Steve Bannon had a major slip-up during his testimony before the House Intelligence Committee

Sonam Sheth, provided by Published 2:10 pm, Wednesday, January 17, 2018 Now Playing: Steve Bannon's attorney relayed questions, in real time, to the White House during a House Intelligence Committee interview of the former Trump chief strategist, people familiar with the closed-door session told The Associated Press. (Jan. 17) Media: Associated Press Jonathan Ernst/Reuters Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon spoke to two White House officials about the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting between Trump campaign officials and Russians when news of it first broke in July. Bannon divulged the details while he was testifying before the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday. He realized immediately after that he had slipped up, because the White House told Bannon not to answer questions related to his work on the presidential transition team or in the White House. reported Wednesday. Bannon made the revelation while testifying before the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday, per the report. Initially citing executive privilege, Bannon refused to answer questions related to his work on the Trump transition team or the White House, at the reported direction of the White House counsel's office. The committee then subpoenaed him. window._taboola = window._taboola || []; _taboola.push({ mode: 'thumbnails-c', container: 'taboola-interstitial-gallery-thumbnails-5', placement: 'Interstitial Gallery Thumbnails 5', target_type: 'mix' }); _taboola.push({flush: true}); window._taboola = window._taboola || []; _taboola.push({ mode: 'thumbnails-c', container: 'taboola-interstitial-gallery-thumbnails-10', placement: 'Interstitial Gallery Thumbnails 10', target_type: 'mix' }); _taboola.push({flush: true}); window._taboola = window._taboola || []; _taboola.push({ mode: 'thumbnails-c', container: 'taboola-interstitial-gallery-thumbnails-15', placement: 'Interstitial Gallery Thumbnails 15', target_type: 'mix' }); Continue Reading

Madison Finance Committee approves additional $90,000 for homeless services

The Madison City Council allocated almost $770,000 to nine nonprofit agencies providing homeless services for 2018, but decided they could spend a little bit more. Monday night, the council's Finance Committee approved an additional $90,000 for the Salvation Army, Porchlight, Inc. and Tellurian, Inc. That money will allow organizations to provide more services to the homeless, better track data and eliminate a 90-day shelter time limit. Porchlight provides services and housing for Dane County homeless. Tellurian is a crisis stabilization organization. The city's Community Development Division issued a $770,000 request for proposals this year for homeless services, but service providers applied for almost double that amount, said Jim O’Keefe, the city's community development director. So when the city Finance Committee asked the review team for additional projects they would like to see funded, the team was happy to provide a list. Those suggestions were approved by the committee Monday, and will seek City Council approval at the Jan. 16 meeting. Tellurian requested funding for its PATH ReachOut program, which aims to serve homeless individuals suffering from mental illness. A $13,000 award will help transition those individuals to permanent housing, providing funds for rent assistance, moving expenses and other housing costs. The city money will act as a match for a federal grant that supports the program. The Salvation Army of Dane County will see an additional $40,000 to reach its request for its shelter for single women and families. The shelter provides case management to help clients find housing, but current staffing levels mean families have to wait a week before they see a case manager, and single women are usually waiting for a week and a half. The money will add one full-time case manager to cut down on the wait time. The application says that with that additional staff member addressing needs, the agency hopes to remove the 90-day stay Continue Reading

Senate Finance Committee to evaluate Alex Azar to be the next HHS secretary

Alex Azar, President Trump's nominee to become the next Department of Health and Human Services secretary, testifies during a November hearing before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. (Carolyn Kaster/AP) Alex Azar, the White House’s choice to become the second health and human services secretary in less than a year, will appear for his Senate confirmation hearing Tuesday, giving Democrats a chance to probe his drug industry ties but not halt his path toward joining the president’s Cabinet. The 10 a.m. hearing before the Senate Finance Committee will give Azar’s Democratic critics a forum to contend that his role in helping to approve rising pharmaceutical prices while a top executive of Eli Lilly means he is ill-suited to carry out President Trump’s stated goal of making medicines more affordable. The committee’s minority senators also plan to mine the nominee’s position on conservative ideas for redesigning Medicare. And they intend to rehash a controversy that erupted last month when it surfaced that staff in parts of the Health and Human Services Department had been instructed not to use seven words and phrases, including “evidence-based,” “entitlement” and “fetus.” Such naysaying, however, is widely anticipated to be outweighed by a unanimous wall of support by the committee’s Republicans, along with that of the two HHS secretaries under the previous GOP administration. Tommy Thompson and Mike Leavitt — both former governors who served under George W. Bush — co-wrote a strong endorsement of Azar this week, saying in an op-ed published in the Hill that “he has the necessary experience, skills, motivation and integrity.” Thompson is scheduled to introduce Azar when the hearing begins. The two former secretaries and other Republicans have focused on the fact that Azar would come to the job with greater working knowledge of the sprawling Continue Reading

GOP chair of House Administration Committee won’t run again

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A Republican congressional chairman who pushed for stronger anti-harassment and anti-discrimination training in the U.S. House said Thursday that he won't seek re-election this year. Rep. Gregg Harper of Mississippi was first elected in 2008. He said in a statement that he never intended to make a career in Congress, and "10 years will be long enough." Harper, 61, is chairman of the House Administration Committee , which held a hearing in November about sexual misconduct involving current members of Congress. Hours after the hearing, House Speaker Paul Ryan said the House will require anti-harassment and anti-discrimination training for all members and their staffs — a requirement that Harper supported. "I believe we need mandatory training, and probably everyone here would agree," Harper said at the beginning of the Nov. 14 hearing. Harper said Thursday that as committee chairman, he has tried to make the House more transparent and accountable. "I will work hard in a bipartisan manner over the remainder of my term to be a problem solver," Harper said. Harper became the 27th House Republican to announce a decision not to seek re-election this year, compared to 14 Democrats. With Trump's popularity in the dumps and a string of election victories in recent weeks, Democrats have hopes of gaining the 24 seats they would need to win control of the chamber. Harper's announcement came just days after two other congressional chairmen announced they will not run again. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, a Republican from Utah, and House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Bill Shuster, a Republican from Pennsylvania, have said they'll retire. Hatch is 83 and Shuster was barred by GOP rules from seeking another term atop his committee. Harper, an attorney and former chairman of a county Republican Party, is an ally of Gov. Phil Bryant and U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran, who are also Republicans. He has been widely Continue Reading

Private equity executives funnel campaign contributions to Senate Finance Committee reps as carried interest survives

President Donald Trump has been calling for Congress to “drain the swamp” of corporate lobbyists since the start of his administration but lawmakers who crafted the tax reform bill seem to have ignored his calls for change and continue to finance their campaigns through executives at private equity firms as they pulled off a coup in maintaining the carried interest deduction.  Republican members of the Senate Finance Committee seem to have been the focal point of the lobbying efforts by the titans of the $2.5 trillion private equity industry in Blackstone Group (BX), Carlyle Group (CG) and KKR & Co. (KKR) with 10 of the 14 GOP representatives receiving campaign cash totaling more than $600,000 from executives at the three firms this year alone, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan research group that tracks the effects of money and lobbying on elections. Some Democratic members on the committee also received campaign contributions in 2017 worth more than $5,000 from leaders of private equity firms. Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., saw a drop in campaign funding this year as his office took in $56,000 from employees at Blackstone compared to 2016 when he received $98,000 from those at the firm. Sen. Michael Bennett, D-Colo., was the top money maker on the Democrat side from the three private equity behemoths, with his campaign raking in $109,000 from employees at Blackstone. Still, in 2017 the three firms have overwhelmingly contributed to Republicans in both the House and Senate. As the Center for Responsive Politics shows, Blackstone representatives have given 70% of their campaign contributions toward Republicans while KKR has given 82% to the GOP. Members of the Carlyle Group have donated 69% of Continue Reading

Anti-Choice Amendments Fail in Senate Finance Committee

After yielding some of my time to C-SPAN to watch the Senate Finance Committee’s markup of the healthcare bill, I’m happy to report that the first two antiabortion amendments to come up for a vote were soundly defeated. Both were Senator Orrin Hatch’s ideas. One, the so-called conscience clause, would have expanded existing “opt-out” law, allowing entire insurance companies to refuse to cover abortion on principle. The other would have done away with the Solomonic dodge of the problem of abortion funding proposed in both the Senate and House bills, in which government funds are kept separate from private premiums–and only the private funds used to pay for abortions. Instead, if Hatch had had his way, no insurance company participating in the healthcare exchange would have been allowed to cover abortion. Both amendments failed by a three-vote margin, with only pro-choice Olympia Snowe and Kent Conrad crossing party lines to oppose them. Supporters of choice might want to send thank-you notes to Senators Debbie Stabenow and Maria Cantwell for their particularly impassioned opposition to the measures. Cantwell called Hatch’s attempt to eliminate abortion coverage by insurers in the exchange “an unprecedented restriction on people paying for their own health care insurance.” Noting the potential for abortion politics to further embitter the process, Cantwell dubbed the amendment: “a poison pill for [the healthcare] bill if it is hung on this legislation.” For more background on antichoice amendments, read my previous article “Healthcare Reform–at the Price of Women’s Health?“. Continue Reading

Finance committee votes to cut Delaware’s senior property tax subsidy

 The Joint Finance Committee voted reluctantly Monday to reduce by $100 a tax break Delaware senior citizens get on their property taxes.It was one of the committee's first major steps in slashing hundreds of millions of dollars from state government's budget.Most members of the committee said they were loath to burden retirees on fixed incomes, but they said the state's almost $400 million fiscal gap requires them to make some painful decisions. "There are a lot of [cuts] that give us angst," said Rep. Mike Ramone, R-Middle Run Valley. "This is one of those, for sure." EXPLAINED: What is JFC, and why is it making cuts? For Delawareans 65 or older, the state pays half the bill for property taxes used to fund schools, up to a maximum of $500. Gov. John Carney's administration called for reducing the maximum to $400, which is what JFC did on Monday. The move is expected to save the state about $5 million.Legislators have been hesitant to touch the subsidy, but committee members said Monday they now have little choice. Three committee members voted against the cut."Elder people are on fixed income, and we essentially had a contract with them," said Rep. William Carson, D-Smyrna. "And I think it's wrong to them for us to take that away."Committee co-chair Harris McDowell voted for the cuts but made clear he didn't like doing so. He said the state might consider restoring the cuts if it finds itself on better fiscal footing in the future.McDowell noted that former Gov. Jack Markell had called for eliminating the subsidy entirely. Other proposals have been floated to trim the subsidy by means-testing it or requiring that someone live in Delaware longer to earn it. But the committee was told those changes would not do much to help the next fiscal year.  CONTEXT: Read more about the debate over the subsidy This is the first controversial cut the 12-member committee made, on the first day of its grueling Continue Reading

Gov. Bill Haslam’s gas tax plan scores major win in House, Senate committees

Gov. Bill Haslam's gas tax proposal received a significant victory Tuesday when two legislative committees approved the measure.The House Transportation Committee voted 11-7 in favor of the governor's bill, which was amended to raise the state's tax on gasoline by 6 cents per gallon over a three-year period. The governor has proposed the plan to help fund a $10 billion backlog in road projects.The amended proposal is estimated to generate about $250 million for the state, $35 million for cities and $70 million for counties.The committee's approval came just hours after the Senate State and Local Government Committee unanimously voted in favor of the measure.Both votes were major wins for Haslam, whose legislative package for the year is heavily reliant on the passage of the plan. The legislature's approval also came one day after several Republican lawmakers touted support of the gas tax proposal from a conservative anti-tax group.The House Transportation Committee spent about an hour and a half discussing various amendments to the governor's proposal, including a competing plan favored by critics of the gas tax. The competing plan, which would have diverted taxes from car sales, was defeated with a 10-8 vote.The House committee accepted an amendment of the governor's bill, which makes it the same as the Senate version of the measure.Both amended plans would combine the gas tax increase with a reduction to the state's tax on groceries, eliminate a proposed fee on rental cars, cut a controversial aspect related to indexing and provide tax relief to the elderly and disabled veterans. The increase in the gas tax in the version approved by the committees on Tuesday is less than what Haslam first proposed. The current proposal calls for tax increases of 6 cents per gallon on gasoline and 10 cents on diesel fuel — 1 cent less and 2 cents less, Continue Reading

President Obama’s health care reform clears finance committee hurdle, will reach the Senate floor

WASHINGTON - A key Senate committee passed its version of health care reform Tuesday, dealing the fifth and final hand in a legislative card match that will unfold for the next two months in both houses of Congress. The result would be the largest makeover of health care in America since Medicare passed 40 years ago. The Senate Finance Committee voted 14 to 9, with GOP Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine joining Democrats, to pass an $829billion measure that lacks a public insurance option and has weak liberal support. "We are now closer than ever before to passing health reform," said President Obama, acknowledging battles still loom. "Now is not the time to pat ourselves on the back," he added. "Now is the time to dig in and work even harder to get this done." Snowe argued that the importance of reform trumped partisanship. "When history calls, history calls," she said. Insiders said the likelihood of a bill passing this year jumped when Snowe became the first Republican to back any reform bill. Senate Leader Harry Reid's office expects a measure merging the Senate's two bills to be on the Senate floor late this month. The House, working on meshing three bills, is on a similar track. The House has strong public plans in its proposals. That sets up a major battle between their authors and more conservative Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee. "They've done their part as a bit player in this drama," quipped Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-Brooklyn, Queens), who predicted Obama ultimately will make sure a public option winds up in the final plan. "The only question is how this gets mediated at the eleventh hour by President Obama," Weiner said. He thought a proposal by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) to let some states opt out of the public plan could win some votes. Schumer also wants to reduce excise taxes in the bill on "Cadillac" insurance plans that could hurt New Yorkers and union workers, especially first responders who have given up pay Continue Reading

House Ethics Committee broadens its probe of Rep. Charles Rangel

WASHINGTON - The corruption cloud over Charlie Rangel grew on Thursday.The House Ethics Committee expanded its 13-month "inquiry" into the tangled finances of the 20-term Harlem Democrat a day after a GOP bid to oust Rangel as Ways and Means chairman was voted down. In the wider inquiry, the committee will focus on more than $600,000 in income and assets that Rangel failed to disclose for years until July. It already had been investigating Rangel for alleged ethics violations, including not reporting income from a Dominican Republic rental property. House sources said the panel is "highly likely" to wrap up its work before the end of the year after taking Rangel's testimony. The strongest sanction could be an embarrassing but essentially toothless recommendation for censure. Rangel's ultimate fate as head of the powerful tax-writing committee would be left to his close friend, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) said taxpayers won't stand for a Ways and Means Committee chairman "who is under investigation for not paying his taxes." Team Rangel brushed off the latest investigation as as "technicality," saying the ethics panel already was reviewing the amended disclosure documents. Join the Conversation: Continue Reading