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House unanimously approves back pay for 800,000 furloughed federal workers
Oct-05-2013 711 0


The House on Saturday unanimously approved legislation to provide retroactive pay for furloughed federal workers after the government shutdown ends. The vote was 407-0.

The White House said Friday that it “strongly supports” the legislation and urged its “swift” passage, even while warning that the single bill alone “will not address the serious consequences of the funding lapse.”

The Senate is still deciding how to proceed with the legislation, a Democratic leadership aide said, adding that it is unlikely the Senate will act on it today.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said on the Senate floor that it is "cruel" to promise pay in the future but not allow federal workers to go back to work while the shutdown continues.

"It's really cruel to tell workers they'll receive back pay once the government opens and then refuse to open the government," he said. "Let's open the government."

Reid said the message being sent to federal workers is: "Stay home. Watch TV. Play chess. Whatever you want to do, because we won't let you work."

Approximately 800,000 government employees are furloughed during the shutdown.

Workers deemed essential and who are currently on the job will be paid for their work during the shutdown, although their paychecks could be delayed. But furloughed employees need congressional approval to receive back pay.

After past shutdowns, Congress passed similar measures, but federal employee unions had warned early in this impasse that there was no guarantee that Congress would act..

During the budget stalemate, the GOP-led House has passed a series of bills to fund some of the most popular programs impacted by the funding lapse - like national parks and care for veterans. But the Senate has declined to take up those piecemeal measures, saying that the government should instead be fully reopened.

"I'm glad to see at the very least that the Senate has plans to take up this bill," Rep. Hal Rogers R-Ky., said of the Senate's likely action on the back pay legislation. "Stop the presses! The Senate's going to take up a bill!"

The back pay measure was introduced by Democrat Jim Moran of Northern Virginia, which has one of the country’s highest populations of federal workers.

"The issue is fairness," Moran said on the House floor. "It's just wrong for hundreds of thousands of federal employees not to know whether they're going to be able to make their mortgage payment, not to know whether they're going to be able to provide for their families."

In a statement, House Speaker John Boehner lauded the passage of the measure and called for a resolution to the shutdown that includes measures to modify the Obama-backed health care reform legislation.

“It’s encouraging to see both parties come together to provide fairness for the 800,000 federal workers hurt by this shutdown," he said. "Now we should do something about the 800,000 jobs being destroyed by the president’s health care law."

Democrats continued to say they want GOP leaders to allow a vote on a government funding bill without add-ons that would make major changes to Obamacare.

Saying that ensuring retroactive pay was "the right thing to do," Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., said the fact that furloughed workers remain unable to go to work "highlights the sheer folly" of the ongoing government shutdown.

The House's move comes as the shutdown stretches into its fifth day. In an interview with The Associated Press, President Barack Obama again called on House leaders to put the "clean" funding bill up for a vote.

"We know that there are enough members in the House of Representatives -- Democrats and Republicans -- who are prepared to vote to reopen the government today," he said. "The only thing that is keeping that from happening is Speaker Boehner has made a decision that he is going to hold out to see if he can get additional concessions from us."


NBC's Kasie Hunt grills Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, on whether or not he supports giving back pay to furloughed government workers during this government shutdown.

If the Senate does take up the bill, a fast-track process could allow the bill to be passed as early as Saturday, although that move would require every senator to agree.

In an interview with NBC News, Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas -- whose lengthy argument against Obamacare last month galvanized the GOP opposition to the short-term budget bill that led to the ongoing shutdown -- would not say whether or not he will object to the agreement.

“I support the House working cooperatively to resolve this, to fund the government, and at the same time, to prevent the enormous harms Obamacare is inflicting on millions of Americans,” he said.

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Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson canceled public events on Tuesday after a van carrying three volunteers and a campaign staffer slid on ice in Iowa, flipped on its side and was hit by another vehicle, his campaign said.

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Stockert is no stranger to run-ins with the law and his mental health has been questioned in court for previous charges, according to news reports.

In 2000, Stockert was arrested after he illegally fled North Dakota to Los Angeles with his two children instead of returning them to his ex-wife, who had custody of them, according to the Bismarck Tribune.

In 2009, Stockert was in an hour-long armed standoff with police in his hometown of Dickinson, North Dakota after cops came to his house when neighbors' reported a verbal dispute, according to The Dickinson Press.

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President Barack Obama is slated Monday to finalize a set of new executive actions tightening the nation's gun laws, making his first order of business in 2016 a clear signal the president in his final year doesn't intend to go quietly.

At a meeting with Attorney General Loretta Lynch, FBI Director James Comey and other top law enforcement officials Obama is expected to sign off on a package of proposals aimed at curbing gun violence and cracking down on unregulated gun sales.

At the top of the list is an effort to expand background checks on gun sales by forcing more sellers to register as federally licensed gun dealers. The changes would be aimed at some unregistered sellers who skirt the background check laws by selling at gun shows, online or informal settings. Other moves being considered include improving reporting of lost and stolen weapons and beefing up inspections of licensed dealers, according to a person familiar with the plans who would not be named discussing proposals before they are finalized.

The package includes measures this White House has long considered but not completed, mindful of the legal fight sure to follow as well as the potential for political backlash for some fellow Democrats.

But after a steady string of mass shootings and with the clock on his tenure ticking down, Obama appears primed to push further than he has in the past.

"We definitely think there are things he can do," said Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, which advocates for expanding background checks. Gross says his recent conversations with White House aides have left him hopeful.

"It's very clear that the White House is feeling emboldened," he said.

Even before the president's formal announcement, Republicans were registering their opposition.

"The president is at minimum subverting the legislative branch, and potentially overturning its will," House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., said in a statement Monday.

Obama announced the meeting with Lynch in his weekly address from his Hawaii holiday vacation. On Thursday, he'll take his argument to prime time, participating in a town hall discussion of gun violence on CNN. He's slated to make his case for changes in his State of the Union address on Jan. 12.

The high-profile rollout reflects a White House continuing to look for ways to wrap up unfinished business, despite an uncooperative Congress.

After all but ignoring the issue in his first term, Obama changed course after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in December 2012. Nevertheless, the president failed to push a package of gun measures through Congress, including one expanding background checks.

At the same time, Obama took nearly two dozen executive actions to tighten gun laws, but left a major expansion of background checks out of the mix.

But after the shooting at a community college in Roseburg, Oregon in October, a weary and angry Obama ordered his staff to redouble the effort to look for ways to work around Congress.

Under current law, federally licensed firearms dealers are required to seek background checks on potential firearm purchasers. But advocacy groups say many sellers are currently exempt from having to register, increasing the chance of sales to customers prohibited by law from purchasing a gun.

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Obama's plans immediately set off a political debate on the presidential campaign trail, both over the policy and whether the president has the authority to make it.

Democrat Hillary Clinton, who has already proposed an executive action to close the gun show loophole, cheered Obama's plans.

"I am absolutely convinced we can have gun safety measures consistent with the Constitution," she said during a presidential campaign event in Concord, New Hampshire. "I will take on that fight. I'm very hopeful and excited that the president is going to take some action with executive action in the next week or two ... but if it's a Republican who walks into the White House within the first day, the executive orders will be reversed."

Rival Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont, told ABC's "This Week" he wished Congress could find consensus but added the move was the "right thing to do."

Republicans candidates rejected the proposals, including those who have backed some gun control measures in the past.

"This president is a petulant child," New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said Sunday on "Fox News Sunday." ''The fact is if he wants to make changes to these laws, go to Congress and convince the Congress that they're necessary. But this is going to be another illegal executive action which I'm sure will be rejected by the courts."

"I don't like changing anything," Donald Trump said on CBS' "Face the Nation." ''Right now, they have plenty of rules and regulations."

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If Republican party bosses continue meeting to discuss how to derail Donald Trump at the convention, Trump won't be the only one to turn his back on the GOP. Now, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson says he'll leave too.

"If this was the beginning of the plan to subvert the will of the voters and replace them with the will of the political elite, I assure you Donald Trump will not be the only one leaving the party," Carson said in reference to a private dinner attended in Washington by 20 party officials including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and RNC Chairman Reince Priebus.

According to the report in the Washington Post, Republican leaders are preparing now for what to do if they get to the convention in July and Trump is still holding on to a major chunk of the primary vote, but has not become the clear nominee. The topic of the dinner was peculiar as Trump has been the clear frontrunner in the GOP primary for nearly five months.

"I pray that the report in the Post this morning was incorrect. If it is correct," Carson said. "If it is correct, every voter who is standing for change must know they are being betrayed. I won't stand for it," Carson said.

Read the full statement below:

“If the leaders of the Republican Party want to destroy the party, they should continue to hold meetings like the one described in the Washington Post this morning.

“If this was the beginning of a plan to subvert the will of the voters and replaces it with the will of the political elite, I assure you Donald Trump will not be the only one leaving the party.

“I pray that the report in the Post this morning was incorrect. If it is correct, every voter who is standing for change must know they are being betrayed. I won’t stand for it.

“This process is the one played out by our party. If the powerful try to manipulate it, the Republican National Convention in Cleveland next summer may be the last convention. I am prepared to lose fair and square, as I am sure is Donald. But I will not sit by and watch a theft. I intend on being the nominee. If I am not, the winner will have my support. If the winner isn’t our nominee then we have a massive problem. My campaign is about ‘We the People’ not ‘They the Powerful.'”

This article was written by Lauren Fox from Talking Points Memo and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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AP Dec-10-2015 272 0
Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia espoused racist opinions in questioning a case about affirmative action, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) charged Thursday in a Senate floor speech.

In oral arguments over the case Fisher v. the University of Texas Wednesday, Scalia suggested African-American students would do better at "slower-track schools" than UT. He added that black students come from "lesser schools, where they do not feel that they're being pushed ahead in classes that are too fast for them."

"I don't think it stands to reason that it's a good thing for the University of Texas to admit as many blacks as possible," Scalia said.

Reid pointed out all of those arguments and then hammered the conservative justice.

"These ideas that he pronounced yesterday are racist in application, if not intent," Reid said.

"It is deeply disturbing to hear a Supreme Court justice endorse racist ideas from the bench of the nation's highest court," he added, just getting warmed up.

"His endorsement of racist theories has frightening implications, not the least of which is undermining the academic achievement of Americans, African-Americans especially."

The Nevada senator also linked Scalia's statements to the rhetoric of GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump and other Republicans who have called for barring Muslims from the United States.

"The only difference between the ideas endorsed by Trump and Scalia is that Scalia has a robe and a lifetime appointment," Reid said. "The idea that African-American students are somehow inherently intellectually inferior to other students -- despicable."

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Fredreka Schouten Nov-30-2015 369 0
Donald Trump swept out of a closed-door meeting with African-American ministers Monday, claiming he had secured endorsements from the group and appearing confident that he would win the GOP nomination.

“We have many, many endorsements that came out of the meeting,” Trump told reporters Monday afternoon during an impromptu news conference at Trump Tower in Manhattan. He called the gathering “absolutely amazing.”

Neither Trump nor Darrell Scott, the Ohio pastor and Trump supporter who helped organize the event, announced any specific endorsements following the meeting attended by about 100 clergy members and religious leaders.

“Some committed,” Scott said when asked about endorsements. “I don’t know the number. The rest are praying about it.”

Trump’s campaign initially had billed the event as a meeting at which he would receive the endorsement of the religious leaders, but his camp backtracked and canceled a planned news conference as some black pastors sharply criticized Trump’s campaign statements. On Nov. 21, a Black Lives Matter activist who interrupted a Trump campaign rally was punched and kicked by attendees. Trump said the man was so disruptive that “maybe he should have been roughed up.”

In an open letter posted on Ebony magazine’s website, another group of religious figures urged the ministers to steer clear of Trump and his “incendiary rhetoric.”

MORE: Herman Cain rips Bush, will appear at Trump rally Monday in Georgia

On Monday afternoon, Trump said the pastors with whom he met didn’t “really ask” him to change his tone. “The tone,” he said, “has taken me to first position in every single poll.”

He said the group had productive conversations about key issues, such as high unemployment among young African Americans. “I saw love in that room,” he said. “I see love everywhere I go.”

Earlier in the day, Republican rival Ted Cruz, who has avoided criticizing Trump directly, appeared to depart a bit from that approach. Cruz told a town hall meeting in Iowa that Trump isn’t likely to become the GOP’s presidential nominee.

Asked for his reaction, Trump said: “He’s got to say that. He expects to be. But I think I will be. I’m leading in every poll.”

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