stuck hatches and ripped gloves. By coincidence, Cassidy had to end a 2009 station-building spacewalk early because of a potentially dangerous buildup of carbon dioxide in his suit. This marked the sixth spacewalk for the 43-year-old former Navy SEAL, who's midway through a half-year station stint.

In 1966, two Gemini flights ended up with aborted spacewalks. Gemini 11 spacewalker Richard Gordon, was blinded by sweat. Gemini 9 spacewalker Gene Cernan breathed so heavily and sweated so much that fog collected inside his helmet visor and froze.

On the Russian side, the world's first spacewalker, Soviet cosmonaut Alexei Leonov, could barely get back into his spacecraft in 1965. He had to vent precious oxygen from his suit in order to fit through the hatch. Decades passed before his peril came to light.

"Today was certainly a very serious issue," said Karina Eversley, lead spacewalk officer. The goal, each time, is to get the crew back inside "before things get too serious," she added.

In that respect, Tuesday was a success, Todd noted. "Today the team did a great job."

___ Online: NASA: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/main/index.html
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