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Criminal Justice Reform Clears Senate Hurdle Again, Despite “Interfering” by the Attorney General

The Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday advanced criminal justice reforms for the second consecutive Congress–this time, with the executive branch kicking and screaming. The panel marked up legislation in a 16-5 vote the day after Attorney General Jeff Sessions publicly criticized the proposal, which would enhance re-entry programs and reduce some mandatory minimum sentences with retroactive effect. On Wednesday, Sessions sent a letter to Committee Chair Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) outlining his opposition. In 2015, when the bill first cleared the committee, then-Sen. Sessions (R-Ala.) was… Keep Reading

Mnuchin Rebrands “Trickle Down” as “Recycled Back”

Republicans have been trumpeting anecdotes of company bonuses as proof positive that corporate tax cuts are working for all Americans, not just the rich. Government economic data, however, show otherwise at this juncture. The Bureau of Labor Statistics said Wednesday that real average wages were down 0.2 percent on a monthly basis in January. The drop was more pronounced down the line for “production and nonsupervisory employees,” who saw weekly earnings fall by 0.5 percent. For all workers, inflation wiped out nominal wage increases, the… Keep Reading

After Killing Lawsuits, Industry Pal Running CFPB Claims Payday Investigation Still Open

A Trump administration official currently playing multiple lead roles in the executive branch denied that he stopped the probe of a payday lender, despite dropping litigation against the company. Mick Mulvaney told Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) on Tuesday that “there is an ongoing investigation” into the firm, Golden Valley Lending. Van Hollen had told Mulvaney he wanted to “follow up” with him on the decision to stop the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau lawsuit. The interim agency director replied, claiming that there was still an… Keep Reading

Spy Chief Drags US National Debt Into the Realm of “Global Threats”

At an annual intelligence hearing on international threats, the head of the US spy community fear mongered about a highly politicized domestic issue: the national debt. Director of National Intelligence Dan Coates told senators on the Intelligence Committee Tuesday that increased annual deficit spending is a “dire threat” to US security. The warning came at the tail end of Coates’ remarks, after he ran the gamut of perceived global dangers from around the world–from transnational crime to North Korea’s nuclear ambitions to Russian influence operations.… Keep Reading

Sessions Smokin’ Mad at Republican Senator Spearheading Actual Drug War Resistance

Attorney General Jeff Sessions fumed on Monday morning at one of his former Senate colleagues for holding up Justice Department nominees in retaliation for a potential crackdown on recreational cannabis. Speaking before the National Sheriffs’ Association winter meeting in Washington, Sessions hit out at Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) without mentioning the lawmaker by name. “It’s just getting to be frustrating,” the top federal prosecutor said. “I gotta tell you.” Sessions noted how the DOJ was being “blocked” from getting top Deputy Attorney General positions confirmed. The… Keep Reading

Senate Committee to Advance Criminal Justice Reform Once Opposed by Jeff Sessions

The chances for even modest criminal justice reform during the Trump era might seem remote. But the Senate Judiciary Committee is giving it a try. On Wednesday, the Committee begun consideration of the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act, legislation with twenty cosponsors from both parties in the upper chamber. A mark-up vote will be held next week by the committee. In October 2015, the panel advanced the proposal in a 15-5 vote. If enacted, the bill would reduce some mandatory minimum sentences, with retroactive effect,… Keep Reading

Pentagon Counsel Nominee: New AUMF Needed for Tillerson’s Syria Plans

The nominee to be the top lawyer at the Pentagon told senators that a new war authorization would be needed for US forces to remain in Syria after the defeat of the Islamic State (ISIS). Paul Ney made the comments on Thursday, at his confirmation hearing. Ney was tapped by President Trump to be the chief lawyer for the Defense Department. The analysis could complicate war plans laid out by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Last month, Tillerson called for an indefinite US military presence… Keep Reading

Schumer Agrees to Give up Shutdown Fights for Two Years, in Deal that Would Deprive Senate Dems of Power

Senate Democrats look poised to relinquish significant leverage–the threat of withholding government funding–well into the next Congress. Leaders from the Senate Majority and Minority said Wednesday that they agreed to a budget deal that would roll back short-term funding norms spearheaded by Congressional Republicans during the Obama administration. The agreement would eliminate so-called sequestration caps created by the Budget Control Act of 2011. The spending limits were agreed to by Congress after Tea Party Republicans threatened to shutdown the government. The compromise would hike spending… Keep Reading

McCaskill Blasts Trump DHS for Refusing to Show Senators Critical Muslim Ban Report

Officials from the Department of Homeland Security won’t release an inspector general report to a US Senator, prompting new concerns that the Trump administration is trying to muzzle oversight. The exchange occurred during a roundtable discussion Wednesday between officials from DHS and lawmakers on the Senate Homeland Security Committee. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) raised the department’s recent decision to withhold from lawmakers and the public a watchdog report finding that the Trump administration broke the law while implementing its Muslim travel ban last year. The report… Keep Reading

Mattis Cites Kissinger to Call for New Nukes

The head of the Pentagon was called before Congress to defend the administration’s nuclear policies and plans to develop new weapons capabilities. Lawmakers on the House Armed Services Committee are skeptical of Defense Secretary James Mattis’ initiative to build new lower-yield nuclear weapons capable of being launched from submarines. The details of which were contained in the administration’s Nuclear Posture Review, released last week. Secretary Mattis on Tuesday spun some game theory to the committee in an attempt to justify the expenditure. “It’s to make certain that no… Keep Reading

With Washington Closely Eyeing Stock Prices, SEC Chair Bemoans Staff Shortages

In a Congressional hearing about the emerging cryptocurrency market, the chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission said he is most concerned about a conventional problem. Jay Clayton told the Senate Banking Committee on Tuesday that the SEC is currently understaffed, lacking the examiners needed to keep tabs on all kinds of markets–both newer and traditional ones. “Personnel is my biggest challenge at the moment,” he said, when questioned by the committee’s vice chair, Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio). “I could use more people in enforcement. I… Keep Reading

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