iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The House kicked off its five-week recess passing two bills late Friday aimed at dealing with the influx of unaccompanied minors across the United States/Mexico border.
One measure sought to undo the President's "deferred action" program staving off deportations and granting work permits to younger immigrants brought here illegally as children.
Illinois Democrat Luis Gutierrez furiously accused Republicans of seeking to deport kids, saying, "Only cowards scapegoat children, and only those who are ashamed of themselves do it in the night."
Virginia Republican Bob Goodlatte answered that ending "deferred action" won't deport anyone.
"This bill simply freezes a program that violates the United States Constitution," Goodlatte said.
Democratic opposition to that bill, and a $700 million funding package for the border, mean neither House-passed measure will become law.
iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- In an unusual breach of decorum, even for the divided Congress, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi chased Rep. Tom Marino across the House floor, taking offense at comments by the Pennsylvania Republican during debate on the border funding bill Friday night.
"We don't have law and order," Marino began as he wrapped up his comments on the border supplemental. "My colleagues on the other side don’t want to do anything about it."
"Under the leadership of their former leader, when in 2009 and 2010, they had the House, the Senate and the White House, and they knew this problem existed," he continued. "They didn't have the strength to go after it back then. But now are trying to make a political issue out of it."
Off-mic, Pelosi then seemed to challenge Marino's assertion that Democrats did not do anything about the issue when they had majority control.
"Yes it is true," Marino replied directly to Pelosi, who was House speaker in those years. "I did the research on it. You might want to try it. You might want to try it, Madam Leader. Do the research on it. Do the research. I did it. That’s one thing that you don't do."
Marino then urged lawmakers to support the border supplemental because "apparently I hit the right nerve."
After Marino concluded his remarks, Pelosi quickly crossed the chamber, enraged, pointing and sticking her finger in Marino's face.
She then followed Marino up a Republican aisle, and continued arguing with him. Another Republican member spoke out to tell the chair that the House was not in order, in an effort to halt the bickering.
Pelosi finally relented as Republicans tried to get between Pelosi and Marino, and returned to the Democratic side of the chamber. The House voted to approve the $694 million border supplemental.
Alex Wong/Getty Images(RICHMOND, Va.) -- Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife Maureen are charged with selling political favors in exchange for lavish gifts, trips, and shopping expeditions. This week jurors have heard scintillating testimony and jaw-dropping allegations from the prosecution's star witness, Star Scientific CEO Jonnie Williams.
Everything from a $20,000 New York City shopping spree Williams took Maureen McDonnell on making stops at Louis Vuitton, Oscar de la Renta, and Bergdorf Goodman, to a $6,000 Rolex Williams bought for the governor at the request of his wife. So many of the tales are eyebrow raising, but much of it is detailed in the evidence entered in to court, including photographs of the then-first couple of Virginia enjoying Williams' Ferrari and personalized engraving on the back of the pricey watch.
Williams testified, according to the Washington Post, that Maureen McDonnell upon seeing his luxury cars told him "it'd just be nice" if one was available to drive when the family vacationed at Williams' vacation home on Smith Mountain Lake. Williams had the car delivered to the home and they ended up driving in the sports car during that trip.
The McDonnells drove Williams' Ferrari back to Richmond after their trip to Williams’ lake house, but McDonnell has said this was a favor to the businessman so he could have it back in the Virginia capital.
Among the lavish gifts from Williams to the McDonnells was a Rolex watch costing more than $6,000, engraved with "Robert F. McDonnell, 71st Governor of Virginia."
Williams testified the then-first lady said upon seeing Williams' own Rolex said, "I'd really like to get one of those for the governor. He just wears these old watches." Williams then said he told Maureen McDonnell, "Do you want me to get one of these watches for the governor?" Williams testified that she answered, "Yes, that would be nice."
In his testimony, Williams has now said, "It was a bad decision on my part to buy that watch when she asked for it…I shouldn't have had to buy things like that to get the help I needed."
Maureen McDonnell has said she gave the watch to her husband as a Christmas gift.
Testimony also revealed a text message from the then-Virginia governor to Williams in May, 2012. In it, it seems as though the governor is asking for money. "Johnnie. Per voicemail would like to see if you could extend another 20k loan for this year," McDonnell texts, misspelling Williams' first name.
iStock/Thinkstock(DES MOINES, Iowa) -- The Iowa caucuses can make or break presidential candidates just like they did for Barack Obama in 2008.
But caucuses, unlike a regular primary, take a lot more effort for the average voter. Like clockwork every four years, Hawkeye State voters gather in meetings to discuss — and ultimately decide which presidential candidate they want to see on the ballot in November — while also selecting convention delegates. These meetings can sometime take hours, and they may not be close to home.
The head of the Iowa Democratic Party, hoping for a strong showing in the 2016, proposed some ideas on Friday to boost turnout. Here are five suggestions that Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Scott Brennan proposed at a meeting of the Democratic National Committee:
1. Introduce legislation at the state level that would require employers to grant non-essential workers time off to participate in the caucuses.
2. Through the party, hire a caucus accessibility director to facilitate any approved changes and to review ways to increase the accessibility of the caucuses for more registered voters.
3. Look into expanding supervised activities for children at caucus sites. This would allow parents with small children, who would otherwise be forced to stay at home, to participate.
4. Explore setting up satellite caucus sites in areas where it would otherwise be difficult for voters to travel long distances for the meetings. Brennan each of these sites would have to first be approved by the State Democratic Party.
5. Allow members of the military to participate through a statewide caucus over the phone. The format of this "telecaucus" would mirror that of the standard caucuses. One caveat, Brennan admitted, is that it would have to be approved by the Department of Defense in order to take place.
All of these suggestions are, at the moment, only proposals and none of them are guaranteed to be implemented in Iowa's 2016 caucuses.
Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama on Friday admitted the CIA tortured al Qaeda detainees after the 9/11 attacks, saying “we did some things that were contrary to our values.”
“We tortured some folks,” the president told reporters at the White House, ahead of the release of a Senate report on enhanced interrogation techniques.
In a rare reflection on the practices that he banned after taking office, Obama said, “I understand why it happened” and underscored the tremendous pressure that national security officials were under in the aftermath of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
“It is important for us not to feel too sanctimonious in retrospect about the tough job that those folks had,” he said. “But having said all that, we did some things that were wrong.”
“When we engaged in some of these enhanced interrogation techniques, techniques that I believe and any fair-minded person would believe were torture, we crossed a line,” the president said. “That needs to be understood and accepted. And we have to as a country take responsibility for that so that hopefully we don’t do it again in the future.”
Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) -- On the eve of the August Congressional recess, President Obama took a big swat at Republican lawmakers.
On Friday Obama summarily dismissed efforts by the GOP to refashion a bill to address the humanitarian crisis at the southern border, blasted them for blocking several of his ambassadorial nominees and needled them for their inability to reach consensus within even their own ranks.
Obama didn't hold himself totally blameless though -- "there's no doubt that I can always do better on everything," he acknowledged in his remarks in the White House briefing room.
"We all agree that there is a problem that needs to be solved in a portion of our southern border. And we even agree on most of the solutions. But instead of working together, instead of focusing on the 80 percent where there is agreement between Democrats and Republicans, between the administration and Congress, House Republicans as we speak are trying to pass the most extreme and unworkable versions of a bill that they already know is going nowhere, that can't pass the Senate and that if it were to pass the Senate, I would veto. They know it. They're not even trying to actually solve the problem."
2. So Sue Me?
"Keep in mind that just a few days earlier, they voted to sue me for acting on my own, and then when they couldn't pass a bill yesterday, they put out a statement suggesting I should act on my own because they couldn't pass a bill." 3. Diplomatic Delay
"Even basic things like approving career diplomats for critical ambassadorial posts aren't getting done. … They're still blocking our ambassador to Sierra Leone, where there's currently an Ebola outbreak. They're blocking our ambassador to Guatemala even as they demand that we do more to stop the flow of unaccompanied children from Guatemala. There are lot of things that we could be arguing about on policy. That's what we should be doing as a democracy, but we shouldn't be having an argument about placing career diplomats with bipartisan support in countries around the world where we have to have a presence."
4. 'A Little More Extreme'
"They couldn't quite pull off yesterday, so they made it a little more extreme so maybe they can pass it today, just so they can check a box before they're leaving town for a month. And this is on an issue that they all insisted had to be a top priority."
5. They Can't Even Agree With Themselves
"So now we have a short-term crisis with respect to the Rio Grande Valley. They say we need more resources, we need tougher border security in this area, where these unaccompanied children are showing up. We agree, so we put forward a supplemental to give us the additional resources and funding to do exactly what they say we should be doing. And they can't pass the bill. They can't even pass their own version of the bill. So that's not a disagreement between me and the House Republicans. That's a disagreement between the House Republicans and the House Republicans."
6. 'Congress Is Failing'
"A student loan bill that would help folks who have student loan debt consolidate and refinance at lower rates -- that didn't pass. The transportation bill that they did pass just gets us through the spring when we should actually be planning years in advance. States and businesses are raising the minimum wage for their workers because this Congress is failing to do so." 7. Problem Solving? Not So Much
"When Congress returns next month, my hope is, is that instead of simply trying to pass partisan message bills on party lines that don't actually solve problems, they're going to be willing to come together to at least focus on some key areas where there's broad agreement. After all that we've had to overcome, our Congress should stop standing in the way of our country's success."
The White House(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama on Friday dismissed efforts by House Republicans to refashion a bill to address the humanitarian crisis at the southern border, calling it a doomed "message bill" that wouldn't solve the problem, but would allow them to "check a box" before leaving on vacation.
The president spoke as House Speaker John Boehner huddled behind closed doors with the Republican conference to work several changes into legislation that had been pulled back Thursday because they lacked the votes to pass the measure.
A vote on the revamped $694 million was expected later Friday.
Obama praised Congress for passing bills this week to bolster the Veterans Affairs Administration and finance the transportation fund, but said "big ticket items ... are just not getting done." He cited the immigration bill.
Republican leaders snatched two bills from the floor on Thursday, including an immigration bill, due to insufficient support and delayed the start of a five-week summer recess.
But the president scoffed at Boehner's efforts to make changes to the immigration bill in order to win the votes of conservative Republicans.
"House Republicans as we speak are trying to pass the most extreme and unworkable [immigration] bill," Obama said and indicated the measure was doomed.
"It won't pass the Senate and if it did, I would veto it. They know that," the president said.
Obama called it a "partisan message bill on party lines that won't solve problems... It's just so they can check a box before leaving town."
The new total of the spending measure is $694 million after leaders agreed to increase money for the National Guard by $35 million, doubling the previous total to $70 million, according to a senior Republican aide.
The original package included $334 million for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to increase enforcement, $40 million in repatriation assistance to Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, and $197 million for the Department of Health and Human Services to provide temporary housing and humanitarian assistance to unaccompanied alien children and families.
Republicans are also expected to vote on Friday to change the Deferred Action on Child Arrivals program, known as DACA, which defers deportations and provides two-year work visas to some undocumented minors who entered the U.S. prior to 2007.
“If it is what they say it is I think we're going to have a good conservative bill,” Rep. John Carter, R-Texas, told reporters outside the meeting. “Then the question is do we have the votes to support this bill, and I think we'll be finding out today.”
After the meeting, two key lawmakers who had initially opposed the legislation, Reps. Steve King of Iowa and Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, signaled support for the rewritten measures.
“We're in good shape. I'm a yes,” King, R-Iowa, said. “The president cannot make up immigration law out of his own. He can't create work permits out of thin air. He's got to abide by the Constitution.”
“It sends a message to the president to stop violating the constitution, stop ordering ICE to violate the law, and it says to the president, don't take the risk of trying to expand 5 million illegal people here and give them a legal status,” he added.
Bachmann says she changed her mind after the leadership agreed to incorporate changes that would bar renewals of expiring work permits or the issuance of any new ones.
“We put our concerns on the table,” Bachmann said. “This is a brand new bill. It is a clean, comprehensive DACA bill, which means we are going to be sending a message to the Central American countries…you will be sent back to your country.”
“Today could have been an opportunity for coming together,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said on Friday. “The Republicans have moved more to the right. Not to the correct, but to the right.”
US State Department(WASHINGTON) -- At this point in the presidential cycle, virtually anybody even thinking about running for president has racked up frequent flier miles going back-and-forth to Iowa and New Hampshire.
Senators Rand Paul and Ted Cruz have already made a combined 10 trips to Iowa since the last election. Democrats too -- Vice President Joe Biden, as well as Martin O’Malley and Amy Klobucher, have visited. Even Sen. Bernie Sanders has made two trips each to Iowa and New Hampshire.
But the most formidable candidate of all hasn’t been to either state in ages. Hillary Clinton has not set foot in Iowa since she came in third in the Iowa caucuses on Jan. 4, 2008 -- 2,401 days ago.
And it appears the former Secretary of State hasn't made a public appearance in New Hampshire since she won the 2008 New Hampshire primary -- 2,397 days ago.
At least some in Iowa are starting to feel neglected. Last month, the Iowa Gazette practically begged Clinton to visit.
“We’ve watched as you have flexed your muscles on the international stage and have been impressed with your ability to connect,” the Gazette editorialized. “But as Iowans, we need to see that connection in action. Our hope, if you are really considering a 2016 run, is that you have learned from your experience and come to Iowa intent on having true conversations about what matters to our state and the fine people in it.”
Mrs. Clinton’s Hard Choices book tour has brought her all over the country, but has stayed clear of the early presidential primary states. No book signings or speeches in Iowa or New Hampshire. None in South Carolina, either.
It’s a measure of just how different a candidate Hillary Clinton will be -- so formidable, such an overwhelming favorite, so thoroughly well-known -- that she apparently doesn’t need to worry about laying the groundwork for a campaign in the early states.
But in urging Mrs. Clinton to visit the Hawkeye state, the Iowa Gazette sought to remind Mrs. Clinton that she also kept clear of Iowa back when she was the overwhelming frontrunner early in the 2008 presidential cycle.
“Mistakes were made -- frankly, too many to list here -- but chief above them all was the steadfast refusal of the Clinton campaign to honor the tradition of visiting the early states,” the Gazette editorialized, urging her to start engaging Iowa voters. “We’d suggest sooner rather than later this time.”
ABC News reached out to Clinton’s spokesman Nick Merrill to ask why she's steered clear of the states to which virtually every other potential candidate has been flocking, and to see if she has any plans to visit those states any time soon, but we did not get a response.
ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Hours before the 9/11 terrorist attacks, former U.S. President Bill Clinton told an audience in Australia about his missed chance to kill mastermind Osama bin Laden, according to audio released this week.
Clinton was speaking at a business meeting in Melbourne when the topic turned to terrorism.
“And I’m just saying, you know, if I were Osama bin Laden…He’s a very smart guy. I spent a lot of time thinking about him. And I nearly got him once,” Clinton said in the audio, which was recorded by former Liberal Party head Michael Kroger and aired by Sky News.
“I nearly got him. And I could have killed him, but I would have had to destroy a little town called Kandahar in Afghanistan and kill 300 innocent women and children, and then I would have been no better than him."
“And so I didn’t do it.”
Hours after Clinton spoke, a hijacked Boeing 767 slammed into the north tower of New York City’s World Trade Center. A second plane struck the south tower 18 minutes later. Other planes crashed in Washington, D.C. and western Pennsylvania. The attacks, organized by bin Laden, killed more than 3,000 people.
Bin Laden, who headed the terrorist group al Qaeda, had been targeted by authorities due to his role in the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya.
Clinton’s statements referred to a proposed strike in December 1998, after intelligence indicated that bin Laden was staying at the governor’s residence in Kandahar. That proposed attack was addressed in the 9/11 Commission Report, released in 2004.
According to the report, the missed chance made some lower-level officials angry, but later intelligence appeared to show that bin Laden had left his quarters.
“The principals’ wariness about ordering a strike appears to have been vindicated: bin Laden left his room unexpectedly, and if a strike had been ordered he would not have been hit,” the commission wrote.
U.S. officials again considered a missile strike against bin Laden in May 1999 -- but as was the case months before, they held back from striking, wary of conflicting intelligence reports. That skepticism may have been bolstered by the CIA’s accidental bombing on the Chinese embassy in Belgrade during the NATO war against Serbia, the commission said.
“This episode may have made officials more cautious than might otherwise have been the case,” the commission’s report states.
From May 1999 until September 2001, authorities did not again actively consider a missile strike against bin Laden.
Bin Laden was eventually killed in a 2011 raid by U.S. Special Forces in Pakistan.
iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Senate Republicans blocked a bill Thursday that would provide $2.7 billion in funding to address the crisis of minors from Central America illegally entering the United States.
With 50 yeas and 44 nays, the Senate did not advance Sen. Barbara Mikulski’s, D-Md., proposal to provide funding in response to President Obama’s request. The measure required a 60-vote threshold.
On July 8, the president asked Congress to supply an emergency $3.7 billion to address what members of both parties have deemed a national crisis. That request included $1.1 billion to improve enforcement and detain and return adults accompanying children across the border, plus about $2.2 billion to help Customs and Border Patrol and the Department of Health and Human Services detain, house and care for children after they have crossed.
In response to that request, Mikulski proposed a pared-down $2.7 billion package.
Under Senate rules, all non-emergency funding must include spending offsets, and 44 Republicans voted against waiving those rules and proceeding to a vote on Mikulski's spending package. All 50 Senate Democrats voted to waive budget rules and proceed to vote on the bill.
House Republicans struggled Thursday to corral members for a vote Friday on their own border bill, but the Senate bill's failure ensures that Congress will not send a border measure -- much less the $3.7 billion in funding he requested -- to President Obama's desk before its August recess.
The House will convene for a border vote Friday before leaving town for August recess. After voting late into the night Thursday, the Senate will be in session without holding any votes on Friday, its last day before the month-long break.
iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- In a rare moment of bipartisan, bicameral unity, Congress has approved a deal to add $15 billion and institute reforms at the Veterans Administration.
The agency has been plagued by scandal; staffers routinely falsified wait times for veterans seeking care, and gamed internal procedures to hide the delays. Dozens of veterans died while reportedly waiting to see doctors.
The scandal resulted in the ouster of former VA Secretary Eric Shinseki.
After the House passed the measure on Wednesday, the Senate followed suit Thursday. The VA deal sailed through two votes: an 86-8 vote to waive budget rules, and a 91-3 vote to pass the bill and send it to President Obama's desk.
After weeks of negotiations, the House and Senate Veterans Affairs Committees this week reached a deal to provide $10 billion in, "mandatory emergency money" to contract health care outside the VA system. An additional $5 billion, offset by spending cuts within the VA, will go to hiring new doctors and nurses. Veterans living more than 40 miles away from a VA facility will be able to obtain care outside the VA network.
On the floor before the final vote, Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., thanked Sen. John McCain for intervening and making sure the deal was approached by "serious negotiators."
On Tuesday, the Senate approved Shinseki's replacement, voting 97-0 to confirm former Procter & Gamble CEO Robert McDonald as the next Veterans Affairs secretary.
iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- With the clock ticking down to the congressional recess and amid a day of high drama over how to handle the border crisis, the House of Representatives made time for another matter: "Planes, Trains and Automobiles: Operating While Stoned."
That was the title of a hearing held on Thursday by the House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Government Operations, which was reviewing the federal government's response to state-level marijuana legalization as it pertains to transportation policy.
The consensus of experts who testified before the committee was that operating a vehicle under the influence of drugs poses a clear danger to the public, but lawmakers expressed concern that methods to test for marijuana are not up to date -- and neither is the science.
"We don't have a uniform standard," said Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va. "The variable is much greater than that of other controlled substances such as alcohol. We actually can’t scientifically pinpoint levels of impairment with any accuracy."
"We would all concede there's some impairment for some period of time, but it's very variable, and we're not quite sure yet -- sure enough to adopt a uniform standard," he added.
Testing vehicle operators for marijuana is not quite as simple as using a breathalyzer to test for alcohol, officials noted.
Dr. Jeff Michael, associate administrator at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, explained that marijuana does not appear to have a distinct impairment threshold -- such as the .08% blood alcohol content that a breathalyzer can test for. The level of impairment from THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, is much more variable than alcohol, making it harder to gauge, he said.
"Beyond some broad confirmation that high levels of THC are associated with higher levels of impairment, a more precise association of THC levels and degrees of impairment are not yet available," Michael said during the hearing.
Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., the chairman of the subcommittee, highlighted a device capable of detecting marijuana within four hours of entering the system. Mica even brought the device into the hearing room.
"I was gonna swab the panelists," the congressman quipped, "but I thought I wouldn't do that today."
"You can take a swab with this —-- and it can tell you if anyone has used marijuana within four hours," Mica noted. "But again, we have no standard. We have no acceptable test. And we have no way of telling if people are impaired. Most of the data we're getting right now is from, again, fatalities."
Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Cancel that flight, congressman.
Lawmakers departing on Thursday for their annual August recess are now being told “not so fast” after the House Republican leadership pulled a $659 million bill to address the ongoing crisis at the southern border.
Several House Republicans told ABC News they were furious about not taking a vote on the bill, and they were pushing for a chance to do so before leaving town.
Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy told lawmakers to stay near the Capitol, suggesting that a vote could still take place on Thursday.
In fact, House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers, R-Ky., told ABC News that he was at the airport when he was summoned back to the Capitol for a closed-door GOP meeting.
Rogers said it became clear Thursday morning the conservative defections were growing, but he said he and others believe the House should vote -- up or down -- on immigration.
"I would like to see us have a vote," Rogers said in an interview.
There is an unusual air of uncertainty in the Capitol, mixed with a big dose of dysfunction, as rank-and-file Republicans discuss whether to have a vote on immigration before they go home for August recess.
Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., told ABC News that he believes lawmakers need to vote. Leaving town without doing so, he said, will be difficult to explain to constituents. He supports the immigration bill.
At issue is a Tea Party revolt that broke out on Thursday among House Republicans inspired by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who urged members late into the night to oppose a bill to approve more money to address the border crisis.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, thought he had enough Republican votes for the spending bill, but he canceled a vote after it appeared that was not the case.
Earlier on Thursday, Boehner, along with his Republican colleagues -- Reps. Kevin McCarthy of California, Steve Scalise of Louisiana and Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington state -- issued the following statement on the legislation:
“This situation shows the intense concern within our conference -- and among the American people -- about the need to ensure the security of our borders and the president’s refusal to faithfully execute our laws. There are numerous steps the president can and should be taking right now, without the need for congressional action, to secure our borders and ensure these children are returned swiftly and safely to their countries,” the quartet of lawmakers wrote in a joint statement. “For the past month, the House has been engaged in intensive efforts to pass legislation that would compel the president to do his job and ensure it can be done as quickly and compassionately as possible. Through an inclusive process, a border bill was built by listening to members and the American people that has the support not just of a majority of the majority in the House, but most of the House Republican Conference."
The decision by GOP leaders sparked a counter revolt, and members of Congress say they've rarely seen an afternoon like this.
Of course, even if the House does pass its $659 million border bill, it still faces certain defeat in the Senate.