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Published: Wednesday, December 06, 2017 @ 12:21 PM
Updated: Wednesday, December 06, 2017 @ 5:17 PM
— Embattled Democratic Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota is expected to resign Thursday after Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio and a wave of Democrats called for him to step down in the aftermath of allegations that Franken sexually harassed seven women before being elected to the Senate in 2008.
Franken has scheduled a news conference Thursday where multiple media sources say he will resign his seat.
Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., tweeted that “this morning I spoke with Senator Franken and, as you know, he will be making an announcement about his future tomorrow morning. I am confident he will make the right decision.”
Brown said he decided Wednesday morning that the Minnesota senator needs to “step aside.” In a conference call with reporters, Brown said he was “grateful to the victims (of sexual harassment) who have had the bravery to come forward.”
Brown said he spoke to Senate Democratic women and that he “listened to the women in my office” and “the women in my life” before making the statement about his colleague.
Brown’s announcement came as support for Franken among Democrats rapidly evaporated on Capitol Hill. Rep. Joyce Beatty, D-Columbus, called on both Franken and Texas Republican Blake Farenthold — who settled a claim of harassment by a former staffer — to step down.
“To make meaningful change, it requires leading by example — that begins with Congress and the entire federal government,” Beatty said in a statement.
The flurry of activity took place as Senate Republican candidate Roy Moore of Alabama has been deluged with charges that he harassed a series of younger women, including one who was 14 at the time. President Donald Trump endorsed Moore Tuesday. Moore will face Democrat Doug Jones in a special election next Tuesday.
Senate Democrats began the call for Franken to step down after Politico published a story Wednesday that a former Democratic congressional aide said Franken tried to “forcibly” kiss her in 2006.
Perhaps coincidentally — and certainly reflecting the magnitude of a wave of sexual harassment allegations that have cost powerful men in show business and journalism their careers in recent weeks — Time Magazine Wednesday named its “Person of the Year” honor to those who had revealed that they had been sexually harassed or assaulted.
RELATED: Franken accused of groping news anchor without consent
In a statement to Politico, Franken said “this allegation is categorically not true” and said “I look forward to fully cooperating with the ongoing ethics committee investigation.”
In addition, six other women have charged that during his years as a comedian, Franken tried to kiss or grope them against their will. Until the Politico story Wednesday, Franken had apologized about his behavior.
The move to force Franken to quit began Wednesday morning with a number of tweets from leading Senate Democratic women such as Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Patty Murray of Washington and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan.
“Enough is enough,” Gillibrand said at a news conference. “We need to draw a line in the sand and say none of it is OK, none of it is acceptable. We as elected leaders should absolutely be held to a higher standard, not a lower standard, and we should fundamentally be valuing women. That is where this debate has to go.”
During his noon conference call, Brown opened by calling on Franken to resign. Brown was among the first Senate male Democrats urging Franken to resign.
Considered a rising presence in the Democratic Party, Franken had been mentioned as possible presidential candidate in 2020.
After the call, Brown issued a statement saying the Senate Ethics Committee “should continue to investigate. He is entitled to the investigation. And their findings will be important to informing changes that are needed in Congress.”
Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, said of Franken: “Harassment of any kind has no place in our society and should not be tolerated, and if he engaged in this type of conduct he should resign.”
Portman has also called for Moore in Alabama to step aside.
Published: Thursday, January 18, 2018 @ 5:30 AM
The federal government faces a partial federal shutdown threat Friday without a $1.1 trillion appropriations spending budget or a temporary stopgap spending measure in place.
Here’s what could happen in the Miami Valley if a shutdown occurs:
FURLOUGHS: A Wright-Patterson Air Force Base spokesman said this week the base had not received guidance on what actions to take. But the last time a federal government shutdown occurred in 2013, thousands of Wright-Patterson civilian employees were furloughed temporarily. Among those exempted were police, fire, medical and airfield operations. Military service members remained on the job.
MUSEUM: The region’s biggest tourist attraction, the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force, would close until a funding deal is reached, according to a spokesman.
MAIL SERVICE: The U.S. Postal Service, which is considered self-funded, would continue operations, including home delivery and post offices would stay open, a spokesman said.
DAYTON VA: The Department of Veterans Affairs medical facilities would remain open. The VA operates on a two-year budget cycle, exempting the department from the latest funding skirmish in Washington.
NATIONAL PARK SERVICE: NPS sites in the Dayton region closed during the last shutdown in 2013. A NPS directive issued in September 2017, said parks would close if a lapse in federal government appropriations occurs.
Published: Wednesday, January 17, 2018 @ 6:29 PM
WASHINGTON — Richard Cordray may be campaigning for the governor of Ohio, but he still has strong feelings about his former role as the nation’s top consumer watchdog.
In a series of tweets, Cordray lambasted his replacement at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau for deciding to reconsider a rule aimed at protecting consumers from abusive payday lending practices.
Cordray had helped craft the rules when he headed the agency and it was one of his last measures before stepping down in November. The bureau confirmed it would reconsider the rules in a statement Tuesday.
“Truly shameful action by the interim pseudo-leaders of the CFPB, announcing their plans to reconsider the payday lending rule just adopted in November,” Cordray tweeted. “Never mind many thousands of people stuck in debt traps all over the country. Consumers be damned!”
The rules would require lenders to determine whether a borrower could afford to repay a loan with full interest within 30 days. The rules would also limit the number of loans lenders could make to a borrower. That and other provisions outraged the payday lending industry, which argued such regulations could drive them out of business. The rules were scheduled to go into effect in August 2019, though Tuesday marked a compliance deadline.
Cordray, who was appointed by President Barack Obama, was replaced by White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney, who is serving as acting director of the consumer watchdog agency. Mulvaney has been a critic of the rules.
Critics argue that the loans help those who do not have access to other credit and banking products, such as some low income Americans.
But Cordray and other proponents say the rules are needed to protect consumers against predatory loans, some carrying interest of up to 391 percent. Payday loans, they argue, trap people in an unpayable cycle of debt.
The White House referred questions about the rule to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The CFPB did not immediately respond to questions.
Dennis Shaul, CEO of the Community Financial Services Association of America, a trade association that represents payday lenders, said the organization was “pleased” that the agency will take a new look at the payday lending rule.
“The bureau’s rule was crafted on a pre-determined, partisan agenda that failed to demonstrate consumer harm from small-dollar loans, ignored unbiased research and data, and relied on flawed information to support its rulemaking,” he said.
Cordray acknowledged that the announcement appears to be limited to pushing back the compliance deadline under the new rule, which was to have become effective on Tuesday. But he also argued that the administration had a more sweeping goal in mind.
In a series of tweets, Cordray called for the religious community to oppose the Trump administration’s decision, quoting the Bible to argue that repealing the rule would hurt the poor. And he referred to those who would repeal the rules as “zealots and toadies.”
“Congress could pursue a… vote to overturn” the rule, he tweeted, “but it seems they don’t have the guts. Instead, hire new bureaucrats to shred years of analysis and kill it off stealthily.”
Sen. Sherrod Brown, a backer of the new rule and the ranking Democrat on the Senate Banking Committee, also lined up in opposition to any repeal.
“Rather than focus on keeping the government open, the Trump administration’s top budget expert is busy unraveling important consumer protections for payday borrowers,” the Ohio Democrat said.
Published: Wednesday, January 17, 2018 @ 6:11 PM
FAIRFIELD — A Mexican mother of four once living in Fairfield who was deported nine months ago won an appeal on Wednesday , a decision indicating the immigration court that sent her back to Mexico “abused its discretion” and must reconsider her case.
A three-judge panel from the Sixth U.S. Court of Appeals found that the U.S. Board of Immigration Appeals ruled that Maribel Trujillo Diaz failed to demonstrate a case for asylum under the Immigration and Nationality Act “because she failed to show that she would be singled out individually for persecution based on her family membership.”
That immigration appeals court must now reconsider the matter, obeying the Sixth Circuit’s guidance.
The decision is by no means a complete victory meaning she can return to the country, according to one of her lawyers, Kathleen Kersh. It does mean there will be more hearings, and the possibility of a return — if not permanently, perhaps while the legal battles continue. Her family continues to live here.
“They found that the BIA had abused its discretion when it did not sufficiently consider the evidence that we gave in support of our motion to reopen Maribel’s asylum case,” Kersh said.
Trujillo and her supporters had argued she originally fled Mexico because drug cartels targeted her family.
Kersh told this media outlet in April that Trujillo’s asylum request was made after her brother was kidnapped and threatened by a cartel in Mexico, but she had lost that case.
Kersh in April — before the BIA’s ruling — said Trujillo’s father had more recently been kidnapped, which Kersh felt made her asylum case “much stronger.”
“We have recently found some information out from her father that her father had been kidnapped, so there are new facts that came to light in the asylum case that really change things — it makes it much stronger,” she said in April.
When told about Wednesday’s decision, Trujillo was “really happy and excited,” Kersh said.
“She is living in fear every day, and I think she feels vindicated in a way, that somebody is finally recognizing that, and she has really good reasons for her fear of living in Mexico, because of some of the dangers that her family specifically faces,” Kersh said.
“This is indeed good news, but far from a victory,” said the Rev. Father Pucke, who was her pastor at St. Julie Billiart Church, which advocated for her to stay, as did the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.
It still is possible her evidence will be considered but that she will be denied the ability to return to this country.
Published: Wednesday, January 17, 2018 @ 5:16 PM
Making his first foray on to the campaign trail in 2018, President Donald Trump goes to southwestern Pennsylvania on Thursday to stump for a GOP candidate running for Congress, as Republicans have encountered some troubling signs in this mid-term election year, struggling with an election playing field that seems tilted against their party.
In stops near Pittsburgh, Mr. Trump will help Pennsylvania state Rep. Rick Saccone, who is trying to win a March 13 special election for Congress, in a U.S. House district that voted for for the President by 19 points in November 2016.
The campaign trip comes two days after the latest evidence of a voting surge for Democrats, as they flipped a state legislative seat in Wisconsin, in a district that voted for President Trump by 17 points in 2016.
“That sound you hear is a tsunami alert,” said election handicapper Stu Rothenberg, who like many in Washington, sees the possibility of a wave election in 2018 for the Democrats.
The Wisconsin outcome was not ignored by the state’s Governor, Scott Walker, who is up for re-election this year.
In a fundraising email sent to supporters on Wednesday night, Governor Walker’s subject line was, “SHOCKING LOSS.”
“Wisconsin conservatives just received a much-needed WAKE UP CALL,” the missive began.
“Typically we’ve held this seat,” said House Speaker and Wisconsin native Paul Ryan to reporters. “Yeah, I think we should pay attention to it.”
“We all have to work,” said Rep. Steve Stivers (R-OH), who finds himself under great pressure as the head of the campaign arm of House Republicans.
But the shift hasn’t just been in Wisconsin, as Democrats have seen their vote share increase across the board, in red states like Oklahoma and South Dakota, red districts in Georgia and South Carolina, and then in a big upset win in December in Alabama, where Doug Jones won a U.S. Senate seat.
“These results continue the trend we saw in 2017,” said Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez. “Voters are flat-out rejecting the Trump-GOP agenda.”
Whether that’s the case is not yet clear – but the numbers do show what Democrats have been able to do in race after race – get more of their own people out to vote, and attract more Independents as well.
In 2017, while Republicans were able to win a series of special elections for the U.S. House, the margins were much closer than normal – and that has campaign experts wondering if Democrats can maintain that momentum into November of 2018.
“I don’t think people have fully priced in how much *worse* things could get for House Republicans in the next 300 days,” tweeted Dave Wasserman, an expert on House elections for the Cook Political Report.
So far in 2018, all of the news about retiring lawmakers in Congress has come from the GOP side, as 31 House Republicans won’t be back next January, compared to 14 Democrats.
That turnover – before even one vote has been cast in a Congressional primary – is higher than normal, and even higher than the number of Democrats who left in 1994 – when the GOP had a huge mid-term victory, and took control of both houses of Congress.
All of that is getting noticed by those who have been in politics, like ex-Rep. Joe Walsh (R-IL), who now does talk radio.
The game plan for the GOP in 2018 is straightforward at this point – President Trump and Republican lawmakers are doing all they can to highlight the tax cuts enacted into law late last year, and how that’s going to help working Americans right away.
On Thursday, Mr. Trump will stop at H&K Equipment near Pittsburgh, a company that White House officials say is going to benefit from the new tax plan.
“2017 was the best year in company history, which they credit to the President’s pro-jobs, pro-worker, pro-growth economic agenda,” said White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
“Thanks to the passage of the Trump tax cuts, H&K will now be able to expense 100 percent of the investments they make in new equipment in the same year they buy it,” Sanders added.
On Capitol Hill, it’s also a daily drumbeat for GOP lawmakers, as they tout the tax cuts at every opportunity – like this speech on the Seante floor from Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA).
While the polls have shown weak numbers for Congressional Republicans in recent months, some of the new data indicates an uptick in public support for the tax cuts, and GOP lawmakers believe that can only help as more people see more money in their paychecks.
“Had the other side gotten in, the market would have gone down fifty percent,” the President told an audience at the White House on Tuesday, as he is ready to make the case repeatedly this year that his election over Hillary Clinton was key to more economic growth and jobs.
“You know what we’ve done in our tax bill, and you know how successful it’s been,” Mr. Trump added.
He’ll make that case again Thursday in Pennsylvania, as Republicans try to make sure 2018 isn’t remembered for an election tide that swept them out of the Congress.