Bill that reopened government full of pet projects

Published: Thursday, October 17, 2013 @ 5:22 PM
Updated: Thursday, October 17, 2013 @ 5:22 PM


            Bill that reopened government full of pet projects

Pet projects for some members of Congress were added in the final hours to the deal that reopened the federal government, Cox Media Group's Washington D.C. Bureau reported Thursday.

The bill contains billions of dollars in spending tucked in at the last minute.

One  of those projects is the Olmsted Lock and Dam on the Ohio River between Kentucky and Illinois. With the approval of the bill, the project got nearly $3 billion.

"Whatever it was, it was not enough to say, we're not going to open up government because there's something (Mitch) McConnell put in about a road or something. I don't know what that was," House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said.

It's not a road, but massive locks and a dam that happen to be in Kentucky, the home state of Senate Minority Leader McConnell.

"Outside the beltway, the American people who are fed up with Washington's wasteful ways are going to say, 'What in the world has changed here?'" said Pete Sepp of the National Taxpayers Union.

Taxpayer watchdogs like Sepp said it's just one example of good old-fashioned pork barrel spending in the bill to reopen the government.

Another item added to the bill: A six-figure gift to the widow of New Jersey Sen. Frank Lautenberg, one of the richest members of Congress, with a net worth of more than $50 million.

"They shouldn't have been in this bill," Sepp said.

Pennsylvania Republican Rep. Bill Shuster said he didn't like the bill or the questionable earmarks, but the clock was ticking to avoid a debt default.

"They put things in there that are a little bizarre, but at least we have the government up and running," Shuster said.

Contacted about the Kentucky project, McConnell's office said it was requested by the Army Corps of Engineers and that any senator could have asked it be taken out of the bill, but none did.

Ohio step closer to raising license plate, driver’s license fees

Published: Thursday, February 23, 2017 @ 3:12 PM
Updated: Thursday, February 23, 2017 @ 3:12 PM

The Ohio House is scheduled to vote on a transportation budget bill Tuesday that includes increases in fees paid for vehicle plates and driver’s licenses.

RELATED: You may pay more for license plates, driver’s license in Ohio

The House Transportation Committee voted in favor of the bill Thursday. Remaining in the bill are two fee increases: deputy registrars who run the state’s approximately 200 Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) offices would charge $1.75 more for transactions; and counties would be allowed to charge an additional $5 for vehicle plates and use the money for transportation-related expenses such as road and bridge repairs.

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The battle over whether Ohio should continue to require a front license plate is also playing out in the transportation budget bill. State Rep. Alicia Reece, D-Cincinnati, pitched a plan to ditch the front plates. That measure got tabled.

As a compromise, lawmakers agreed to make failure to have a front plate a “secondary” offense when the vehicle is parked. That means police or parking enforcement workers would only be allowed to ticket the parked car for some other violation first – such as an expired meter – before also issuing a ticket for failure to display a front plate.

RELATED: Proposed license plate fee increase targets road and bridge improvements

The change would no impact on driving without a front plate. You could still get pulled over just for that violation.

In switch for Trump, White House signals opposition to recreational marijuana use

Published: Thursday, February 23, 2017 @ 6:58 PM
Updated: Thursday, February 23, 2017 @ 6:58 PM

A day after touting “states’ rights” in moving to lift an Obama Administration directive on transgender bathroom use in public schools, the Trump Administration signaled on Thursday that while it supports the legalization of medical marijuana, it might be ready to clamp down on states that have legalized personal marijuana use.

“I think there’s a big difference between that (medical marijuana) and recreational marijuana,” said White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer.

“I think when you see something like the opiod addiction crisis blossoming in so many states around this country, the last thing we should be doing is encouraging people,” as Spicer suggested that Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the Justice Department would be looking at the issue.

“They are going to continue to enforce the laws on the books with respect to recreational marijuana,” Spicer added.

That explanation from the White House is directly at odds with what President Trump had said on the campaign trail – in early August of 2016, he did an interview with KUSA-TV in Denver, where Mr. Trump made clear he thought the states should be allowed to legalize pot.

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“You think Colorado should be able to do what it’s doing?” reporter Brandon Rittiman asked the GOP nominee about the Colorado law that allows people 21 and over to legally have up to one ounce of marijuana.

“I think it’s up to the states, yeah. I’m a states person,” Trump said. “I think it should be up to the states, absolutely.”

In October of 2015, Trump was asked about marijuana at a rally in Nevada, where he said he was all for medical marijuana, and then addressed recreational use.

“And then I really believe you should leave it up to the states; it should be a state situation,” Trump said.

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Nevada was one of four states to approve recreational marijuana use in the 2016 elections, along with California, Maine and Massachusetts, joining Colorado and Washington State.

It’s unclear how the Justice Department might shake things up in those states, in what would be a U-turn for President Trump on recreational marijuana use.

John Boehner: Repealing Obamacare just ‘happy talk’

Published: Thursday, February 23, 2017 @ 1:58 PM
Updated: Thursday, February 23, 2017 @ 1:58 PM

John Boehner: Repealing Obamacare just ‘happy talk’

Despite repeated Republican pledges to scrap the 2010 health law, former House Speaker John Boehner said most of the law known as Obamacare “is going to stay there” because GOP lawmakers have never agreed on what to replace it with.

At a health care conference Thursday in Orlando, Fla., Boehner warned that Republicans will take the political blame for breaking the current health care system if they cannot immediately approve a substitute to take its place.

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Boehner, who represented West Chester until his retirement in 2015, said “all this happy talk” among Republicans after the November election that they should promptly cancel Obamacare and later pass a substitute made him laugh “because if you pass repeal without replace, first anything that happens is your fault. You broke it.”

He said he bluntly told congressional GOP leaders that if they “pass repeal without replace, you’ll never pass replace because they will never ever agree on what the bill should be,” Boehner said. “The perfect always becomes the enemy of the good. And so you’ve got to marry them together, that’s the only chance you’ll get it done.”

“In the 25 years that I served in the United States Congress, Republicans never ever one time agreed on what a health care proposal should look like,” said Boehner. “Not once.”

Instead, Boehner flatly predicted “most of” what is called the Affordable Care Act signed by President Barack Obama in 2010 “is going to stay there,” including allowing those under age 26 to remain on their parents’ health plans and federal financial help for middle-income people to buy their own individual plans.

Boehner’s remarks, delivered during a healthcare information technology conference, were made available on a video tape by the sponsor, HIMSS-17.

Boehner’s comments reflect growing doubts among Republicans that they can muster the votes in the House and Senate to scrap and fully replace the law, which provides health-care coverage to more than 20 million Americans — including about a million people in Ohio — who were without health coverage before Obama signed it into law.

The law expanded coverage through federally subsidized private insurance plans and an expansion of Medicaid, the joint state and federal program that provides health coverage to low-income people.

Boehner’s remarks placed him at odds with House GOP conservatives such as Rep. Jim Jordan of Urbana, who took part in an effort to topple Boehner from the speaker’s chair in 2015.

In a statement released after learning of Boehner’s comments, Jordan said “now that Republicans control both Congress and the White House, it would be unacceptable to send anything less than a full repeal and replacement of Obamacare to the president’s desk.”

David Schnittger, a Boehner spokesman, said Boehner “has every confidence that congressional Republicans and President Trump will right the many wrongs of Obamacare, whether your preference is to call it a repair, a replacement, or something else.”

“His point was that the process of doing it from start to finish will not be an instantaneous one, and I think that’s already been borne out by recent developments."

White nationalist Richard Spencer kicked out of CPAC

Published: Thursday, February 23, 2017 @ 2:07 PM
Updated: Thursday, February 23, 2017 @ 2:07 PM


            White nationalist Richard Spencer kicked out of CPAC

A staffer working at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Thursday revoked the credentials of prominent white nationalist Richard Spencer after an organizer denounced the so-called alt-right as anti-Semitic, racist and sexist, according to multiple reports.

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Dan Schneider, executive director of the American Conservative Union, called the alt-right "sinister" from the CPAC stage. He specifically decried a recent Washington meeting of people who were shown on video extending their arms in the Nazi salute. Spencer spoke at the meeting, according to The Associated Press.

"They despise everything that we believe in," Schneider said.

CPAC spokesman Ian Walters told NBC News that Spencer bought his ticket to get into the conference and that it was refunded after he was asked to leave. He called Spencer's views "repugnant."

Spencer spent almost an hour at CPAC talking to the media and conference attendees. He said he "coined the term" alt-right and was wearing a general admission badge.

Organizers seemed uncomfortable with Spencer's presence on Tuesday morning.

"The 'alt-right' does not have a legitimate voice in the conservative movement," CPAC organizer Matt Schlapp told the Los Angeles Times. He emphasized that no one from the movement was scheduled to speak at CPAC and said he'd "rather (Spencer) not be here."

"Richard Spencer is not on our agenda. We did not invite him," he told the Times. "There's all kinds of people, I suppose, who can buy tickets. We have a constitution. We have laws in this country. And I think it would be better if y'all (journalists) didn't give him attention."

Defiant as he left the conference, Spencer called his ejection "pathetic."

"They threw me out," he said, according to Politico. "I guess they just discovered who I was, because the truth is that people want to talk to me, not to other conservatives."

Thousands of conservatives will descend on the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center outside Washington D.C. to attend CPAC. The conference runs trhough Saturday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.