ON AIR NOW

LISTEN NOW

Weather

cloudy-day
76°
Few Clouds
H 91° L 73°
  • cloudy-day
    76°
    Current Conditions
    Few Clouds. H 91° L 73°
  • cloudy-day
    89°
    Afternoon
    Partly Cloudy. H 91° L 73°
  • cloudy-day
    83°
    Evening
    Mostly Cloudy. H 91° L 73°
LISTEN
PAUSE
ERROR

Wsb news on-demand

00:00 | 00:00

LISTEN
PAUSE
ERROR

Wsb traffic on-demand

00:00 | 00:00

LISTEN
PAUSE
ERROR

Wsb weather on-demand

00:00 | 00:00

12 great Memorial Day getaways

We've rounded up 12 convenient Memorial Day escapes from coast to coast to ensure that you spend more time enjoying your blues festival (or pool party) than you do deciding where to go.

Thinking about taking a break for Memorial Day? Now is the time to start planning. To point you in the right direction, we looked for celebrations across America that offered something special in honor of the Memorial Day holiday, be it a unique patriotic tribute, a celeb-worthy pool party, an epic blues festival, or a vineyard tour. But reading about a party that's taking place miles and miles from home is frustrating, not fun. That's why we highlighted places that are easily accessible no matter where you are in the U.S. (all of the cities called out under "easy getaway" are within either a 1.5-hour flight or four-hour drive from the featured destination). Consider this your guide to three-day weekend bliss.

SEE PHOTOS OF THE PLACES!

Palm Springs, Calif.: For guaranteed summer weather

While most beach seasons are just beginning, Memorial Day marks the end of bearable temps in the desert, so hotels and operators are running specials for the holiday. Though other parts of California will be in the midst of "May Gray" and "June Gloom," Palm Springs still has nonstop sunshine—plus dozens of vintage shops, acclaimed restaurants such as Copley's on Palm Canyon (where celebrity chef Andrew Copley whips up So Cal comfort food like lobster pot pie) and an enduring love for all things mid-century (its hotels and private homes offer some of the best examples of 1950s modern architecture in the country). It also makes a great base camp for exploring the striking desert landscape of Joshua Tree National Park through hikes, mountain biking, or rock climbing—don't miss a scenic ride on the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, one of Budget Travel's most beautiful cable cars in the world.
WHERE TO STAY Book one of the 157 pet-friendly rooms, with pool or mountain views and complimentary use of the hotel's desert cruiser bicycles, two pools, hot tub, cabana beds, BBQ area, and fire pit, at The Curve Palm Springs. From $129 per night. Call and mention "Budget Travel" for 20 percent off bookings over the weekend.
EASY GETAWAY FROM Los Angeles; San Francisco; Phoenix; Las Vegas.

Washington, D.C.: For patriotism, pomp, and circumstance

As you might guess, Washington D.C. is the most patriotic place to celebrate the holiday, with a parade and plenty of pomp and circumstance taking place during special military ceremonies. The Thursday before Memorial Day, soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery put flags before each gravestone, while a wreath-laying ceremony happens on Memorial Day at the Tomb of the Unknowns accompanied by performances from the U.S. Army Band. Men in uniform also march in the National Memorial Day Parade along the National Mall at 2 p.m. Don't miss the National Memorial Day Concert Sunday on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol from 8 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
WHERE TO STAY
Kimpton Hotels is running a Memorial Day weekend special at two of its hip properties—check in Thursday or Friday and you'll save 20 percent on two-night stays and 30 percent on three-three night stays between May 23rd and 28th. From $125 a night at the Monaco Baltimore and from $143 a night at the Lorien Hotel & Spa in Alexandria.
EASY GETAWAY FROM
Baltimore; Boston; Charleston, S.C.; Columbus, Ohio; Hartford, CT; Louisville, Ky.; Nashville; New York City; Providence.

Las Vegas: For only-in-Las-Vegas-style parties by the pool

Memorial Day weekend in Las Vegas is one of the busiest times of the year, along with New Year's Eve. Parties held around the resorts' elaborate pools are the big event, and become daylight nightclubs with DJs, drink carts, bottle service, cabanas, and more. To get in on the action, grab a chaise at the Venus Pool Club at Caesars Palace—ladies always get in free, while admission is free for men Monday thru Thursday, with reduced rates before 2 p.m. Friday thru Sunday. The Tropicana Las Vegas opened its Bagatelle Beach & Nightclub last Memorial Day weekend, featuring Mediterranean food and comfy daybeds to lounge in by day, with poolside dining and a new nightclub by night—admission is $30 for men, $20 for women, and Nevada residents get in free with a valid ID. The XS Nightclub at the Wynn Las Vegas & Encore Resort will host DJ Afrojack Saturday night and David Guetta on Sunday night among other electronica superstars over the weekend—tickets can be purchased ahead of time starting at $55 for men and $25 for the ladies.
WHERE TO STAY
The Orleans Hotel & Casino is just off the main drag and offers free shuttle service to and from the Strip every 30-45 minutes between 9 a.m. and 12:30 a.m. The hotel offers its own casino, comedy club, cabaret lounge, Irish pub, movie theater, bowling alley, as well as playgrounds and arcades for the kiddies. From $115 per night over Memorial Day weekend.
EASY GETAWAY FROM
Los Angeles; San Francisco.

Saint Louis: For Blues, bar-b-que, and the ultimate treasure hunt

This year, Soldier's Memorial Park will host the Bluesweek Festival, free from Friday to Sunday, with performances by musicians including blues legend Mavis Staples. If all that music whets your appetite, head to the Schlafly Tap Room on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Pork Shop, a combination community garage sale and neighborhood bar-b-que, featuring local pork and plenty of Schlafly beer. You'll need all this fuel to tackle the largest flea market in the Midwest, Gypsy Caravan, an annual Memorial Day event organized for the 41st year by the St. Louis Symphony Volunteer Association.
WHERE TO STAY Downtown, the 179-room Roberts Mayfair Hotel has a rooftop pool and emerged from a $9 million makeover in March 2011. You can get the MetroLink light rail two blocks from the hotel, which will take you to Soldiers Memorial and other downtown sites. From $89 a night.
EASY GETAWAY FROM Chicago; Cincinnati; Kansas City, MO.; Memphis.

Atlantic City: For new restaurants and rides along the iconic Boardwalk

Contrary to popular belief, Atlantic City was not hit hard by Hurricane Sandy last fall and was actually back on its feet within a week of the storm—in fact the area still continues to bounce back post-Sandy with new openings and events along its iconic stretch of New Jersey coastline. Ultra-chic hotel Revel will open its new HQ Beach Club, a nightclub modeled after the posh décor of Mykonos that will feature pools, bungalows, bars, DJs, and a new dance floor. The Atlantic Club Casino Hotel is bringing back its beloved Beach Bar starting Memorial Day weekend, and will offer happy hours daily between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. The Tropicana Casino and Resort will open not one, not two, but six new restaurants this summer beginning with Tony Luke's and the Broadway Burger Bar & Grill. Steel Pier is open for business as well, debuting eight new rides this summer. Don't miss Boardwalk Beat, a new free 3-D light show opening May 27 featuring catchy music and summer fun-filled images against the façade of Boardwalk Hall every half hour between 8 p.m. and 11 p.m nightly.
WHERE TO STAY Prices along the iconic Boardwalk aren't cheap during Memorial Day weekend although they normally are very reasonable. Opt to stay at the Ramada West Atlantic City, located just 1.5 miles off the main drag with rates starting from $137 a night including complimentary continental breakfast, free parking, and shuttle service to the Boardwalk area for a small fee.
EASY GETAWAY FROM Philadelphia; New York City; Baltimore; Washington D.C.

Austin: For boating season and outdoor fun

Head to Lake Travis to soak up some of Austin's best weather of the year, with plenty of sunshine and temperatures in the eighties. Memorial Day kicks off boating season here, so the place to be is the lake. To get in on the action, check out Austin's REI store's schedule of events to find out what classes and events are on offer this weekend or rent a ski boat at Just for Fun ($75 for one hour). If you'd rather be a spectator, catch a glimpse of the Capital of Texas Triathalon on Memorial Day, an event founded in 1991 that brings in 3,000 participants annually. Things get started with a swim at Lady Bird Lake before athletes break out the bikes for a race through Austin, leading up to a foot race around the southern part of the lake.
WHERE TO STAY The Mansion at Judges' Hill is a reasonably priced, 48-room boutique hotel. Plus, the turn-of-the-century property is walking distance from downtown. From $119 per night.
EASY GETAWAY FROM Atlanta; Dallas.

Charleston, S.C.: For high art with Southern hospitality

One of the earliest observances of Memorial Day was by a group of freed slaves and took place weeks after the Civil War ended in 1865 in Charleston's Hampton Park. Today, the world-renowned Spoleto Festival starts its two-week run this weekend, filling the historic city's theaters, churches, and outdoor spaces with opera, theater, jazz, symphonies, choruses, and visual arts. Highlights this year include a Cirque du Soleil-esque spectacle called Le Grand C, singer-songwriter Rosanne Cash, and dance performances by a Spanish Flamenco troupe among other events. Tickets can be purchased on a per-event basis, with prices ranging from $10 to $130.
WHERE TO STAY Rooms can be hard to come by during Spoleto, so for last-minute travelers, we recommend Lodge Alley Inn, a time-share that rents its unreserved rooms starting seven days in advance—it's an old collection of restored 18th century warehouses with your choice of a studio or a one- or two-bedroom condo, all with kitchenettes. Alternately, you can stay across the river at the Hampton Inn/Charleston Mount Pleasant-Patriot's Point. It's a short drive to downtown over the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge, and the rates are more affordable than those in the city center. Rates at the Lodge Alley Inn start from $209 a night while rates at the Hampton Inn/Charleston Mount Pleasant-Patriot's Point start at $139 a night.
EASY GETAWAY FROM Atlanta; Charlotte, N.C.; Miami; Washington, D.C.

Columbia Gorge, Ore.: For wine tasting along the river

Over Memorial Day weekend, more than 30 wineries and tasting rooms in the scenic Columbia Gorge area of Oregon, which borders Washington State to the north, will be holding open houses featuring such events as barrel tastings and special releases. Maryhill Winery (on the Washington side) toasts its 12th anniversary with live music, and tasting specials among other events. Outdoors, there are tournament-quality bocce ball courts, an amphitheater, and a vine-covered arbor terrace, all with sweeping views of Mt. Hood and the Columbia River Gorge. Visit Cascade Cliffs Vineyard & Winery all weekend for live folk music, complimentary local cheeses, tastings, and vineyard tours.
WHERE TO STAY Historic Hood River Hotel was originally built in 1911 and restored in 1988—no two of the 41 rooms are alike and each is decorated with reproductions of antique furniture. The property is located in downtown Hood River, near wine tasting rooms, art galleries, jewelry shops, restaurants, and it's just a two-minute drive from the river. From $99 per night.
EASY GETAWAY FROM Portland, Ore.; Seattle; San Francisco.

Denver, Colo.: For fine art and music in the 'Mile High City'

Fine art and pop culture descend on the Rockies over Memorial Day weekend. The Downtown Denver Arts Festival kicks off its 15th year on Friday, May 24, hosting more than 135 local artists from all over the state. The free festival lasts all weekend at the Denver Performing Arts Complex, and everything from 3D mixed media to jewelry to photography will be featured. If live music is more your style, try the Denver Day of Rock on Saturday, May 25, when 20 bands—including country music star Lee Brice among others—treat audiences to a series of free rock concerts from 2:30 P.M. to 9:30 P.M. along the 16th Street Mall. Best of all, the concerts benefit Concerts for Kids and Food Bank of the Rockies, two local organizations dedicated to fighting child hunger—everyone is asked to bring canned food to drop off at designated spots around the venue.
WHERE TO STAY Area hotels, like the Magnolia Hotel Denver are offering special Day of Rock packages just for Memorial Day weekend, with perks like a complimentary daily breakfast buffet, and an evening reception with free beer, wine, soda, and milk and cookies. From $135 a night during Memorial Day weekend—use promo code VISITDENVER when booking online. Participating hotels throughout Denver also offer deals throughout the summer starting at just $52 a night.
EASY GETAWAY FROM Salt Lake City; Albuquerque; Las Vegas; Kansas City, M.O.; Phoenix; Dallas; Minneapolis.

New York, NY: For free Memorial Day concerts, films, and a parade

While Fleet Week may be off this year—most likely as a result of the federal sequester budget cuts—Memorial Day Weekend is still a great time to visit the Big Apple. Catch a free musical performance by the New York Philharmonic at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, one of Budget Travel's most beautiful churches in America—tickets for the 8 p.m. show are free and available on a first-come first-served basis starting at 6 p.m. on May 27. Brooklyn's historic Green-Wood Cemetery also offers a free Memorial Day concert at 2:30 p.m. highlighting the works of some of its most famous residents like Leonard Bernstein among others. The Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum will kick off its free summer movie series by showing Top Gun Friday night, while Memorial Day festivities continue all weekend long with demonstrations by the U.S. Coast Guard, performances by the Liberty Belles USO Show Troupe, and a Commemoration Ceremony at 11 a.m. on May 27. Families will want to catch the Brooklyn Memorial Day Parade, a tradition in the Bay Ridge neighborhood of Brooklyn since 1867. All Veterans, regardless of age or war, are invited to participate. The parade starts at 11 A.M., runs along 3rd Avenue towards Marine Avenue, and continues to 4th Ave. before making its way to John Paul Jones Park for a ceremony in honor of those who have paid the ultimate price for our freedom.
WHERE TO STAY Finding a reasonably priced hotel in New York City is daunting any time of year, and especially so during a holiday. We wouldn't normally steer you to a large chain, but we make an exception for the Holiday Inn Long Island City-Manhattan View. It's just five minutes from Manhattan by subway and, true to its name, you can expect scenic views of the city skyline from most rooms. From $179 per night.
EASY GETAWAY FROM
Washington, D.C.; Philadelphia; Boston; Charleston, S.C.; Charlotte, N.C.; Baltimore, M.D.; Providence, R.I.

Atlanta, G.A.: For fireworks and a Jazz Festival

The Atlanta Jazz Festival turns 36 this year and fills the Piedmont Park area with music from May 25 through 27. Known for being one of the largest free jazz festivals in the country—it typically brings in 225,000 attendees over the three-day weekend—in past years the festival has featured performers like Miles Davis, Dexter Gordon, and Shirley Horn as well as local artists. Kid-friendly activities like face painting and balloon art take place by the playground near the stage, while the live music plays from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday through Monday. For more family fun, take the kids to Stone Mountain Park, a 35-minute drive from Atlanta, for some kid-friendly outdoor activities such as the "Sky Hike," a ropes-and-ladders obstacle course through the treetops. In honor of Memorial Day, the park is hosting evening fireworks, free concerts, and a laser show from Saturday through Monday (from $28 for those over age 12, from $22 for children ages 3-11).
WHERE TO STAY Atlanta Marriott Suites Midtown is a family-friendly, all-suite experience that is within walking distance of Piedmont Park and just a ten-minute drive from the Georgia Aquarium. From $169 per night.
EASY GETAWAY FROM
Savannah; Charleston, S.C.; New Orleans; Nashville; Charlotte, N.C.; Orlando.

Miami, FL: For a beach party like no other

Even fun-loving Vegas can't quite compete with the blow-out bash that takes place in Miami over Memorial Day weekend. Each year roughly 250,000 party-goers descend on the area for a booze-soaked bacchanalia full of music, dancing, and lots and lots of skin. Clubs around town host special Memorial Day kick-off parties, such as the one taking place on Sunday, May 26 at Cameo with DJ Drama, but the event everyone looks forward to is the Best of the Best Concert on Sunday, May 26—a 10-hour long music extravaganza starting at 2 p.m. in downtown Miami's Bicentennial Park (general admission tickets start at $52 per person). Of course, the point of the weekend is to honor our veterans, and Miami does so in style with the March of Colors, a parade that starts with a 21-gun salute at All Wars Memorial Park at 10 A.M. and then traverses the Snake Creek Canal Bridge. There is also a wreath laying ceremony on Monday, May 27 at 10:30 A.M. in front of the Miami Beach Police Headquarters.
WHERE TO STAY
Book one of the 75 rooms at the Beacon Hotel South Beach and you'll be within walking distance of the beach, shopping, and nightlife. The bright, Art Deco-inspired hotel was fully renovated in 2009 and offers complimentary WiFi, beach chairs, and towels to guests. From $169 a night.
EASY GETAWAY FROM Orlando; Key West, Fla.; Savannah; Charleston, S.C.; New Orleans; Atlanta.

Read More
VIEW COMMENTS

There are no comments yet. Be the first to post your thoughts. or Register.

News

  • No knot-tying demonstrations. No wood-carving advice. President Donald Trump went straight to starting a fire in a speech at a national Boy Scout gathering. Parents, former Scouts and others were furious after Trump railed against his enemies, promoted his political agenda and underlined his insistence on loyalty before an audience of tens of thousands of school-age Scouts in West Virginia on Monday night. 'Is nothing safe?' Jon Wolfsthal, a former special assistant to President Barack Obama, wrote on Twitter, saying Trump turned the event into a 'Nazi Youth rally.' Trump, the eighth president to address the National Scout Jamboree, was cheered by the crowd, but his comments put an organization that has tried in recent years to avoid political conflict and become more inclusive in an awkward position. The knot-tying was left to Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut, who said on Twitter that his stomach was in knots over the president's over-the-top delivery. 'If you haven't watched it yet, don't,' Murphy said. 'It's downright icky.' The Boy Scouts' official Facebook page was barraged with comments condemning the speech. Several people posted links to the Scouts' policy on participation in political events — which sharply limits what Scouts should do. Boy Scouts are typically 10 to 18 years old. One woman wrote in disbelief that the Scouts started booing when Trump mentioned Obama. Trump noted from the podium that Obama did not personally attend either of the two national jamborees during his tenure. (Obama did address the 2010 gathering by video to mark the Scouts' 100th anniversary. The jamboree is typically held every four years.) Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, former president of the Boy Scouts, invited Trump to the gathering, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Tuesday. 'When all is said and done, those Boy Scouts, what they will remember from the jamboree in West Virginia is that the president showed up,' Nauert said. 'And that's a pretty incredible thing.' The pushback from Americans over the speech included members from both parties. 'I just don't think it was appropriate,' said Rob Romalewski, a Republican and retired information-technology expert from suburban New Orleans who attained the rank of Eagle Scout as a teenager and has worked with the Boy Scouts all his adult life. 'It just doesn't seem like he was talking to the boys,' Romalewski said. 'He was more or less just using it as an excuse to babble on.' Nancy Smith, a Democrat and elementary school teacher from Shelby Township, Michigan, said she won't encourage any of her six grandchildren to enter Scouting. Smith is asking for an apology from the national group. The Boy Scouts of America said in a statement after the speech that it does not promote any one political candidate or philosophy. On Tuesday, after questions about the blowback, the organization said that it 'reflects a number of cultures and beliefs.' 'We will continue to be respectful of the wide variety of viewpoints in this country.' Trump kicked off his speech by saying, to cheers from the boys, 'Who the hell wants to speak about politics when I'm in front of the Boy Scouts? Right?' Yet much of what he had to say next was steeped in politics. Trump began to recite the Scout law, a 12-point oath that starts with a Scout being trustworthy and loyal. 'We could use some more loyalty, I will tell you that,' said the man who is alleged to have asked fired FBI Director James Comey for a pledge of loyalty. In his speech, Trump also jokingly threatened to fire Health Secretary Tom Price — an Eagle Scout who joined him on stage — if lawmakers do not repeal and replace Obama's health care law. He called Washington a 'swamp,' a 'cesspool' and a 'sewer.' He repeatedly trashed the media, directing the crowd's attention to the reporters in attendance. In one aside, he told the boys they could begin saying 'Merry Christmas' again under his watch. In another, he talked about a billionaire friend — real estate developer William Levitt — who sold his company, bought a yacht and led 'a very interesting life.' 'I won't go any more than that, because you're Boy Scouts, so I'm not going to tell you what he did,' Trump teased. Then he said he had run into the man at a cocktail party. The moral of Trump's tale was that Levitt 'lost momentum,' something he said they should never do. Levitt is often considered the father of postwar American suburbia, founding communities such as Levittown on New York's Long Island, but was criticized for refusing to sell to blacks. In the past few years, the Boy Scouts have retreated from the culture wars, dropping their ban on gay Scouts and Scout leaders, and have tried harder to recruit minorities. Zach Wahls, an Eagle Scout and co-founder of Scouts for Equality, a nonprofit group that has pushed to end discrimination against gay and transgender people in Scouting, said Trump's remarks 'really harmed the Boy Scouts' ability to do that work, which is all about serving America.' 'The wrong speech at the wrong place at the wrong time,' Wahls said. ___ McGill reported from New Orleans. Associated Press writers Julie Bykowicz and Josh Lederman in Washington contributed to this report.
  • President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman will not be testifying Wednesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee, as originally scheduled, after the committee rescinded its subpoena. The committee withdrew its subpoena for Paul Manafort late Tuesday after Manafort agreed to turn over documents and to continue negotiating about setting up an interview with the panel, according to Taylor Foy, a spokesman for Sen. Chuck Grassley, the Judiciary Committee chairman. The committee also removed Donald Trump Jr. from the list of witnesses scheduled for Wednesday's public hearing. The panel has sought to talk with Manafort about a June 2016 Trump Tower meeting in New York with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, among other issues including his foreign political work on behalf of Ukrainian interests. On Tuesday Manafort met with Senate Intelligence Committee staff, providing his recollection of the Veselnitskaya meeting and agreeing to turn over contemporaneous notes of the gathering last year, according to people familiar with the closed-door interview. Manafort 'answered their questions fully,' said his spokesman, Jason Maloni. Trump's son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner was also on Capitol Hill Tuesday for a second day of private meetings, this time for a conversation with lawmakers on the House Intelligence Committee. Both Manafort and Kushner have been cooperating with the committees which, along with Special Counsel Robert Mueller, are probing Russia's interference in the 2016 presidential election and possible collusion with Trump associates. The two men have faced particular scrutiny about attending the Trump Tower meeting because it was flatly described in emails to Donald Trump Jr. as being part of a Russian government effort to aid Trump's presidential campaign. Manafort's discussion with committee staff was limited to his recollection of the June 2016 meeting, according to two people familiar with the interview. Both demanded anonymity to discuss details because the interview occurred behind closed doors. Manafort had previously disclosed the meeting in documents he turned over to the committee. He has now provided the committee with notes he took at the time, one of the people said. The other person said Manafort has also said he will participate in additional interviews with the Senate Intelligence Committee staff on other topics if necessary. Those meetings haven't yet been scheduled. Kushner spent about three hours behind closed doors Tuesday with the House intelligence panel. Republican Rep. Mike Conaway of Texas, who is leading the committee's Russia probe, said he found Kushner to be 'straightforward, forthcoming, wanted to answer every question we had.' He said Kushner was willing to follow up with the committee if it has additional questions. The committee's ranking Democrat, Rep. Adam Schiff of California, said the questions touched on 'a range of issues the committee had been concerned about.' 'We appreciate his voluntary willingness to come and testify today,' Schiff added. On Monday, Kushner answered questions from staff on the Senate's Intelligence Committee, acknowledging four meetings with Russians during and after Trump's victorious White House bid and insisting he had 'nothing to hide.' Emails released this month show that Trump Jr., the president's eldest son, accepted a June 2016 meeting with Veselnitskaya with the understanding that he would receive damaging information on Democrat Hillary Clinton as part of a Russian government effort to help Trump's campaign. But, in his statement for the two intelligence committees, Kushner said he hadn't read those emails until being recently shown them by his lawyers. Kushner's statement was the first detailed defense from a campaign insider responding to the controversy that has all but consumed the first six months of Trump's presidency. Kushner called the meeting with Veselnitskaya such a 'waste of time' that he asked his assistant to call him out of the gathering. 'No part of the meeting I attended included anything about the campaign; there was no follow-up to the meeting that I am aware of; I do not recall how many people were there (or their names), and I have no knowledge of any documents being offered or accepted,' he said. Kushner on Monday confirmed earlier media reports that he had suggested using Russian diplomatic facilities to set up secure communications between Trump adviser Michael Flynn, who would become national security adviser, and Russian officials. But he disputed that it was an effort to establish a 'secret back channel.' His statement describes a December meeting with Flynn and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in which Kushner and Kislyak discussed establishing a secure line for the Trump transition team and Moscow to communicate about policy in Syria. ___ Associated Press writer Eric Tucker contributed to this report.
  • The Senate's days-long debate on health care features a dynamic that's relatively rare on Capitol Hill. Genuine suspense. Debate kicked off Tuesday without an obvious endgame. Several Republicans voted to start debate but said the bill will have to be changed for them to vote to actually pass the legislation later this week. The amendment process promises to be extensive and freewheeling. And victory for Republicans and President Donald Trump is not guaranteed. The Senate has started off by taking up the House-passed bill — which doesn't have enough support to pass the Senate — and it'll take near-unanimity among Republicans for them to alter the measure. Right now, they're deeply divided. 'We obviously don't have consensus on where we ought to go,' said Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis. 'No matter what we pass it's not going to fix the whole problem.' Here's a primer on how to watch this week's Senate debate on repealing and replacing the Obama health law. ___ FAST-TRACK PROCESS First, the legislation is being debated under fast-track budget rules that allow it to pass on a simple majority instead of having to clear the 60-vote filibuster threshold required of other legislation. Debate is limited to 20 hours. Amendments, generally speaking, are unlimited — and can be offered after debate time has expired in a Washington ritual known as 'vote-a-rama.' That's when amendment after amendment is voted on in what could be an all-night session on Thursday. The first amendments get up to two hours of debate. During the voting marathon, debate is typically just two minutes. ___ AMENDMENTS GALORE Unlike other bills, which typically are debated in ways that limit senators' rights to offer changes known as amendments, the current bill is wide open. 'I suspect there will be literally hundreds of amendments,' said Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, the No. 2 Republican in the Senate. The first amendment was offered by GOP leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. It is virtually identical to the version that passed the Senate in late 2015 that would repeal much of Obamacare and leave replacing it for later. It's sure to lose, even though it passed less than two years ago — when skeptics of repealing the law without a clear plan for replacing it were assured of former President Barack Obama's veto. Another McConnell amendment, likely to be swatted down by a parliamentary challenge by Democrats, includes the Senate's most recent 'repeal and replace' bill — scuttled last week for lack of support — along with separate provisions from Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Rob Portman, R-Ohio. Democrats are poised to offer dozens of amendments of their own. For instance, they could try to eliminate tax cuts rewarding investors and upper bracket earners, just for starters. One problem: Senators don't necessarily know how to draft amendments because they're unsure which bill they'll ultimately be amending. ___ PARLIAMENTARY PUZZLE The special fast-track process, called reconciliation in Washington-speak, comes with tricky rules. Amendments that are carefully crafted and fit within the rules can pass on a simple majority vote. But many amendments run afoul of the Senate's byzantine rules, which mean they can require 60 votes and effectively be blocked by Democrats. Among them is the so-called Byrd rule, named after former Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va. It's complicated, but the Byrd rule disqualifies some of the GOP's ideas, such as a provision in the pending bill aimed at lowering premiums paid by younger, healthier consumers by allowing insurance companies to increase premiums paid by seniors. The Byrd rule generally blocks provisions that don't affect the federal budget — and blocks provisions whose changes to spending or taxes are 'merely incidental' to a larger policy purpose. If such provisions are inserted despite the Byrd rule, any individual senators can knock them out with a point of order. ___ MCCONNELL'S LAST OPTION At the very end of the debate, after dozens of votes on amendments and parliamentary challenges, majority Republicans can offer one, final substitute amendment. McConnell would probably be the author and it could represent one final grasp at consensus among fractured Republicans. McConnell's last gambit could offer Republican senators a difficult choice since rejecting it would probably doom the whole effort. But consensus among Republicans has eluded McConnell for weeks, so there are plenty of reasons to be skeptical he can succeed now. ___ BACK TO THE HOUSE — OR INTO CONFERENCE? If the Senate should manage to maneuver its way through this week's legislative labyrinth, the resulting bill could go back to the House for a vote that would send it directly to Trump for his signature. The other alternative would be to send the measure into official House-Senate negotiations known as a conference committee. Conference talks, insiders fear, could be a nightmare and invite balkanized Republicans to feud even more. In particular, tea party House Republicans and the Senate's more pragmatic GOP wing could be in for a fight.
  • Where the Senate Republican effort to demolish the Obama health care law ends up is anyone's guess, but early indications are the GOP will have a hard time replacing that statute with any sweeping changes. Senators planned to vote Wednesday on a Republican amendment repealing much of President Barack Obama's law and giving Congress two years to concoct a replacement. A combination of solid Democratic opposition and Republicans unwilling to tear down the law without a replacement in hand were expected to defeat that plan. Late Tuesday night, the Senate voted 57-43 to block a wide-ranging proposal by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell replacing Obama's statute with a far more restrictive GOP substitute. Those voting no included nine Republicans, ranging from conservative Mike Lee of Utah to Maine moderate Susan Collins, in a roll call that raised questions about what if any reshaping of Obama's law splintered Republicans can muster votes to achieve. The rejected amendment — the first offered to the bill — was centered on language by McConnell, R-Ky., erasing Obama's tax penalties on people not buying insurance, cutting Medicaid and trimming its subsidies for consumers. It included a provision by Ted Cruz, R-Texas, letting insurers sell cut-rate policies with skimpy coverage plus an additional $100 billion — sought by Midwestern moderates including Rob Portman, R-Ohio — to help states ease out-of-pocket costs for people losing Medicaid. GOP defectors also included Sens. Dean Heller of Nevada, who faces a tough re-election fight next year, and usually steady McConnell allies Bob Corker of Tennessee, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Kansas' Jerry Moran. Before that defeat, President Donald Trump and McConnell snatched victory from what seemed a likely defeat and won a 51-50 vote to begin debating the GOP drive against Obama's Affordable Care Act, which sits atop the party's legislative priorities. In a day of thrilling political theater, Vice President Mike Pence broke a tie roll call after Sen. John McCain returned to the Capitol from his struggle against brain cancer to help push the bill over the top. There were defections from just two of the 52 GOP senators — Maine's Susan Collins and Alaska's Lisa Murkoswki — the precise number McConnell could afford to lose and still carry the day. All Democrats voted against dismantling the 2010 statute that looms as President Barack Obama's landmark domestic achievement. Leaders were openly discussing a 'skinny bill' repealing unpopular parts of the statute like its tax penalties on people not buying coverage — a tactic aimed chiefly at letting Senate-House bargainers seek a final compromise. McConnell was practically zen-like in his evaluation of the next steps, saying the Senate will 'let the voting take us where it will.' Asked what Republicans would do now that the dog had caught the car — an expression for someone who regrettably achieves a trying goal — Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said, 'We'll have to see if the car can survive.' Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said a final bill negotiated by the two GOP-led chambers would mean 'drastic cuts in Medicaid, huge tax cuts for the wealthy, no help for those with pre-existing conditions and tens of millions losing coverage.' Senators started 20 hours of debate on the bill Tuesday, though angry Democrats were burning time — not counted against that total — by requiring clerks to read amendments. At week's end, a 'vote-a-rama' of rapid-fire voting on a mountain of amendments was expected before moving to final passage — of something. 'Now we're all going to sit together and we're going to try and come up with something that's really spectacular,' Trump told reporters at the White House. He added, 'This is the beginning of the end for the disaster known as Obamacare.' That may prove a premature statement. Internal GOP differences remained over how starkly to repeal the law, how to reimburse states that would suffer from the bill's Medicaid cuts and whether to let insurers sell cut-rate, bare-bones coverage that falls short of the requirements. While pressure and deal-making helped win over vacillating Republicans to begin debate, they remained fragmented over what to do next. Several pointedly left open the possibility of opposing the final bill if it didn't suit their states. Even McCain, R-Ariz., who received a warm standing ovation and bipartisan hugs when he returned, said he'd oppose the final bill if it didn't reflect changes to help his state and lambasted the roughshod process his own party was using. He accused party leaders of concocting a plan behind closed doors and 'springing it on skeptical members, trying to convince them it's better than nothing, asking us to swallow our doubts and force it past a unified opposition. I don't think that is going to work in the end. And it probably shouldn't.' ___ Associated Press writers Erica Werner, Stephen Ohlemacher, Jill Colvin, Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar and Mary Clare Jalonick contributed to this report.
  • A former Marine believed so strongly in the war against the Islamic State group that he secretly traveled to Syria, where he was killed this month while fighting for a Kurdish militia group. David Taylor, a 25-year-old former Florida resident, had kept his plans to join the Kurdish group a secret from his family and only told a high school friend, whom he swore to secrecy. Taylor's father said Tuesday that he didn't even know of his son's plans until after he had arrived in Syria last spring and was training with the group known as YPG. 'I got an email and he said, 'Pops, don't worry. I'm with the YPG,'' David Taylor Sr. told The Associated Press from his West Virginia home. 'He said, 'I'm doing the right thing. It's for their freedom.'' Taylor Sr. said when his son set his mind on something, he did it. 'There was no middle ground. He wasn't wishy-washy,' the father said. A Kurdish militia group released a video saying Taylor was 'martyred fighting ISIS' barbarism' on July 16. The U.S. State Department said in a statement that it was aware of reports of a U.S. citizen being killed while fighting in Syria but offered no further comment. Taylor's dad said the family was told about the death last weekend by a U.S. consular official. Taylor's high school friend emailed the father after he learned of the death. The friend said Taylor told him during a visit to St. Petersburg Beach, Florida, last February that he believed the Islamic State group needed to be stopped. 'One night he got drunk and told me of the atrocities he had witnessed in the Middle East during his time in the Marine Corps,' the friend, Alex Cintron, wrote in an email to Taylor's parents. 'He said to the effect that 'Isis was the bane of modern existence and needed to be stopped before they destroy any more lives and priceless works of human achievement,'' Cintron said in the email. Taylor's father shared the email with the AP on Tuesday. Cintron didn't respond to a message for comment sent via social media. Cintron said in the email that Taylor died from an improvised explosive device. The YPG video offered no details on how Taylor died. Taylor grew up in Ocala, Florida, about 80 miles northwest of Orlando. He attended college in Florida and West Virginia before joining the Marines. He was deployed in Afghanistan, Japan, South Korea and spent time in Jordan before he was discharged last year, David Taylor Sr. said. After his discharge, he came to the United States and visited family and friends in West Virginia, Philadelphia and Florida. Last spring, he asked his father to drive him to the airport because he had decided to visit Ireland, where his family has ancestral ties. Taylor Sr. received intermittent updates from his son about his travels in Europe until there was a period of silence for several weeks. Soon afterward, the elder Taylor received an email from his son, saying he had joined the Kurdish militia group. The consular official told Taylor Sr. that the YPG is paying to transport Taylor's body back to the United States. 'He loved his country. He loved democracy,' the father said. 'He had a mission, to go over there and advance democracy and freedom like we have it over here. It came at a horrible price.' ___ Associated Press writer Matt Yee in Washington contributed to this report.
  • Eager to punish Russia for meddling in the 2016 election, the House has overwhelmingly backed a new package of sanctions against Moscow that prohibits President Donald Trump from waiving the penalties without first getting permission from Congress. Lawmakers passed the legislation, 419-3, clearing the far-reaching measure for action by the Senate. If senators move quickly, the bill could be ready for Trump's signature before Congress exits Washington for its regular August recess. The Senate, like the House, is expected to pass the legislation by a veto-proof margin. The bill also slaps Iran and North Korea with sanctions. The 184-page measure serves as a rebuke of the Kremlin's military aggression in Ukraine and Syria, where Russian President Vladimir Putin has backed President Bashar Assad. It aims to hit Putin and the oligarchs close to him by targeting Russian corruption, human rights abusers, and crucial sectors of the Russian economy, including weapons sales and energy exports. 'It is well past time that we forcibly respond,' said Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Trump hasn't threatened to reject the bill even though Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and other senior administration officials had objected to a mandated congressional review should the president attempt to ease or lift the sanctions on Russia. They've argued it would infringe on the president's executive authority and tie his hands as he explores avenues of communication and cooperation between the two former Cold War foes. But Trump's persistent overtures to Russia are what pushed lawmakers to include the sanctions review. Many lawmakers view Russia as the nation's top strategic adversary and believe more sanctions, not less, put the U.S. in a position of strength in any negotiations with Moscow. Trump's 'rhetoric toward the Russians has been far too accommodating and conciliatory, up to this point,' said Rep. Charlie Dent, R-Pa. 'Russian behavior has been atrocious,' Dent said. 'They deserve these enhanced sanctions. Relations with Russia will improve when Russian behavior changes and they start to fall back into the family of nations.' Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., said Congress 'is uncomfortable with any rapprochement with Moscow without getting some things for it.' But he said the legislation isn't intended to be a message to Trump. 'We're sending a message to Moscow,' Kinzinger said. 'But if the president had any intention of trying to give Vladimir Putin what he wants on certain areas, I think he'll think twice about it.' Heavy support for the bill from Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate has effectively scuttled the potential for Trump to derail the legislation. White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders indicated Sunday the president would sign the sanctions bill. But on Monday, Sanders said Trump is 'going to study that legislation and see what the final product looks like.' Signing a bill that penalizes Russia's election interference would mark a significant shift for Trump. He's repeatedly cast doubt on the conclusion of U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia sought to tip the election in his favor. He's blasted as a 'witch hunt' investigations into the extent of Russia's interference and whether the Trump campaign colluded with Moscow. According to the bill, Trump is required to send Congress a report explaining why he wants to suspend or terminate a particular set of the sanctions on Russia. Lawmakers would then have 30 days to decide whether to allow the move or reject it. 'There'll be no side deals or turning a blind eye to (Russia's) actions,' said Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, the No. 2 House Democrat. The North Korea-related sanctions bar ships owned by the reclusive nation or by countries that refuse to comply with U.N. resolutions against Pyongyang from operating in American waters or docking at U.S. ports. Goods produced by North Korea's forced labor would be prohibited from entering the United States. The sanctions package also imposes mandatory penalties on people involved in Iran's ballistic missile program and anyone who does business with them. The measure would apply terrorism sanctions to the country's Revolutionary Guards and enforce an arms embargo. Democrats said the new sanctions on Iran don't conflict with the Iran nuclear deal A version of the sanctions legislation that only addressed Russia and Iran cleared the Senate nearly six weeks ago with 98 votes. Lawmakers have questioned whether the bill may hit a hurdle in the Senate, which hasn't yet fully considered the North Korea section of the bill. But Royce said he made specific procedural tweaks to get the bill passed and to Trump before Congress leaves town for a month. 'We cannot afford any more delay,' he said. The three House members who voted against the bill are Republican Reps. Thomas Massie of Kentucky, Justin Amash of Michigan and John Duncan of Tennessee. ___ Contact Richard Lardner on Twitter: http://twitter.com/rplardner