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Jamie Dupree's Washington Insider

    On the eve of the first major gathering of Democratic Party candidates in the 2020 race for President, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) drew over a thousand interested Democrats to a town hall gathering at Florida International University on Monday, pressing the case for the federal government to do more to help working Americans find economic security in the future. 'I don't want a government that works for big corporations, I want one that works for families,' Warren said to applause, making the case for a higher minimum wage for workers, major ethics reforms for government officials, voting reforms, major tax changes, and more. 'Let's start with a wealth tax in America,' said Sanders, as she called for 'big structural change in this country,' rattling off a number of her policy ideas, getting big cheers for new limits on lobbying, action on climate change, and better wages for all workers. “A full time minimum wage job in America will not get a momma and a baby out of poverty,” Warren said.  “That is wrong, and that is why I am in this fight.” Of the ten Democrats on the debate stage Wednesday night, Warren is by far the strongest candidate in the first group, as she has been gaining momentum in recent weeks in a variety of polls. The four other top Democrats in the race will be on stage together on Thursday - Biden, Buttigieg, Harris and Sanders. Along with Warren, two other Democrats attracted press attention in south Florida before the Wednesday debate, as Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington State talked about his signature issue of climate change, and ex-Rep. Beto O'Rourke of Texas rallied with teachers in Miami. 'It's a great opportunity for me to listen to you, to have the chance to introduce myself,' said O'Rourke, who is one of the better known names on the first night of the Democratic debate. The first debate night in Miami features three Democratic Senators (Booker, Klobuchar, Warren), two House members (Gabbard, Ryan), two former House members (Delaney, O'Rourke), one current mayor (DeBlasio), one former mayor and Cabinet member (Castro), and one Governor (Inslee). While some like Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) arrived in Florida on Tuesday afternoon - getting unsolicited advice along the way from fellow passengers on her flight to Miami - Inslee was for a second day hammering away at his main issue of climate change. 'Today we're announcing a new freedom in America, and that's freedom from fossil fuels,' Inslee said at an event in the Everglades. Inslee followed up his Everglades visit with a Tuesday evening event where he took shots at Big Oil. For most of the Democrats over the next two nights, there is a simple game plan.  'Our goal,' a memo to reporters from Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) said, 'Introduce Cory to Democrats tuning in for the first time,' noting that when you do the math, each candidate is only going to get between seven and eleven minutes of total speaking time. 'I can’t wait to share with you my vision for a more just and fair nation,' Booker said. Meanwhile, Warren was making plans for an impromptu visit on Wednesday to a facility south of Miami, where immigrant children detained by border authorities are being held. “I'm going to Homestead,” Warren said to cheers after being urged to focus on the issue by an activist at a town hall meeting in Miami. “If you can come, come and join us,” Warren urged the crowd, as her campaign set a 10:45 am visit on Wednesday, which seems all but certain to draw extra news media attention, just hours before the first night of the Democratic debates. While Warren was on the move, her colleague Sen. Booker was doing more mundane things at the same time back in Washington, D.C. - helping people put their suitcases in the overhead bin on his flight to Miami.
  • Pressing ahead with work on government funding bills for 2020, Democrats in the House approved a package of five measures worth $383.3 billion on Tuesday, funding an array of programs from the Justice Department to NASA, military construction projects and the VA, while also including a series of policy riders designed to rein in efforts by the Trump Administration to expand offshore oil and gas exploration. 'Offshore drilling anywhere near Florida represents an existential threat to our economy that we cannot risk taking,' said Rep. Francis Rooney (R-FL), as all but one Republican from the Sunshine State supported an amendment to block new oil and gas leasing off Florida, especially in the eastern Gulf of Mexico. 'I saw the tar balls wash up on Florida beaches,' said Rep. Charlie Crist (D-FL), and he invoked the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico when he was Governor of Florida in 2010. 'I hope to never see that again.' But it wasn't only Florida lawmakers of both parties making the case against expanded drilling, as the bill also added amendments to block seismic blasting to check for oil and gas deposits in offshore waters along the entire Atlantic coast, along with a full moratorium on new oil and gas exploration on the Eastern seaboard, plus a plan to block any new oil and gas leasing off the Pacific Coast of the United States. 'The Central Coast has endured the devastating impacts of oil spills,' said California Democrat Salud Carbajal. 'I'll do everything in my power to make sure our community doesn't go through that again.' Supporters of expanded offshore oil and gas exploration accused opponents of using 'fear tactics.' 'I believe the ones who don’t want to see the areas mentioned in this amendment opened up for offshore leasing really just don’t want fossil fuel development,' said Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC). But Duncan's home state colleague - from the Atlantic coast - had a much different view. 'Far too much is at stake in our State,' said Rep. Joe Cunningham (D-SC), who argued for plans to squelch new offshore exploration. 'South Carolina’s tourism economy is worth $22.6 billion a year, and two-thirds of that comes from the coast.' 'This is an issue that has been supported by Republican Governor (Henry) McMaster, who has made it clear that he opposes offshore drilling,' Cunningham added. The approval of the underlying 'minibus' funding package means that nine of the twelve yearly funding bills have made it through the House of Representatives; one more could be voted on this week before lawmakers leave for a scheduled break. Those spending bills are supposed to be done by October 1 - but the House only has 25 scheduled work days between the July Fourth break and the end of the fiscal year. The Senate has one more week of work scheduled than the House - but there is little reason to think that Congress will finish its on time - by September 30 - for the first time since 1996. 'The current funding process is designed to fail. It doesn’t work. It hasn’t worked. It will never work,' said Sen. David Perdue (R-GA), who has been pressing for a full overhaul of the budget process.  'Since the Budget Act of 1974 was put in place, Congress has only funded the federal government on time four times, and the last time was 23 years ago,' Perdue added. The three funding bills not yet voted on by the House include the spending measure for Congress and the Legislative Branch, a bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security, and a measure funding federal financial agencies. The Senate has yet to bring any of the 2020 funding bills to the floor for action.
  • In a flurry of motions by prosecutors and lawyers for indicted Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA), government attorneys submitted to a federal judge a number of examples of how Hunter allegedly used money contributed to his campaign to instead pay for romantic outings with a series of women who were not his wife. 'Shortly after he arrived in Washington, Hunter began to use funds contributed to the Duncan D. Hunter for Congress Campaign to carry out a series of intimate relationships,' a new document filed on Monday detailed for a federal judge. 'At trial, the evidence will demonstrate that Hunter improperly used campaign funds to pursue these romances wholly unrelated to either his congressional campaigns or his official duties as a member of Congress,' prosecutors said in a 'statement of facts.' Stating there was a 'voluminous nature' of evidence against Hunter, the document set out an image of a Congressman who had affairs with lobbyists and Congressional staffers, paying for their meals, trips, and nights on the town with campaign funds. 'In March 2010, for example, the couple took a weekend “double date” road trip to Virginia Beach with their friends, one of whom was also a congressman. Hunter spent $905 in campaign funds to pay for the hotel bar tab and room he shared with (Individual-14) that weekend,' the documents related. The documents listed evidence about Hunter's relationships with: + Individual 14 - a lobbyist,  + Individual 15 - a staffer who worked in the office of a member of the House leadership,  + Individual 16 - a staffer in his Congressional office,  + Individual 17 - a lobbyist,  + Individual 18 - a lobbyist. The court submission sometimes left little to the imagination, as it noted Hunter engaging in 'intimate personal activities' with these individuals, which was not related to his campaign or duties as a lawmaker. The release of the information by prosecutors came as lawyers for Rep. Hunter asked the judge in the case to exclude a number of pieces of evidence, as Hunter has alleged he is the victim of a political persecution. 'The investigation of Congressman Hunter by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of California began shortly after his public endorsement of candidate Trump,' Hunter's lawyers wrote in one of a series of evidence challenges, alleging that two prosecutors involved in the case were supporters of Hillary Clinton. 'Any explanation the Government gives now for initiating the investigation of Congressman Hunter should be viewed with total skepticism through the lens of their attempts to cover up the partisan political activities of the prosecutors that initiated the investigation,' lawyers for Hunter added.
  • Flanked by several progressive Democrats from the U.S. House, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) unveiled plans on Monday to zero out well over $1 trillion in college student loan debt held by Americans, part of a broader call by some lawmakers to make tuition much more affordable for students at public colleges and universities. 'If you can bail out Wall Street, you can bail out the middle class of this country,' Sanders said at a news conference outside the U.S. Capitol. 'We have a generation of people who are drowning in debt,' said Sanders, as he urged older Americans to realize that times have dramatically changed since they were able to use Pell Grants or a part time job to help pay their college tuition. 'It was literally easier for me to become the youngest woman in American history elected to Congress than it is to pay off my student loan debt,' said Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY). There were different pieces of legislation released today on the issue - one from Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) is titled the 'Student Debt Cancellation Act of 2019' - and focuses just on the issue of erasing student debt. Omar's bill would also prevent the loan forgiveness from being considered taxable income for an individual, and does not allow any refunds of payments already made. 'Corporations and the wealthiest Americans have repeatedly gotten tax breaks and bailouts,' said Omar. 'It’s time for a bailout for the 45 million Americans who are shackled with student debt.' The immediate reaction among Republicans and conservatives was skeptical - to say the least. 'Universities will be able to increase tuition at will if they know the gov’t is just going to forgive the debt anyway,' tweeted Rep. Anthony Gonzalez (R-OH). The plan from Sanders and others would apply to all with student loan debt - no matter their current income levels. His bill would also aim to drastically reduce the cost of tuition at public colleges and universities - with a total cost estimate of $2.2 trillion. 'The estimated $2.2 trillion cost of the bill would be paid for by a tax on Wall Street speculation,' Sanders said in a release about the legislation. The plan would institute a transaction tax of 0.5 percent on stock trades, as well as a 0.1 percent fee on bonds, and a .0005 percent fee on derivatives.
  • Flanked by several progressive Democrats from the U.S. House, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) unveiled plans on Monday to zero out well over $1 trillion in college student loan debt held by Americans, part of a broader call by some lawmakers to make tuition free for public colleges and universities.   'If you can bail out Wall Street, you can bail out the middle class of this country,' Sanders said at a news conference outside the U.S. Capitol.   'We have a generation of people who are drowning in debt,' said Sanders, as he urged older Americans to realize that times have dramatically changed since they were able to use Pell Grants or a part time job to help pay their college tuition.   'It was literally easier for me to become the youngest woman in American history elected to Congress than it is to pay off my student loan debt,' said Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY).     'This proposal completely eliminates student debt in this country and ends the absurdity of sentencing an entire generation, the millennial generation,to a lifetime of debt for the 'crime' of doing the right thing... going out and getting a higher education' #CancelStudentDebt pic.twitter.com/a1U6mrD5wf — People for Bernie (@People4Bernie) June 24, 2019 .@AOC on bill to eliminate all student debt: 'It was literally easier for me to become the youngest woman in American history elected to Congress than it is to pay off my student loan debt.' https://t.co/l2DVQXrQic pic.twitter.com/fhxvtNtvhg — Evan McMurry (@evanmcmurry) June 24, 2019   There were different pieces of legislation released today on the issue - one from Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) is titled the 'Student Debt Cancellation Act of 2019' - and focuses just on the issue of erasing student debt.   Omar's bill would also prevent the loan forgiveness from being considered taxable income for an individual, and does not allow any refunds of payments already made.   'Corporations and the wealthiest Americans have repeatedly gotten tax breaks and bailouts,' said Omar. 'It’s time for a bailout for the 45 million Americans who are shackled with student debt.'   The immediate reaction among Republicans and conservatives was skeptical - to say the least.   'Universities will be able to increase tuition at will if they know the gov’t is just going to forgive the debt anyway,' tweeted Rep. Anthony Gonzalez (R-OH).     Oh, Bernie. The high cost of tuition is the problem that generates the debt. Allowing gov’t to forgive the debt will make the problem even worse. Universities will be able to increase tuition at will if they know the gov’t is just going to forgive the debt anyway. https://t.co/f8nmq14jUD — Anthony Gonzalez (@anthonygonzalez) June 24, 2019 Hey Bernie-you piker! If you're forgiving student loans, why not home loans? Car loans? Small biz loans? Credit card loans? Old ppl like us won't pay, young dumb kids you're pandering to will pay & they don't even realize it. https://t.co/R0aQV5Kctb — Gov. Mike Huckabee (@GovMikeHuckabee) June 24, 2019 The plan from Sanders and others would apply to all with student loan debt - no matter their current income levels.   His bill would also aim to drastically reduce the cost of tuition at public colleges and universities - with a total cost estimate of $2.2 trillion.   'The estimated $2.2 trillion cost of the bill would be paid for by a tax on Wall Street speculation,' Sanders said in a release about the legislation.   The plan would institute a transaction tax of 0.5 percent on stock trades, as well as a 0.1 percent fee on bonds, and a .0005 percent fee on derivatives.  
  • The U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled on Monday that a government ban on the registration of what federal officials believe are 'immoral or scandalous' trademarks violates the First Amendment, saying it was not right that free speech would protect 'good morals,' but not trademarks which 'denigrate those concepts.' 'The registration of such marks serves only to further coarsen our popular culture,' Justice Elena Kagan wrote for the Court. 'But we are not legislators and cannot substitute a new statute for the one now in force.' The case involved artist and entrepreneur Erik Brunetti, who wanted a trademark for his clothing like 'FUCT' - which he says is pronounced not as a word, but with the individual letters, F-U-C-T.  'But you might read it differently and, if so, you would hardly be alone,' Kagan wrote for the Court, as patent and trademark officials refused to approve Brunetti's request, labeling it a 'total vulgar.' This ruling overturned those decisions. While agreeing with the basics of the decision, Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote in a concurring opinion that while the decision protects free speech, the results might offend many people. 'The Court’s decision today will beget unfortunate results,' Sotomayor wrote in a concurrence with Justice Stephen Breyer. “Everyone can think of a small number of words (including the apparent homonym of Brunetti’s mark) that would, however, plainly qualify,” Sotomayor added. The decision could have implications past trademarks, as states routinely reject vanity license plate applications because of certain words which would be used. You can read the full ruling here.
  • With a new Acting Secretary of Defense taking charge at the Pentagon on Monday, the Trump Administration continues to feature a number of leaders in top federal agencies and departments of the Executive Branch who have been appointed on a temporary basis, many without ever being officially nominated to fill that position. For President Donald Trump, that's not a bad thing. 'Acting gives you much greater flexibility. A lot easier to do things,' the President told reporters last week when Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan withdrew as a possible nominee for the post Defense Secretary.  Some in Congress - in both parties - see it differently. 'When you have 'acting' after your name, you're not it,' Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) told reporters after the President notified him of Shanahan's departure. 'Every position at DHS (Department of Homeland Security) with responsibility for immigration or border security is now held by a temporary appointee,' said Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL). Experts on the workings of government see the trend in 'Acting' officials in simple terms - it's a question of power. 'I argue that presidents strategically use their prerogative to immediately fill vacancies with unconfirmed 'acting' officials, or leave them empty, to expand their executive power,' said Christina Kinane of Yale University's Department of Political Science. But the Federal Vacancies Reform Act puts a limit of 210 days on how long there can be 'acting' officials in some of these posts, though there are a variety of ways to circumvent that time frame. Here are some examples from federal agencies and departments on what their leadership rosters look like: 1. The Department of Defense. With the departure of Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan, President Trump announced his intent to nominate Army Secretary Mark Esper for the job of Secretary of Defense. While that nomination is not official as yet, two things should be noted: because of the laws governing how long someone can temporarily fill that job, Esper might only be able to serve as 'Acting Secretary' until July 30. And if he is officially nominated for the post, someone else would have to take that 'Acting' job during his confirmation process.  At the Pentagon, that's not the only top job with a temporary appointee. The number two slot of Deputy Secretary of Defense - that was Shanahan's old job - is being temporarily filled by the military's Comptroller David Norquist, who is 'Performing the Duties of the Deputy Secretary of Defense.' Like Esper, the President says he will nominate Norquist for that post, but it has not happened as yet. The number three job at the Pentagon is in the hands of Lisa Hershman, as the Acting Chief Management Officer. In terms of the service branches, there is an Acting Secretary of the Air Force, and with the Army Secretary moving up, there will soon be an Acting Secretary of the Army as well. In other words, much of the Pentagon leadership is in an 'acting' mode at this point - and will be that way for months to come. 2. Department of Homeland Security. In terms of high-profile positions in the Trump Administration, DHS may be the most clear cut example of where temporary leaders are being used. The Acting Secretary is Kevin McAleenan, the former head of the Border Patrol. He's well respected, but has not been nominated for the DHS post. His top aide is a 'Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Deputy Secretary.' According to the DHS website, there are 13 senior officials working in an 'Acting' capacity in the various agencies in DHS. There is an Acting head of FEMA. USCIS - the agency for legal immigration - is led by an Acting official who has not been nominated for the post. His top deputy is an Acting Deputy Director. The Border Patrol doesn't even have an 'Acting Director' but rather a 'Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Commissioner.' Immigration and Customs Enforcement has an 'Acting' leader, who has not been nominated for the job. 3. Interior Department. Like the Department of Homeland Security, the Interior Department has a series of agencies with temporary leaders. For example, the Bureau of Land Management doesn't have an 'Acting Director,' but instead, the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Land and Minerals Management, Casey Hammond, is 'exercising the authority' of BLM Director. Under Hammond, there are six top slots in the BLM organizational chart which are listed as 'Acting.' The National Park Service, like the BLM, does not have an 'Acting Director,' but rather a Deputy Director - Dan Smith - who is 'exercising the authority of the Director.' The Park Service has a number of acting officials in other top slots - Acting Deputy Director of Operations, Acting Chief of Staff, and five Acting Assistant Directors for various functions. The Acting Deputy Director, David Vela, was nominated by President Trump in 2018 for the job of Director at the Park Service, but the nomination was never voted on. President Trump has not sent the Senate a new nominee for the Park Service in 2019 as yet. It's the same story at Fish and Wildlife Service. Like the BLM, there is no Acting Director of the Fish and Wildlife Service, but instead, Margaret Everson is the 'Principal Deputy Director Exercising the Authority of the Director.' No one has been nominated to head the agency. 4. In charge, but not nominated. There are plenty of examples in federal departments and agencies of officials being charge, with no nominee in the pipeline before the U.S. Senate, as it's not a question of delays on Capitol Hill for why a top official is not in a certain federal post. Norman Sharpless is the acting head of the Food and Drug Administration; there is no nominee for the position. OSHA - the Occupational Safety and Health Administration - has an Acting leader, Loren Sweatt, but no nominee for the post. One could rattle off many more 'acting' officials in various Undersecretary, Assistant Secretary, and Deputy Secretary jobs in the federal government. How long can people serve in an 'Acting' capacity? The Federal Vacancies Reform Act says 210 days - but there are a lot of ways that can be extended, or the clock can be reset. 5. Office of Personnel Management. This may be one of the most interesting situations where a federal agency has an acting leader. OPM is basically the Human Resources department for the federal government, and the temporary leader in charge is also serving as a top White House official, pressing a plan to entirely get rid of the department. Oddly enough, while the White House is trying to do away with OPM, President Trump nominated Dale Cabaniss to head the agency back in March.
  • With new reports of migrant children being held in facilities with inadequate food, water and sanitation along the Mexican border, Democrats on Friday finally unveiled a $4.5 billion plan to care for the surge of migrants being held by the U.S. Government, but it's not clear if Congress will act before the end of June as lawmakers get ready to leave town for a July Fourth break. The bill from House Democrats was along the same lines as a $4.6 billion measure approved by a Senate panel on Wednesday - but there was no guarantee either measure would be voted on in coming days on Capitol Hill. 'This bill is a sensible compromise that reflects American values by promoting the just and humane treatment of migrants,” said Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA). But Republicans said the lengthy delay from House Democrats in introducing a plan was unacceptable, coming over seven weeks after President Donald Trump officially asked for over $4 billion in humanitarian aid. As the weekend arrived, the new bill from Democrats was not yet scheduled for a vote in the full House; in the GOP-led Senate, there was no date certain either for when a vote might take place on the extra money, as outside groups demanded immediate action. The bills from both the House and Senate are only about money - as they don't include any changes to immigration laws demanded by President Trump and GOP lawmakers in the Congress. 'But what the hell, let’s throw $4.5 billion at the problem with lots of perverse incentives to make the crisis worse, make no changes to laws, and wash our hands of it,' tweeted Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX), who has criticized the lack of action by Democrats in the House. 'That’ll do it!' In a series of tweets, Roy said the extra money - while well intentioned - won't do anything to help in the long run. 'This is not the system we should have. This will not secure our nation,' Roy said. But the extra immigration law reforms desired by Roy - and demanded by the President - have not moved ahead in either the House or Senate. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, had wanted to press ahead on a bill to deal with immigration law changes, but delayed that on Wednesday, saying he was trying to work out a bipartisan agreement with the White House. It's left both parties pointing the finger of blame at each other, with no guarantee of action even on money for humanitarian needs. With Congress as yet unable to act, the Governor of Texas on Friday authorized the dispatch of 1,000 National Guard soldiers to go help at the border. 'The crisis at our southern border is unlike anything we’ve witnessed before and has put an enormous strain on the existing resources we have in place,' Gov. Greg Abbott said.
  • Even as Republicans sternly criticize Democrats for failing to reach a deal with the White House on overall government funding for next year, GOP efforts to make cuts in funding bills brought to the House floor by Democrats in recent days haven't come close to being approved, leaving Republicans clearly divided on their call to cut spending. 'Disappointed that so many of my colleagues voted against reining in our out-of-control federal spending,' tweeted a frustrated Rep. Jodi Hice (R-GA), who offered an amendment to cut spending on one funding bill by 23.6 percent, to save about $7 billion. 'The bottom line is that our constituents back home, are required month after month, week after week to make tough choices,' Hice argued on the House floor, 'and we need to do the same.' But Hice's $7 billion savings amendment was easily defeated by the House on a vote of 128-304, with 71 fellow Republicans voting against it. The Hice vote was not an anomaly, as other Republican lawmakers didn't fare much better with their efforts to trim back spending on the House floor.  Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN) offered a plan to reduce spending on Commerce, Justice, and Science programs by 14 percent. That mustered 135 votes, with 296 against. His next try was a proposed 14 percent cut in agriculture programs. That received only 113 votes, with 318 against. Banks has offered a 14 percent cut to two different spending 'minibus' packages on the House floor over the past two weeks, but has not yet been able to gather the support of even one-third of the House on any of those budget cutting efforts. 'You can show that you support fiscal sanity,' Banks argued in vain before one vote. His proposed plan for a 14 percent cut in environment and interior programs - like the National Park Service - lost on a vote of 132-299, with 65 Republicans voting against his amendment. 'The amendment would indiscriminately cut funding across the board,” said Rep. David Joyce (R-OH), who singled out the need to fund the maintenance backlog at national parks, and said proposals like the ones from his GOP colleagues would lead to 'drastic cuts' in needed programs. The atmospherics which ran against GOP budget cutters was evidently so acute that Rep. Glenn Grothman (R-WI) - who won the right to offer two different amendments to cut billions from the spending package - didn't even offer his amendments for a vote on the House floor.
  • While leaders of both parties in the U.S. House have made clear they are open to giving members of Congress their first pay raise in ten years, the Senate's top Republican said Thursday that his side of the Capitol will not go along with such a plan, throwing a rather large hurdle in the way of the effort to raise the current lawmaker salary of $174,000 for the first time since 2009. 'We’re not doing a COLA adjustment in the Senate,' Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said, referring to the 'Cost-of-living-adjustment' which lawmakers are supposed to receive each year under current law, but have been blocked routinely for the last ten years. But even as McConnell made clear his opposition, the top Republican in the House wasn't giving up on the change in lawmaker pay. 'My position on this is the same,' said House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA). 'I do not believe Congress should be a place only for millionaires.' At a news conference, McCarthy acknowledged to reporters that McConnell's opposition 'does complicate the path' for a Congressional pay raise, as House leaders may bring the issue to the floor as early as next week. 'This is good news,' Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) said of the public opposition to a pay raise by the Senate Majority Leader.  'No reason Congress should get a pay raise. Now it’s time to pass my bill that would end automatic pay raises entirely,' Scott tweeted. House leaders had planned earlier this month to bring forward a funding bill for the Congress - with no language to block the yearly pay raise - but the bill was yanked from a package of spending bills after concerns were raised by rank-and-file lawmakers. The plan for now is to try that maneuver next week, which could still create a situation where all House members have to go on the record about pay increase. Lawmakers earn $174,000 a year; under the plan for a COLA increase, their pay would go up by around $4,500 under this plan. If they had received yearly increases as provided for under current law for the past ten years, their salaries would be over $200,000.

News

  • A man said his pain medication and a broken back door are what led to his 2-year-old son wandering onto a busy Florida highway. Jacob Krueger, 25, and the child's mother, 28-year-old Yajaira Tirado were both arrested on neglect charges after their son was found on the highway around 10:30 a.m. Monday with a dirty diaper and bug bites covering his arms.  'I'm sorry,' Krueger said after walking out of jail Tuesday. 'I didn't mean for it to come down to this.' Krueger explained that he and Tirado are on medications for conditions that he said kept them asleep during the ordeal. He also blamed a broken door at the home they rent as why his son was able to escape. >>Read: Toddler wearing dirty diaper, covered in bug bites found crossing highway, police say; 2 arrested When asked why there wasn't any attempt to fix the door to prevent an incident like this, Krueger said, 'There's no way. Doesn't matter if I tried doing something to it.' Krueger went on to deny a responding deputy's claim that his home was littered with broken bottles and smelled like feces. >> Read more trending news  'I love my child. I want the best for them (and) don't ever want to hurt them,' Krueger explained.  Officials said they had been to the home in 2018 for another case of child neglect in which Tirado was arrested after a 1-year-old and 2-year-old were left at the home alone, according to the Volusia County Sheriff's Office.  Deputies said the toddler found crossing the highway was placed in the custody of the Department of Children and Families. Tirado remains in the Volusia County Jail.
  • The Democratic presidential primary debates begin Wednesday with 10 candidates going head-to-head in Miami as the 2020 presidential election season gets underway. >>Read more trending news Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Beto O’Rourke, Sen. Amy Klobuchar and seven others will likely face questions on border security, health care and climate change on the first night of the two-night event. >>Jamie Dupree: Warren leads Democrats into first night of 2020 debates Here’s what to know about and how to watch Wednesday’s Democratic debate.  When and where is the debate being held? The debate will be broken up into two nights with 10 candidates on the stage to debate each night. The debates will take place on Wednesday and Thursday at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Miami. Who will be on the stage on Wednesday? Here is the lineup for Wednesday’s debate: Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey  Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts  Former Rep. Beto O'Rourke of Texas  Former Rep. John Delaney of Maryland Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii  Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota  Former Housing Secretary Julián Castro  New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington  Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio  Where will they stand onstage? The candidates will stand from left to right in this order – de Blasio, Ryan, Castro, Booker, Warren, O’Rourke, Klobuchar, Gabbard, Inslee, Delaney.  Who will be asking the questions at the debate? Lester Holt, Savannah Guthrie, Chuck Todd, Rachel Maddow and José Diaz-Balart will moderate the debate. Holt, Guthrie and Diaz-Balart will moderate the first hour, with Holt, Todd and Maddow asking questions in the second hour. How can I watch the debate? NBC is sponsoring the debate, but it will be shown on all three major networks and on cable news channels. It will stream online free (without requiring an account with a television provider) at NBCNews.com, MSNBC.com, the NBC News Mobile App and OTT apps, and Telemundo's digital platforms. What time wil it be on? The debate will air from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Wednesday. Where can I watch the livestream? Here is the livestream link of the debate from YouTube Live coverage: Come back here beginning at 7 p.m. for live coverage of the first night of the debate. 
  • Police arrested a woman who allegedly tried to kidnap a couple’s children in the atrium of Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport on Saturday morning. Police said Esther Daniels, 26, tried to grab a stroller with a child in it before being fended off by the child’s mother. She then picked up one of the couple’s other children and walked away, but the father took the child back from her, Atlanta police spokesman Sgt. John Chafee said in an emailed statement. >> Read more trending news  An officer responded a few minutes later and found Daniels in a frenzied mental state, Chafee said. She then allegedly ran toward a nearby family and had to be restrained by the officer, Chafee said.  Daniels, who lives in Kansas, eventually calmed down and was escorted to the police precinct in a wheelchair, the statement said. She was checked out at Grady Memorial Hospital before being taken to the Clayton County Jail. Daniels was charged with kidnapping and obstructing an officer. Her bond has not been set.
  • A Virginia man and woman are facing homicide charges after their 2-month-old daughter died from cocaine and heroin intoxication last year, authorities said. According to WDBJ-TV, police on Tuesday arrested Eugene Chandler Jr., 27, and Shaleigh Brumfield, 26, of Danville, on felony homicide charges in the baby's November 2018 death. Officials also charged the pair with child abuse and neglect, the news station reported. >> Read more trending news On Nov. 24, Danville police and emergency crews responded to a report of an infant who couldn't breathe, according to court documents. The child, identified as Marleigh Rain Chandler, was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital, the Danville Register & Bee reported. While searching the family's home, investigators discovered evidence of drug use, including marijuana and drug paraphernalia, WSET reported. The Western District Office of the Chief Medical Examiner conducted an autopsy, which revealed that Marleigh died from 'acute heroin and cocaine intoxication in a setting of co-sleeping,' officials said. Chandler and Brumfield were booked into the Danville City Jail, where they are being held without bond.
  • When the first Democratic presidential primary debate kicks off Wednesday night, Kirkland Dent will be watching. Dent, 28, a medical librarian at Mercer University in Macon, has been trying to keep up with the sprawling Democratic field aiming to unseat President Donald Trump — “I can probably name 80% of them,” he said. But he is looking forward to seeing them in action. “I’m curious about what their goals are, what issues they want to tackle.” So are Judy Hauser, Michael Murphy-McCarthy and John Chastain. They are among about a dozen Democratic and independent voters in Georgia who have agreed to take part in an informal focus group organized by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution to discuss the 2020 Democratic primary race. The AJC checked in with them for the first time ahead of the debates Wednesday and Thursday in Miami, the first opportunity many voters will get to see the candidates answer questions for a national audience. THE LATEST | Georgia Presidential candidate visit tracker MORE | Democratic presidential hopefuls emphasize Georgia’s big role in 2020 For the most part, the Georgia voters said they have been paying some attention to the race but want to know more. That’s true of Democratic voters nationally, too. According to a poll released this week by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs, only 35% of Democrats who are registered to vote say they’re paying close attention to the campaign. The size of the field doesn’t help, and most of the Georgia voters who talked to the AJC said they are eager for it to thin out a bit. The debates, which will feature 10 candidates on stage each night, won’t give the contenders a lot of time to make their case. “It’s going to be really, really hard to stand out in that big a crowd,” said Murphy-McCarthy, who lives in Peachtree Corners and works in IT. “It will be easier to fall down than to stand out.” Dent said a number of candidates have stood out for him so far: Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren and Andrew Yang. But he’s open to being surprised by lesser-known candidates. “It’s important for our generation to start paying attention a lot more,” he said. RELATED | Biden reverses stance on Hyde abortion amendment at Atlanta event MORE | Georgia’s ‘heartbeat’ law targeted by Democratic presidential hopefuls Chastain, 73, lives in largely Republican Cherokee County. “If I say I am a Democrat, it’s like I have the plague,” he joked. He said he’s very interested in the Democratic primary race and wants to hear candidates get specific at the debates. “I’m looking for some action plans,” he said, “I want to know what they are going to do, not just getting Trump out.” He’s retired and said health care is a top issue. Hauser, a registered nurse from Buckhead, wants a candidate who can win. “We need someone who is going to be able to take on Trump and his mouth,” she said. She said she likes Biden but is also interested in Buttigieg and Harris. Biden, she said, “has very good core values. Yes, he’s made some mistakes, but who hasn’t?” His age doesn’t bother her. “I see him as a one-term president that will bring this country back on even keel,” she said. Murphy-McCarthy, 51, said he’s been impressed by Warren but says he’s open to the others. “I’m OK with somebody coming out of nowhere,” he said. DEEPER COVERAGE | Which Democratic candidates have raised the most in Georgia PHOTOS | Top Democratic presidential contenders campaign in Atlanta Howard Giambrone of Coweta County is an independent who has mostly voted for Republicans in the past, but he is considering a Democrat in 2020. It won’t be Bernie Sanders or Warren, who he says are too liberal. He said he is looking for a candidate who is fiscally responsible, supportive of the military and has what he considers a moderate view on immigration. Giambrone’s wife is from Colombia and he doesn’t like Trump’s immigration policies. “I want to strengthen the border but make coming here (legally) less difficult,” he said. So far he thinks Biden and Cory Booker are possibilities. What can the candidates say to win him over? “I want to hear fresh ideas and get away from trashing Trump,” he said. William Black, 38, is a housekeeper in Jones County. He said his top issues are race relations and global warming, and his favorite candidates so far are Sanders and Biden. He isn’t too worried about the size of the field. “They will weed themselves out,” he said. He’s happy to see the enthusiasm. “It’s good for the Democratic Party that there’s that level of interest of people who want to change the country.” How to follow Democratic presidential debates NBC will host the first Democratic presidential debates Wednesday and Thursday, starting at 9 and concluding at 11 each night. Each night will feature 10 candidates. The debates will be broadcast by NBC News and also appear on MSNBC and Telemundo. Telemundo will broadcast the debate in Spanish. They also will stream online free on NBC News’ digital platforms, including NBCNews.com, MSNBC.com, the NBC News Mobile App and OTT apps on Roku, Apple TV and Amazon Fire TV, in addition to Telemundo’s digital platforms. NBC News will also stream the debates live and in full on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
  • A 58-year-old man is behind bars after police said he raped a child nightly over a three-year period. According to the Jackson Sun, William Paul Godwin of Parsons, Tennessee, was arrested Sunday and charged with 12 counts of child rape, as well as one count of continuous child rape, authorities said. >> Read more news stories Godwin is accused of forcing the girl into sexual intercourse nightly beginning in fall 2012, when she was 5, the Sun reported. The victim said the rapes continued until summer 2015, according to court documents. Godwin was jailed on $100,000 bond and is scheduled to appear in court July 8, WBBJ reported. Read more here or here.