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OMB: Ukraine aid delay was consistent with law, past practice

Mick Mulvaney testifies before a House Appropriations Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee hearing in Rayburn Building on the fiscal year budget for OMB on April 18, 2018. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The White House budget office on Wednesday defended its temporary withholding of almost $400 million in Ukraine security-related funds earlier this year, saying the episode was in keeping with longstanding authorities that allow the executive branch to control the flow of appropriated funds.

“It was OMB’s understanding that a brief period was needed, prior to the funds expiring, to engage in a policy process regarding those funds,” says the nine-page Office of Management and Budget letter to the Government Accountability Office, which had inquired about the legality of the move. “OMB took appropriate action, in light of a pending policy process, to ensure that funds were not obligated prematurely in a manner that could conflict with the President’s foreign policy.”

Judiciary kicks off impeachment articles markup with expected polarization
Democrats try to set the occasion as solemn, while Republicans decry that as a ruse

Ranking member Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., makes an opening statement as Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., looks on during the House Judiciary Committee markup of the articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump in the Longworth Building on Wednesday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The House Judiciary Committee’s markup of two articles of impeachment charging President Donald Trump with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress kicked off Wednesday with Chairman Jerrold Nadler trying to set a “solemn” tone and ranking member Doug Collins accusing that of being a ruse. 

Nadler opened the markup with a note about why he was breaking the custom of having only the chairman and the ranking member deliver opening statements to provide each panel member the opportunity to give five minutes of opening remarks.

As Super Bowl LIV draws near, Congress still tackling one of the event’s biggest problems
Florida Rep. Donna E. Shalala leads human trafficking hearing ahead of the big game in Miami

Katherine Fernandez Rundle, state attorney for Miami-Dade County, flanked by Rodney Barreto, chairman of the Miami Super Bowl Host Committee, and Kathy Andersen, executive director of The Women’s Fund Miami-Dade, addresses the media in Miami on Nov. 6 as they unveil a campaign by local, state and federal agencies and partners meant to combat sex trafficking leading up to and beyond Super Bowl LIV. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images file photo)

The question of whether the Super Bowl attracts higher volumes of human trafficking in its host city has long been debated. At the least, it provides a megaplatform, and opportunity, for awareness.

“We do have a comprehensive approach for Miami-Dade, and that’s been put together over the years, but the advantage of the Super Bowl for us is to educate the entire community,” Rep. Donna E. Shalala told HOH.

Study shows growing ocean damage as protection bills languish
Finds most ocean acidification, which harms marine life and coastal economies, has been triggered by 88 companies, including Exxon Mobil

A slide shows growing acidification of the world’s oceans during a presentation of data at a climate conference in Spain earlier this month.  (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

As lawmakers push legislation to protect the nation’s coastal waters, scientists are placing much of the blame for degrading ocean conditions on emissions from large energy companies including Exxon Mobil Corp., which was cleared Tuesday in a long-running climate court case.

A study published Wednesday in the scientific journal Environmental Research Letters found that carbon emissions from the largest energy and cement companies are responsible for more than half of a damaging side effect: increasing acidity in the planet’s oceans, which harms marine life and coastal economies.

In scrutinizing IG report on FBI, senators differ on what’s important
GOP focus on mistakes obtaining Carter Page warrant; Democrats highlight no FBI bias

Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz testifies Wednesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee about the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and his review of the FBI’s investigation into Russia and Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

Horowitz also testified that neither Attorney General William Barr nor U.S. Attorney John Durham who is pursuing a criminal investigation of the origins of the FBI probe offered any new information that would alter the conclusions of the inspector general’s findings.

Both Barr and Durham have said they disagreed with the inspector general’s report, but Horowitz told Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, that the only disagreement he and Durham had was on the question of whether the FBI should have launched a preliminary investigation or a full probe. 

Lowey: Spending deal looking more likely this week
More than 100 differences on full-year appropriations bills still need to be resolved before current funding runs out on Dec. 20

Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., leaves a meeting of the House Democratic Caucus in the Capitol on Dec. 4, 2019. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Congress and the Trump administration could reach agreement on full-year spending bills as soon as Thursday, according to House Appropriations Chairwoman Nita M. Lowey.

“If all goes well, we could have a deal by the end of the day tomorrow,” Lowey said Wednesday evening after reviewing an offer Republicans sent over midday. “I think their offer was real and we’re discussing it and we can find some agreement.”

Passion play: Trump drags FBI ‘lovers’ Strzok and Page into 2020 race
Lindsey Graham joins president in making former feds ‘central figures’

Lisa Page, former legal counsel to former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, arrives on Capitol Hill on July 16, 2018, to testify before House members. (Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images)

This time, Donald Trump was less animated while dramatizing the pillow talk. But the president still went there Tuesday night, eager to turn two former FBI employees into characters in the 2020 campaign narrative he’s building. And some of his congressional GOP allies are happy to help.

“I love you so much, Lisa. Please, Lisa! Lisa, I’ve never loved anyone like you. We won’t allow this to happen to our Lisa,” Trump told an arena full of supporters in Hershey, Pennsylvania. “Please tell me you love me, Lisa! I love you, Peter. I love you! I love you like I’ve never loved anyone!”

Congress poised to pass paid parental leave for federal workers
Could the measure spur wider action in the private sector?

A provision in the defense authorization bill expected to be passed by Congress would give all federal employees 12 weeks of paid parental leave. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

About 2 million federal employees are about to be guaranteed 12 weeks of paid parental leave under a bill soon to be signed into law by President Donald Trump, but several experts say the cost of such a benefit may discourage Democrats’ hopes of it spurring broader adoption in private industry.

The provision, folded into a defense bill months in the working, would give all federal civilian employees three months of paid leave for the birth, adoption or fostering of a child. Democrats originally pushed for a broader set of benefits to cover family relations and illnesses but praised the measure’s inclusion. Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, who chairs the Oversight and Reform Committee, touted the provision as “long overdue.”  

Latest additions to National Film Registry a political smorgasbord
From ‘The Fog of War’ to ‘Before Stonewall,’ list provides vivid backdrop for contemporary issues

Errol Morris’ 2003 documentary “The Fog of War,” with former Defense Secretary Robert McNamara, was among Wednesday’s additions to the National Film Registry. (Courtesy Sony Pictures Classics)

The 2019 additions to the National Film Registry, unveiled Wednesday by the Library of Congress, provide film buffs with a wide array of works with contemporary political relevance — spanning from 1903’s “Emigrants Landing at Ellis Island” to 2003’s “The Fog of War.”

“The National Film Registry has become an important record of American history, culture and creativity,” Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden said in a statement announcing the list. Not everything is political, of course, and some of the movies are there simply because they found a way into the public’s imagination, like Kevin Smith’s 1994 slacker day-in-the-life comedy “Clerks,” or recorded a singular moment, like Martin Scorsese’s 1978 concert film “The Last Waltz,” which chronicled The Band’s final performance in San Francisco.  

Powerful patrons duel over California projects in final spending package
Pelosi seeks Presidio park while McCarthy pursues Shasta Dam expansion

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy are pushing for this year’s final spending bills to include projects for their home state of California. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The top Democratic and Republican leaders in the House are pushing for their own home-state projects in this year’s final spending bills — a spectacular park overlooking San Francisco Bay and a dam across the largest reservoir in California — but without agreement from each other in the negotiations’ final days.

The two items in dispute — the Presidio park project championed by Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Shasta Dam expansion sought by House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy — are among some 200 disagreements that need to be resolved by leadership to finish up the appropriations legislation.