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23 января, 02:56

‘We Call Ourselves the Badasses’: Meet the New Women of Congress

The history-making class of new women on Capitol Hill is here, and its members have a lot to say.

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23 января, 02:25

Clyburn might sit out Democratic primary

COLUMBIA, S.C. — House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn said he won’t endorse a presidential candidate until close to South Carolina’s Democratic primary date, if at all.“I’m not gonna take sides,” Clyburn, the highest-ranking African-American Democrat in the House, told POLITICO. “It’ll be a long time before I take sides in this race.”The South Carolina primary isn’t until late February 2020. But Democratic candidates — both declared and undeclared — have already begun making stops in the critical early state. Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) were here in Columbia on Monday for Martin Luther King Jr. Day events, with Sanders staying through Tuesday. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) will visit on Wednesday, followed by Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), who will make her first South Carolina stop on Friday.Clyburn’s presence looms so large over his state’s primary that the Democratic National Committee has in the past asked him to stay neutral. To date, he has met with Harris, Booker, Sanders and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), although he said his meeting with Sanders wasn’t about presidential politics. “I’ve talked to a lot of these folks,” Clyburn said. “I’m gonna help everybody I possibly can because I think that South Carolina was awarded this pre-primary status in large measure because I made the promise that I would not put my thumbs on the scale for any one candidate because the national party felt that that would be unfair, and the state party needs all these candidates coming here as often as they possibly can, staying as long as they possibly can, helping us build our party and help this state’s economy. So I’m not gonna do anything to cut that short.”Nevertheless, Clyburn predicted to The New York Times that former Vice President Joe Biden would win the primary.“If Biden gets in the race, everybody else would be running for second place,” Clyburn said. “From African-Americans, I’ve only heard three names being discussed: that’s Booker, Harris and Biden.”Clyburn’s office clarified that his comments should not be “misconstrued as an endorsement.” “His comments about Biden reflect the fact that Biden is very popular in South Carolina due to the amount of time he spends in the state and that he already has tremendous name recognition,” said Hope Derrick, a Clyburn spokeswoman.Clyburn stayed neutral through the state’s 2008 primary, but he publicly told former President Bill Clinton to “chill a little bit” on his Obama attacks days before the vote. The ex-president blamed Clyburn for his wife’s thrashing in South Carolina in an angry 2 a.m. call, according to the Democratic leader’s memoir. Clyburn didn’t endorse President Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton until June that year. But he backed Clinton over Sanders in 2016 about a week before the state’s primary and told reporters that Sanders never asked for his endorsement. Clinton ultimately crushed Sanders in South Carolina, 74 percent to 26 percent.“The last time I did get involved, late, on behalf of Hillary,” he recalled. “This time, if I get involved, it will be late. Publicly involved. But my family will know what I’m doing.”Article originally published on POLITICO Magazine]]>

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23 января, 02:16

Emergency plan for federal workers: Credit cards, pawnshops, second jobs

Many of the 800,000 federal government employees forced to go on unpaid leave or work without wages are running up credit card debt, taking out loans and even flocking to pawn shops. Others are rushing to find temporary work or tapping family and friends.In the first weeks after the shutdown, banks got “a couple dozen calls” from people seeking relief from payments, said Nick Simpson, a spokesperson for the Consumer Bankers Association, which represents the nation’s retail lenders. Now, he says, the cries for help have picked up tenfold.“Our banks fully expect the call volume to increase” as Feb. 1 – when mortgage payments and loans come due – approaches, said Simpson.With the partial government shutdown approaching the five-week mark, thousands of furloughed workers are facing the prospect of suffering lasting damage to their finances. As they turn to installment loans, car title loans and payday cash advances, which charge exorbitantly high interest, some are making payments late, risking hits to their credit scores that could last for years. Others are starting to drain their retirement savings.If the shutdown isn’t over by mid-February, DC Superior Court clerk Marie Smith said, she’ll have to get a part-time job.“Members of Congress still getting paid – to me that’s not honorable,” Smith said while waiting in line in mid-20-degree weather Tuesday for a free meal at a Washington food bank for federal employees.“It’s just a lack of respect for the dedicated men and women who run this country,” said a Department of Justice employee who celebrated her 34th anniversary of government service last week without a paycheck. Like most of the 30 or so federal employees interviewed by POLITICO while waiting outside the food bank, she declined to give her name. Others turned their heads and shielded their faces as a television crew panned the line.Some were listed as “essential” employees, meaning they have to report to work. One attorney said he’s still expected to travel to Chicago for a case – on his own dime. Meanwhile, he’s looking at putting his law school student loans into forbearance. An employee of the Federal Aviation Administration who would only give his name as Nick M. said he’ll be delivering food for DoorDash as long as the shutdown continues. Another employee, named Omar, said he‘d been spending more on his credit card but feared the hit that his credit score would take. Some federal employees are turning to GoFundMe.com, an online crowdfunding service.Bret Conant, a civil engineering technician with the Forest Service in Carbondale, Colo., has raised more than $16,000 in a GoFundMe campaign set up on Jan. 15 to help pay for medical bills. Conant’s son, Lars, was born on Jan. 3 about four weeks early and with cystic fibrosis. Shortly after birth, Lars had to be flown to Presbyterian/St. Luke’s Medical Center in Denver for surgery and remains there for recovery, Conant said Tuesday.“The not-getting-paid part is really difficult,” Conant said. “We didn’t have much saved.”Conant, 35, said he and his wife have spent virtually all of their $3,000 in emergency savings and have received donations from family to help in the short term. He said he’s planning to ask his mortgage provider, Navy Federal Credit Union, to delay his next payment until the middle of next month. The GoFundMe donations, which he has not received yet, will hopefully cover his son’s medical expenses, Conant said.“We know we are going to get paid back,” he said. “At the same time, people need to eat.”Several mortgage lenders, banks and credit unions have stepped up to offer the federal employees a reprieve from payments, loan modifications and low or zero-interest loans. They were pressed to take action by financial regulators, who urged them to “consider prudent efforts to modify terms on existing loans or extend new credit to help affected borrowers.” Thanks to the guidance, “banks aren’t requiring the same level of verification and paperwork for customers in these programs as they do for traditional loan or mortgage products,” Simpson said. Lenders from Bank of America and Citibank to JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo are offering relief. PayPal, the operator of a global online payments system, is offering federal employees loans of up to $500. Some lawmakers are also trying to ease the pain. Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) sponsored a bill that would pay national security workers immediately. And freshman Rep. TJ Cox (D-Calif.) last week introduced a bill that would require the Treasury to offer unpaid federal workers no-interest loans of up to $6,000.But many of those hit by the ripple effects of the shutdown – contractors, for instance, or owners of small businesses near federal buildings – have fewer low-risk options to make ends meet, and they won’t receive back pay when the shutdown ends. “Pawn shops, payday loans, delaying paying your bill, running up credit card debt — these are all the tricks that federal workers are beginning to discover that are familiar to many working people about what happens when you miss a paycheck,” said Aaron Klein of the Brookings Center. And it’s not just government workers who are affected: Waiters and hairstylists who cater to federal employees also are finding that “it’s really difficult to borrow $700,” Klein said. Officials from Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) have called on financial institutions to show some grace to federal workers, most of whom don’t have much of a financial cushion, according to a 2015 study of the effects of the 16-day 2013 government shutdown on federal employees’ finances. According to that study, the median worker had money on hand to cover just eight days of average spending, and almost 20 percent barely made it paycheck to paycheck. Nearly two-thirds of government workers lacked the cushion to pay for two weeks of expenses. NRI Staffing, a temporary employment agency for the D.C. metropolitan area, said it has seen a surge in applications from federal employees looking for short-term work opportunities over the last month. Payday loans offer a less attractive option for many employees. The short-term loans are banned in 16 states and the District of Columbia, and in many other states, the loans are capped at $500. Payday lenders also require proof of an income stream, so some may not lend to customers who don’t know when their next paycheck will come. “While many individuals had low liquid assets, they used multiple sources of short-term liquidity to smooth consumption,” the economists found. “Sources of short-term liquidity include delaying recurring payments such as for mortgages and credit card balances.”Without special accommodations, though, late payments can hurt credit scores. The Federal Housing Administration last week called on servicers and lenders to “extend special forbearance plans to borrowers impacted by the shutdown.” Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have also told servicers that they can offer forbearance plans to borrowers directly affected by the shutdown. The roughly 800,000 unpaid federal employees owe $438 million in mortgage or rent payments this month, according to a report from Zillow. Those who own their homes make about $249 million in monthly mortgage payments. Those who rent pay about $189 million for housing each month, according to a HotPads analysis cited by Zillow. Patrick Temple-West contributed to this report.Article originally published on POLITICO Magazine]]>

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23 января, 01:42

Trump's liaison to Congress eyeing exit

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White House legislative affairs director Shahira Knight is preparing to leave what many insiders call a thankless job.

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23 января, 01:15

I Know the Truth About the Covington Catholic Controversy

Tell me how you voted, and I’ll tell you what you think you saw.

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22 января, 23:29

White House forging ahead with State of the Union planning

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Officials intend to move forward until Nancy Pelosi publicly axes the event, a move that they believe would be seen as nakedly political.

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22 января, 22:57

Judge rejects GOP victory claim in disputed N. Carolina race

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RALEIGH, N.C. — A North Carolina judge ruled Tuesday that there weren’t grounds for him to step in and declare victory for the Republican in the country’s last undecided congressional race amid an investigation into whether his lead was boosted by illegal vote-collection tactics.Superior Court Judge Paul Ridgeway rejected a lawsuit by Republican Mark Harris insisting he be declared the winner. Harris narrowly leads Democrat Dan McCready in the 9th district contest, but the numbers have been clouded by doubt due to allegations that mail-in ballots could have been altered or discarded by a Harris subcontractor.Harris’ attorneys asked the judge to step in because they said the district in south-central North Carolina urgently needs a representative in Washington, D.C. The Republican’s attorneys also argued they were forced into court because the now-disbanded elections board was supposed to have declared him the winner in November, delayed acting to sort out ballot-fraud allegations, and missed all the deadlines specified in state law to certify him as the winner.An unrelated lawsuit led to the old elections board disbanding last month, but the staff’s investigation into accusations of ballot fraud by an operative hired by Harris’ campaign continues. A revamped elections board will officially be in place as of Jan. 31.It is that board that “will be in the best position to weigh the factual and legal issues” to conclude the rightful winner, Ridgeway said after two hours of arguments. “The court concludes that the petitioners have not shown a clear right to the extraordinary relief” Harris requested.Democrats who this month took control of the U.S. House said they wouldn’t seat Harris without an investigation into the allegations, and suggested they may examine the dispute no matter what the state elections board does.Lawyers for McCready and the state elections board wanted the lawsuit dismissed and for the incoming elections board to ensure a completed investigation.McCready attorney Marc Elias, who represents Democrats around the country in election disputes, said some states such as Florida have laws placing a priority on elections being determined quickly, while other states such as Minnesota allow more time for resolutions that conclusively decide the rightful winner.“North Carolina has made a judgment to be a get-it-done-right state. In doing so, it has set forth a very, very clear set of deadlines that are put on pause, or on hiatus, pending a protest,” Elias said.North Carolina’s since-disbanded elections board twice made bipartisan decisions in late November to withhold finalizing the Harris-McCready election under a provision in state law that allows it to act if it suspects balloting was tainted by some type of fraud or corruption.Harris’ lawyers said he and his wife have submitted to interviews by investigators and his campaign has turned over documents to ensure the investigation is done right and his name can be cleared. But the elections board also can’t operate on its own timetable, attorney Alex Dale said.“They cannot do this open-endedly,” he said.The questions surround a political operative in rural Bladen County, Leslie McCrae Dowless, who worked for Harris’ campaign at the candidate’s insistence. Dowless has declined interviews. A statement by his attorney said he is innocent of any wrongdoing.More than a dozen witnesses signed sworn affidavits alleging that Dowless or people working for him collected incomplete and unsealed ballots from voters. It’s illegal for anyone other than a close relative or guardian to take a person’s ballot.Harris, the former Baptist pastor of a Charlotte megachurch, said he didn’t learn until late last month that the state elections board investigated Dowless and others potentially involved in ballot fraud in 2016.“I would later learn that obviously there had been things that should have been looked into, but everything that had been looked into had come out just perfectly fine,” Harris said in one of several television interviews he conducted earlier this month. Neither Harris nor McCready have responded to interview requests from The Associated Press.The state elections board, which has no power to prosecute election cases, forwarded its evidence from the 2016 election to the federal prosecutor’s office in Raleigh, which has not said whether it will pursue charges.McCready, an Iraq War veteran and head of a solar-energy investment firm, said last week that Harris should be prosecuted if he participated in election misconduct.Article originally published on POLITICO Magazine]]>

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22 января, 22:41

Trump's health secretary refuses Democrats' request to testify on separated kids

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HHS Secretary Alex Azar has declined a request to testify on the Trump administration's policy of separating migrant families at the border, angering House Democrats who accused the administration of "stonewalling" their investigation into the controversial practice. House Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), who announced earlier this month plans to hold a hearing on the administration's separation policy, had personally asked Azar to testify, a committee spokesperson told POLITICO. Azar's office declined the request Tuesday afternoon, the spokesperson said."It has been eight months since this cruel policy came to light, and Secretary Azar has yet to appear before Congress at a hearing specifically on this policy," Pallone said in a statement, calling Azar's refusal "unacceptable."A spokesperson for Azar, whose department oversees care for migrant children, said HHS has been forthcoming with information requests from the committee and other Democrats. HHS did not immediately say whether it would send someone else to the upcoming hearing by the Energy and Commerce's oversight subcommittee. "HHS has participated in numerous briefings with congressional staff to provide updates," the spokesperson said, adding the department holds a weekly call with the Hill and has arranged more than 100 congressional visits to the facilities caring for the children. Azar last summer became the Trump administration's reluctant face of the migrant crisis as concern over family separations mounted and HHS led efforts to reunify more than 2,500 families. The "zero-tolerance" policy of separating migrant families at the border was driven by the White House and the Department of Homeland Security, although HHS played a key role by taking custody of the separated children.The health department's inspector general last week concluded the Trump administration likely separated "thousands" more children at the border than previously known, and separations began months earlier than the administration had acknowledged. The administration ended the policy last June.Pallone said he is still planning to hold a hearing on family separations — and that Azar will eventually face questions on his role in the policy."[W]e are going to get him here at some point one way or another," he added.Article originally published on POLITICO Magazine]]>

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22 января, 22:34

U.S. to proceed with extradition in Huawei case, guaranteeing months of tension

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The U.S. Department of Justice confirmed today that it will continue seeking the extradition of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou, guaranteeing months of multi-country tension over the high-profile case.The department said it would meet a Jan. 30 deadline to formally request Meng's extradition from Canada."We will continue to pursue the extradition of defendant Ms. Meng Wanzhou, and will meet all deadlines set by the U.S./Canada Extradition Treaty," Justice Department spokesman Marc Raimondi said. "We greatly appreciate Canada's continuing support in our mutual efforts to enforce the rule of law."Hours before the U.S. statement was issued, China warned both Canada and the U.S. that there would be consequences should the case proceed. Meng faces multiple U.S. charges related to alleged breaches of international sanctions against Iran.Her arrest by Canadian authorities has prompted a furious response from China. It is now sparring with Canada over the arrest of several Canadian citizens, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been reaching out to other world leaders to raise awareness of what Canada calls "arbitrary" punishment.Confirmation that the U.S. intends to proceed with the case could mean many more months of court filings and appeals under Canada's extradition process.Article originally published on POLITICO Magazine]]>

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22 января, 22:12

Furloughed workers will still be counted as 'employed' in January jobs report

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Despite not working or getting paid for the past month, federal employees furloughed by the government won’t be counted as unemployed in the January jobs report next week, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Federal government employees who are working, but who will not be paid until funding is available, are included in employment counts,” BLS wrote in a fact sheet on its website. “Furloughed federal employees who were not working during the reference period, but who will be paid once funding is available, are also included in employment counts.“ Beyond that, the government says it will count federal contractors who don’t receive back pay as unemployed. There are no concrete numbers on how many contracted workers have been furloughed, but it’s expected to run in the tens of thousands. Sen. Tina Smith (D-Minn.) introduced legislation last week to give contractors some back pay, but it‘s unclear whether it will pass. Over the past few days, some economists expressed worry that the jobs numbers would be affected due to a lapse in funding for the Census Bureau’s household survey, from which BLS draws its employment data. BLS, in the fact sheet, said the data would not be compromised. “This data collection activity is mostly funded by BLS and, at this time, is not affected by the lapse of appropriation,” BLS wrote. “Therefore, data for January 2019 will be collected as scheduled.“ Article originally published on POLITICO Magazine]]>

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22 января, 21:58

Ross scheduled to testify before House Oversight panel in March

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Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross will testify before the House Oversight Committee on March 14, marking one of the first scheduled showdowns between a Trump administration official and the new Democratic-controlled chamber.House Oversight Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) said in a statement on Tuesday that Ross agreed to testify voluntarily without a subpoena. Ross is expected to be asked about the 2020 census and the addition of a citizenship question, among other issues, Cummings said."Committee members expect Secretary Ross to provide complete and truthful answers to a wide range of questions," Cummings said. "The committee also expects full compliance with all of our outstanding document requests prior to the hearing."Earlier this month, a federal judge vacated the census citizenship question, ruling that it violated the Administrative Procedures Act. States sued the Commerce Department last spring over the planned inclusion of the question. Ross had argued that the question is needed to give the Justice Department more data to enforce laws protecting voters from discrimination.Ross's testimony was widely expected as Cummings had said the Commerce secretary's appearance was a priority for the Oversight Committee, and Ross said earlier this month that he would testify voluntarily.Article originally published on POLITICO Magazine]]>

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22 января, 21:36

White House to name Grogan top policy aide

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The White House is expected to soon name Joe Grogan as the next head of its Domestic Policy Council, two sources with knowledge of the decision told POLITICO.The move would elevate Grogan, a top Office of Management and Budget health care official and ally of acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, to a role that could give him broad new influence over the Trump administration’s major policy priorities, including lowering drug prices and efforts to unwind Obamacare.Grogan has worked extensively on those issues at OMB alongside Mulvaney and HHS Secretary Alex Azar. Grogan, a former lobbyist for drug giant Gilead Sciences before joining OMB in 2017, has advanced plans rolling back parts of the Affordable Care Act through regulation and helped push through an initial series of reforms targeting pharmaceutical costs. A spokesperson for Mulvaney did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Grogan has forged strong relationships with top Trump health care appointees, including CMS Administrator Seema Verma and FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb. He's likely to play an even bigger role on health care at the Domestic Policy Council, which Mulvaney is eager to reestablish as a driver of conservative policy ideas. Grogan could especially help pursue bipartisan drug pricing legislation, one source familiar with matter said, in hopes of negotiating a package that could pass a divided Congress. Any legislative effort would face long odds. House Democrats insist any major drug price bill must empower Medicare to directly negotiate drug prices, a proposal Azar has publicly ruled out and that Republicans in Congress vehemently oppose.Trump health officials have so far largely bypassed Congress in favor of trying to crack down on drug costs through a series of regulatory changes. But the administration has expressed renewed openness to legislation, amid Trump’s frustration over the lack of progress on what he considers a key campaign pledge.Grogan has joined other top administration health officials like Azar and Gottlieb in taking a harder line against the pharmaceutical industry's efforts to protect market share. The Trump administration’s DPC largely took a back seat on policy issues during its first two years under Andrew Bremberg, especially after Republican lawmakers abandoned Obamacare repeal efforts in fall 2017. Bremberg, a George W. Bush-era HHS official and former adviser to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, was nominated in September to be the next ambassador to the United Nations mission in Geneva. He was re-nominated last week after the previous Congress failed to confirm him before adjourning. Bremberg’s deputy, Lance Leggitt, was also considered to run DPC.Nancy Cook contributed to this report. Article originally published on POLITICO Magazine]]>