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Where do Ohio senators stand on shutdown vote?

Published: Monday, January 22, 2018 @ 9:31 AM
Updated: Monday, January 22, 2018 @ 9:31 AM

Ohio Senators Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman
Ohio Senators Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman

The Senate has set for a noon vote today on a bill that would pay for the government to stay open through Feb. 8 — 10 days shorter than the original Feb. 18 end date that the House had passed.

The idea, suggested Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., was that the Senate would immediately after that move to resolve a debate over how to treat immigrants brought to the country illegally as children and how to address the border wall proposed by President Donald Trump during the 2016 campaign.

Among those who expressed tentative support for such a plan was Sen. Rob Portman, R–Ohio, who said the shutdown has effectively also stopped the ongoing debate over immigration issues.

“I think it just makes no sense to have a shutdown,” he said. “If anything, it’s hurt the process of doing the hard work. This is all politics and it makes no sense.”

RELATED: How will shutdown impact your tax return?

He said he was hopeful five or so Democrats would opt for the shorter term spending measure.

“I think DACA should be addressed,” he said, referring to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program, which allowed people brought to the United States illegally as children to stay. “I just don’t think it’s worth shutting down the government to make a point.”

RELATED: How shutdown will impact key parts of government?

He dismissed the notion that President Trump was to blame or had made negotiations more difficult. “It’s not up to him,” he said. “It’s up to us. It’s our shutdown..I don’t see why we should be relying on the White House to get this done. I think we should do this on our own.”

Government shutdown: What will close

Sen. Sherrod Brown, meanwhile, introduced a motion to keep the government open through Wednesday, Jan. 24, arguing it would allow Republicans and Democrats to strike a deal. Republicans rejected the motion.

“I don’t want people to go to work tomorrow morning, whether it’s inside the fence, civilian or military, or whether it’s outside the gate,” the Ohio Democrat said. “I don’t want them to go to work and find out the government is closed.”

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President Trump scraps summit meeting with Kim Jong Un

Published: Thursday, May 24, 2018 @ 9:58 AM

After days of uncertainty about a planned June 12 summit meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, President Donald Trump on Thursday told Kim in a letter that because of hostile statements from the Pyongyang regime in recent days, the summit in Singapore would not take place.

“Sadly, based on the tremendous anger and open hostility displayed in your most recent statement, I feel it is in appropriate, at this time, to have this long-planned meeting,” the President wrote in his letter to Kim.

The decision came as North Korean officials seemed to back away from public assurances that they would give up on their nuclear weapons program, which had been Mr. Trump’s demand from the start – as the President delivered a clear warning to Kim about a possible conflict.

“You talk about your nuclear capabilities, but ours are so massive and powerful that I pray to God they will never have to be used,” Mr. Trump wrote.

Here is the President’s letter to Kim Jong Un.

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Trump renews attacks on Russia probe as lawmakers see documents

Published: Thursday, May 24, 2018 @ 7:03 AM

President Donald Trump renewed his attacks on how investigators dealt with allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 elections and any links to his campaign, as he again charged that top officials at the FBI had committed misconduct, led by former FBI Director James Comey.

“The FBI is a fantastic institution but some of the people at the top were rotten apples,” the President said. “James Comey was one of them.”

“I’ve done a great service for this country by getting rid of him,” the President said in a recorded interview aired on the Fox News morning program, “Fox and Friends.”

Mr. Trump and his allies have been on a public blitz in recent days against the Russia probe, trying to cast the actions of the FBI – and the Obama Administration – as an effort to infiltrate his campaign, in order to dummy up charges of collusion against his campaign and top aides.

Democrats though point out that while the FBI was investigating the Trump Campaign during the 2016 election, news of it never leaked, even as Comey was publicly inserting himself into the campaign with announcements about Hillary Clinton and her email troubles.

On Thursday afternoon, officials at the Justice Department will brief lawmakers in both parties about how the FBI used an informant to check out reports of ties between Russia and the Trump Campaign in 2016.

Originally, only House GOP lawmakers were going to be involved, but protests from Senators forced that to change; the briefings will involve the FBI Director, the Deputy Attorney General, and the Director of National Intelligence.

Those three officials met earlier this week with President Trump at the White House, as Mr. Trump has charged the FBI basically planted a ‘spy’ in his campaign, an allegation that has so far gained little traction outside a group of more conservative House Republicans.

As for Special Counsel Robert Mueller, his office provided an update of sorts on the investigation while submitting documents to a federal judge handling criminal charges against Paul Manafort, once the head of the Trump Campaign in 2016.

“The Special Counsel’s conduct of the investigation remains ongoing,” the Mueller team reported, saying the probe continues to look at “links and/or coordination between Russia and individuals affiliated with the campaign of President Trump.”

“The investigation is not complete and its details remain non-public,” the Special Counsel’s office stated, in arguing against the public release of search warrants involved in the Manafort case.

Meanwhile on Wednesday, Mueller’s office started moving toward the final stages in the guilty plea of one-time foreign policy advisor George Papadopoulos.

“The parties respectfully request that the Court refer this case for the preparation of a presentence investigation report, and that the parties provide a joint status report within thirty days, no later than June 22, 2018,” the two sides agreed in a court document.

Legal experts said that showed the feds were ready to have Papadopoulos sentenced, and that he likely had no more information to offer to investigators.

Papadopoulos pleaded guilty in October 2017 to lying to investigators, when asked about Russian contacts who had told him they had negative information on Hillary Clinton.

The Special Counsel’s office outlined their indictments and guilty pleas this way in their Manafort case submission:

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Trump can't block people on Twitter, judge rules

Published: Wednesday, May 23, 2018 @ 1:59 PM

President Trump And Twitter

A federal judge in New York ruled Wednesday that President Donald Trump can’t block people from his Twitter feed because doing so would violate their First Amendment rights, according to multiple reports.

>> Read more trending news

The ruling was issued by U.S. District Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald in response to a lawsuit filed in July by the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University and others, Reuters reported.

The president has more than 52 million followers on his @realDonaldTrump Twitter account. He has frequently used the platform to interact with the public both before and during his presidency.

Buchwald ruled Wednesday that Trump’s account constitutes a public forum “and blocking people who reply to his tweets with differing opinions constitutes viewpoint discrimination” in violation of the First Amendment, The Hill reported.

Trump argued that blocking people from his account did not violate the Constitution because of his own First Amendment rights, according to The Hill.

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U.S. Senate votes to expand health care options for veterans

Published: Wednesday, May 23, 2018 @ 5:00 PM

Senate votes to expand health care options for veterans. Photo by Mark Wilson
Senate votes to expand health care options for veterans. Photo by Mark Wilson

The U.S. Senate overwhelmingly passed a VA Health bill Wednesday that would expand the private health care options for veterans, extending and streamlining the current VA Choice program and providing $5.2 billion for that program.

WASHINGTON INSIDER: Congress sends VA health bill to President Trump

Both Sens. Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman voted for the bill, which embraces increased flexibility, allowing veterans to seek private provider options if VA centers within 40 miles cannot meet the necessary care requirements The current VA bill — which increased flexibility in part as a reaction to reports of long waiting lists for services at VA health centers — expires May 31. The bill, which passed the Senate 92-5, now goes to President Donald Trump, who is expected to sign it.

RELATED: New Dayton VA director wants to be transparent

Critics of the bill — including a group of 17 labor organizations, some representing federal workers — criticized the bill by arguing it would “outsource primary care to the private sector” - but Brown, a member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, said the bill was “a good bill for veterans.” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi voted against a House version of the bill, saying it “opened the door to privatization.”

But Brown, D-Ohio, appeared to dispute that notion, saying during a press call Wednesday that he would oppose any effort to privatize the VA.

“I think we need to be very cautious because there’s a lot of pressure from a lot of interests, especially the Koch brothers, who just love privatization,” Brown said, adding, “I wouldn’t have written the bill exactly this way, but Republicans are in the majority.”

Portman, R-Ohio, meanwhile, said the bill helped open up more options for veterans seeking care. He said he’s talked to veterans who are barred from seeing certain specialists because they live within 40 miles of a VA facility. “This removes that sort of arbitrary distance and helps them be able to get the care they need,” he said. He said he was also satisfied with how the bill addresses opioids, ensuring that the VA does not give veterans more opioids than they need and thus discouraging addiction.

David Blom, president and chief executive of OhioHealth, was on the Congressional Commission on Care that, in 2016, issued a report on veterans’ health care with 18 recommendations, some of which are contained in the bill. He said the bill helps smooth out some friction points that exist between the VA healthcare system and the health-care system at large and will lead to expanded options for veterans.

RELATED: Dayton VA director will be first woman in its 150-year history

“The barrier used to be so high … that patients suffered, the veteran suffered,” he said. “And the bill that is before us makes it easier for the veteran to access community health care.”

Also of significance is that the bill allows access to community doctors for veterans who live in areas where VA centers perform poorly, said Lt. Gen. Martin Steele, who served on the commission with Blom and spoke to veterans at an OhioHealth event last year. A report published in April in the Journal of General Internal Medicine showed that, while the VA performed on average the same as or significantly better than non-VA hospitals in most areas, there was a great deal of performance variation across VA facilities.

“We owe it to this cohort of people who selflessly served this country,” said Steele, who retired from the U.S. Marine Corp after more than 34 years of service and lives in Florida. “We’re trying to do something to ensure they’re receiving proper medical care, as they well deserve, for the rest of their lives.”

According to the U.S. Census, some 21 million Americans are veterans. Nearly 865,000 live in Ohio. Steele said about 6 million veterans regularly use VA health services.

Blom said he’s also optimistic about ongoing changes that will make the VA’s electronic medical record system compatible with those used by most hospitals. He’d next like to see leaders address issues around supply chain, racial disparities, eligibility rules and workforce promotions and discipline.

Also needed, Steele said, are mandatory workforce development rules that would ensure adequate leadership succession and more consistent performance across the system.

Still, both men are pleased to see action on the bill.

“It is positive progress in fixing a system that is in dire need of fixing,” Blom said. “It won’t all be fixed through this bill, but it’s a good first step.”

The bill passed the House last week 347-70, with all Ohio House members supporting it.

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