House passes nearly $700B de­fense bill

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - - National -

Com­piled from news ser­vices

WASH­ING­TON— The House eas­ily passed a nearly $700 bil­lion de­fense bill Tues­day, en­dors­ing a deal struck with Senate ne­go­tia­tors to au­tho­rize sig­nif­i­cantly more re­sources to Pen­tagon and mil­i­tary op­er­a­tions than Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump re­quested they bud­get for next year.

The 356-70 vote comes after a com­pro­mise process that was smoothly bi­par­ti­san — a de­par­ture from years past, when talks to pro­duce the an­nual de­fense bill fal­tered over bit­ter po­lit­i­cal dis­agree­ments about spend­ing pri­or­i­ties. The Senate is ex­pected to fol­low suit by pass­ing the bill in the com­ing weeks, send­ing it to the pres­i­dent’s desk.

But the mil­i­tary will likely never see the full wind­fall law­mak­ers wrote into the bill, as Congress has yet to ap­prove the fed­eral gov­ern­ment’s bud­get for next year — and will likely ap­pro­pri­ate bil­lions less to cover de­fense spend­ing than the de­fense au­tho­riza­tion bill out­lines.

Clin­ton Foun­da­tion probe?

WASH­ING­TON— At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions is leav­ing open the pos­si­bil­ity that a spe­cial coun­sel could be ap­pointed to look into Clin­ton Foun­da­tion deal­ings and an Obama-era ura­nium deal, the Jus­tice Depart­ment said Mon­day in re­spond­ing to con­cerns from Repub­li­can law­mak­ers.

In a letter to the House Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee, which was hold­ing an over­sight hear­ing Tues­day, the Jus­tice Depart­ment said Mr. Ses­sions had di­rected se­nior fed­eral pros­e­cu­tors to “eval­u­ate cer­tain is­sues” raised by Repub­li­can law­mak­ers. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump has re­peat­edly called for in­ves­ti­ga­tions of Democrats.

The pros­e­cu­tors will re­port to Mr. Ses­sions and Deputy At­tor­ney Gen­eral Rod Rosen­stein and rec­om­mend whether any new in­ves­ti­ga­tions should be opened, whether any mat­ters cur­rently un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion re­quire ad­di­tional re­sources and whether it might be nec­es­sary to ap­point a spe­cial coun­sel to over­see a probe, ac­cord­ing to a letter sent to Rep. Robert Good­latte of Vir­ginia, the Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee’s Repub­li­can chair­man.

Stu­dent debt for­give­ness?

Senate Democrats are press­ing Ed­u­ca­tion Sec­re­tary Betsy DeVos to for­give the fed­eral stu­dent loans of bor­row­ers who were de­frauded by their col­leges, as the num­ber of debt re­lief claims at the Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion grows.

The Wash­ing­ton Post re­ported in Oc­to­ber that there are more than 87,000 ap­pli­ca­tions for debt re­lief pend­ing at the depart­ment, ac­cord­ing to peo­ple within the agency who were not au­tho­rized to speak pub­licly. The agency has the au­thor­ity to dis­charge fed­eral stu­dent loans when a col­lege uses il­le­gal tac­tics to per­suade a stu­dent to bor­row money to at­tend, but not a sin­gle ap­pli­ca­tion has been ap­proved since the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion took of­fice. Now law­mak­ers are de­mand­ing ac­tion.

On Tues­day, Sen. El­iz­a­beth Warren, D-Mass., and Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., re­leased a re­port ex­am­in­ing the back­log of debt re­lief claims un­der the fed­eral statute known as bor­rower de­fense to re­pay­ment. Bor­rower de­fense, which dates to the 1990s, has be­come the last re­sort for many for­mer stu­dents of de­funct for-profit schools ITT Tech­ni­cal In­sti­tutes and Corinthian Col­leges.

The schools spent their last few years en­veloped in state and fed­eral law­suits over al­leged fraud, de­cep­tive mar­ket­ing and steer­ing stu­dents into preda­tory loans.

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