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Senate Republicans Block $2.7 Billion Border-Funding Bill

Senate Republicans Block $2.7 Billion Border-Funding Bill

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — Senate Republicans blocked a bill Thursday that would provide $2.7 billion in funding to address the crisis of minors from Central America illegally entering the United States.
With 50 yeas and 44 nays, the Senate did not advance Sen. Barbara Mikulski’s, D-Md., proposal to provide funding in response to President Obama’s request. The measure required a 60-vote threshold.
On July 8, the president asked Congress to supply an emergency $3.7 billion to address what members of both parties have deemed a national crisis. That request included $1.1 billion to improve enforcement and detain and return adults accompanying children across the border, plus about $2.2 billion to help Customs and Border Patrol and the Department of Health and Human Services detain, house and care for children after they have crossed.
In response to that request, Mikulski proposed a pared-down $2.7 billion package.
Under Senate rules, all non-emergency funding must include spending offsets, and 44 Republicans voted against waiving those rules and proceeding to a vote on Mikulski’s spending package. All 50 Senate Democrats voted to waive budget rules and proceed to vote on the bill.
House Republicans struggled Thursday to corral members for a vote Friday on their own border bill, but the Senate bill’s failure ensures that Congress will not send a border measure — much less the $3.7 billion in funding he requested — to President Obama’s desk before its August recess.
The House will convene for a border vote Friday before leaving town for August recess. After voting late into the night Thursday, the Senate will be in session without holding any votes on Friday, its last day before the month-long break.
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Congress Approves $15 Billion VA Deal

Congress Approves $15 Billion VA Deal

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — In a rare moment of bipartisan, bicameral unity, Congress has approved a deal to add $15 billion and institute reforms at the Veterans Administration.
The agency has been plagued by scandal; staffers routinely falsified wait times for veterans seeking care, and gamed internal procedures to hide the delays. Dozens of veterans died while reportedly waiting to see doctors.
The scandal resulted in the ouster of former VA Secretary Eric Shinseki.
After the House passed the measure on Wednesday, the Senate followed suit Thursday. The VA deal sailed through two votes: an 86-8 vote to waive budget rules, and a 91-3 vote to pass the bill and send it to President Obama’s desk.
After weeks of negotiations, the House and Senate Veterans Affairs Committees this week reached a deal to provide $10 billion in, “mandatory emergency money” to contract health care outside the VA system. An additional $5 billion, offset by spending cuts within the VA, will go to hiring new doctors and nurses. Veterans living more than 40 miles away from a VA facility will be able to obtain care outside the VA network.
On the floor before the final vote, Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., thanked Sen. John McCain for intervening and making sure the deal was approached by “serious negotiators.”
On Tuesday, the Senate approved Shinseki’s replacement, voting 97-0 to confirm former Procter & Gamble CEO Robert McDonald as the next Veterans Affairs secretary.
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Driving While Stoned: Congress Searches for a Test Standard

Driving While Stoned: Congress Searches for a Test Standard

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — With the clock ticking down to the congressional recess and amid a day of high drama over how to handle the border crisis, the House of Representatives made time for another matter: “Planes, Trains and Automobiles: Operating While Stoned.”
That was the title of a hearing held on Thursday by the House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Government Operations, which was reviewing the federal government’s response to state-level marijuana legalization as it pertains to transportation policy.
The consensus of experts who testified before the committee was that operating a vehicle under the influence of drugs poses a clear danger to the public, but lawmakers expressed concern that methods to test for marijuana are not up to date — and neither is the science.
“We don’t have a uniform standard,” said Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va. “The variable is much greater than that of other controlled substances such as alcohol. We actually can’t scientifically pinpoint levels of impairment with any accuracy.”
“We would all concede there’s some impairment for some period of time, but it’s very variable, and we’re not quite sure yet — sure enough to adopt a uniform standard,” he added.
Testing vehicle operators for marijuana is not quite as simple as using a breathalyzer to test for alcohol, officials noted.
Dr. Jeff Michael, associate administrator at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, explained that marijuana does not appear to have a distinct impairment threshold — such as the .08% blood alcohol content that a breathalyzer can test for. The level of impairment from THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, is much more variable than alcohol, making it harder to gauge, he said.
“Beyond some broad confirmation that high levels of THC are associated with higher levels of impairment, a more precise association of THC levels and degrees of impairment are not yet available,” Michael said during the hearing.
Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., the chairman of the subcommittee, highlighted a device capable of detecting marijuana within four hours of entering the system. Mica even brought the device into the hearing room.
“I was gonna swab the panelists,” the congressman quipped, “but I thought I wouldn’t do that today.”
“You can take a swab with this —– and it can tell you if anyone has used marijuana within four hours,” Mica noted. “But again, we have no standard. We have no acceptable test. And we have no way of telling if people are impaired. Most of the data we’re getting right now is from, again, fatalities.”
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Lawmakers Summoned Back to DC as Border Bill Hangs in Balance

Lawmakers Summoned Back to DC as Border Bill Hangs in Balance

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Cancel that flight, congressman.Lawmakers departing on Thursday for their annual August recess are now being told “not so fast” after the House Republican leadership pulled a $659 million bill to address the ongoing crisis at the southern border.
Several House Republicans told ABC News they were furious about not taking a vote on the bill, and they were pushing for a chance to do so before leaving town.Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy told lawmakers to stay near the Capitol, suggesting that a vote could still take place on Thursday.In fact, House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers, R-Ky., told ABC News that he was at the airport when he was summoned back to the Capitol for a closed-door GOP meeting.
Rogers said it became clear Thursday morning the conservative defections were growing, but he said he and others believe the House should vote — up or down — on immigration.”I would like to see us have a vote,” Rogers said in an interview.There is an unusual air of uncertainty in the Capitol, mixed with a big dose of dysfunction, as rank-and-file Republicans discuss whether to have a vote on immigration before they go home for August recess.Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., told ABC News that he believes lawmakers need to vote. Leaving town without doing so, he said, will be difficult to explain to constituents. He supports the immigration bill.At issue is a Tea Party revolt that broke out on Thursday among House Republicans inspired by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who urged members late into the night to oppose a bill to approve more money to address the border crisis.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, thought he had enough Republican votes for the spending bill, but he canceled a vote after it appeared that was not the case.Earlier on Thursday, Boehner, along with his Republican colleagues — Reps. Kevin McCarthy of California, Steve Scalise of Louisiana and Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington state — issued the following statement on the legislation:“This situation shows the intense concern within our conference — and among the American people — about the need to ensure the security of our borders and the president’s refusal to faithfully execute our laws. There are numerous steps the president can and should be taking right now, without the need for congressional action, to secure our borders and ensure these children are returned swiftly and safely to their countries,” the quartet of lawmakers wrote in a joint statement. “For the past month, the House has been engaged in intensive efforts to pass legislation that would compel the president to do his job and ensure it can be done as quickly and compassionately as possible. Through an inclusive process, a border bill was built by listening to members and the American people that has the support not just of a majority of the majority in the House, but most of the House Republican Conference.”The decision by GOP leaders sparked a counter revolt, and members of Congress say they’ve rarely seen an afternoon like this.Of course, even if the House does pass its $659 million border bill, it still faces certain defeat in the Senate.
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CIA Apologizes for Searching Senate Intel Committee Computers

CIA Apologizes for Searching Senate Intel Committee Computers

The Central Intelligence Agency(WASHINGTON) — CIA Director John Brennan has apologized to the leadership of the Senate Intelligence Committee after the CIA’s Inspector General determined that agency officials inappropriately searched the stand-alone computer network used by committee staffers in preparing their report on the CIA’s detention and interrogation program.
Earlier this year, Brennan denied the CIA had illegally monitored the committee’s computers, calling the suggestions as “just beyond the scope of reason.”To follow up on the Inspector General’s determination, Brennan has ordered the formation of an accountability board to review the incident and make recommendations that could potentially lead to disciplinary action.The development is the latest twist in a long-running dispute between the CIA and the committee about classified information used to compile the 6,000 page report. The classified report found that the CIA overstated the success of the program and may have misled members of Congress. A declassified summary of the report could be released in a few weeks.In order for committee staffers to have access to classified materials about the program an agreement was reached in 2009 that allowed them access to documents at a CIA facility in northern Virginia. A standalone computer network, called RDINet, was developed so the staffers could access classified computer files.In January, Brennan informed committee chairman Sen. Dianne Feinstein and vice-chairman Sen. Saxby Chambliss that the CIA had recently performed a “search” of that network and determined that committee staffers had been given access to files that should not have been on the network. In turn, Feinstein said she believed that the CIA could only have determined that by violating the agreement that the CIA would not have access to the committee’s computer network.At the time, Brennan referred the dispute to the CIA’s Inspector General.In a statement released Thursday, CIA spokesman Dean Boyd said the Inspector General’s investigation had judged “that some CIA employees acted in a manner inconsistent with the common understanding reached between SSCI and the CIA in 2009 regarding access to the RDINet.”“The Director subsequently informed the SSCI Chairman and Vice Chairman of the findings and apologized to them for such actions by CIA officers as described in the OIG report,” said Boyd.The statement added that Brennan has ordered the establishment of an Accountability Board to be chaired by former senator Evan Bayh who served on the Senate Intelligence Committee. 
“This Board will review the OIG report, conduct interviews as needed, and provide the Director with recommendations that, depending on its findings, could include potential disciplinary measures and/or steps to address systemic issues,” said Boyd.The dispute became public in March when Feinstein delivered a lengthy and blistering speech on the Senate floor where she expressed “grave concerns” that the CIA had conducted an unauthorized search of the network that violated the 2009 agreement. She also asked the CIA to apologize and recognize that the computer search was inappropriate.Appearing at a Washington, D.C. think tank the same day as Feinstein’s speech, Brennan denied her accusations, labeling them “beyond the scope of reason” and that “nothing could be further from the truth.” 
“I mean we wouldn’t do that,” Brennan told the Council on Foreign Relations. “I mean that’s just beyond the scope of reason in terms of what we would do.”On Thursday, Feinstein called Brennan’s apology and his decision to refer the Inspector General report to an accountability board “positive first steps.”Other Democratic members of the committee were more critical.
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) called for Brennan to make a “public apology” and Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) expressed a loss of confidence in Brennan.“I am concerned about the director’s apparent inability to find any flaws in the agency he leads,” Udall said in a statement. “Earlier this year he referred to the chairman’s and my publicly stated concerns about the CIA search as ‘spurious allegations that are wholly unsupported by facts’ and urged us to ‘refrain from outbursts.’ Brennan needs to account for these statements.” 
Udall said he wants an independent counsel to look into the matter.Earlier in July, the Justice Department said it had found insufficient evidence to proceed with a criminal probe of Feinstein’s and the CIA’s separate allegations.
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How the Monica Lewinsky Scandal Would Be Different Today

How the Monica Lewinsky Scandal Would Be Different Today

Lawrence Lucier/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Monica Lewinsky is reclaiming her story.
In her second column for Vanity Fair magazine, published online on Thursday, Lewinsky writes about how people who are tarnished in public scandals or who face bullying online have an unprecedented opportunity to defend themselves — through social media, online essays, and other forms of modern communication.
Using Lewinsky’s own advice, we wondered how the scandal involving her and President Bill Clinton may have been different if it happened today:
1) Taking Charge of the Narrative
News of the “Lewinsky scandal” first broke in January 1998, when a relatively new online outlet called the Drudge Report posted a story about a White House intern having a sexual relationship with the president. From there on, Lewinsky was largely defined by a series of characterizations: the woman in the blue dress who performed oral sex on the president.
“More and more I’m finding that those who have lost command of their public narratives, do the opposite. They shake off the assault or the slight, take control of their rightful place in their community or the larger culture, and use social media to return the salvo,” Lewinsky wrote. “They refuse to have their identities swindled or misshapen. Instead, they take charge. They turn the attack on its head and use it as an opportunity for self-definition, instead of just taking blood as they go down.”
2) Writing an Online Rebuttal
After news of the affair broke, and President Clinton issued a denial referring to Lewinsky as “that woman,” the former White House intern escaped the public eye, hiding out at her mother’s house. If the scandal happened today, perhaps Lewinsky would have published an essay on the Internet that addressed the her side of things.
“I was listening to NPR’s ‘All Things Considered.’ One segment of the show addressed a trend: ‘The Rise of the Online Rebuttal,’” Lewinsky wrote in Vanity Fair, quoting from the NPR segment that explained the rebuttal “allows for people who feel they have been wronged or misrepresented to forcefully answer in their own voice.”
3) Using Social Media to Push Back
After remaining silent through the long and very public investigation into her affair with the president, Lewinsky finally participated in a biography written about her and was interviewed by Barbara Walters for an ABC News special in 1999, two traditional forms of media relations. But today, Lewinsky could have direct and immediate access to the millions of Americans reading about her story; she could tweet, Instagram or write lengthy Facebook posts directly to readers.
“[The NPR] report reminded me of a story that had come across my browser in recent days. It concerned a young woman who was not even remotely a public figure until acquaintances began body shaming her. They graffiti’d some rocks on a local beach with ridiculous insults about her rear end,” Lewinsky wrote. “She posted a sweet and sassy photo of herself on social media — a photo taken from behind, peering over one shoulder, grinning.”
4) Capitalizing on the Bad in Order to Do Good
Lewinsky has written previously about how she had trouble finding work for years after the Clinton scandal, but she pointed out in the new Vanity Fair essay that people who have been bullied have capitalized on their worst moments by using them as a platform to spread awareness.
“As of this month, [the young woman] has been named an ambassador to ReachOut.com [to help spread the word about the perils of body shaming] and a featured guest blogger for AMightyGirl.com, a Web site that serves as a resource for ‘courageous girls,’” Lewinsky wrote. The young woman’s father now “hopes that her daughter’s story and the ensuing dialogue will help bring real support to people who need it.”
5) Looking at the Silver Lining
Lewinsky argues in her essay that perhaps the very things that allow for bullying or negativity could be used for the opposite. If she found herself enmeshed in the Clinton scandal today, perhaps Lewinsky would be able to use those tools to fend off some of the “haters.”
“Perhaps it is our access to the subterranean depths of the Internet — a shadowy medium that exists outside the physical world — that has allowed us … to begin to have the means of reclamation,” Lewinsky writes. “In [the case of the body shamed young woman], her body-positive photo went viral. An online rebuttal . . . in all meanings. Sounds good to me.”
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Undeterred by Lawsuit, Obama Signs Another Executive Order

Undeterred by Lawsuit, Obama Signs Another Executive Order

The White House(WASHINGTON) — One day after House Republicans voted to sue him for allegedly exceeding his executive authority, President Obama signed yet another executive order, saying the suit is “not going to stop me from doing what I think needs to be done in order to help families across the country.”
“Any time Congress wants to do work with me to help working families, I’m right there. The door is always open. More than that, I’ll go to them; I’ll wash their car, walk their dog,” the president joked at a White House ceremony. “I’m ready to work with them any time that they want to pursue policies that help working families. But where they’re doing so little or nothing at all to help working families, then we’ve got to find ways, as an administration, to take action that’s going to help.”“I said to [House] Speaker [John] Boehner, tell your caucus the best way to avoid me acting on my own is work with me to actually do something. Then you don’t have to worry about it. We’re not going to stop, and if they’re not going to lift a finger to help working Americans then I’m going to work twice as hard to help working Americans,” Obama said.The president on Thursday signed an order, titled “Fair Pay and Safe Workplace,” requiring prospective federal contractors to disclose labor law violations.With lawmakers leaving behind a lengthy legislative to-do list as they head out of town, the president quipped that “the big event last night — it wasn’t the vote on the minimum wage. It wasn’t a vote on immigration reform, strengthening the borders. It wasn’t a vote on family leave. What did they have a vote on? They got together in the House of Representatives, the Republicans, and voted to sue me for taking the actions that we are doing to help families.”“One of the main objections that’s the basis of this suit is us making a temporary modification to the health care law that they said needed to be modified,” Obama explained. “So they criticized a provision; we modify it to make it easier for business to transition; and that’s the basis for their suit. Now, you could say that, all right, this is a harmless political stunt — except it wastes America’s time. You guys are all paying for it as taxpayers. It’s not very productive.”
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Eric Cantor Gives Farewell Speech as House Majority Leader

Eric Cantor Gives Farewell Speech as House Majority Leader

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Rep. Eric Cantor took to the House floor for the last time as majority leader Thursday, calling his service on Capitol Hill “a privilege of a lifetime.”
“Walking into this building and walking onto this floor is something that excited me every day since I was first elected to Congress,” he said. “As it should. Not one of us should ever take for granted the awesome honor and responsibility we have to serve our fellow Americans.”
Cantor has represented Virginia’s 7th District for 14 years, and his defeat in June by tea party-backed professor Dave Brat stunned Washington.
As he steps down as majority leader, there will be a few changes, notably his Twitter handle, @GOPLeader, and first-class office at the Capitol.
On Tuesday, the House Republicans uploaded a two-minute Cantor tribute video to honor his time as majority leader. But Thursday’s address marked a very public goodbye.
During the 10-minute speech, Cantor continually expressed pride and gratitude that he was able to take part in leading the country, thanking his colleagues, staff, family and Capitol Police.
Cantor recalled a story about his grandparents who had fled religious persecution in Europe, saying his own rise to majority leader served as an example of the American Dream but that the country has seen that “dream erode” in recent years.
He also expressed concern for the country’s education system and employment opportunities, as well as the state of American strength abroad. 
“Instability and terror seem to be coming from every corner of the globe. The Middle East is in chaos, Iran is marching towards a nuclear weapon, Russia has reverted to a Cold War footing and invaded Ukraine,” Cantor said. “America does lead in so many areas, including innovation, scientific discovery, and medicine. But we must also make leadership abroad a priority. I shudder to think what the world looks like in five years for us and our allies if we don’t steel our resolve and stand tall with those who stand with us.”
It wasn’t all dismal news. Cantor said one of his proudest moments in office was when President Obama signed the Gabriella Miller Kids First Research Act, which aimed to find cures and treatments for pediatric diseases.
Cantor ended by thanking three Republicans specifically. He thanked House Speaker John Boehner for his “firm leadership” while “not being afraid to show us all your kind heart and your soft spot from time to time,” to which the chamber erupted in bipartisan laughter.
He also named Budget Chairman Paul Ryan for his commitment to “conservative solutions” and incoming Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy. Both men were referred to as “dear friends.”
Before waving and blowing kisses to a bipartisan standing ovation, Cantor closed his speech in the most appropriate way he knew how, saying, “And with that, I yield back.”

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State Department Using Facebook for Visa Delay Damage Control

State Department Using Facebook for Visa Delay Damage Control

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — International students and others looking to travel to the United States this fall are concerned about whether glitches in the State Department’s visa processing system will prevent them from getting their travel documents on time — and have taken to social media to vent.The system in charge of processing and printing visas has been at least partially down since July 20, and a steady backlog of visa cases means frustrated travelers are looking for answers. For many, the first place they turn is Facebook and, perhaps to their surprise, the State Department is responding.“I did my F-1 visa interview in Luxembourg on 21st July. However it’s been 10 days.  We get continued contacts with the embassy and they said they cannot process anything right now, but isn’t the system partially working?” asked Allen Liu, who studies at UCLA, on the State Department’s Consular Affairs Bureau page Thursday morning.Consular Affairs responded to Liu six hours later: “Hi Allen, it sounds like our colleagues in Luxembourg are aware of your case and doing what they can to assist you and others like you who are anxiously awaiting visas. Thank you for your continued patience.”Another complainant, newlywed Laura Johnson, also fretted about her travel arrangements.“As I will miss my honeymoon to Florida now due to this, what’s the best way to get my passport back so at least I can go somewhere else? At the rate the London embassy replies to emails most of the honeymoon time off will be over before I get a proper answer,” Johnson wrote.“Hi Laura, we are truly sorry that you will not be able to enjoy the honeymoon you’ve planned. We are still issuing many visas, however, at a reduced rate,” Consular Affairs replied.It’s unusual to see the federal government react so personally — and relatively quickly — to individual complaints. But in the interest of damage control, the State Department has to cast a wide net in this case to reduce confusion among people all over the world who might not have much experience dealing with government red tape.“In addition to communicating through our websites, e-mail and letters, we are also reaching out to applicants via Facebook and other social media sites, such as Weibo [a Chinese microblogging site], to relay the latest information,” according to a Consular Affairs FAQ page on its website.Plus, the State Department isn’t sure when this problem will be fully resolved. There have been “performance issues” since Consular Affairs performed upgrades on its Consolidated Consular Database, the hub for all visa and passport applications, on July 20, spokeswoman Marie Harf said Wednesday.“We anticipate it may take some time before we process all of the pending cases created by the performance issue,” she said.The Consular Affairs bureau is working with Microsoft and Oracle, the makers of the database’s technology, to fix the problem, which it believes is related to outdated hardware and software, as opposed to something malicious like a virus.Meanwhile, passports are still being processed in a timely fashion. But the glitches prevent embassies from physically printing visas for individuals looking to come to the United States.For students seeking admission to the U.S. for the fall 2014 semester, which for many colleges starts in August, Consular Affairs is already recommending a Plan B: making arrangements with their school’s administrators for starting their studies after their program begins.But that was little consolation for Liu, the UCLA student, who wrote back to Consular Affairs on its Facebook page.“I have my summer course next Monday,” he wrote. “I desperately need the visa as soon as possible.”
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CMS Official: ‘Bumps’ Possible in HealthCare.gov Fall Enrollment

CMS Official: ‘Bumps’ Possible in HealthCare.gov Fall Enrollment

ABC News(WASHINGTON) — Things have gotten better for HealthCare.gov, but there could be “bumps” in this fall’s open-enrollment period for 2015 coverage, a top CMS official told a House Committee Thursday.“I expect that it won’t be perfect,” CMS Principal Deputy Administrator Andy Slavitt told the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, at a hearing about Affordable Care Act implementation.“Everybody will remain on their toes,” Slavitt said, noting that CMS is “expecting to have a good open enrollment” period.ACA open enrollment for 2015 begins this November.After HealthCare.gov’s troubled rollout, the Government Accountability Office predicted in a study released Wednesday that more problems could loom this fall.“Unless CMS improves contract management and adheres to a structured governance process, significant risks remain that upcoming open enrollment periods could encounter challenges,” the GAO wrote.Slavitt cautiously insinuated that enrollment will probably be a lot smoother this time around. He pointed to a “big testing window” for HealthCare.gov and “daily intensive management of the project” this summer.“I think this year we can expect we’re in a vastly different situation. For one, we have a website that’s already up and live and running,” Slavitt said.
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Seven Congressional Perks Eric Cantor Will Have to Give Up

Seven Congressional Perks Eric Cantor Will Have to Give Up

US House of Representatives(WASHINGTON) — Former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor is leaving behind one of Washington’s most powerful titles this week as Congress goes on recess, meaning he will have to cope with the loss of many of the advantages that come with being the No. 2 Republican in the U.S. House of Representatives.The Virginia Republican, who was defeated in his June primary by an economics professor and first-time candidate, will serve out his term in Congress, but he’ll have to do it without any of these perks:
1. The EntourageLeading the Republican House caucus isn’t easy and Cantor relied on a large staff of dozens in his district office, Washington, D.C. office and leadership office to keep things running smoothly. But now he’s going to have to downsize. The incoming leadership team of Reps. Kevin McCarthy of California and Steve Scalise of Louisiana have already absorbed many of his responsibilities — and snapped up some of his soon-to-be out of work staffers, according to Politico.
2. Fancy Invites
Even before his successor was named, Cantor lost much of the influence he commanded before losing the support of his constituents. He’ll be in office until January, but as a back-bencher, he shouldn’t expect to lead any more congressional delegations to places like Davos, Switzerland, where he attended the World Economic Forum last January. (He was, however, spotted in the Hamptons after his defeat.)
3. Proximity to Power
Since his defeat, Cantor has been a no-show at press conferences and leadership meetings. He’s also missed a higher percentage of votes since losing his primary than in his previous 14 years of service, according to Roll Call. And another thing: He can kiss goodbye all those coveted photo-ops with House Speaker John Boehner. As Boehner’s No. 2, Cantor had been an ubiquitous presence by the speaker’s side for years, but will now recede into the background.
4. The Attention
Most members of Congress love being in the spotlight (as long as there’s no scandal involved), and few lawmakers were in as much demand as Cantor. That’s all over. However, Cantor’s defeat may actually be a blessing in disguise. He no longer has to brave the scores of reporters around the Capitol seeking comment on his conference’s actions.
5. Mmmmm…Steak
We don’t know for sure if Cantor has seen his last political campaign, but his ouster certainly put a damper on his influence in the party. He has done little stumping for other Republicans since losing his own race — making the thousand-dollar campaign-expensed steak dinners a thing of the past for now.
6. Office Space
If you wanted to find House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, you could often find him around the House majority leader’s suite on the second floor of the Capitol. Now, the best place to find Cantor will be on the third floor of the Cannon House Office Building, where the Richmond congressman will be serving out the rest of his term in political exile.7. Bye Bye, @GOPLeaderCantor passed the social media baton shortly after addressing the House as majority leader for the last time. If you want to tweet at Cantor, you can find him at @RepEricCantor — @GOPLeader now belongs to McCarthy.
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‘Hispandering:’ Is DC’s Newest Buzzword Offensive?

‘Hispandering:’ Is DC’s Newest Buzzword Offensive?

Architect of the Capitol(WASHINGTON) — Washington has never been short of political jargon. The “conversation,” the “narrative,” “filibuster,” and even “sequester” have all seeped into everyday language. But a new word has arrived on the scene, and it’s causing a stir.“Hispandering,” a portmanteau of “Hispanic” and “pandering,” is a charge that means precisely what it looks like. No one can say exactly who coined the term. Some point to mentions as early as 2002.The current kerfuffle over “hispandering” started this summer when Republican National Committee Hispanic Media Communications Director Izzy Santa accused Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley of doing it in a recent string of public comments.Santa accused Hillary Clinton of doing it too.“Strange thing happened last week, Hillary Clinton in a matter of 24 hours flip-flopped on the 2008 immigration law for trafficking victims,” Santa wrote in an e-mail sent to reporters. Santa pointed out that Clinton had once said she was open to changing the 2008 law, but, the email read, “the next day in front of Univision’s Jorge Ramos, she switched her stance and said she does not support changes to the 2008 law. Hispandering?”Back in June, the Democratic National Committee’s Director of Hispanic Media Pili Tobar called the word “offensive” — an assessment she echoed in a follow-up statement to ABC News this week.“It’s clear that the RNC isn’t interested in finding solutions — while Republicans keep paying lip service to Latinos and repeating silly phrases that demean the community,” Tobar said.For her part, Santa said any discussion of the word is pure fluff — a non-issue.“‘Hispandering’ is just a word. People use it. It’s not meant to be offensive to the Hispanic community,” she said in an interview with ABC News. “It’s a simple, popular word that is commonly used. As a Puerto Rican myself, if somebody used the term ‘hispandering’ to me, I wouldn’t be offended.”She added, “I’m sorry that the DNC is not in tune with the Hispanic community and doesn’t realize it’s used very widely, whether in private conversations or in statements issued by the RNC.”The debate comes at a time when Congress, on the verge of its August recess, is mulling a solution to the flow of migrants across the border. Some Hispanic voices are skeptical of “hispandering,” but say the real question is whether Congress will act on the border crisis and immigration reform.Bertha Guerrero, director of National Advocacy at the Hispanic Federation, emphasized that “There should be substantive dialogue when it comes to the needs of the Latino community, and I don’t think we should really be using that term.”Maria Torres, a professor of Latin American and Latino Studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago and Executive Director of the Inter-University Program on Latino Research, advised both sides to correct their approach — rhetorically and politically: “No group likes to be demeaned or thought about just as a group to be pandered to,” she noted.But to her, like to Guerrero, the real problem lies in the inaction.“All these other types of attacks like Republicans attacking Democrats for pandering, or Democrats pointing the finger at Republicans over immigration reform — all these are sideshows that will alienate the Latino voter. There is a third option, and that’s staying home,” she added. “We need more than just one party correcting the other for being linguistically incorrect.”Follow @ABCNewsRadio Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Boehner v. Obama: House Approves Resolution to Sue President

Boehner v. Obama: House Approves Resolution to Sue President

Official White House Photo by Pete Souz(WASHINGTON) — In a partisan vote that marks a new escalation in the Republican confrontation with President Obama, the House of Representatives approved a resolution to authorize Speaker John Boehner to initiate litigation against the president over allegations he’s repeatedly overstepped his constitutional authority.
At issue is President Obama’s changing of the Affordable Care Act law related to its penalty against businesses that do not offer health care to their employees.  The provision — and the economic impact from its proposed penalty — was twice delayed by the Obama administration; critics allege that was done to shield Democrats from blowback at the ballot box. Because of the changes, the provision will now take effect in 2016.
In a floor speech during debate on the bill, Boehner said the vote was not about differences between Republicans and Democrats, but was, “about defending the Constitution that we swore an oath to uphold, and acting decisively when it may be compromised.”
“No member of this body needs to be reminded of what the Constitution states about the president’s obligation to faithfully execute the laws of our nation. No member needs to be reminded of the bonds of trust that have been frayed, of the damage that’s already been done to our economy and to our people,” Boehner, R-Ohio, said. “Are you willing to let any president choose what laws to execute and what laws to change?  Are you willing to let anyone tear apart what our founders have built?”
Five Republicans joined a unanimous Democratic Caucus in opposition to the resolution.Throughout the week, Democrats have complained that Republicans will potentially waste millions of dollars with what they called a “political stunt” that they believe will put the GOP on track to impeach the president.”This lawsuit is frivolous. It is also wasteful and without merit,” Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Texas, claimed during debate on the bill, which he voted against. “We must focus on critical legislative priorities instead of political lawsuits that will do nothing but waste millions of taxpayers’ dollars.”Rep. Adam Schiff, who also voted against the measure, questioned whether the House even has standing to sue the president over what he termed “a policy difference.””The House cannot speak for the Senate which doesn’t agree with its position, and, therefore, cannot represent the legislative branch,” Schiff, D-California, said during debate on the bill. “This Congress has a remedy: if it does not like the way in which the president has implemented the Affordable Care Act, it can change the law. That would be a far better approach, one more consistent with our separation of powers than this expensive and ill-conceived lawsuit.”Boehner will not bring the matter up for a vote before the Bipartisan Legal Advisor Group, known as BLAG. Instead, the next step will either be the House general counsel either files or hires outside counsel, according to a Boehner spokesman.According to Boehner spokesman Michael Steel, the speaker and his team, “decided a BLAG vote was unnecessary, after consulting legal experts.””The BLAG will not have to meet,” Steel says. “We have greater standing if it’s an act of the whole House.”A U.S. District Court judge will have the final word whether the House actually has standing to sue the president, but Wednesday’s vote to sue the president will almost certainly be one of the recurring soundtracks during the 97-day countdown to the fall elections.Immediately following the vote, Rep. Greg Walden, the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, sent out a fundraising email with the subject line “Give Obama Hell!” that sought to stimulate 1,500 new grassroots supporters.The White House, meanwhile, reacted quickly, soliciting email addresses on its website but also making clear that the president will continue to take executive actions if Congress continues to block him legislatively.”President Obama is ready and willing to work with Republicans in Congress if they decide to get serious and do something for the American people,” the statement read. “But he is also committed to acting however he can to help more working families — even as Congress won’t.”
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Sen. Boxer: Obama’s Pollution Proposal Can Prevent Bronchitis, Asthma Attacks, Heart Attacks

Sen. Boxer: Obama’s Pollution Proposal Can Prevent Bronchitis, Asthma Attacks, Heart Attacks

US Senator Barbara Boxer(WASHINGTON) — Environmental Protection Agency hearings are discussing a proposed rule that would limit carbon pollution from power plants.
The proposal, from the Obama administration, would cut pollution 30% by 2030.
Senator Barbara Boxer supports the proposal, saying it would save and improve thousands of lives.”It will avoid up to 3,700 cases of bronchitis in children; 150,000 asthma attacks; 3,300 heart attacks; 6,600 premature deaths and 490,000 missed days of school and work,” Boxer said.Boxer cited a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll that reported about 70% of Americans believe such a rule is needed.
The June poll found 57% of Republicans, 76% of Independents, and 79% of Democrats support limiting greenhouse gases from existing power plants.Follow @ABCNewsRadio Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Former IRS Official Calls Conservatives ‘Crazies’ in Emails

Former IRS Official Calls Conservatives ‘Crazies’ in Emails

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — Former Internal Revenue Service senior official Lois Lerner apparently believed conservatives were “a–holes” and “crazies,” according to emails released by the House Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday.In a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, committee chairman Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich., released a redacted email exchange from Lerner’s official IRS email account that Republicans believe shows she held personal bias and hostility against conservatives.In the Nov. 9, 2012 email evidently sent while Lerner was vacationing in England, she appeared to refer to conservatives as “a–holes” and suggest they could cause the downfall of the federal government.“So we don’t need to worry about alien teRrorists. (sic) It’s our own crazies that will take us down,” Lerner wrote in an email to a recipient whose identity was redacted. A Republican aide at the Ways and Means Committee said the person Lerner was emailing was not an agency employee.The unknown person said American talk radio shows were “scary to listen to” and said callers to those shows were “rabid.”The House voted earlier this year to find Lerner in contempt of Congress and also, on a separate resolution, to request that Holder appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the targeting of conservative nonprofit groups and possible criminal wrongdoing at the IRS.So far, Holder, who is also the target of articles impeachment in the House, has maintained that he will not comply with the House’s request.“Despite the serious investigation and evidence this committee has undertaken into the IRS’ targeting of individuals for their beliefs, there is no indication that DOJ is taking this matter seriously,” Camp said. “In light of this new information, I hope DOJ will aggressively pursue this case and finally appoint a special counsel, so the full truth can be revealed and justice is served.”
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Senators Introduce Bill to Combat College Sexual Assault

Senators Introduce Bill to Combat College Sexual Assault

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — A group of bipartisan senators introduced a bill Wednesday to curb sexual assaults occurring on college campuses.“If you are a young woman and you attend school, the odds jump that you will be sexually assaulted at school, probably by someone you know from your class, from a team, from a party,” Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., said. “The price of a college education should not be that one in five women will be sexually assaulted.”“We are telling our young people every day that in order to get ahead they have to go to school. Let’s make sure that when they do that they’re safe,” Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said.“We are done with the days of asking victims why they drank too much, or wore the wrong thing or went to the wrong place or hung out with the wrong guy,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said.  “Those days are done and students are embracing a new culture of accountability that will be enforced through this measure.”The measure, called the Campus Accountability and Safety Act (CASA), will create new support services for victims of sexual assault on college campuses, including designating Confidential Advisors for students to speak with, and ensures on-campus staff will received specialized training on handling sexual assault cases.
It also requires colleges and universities to survey all of their students on their experiences with sexual violence on campus; requires the Department of Education to release the names of schools with pending investigations into their handling of sexual assault cases; increases coordination between colleges and law enforcement; removes the ability of athletic departments to handle sexual assault cases involving athletes; and institutes a penalty for schools that don’t comply with Title IX.The senators were joined by survivors of sexual assault, who detailed the responses they received when they reported their assaults.“When I reported that I was sexually assaulted, someone told me that rape was like a football game and that I should look back on that game to figure out what I would do differently in that situation,” Annie Clark, a former student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said.“One Sunday morning my sophomore year at Carolina, I woke up in a bed soaked in blood with bruises of my attacker. My body was covered in bruises and far away from home, I was alone in my recovery, told by my administrators that I could just not handle college,” Andrea Pino, a student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said.The co-sponsors of the bill include Sens. Gillibrand, Blumenthal, Rubio, Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., Dean Heller, R-N.V., Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., and Mark Warner, D-Va.The bill comes weeks after a Senate subcommittee released a survey finding that 41 percent of institutions didn’t conduct a single investigation of sexual assault on their campuses in the past five years.
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Impeach the President? History Isn’t on GOP’s Side

Impeach the President? History Isn’t on GOP’s Side

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — They say that history repeats itself, but when it comes to impeachment, Republicans may have learned their lesson the first time.House Speaker John Boehner insisted Tuesday that Republicans had “no plans to impeach the president,” calling talk of removing President Obama from office “a scam started by Democrats at the White House.”But Dan Pfeiffer, a senior White House adviser, told reporters last Friday the House has “opened the door” to impeaching the president by filing a lawsuit against him over changes made to the health care law that were not approved by Congress.So why are Republican leaders apparently steering away from trying to oust the president?One reason may be that it didn’t make too many people happy the last time.With midterms around the corner and a majority in the Senate up for grabs, Republicans have a lot of chips on the table. The GOP needs public opinion on their side, and based on what happened last time, impeachment likely won’t get them there.The GOP-controlled House impeached former President Bill Clinton in December 1998. But the American people didn’t seem to side with the Republicans.Almost six in 10 Americans said they were dissatisfied — or even angry — when the House voted to impeach Clinton. And 62 percent disapproved of how Senate Republicans handled the following trial.And only a third wanted the Senate to remove him from office over the Monica Lewinsky affair.What’s more, six in 10 Americans said the House voted to impeach Clinton based on partisan politics instead of the facts of the case and 74 percent thought the same thing about the Senate.The number of Americans identifying themselves as Republicans fell to match a then 15-year low at the time of the impeachment vote — a potential shot in the foot at a time when Republicans were working to unify their base.Of course, there would be several differences this time around: for example, Clinton’s approval rating was a solid 67 percent at the time of his impeachment, while Obama’s now is 46 percent.But few observers believe that Republicans who are looking to mobilize a splintered electorate and pick up the six seats they need to win control of the Senate see an impeachment battle as the way forward.
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Obama Scolds Congress: Stop ‘Hatin’ All the Time’

Obama Scolds Congress: Stop ‘Hatin’ All the Time’

The White House(KANSAS CITY, Mo.) — With just two days left until Congress goes on vacation, President Obama on Wednesday urged lawmakers to get to work and “stop just hatin’ all the time.”“We could do so much more if Congress would just come on and help out a little bit,” Obama said, chuckling. “Stop being mad all the time. …I’ve only got a couple years left. Come on, then you can be mad at the next president.”In a rowdy, campaign-style speech before a packed house at the Uptown Theatre in Kansas City, Missouri, the president slammed Republicans for wasting time on a “political stunt.”“The main vote that they’ve scheduled for today is whether or not they decide to sue me for doing my job,” he said, to boos from the crowd.“It’s not a productive thing to do,” he added. “Instead of suing me for doing my job, I want Congress to do its job.”Obama touted his executive actions and efforts to circumvent gridlock in Congress, declaring, “We act when Congress won’t.”“They are mad because I’m doing my job,” he said. “And by the way, I’ve told them, ‘I’d be happy to do it with you. The only reason I’m doing it on my own is because you don’t do anything.’”“Imagine how much further along we’d be, how much stronger our economy would be, if Congress was doing its job, too,” the president said.
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Border Crisis Funding Advances in Senate

Border Crisis Funding Advances in Senate

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The Senate advanced an emergency supplemental bill Wednesday morning that includes $2.7 billion in funding for the border crisis.The Senate voted 63 to 33 to invoke cloture on the motion to proceed to the measure, the initial procedural vote on the bill, which also includes $225 million for the Iron Dome and $615 million for combating wildfires. (It’s unclear at this time when the next vote would be.)The Senate’s measure is $1 billion less than what President Obama requested to address the influx of unaccompanied minors crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. The Republican-controlled House is considering a much smaller package — $659 million — for the border.Notably, two Senate Democrats in tough midterm races this year voted against advancing the measure — Sens. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., and Mary Landrieu, D-La. 
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‘Do Nothing’ Congress Gets Busy Raising Campaign Cash

‘Do Nothing’ Congress Gets Busy Raising Campaign Cash

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — If you’re looking for a senator or member of Congress this week, you may have better luck at The Capital Grille than the Capitol.This final stretch of July is not just the last chance for Congress to address highway funding and the border crisis before a five-week vacation. It’s also the end of the summer fundraising circuit in one of the most expensive midterms election cycles in history — the last chance to collect checks in Washington before the fall campaign season ties down incumbents and candidates in their home districts and states.Republicans and Democrats in Congress are holding at least 100 fundraisers in Washington, D.C. in the days leading up to the August recess, according to fundraising lists obtained by ABC News, with senators who aren’t even on the ballot in 2014 holding events.With contributions ranging from $50 to $5,000, Washington politicos can join representatives and senators for breakfast, lunch and dinner — or all three.The events don’t stop at meals.Rep. Cedric Richmond, a Louisiana Democrat, is hosting a happy hour event after work Wednesday, while Rep. Jim McDermott, a Washington Democrat, is taking in a DC United soccer game with supporters later that evening.On Monday, Indiana Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly sailed supporters down the Potomac River on a lunchtime cruise sponsored by a boating industry PAC, according to an invitation obtained by the Sunlight Foundation.While Republicans and Democrats blame one another for the dysfunction that has gripped the Capitol — the 113th Congress is already on track to be one of the least productive sessions ever — they share a bipartisan knack for finding sufficient time for fundraising.Several lawmakers are holding more than one event over the course of the week, while others are cramming in multiple fundraisers a day.Take, for example, Rep. Tammy Duckworth, an Illinois Democrat, who began her day at a fundraising breakfast at Johnny’s Half Shell, a Louisiana-inspired restaurant just off Capitol Hill, and ended her day over Italian food at Carmine’s.Rep. Marsha Blackburn, a Tennessee Republican, hosted a noon lunch on Tuesday at Bearnaise, a French bistro on Capitol Hill, and six hours later she was in a private booth at Fiola, an Italian restaurant that sits between the Capitol and the White House.She didn’t, however, have the restaurant to herself.Rep. Steny Hoyer, the No. 2 Democrat in the House, held a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee fundraising dinner of his own at Fiola on Tuesday night.Hoyer offered a greeting to Blackburn’s table as he made his way to one of Fiola’s two private dining rooms. (The other was occupied by a party that included Rep. Mike Rogers, a Republican from Michigan.)“We don’t discriminate. For us, it’s really about hospitality,” said Jessica Botta, the director of culinary development at Fiola, which regularly hosts Washington lawmakers but also out-of-towners like former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. “We’re just providing a great service to Democrats and Republicans.”The end of the legislative week is not the end of the fundraising calendar: one restaurateur expects roughly a third of his election-year business to come from fundraisers.
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