House passes nearly $700B defense bill
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.