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GOP source: Health care vote postponed until Friday. 

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Emotional interview with the mother of “Bou Bou” Phonesavanh

“It blew open his face and his chest,” the boy’s mother, Alecia Phonesavanh, told The AJC outside Grady Memorial Hospital. “Everybody was asleep. It’s not like anyone was trying to fight.” JOHN SPINK/JSPINK@AJC.COM
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  • One person was killed and two others were hospitalized after a shooting in DeKalb County. Police were called to the 700 block of Creste Drive overnight Wednesday, DeKalb police spokeswoman Shiera Campbell said. When they arrived, they found a man shot in a building breezeway. “The victim stated he had been walking along Snapfinger Woods Drive when four males in a white car tried to rob him,” Campbell said. “When he ran, they shot him.”  Soon after, officers got calls reporting two more shootings in the area. At Snapfinger Woods Drive and Shellbark Drive, they found a man dead inside a white Jeep. It had smashed into a tree, Campbell said. Less than a mile away, another shooting victim was found walking with his brother on Snapfinger Woods at Miller Road. The victim’s brother told police his brother was shot in the parking lot of a Texaco station. Investigators are trying to determine what led to the shootings and if they are related. The survivors, ages 26 and 18, were taken to a local hospital, Campbell said. One of the victims was listed in critical condition and the other was listed as non-critical. Police are not releasing the names of the victims at this time, Campbell said. In other news:
  • Agriculture Secretary nominee Sonny Perdue on Thursday sought to reassure farm-state senators in both parties who are fearful about the impact of President Donald Trump's proposed deep cuts to farm programs, promising to promote agricultural trade and create jobs in the struggling industry. At his confirmation hearing, the former Georgia governor stressed bipartisanship, reaching out to Democrats who have complained about Trump's lack of experience in agriculture and his proposed 21 percent cut to the farm budget. 'In Georgia, agriculture is one area where Democrats and Republicans consistently reached across the aisle and work together,' Perdue said. He told Republican and Democratic senators concerned about Trump's trade agenda that 'trade is really the answer' for farmers dealing with low crop prices and said he would be a 'tenacious advocate and fighter' for rural America when dealing with the White House and other agencies. Perdue, 70, would be the first Southerner in the post for more than two decades. His rural roots — he is a farmer's son and has owned several agricultural companies — and his conciliatory tone have already won him support from some Democrats, including Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow, the top Democrat on the Senate Agriculture Committee, who said after the hearing that she will vote to confirm Perdue. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., has also said she will vote for him. But both women brought up concerns in the hearing, with Stabenow saying 'it's clear that rural America has been an afterthought' in the Trump administration. Stabenow said many rural communities are still struggling to recover from the Great Recession. 'Especially during these times of low prices for agriculture and uncertainty around budget, trade and immigration, we need the next secretary to be an unapologetic advocate for all of rural America,' she said. Farm-state Republicans have also criticized the proposed budget cuts and have been wary of the president's opposition of some trade agreements, as trade is a major economic driver in the agricultural industry. Senate Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., said at the hearing that producers need a market for their goods, and 'during this critical time, the importance of trade for the agriculture industry cannot be overstated.' Perdue noted a growing middle class around the world that is hungry for U.S. products. 'Food is a noble thing to trade,' Perdue said, adding that he would 'continue to tirelessly advocate that within the administration.' Trump has harshly criticized some international trade deals, saying they have killed American jobs. But farmers who make more than they can sell in the United States have heavily profited from those deals, and are hoping his anti-trade policies will include some exceptions for agriculture. Republican Sen. Steve Daines of Montana said Perdue's pro-trade comments were 'music to the ears of Montana farmers and ranchers.' Perdue also said he would work with the agriculture industry to create jobs and support landowners in their efforts to conserve farmland in a sustainable way. USDA is also responsible for nutrition programs, and congressional Republicans have signaled a willingness to trim the $70 billion food stamp program. Perdue signaled he may be supportive of those efforts, saying 'we hope we can do that even more efficiently and effectively than we have.' One of Perdue's main responsibilities will be working with Congress on a new five-year farm bill, and he pledged to help senators sustain popular crop insurance programs and fix what they see as problems with government dairy programs. Perdue was the last of Trump's Cabinet nominees to be chosen, and his nomination was delayed for weeks as the administration prepared his ethics paperwork. Perdue eventually said he would step down from several companies bearing his name to avoid conflicts of interest. Roberts said the committee will soon schedule a vote on Perdue's nomination, and it would then go to the floor. He and Trump's choice for labor secretary, Alexander Acosta, are two of the final nominees for Trump's Cabinet still pending in the Senate. Acosta was nominated in February after the withdrawal of the original nominee, Andrew Puzder.
  • The top Senate Democrat said Thursday he will oppose President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee and lead a filibuster of the choice, setting up a politically charged showdown with Republicans with far-reaching implications for future judicial nominees. New York Sen. Chuck Schumer criticized Judge Neil Gorsuch, saying he 'almost instinctively favors the powerful over the weak' and would not serve as a check on Trump or be a mainstream justice. 'I have concluded that I cannot support Neil Gorsuch's nomination,' Schumer said on the Senate floor. 'My vote will be no and I urge my colleagues to do the same.' Shortly before Schumer's announcement, Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey, who faces re-election next year in a state Trump won, also announced his opposition. Casey said he had 'serious concerns about Judge Gorsuch's rigid and restrictive judicial philosophy, manifest in a number of opinions he has written on the 10th Circuit.' Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., also announced he would oppose Gorsuch. Democrats are still furious that Republicans blocked former President Barack Obama's nominee, Merrick Garland, and the seat on the high court has remained vacant for 13 months and counting. The GOP insisted that the next president make the nomination. Liberals have pressured Democrats to resist all things Trump, including his nominees, although Gorsuch emerged unscathed from two days of testifying. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., now must decide whether to take the same step his Democratic predecessor did and change Senate rules to confirm Gorsuch and other Supreme Court nominees with a simple majority rather than the 60 votes now required to move forward. 'Gorsuch will be confirmed; I just can't tell you exactly how that will happen, yet,' McConnell said in an interview with The Associated Press earlier this week. The Judiciary panel is expected to vote in the next two weeks to recommend Gorsuch favorably to the full Senate. White House spokesman Sean Spicer called Schumer's announcement disappointing and said it breaks with the tradition of how the Senate has handled Supreme Court confirmation votes in modern times. Democrats Jeff Merkley of Oregon, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Ed Markey of Massachusetts have declared their opposition. No Democrat has yet pledged to support the judge, but Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia said Wednesday he is open to voting for him. Hearings for a Supreme Court nominee usually dominate Congress, but that's not been the case over the four days of hearings. The Republican push to dismantle Obama's Affordable Care Act and the controversy surrounding the investigation into contact between Trump associates and Russia overshadowed the hearings. On Thursday, lawyers, advocacy groups and former colleagues got their say on Gorsuch. Critics said he tended to rule for powerful interests and against workers, the disabled and environmental groups, but those who worked with him over the years sought to assure senators that he goes into each case committed to hearing and evaluating all points of view before making up his mind. The American Bar Association's Nancy Scott Degan explained how a committee evaluating Gorsuch came up with its highest rating of well qualified. She said the committee contacted almost 5,000 people nationwide who might have knowledge of his qualifications. They examined his qualifications based on integrity, professional competence and temperament. 'The scope of our investigation was deep and broad,' Degan said. 'We do not give the well-qualified rating lightly.' Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., also noted that Garland received the ABA's well-qualified rating, but didn't get a hearing. Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah said he agreed that Garland is a wonderful person and well qualified. Retired U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Deanell Reece Tacha served with Gorsuch and told senators he brings to the bench a powerful intellect and does not use his role as judge for anything other than deciding the case before him. Some witnesses who were critical of Gorsuch worried that he would not be a strong check on executive overreach. Elisa Massimino, president and CEO of Human Rights First, described him as someone 'who wouldn't stand up against a presidential power grab,' stemming from his service in the Justice Department during the Bush administration. And a Colorado man criticized Gorsuch for ruling against his autistic son in a case, saying Gorsuch's opinion eviscerated the minimal education requirements schools must provide disabled children. ____ Associated Press writer Mary Clare Jalonick contributed to this report.
  • Tasharina Fluker and her daughter had just gotten to their Lithonia townhome Wednesday morning from celebrating the mother’s birthday. No less than an hour after they arrived, police say Fluker’s boyfriend, Michael Thornton, shot and killed her and daughter Janazia Miles.  A family member found one of them in the middle of the doorway and Miles’ 8-month-old son unharmed, Channel 2 Action News reported. It is not known how the relative entered the home.  Police were called to the scene about 3 a.m. after getting a person-down call on the 2000 block of Parkway Trail. The women were found with “no signs of life,” DeKalb police Lt. Rod Bryant said.  Thornton was later found at another location, police said. They have not described his relationship to the women, but neighbors said Thornton and Fluker were in a relationship and lived at the home. Neighbor Trocon Talhouk told Channel 2 he heard the couple arguing in the middle of the night.  “He kept saying: ‘All I want to do is get in the house,’” Talhouk said. “And then, shortly after that, I heard a car speed off and (the) next thing you know fire trucks and police cars were pulling up.”  It wasn’t the first time neighbors had heard domestic incidents at the home, Talhouk said.  “According to neighbors, (the two) fight all the time and he’s always beating (her),” he told Channel 2.  Fluker also leaves behind two sons — one in middle school and another who attends Grambling State University on a football scholarship he earned while playing for Miller Grove High School, the station reported. Police have not released other details.  In other news: