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Published: Thursday, February 08, 2018 @ 6:14 PM
Updated: Thursday, February 08, 2018 @ 6:14 PM
WASHINGTON — The Latest on Congress and spending legislation (all times local):
The Senate has passed a massive, bipartisan budget agreement and spending bill to reopen the shuttered federal government.
The bill now moves to the House.
Senators voted 71-28 to approve the deal, easily overcoming objections from Republican fiscal conservatives who say the bill marks a return to unchecked deficit spending.
The bill stalled in the Senate Thursday night when one of the opponents, Sen. Rand Paul, refused to allow a speedy vote.
Paul's protest forced Congress to miss a midnight deadline for passing a funding measure to keep the government operating.
A bipartisan budget pact has cleared a key hurdle in the Senate and should shortly be sent to the House as lawmakers work in the pre-dawn hours to re-open the government.
The measure's advance had been delayed by Kentucky GOP Sen. Rand Paul, who protested the budget-busting measure. It's married to a six-week government-wide spending bill that's required to reverse the shutdown.
Early Friday, Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney issued an order to close non-essential government operations.
A vote to pass the measure through the Senate began immediately.
But the bill's path through the House could prove dicey. There, liberal Democrats and tea party conservatives have swung into opposition.
The Office of Management and Budget has officially ordered the U.S. government closed.
OMB Director Mick Mulvaney issued the order at midnight, notifying federal agencies they should execute their contingency plans.
Mulvaney's notice says federal employees should report to work Friday to "undertake orderly shutdown activities."
He notes that his office is "hopeful that this lapse in appropriations will be of short duration."
Vice President Mike Pence says the Trump administration is "hopeful" the government shutdown that began at midnight will not last long.
Pence is in South Korea, where he is leading the U.S. delegation to the opening ceremonies of the Winter Olympics. He says the White House hopes Congress moves swiftly to approve a two-year budget agreement.
Pence says he has been in contact with the White House legislative office and President Donald Trump about the shutdown, but indicates he hasn't been directly involved in conversations with lawmakers on Capitol Hill.
"Our hope is that the bipartisan agreement reached in the Senate will be passed and sent to the House," Pence says, adding, "We're on standby as the vote approaches."
The federal government has shut down after a quarreling Senate blew a midnight deadline to pass a temporary funding bill.
Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney immediately implemented plans to close non-essential government operations, says spokesman John Czwartacki.
A Senate vote on a stopgap funding bill is expected early Friday morning. A sweeping bipartisan vote is expected on the measure, which is attached to a huge budget agreement, but the timing and outcome of a House vote are less certain.
Essential government functions will continue regardless.
A shutdown — technically a lapse in agency appropriations — became inevitable as GOP Sen. Rand Paul repeatedly held up votes on the budget plan, protesting its likely contribution to budget deficits that are soon to top $1 trillion.
A short government shutdown is assured as the Senate has recessed until just after a Thursday midnight deadline to pass a temporary funding bill.
Kentucky GOP Sen. Rand Paul sparked the shutdown after blocking repeated attempts by GOP leaders to speed up a vote on the stopgap funding bill, which is attached to a huge bipartisan budget agreement.
Paul is protesting that the bill would usher in the return of trillion-dollar budget deficits.
The Senate is likely to vote to reopen the government in the wee hours Friday. A House vote would follow, but it's possible that federal agencies will have to implement temporary shutdown plans if clearing the funding bill takes too long.
Essential government functions will continue regardless.
Vice President Mike Pence's trip to the Olympics will be unaffected by a potential U.S. government shutdown.
Pence is set to lead the U.S. delegation to the opening ceremonies of the Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Friday evening. An official who was unauthorized to speak publicly on the matter says the vice president's trip will continue as planned even if Congress doesn't act before midnight to keep the government open.
White House officials say the trip's diplomatic and national security aims — which revolve around highlighting North Korea's human rights abuses and nuclear program — meet the criteria for critical spending during a lapse in federal funding.
Pence traveled to the Middle East during the three-day January government shutdown, with aides citing the same exception.
Sen. Rand Paul says he is prepared to keep the Senate in session all night to protest a bipartisan budget deal that increases the federal deficit by hundreds of billions of dollars.
The Kentucky Republican says he expects the Senate to vote on the budget bill after 1 a.m. Friday — and possibly several hours after a midnight deadline to avert a second government shutdown in three weeks.
Paul tells The Associated Press he knows his protest against the bill is likely to fail, but says it is important to point out that the last-minute agreement could increase the federal deficit by as much as $1 trillion.
He says senators will likely pass the bill, adding, "They'll be tired and ornery, but it's their own fault."
The No. 2 House Democrat says it's time for a 24-hour stopgap spending bill to avert any chance of a government shutdown at midnight Thursday.
Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland says Democrats would support such a move.
Hoyer's overture comes as Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky is holding up action in the Senate, demanding a vote to cut back the measure's spending totals.
Published: Tuesday, February 20, 2018 @ 3:26 PM
Updated: Tuesday, February 20, 2018 @ 3:26 PM
WASHINGTON — An attorney pleaded guilty Tuesday to lying to the FBI in the agency's investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election and its possible ties to President Donald Trump's campaign.
The charges against lawyer Alex Van Der Zwaan are the latest in special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation.
The Special Counsel's office files a new indictment for making false statements to investigators pic.twitter.com/kYaO8c8M2l— Jamie Dupree (@jamiedupree) February 20, 2018
READ MORE: Who is Rick Gates and why was he indicted by Robert Mueller? | Who is Paul Manafort, the man indicted in Robert Mueller’s Russian investigation? | What are Paul Manafort and Rick Gates charged with? | MORE
Published: Wednesday, February 14, 2018 @ 2:40 PM
WASHINGTON — The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is investigating the White House’s employment of staff secretary Rob Porter in the wake of allegations that he abused his two ex-wives, committee chairman Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-South Carolina, said Wednesday.
Porter submitted his resignation Feb. 2.
Gowdy told CNN that the committee launched a probe Tuesday night into Porter’s employment and when White House officials knew about the domestic violence allegations levied against him.
Porter has denied any wrongdoing.
"We are directing inquiries to people that we think have access to information we don't have. You can call it official. You can call it unofficial,” Gowdy told CNN. “I'm going to direct questions to the FBI that I expect them to answer.”
Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy on allegations of spousal abuse against former top White House aide Rob Porter: “How in the hell was he still employed… How do you have any job if you have credible allegations of domestic abuse?” https://t.co/vuNO7b7riO https://t.co/nHySCCvUGb— CNN (@CNN) February 14, 2018
Porter resigned Feb. 2 after his ex-wives went public with allegations of domestic abuse and said they spoke with federal authorities about the claims, prompting critics to question why he had remained employed in the Trump administration. The allegations held up a background check needed to grant Porter a security clearance for work in the White House. Officials said he was working on an interim security clearance.
The process to get Porter his clearance was ongoing at the time of his resignation.
“How do you have any job if you have credible allegations of domestic abuse?” Gowdy asked on CNN. “I am biased toward the victim.”
Porter’s first wife, Colbie Holderness, and his second, Jennifer Willoughby, told the FBI about the alleged domestic violence in January 2017, after they were contacted while Porter was applying for his security clearance, according to The Washington Post.
White House officials defended Porter in the immediate aftermath of the allegations, and President Donald Trump has faced criticism for what critics called his lack of care for the victims and his focus on the fact that Porter has denied the claims.
“I was surprised by (the allegations), but we certainly wish him well, and it’s a tough time for him,” Trump told reporters in Washington on Friday. “He did a very good job when he was in the White House, and we hope he has a wonderful career. … It was very said when we heard about it, and certainly he’s also very sad now. He also, as you probably know, says he’s innocent, and I think you have to remember that.”
Holderness told The Daily Mail that Porter was verbally abusive throughout their relationship, which started in 2000, but that things escalated after they were wed in June 2003. She said Porter kicked her during their honeymoon and during a 2005 vacation in Italy, punched her in the face.
Willoughby, who married Porter in November 2009 and separated from him in early 2010, told The Daily Mail that Porter was verbally abusive.
Willoughby obtained a protective order against Porter in June 2010 after she said he violated their separation agreement and refused to leave her apartment, according to court records obtained by The Daily Mail. In the complaint, Willoughby said Porter punched in a glass door while she was locked inside the apartment, but left after he heard she was on the phone with police.
She told the Mail that in December 2010, he dragged her out of a shower while she was naked in order to yell at her.
Published: Saturday, February 10, 2018 @ 12:20 PM
ANDERSON, S.C. — A veterans nursing home in South Carolina honored a resident who died this week with a patriotic farewell that has gone viral.
In a Facebook post, Laura Dorn thanked the Richard M. Campbell Veterans Nursing Home in Anderson for taking such good care of her father, Doug Timmons, who had Alzheimer's disease and was a resident of the facility for the last three years. Dorn wrote that her father died early Thursday morning and the staff took the time to honor him for his service as his body was removed from the facility. In a video that Dorn posted, Timmons' body, draped with an American flag, is wheeled out as staff line up and a musical tribute plays.
Published: Friday, August 11, 2017 @ 4:16 PM
BEDMINSTER, N.J. — President Donald Trump on Thursday said that he is “very thankful” that Russian President Vladimir Putin decided to expel hundreds of U.S. diplomats, telling reporters in New Jersey that the decision will help the U.S. cut down on salaries.
“I want to thank him because we’re trying to cut down our payroll, and as far as I’m concerned, I’m very thankful that he let go a large number of people because now we will have a smaller payroll,” Trump said, according to The Washington Post. “There’s no real reason for them to go back. … We’re going to save a lot of money.”
The comments were Trump’s first addressing Putin’s decision last month to expel 755 diplomats and technical personnel from the U.S. Embassy and consulates in Russia, according to The Post.
Trump’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2018 included a 29 percent cut of State Department funding, NPR reported.
But White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in an email to The New York Times on Friday that the president was making a joke.
“He was being sarcastic,” she told the newspaper.
Still, some lawmakers questioned Trump’s decision to praise Putin.
“After weeks of silence regarding Vladimir Putin's outrageous expulsion of hundreds of U.S. embassy personnel, President Trump once again let Russia off the hook and instead insulted America’s diplomats,” Rep. Eliot Engel, D-New York, the ranking member on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a statement.
“No doubt, the President's staff will eventually try to clean up after the parade by claiming it was a joke, but there's nothing funny about this,” he said.
According to Politico, “many, if not most, of the positions cut will likely be those of locally hired Russian staffers. The local staff who are let go will likely get severance payments, but cost savings are possible in the long run.”
Unidentified sources told the news site that most of the U.S. diplomats made to leave Russia will be moved to different posts.
Putin’s decision to kick American diplomats out of the country came in retaliation for sanctions placed on Russia by the U.S. Trump signed the bill, which passed with strong bipartisan support and required congressional approval to lift the restrictions, although he criticized it as being “seriously flawed.”