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Sen. Al Franken D-MN says he will resign over sexual misconduct allegations

Published: Thursday, December 07, 2017 @ 12:05 PM

Accused by multiple women of unwanted sexual advances, Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) announced on the floor of the U.S. Senate Thursday that he would resign his seat ‘in the coming weeks,’ even as he denied the veracity of the charges leveled against him in the last three weeks.

“Some of the allegations against me are simply not true,” Franken said. “Others I remember very differently.”

Even as he announced he would leave the Senate, Franken took a shot at both President Donald Trump, and Alabama GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore, as Franken said it is ironic that he is leaving, while the other two men are dealing with accusations of sexual misconduct.

Franken’s decision came after a wave of calls on Wednesday from fellow Democratic Senators for his resignation, as the number of women accusing the Minnesota Democrat of unwanted sexual advances continued to rise this week.

“I agree the time has come for Senator Franken to step aside,” said Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH).

The resignation of Franken will now allow the Governor of Minnesota – former U.S. Senator, and Democrat, Mark Dayton – to fill the vacancy.

Franken’s term runs out after the 2020 election, so there would be a short-term appointment made by the Governor, and then an election to fill the rest of his term.

Miscellaneous Congress: From Catty Whacks to Pimientos to Surfboard Camera Mounts and Hair-Slides

Published: Wednesday, January 17, 2018 @ 6:26 AM

My father taught me a great lesson many years ago about the Congress, to always be on the lookout for bills that were labeled “technical corrections” or “miscellaneous,” because there was a good chance you might find something interesting – if you took the time to dig into the bill.

So, when the “Miscellaneous Tariff Bill Act of 2018,” popped up on the House schedule for this week, and was approved Tuesday on a unanimous vote, I had to take a look.

My curiosity was quickly rewarded, as the second section of the bill was about tariff schedule changes for “Frozen, Boiled Glutinous Corn.”

And while it might not be on the front page of your local newspaper, this is a bill that is brimming with stories, fully supported by business groups in the United States.

First, let’s go over what this legislation is all about.

“A Miscellaneous Tariff Bill (MTB) is a law that temporarily reduces or suspends the import tariffs paid on particular products imported into the United States,” the Commerce Department explains.

In other words, companies in the U.S. ask the feds to reduce the tariff on certain imported items, to help cut their production costs, theoretically making those businesses more competitive.

And for many lawmakers, it’s a boost to companies back home.

“For businesses in my home state of Washington, the MTB will provide nearly $16 million in cost savings, which they can instead use to invest in their employees and their products,” said Rep. Dave Reichert (R-WA).

“We have worked hard to deliver on this reform that will lead to millions of dollars being reinvested in North Carolina,” said Rep. Mark Walker (R-NC).

One note – this is the first time a tariff bill has been put together under a new process established in 2016 – it used to be that the Congress was totally in charge of figuring out what items should have a tariff or duty changed.

But now, those requests from businesses go to the U.S. International Trade Commission, which then submits a package of recommendations to the Congress.

A variety of companies made 3,168 petitions to the feds to reduce tariffs on everything from Isosceles triangle wire, to golf drivers with a loft of 9.5 degrees, electric oil popcorn poppers, resin cement, tweezers, cat playgrounds made of wood, camera surfboard mounts, life jackets for pets, and much, much more.

The companies making these requests include well known ones like Specialized Bicycle, Cleveland golf, Whirlpool, PetSmart, Honeywell, and many more you’ve never heard about.

The final bill includes 1,661 tariff reductions, starting with the “Frozen, Boiled Glutinous Corn” and ending with “Vacuum Steel Lined Coffee Servers With Sight Gauge” and “Tripod Camera Mounts.”

The measure weighs in at 505 pages.

And finally, as the headline advertised, what’s a Catty Whack? That’s Section 1450 of the bill, described this way:

“Electromechanical ‘hide and seek’ toys, designed for use by cats or dogs, each with an electrically powered fast-moving feather wand that changes direction randomly; such wand mechanism positioned in a round enclosure of plastics, designed to allow the wand to shoot out; such toys each containing a carpeted scratching area on top.”

The bill now goes to the Senate.

DACA deal on sidelines as GOP floats new short term funding plan to avoid shutdown

Published: Tuesday, January 16, 2018 @ 6:09 PM

Waving off a push by Democrats to force action this week on a compromise over the future of illegal immigrant “Dreamers,” Republicans in Congress said they wanted to wait for further negotiations on DACA, as House GOP leaders unveiled a short term funding plan that would keep the federal government running into mid-February, but that plan faced immediate resistance from some more conservative Republicans.

“There is no reason why Congress should hold government funding hostage over the issues of illegal immigration,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who said a resolution on DACA could wait until February or March.

But even without DACA in the mix, a new temporary funding plan unveiled by House Republican leaders last night got a tepid embrace from GOP lawmakers, frustrated by the lack of an overall budget agreement for 2018.

The biggest red flag came from more conservative members of the House Freedom Caucus, who argue the GOP should forge ahead with a plan to fully fund the military for 2018, while leaving all other government operations on a stop gap budget.

After a meeting Tuesday night, Freedom Caucus chair Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) made it clear that the group was not ready to endorse the GOP funding plan, which would keep the government running through February 19.

The goal is to use that extra time to reach a broader budget deal with Democrats, allowing the Congress to then approve a larger “Omnibus” funding plan for the 2018 budget year – which began back on October 1, 2017.

It was a replay of a familiar scenario on Capitol Hill, where House Republican infighting might lead to a shutdown at the end of the week.

“It’s a possibility, yes,” said Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK), when asked about the chances of a shutdown.

“But I don’t think it’s really going to happen,” Inhofe told reporters. “Nobody really wants it on either side.”

The new GOP stopgap budget unveiled on Tuesday evening included a few sweeteners, as leaders added to the funding plan a provision that reauthorizes the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) through 2023.

“Without immediate action to fund CHIP, millions of low-income children will receive notices in the coming weeks that they might lose their health coverage,” said Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR) and Rep. Mike Burgess (R-TX) in a statement.

While the CHIP extension had been expected, the GOP stopgap budget included something else that was a big surprise – as the bill would suspend three different taxes from the Obama health law.

While Republicans try to find the votes to support that plan, a bipartisan group of Senators will unveil the final details of their DACA compromise on Wednesday, in hopes of stirring more support.

“I don’t know how this movie ends,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who very publicly said he thought the President had signed on to the compromise DACA plan last Thursday, but then had his mind changed by immigration hard liners in the White House, and the Senate.

One of those opponents is Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR), who bluntly told the DACA group of six Senators not to even try to push ahead with their plan.

“Might as well roll it straight into the trash can,” Cotton said of the DACA deal, which he has labeled a mass amnesty.

Meanwhile, Democrats were hoping for a budget impasse, as they argue that a resolution on DACA could still be added into the mix this week.

Many Republicans say they also want action on DACA, but they understand in the current environment – after the blow up over what the President said – or did not say – last week, that no agreement can happen right now.

“Unfortunately, about every time we get close to putting our toes in the water, something happens,” said Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA).

The tentative plan is for the House to try to vote on a stop gap budget on Thursday. The Senate could then pass the same measure before a Friday night shutdown deadline.

Navy filing homicide charges against 2 ship commanders

Published: Tuesday, January 16, 2018 @ 7:16 PM
Updated: Tuesday, January 16, 2018 @ 6:39 PM

Funeral services were Saturday in West Jefferson for Navy sailor Jacob Drake who was one of 10 sailors who died at sea last month in a ship crash aboard the USS John McCain. Video produced by Barrie Barber.

The Navy says it is filing negligent homicide charges against the commanders of two ships involved in fatal collisions last year.

The USS John S. McCain collision resulted in the death of Champaign County sailor Jacob Drake. Drake was a Petty Officer 2nd class.

The charges are to be presented at what the military calls an Article 32 hearing, which will determine whether the accused are court-martialed.

The actions, including charges against several lower-ranking officers, were announced Tuesday by the Navy's chief spokesman, Capt. Greg Hicks.

Friends, family gather for funeral of Jacob Drake 

WATCH: Jacob Drake procession

Hicks says the decision to file charges was made by Adm. Frank Caldwell, head of the Navy's nuclear reactors program, who reviewed evidence of what caused the collisions. The USS Fitzgerald collided with a commercial ship in waters off Japan in June, killing seven sailors. Ten sailors were killed when the USS John S. McCain collided with an oil tanker in Southeast Asia in August.

Trump physical results: 6 things to know

Published: Tuesday, January 16, 2018 @ 5:16 PM

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 16:  U.S. President Donald Trump speaks as he stops by a Conversations with the Women of America panel at the South Court Auditorium of Eisenhower Executive Office Building January 18, 2018 in Washington, DC. The three-part panel features ÒAmerican women from various backgrounds and experiences who will speak with high-level women within the Trump Administration, about what has been accomplished to date to advance women at home, and in the workplace.Ó  (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Alex Wong/Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 16: U.S. President Donald Trump speaks as he stops by a Conversations with the Women of America panel at the South Court Auditorium of Eisenhower Executive Office Building January 18, 2018 in Washington, DC. The three-part panel features ÒAmerican women from various backgrounds and experiences who will speak with high-level women within the Trump Administration, about what has been accomplished to date to advance women at home, and in the workplace.Ó (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)(Alex Wong/Getty Images)

President Donald Trump is in excellent health and likely to finish his term in office without any medical issues, a presidential doctor said Tuesday at a news conference, four days after the president underwent a physical exam.

>> Read more trending news

“The president's overall health is excellent," White House physician Dr. Ronny Jackson said Tuesday.

Here are six things to know about the results of the president’s physical:

Jackson: ‘He had great findings across the board’

Trump is in “very, very good health,” Jackson said Tuesday. 

“(I have) no concerns for his heart health,” the presidential physician said. “There are many good things that came from his exam, I think he had great findings across the board. “

>> White House physician releases official report

Jackson said Trump’s good health is likely to last through “the remainder of this tern, and even for the remainder of another term, if he’s elected.” He said he based his assessment on the president’s cardiac results.

“He falls into a category that portends years of event-free living,” Jackson said. “He has incredibly good genes, and that’s just the way God made him.”

Cognitive screening showed no issues

Jackson said he conducted a cognitive screening on Trump at the president’s request, although he felt the test was unnecessary.

“I’ve spent almost every day in the president’s presence,” said Jackson, whose office is near Trump’s. “I’ve got to know him pretty well and I had absolutely no concerns about his cognitive ability or neurological functions.”

He said that in all his conversations with Trump, the president has been “very articulate.”

“I’ve never known him to repeat himself around me,” Jackson said. “He says what he wants to say and speaks his mind.”

Infamous slurred speech incident might have been caused by medication

A December incident in which the president sounded as though he was slurring his speech while announcing a policy shift in Israel was probably due to a medication, Jackson said.

>> Related: Trump’s slurred speech: Is it loose-fitting dentures, dry mouth or something else?

“We evaluated him, we checked everything out and everything was normal,” Jackson said, adding that the incident was likely caused because the president needed water.

He said prior to the Dec. 7 incident, he gave Trump Sudafed, which might have “inadvertently dried up his secretions.”

Why Did President Trump Slur His Words in a Recent Speech?

Trump working to lose 10-15 pounds

At 6-foot-3 and 239 pounds, the president has a body mass index of 29.9, just under the number that would designate him as obese, according to information released Tuesday.

“The president, he and I talked and... I think a reasonable goal over the next year or so is (to lose) 10 or 15 pounds,” Jackson said, adding that a nutritionist would be meeting with White House chefs in the coming weeks and that Trump would be put on an exercise routine.

“He’s more enthusiastic about the diet,” Jackson said.

Jackson not concerned about Trump’s stress levels

Despite concerns from the public and reports that have painted a chaotic White House, Jackson said that he has no concerns about the president’s stress levels.

“I talk to him sometimes about stress just because I think it’s my job as his physician to bring it up on occasion,” he said. “I’ve never seen the president stressed out too much. ... He has a unique ability to push the reset button and he just gets up and he starts a new day. (I think it’s) made him healthier from a stress standpoint.”

Jackson did not test Trump’s hearing

Jackson said he didn’t have enough time to test Trump’s hearing, although he planned to conduct such a test in future physicals.

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