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Published: Monday, April 16, 2018 @ 12:06 AM
Updated: Monday, April 16, 2018 @ 12:05 AM
HOUSTON — Former first lady Barbara Bush, who was reported in "failing health" over the weekend, is in "great spirits" and the family is grateful for "everybody's prayers and thoughts," her granddaughter said Monday.
Bush family spokesman Jim McGrath said in a news release Sunday that "Mrs. Bush, now age 92, has decided not to seek additional medical treatment and will instead focus on comfort care" at home in Houston following consultations with her doctors and family.
McGrath did not elaborate on the nature of Bush's health problems but on Monday said she's suffered in recent years from congestive heart failure and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. She also has been treated for decades for Graves' disease, which is a thyroid condition, had heart surgery in 2009 for a severe narrowing of her main heart valve and was hospitalized a year before that for surgery on a perforated ulcer.
Jenna Bush Hager, an anchor on NBC's "Today" show, told the program Monday morning that Bush is resting comfortably with family.
"She's a fighter. She's an enforcer," Hager said, using the family's nickname for her grandmother. "We're grateful for her, for everybody's prayers and thoughts, and just know the world is better because she is in it."
"We are grateful for her. She's the best grandma anybody could have ever had ... or have," she said.
Bush is one of only two first ladies who was also the mother of a president. The other was Abigail Adams, wife of John Adams, the nation's second president, and mother of John Quincy Adams, the sixth president.
Bush married George H.W. Bush on Jan. 6, 1945. They had six children and have been married longer than any presidential couple in American history.
Eight years after she and her husband left the White House, Mrs. Bush stood with her husband as their son George W. was sworn in as the 43rd president.
Hager said the former president "still says, 'I love you Barbie' every night," describing their grandparents' close relationship as "remarkable."
McGrath said Bush was concerned more for her family than herself.
"It will not surprise those who know her that Barbara Bush has been a rock in the face of her failing health, worrying not for herself — thanks to her abiding faith — but for others," he said.
President Donald Trump's press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, said in a statement Sunday evening that "the President's and first lady's prayers are with all of the Bush family during this time."
Bush is known for her white hair and her triple-strand fake pearl necklace.
Her brown hair began to gray in the 1950s, while her 3-year-old daughter Pauline, known to her family as Robin, underwent treatment for leukemia and eventually died in October 1953. She later said dyed hair didn't look good on her and credited the color to the public's perception of her as "everybody's grandmother."
Her pearls sparked a national fashion trend when she wore them to her husband's inauguration in 1989. The pearls became synonymous with Bush, who later said she selected them to hide the wrinkles in her neck. The candid admission only bolstered her common sense and down-to-earth public image.
Her 93-year-old husband, the nation's 41st president who served from 1989 to 1993, also has had health issues in recent years. In April 2017, he was hospitalized in Houston for two weeks for a mild case of pneumonia and chronic bronchitis. He was hospitalized months earlier, also for pneumonia. He has a form of Parkinson's disease and uses a motorized scooter or a wheelchair for mobility.
Before being president, he served as a congressman, CIA director and Ronald Reagan's vice president.
Barbara Pierce Bush was born June 8, 1925, in Rye, New York. Her father was the publisher of McCall's and Redbook magazines. She and George H.W. Bush married when she was 19 and while he was a young naval aviator. After World War II, the Bushes moved to Texas where he went into the oil business.
Published: Sunday, April 22, 2018 @ 8:12 AM
Updated: Sunday, April 22, 2018 @ 7:48 PM
ANTIOCH, Tenn. — At least four people are dead after a shooting at a Waffle House in Antioch, Tennessee.
Killed were Taurean C. Sanderlin, 29, a Waffle House employee who was outside the restaurant when the gunman opened fire; Joe R. Perez, 20, of Nashville, who was a patron standing outside the restaurant; Akilah Dasilva, 23, of Antioch, who was wounded inside the restaurant and died at Vanderbilt University Medial Center; and DeEbony Groves, 21, of Gallatin, a senior at Belmont University in Nashville.
Published: Sunday, April 22, 2018 @ 5:44 PM
HOUSTON — The current first lady posed for a picture with former first ladies and past presidents Saturday at Barbara Bush’s funeral.
First Lady Melania Trump is seen in the image, taken by photographer Paul Morse, with the Bushes, Clintons and Obamas.
Trump, who attended the funeral without her husband, is seen standing alongside Michelle Obama.
“It was my honor to travel to Houston to give my respects to Barbara Bush and the remarkable life she led as a mother, wife, and fearless First Lady,” she said in a statement. “My sincerest thoughts and prayers continue to be with George H.W., and the entire Bush family.”
It was my honor to travel to Houston to give my respects to Barbara Bush and the remarkable life she led as a mother, wife, and fearless First Lady. My sincerest thoughts and prayers continue to be with George H.W., and the entire Bush family.— Melania Trump (@FLOTUS) April 21, 2018
Published: Sunday, April 22, 2018 @ 2:52 PM
Updated: Sunday, April 22, 2018 @ 2:52 PM
WASHINGTON — Most Ohio lawmakers on Capitol Hill — including Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton — say it would be a mistake for President Donald Trump to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller, though taking action to block the president from doing so has more opposition among local Republicans.
“We need to let Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation go forward,” said Turner, R-Dayton. “He is looking at important questions: what was the activity that was undertaken by Russia, how do we stop it in the future, and what actions may have been undertaken by Russia with the presidential campaigns?”
Emily Benavides, a Portman spokeswoman, said U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein “has already stated that only he can fire the special counsel and he believes there is no cause to do so. Rob has said numerous times that it would be a big mistake to head down this path.”
Portman, however, is not certain a bill to protect Mueller is constitutional. In an interview last week on CNN, Portman said “the president has the constitutional right to be able to hire and fire people who work for him. As my lawyers have looked at the legislation … they believe it is not consistent with that constitutional right.”
Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Urbana, said Trump “has the right” to fire Mueller but added the president has “been very clear he’s not going to do it. I don’t know how many times he has to say it.”
Calls by some conservatives to fire Mueller intensified after an April raid on the home and offices of Trump attorney Michael Cohen. Although the raid was conducted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, and not Mueller’s office, some see it as an example of the special counsel expanding the probe beyond its original purpose.
Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said Trump is to blame for how long the investigation is taking. “I just wish the president would put everything on the table, would quit stonewalling, tell us everything and get this investigation done with,” Brown said. “It’s gone and on and on because the president continues to call people names and continues to tweet that there’s nothing there and then things are found.”
Rep. Warren Davidson, R-Troy, has expressed concerns about the Mueller probe, but agreed it would not be “advisable” to fire him. But Davidson said he would probably vote against a bill protecting Mueller from firing, preferring instead a measure questioning the amount of money the Justice Department is spending on the probe.
“We’re OK with you launching an investigation. We support letting Justice have its blindfold on and restoring credibility to the Department of Justice. But we are concerned the actions of the special investigator are working at odds with that,” he said.
Mueller, a former director of the FBI, was named special counsel last spring after U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from investigating potential contacts between Russian intelligence officials and Trump aides.
Because of Mueller’s investigation, federal grand juries have indicted 13 Russian nationals for trying to interfere with the 2016 campaign. In addition, Paul Manafort, who for a time managed Trump’s 2016 campaign, and Rick Gates, Trump’s deputy campaign manager, were indicted on charges of money laundering in connection with the Ukraine government
Gates, former White House National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, and former Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos have pleaded guilty to making false statements and are cooperating with Mueller’s investigators. But no information has been made public about whether Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia to tip the election toward Trump.
Presidents have the power to fire people in the executive branch. In October of 1973, U.S. Solicitor General Robert Bork carried out President Richard Nixon’s order to dismiss Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox who was investigating the Watergate break-in.
Bork obeyed Nixon’s order after U.S. Attorney General Elliot Richardson resigned rather than fire Cox and Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus was fired when he refused to dismiss Cox.
Known as the Saturday Night Massacre, Cox’s dismissal intensified calls for Nixon’s impeachment and directly led to his resignation as president in August of 1974.
Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Niles, predicted a similar outcome if Trump fired Mueller.
“Let me be perfectly clear — firing Robert Mueller or appointing a new deputy attorney general with the express purpose of stonewalling this investigation would be an egregious abuse of power, and an impeachable offense,” Ryan said.
Rep. Stive Stivers, R-Upper Arlington, said Mueller should “follow the facts wherever they may lead. I look forward to seeing the results of his investigation, and hope it reaches a conclusion soon.”
Rep. Brad Wenstrup, R-Cincinnati, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, said he would “like to see this investigation carried out fairly, thoroughly, and expeditiously.
Published: Sunday, April 22, 2018 @ 2:47 PM
Updated: Sunday, April 22, 2018 @ 2:47 PM
WASHINGTON — Republicans’ next big push for welfare reform has come courtesy of a bill designed to pay for the nation’s farm programs.
The federal farm bill, which expires Oct. 1, is aimed at providing federal support to farmers who may need it during tough times. But roughly 80 percent of the bill goes to federal food assistance, also known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, making the bill’s passage traditionally a bipartisan affair, with urban and rural lawmakers joining forces to both help feed the poor and to keep farmers facing rough times from being driven out of business entirely.
But this year’s bill has been different. Instead, to Democrats’ fury, House Republicans see the farm bill as an opportunity to take a crack at welfare reform.
A bill passed on party lines by the House Agriculture Committee last week would significantly beef up current SNAP work requirements. Republicans say the program should shrink – the economy has improved and the program was designed to be a hand up, not a hand out. Democrats, meanwhile, say it’s cruel.
Rep. Warren Davidson, R-Troy, compares it to the unemployed good friend who moves in with you. “You’d be like, ‘hey, man, I’m glad to help you out for awhile, but are you going to go to any job interviews?’” he said. “We would do that! And somehow when the government does it it’s mean. And we have to be willing to do what we would do even for our friends or we’re not going to get this spending under control.”
Counters Melissa Boteach, the senior vice president of the Poverty to Prosperity program at the left-leaning Center for American Progress: “Taking away someone’s food isn’t going to help them find a job any faster.”
Here’s how the bill would change work requirements: Current law requires able-bodied adults between 18 and 49 with no dependents to work at least 20 hours a week or receive an equivalent amount of job training in order to receive the benefits.
They’re allowed to be unemployed for three months during a three-year period, but beyond that, face the risk of losing their benefits. And states have the flexibility to loosen that requirement or beef it up, depending on their preference. The disabled, seniors, and those taking care of children are exempt from the work requirement.
The bill passed last week by the House Agriculture Committee changes that age range to the ages of 18 to 59. It also imposed the work requirements on those with children over age six. And it imposed a set of progressively tougher sanctions for those who can’t prove they’re working or receiving job training, starting with the loss of benefits for a year.
Lisa Hamler-Fugitt, executive director of the Ohio Association of Food Banks, said the new requirements include “some of the most punitive provisions I’ve ever seen in doing 30 years of doing this work.”
“I’ve never seen anything as cruel as this piece of legislation,” she said.
But its defenders say the bill will help refocus the program into one that helps those who cannot help themselves.
“The economy’s in great shape,” said Robert Doar of the conservative American Enterprise Institute. “There are opportunities out there. The labor force participation is still below what it was at the beginning of the Great Recession. There are still people who are eligible to work who are remaining on the sidelines.”
He said more than nine million Americans to receive the benefits “could work.”
“I think most Americans believe the purpose of programs like the food stamp benefit is to help people move out of poverty through earnings, not to keep them more comfortable or less uncomfortable in poverty,” he said.
SNAP helps to feed some 40 million low income Americans. In Ohio, Hamler-Fugitt said, some 1.4 million people participate. Of that group, more than 700,000 are children. Some 200,000 are seniors. And 360,000 are people with disabilities.
The bill also federal dollars to help states create job training programs for those who must meet the work requirement.
Democrats, however, argue that money isn’t nearly enough.
Rep. Marcia Fudge, a Cleveland Democrat who serves on the House Agriculture Committee, said states will have to develop training programs to comply with the bill. And there’s no requirement, she said, that training leads to work. “We are, in fact, creating a bureaucracy at the state and local level,” she said, saying that the bill doesn’t include enough money to actually pay for that bureaucracy.
But Doar disputes the notion that the bill underfunded the job training programs, saying states and localities also have job training resources. “I think they could make substantial, significant progress to helping people move out of poverty with the resources being offered here,” said Doar, a former commissioner of social services for the state of New York.
Rep. Jim Jordan, an Urbana Republican who has long championed welfare reform, said the move is overdue.
He said reforming welfare would “help everyone – help the economy, help the budget, help employers and most importantly, help people stuck in the dependency welfare lifestyle.”
“Every single day when I’m out an about in the district, I’m talking to employers who are finding it difficult to find people to work,” he said. “There are employment needs out there.”
Still, he’s not sure if he’ll back the bill when it comes to the floor of the House, he said in an interview this week. He’s concerned about the money devoted to workforce development. “I’m nervous about another government program,” he said. And he knows it will be a hard sell in the Senate, where the majority is far more narrow. He said if Congress can’t reform welfare as part of its agriculture bill, it should consider a short-term extension until it can do so.
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BY THE NUMBERS
80 percent of the farm bill goes to federal food assistance
SNAP helps to feed some 40 million low income Americans.