Senate Republicans block bipartisan border package, then scramble to find support for Ukraine aid
Senate Republicans block bipartisan border package
WASHINGTON - Wartime aid for Ukraine was left hanging in the Senate Wednesday after Republicans blocked a bipartisan border package that had been tied to the funding, then struggled to coalesce around a plan to salvage the aid for Kyiv.
After GOP senators scuttled months of negotiations with Democrats on legislation intended to cut back record numbers of illegal border crossings, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer tried to push ahead to a crucial test vote on a $95 billion package for Ukraine, Israel and other U.S. allies - a modified package with the border portion stripped out.
But a deeply divided Republican conference was scrambling to find support for the wartime funding, even though it has been a top priority for Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell. It was the latest sign of the longtime Republican leader’s slipping control over his conference and underscored how the traditional GOP tenet of robust foreign involvement is giving way to Donald Trump’s “America First” nationalism. At stake is the future of Ukraine’s defense against Russia.
The Senate floor settled into an hours-long stall Wednesday night as Republicans huddled to see if they could gain the votes necessary to push it through the chamber. Schumer then closed the floor, saying he would “give our Republican colleagues the night to figure themselves out” ahead of a crucial test vote Thursday.
Blinken ends latest Mideast mission after new Israeli snub
TEL AVIV, Israel - U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken left the Middle East on Thursday with public divisions between the United States and Israel at perhaps their worst level since Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza began in October.
Wrapping up a four-nation Mideast trip - his fifth to the region since the conflict erupted - Blinken was returning to Washington after getting a virtual slap in the face from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who said the war would continue until Israel is completely victorious and appeared to reject outright a response from Hamas to a proposed cease-fire plan.
Relations between Israel and its main international ally, the United States, have been tense for months, but Netanyahu’s public dismissal of a plan the U.S. says has merit, at least as a starting point for further negotiation, highlighted the divide.
Yet Blinken and other U.S. officials said they remained optimistic that progress could be made on their main goals of improving humanitarian conditions for Palestinians civilians, securing the release of hostages held by Hamas, preparing for a post-conflict Gaza and preventing the war from spreading.
Biden sets tighter standards for deadly soot pollution
WASHINGTON - The Biden administration is setting tougher standards for deadly soot pollution, saying that reducing fine particle matter from tailpipes, smokestacks and other industrial sources could prevent thousands of premature deaths a year.
Environmental and public health groups hailed the new Environmental Protection Agency rule finalized Wednesday as a major step in improving the health of Americans, including future generations. Industry groups warned it could lead to the loss of manufacturing jobs and even shut down power plants or refineries. Business groups and Republican-led states are likely to challenge the rule in court.
EPA Administrator Michael Regan said the rule would have $46 billion in net health benefits by 2032, including prevention of up to 800,000 asthma attacks and 4,500 premature deaths.
Investigation into Biden’s handling of classified documents is done
WASHINGTON - The Justice Department special counsel investigating President Joe Biden’s handling of classified documents has completed his inquiry and a report is expected to be released soon to Congress and the public, Attorney General Merrick Garland told lawmakers in a letter Wednesday.
Garland did not detail the conclusions of the report from special counsel Robert Hur, but said he was committed to disclosing as much of the document as possible once the White House completes a review for potential executive privilege concerns. That process is expected to be completed by the end of the week, said Ian Sams, a spokesman for the White House Counsel’s Office.
Marianne Williamson suspends her presidential campaign
WASHINGTON - Self-help author and spiritual guru Marianne Williamson on Wednesday announced the end of her long-shot Democratic challenge to President Joe Biden.
“I hope future candidates will take what works for them, drinking from the well of information we prepared,” Williamson wrote in announcing the end of her bid. “My team and I brought to the table some great ideas, and I will take pleasure when I see them live on in campaigns and candidates yet to be created.”
Prince William thanks public for messages to King Charles and Kate
LONDON - Prince William returned to royal duties Wednesday for the first time since his father, King Charles III, announced his cancer diagnosis and his wife, Kate, was hospitalized for abdominal surgery.
Speaking about his families’ health scares in public for the first time, the 41-year-old heir to the throne thanked the public for their “kind messages of support” at a charity gala dinner. Earlier in the day, he performed an investiture ceremony at Windsor Castle.
“I’d like to take this opportunity to say thank you for the kind messages of support for Catherine and for my father, especially in recent days,” William told the gala dinner for London’s Air Ambulance Charity. “It means a great deal to us all.”
- The Associated Press