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National Politics

    Sen. John McCain's treatment for brain cancer could keep him out of Washington for weeks, perhaps months, and yet it's unlikely anyone will challenge his extended leave. Congress has a long tradition in which no one questions ailing lawmakers taking time to recover. For starters, it's just poor form. And, frankly, it's up to the stricken member of Congress and their doctors to decide when — or even if — they return to work. Some have recuperated away from the Capitol for a year or more. It's an unwritten courtesy that often doesn't extend to the real working world where employees are forced to file for medical disability or take unpaid leave. Julie Tarallo, McCain's spokeswoman, said Friday that 'further consultations with Sen. McCain's Mayo Clinic care team will indicate when he will return to the United States Senate.' McCain had taken to Twitter on Thursday promising a quick return. 'Unfortunately for my sparring partners in Congress, I'll be back soon, so stand-by!' said the six-term Arizona Republican and 2008 GOP presidential nominee. The 80-year-old McCain was diagnosed with glioblastoma, an aggressive type of brain cancer, according to doctors at the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix, who had removed a blood clot above his left eye last Friday. He and his family are weighing his treatment, including radiation and chemotherapy. In the immediate aftermath of McCain's diagnosis, Republicans wouldn't speculate about what the temporary loss of McCain's vote would mean. But McCain's absence complicates Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's plans for a Senate vote on a GOP health care bill to erase much of the Affordable Care Act. A vote is possible on Tuesday, but GOP defections plus McCain's likely absence could sink any chance even to get started. McCain wouldn't be the first lawmaker this year to miss votes, hearings and other legislative action. Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson remained in Georgia for several weeks earlier this year as he underwent two back surgeries and recuperated. Isakson missed the vote on confirming Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch. In January 2012, then-Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill. suffered a major stroke and didn't return for almost a full year, making a dramatic entrance by climbing the steps of the Capitol on the opening day of the following Congress. In a lawmaker's absence, congressional staff keep the office operating, send out news releases — one from McCain on Thursday blasted the Trump administration's Syria policy — and respond to constituents. Absences can leave the margin of control on a razor's edge. The month after Democrats won back the Senate in 2006, South Dakota Democrat Tim Johnson had a near-fatal episode of bleeding in his brain that, at the time, threatened to shift the Senate's margin from 51-49 Democratic to 50-50 GOP control with Republican Vice President Dick Cheney the deciding vote. Johnson recovered but was away from the Senate for almost nine months. McCain is battling the same form of cancer that claimed the life of Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., in August 2009. Kennedy was away from the Senate for extended stretches but returned on occasion to vote. 'There were times when Senator Reid had to juggle things because he had two senators absent, Senator Kennedy and Senator Byrd,' said longtime former Senate aide Jim Manley, who worked for both Kennedy and then-Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. 'Having said that, it really never, with a handful of exceptions, proved to be that big of a problem.' Kennedy also delegated some of his responsibilities as chairman of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee by farming out responsibility for bills before the panel to colleagues such as then-Sens. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., and Barbara Mikulski, D-Md. McCain has had Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., handle his duties as Armed Services Committee chairman. Unclear is whether Inhofe will steer the sweeping defense policy bill if the Senate begins debate in August. And, if legislative necessity should dictate that McCain return for a crucial, dramatic vote, there's precedent for that. Kennedy, who mostly stayed away from the chamber for fear of infection, returned to the Senate in July 2008 for a key vote. During McCain's first term, Sen. Pete Wilson, R-Calif., recovering from an emergency appendectomy, was wheeled in on a stretcher to cast the deciding vote on a GOP budget plan. And in 1964, California Democrat Clair Engle, whose own bout with brain cancer rendered him unable to speak, was wheeled into the Senate to vote for the landmark Civil Rights Act. Engle pointed to his eye and tried to mouth 'aye,' according to newspaper accounts at the time. In an earlier time, some senators were away from the chamber for years. Karl Mundt, R-S.D., suffered a stroke in late 1969 and refused to resign and allow a GOP replacement to be named. He held the seat until January 1973 and was replaced by Democrat Jim Abourezk. Sen. Carter Glass, D-Va., kept his titles of president pro tempore and chairman of the Appropriations Committee despite being absent because of frailty due to old age.
  • Embattled former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn has opened a new consulting firm called Resilient Patriot, LLC that is advising private equity firms, according to one of his brothers, who says Flynn is 'moving on with his life.' Joe Flynn said his family also is in the early stages of starting a fund to pay for the legal bills his brother is racking up as he sits at the center of multiple probes into Russia's interference in the 2016 presidential election. 'Mike's not a millionaire, not even close,' Joe Flynn told The Associated Press this week. 'This situation has put him in a tough spot financially. This is going to cost him a lot of money.' 'There's a lot of people that are big fans of his across the country,' he added. Several of Flynn's siblings plan to administer the fund for the retired Army lieutenant general, and are working on setting up a website and consulting with a lawyer about the legal intricacies of such a fund. Joe Flynn said they want to 'be as transparent as possible' and do it properly. After being forced into retirement in 2014 by the Obama administration, Flynn went on to set up a company that accepted speaking fees from Russian entities and later did consulting work for a Turkish-owned business. He joined the Trump campaign and then the administration as an early supporter. But the Trump White House ousted him after saying he mischaracterized conversations with Russia's ambassador to the U.S. A wide range of his actions — including foreign contracts and payments, and whether he lied to officials — are under scrutiny by investigators. Joe Flynn said his brother is not independently wealthy, and depends on his Army pension. While his brother made some money consulting, Joe Flynn said much of that went into his company and to subcontractors. Now, with Resilient Patriot, Michael Flynn is advising private equity firms on deals they are considering, Joe Flynn said. He did not specify the firms. 'They use him to vet opportunities with his network,' he said. 'He's slowly starting to do that as a totally independent consultant.' While he said his older brother is doing well, 'There's still a cloud over him,' he said, adding 'I think he's not worried about going to jail or anything like that.' His son, Mike Flynn Jr., used the name Resilient Patriot on Twitter, but the work does not involve him, Joe Flynn said. Flynn Jr. sent numerous posts on Twitter about the conspiracy theories of Pizzagate, a fake new story suggesting a Washington, D.C., pizza shop plays a key role in a child sex trafficking ring run by Hillary Clinton. The conspiracy theory influenced a North Carolina man to fire a rifle in the restaurant in December. Michael Flynn has been spending most of his summer in Middletown, Rhode Island, where he and his wife grew up and where they built a home years ago. Flynn has spent time surfing and golfing there in recent days. The plans for a legal defense fund were first reported by Bloomberg.
  • Lately the Congressional Budget Office just can't get any respect. Republicans from the White House on down have worked to discredit the nonpartisan agency, in an effort to undermine its inconvenient findings that GOP health care bills would cause more than 20 million people to lose their insurance. Now all eight former directors of the agency, some of them Republicans and some Democrats, have signed onto a letter defending CBO and urging lawmakers to give it the respect it deserves. 'We write to express our strong objection to recent attacks on the integrity and professionalism of the agency and on the agency's role in the legislative process,' the former directors say in their letter Friday to the top Republican and Democratic leaders in the House and Senate. CBO is a nonpartisan agency and acts as Congress' official scorekeeper, analyzing the costs and impacts of the bills lawmakers write. Most major legislation does not come to a vote without a CBO 'score' and these scores can be consequential in serving as the bottom line analysis of the impact a bill will have. CBO directors are approved by the House and Senate leaders. The current director, Keith Hall, was chosen by Republican Tom Price, who is now secretary of Health and Human Services but previously chaired the budget committee in the House. Price made the selection and it was blessed by the top Capitol Hill GOP leaders at the time. Hall has served since 2015. Nevertheless, in recent months Republicans have not liked what CBO has had to say about the GOP's legislation to repeal and replace 'Obamacare.' The biggest headlines have been the large numbers of consumers who would lose insurance under the GOP plans, plus the higher premiums for older Americans that would result. Many congressional Republicans have pointed out that CBO's predictions sometimes don't prove accurate. In one example Republicans often cite, the agency overestimated the number of Americans who would gain health coverage on the purchasing exchanges created by Obamacare. Two Trump White House officials, legislative director Marc Short and Brian Blase, special assistant to the president for the National Economic Council, went so far as to write an opinion piece in the Washington Post earlier this month pre-butting the agency's findings about Senate health care legislation. The estimates 'will be little more than fake news' the two claimed. The sitting leadership of the CBO does not respond to such attacks. But in an unusual move the past leadership got together to fight back. In their letter the former directors defended the agency's approach and the high quality of its research, while noting that a law's outcome over time can be difficult to predict in a dynamic economy. 'In sum, relying on CBO's estimates in the legislative process has served the Congress?_?and the American people?_?very well during the past four decades,' they conclude. 'As the House and Senate consider potential policy changes this year and in the years ahead, we urge you to maintain and respect the Congress's decades-long reliance on CBO's estimates in developing and scoring bills.' ___ Online: Read the CBO directors' letter at: https://medium.com/@douglas.elmendorf/letter-from-former-cbo-directors-on-the-importance-of-cbos-role-in-the-legislative-process-278863b7e1c6 An occasional look at what Capitol Hill is talking about
  • Colorado's Canyons of the Ancients National Monument has been removed from a list of national monuments under review for possible elimination or reduction, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said Friday. The monument is the third Zinke has removed from a review of 27 national monuments ordered by President Donald Trump. Trump said monument designations imposed by previous presidents amounted to 'a massive federal land grab' that 'should never have happened.' Monument designations protect federal land from energy development and other activities. When he and Trump launched the review, 'we absolutely realized that not all monuments are the same and that not all monuments would require modifications,' Zinke said. Canyons of the Ancients, which covers 178,000 acres is southwestern Colorado, is 'gorgeous land,' Zinke said, adding that its Native American archaeological sites were even more important. The site spans thousands of years, and Zinke said federal protections 'will help us preserve this site for a thousand more years.' Last week, Zinke removed two other monuments, in Idaho and Washington state, from his review of monuments created since 1996. A full report is due next month. Twenty-four other national monuments, mostly in the West, face curtailing or elimination of protections put in place over the past two decades by presidents from both parties. Monuments under review include Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante in Utah, Nevada's Basin and Range and Katahdin Woods and Waters in Maine. Zinke toured the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument in Oregon over the weekend and is expected to visit other monuments before making a recommendation on whether the monuments should be abolished or resized. Kate Kelly, a former Interior official under President Barack Obama, said Zinke's decision to remove the three monuments was welcome but appeared arbitrary. 'While it's good news that Zinke has decided these three national monuments can live to see another day, it underscores that the fate of 24 more monuments rests in the hands of a process without logic or transparency,' said Kelly, public lands director at the Center for American Progress, a liberal-leaning think tank. Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo. hailed Zinke's action, saying he repeatedly urged him not to change the monument's designation. 'Coloradans cherish our state's public lands, and I'm thrilled the Department of the Interior listened to Coloradans and will make no changes to Canyons of the Ancients National Monument's designation,' Gardner said.
  • The Latest on changes to the White House communications staff (all times local): 2 p.m. Outgoing press Secretary Sean Spicer says that he chose to resign from his position to give incoming communications director Anthony Scaramucci a fresh start. Spicer says during a brief phone conversation with The Associated Press following his announced departure that, 'we're at the point where' the president 'could benefit from a clean slate.' He says he felt it would be best for Scaramucci to be able to build his own operation 'and chart a new way forward.' Spicer is also complimenting Scaramucci, a New York financier and frequent defender of the president who was a staple at Trump Tower during the president's transition. Spicer says of Scaramucci's hiring: 'It'll be great, he's a tough guy.' ___ 1:50 p.m. White House press secretary Sean Spicer says it's been 'an honor' and 'privilege' to serve President Donald Trump and the country. Spicer resigned Friday in protest over the hiring of a new White House communications director. He says in a tweet that he will continue his service through August. One person with knowledge of the situation said Spicer objected to the hiring of New York financier Anthony Scaramucci's lack of qualifications for the communications role. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the personnel matter publicly. ___ 1 p.m. White House deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders will be conducting an on-camera briefing on Friday afternoon, following White House press secretary Sean Spicer's resignation. Spicer announced his departure after President Donald Trump hired a new White House communications director, ending his rocky six-month tenure as Trump's top spokesman. Sanders has been handling most of the briefing duties in recent weeks, and most briefings have been off-camera. The last on-camera White House briefing was held on June 29. ___ 12:35 p.m. White House chief of staff Reince Priebus says he supports incoming communications director Anthony Scaramucci '100 percent.' His comments come moments after White House press secretary Sean Spicer resigned over Scaramucci's hiring. Priebus and Spicer spent years working closely together at the Republican National Committee. Priebus has also reportedly opposed hiring Scaramucci for various administration positions. Priebus told The Associated Press that he and Scaramucci are 'very good friends.' He says it's 'all good here' at the White House. ___ 12:07 p.m. White House press secretary Sean Spicer is resigning his position, according to two people with knowledge of the decision. One of those people said Spicer is quitting because of objections over the appointment of a new White House communications director, New York financier Anthony Scaramucci. The people with knowledge of the decision insisted on anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the personnel matter publicly.
  • The Latest on Republican attempts to overhaul the nation's health care laws (all times local): 12:30 p.m. The American Medical Association is telling senators it's time to stop trying to repeal and replace 'Obamacare.' The nations' largest doctors group says the Senate should start working instead on improvements to the health system that would increase patients' access to quality care. The AMA made its recommendations in a letter Friday to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. It comes as the Senate GOP is struggling to make good on years of promises to get rid of former President Barack Obama's law. Talks are ongoing and a vote is possible next week on a reworked bill. The AMA letter says that revisions thus far have failed to correct the core problem in the GOP approach, which is that it would cause millions to lose health coverage. ___ 9:15 a.m. Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz says he believes there is still a path to getting a health care bill passed, despite 'a handful of holdouts.' Cruz told Fox News' 'Fox & Friends' on Friday that 'we've got to deliver now. There is a path to yes.' That path, however, is far from clear. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell postponed consideration of a GOP bill again this week after it fell short of the number of votes needed to pass. Republicans remain divided on the issue, and Democrats are unanimously against efforts to repeal and replace former President Barack Obama's signature health care bill. Cruz says President Donald Trump's message to lawmakers on health care is clear: 'Get it done. Stop messing around.' He adds: 'I think that can happen.
  • Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is urging Qatar's neighbors to lift a land blockade as a 'sign of good faith' in negotiations to resolve the Persian Gulf diplomatic crisis. Tillerson says that of all the steps that Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain have taken to isolate Qatar, the land blockade is having the most negative effects on Qataris. Qatar's only land border is with Saudi Arabia. It's unclear what Tillerson is urging the other countries to do. But the three others have joined Saudi Arabia in restricting Qatar's access to air and sea routes. Tillerson says the U.S. is satisfied with the effort Qatar is putting into addressing concerns about terror financing and counterterrorism. Tillerson spoke while meeting with the visiting foreign minister of Oman.
  • White House press secretary Sean Spicer abruptly resigned his position Friday, ending a rocky six-month tenure that made his news briefings must-see TV. He said President Donald Trump's White House 'could benefit from a clean slate.' Spicer quit in protest over the hiring of a new White House communications director, New York financier Anthony Scaramucci, objecting to what Spicer considered his lack of qualifications and to the direction of the press operation, according to people familiar with the situation. Spicer said during a brief phone conversation with The Associated Press that he felt it would be best for Scaramucci to be able to build his own operation 'and chart a new way forward.' He tweeted that it had been an 'honor' and 'privilege' to serve Trump and he would remain in his post through August. Spicer had long sought the strategic communications job for himself and had been managing that role along with his press secretary duties for nearly two months. His decision to quit was sudden and took advisers inside and outside the White House by surprise, according to the people with knowledge of the decision. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the personnel matter publicly. Spicer's daily press briefings had become must-watch television until recent weeks when he took on a more behind-the-scenes role. Deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders has largely taken over the briefings, turning them into off-camera events. Spicer spent several years leading communications at the Republican National Committee before helping Trump's campaign in the general election. He is close to White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, the former RNC chair, and several of the lower-ranking aides in the White House communications shop. Priebus told The Associated Press that he supports Scaramucci '100 percent,' despite reportedly trying to prevent the financier from getting multiple administration positions. 'We go back a long, long way and are very good friends,' Priebus said of Scaramucci. 'All good here.' Spicer also complimented Scaramucci, a New York financier and frequent defender of the president who was a staple at Trump Tower during the president's transition, saying 'It 'll be great, he's a tough guy.' Scaramucci is expected to play a visible role as one of Trump's defenders on television. But Spicer and other officials questioned his hiring as communications director ahead of the president's push to overhaul the tax system and other policy issues. Spicer and other press staffers had been feeling that they finally had the press shop operating effectively, aside from matters related to the Russia investigation, said one of the people familiar with the situation. News of Spicer's resignation set off a chaotic scene at the White House. Inside the West Wing, a gaggle of reporters more than a dozen deep crowded around a doorway leading to the press offices seeking more information on Spicer's departure and other potential staffing moves. White House officials announced that Sanders would hold the daily briefing — the first on camera since June 29 — on Friday afternoon. Scaramucci's hire was a surprise. He had been told by the administration that he would be nominated as U.S. ambassador to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, an intergovernmental economic organization that includes the world's better-off countries. A senior foreign official, who demanded anonymity to discuss private personnel discussions, said Scaramucci had been meeting with various foreign diplomats as recently as last week in anticipation of his new role as ambassador to the OECD. Spicer's tenure got off to a rocky start. On Trump's first full day in office, he lambasted journalists over coverage of the crowd size at the inauguration and stormed out of the briefing room without answering questions. Spicer, who often displayed a fiery demeanor in tense on-camera exchanges with reporters, became part of culture in the way few people in his job have, particularly through an indelible impersonation by Melissa McCarthy on NBC's 'Saturday Night Live.' She portrayed Spicer as a hostile figure who tore through the briefing room on a portable podium, willing to attack the press. A Roman Catholic, Spicer was dealt a blow when Trump excluded him from a group of White House staffers and Trump family members who got to meet Pope Francis when Trump visited the Vatican during his first foreign trip in May. Spicer remained loyal to Trump but frequently battled perceptions that he was not plugged in to what the president was thinking, and had to worry that Trump was watching and critiquing his performance from the Oval Office. Throughout the start of the administration, there was always the possibility that Trump would undermine something Spicer said by simply sending out a tweet. Spicer is a Rhode Island native and a commander in the U.S. Navy Reserve. He apologized in April after he attempted to compare the Holocaust and Syrian President Bashar Assad's use of chemical weapons, saying it was 'inexcusable and reprehensible.' The resignation comes a day after Mark Corallo, the spokesman for the president's outside legal team, left his post. And in a separate move, former White House aide Katie Walsh is returning to the RNC, spokesman Ryan Mahoney said. Walsh will serve as an adviser on data and digital issues, and the appointment is unrelated to the White House personnel changes, he said. ___ Associated Press writers Jonathan Lemire, Darlene Superville, Vivian Salama and Jill Colvin in Washington and David Bauder in New York contributed to this report. __ Follow Ken Thomas at http://twitter.com/kthomasDC and Julie Pace at http://twitter.com/jpaceDC
  • White House press secretary Sean Spicer resigned from his post Friday morning, six months and one day after taking the position. >> Read more trending news In a message posted to Twitter Friday afternoon, Spicer said he will continue to serve as press secretary through August. “It's been an honor (and) a privilege to serve (President Donald Trump and) this amazing country,” he wrote. Deputy White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders will take over his duties, newly named White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci said at a news briefing Friday. Spicer’s resignation came in opposition to Scaramucci’s appointment, The New York Times reported.
  • The Latest on the Trump administration's ban on Americans traveling to North Korea (all times local): 11:35 a.m. The State Department says Americans who seek to travel to North Korea will need a 'special validation passport' after a ban on U.S. citizens traveling there takes effect. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert says those validations may be granted for 'certain limited humanitarian or other purposes.' All other travel by Americans 'to, through and in' North Korea will be prohibited. Nauert says that the State Department intends to publish a notice of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's decision in the Federal Register next week. She says the travel ban will take effect 30 days later. Nauert says the ban is being put in place because of 'mounting concerns' about 'the serious risk of arrest and long-term detention under North Korea's system of law enforcement.' ___ 7:15 a.m. U.S. officials say the Trump administration will ban American citizens from traveling to North Korea following the death of university student Otto Warmbier, who passed away after falling into a coma into a North Korean prison. The officials said Friday that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had determined to implement a 'geographical travel restriction' for North Korea, which would make the use of U.S. passports to enter the country illegal. They said the restriction would go into effect 30 days after a notice is published in the Federal Register, but it was not immediately clear when that would be. There was no announcement in Friday's editions of the government publication. The officials were not authorized to publicly discuss the decision before it is announced and spoke on condition of anonymity.

News

  • Police are investigating a shooting at a Starbucks in Cobb County. Channel 2's Ross Cavitt learned that a woman was shot outside the Starbucks at Paces Ferry and Cumberland Parkway Thursday afternoon. Witnesses said they heard a pop and then saw the gunman jump over the bushes and run to a waiting truck. Cavitt spoke to a witness who said the woman who was shot asked for help, but then left. The woman has been identified as Sheena Fisse, 31. 'She had come into the door and I heard from other people she asked for help and said she's been shot. She asked for help or announced she'd been shot and turned around and left,' Grant Wyckoff said. TRENDING STORIES: O.J. Simpson granted parole after 9 years in jail Police: Burglar thought he cut security wires, still caught on camera 10-year-old girl hit, killed while walking to store Police said Fisse was shot in the side and drove eight miles down the interstate to Fulton Industrial Boulevard where they found her. She was taken to the hospital for treatment of non-life threatening injuries. Police said they are questioning one person in connection with the shooting. If you have any information, you're asked to call 770-499-3945. Woman shot outside Cumberland Starbucks, drives miles down the highway before stopping. Suspect at large. @wsbtv pic.twitter.com/LNiySLNVz8-- Ross Cavitt | WSB-TV (@RossCavittWSB) July 20, 2017
  • Police said a burglar broke into a local nail salon and got away with cash.Channel 2's Audrey Washington was in Gainesville where police said the man scoped out the shop for one specific reason.Police said the burglar targeted the salon because he knows the nail techs get tipped with cash. They said it's the same reason they want him off the streets before he hits another nail shop.Surveillance video obtained by Washington showed the man walk into the back door of the nail studio and spa inside the Lakeshore Mall before 8 a.m.'Somebody come in through the back door like you see in the video,' the business owner told Washington, 'He just randomly picked it and (was) lucky to get in.' TRENDING STORIES: Woman had $2 million in liquid meth hidden in cleaning jugs during traffic stop, police say 10-year-old girl struck, killed while walking to a store Man shoots AT&T work truck outside parked in front of his home While inside, the shop owner said that the man cut the wires to what he thought was the security system. It turned out the wires he cut were to the audio system, so the camera was rolling as the man made his way inside. 'Not fair for us or anybody or business owners,' the salon owner told Washington.Sgt. Kevin Holbrook, with the Gainesville Police Department, told Washington, 'He did not hit any other businesses in the mall. He went to this nail salon, probably knowing that they do a lot of cash business.'The owner wouldn't say how much the guy got away with and police are hoping someone will recognize the suspect in the video by his distinctive camouflage backpack. Meanwhile police are warning other nail salon owners in the area. 'If you do cash business, if you have employees that receive cash tips, do not keep large amounts of cash in your store,' Holbrook said.The salon owner said he added extra security to his back door and as for the suspect, police believe he lives in the area. Anyone with information is asked to give Gainesville police a call.
  • Sen. John McCain's treatment for brain cancer could keep him out of Washington for weeks, perhaps months, and yet it's unlikely anyone will challenge his extended leave. Congress has a long tradition in which no one questions ailing lawmakers taking time to recover. For starters, it's just poor form. And, frankly, it's up to the stricken member of Congress and their doctors to decide when — or even if — they return to work. Some have recuperated away from the Capitol for a year or more. It's an unwritten courtesy that often doesn't extend to the real working world where employees are forced to file for medical disability or take unpaid leave. Julie Tarallo, McCain's spokeswoman, said Friday that 'further consultations with Sen. McCain's Mayo Clinic care team will indicate when he will return to the United States Senate.' McCain had taken to Twitter on Thursday promising a quick return. 'Unfortunately for my sparring partners in Congress, I'll be back soon, so stand-by!' said the six-term Arizona Republican and 2008 GOP presidential nominee. The 80-year-old McCain was diagnosed with glioblastoma, an aggressive type of brain cancer, according to doctors at the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix, who had removed a blood clot above his left eye last Friday. He and his family are weighing his treatment, including radiation and chemotherapy. In the immediate aftermath of McCain's diagnosis, Republicans wouldn't speculate about what the temporary loss of McCain's vote would mean. But McCain's absence complicates Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's plans for a Senate vote on a GOP health care bill to erase much of the Affordable Care Act. A vote is possible on Tuesday, but GOP defections plus McCain's likely absence could sink any chance even to get started. McCain wouldn't be the first lawmaker this year to miss votes, hearings and other legislative action. Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson remained in Georgia for several weeks earlier this year as he underwent two back surgeries and recuperated. Isakson missed the vote on confirming Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch. In January 2012, then-Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill. suffered a major stroke and didn't return for almost a full year, making a dramatic entrance by climbing the steps of the Capitol on the opening day of the following Congress. In a lawmaker's absence, congressional staff keep the office operating, send out news releases — one from McCain on Thursday blasted the Trump administration's Syria policy — and respond to constituents. Absences can leave the margin of control on a razor's edge. The month after Democrats won back the Senate in 2006, South Dakota Democrat Tim Johnson had a near-fatal episode of bleeding in his brain that, at the time, threatened to shift the Senate's margin from 51-49 Democratic to 50-50 GOP control with Republican Vice President Dick Cheney the deciding vote. Johnson recovered but was away from the Senate for almost nine months. McCain is battling the same form of cancer that claimed the life of Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., in August 2009. Kennedy was away from the Senate for extended stretches but returned on occasion to vote. 'There were times when Senator Reid had to juggle things because he had two senators absent, Senator Kennedy and Senator Byrd,' said longtime former Senate aide Jim Manley, who worked for both Kennedy and then-Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. 'Having said that, it really never, with a handful of exceptions, proved to be that big of a problem.' Kennedy also delegated some of his responsibilities as chairman of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee by farming out responsibility for bills before the panel to colleagues such as then-Sens. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., and Barbara Mikulski, D-Md. McCain has had Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., handle his duties as Armed Services Committee chairman. Unclear is whether Inhofe will steer the sweeping defense policy bill if the Senate begins debate in August. And, if legislative necessity should dictate that McCain return for a crucial, dramatic vote, there's precedent for that. Kennedy, who mostly stayed away from the chamber for fear of infection, returned to the Senate in July 2008 for a key vote. During McCain's first term, Sen. Pete Wilson, R-Calif., recovering from an emergency appendectomy, was wheeled in on a stretcher to cast the deciding vote on a GOP budget plan. And in 1964, California Democrat Clair Engle, whose own bout with brain cancer rendered him unable to speak, was wheeled into the Senate to vote for the landmark Civil Rights Act. Engle pointed to his eye and tried to mouth 'aye,' according to newspaper accounts at the time. In an earlier time, some senators were away from the chamber for years. Karl Mundt, R-S.D., suffered a stroke in late 1969 and refused to resign and allow a GOP replacement to be named. He held the seat until January 1973 and was replaced by Democrat Jim Abourezk. Sen. Carter Glass, D-Va., kept his titles of president pro tempore and chairman of the Appropriations Committee despite being absent because of frailty due to old age.
  • Embattled former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn has opened a new consulting firm called Resilient Patriot, LLC that is advising private equity firms, according to one of his brothers, who says Flynn is 'moving on with his life.' Joe Flynn said his family also is in the early stages of starting a fund to pay for the legal bills his brother is racking up as he sits at the center of multiple probes into Russia's interference in the 2016 presidential election. 'Mike's not a millionaire, not even close,' Joe Flynn told The Associated Press this week. 'This situation has put him in a tough spot financially. This is going to cost him a lot of money.' 'There's a lot of people that are big fans of his across the country,' he added. Several of Flynn's siblings plan to administer the fund for the retired Army lieutenant general, and are working on setting up a website and consulting with a lawyer about the legal intricacies of such a fund. Joe Flynn said they want to 'be as transparent as possible' and do it properly. After being forced into retirement in 2014 by the Obama administration, Flynn went on to set up a company that accepted speaking fees from Russian entities and later did consulting work for a Turkish-owned business. He joined the Trump campaign and then the administration as an early supporter. But the Trump White House ousted him after saying he mischaracterized conversations with Russia's ambassador to the U.S. A wide range of his actions — including foreign contracts and payments, and whether he lied to officials — are under scrutiny by investigators. Joe Flynn said his brother is not independently wealthy, and depends on his Army pension. While his brother made some money consulting, Joe Flynn said much of that went into his company and to subcontractors. Now, with Resilient Patriot, Michael Flynn is advising private equity firms on deals they are considering, Joe Flynn said. He did not specify the firms. 'They use him to vet opportunities with his network,' he said. 'He's slowly starting to do that as a totally independent consultant.' While he said his older brother is doing well, 'There's still a cloud over him,' he said, adding 'I think he's not worried about going to jail or anything like that.' His son, Mike Flynn Jr., used the name Resilient Patriot on Twitter, but the work does not involve him, Joe Flynn said. Flynn Jr. sent numerous posts on Twitter about the conspiracy theories of Pizzagate, a fake new story suggesting a Washington, D.C., pizza shop plays a key role in a child sex trafficking ring run by Hillary Clinton. The conspiracy theory influenced a North Carolina man to fire a rifle in the restaurant in December. Michael Flynn has been spending most of his summer in Middletown, Rhode Island, where he and his wife grew up and where they built a home years ago. Flynn has spent time surfing and golfing there in recent days. The plans for a legal defense fund were first reported by Bloomberg.
  • Lately the Congressional Budget Office just can't get any respect. Republicans from the White House on down have worked to discredit the nonpartisan agency, in an effort to undermine its inconvenient findings that GOP health care bills would cause more than 20 million people to lose their insurance. Now all eight former directors of the agency, some of them Republicans and some Democrats, have signed onto a letter defending CBO and urging lawmakers to give it the respect it deserves. 'We write to express our strong objection to recent attacks on the integrity and professionalism of the agency and on the agency's role in the legislative process,' the former directors say in their letter Friday to the top Republican and Democratic leaders in the House and Senate. CBO is a nonpartisan agency and acts as Congress' official scorekeeper, analyzing the costs and impacts of the bills lawmakers write. Most major legislation does not come to a vote without a CBO 'score' and these scores can be consequential in serving as the bottom line analysis of the impact a bill will have. CBO directors are approved by the House and Senate leaders. The current director, Keith Hall, was chosen by Republican Tom Price, who is now secretary of Health and Human Services but previously chaired the budget committee in the House. Price made the selection and it was blessed by the top Capitol Hill GOP leaders at the time. Hall has served since 2015. Nevertheless, in recent months Republicans have not liked what CBO has had to say about the GOP's legislation to repeal and replace 'Obamacare.' The biggest headlines have been the large numbers of consumers who would lose insurance under the GOP plans, plus the higher premiums for older Americans that would result. Many congressional Republicans have pointed out that CBO's predictions sometimes don't prove accurate. In one example Republicans often cite, the agency overestimated the number of Americans who would gain health coverage on the purchasing exchanges created by Obamacare. Two Trump White House officials, legislative director Marc Short and Brian Blase, special assistant to the president for the National Economic Council, went so far as to write an opinion piece in the Washington Post earlier this month pre-butting the agency's findings about Senate health care legislation. The estimates 'will be little more than fake news' the two claimed. The sitting leadership of the CBO does not respond to such attacks. But in an unusual move the past leadership got together to fight back. In their letter the former directors defended the agency's approach and the high quality of its research, while noting that a law's outcome over time can be difficult to predict in a dynamic economy. 'In sum, relying on CBO's estimates in the legislative process has served the Congress?_?and the American people?_?very well during the past four decades,' they conclude. 'As the House and Senate consider potential policy changes this year and in the years ahead, we urge you to maintain and respect the Congress's decades-long reliance on CBO's estimates in developing and scoring bills.' ___ Online: Read the CBO directors' letter at: https://medium.com/@douglas.elmendorf/letter-from-former-cbo-directors-on-the-importance-of-cbos-role-in-the-legislative-process-278863b7e1c6 An occasional look at what Capitol Hill is talking about
  • Meek Mill faced scrutiny during his highly-publicized rap feud with Drake and relationship with former girlfriend Nicki Minaj. Some may think Mill lost in both situations, especially after Drake's Grammy-nominated diss track 'Back to Back.' But the Philadelphia-bred rapper doesn't view it that way, saying there were other pressing issues in his life he considers as losses — from the death of close friends to a probation violation that landed him three months in house arrest last year. While wearing a gold pendant in remembrance of the late rapper and protege Lil Snupe, who was shot dead in 2013, Mill spoke with The Associated Press about his new album 'Wins & Losses,' which comes out Friday. He also touches on empowering young black youth, Minaj's ex-boyfriend Safaree Samuels being jumped during the BET Awards weekend and his aspirations of doing film. AP: What compelled you to name your album 'Wins and Losses'? Mill: Everybody saying that I'm losing and I lost. I lost my case. I lost my friends to the streets. Those things really meant something to me. I started off in the basement on a karaoke machine. Now I'm in million-dollar studios, making a lot of money being able to feed my family and take them out a crazy environment, still being able to wake up on my own time and do things how I want to do it. That's my definition of winning. I determine my definition of losing on this album. AP: Your single 'Young Black America' has a politically-charged tone. What do you want people to take away from it? Mill: It's an eye-opener for the young people for my culture. It's to help them open their eyes and see what they are really dealing with in real reality. A lot of rap isn't based off reality most of the time. Sometimes it's ignorant. ... I just wanted to give young people in our culture an understanding of what's going on. In one video, we got young kids with guns with KKK masks on, basically saying we killing our own. AP: What run-ins have you experienced with the law that youngsters can relate to? Mill: I was 18 and got beat up by a cop and almost killed by cops. I was just a statistic coming up. The cops are in a dangerous neighborhood thinking everybody else in the neighborhood is dangerous or everybody in the hood is killers. They caught me and treated me like I was a killer. I don't think that's really right. The cop gave me a 100 charges with trying to kill a cop. I don't want to kill a cop. They basically put me on probation for the rest of my life from that point on when I was 18. I'm 30 now and still on probation. I've been to jail three times from that one stint of probation. Any mistake you make, you'll be put in prison. Your freedom can be took. AP: Your relationship with Minaj and beef with Drake really put a spotlight on you. How did you take to the criticism? Mill: I'll look at the internet and see comments like, 'Meek got Nicki money.' You can't know nothing about Meek Mill if you saying something like that. They be like 'Meek Mill can't rap.'... 'Somebody wrote Meek Mill raps'. ... I came up on YouTube rapping since I was 14 years old. That's my importance to the streets. They seen me come up. My story is not a facade. AP: Did you have anything to do with Safaree being jumped? Mill: I don't know nothing about him getting jumped on. I pulled up and actually seen him getting into an altercation. You can look at my face and see that I was surprised. Me and my friends had a party at that spot that night, so that's somewhere we were supposed to be going. I don't communicate with him. I don't know him. I don't even want to base those guys in this interview. That's not even on my level. Street fights take place all the time. I ain't touch nobody. Didn't put no hand on nobody. I'm on strict probation. I'm just trying to handle my business and feed my family. I don't think those dudes are worthy of being talked about. AP: Does your short film, 'Wins & Losses: The Movie' make you want to get more involved in film? Mill: I want to do something that expresses the things we go through. The things we feel. I have a lot of older white friends who don't understand our culture. They might see ignorant or wild things and don't understand why it's going on. But I might have to break it down like, 'Yo, this guy is on drugs for 15 years.' I believe I can express things through film. ___ Online: http://www.meekmilldreamteam.com ___ Follow Jonathan Landrum Jr. on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MrLandrum31 . His work can be found at https://apnews.com/search/jonathan%20landrum