By Mary Milliken
WASHINGTON, Dec 7 (Reuters) - Strangely enough, the morning-after pill and the Keystone XL pipeline might have something in common. Both seem to have fallen victim to election politics, namely to the Obama administration's plans to delay politically damaging decisions until after November 2012.
Today, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius stunned the drug industry by exercising a never-before invoked power to overrule the Food and Drug Administration. FDA scientists supported approval for selling Teva's Plan B morning-after pill off drugstore shelves alongside condoms and other family planning methods. But Sebelius directed the FDA to keep the prescription requirement for girls younger than 17, effectively keeping it behind the pharmacist's counter.
The White House is being coy about its role in Sebelius' call. But it's not too difficult to see how Republicans could have used a decision to lift the age limit on who can buy the emergency contraceptive without prescription against Obama. Their slogans might have been about teenagers buying abortion off the shelf - surely an unpalatable prospect for Democratic strategists.
So, the Obama administration has resorted to asking for more research, just like it did in November with the Keystone XL oil pipeline that would run from Canada to Texas. That delay helps silence opposition from environmentalists for another year. And today's Plan B delay helps silence accusations of facilitating teenage abortion. Sounds like that's no Plan B, but rather the administration's Plan A.
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Here are our top stories from Washington and from the campaign trail:
U.S. blocks easier access to morning-after pill
The U.S. health secretary overruled government scientists and refused to bring the controversial morning-after pill from behind the pharmacy counter and onto drugstore shelves. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius used her power to trump the Food and Drug Administration's plan to do away with the age limit on who can buy Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd's Plan B One-Step pill without a prescription. [ID:nN1E7B60LE]
Wary U.S. uncertain of Israel's Iran plans
The Obama administration does not know Israel's intentions regarding potential military action against Iran, and the uncertainty is stoking concern in Washington, where the preferred course for now is sanctions and diplomatic pressure. [ID:nN1E7B514Q]
Republican candidates rattle sabers against Iran
Republican presidential candidates rattled sabers against Iran and accused President Obama of being soft in his support for Israel as they vied for the backing of Jewish Republicans. [ID:nN1E7B60VE]
Keystone overshadows U.S.-Canada border deal
President Obama said he wanted answers to the environmental questions about the Keystone XL pipeline, whose delay overshadowed a new U.S.-Canadian border agreement. Standing next to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Obama rejected an effort by Republicans to tie support for the project to a payroll tax extension and insisted a final decision would follow a "rigorous" review process apart from politics. [ID:nN1E7B51AA]
Corzine to make remarks to panel on MF Global
Former MF Global chief Jon Corzine plans to deliver opening remarks when he appears before a congressional panel on Thursday, according to people familiar with the matter. [ID:nN1E7B60U4]
To see what we are blogging on the 2012 Elections, go to http://blogs.reuters.com/talesfromthetrail/ (Reporting By Mary Milliken)