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National Govt & Politics

    The House voted Tuesday mainly along party lines to publicly rebuke President Donald Trump for tweets and remarks aimed at a group of minority women Democrats, but the legislative reprimand dissolved into hours of parliamentary disarray on the floor, as for the first time in 35 years, a Speaker of the House ran afoul of the House rules during debate on the Trump resolution. Four Republicans broke ranks with the President and voted for the resolution to condemn the President's remarks: Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX), Rep. Susan Brooks (R-IN), Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) and Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), plus one Independent, former GOP Rep. Justin Amash (I-MI). 'Every single Member of this institution, Democratic and Republican, should join us in condemning the President's racist tweets,' Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, triggering hours of delay, as the GOP demanded that her words be 'taken down' and expunged from the Congressional Record. When challenged by Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA) - who suggested gracefully that the Speaker re-frame her comments to avoid running afoul of rules which severely limit what can be said about a President on the House floor - Pelosi said her remarks had been cleared by the Parliamentarian. But that did not turn out to be the case, as the chair ruled that the Speaker's words were out of order - though the House later overturned that ruling in a party line vote. The House precedents are very clear that the word 'racist' - or anything which suggests that a President has engaged in 'racist' behavior - is not allowed in debate. It was the first time in 35 years - since Speaker Tip O'Neill had his words 'taken down' during a 1984 House floor dispute with future Speaker Rep. Newt Gingrich R-GA - that a Speaker had been so sanctioned. But this time, Democrats refused to strike the Speaker's words from the Record, and then voted to go against a long standing precedent by allowing the Speaker to re-join the debate. Normally, if a member is sanctioned - and has their words taken down - that person is not allowed to speak for the rest of the day. The day also included a highly unusual scene, after the Parliamentarian determined that Pelosi had violated House rules by referring to the President's 'racist tweets,' as Rep. Emmanuel Cleaver (D-MO) refused to publicly admonish the Speaker, dropping the gavel and leaving the Speaker's chair. 'I abandon the Chair,' Cleaver said, leaving Congressional veterans grasping for any historic parallel. If the President was worried by the House vote, he didn't show it, using a session with reporters at the White House to again criticize four new Democratic women, who have repeatedly attacked his actions and policy choices. “It’s my opinion they hate our country. And that’s not good. It’s not acceptable,” Mr. Trump said.
  • Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff is recommending that the agency cut back on inspections at the country's nuclear reactors, a cost-cutting move promoted by the nuclear power industry but denounced by opponents as a threat to public safety. The recommendations, made public Tuesday, include reducing the time and scope of annual inspections at the nation's 90-plus nuclear power plants. Some other inspections would be cut from every two years to every three years. Some of the staff's recommendations would require a vote by the commission, which has a majority of members appointed or reappointed by President Donald Trump, who has urged agencies to reduce regulatory requirements for industries. The nuclear power industry has prodded regulators to cut inspections, saying the nuclear facilities are operating well and that the inspections are a financial burden for power providers. Nuclear power, like coal-fired power, has been struggling in market completion against cheaper natural gas and rising renewable energy. While Tuesday's report made clear that there was considerable disagreement among the nuclear agency's staff on the cuts, it contended the inspection reduction 'improves efficiency while still helping to ensure reasonable assurance of adequate protection to the public.' Commission member Jeff Baran criticized the proposed changes Tuesday, saying reducing oversight of the nuclear power industry 'would take us in the wrong direction.' 'NRC shouldn't perform fewer inspections or weaken its safety oversight to save money,' Baran said. The release comes a day after Democratic lawmakers faulted the NRC's deliberations, saying they had failed to adequately inform the public of the changes under consideration. 'Cutting corners on such critical safety measures may eventually lead to a disaster that could be detrimental to the future of the domestic nuclear industry,' Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and other House Democrats said in a letter Monday to NRC Chairwoman Kristine Svinicki. NRC spokespeople did not immediately return a request for comment Tuesday. Edwin Lyman, a nuclear-power expert at the nonprofit Union of Concerned Scientists, faulted the reasoning of commission staff that the good performance of much of the nuclear power industry warranted cutting back on agency inspections for problems and potential problems. 'That completely ignores the cause-and-effect relationship between inspections and good performances,' Lyman said.
  • Mark Sanford, the former South Carolina governor and congressman, floated the possibility on Tuesday that he would mount an uphill challenge to President Donald Trump for the Republican presidential nomination. His motivations were immediately greeted with skepticism from some political observers in South Carolina, who have watched Sanford plot a political comeback before and questioned whether he was merely seeking publicity. But Sanford, known during his Capitol Hill years as a deficit hawk mindful of federal spending, said he would take the next 30 days to decide if he would run against Trump or possibly start a think tank devoted to fiscal conservatism. He said he was determined to bring the debt and fiscal restraint into the national conversation and he believed there was more than enough talk about Trump's incendiary rhetoric and his attacks on political and societal norms. 'There's plenty of discussion on that front,' Sanford said Tuesday on CNN. 'The place where there's no discussion is the way in which interest is the largest growing expense in the federal government. We will spend more on interest than we do on our national defense bill in just three years. Nobody's talking about it.' Some questioned whether Sanford would ultimately run for president, as first reported by The Post & Courier of Charleston , and said they believed his consideration for a 2020 bid might be an effort to stay relevant after a defeat in last year's primary. 'If this move were the earnest desire of a statesman to answer a call of the people, it would be admirable service,' said Catherine Templeton, former Republican Gov. Nikki Haley's labor and environmental secretary who backed Sanford as governor and congressman and previously declined to run against him in Congress. 'By his own words, however, this is about Mark doing what Mark does. This is Mark being Mark.' Although unlikely to have had a significant impact on the results, Trump endorsed Sanford's primary opponent just hours before the polls closed last year. He tweeted that Sanford 'has been very unhelpful to me in my campaign' and that 'He is better off in Argentina' — a reference to Sanford's secret 2009 rendezvous to South America for an extramarital affair while his in-the-dark gubernatorial staff told reporters he was hiking the Appalachian Trail. Cagey about his future plans since the loss, Sanford said Tuesday that he'd been approached repeatedly over the past year about possibly challenging Trump and was prepared for the Republican establishment to 'naturally circle the wagons around Trump.' That circling seemed to begin Tuesday, when South Carolina GOP Chairman Drew McKissick said in a statement: 'The last time Mark Sanford had an idea this dumb, it killed his Governorship. This makes about as much sense as that trip up the Appalachian trail.' A primary bid would have relevance only if states opt to hold primaries, not a given in the party of an incumbent seeking reelection. McKissick has said state party leaders will make that decision this fall. If Sanford's ultimate goal is an advocacy group, that's something he could start now in South Carolina, where former state GOP Chairman Matt Moore said the former governor still has more than $1 million in his election account — money he could transfer to start such an organization. Otherwise, Moore said, Sanford is setting himself up for a struggle. 'If Mark counts raising fiscal issues as a win, then this campaign might be successful,' Moore said. 'But to win a primary against a sitting president is almost impossible.' Joel Sawyer, Sanford's longtime gubernatorial spokesman and press secretary, said Tuesday that, while Sanford's commitment to fiscal restraint is deeply engrained in his persona, it's matched by his desire for publicity and limelight. 'A big part of it for him is wanting to change the conversation, but there's also a big part of it in that he wants to be the conversation changer,' Sawyer said. 'I think that it just doesn't seem to be the most serious-minded way to get back into the conversation, but it's definitely the splashiest.' ___ Kinnard can be reached at http://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP
  • The United States is hitting four top Myanmar generals, including the country's commander in chief and his deputy, with sanctions over the mass killings of Rohingya Muslims. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement Tuesday that the four are responsible for 'gross human rights violations' involving extrajudicial killings in an ethnic cleansing campaign against the Rohingya in Myanmar's northern Rakhine state. The sanctions bar those targeted and their immediate families from traveling to the United States. The four men are: Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing, his deputy Soe Win, and two subordinates deemed responsible for the abuses. Myanmar's military has been accused of widespread rights violations leading about 700,000 Rohingya to flee the country since August 2017.
  • Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden has released a broad plan to revitalize rural America through investments in agriculture, rural economies and infrastructure. Biden said Tuesday in Manning, Iowa, a town of about 1,500 residents, that 'we have to ensure we bring along everyone.' He says it 'doesn't matter if you live in a skyscraper in Manhattan, or here in Manning — your child is entitled' to all the benefits of being an American. The plan builds on policies the former vice president has already released on health care and climate change. It sets the ambitious goal of making America's agriculture industry the first in the world to achieve net-zero emissions. It also includes a raft of policies aimed at bolstering rural health care access.
  • No votes have been cast in the Democratic presidential nominating contest, but the winnowing has begun. A distinct top tier of candidates is breaking away from the pack in early polling and fundraising, building distance between themselves and the rest of the bloated field. Although the first nominating contest in Iowa is still more than six months away, tighter qualifying standards for the fall debates and cash flow problems have prompted questions about how many campaigns will still be operational next year. Five candidates have pulled away from the pack: former Vice President Joe Biden, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, California Sen. Kamala Harris and Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana. Biden has consistently led early polls, with the four others jostling for position behind him. Most other candidates have struggled to even hit 2% in recent surveys. Money has also flowed disproportionally to the top five candidates. Buttigieg, who led the field in second quarter fundraising with $24.8 million, raised more than a quartet of senators — Amy Klobuchar, Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand and Michael Bennet — combined. 'There's a field of likelies, unlikelies and possibles,' said Sue Dvorsky, the former chairwoman of the Iowa Democratic Party. Even as the primary field cleaves into haves and have nots, big questions remain about what direction the party will take as voters weigh who best, and how best, to defeat President Donald Trump next year. The top tier includes moderates and liberals; the oldest contender in the race and the youngest; and a black candidate. At this early phase, the enduring strength of the leading White House hopefuls is unclear. Biden is a fragile front-runner whose decadeslong political career will continue to be picked apart. Harris faces questions about whether she can sustain her spurts of dynamism. Buttigieg is struggling with black voters, the backbone of the Democratic Party. And some Democrats anxiously wonder whether Sanders and Warren, the most liberal candidates in the race, could win a general election. 'This fall is when voters get serious,' said Jim Demers, a Booker supporter who chaired Barack Obama's 2008 campaign in New Hampshire. 'That's when we're going to know who's real and who's not.' Each of the top-tier candidates appears certain to still be in the mix when voters start taking a more serious look at the race. But that's far from a sure thing for some White House hopefuls mired at the bottom of the pack. Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper's fundraising has largely dried up, and he has less than $1 million in the bank. Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan raised just $899,000 in the second quarter, far from what is needed to fund a campaign apparatus in the early voting states. Other lower-tier candidates are still building out operations aimed at sustaining them through a long campaign. Booker recently added 19 paid organizers in Nevada and South Carolina and has one of the largest teams on the ground in the early states — a costly strategy designed to allow him to capitalize on a breakout moment, if he has one. Gillibrand's campaign expects to end the month with 35 paid staffers on the ground in Iowa and close to 20 in New Hampshire. But privately, some members of Gillibrand's team are said to be frustrated that her candidacy isn't catching on, and some junior staff are eyeing moves to other campaigns, according to a person with knowledge of the operation. There's also anxiousness among some lower-level staffers working for former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke, according to a Democrat with knowledge of his operation. Both people spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the campaigns. Both candidates' challenges are clear. Gillibrand spent $4.2 million during the second quarter despite raising only $2.2 million. She still has a healthy $8.2 million to keep her afloat, but that's due in large part to a nearly $10 million transfer from her Senate campaign earlier this year. That money will dissipate quickly if her fundraising doesn't increase in the second half of the year. O'Rourke spent about $1.6 million more than he took in, leaving him with $5.1 million on hand. He raised just $3.6 million during the second quarter, about half what he brought in during his first 24 hours in the presidential race. Gillibrand, O'Rourke and other struggling candidates will have a high-profile opportunity to change their fortunes in the next Democratic debate later this month. But such opportunities could be fleeting for many in the field. The Democratic National Committee has tightened the qualifying standards for the fall debates, requiring candidates to both raise money from 130,000 individual donors and amass 2% of support in four polls. All of the top five candidates have already qualified for the September debate, as has O'Rourke. Booker has met the polling criteria but lags in the donor count. Boyd Brown, a South Carolina Democrat who encouraged O'Rourke to run, said it's already time for some campaigns to 'be hitting the panic button.' 'People need to get out,' Brown said. He conceded that O'Rourke has slipped into the lower-tier of candidates and said it could be time for him to reevaluate in the fall if his numbers haven't improved. The big field has also been a drain on some voters in the early states who are inundated with calls from campaigns and invitations to candidate events. John Felice, a 68-year-old music teacher from New Hampshire, said that while he likes several of the candidates, 'it's fatiguing how big the field is.' ___ Associated Press writers Brian Slodysko and Hunter Woodall and AP polling editor Emily Swanson contributed to this report. ___ Follow Julie Pace at http://twitter.com/jpaceDC and Steve Peoples at http://twitter.com/sppeoples
  • Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer opened the door on Tuesday to ending the procedural rule that requires 60 votes to steer most bills through the chamber if Democrats take the Senate and White House in 2020 — a boon to presidential candidates and activists in his party who have called for that change. Schumer told reporters that 'nothing's off the table' if Democrats defeat President Donald Trump and take back the Senate in 2020. However, the New York Democrat cautioned that before removing the filibuster for legislation, 'our first step is to get back the majority' of the Senate, where Democrats currently control 47 votes to the GOP's 53 votes. It wasn't the first time Schumer has signaled that he would be open to ending the filibuster, which allows 41 senators to block approval of legislation if they vote as a bloc. But his renewed openness to the move is a victory for liberal activists who have elevated the filibuster in the party's 2020 presidential primary. Progressive groups have urged Democratic White House hopefuls to commit to ending a practice that liberals say Senate Republicans would use to block the priorities of any future Democratic president. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren has said she would eliminate the filibuster if elected president, urging fellow Democrats to 'be bold and clear.' Other top Democrats, including California Sen. Kamala Harris and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, have expressed openness to curtailing it. However, even if Democrats were to take back the Senate and the White House next year, securing the votes necessary to end the filibuster won't be a simple task. One of the Senate's most centrist Democrats, West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, was surprised that Schumer would decline to rule out eliminating the filibuster. The Senate's ability to function as intended by 'our Founding Fathers,' Manchin said in an interview, relies on giving the minority 'the ability to stop crazy stuff' from passing. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has previously spurned entreaties to end the filibuster for legislation, including from Trump himself. However, he did eliminate the 60-vote threshold required to confirm Supreme Court nominees in 2017, following a Democratic move in 2013 to end the requirement for other executive branch and judicial nominees.
  • Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer says he supports legislation that would create a commission to study reparations for the descendants of enslaved black people in the United States. Speaking to reporters at the Capitol, the New York Democrat on Tuesday called racism 'the poison of America' and said that more must be done to address the country's legacy of racial inequality. Texas Democratic Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee has introduced a resolution that would create the commission to explore reparations. Last month, a House committee held the first hearing on the issue in a generation. House Democratic leaders plan to hold a vote on the resolution, but it's going nowhere in the Republican-controlled Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is opposed.
  • President Donald Trump says the U.S. is not going to sell F-35 fighter jets to Turkey after Ankara decided to buy a missile defense system from Russia. The Trump administration has repeatedly told Turkey that it will be cut off from buying F-35s if it buys the S-400 Russian air defense system because it's incompatible with NATO defenses and could jeopardize sensitive information about F-35 technologies. Turkey is a member of NATO. Trump blamed the Obama administration for never reaching a deal to sell an American missile defense system to Turkey. He says Turkey had ordered more than 100 F-35s but because it bought a Russian missile system, the U.S. can't sell it billions of dollars' worth of aircraft. Trump spoke Tuesday during a Cabinet meeting at the White House.
  • The Latest on the Trump administration's family planning rule (all times local): 3:35 p.m. Planned Parenthood says it won't comply with a Trump administration rule that bars taxpayer-funded family planning clinics from referring women for abortions. Jacqueline Ayers, the organization's top lobbyist, said Tuesday that Planned Parenthood clinics will stop accepting federal money as they press Congress and the courts to reverse the administration's new requirement. Ayers told The Associated Press in an interview that Planned Parenthood will tap emergency funding, but she's not sure how long that can last. She says Planned Parenthood believes it is wrong for health care providers to withhold information from patients. The federal Department of Health and Human Services informed clinics Monday that it will begin enforcing the ban on abortion referrals, as well as a requirement that clinics maintain separate finances from facilities that provide abortions. __ 1:30 p.m. The Trump administration's ban on taxpayer-funded family planning clinics referring women for abortions has prompted a major provider in Maine to announce it is dropping out of the program after nearly 50 years. Others may follow. 'It is objectionable that the federal government is so arrogant as to dictate what our medical professionals can and cannot say to our patients,' George Hill, president of Maine Family Planning, said in an interview. Hill said his organization will return any unused federal money, and try to replace $2 million in annual government funding with fundraising efforts and its own resources. The Maine program serves about 23,000 people a year, mainly low-income women. ___ 11:30 a.m. Ahead of a planned conference with family planning clinics, the federal Department of Health and Human Services formally notified them that it will begin enforcing a new regulation banning abortion referrals. Also going into effect is a requirement that clinics maintain separate finances from facilities that provide abortions. Another requirement that both kinds of facilities cannot share physical space would take effect next year. Known as Title X, the family planning program serves about 4 million women annually through independent clinics, many operated by Planned Parenthood affiliates, which serve about 40 percent of all clients. The program provides about $260 million a year in grants to clinics. It does not pay for abortions. Planned Parenthood is widely seen as the target of the administration's rule, which is being challenged around the country in court cases that have yet to resolve the core issues involved.