With a White House veto threat looming, top Senate Democrats on Thursday froze progress on a key spending bill.
At issue: a Republican attempt to attach language to the measure that would block President Obama’s plan to use the Environmental Protection Agency to address power plants’ contributions to global warming.
The declaration signals Obama’s determination to uphold the recently unveiled global-warming rule, which stands to become the linchpin of the president’s environmental legacy.
Congress has until the end of September to approve the spending bills needed to stave off another government shutdown, but the fight over climate action raises another hurdle to passing this section of the budget — which would lay out the next fiscal year’s worth of finances on energy and water programs.
Sen. Barbara Mikulski, the chair of the Senate panel where the bill was set to be marked up, said the legislation would have to be voted on eventually, but that she pulled it from consideration Thursday after receiving word from the White House that the president would veto any anti-EPA riders.
“The amendment was a bill killer,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein, another Democrat on the panel, said during the hearing. “If it didn’t lead to defeat on the Senate floor, it would have resulted in a White House veto; that was confirmed to me by the White House yesterday.”
Administration officials weighed in during an eleventh-hour scramble Wednesday night as Mikulski and Feinstein tried to decide whether to proceed.
Republican members of the panel cast the decision as another instance of Senate Democrats disallowing amendment votes sought by the minority.
“I’m so troubled by the decision today,” said Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander. “I hope we think about what we’re doing here. This cannot be the way the Senate works.”
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In a statement Friday, Sen. John McCain wrote, "I cannot in good conscience vote for the Graham-Cassidy proposal. I believe we could do better working together, Republicans and Democrats, and have not yet really tried. Nor could I support it without knowing how much it will cost, how it will effect insurance premiums, and how many people will be helped or hurt by it. Without a full CBO score, which won't be available by the end of the month, we won't have reliable answers to any of those questions." His "no" vote makes it much less likely Republicans will repeal and replace Obamacare by Sept. 30.
As anticipated, the Department of Education today withdrew the controversial Obama-era "Dear Colleague" letter on campus sexual assault, replacing it with new interim guidance. Most notably, the new guidance permits colleges to use a “clear and convincing” standard of evidence, rather than the preponderance of evidence standard that the 2011 letter seemed to mandate. "The new guidance also states that colleges may facilitate informal resolutions, including mediation, if all parties agree to participate in that process."
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In a live-streamed address from Silicon Valley, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg announced a nine-point plan that the tech giant is rolling out over coming months to respond to "efforts by nation-states and private actors to use the social media platform to influence U.S. elections." Most importantly, the company will force all advertisers to disclose what ads they're running to all audiences. “When someone buys political ads on TV or other media, they’re required by law to disclose who paid for them,” Zuckerberg said. “But you still don’t know if you’re seeing the same messages as everyone else. So we’re going to bring Facebook to an even higher standard of transparency. Not only will you have to disclose which page paid for an ad, but we will also make it so you can visit an advertiser’s page and see the ads they’re currently running to any audience on Facebook.”
As "part of a broader Trump administration order for anti-leaks training at all executive branch agencies," Environmental Protection Agency employees "are attending mandatory training sessions this week to reinforce their compliance with laws and rules against leaking classified or sensitive government information ... Relatively few EPA employees deal with classified files, but the new training also reinforces requirements to keep 'Controlled Unclassified Information' from unauthorized disclosure."