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Invoking the Tri-Valley University episode in California in which 1,500 Indian nationals were caught up in a visa scam, lawmakers led by Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) have called on U.S authorities to launch an immediate crackdown on illegal use of student visas by foreign nationals to attend "sham universities."

"By abusing the system and ignoring our laws, these sham schools are threatening our security and threatening what student visas are supposed to accomplish," Tester said in a statement given to TPM. "I'm fighting to make sure every one of these shams gets shut down."

Tester noted that several of the terrorists who attacked the U.S. on September 11, 2001, had entered the country using student visas.

Tester, joined by Democratic Sens. Dianne Feinstein (CA), Bill Nelson (FL) Claire McCaskill (MO), and Charles Schumer (NY), have outlined a plan to combat such fake universities, which includes developing a list of high-risk factors that point to fraud.

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Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) is uncomfortable with singling out Muslims in House inquiries into radicalization, telling reporters that he favors a broader look at terrorism. Rep. Pete King (R-NY) is set to conduct hearings on Islamic radicalization Thursday amidst complaints from critics that that they'll be used to stigmatize Muslim Americans.

"I mean I think it's a problem obviously that radical Islam led to the murder of 3,000 Americans, so it was the greatest mass murder ring in the history of our country," Kirk told reporters Tuesday. "But it would probably be pretty good for Pete to follow up with hearings on radicals of all types and then certainly including radical Islam in his purview."

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) defended the hearings Tuesday, telling reporters in a briefing that King had "credibility" on the issue and that "we are threatened by the spread of radical Islam."

Wisconsin state Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R) appeared Wednesday afternoon on Fox News -- and as it turned out, Megyn Kelly gave him something of a grilling on his claim that the Obama administration is behind the effort to recall members of his caucus in the battle over Gov. Scott Walker's anti-public employee union proposals.

Kelly expressed skepticism of the new claim about the recall campaigns. In response, Fitzgerald revealed what he said was evidence that the White House is connected to the recall, for what he described during the interview as an effort to strengthen the unions and regain partisan advantage in this key swing state.

"Specifically, one of the targeted senators, Alberta Darling, the individual that filed the petition in that seat is a former member of MoveOn.org, and also was very much involved in President Obama's last election cycle in Wisconsin," said Fitzgerald.

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Last month, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) introduced legislation to crack down on government-paid foreign travel taken by lawmakers, calling it a "lax system that has led to abuses in the past." In 2009, she criticized the House Appropriations Committee for adding money to buy jets for government use. Now, her travel history is coming under scrutiny.

According to a report by Politico, McCaskill has spent nearly $76,000 in public funds since 2007 to fly on a private plane owned by her and her husband.

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There were some cryptic, but potentially key developments Wednesday in the ongoing debate about federal spending and the deficit.

After two Senate votes, in which both Democratic and Republican-backed plans to fund the government went down to filibusters, I and a handful of other reporters caught Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid walking into Sen. Jon Kyl's Capitol office. Reid had just come from a meeting with President Obama and other Senate Democratic leaders, where they discussed spending. Kyl is the retiring Senate Minority Whip.

On his way out Reid hinted at some big news.

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A bipartisan group of House members are pushing a new plan to end the war in Afghanistan. Many of the lawmakers who spoke at event on Wednesday announcing the new effort have been outspoken on ending what has become America's longest military conflict for years, but one Republican, Rep. Walter Jones (NC), says the names on the list of legislators opposing the Afghanistan conflict are expanding on his side of the aisle.

"The number of Republicans is slowly growing," Jones told reporters. "There were 12 tea party-types who won election that we checked to see what their position was on Afghanistan and 12 said for either policy reasons or financial reasons we need to get out."

Jones said some veteran Republicans are also signing on to an end to the war, which has has been met with growing public discontent according to public opinion polls. "In time, they're beginning to say, 'I don't know what we're trying to accomplish, there seems to be no end point,'"Jones said. "It is slowly on the Republican side changing to [support for] getting our troops out."

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The man arrested in connection with a bomb found along a Martin Luther King Day parade route in Spokane, Wash., earlier this year is Kevin William Harpham, 36, of Colville, Wash. Harpham has been charged in U.S. District Court with one count of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction and one count of knowingly possessing an improvised explosive device.

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File this under unintended consequences. If House Republicans get their way and prevent President Obama from using any discretionary appropriations to implement "Obamacare," it would cripple existing Medicare programs, many of which are operated under methodologies enacted in the health care law.

In response to a letter from Senate Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius lists the ways the House spending bill would hamper existing entitlements.

"If H.R. 1 were enacted, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) would not be able to use CR funds to administer payments based on any rate calculated on the basis of the provisions of the Affordable Care Act -- which is to say virtually all rates," she writes.

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