Donald Trump notches a commanding win in the Iowa caucuses as Haley and DeSantis fight for second place

Former President Donald Trump scored a decisive win in the Iowa caucuses on Monday, January 15, 2024 with his rivals languishing far behind, a victory that sent a resounding message that the GOP’s 2024 presidential nomination is his to lose.

It was not immediately clear who would emerge as the second-place finisher in the opening contest of the Republican nomination fight, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis or former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley. In what was expected to be a low-turnout affair, caucus voters endured life-threatening cold and dangerous driving conditions to meet in hundreds of schools, churches and community centers across the state.

Win in Iowa by a Republican after 24 years

The results represent the first milestone in what will be a monthslong effort by Mr. Trump to secure the GOP nomination a third consecutive time. Iowa has been an uneven predictor of who will ultimately lead Republicans into the general election. George W. Bush’s 2000 victory was the last time a Republican candidate won in Iowa and went on to become the party’s standard-bearer.

But Mr. Trump was already looking ahead to a potential general election matchup against President Joe Biden as he addressed hundreds of cheering supporters at a caucus site at the Horizon Events Center in Clive, Iowa.
“He is totally destroying our country,” Mr. Trump said of Mr. Biden. “We were a great nation three years ago and today people are laughing at us.”

Mr. Biden’s team, meanwhile, announced that he and the Democratic National Committee raised more than $97 million in the last quarter of 2023 and finished the year with $117 million in the bank, an effort to demonstrate how Mr. Biden is preparing for a possible rematch while Mr. Trump is still competing in the primary.

The Associated Press declared Mr. Trump the winner at 7:31 p.m. CST based on an analysis of early returns as well as results of AP VoteCast, a survey of voters who planned to caucus on Monday night. Both showed Mr. Trump with an insurmountable lead.

Initial results from eight counties showed Mr. Trump with far more than half of the total votes counted as of 7:31 p.m., with the rest of the field trailing far behind. These counties include rural areas that are demographically and politically similar to a large number of counties that have yet to report.

DeSantis and Haley are competing to emerge as the top alternative to the former president. Ms. Haley hopes to compete vigorously in New Hampshire, where she hopes to be more successful with the state’s independent voters heading into the Jan. 23 primary. DeSantis is heading to New Hampshire on Tuesday after a stop in South Carolina, a conservative stronghold where the Feb. 24 contest could prove pivotal.

Before she left, Ms. Haley offered a subtle jab at Mr. Trump while addressing voters at a same caucus site.

“If you want to move forward with no more vendettas, if you want to move forward with a sense of hope, join us in this caucus,” she said. “I ask for your vote. And I promise you I will make sure every day I focus on what it takes to make you proud.”

Several hundred people rose to their feet in applause.

Mr. Trump, meanwhile, was expected to fly to New York Monday night so he could be in court Tuesday as a jury is poised to consider whether he should pay additional damages to a columnist who last year won a $5 million jury award against Mr. Trump for sex abuse and defamation.

He will then fly to New Hampshire, the next state in the Republican primary calendar, to hold a rally Tuesday evening.

Mr. Trump showed significant strength among Iowa’s urban, small-town and rural communities, according to AP VoteCast. He also performed well with evangelical Christians and those without a college degree. And a majority of caucusgoers said that they identify with Trump’s “Make America Great Again” movement.

One relative weakness for Mr. Trump comes in the suburbs, where only about 4 in 10 supported him.

AP VoteCast is a survey of more than 1,500 voters who said they planned to take part in the caucuses. The survey is conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

Entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy and former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson were also on the ballot in Iowa, as was former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who suspended his campaign last week.

Mr. Trump’s success tells a remarkable story of a Republican Party unwilling or unable to move on from a flawed front-runner. He lost to Biden in 2020 after fueling near-constant chaos while in the White House, culminating with his supporters carrying out a deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol. In total, he faces 91 felony charges across four criminal cases.

The U.S. Supreme Court is weighing whether states have the ability to block Mr. Trump from the ballot for his role in sparking the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. And he’s facing criminal trials in Washington and Atlanta for his efforts to overturn the 2020 election.

Through it all, Mr. Trump has intentionally used his legal problems as a political asset.

National coverage

Over the last week alone, Mr. Trump chose to leave the campaign trail on two separate occasions to make voluntary appearances before judges in New York and Washington. In both cases, he addressed the media directly afterward, ensuring that national coverage of his legal drama would make it more difficult for his Republican rivals to break through in Iowa.

Mr. Trump has also increasingly echoed authoritarian leaders and framed his campaign as one of retribution. He has spoken openly about using the power of government to pursue his political enemies. He has repeatedly harnessed rhetoric once used by Adolf Hitler to argue that immigrants entering the U.S. illegally are “poisoning the blood of our country.” And he recently shared a word cloud last week to his social media account highlighting “revenge,” “power” and “dictatorship.”

Mr.Trump’s legal challenges appear to have done little damage to his reputation as the charges are seen through a political lens.

About three-quarters say the charges against Mr. Trump are political attempts to undermine him, rather than legitimate attempts to investigate important issues, according to AP VoteCast.

Meanwhile, Iowa caucus participants were forced to brave the coldest temperatures in caucus history as forecasters warned that “dangerously cold wind chills” as low as 45 degrees below zero Fahrenheit were possible through noon Tuesday.

The conditions, according to the National Weather Service, could lead to “frostbite and hypothermia in a matter of minutes if not properly dressed for the conditions.”

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Primaries, caucuses, debates: Key dates ahead of the 2024 US presidential election

The US will elect its new president this year on November 5. Before that happens, candidates including incumbent President Joe Biden and former president Donald Trump will have to jump through several hoops. The race to the finish line will be a busy one, fraught with caucuses, primaries, conventions and debates. These are the key dates to watch for in this highly charged year for US politics. 

The 60th US presidential election is the political event on everyone’s lips this year. On November 5, a new POTUS will be chosen to occupy the White House for the next four years. Both the incumbent President Joe Biden and former president Donald Trump are in the race for a re-election and face a tough path ahead.

But in order to join the race to become president, candidates must first be nominated through caucuses and primaries.

Caucuses are meetings run by political parties organised at the county, precinct or district level. Participants split into groups according to the candidate they support, which determines the number of delegates each candidate will receive.

Primaries are held at the state level and allow citizens to vote for their preferred candidate anonymously, by casting a secret ballot. Results are then taken into account to award the winner delegates.

The Iowa caucus takes place on January 15 and is the curtain raiser, followed by the New Hampshire primary on January 23. The first major event on the calendar is Super Tuesday on March 5, when the majority of states hold primaries or caucuses to vote for their favourite candidate.

Delegates will then go on to represent their state at national party conventions before the big vote in November.

Iowa Republican caucus

January 15 – Republicans in Iowa kick off the race to the presidential election by holding the first caucus today. Up until now, GOP candidates have raced to make their pitch to voters. The outcome of the Iowa caucus is often a make-or-break moment for candidates vying to become the party nominee.

For Democrats in Iowa, things look a little different. They will choose their candidate entirely by mail-in ballot today and release the results on March 5, Super Tuesday. The decision prompted by President Biden is partly a response to the 2020 tech meltdown that delayed results and triggered hours-long waits for voters, but also a way of calling an end to a system he deems “restrictive” and “anti-worker”.

Republican presidential debates

January 18 – Broadcasters ABC News and WMUR-TV will host a Republican presidential primary debate in Manchester, New Hampshire. Candidates who came out on top in the Iowa caucus will be invited to spar alongside any other hopefuls who meet a 10% polling threshold.

January 21 – CNN will host a debate at New England College in New Hampshire. Again, the top three candidates from the Iowa caucuses will be invited to participate, as well as any candidates who “receive at least 10 percent in three separate national and/or New Hampshire polls of Republican primary voters that meet CNN’s standards for reporting,” according to CNN. “One of the three polls must be an approved CNN poll of likely New Hampshire Republican primary voters.”

New Hampshire primary

January 23 – The first primary run by state and local governments will be held in New Hampshire, where participants will vote for their preferred Republican or Democratic candidate in a secret ballot.

Though the Democratic National Committee (DNC) suggested changing the order of states, New Hampshire decided to hold on to their tradition of going first. Biden had pushed for the first-in-the-nation primary to be held in South Carolina, a state that helped catapult him into office in 2020 and whose population is much more diverse than New Hampshire’s.

The dispute means Biden’s name will be missing from the New Hampshire presidential primary ballot this year.

South Carolina Democratic primary

February 3 – South Carolina will vote in the Democratic primary. President Joe Biden specifically requested the first primary be held here because of the state’s large African-American population, who he hopes will help recharge his bid for re-election. The primary is not competitive, but it will be the first electoral test of Biden’s situation, as many local Democratic focus groups have expressed their disenchantment with the political process.

Moving the first primary here from Iowa marks the biggest change to the Democratic National Committee’s nomination process in decades.

The Republican primary in South Carolina will take place a few weeks later on February 24.

Nevada primary and caucus

February 6 – Democratic primary will be held in Nevada.

February 8 – Republican caucus will be held in Nevada.  

Michigan primary

February 27 – Both Republicans and Democrats will vote in this primary. Michigan, a Democratic-run state, brought forward its presidential primary in a move opposed by Republicans. Republicans will instead choose the majority of their delegates during caucuses a few days later in March.

Super Tuesday

March 5 – It’s the biggest day of primaries in the US and often helps whittle down the scope of candidates in the race to become president. A third of all delegates are awarded on this day alone, which is considered the most important day of the presidential nomination process.

Both Democrats and Republicans will hold primaries in over a dozen states including Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont and Virginia.

Democrats in Utah will also vote in their primary while Republicans hold their caucuses in the state. Republicans in Alaska vote in their primary.

Last primaries of the race

March 12 ­– Georgia, Mississippi and Washington will each hold primaries. Republicans in Hawaii will hold caucuses.

March 19 – Primaries held in Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Kansas and Ohio.

June 4 – The last states to hold their presidential primaries will do so on this day. The clock is ticking for those states which have not yet set their primary or caucus dates.

National conventions

July 15 to 18 – Wisconsin will host the Republican national convention in Milwaukee, where the party will officially choose its candidate.

August 19 to 22 – The Democratic national convention will take place in Chicago, Illinois.

These conventions are important because they determine which presidential and vice presidential nominees will represent the Republican and Democratic parties. In order to become a presidential nominee, a candidate has to win the support of a majority of delegates. That usually happens through the party’s state primaries and caucuses.

State delegates will head to the national conventions to vote and confirm their choice of candidates. But if a candidate does not get the majority of a party’s delegates, convention delegates choose the nominee.

The two conventions are also when presidential nominees officially announce who will run with them for vice president, draw up an election programme and launch their autumn campaigns.

Presidential debates

September 16 – The first presidential debate will take place in San Marcos, Texas.

September 25 – The only vice-presidential debate will take place on this day in Easton, Pennsylvania.

October 1 The second presidential debate will take place in Petersburg, Virginia.

October 9 – The third and last presidential debate will take place in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Election day

November 5 – US voters who are registered will head to the polls in the final day of voting for the 2024 US presidential election. It could take days for the election result to be known, especially if it is close and mail-in ballots are a factor.

It takes 270 electoral votes out of a possible 538 to win the presidential election.

Results

January 6, 2025 – The sitting vice president presides over the Electoral College vote count at a joint session of Congress, announces the results and declares who has been elected.

This is the moment former president Trump lambasted his vice president Mike Pence in 2021 for refusing to try to prevent Congress from certifying Biden’s win. As a result, the US Capitol was stormed by rioters and some chanted “hang Mike Pence” as they tried to stop the count. Biden’s win was later certified.

Since then, Congress has passed the Electoral Count Reform Act of 2022, which requires approval of one-fifth of the House and Senate to consider a challenge to a state’s results – a much higher bar than existed before, when any single lawmaker from either chamber could trigger a challenge.

January 20, 2025 – The president and vice president are sworn into office at the inauguration ceremony.

This article was adapted from the original version in French.

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Biden willing to ‘compromise’ on US border policy as Senate Republicans block Ukraine aid

As Senate Republicans blocked the advance of tens of billions of dollars in military and economic assistance for Ukraine Wednesday, President Joe Biden berated their tactics as “stunning” and dangerous. Yet he also signaled an openness to what GOP lawmakers ultimately want: border policy changes.

Biden at the White House warned of dire consequences for Kyiv – and a “gift” to Russia’s Vladimir Putin – if Congress fails to pass a $110 billion package of wartime funding for Ukraine and Israel as well as other national security priorities. Hours later, Senate Republicans defiantly voted to stop the package from advancing, something that they had threatened to do all week.

“They’re willing to literally kneecap Ukraine on the battlefield and damage our national security in the process,” Biden said.

But even as he lashed Republicans for their stance, Biden stressed that he is willing to “make significant compromises on the border,” if that’s what it takes to get the package through Congress. 

That statement has raised at least some hope that progress can be made in the days ahead as the Senate grinds through negotiations on border security, one of the most fraught issues in American politics. Biden’s remarks Wednesday were his clearest overture yet to Republicans and came at a critical time, with a path through Congress for the emergency funds rapidly disappearing and America’s support for multiple allies in doubt.


“If we don’t support Ukraine, what is the rest of the world going to do?” Biden added.

The president’s statement came hours after he huddled virtually with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and leaders of the Group of Seven advanced democracies, which have staunchly supported Ukraine against Russia’s invasion.

“We need to fix the broken border system. It is broken,” Biden said, adding that he’s ”ready to change policy as well.” He did not name specific policy proposals and accused Republicans of wanting a political issue more than bipartisan compromise.

Sen. James Lankford, the Oklahoma Republican who has been leading Senate negotiations over border policy, was encouraged by what he heard, saying it seemed like the president is “ready to be able to sit down and talk.”

Senators of both parties acknowledged they will need to move quickly if a deal is to be struck. Congress is scheduled to be in Washington for just a handful more days before the end of the year. The White House, meanwhile, has sounded the alarm about what would happen if they don’t approve more funding soon, saying Ukraine’s military would be stalled, or even overrun. 

“When deadlines come, everybody’s undivided attention is there and we realize: ’OK. Now it’s time to actually solve this,’” Lankford said.

Democrats involved in the negotiations also said a direct hand from the president, as well as from Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, could be helpful.

“This kind of thorny, difficult problem is exactly what Joe Biden and Mitch McConnell have worked on before. And we could use their help and their leadership on this,” said Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., another negotiator. 

So far, McConnell, while an ardent supporter of Ukraine aid, has sided with Republicans who are holding firm against the security package unless it includes changes to America’s border policies. Every Republican voted against it advancing Wednesday evening.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., called the failed test vote a “a sad night in the history of the Senate and our country.” He urged Republicans to present a border proposal that is “serious, instead of the extreme policies they have presented thus far.”

Republican negotiators were expected to send a new proposal to Democrats after the failed vote. 

Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., who has been involved in the negotiations, said the Republicans’ hard-charging bargain left little room for agreement and he remained skeptical that a deal can be struck.

“They have to figure out whether they want to negotiate or whether they want to make take-it-or-leave-it demands,” Murphy said.

Republicans argue the record numbers of migrants crossing the southern border pose a security threat because border authorities cannot adequately screen them. They also say they cannot justify to their constituents sending billions of dollars to other countries while failing to address the border at home.

So far, senators have found agreement on raising the initial standard for migrants to enter the asylum system. But they’ve been at odds over placing limitations on humanitarian parole, a program that allows the executive branch to temporarily admit migrants without action from Congress. 

But Sen. John Cornyn, a Texas Republican, said the Senate talks were “never going to be able to negotiate the kind of meaningful substantive policy changes” that Republicans want. He called Biden’s remarks “positive” and said the negotiations should next include the president, McConnell and House Speaker Mike Johnson.

The president’s willingness to directly engage on the issue comes at a political risk. Immigrant advocates and some Democratic senators have sounded alarm about curtailing the asylum system. 

Sen. Alex Padilla, a California Democrat who led a statement with 10 other senators last month calling for an increase in legal immigration to be included in negotiations, said he would be watching closely what Biden agrees to on border security.

“Devil’s in the details,” Padilla said, adding that the direction of the Senate talks have been “concerning from day one.”

Even if the president and senators somehow find a way forward on border security, any agreement would face significant obstacles in the House. Hardline conservatives who control the chamber have vowed to block it unless it tacks to a broad set of forceful border and immigration policies.

Johnson, who as speaker has already expressed deep skepticism of funding for Ukraine, has signaled he won’t support the aid package if it does not adhere to H.R. 2, a bill that would remake the U.S. immigration system with conservative priorities. 

“The American people deserve nothing less.” Johnson said in a statement.

(AP)

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Pence quits the presidential race after struggling to gain traction

Former Vice President Mike Pence on Saturday dropped his bid for the Republican presidential nomination, ending his campaign for the White House after struggling to raise money and gain traction in the polls.

“It’s become clear to me: This is not my time,” Pence said at the Republican Jewish Coalition’s annual gathering in Las Vegas. “So after much prayer and deliberation, I have decided to suspend my campaign for president effective today.”

“We always knew this would be an uphill battle, but I have no regrets,” Pence went on to tell the friendly audience, which reacted with audible surprise to the announcement and gave him multiple standing ovations.

Pence is the first major candidate to leave a race that has been dominated by his former boss-turned-rival, Donald Trump, and his struggles underscore just how much Trump has transformed the party. A former vice president would typically be seen as a formidable challenger in any primary, but Pence has struggled to find a base of support.

Pence did not immediately endorse any of his rivals, but continued to echo language he has used to criticize Trump.

“I urge all my fellow Republicans here, give our country a Republican standard-bearer that will, as Lincoln said, appeal to the better angels of our nature, and not only lead us to victory, but lead our nation with civility,” he said.

Pence’s decision, more than two months before the Iowa caucuses that he had staked his campaign on, saves him from accumulating additional debt, as well as the embarrassment of potentially failing to qualify for the third Republican primary debate, on Nov. 8 in Miami.

But his withdrawal is a huge blow for a politician who spent years biding his time as Trump’s most loyal lieutenant, only to be scapegoated during their final days in office when Trump became convinced that Pence somehow had the power to overturn the results of the 2020 election and keep both men in office — a power Pence did not possess. 

While Pence averted a constitutional crisis by rejecting the scheme, he drew Trump’s fury, as well as the wrath of many of Trump’s supporters, who still believed his lies about the election and see Pence as a traitor.

Among Trump critics, meanwhile, Pence was seen as an enabler who defended the former president at every turn and refused to criticize even Trump’s most indefensible actions time and again.

As a result, an Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research from August found that the majority of U.S. adults, 57%, viewed Pence negatively, with only 28% having a positive view.

Throughout his campaign, the former Indiana governor and congressman had insisted that while he was well-known by voters, he was not “known well” and set out to change that with an aggressive schedule that included numerous stops at diners and Pizza Ranch restaurants.

Pence had been betting on Iowa, a state with a large white Evangelical population that has a long history of elevating religious and socially conservative candidates such as former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and former Pennsylvania Rick Santorum. Pence often campaigned with his wife, Karen, a Christian school teacher, and emphasized his hard-line views on issues such as abortion, which he opposes even in cases when a pregnancy is unviable. He repeatedly called on his fellow candidates to support a minimum 15-week national ban and he pushed to ban drugs used as alternatives to surgical procedures.

He tried to confront head-on his actions on Jan. 6, 2021 , explaining to voters over and over that he had done his constitutional duty that day, knowing full well the political consequences. It was a strategy that aides believed would help defuse the issue and earn Pence the respect of a majority of Republicans, whom they were were convinced did not agree with Trump’s actions.

But even in Iowa, Pence struggled to gain traction.

He had an equally uphill climb raising money, despite yearslong relationships with donors. Pence ended September with just $1.18 million in the bank and $621,000 in debt, according to his most recent campaign filing. That debt had grown in the weeks since and adding to it would have taken Pence, who is not independently wealthy, years pay off.

The Associated Press first reported earlier this month that people close to Pence had begun to feel that remaining a candidate risked diminishing his long-term standing in the party, given Trump’s dominating lead in the race for the 2024 nomination. While they said Pence could stick it out until the Jan. 15 Iowa caucuses if he wanted — campaigning on a shoestring budget and accumulating debt — he would have to consider how that might affect his ability to remain a leading voice in the conservative movement, as he hopes.

Some said that Hamas’ attack on Israel in October, which pushed foreign policy to the forefront of the campaign, had given Pence a renewed sense of purpose given his warnings throughout the campaign against the growing tide of isolationism in the Republican Party. Pence had argued that he was the race’s most experienced candidate and decried “voices of appeasement” among Republican, arguing they had emboldened groups such as Hamas.

But ultimately, Pence concluded that he could continue to speak out on the issue without continuing the campaign. He chose the Las Vegas event to announce his decision, in part, so he could address the topic one last time before formally leaving the race.

He is expected to remain engaged, in part through Advancing American Freedom, the conservative think tank he founded after leaving the vice presidency and that he envisions it as an alternative to the The Heritage Foundation.

Pence’s group is expected to continued to advocate for policies that he supported in his run, including pushing for more U.S. support for Ukraine’s defense against the Russian invasion and proposed cuts to Social Security and Medicare to rein in the debt. Such ideas were once the bread-and-butter of Republican establishment orthodoxy but have fallen out of a favor as the party has embraced Trump’s isolationist and populist views.

(AP)

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US Congress passes last-minute bill to avert shutdown

The threat of a federal government shutdown suddenly lifted late Saturday as President Joe Biden signed a temporary funding bill to keep agencies open with little time to spare after Congress rushed to approve the bipartisan deal.

The package drops aid to Ukraine, a White House priority opposed by a growing number of GOP lawmakers, but increases federal disaster assistance by $16 billion, meeting Biden’s full request. The bill funds government until Nov. 17.

After chaotic days of turmoil in the House, Speaker Kevin McCarthy abruptly abandoned demands for steep spending cuts from his right flank and instead relied on Democrats to pass the bill, at risk to his own job. The Senate followed with final passage closing a whirlwind day at the Capitol.

“This is good news for the American people,” Biden said in a statement. 

He also said the United States “cannot under any circumstances allow American support for Ukraine to be interrupted” and expected McCarthy “will keep his commitment to the people of Ukraine and secure passage of the support needed to help Ukraine at this critical moment.”


It’s been a sudden head-spinning turn of events in Congress ahead of the midnight funding deadline after grueling days in the House pushed the government to the brink of a disruptive federal shutdown.

The outcome ends, for now, the threat of a shutdown, but the reprieve may be short-lived. Congress will again need to fund the government in coming weeks risking a crisis as views are hardening, particularly among the right-flank lawmakers whose demands were ultimately swept aside this time in favor of a more bipartisan approach. 

“We’re going to do our job,” McCarthy, R-Calif., said before the House vote. “We’re going to be adults in the room. And we’re going to keep government open.”

If no deal was in place before Sunday, federal workers would have faced furloughs, more than 2 million active-duty and reserve military troops would have had to work without pay and programs and services that Americans rely on from coast to coast would have begun to face shutdown disruptions.

“It has been a day full of twists and turns, but the American people can breathe a sigh of relief: There will be no government shutdown,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.

The package funds government at current 2023 levels until mid-November, and also extends other provisions, including for the Federal Aviation Administration. The package was approved by the House 335-91, with most Republicans and almost all Democrats supporting. Senate passage came by an 88-9 vote. 

But the loss of Ukraine aid was devastating for lawmakers of both parties vowing to support President Volodymyr Zelenskyy after his recent Washington visit. The Senate bill included $6 billion for Ukraine, and both chambers came to a standstill Saturday as lawmakers assessed their options.

“The American people deserve better,” said House Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries of New York, warning in a lengthy floor speech that “extreme” Republicans were risking a shutdown. 

For the House package to be approved, McCarthy was forced to rely on Democrats because the speaker’s hard-right flank has said it will oppose any short-term funding measure, denying him the votes needed from his slim majority. It’s a move that is sure to intensify calls for his ouster. 

After leaving the conservative holdouts behind, McCarthy is almost certain to be facing a motion to try to remove him from office, though it is not at all certain there would be enough votes to topple the speaker. Most Republicans voted for the package Saturday while 90 opposed.

“If somebody wants to remove me because I want to be the adult in the room, go ahead and try,” McCarthy said of the threat to oust him. “But I think this country is too important.”

The White House was tracking the developments on Capitol Hill and aides were briefing the president, who was spending the weekend in Washington.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, who has championed Ukraine aid despite resistance from his own ranks, is expected to keep pursuing U.S. support for Kyiv in the fight against Russia.

“I have agreed to keep fighting for more economic and security aid for Ukraine,” McConnell, R-Ky., said before the vote.

Late at night, the Senate stalled when Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., held up the vote, seeking assurances Ukraine funds would be reconsidered.

“I know important moments are like this, for the United States, to lead the rest of the world,” Bennet said, noting his mother was born in Poland in 1938 and survived the Holocaust. “We can’t fail.”

The House’s quick pivot comes after the collapse Friday of McCarthy’s earlier plan to pass a Republican-only bill with steep spending cuts up to 30% to most government agencies and strict border provisions that the White House and Democrats rejected as too extreme. A faction of 21 hard-right Republican holdouts opposed it.

“Our options are slipping away every minute,” said one senior Republican, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida.

The federal government had been heading straight into a shutdown that posed grave uncertainty for federal workers in states all across America and the people who depend on them — from troops to border control agents to office workers, scientists and others.

Families that rely on Head Start for children, food benefits and countless other programs large and small were confronting potential interruptions or outright closures. At the airports, Transportation Security Administration officers and air traffic controllers had been expected to work without pay, but travelers could have faced delays in updating their U.S. passports or other travel documents. 

The White House has brushed aside McCarthy’s overtures to meet with Biden after the speaker walked away from the debt deal they brokered earlier this year that set budget levels.

Catering to his hard-right flank, McCarthy had made multiple concessions including returning to the spending limits the conservatives demanded back in January as part of the deal-making to help him become the House speaker. 

But it was not enough as the conservatives insisted the House follow regular rules, and debate and approve each of the 12 separate spending bills needed to fund the government agencies, typically a months-long process. In the Senate, all the no votes against the package came from Republicans.

McCarthy’s chief Republican critic, Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, has warned he will file a motion calling a vote to oust the speaker. 

Some of the Republican holdouts, including Gaetz, are allies of former President Donald Trump, who is Biden’s chief rival in the 2024 race. Trump has been encouraging the Republicans to fight hard for their priorities and even to “shut it down.” 

At an early closed-door meeting at the Capitol, several House Republicans, particularly those facing tough reelections next year, urged their colleagues to find a way to prevent a shutdown.

“All of us have a responsibility to lead and to govern,” said Republican Rep. Mike Lawler of New York.

The lone House Democrat to vote against the package, Rep. Mike Quigley of Illinois, the co-chair of the Congressional Ukraine Caucus, said, “Protecting Ukraine is in our national interest.”

(AP)



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Is the United States on the brink of a government shutdown?

If an agreement isn’t made before midnight on Saturday, the lives of millions of American citizens could be significantly affected.

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The US is on the brink of a federal government shutdown after hard-right Republicans in Congress rejected a longshot effort to keep offices open.

The move comes as they fight for steep spending cuts and strict border security measures that Democrats and the White House say are too extreme.

Come midnight on Saturday, if there is no deal in place, federal workers will face furloughs, more than 2 million active duty and reserve military troops will work without pay and programmes and services which countless Americans rely on will begin to face shutdown disruptions.

The Senate is set to hold a rare Saturday session to advance its own bipartisan package that is supported by Democrats and Republicans and would fund the government for the short-term, up until 17 November.

Even if the Senate can rush to wrap up its work this weekend to pass the bill – which also includes money for Ukraine aid and US disaster assistance – it won’t prevent an almost certain shutdown amid the chaos in the House.

On Friday, a massive hard-right revolt left Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s latest plan to collapse.

“Congress has only one option to avoid a shutdown – bipartisanship,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell echoed that sentiment, warning his own hard-right colleagues there is nothing to gain by shutting down the federal government.

“It heaps unnecessary hardships on the American people, as well as the brave men and women who keep us safe,” McConnell said.

Despite this rhetoric, the federal government is heading straight into a shutdown that poses grave uncertainty for federal workers in states all across America and the people who depend on them – from troops to border control agents to office workers and scientists.

Families which rely on Head Start for children, food benefits and countless other programs large and small are confronting potential interruptions or outright closures. At the airports, Transportation Security Administration officers and air traffic controllers are expected to work without pay, but travellers could face delays in updating their US passports or other travel documents.

Congress has so far been unable to fund the federal agencies or pass a temporary bill in time to keep offices open for the start of the new fiscal year.

It’s down, in large part, to the fact that McCarthy has faced insurmountable resistance from right-flank Republicans who are refusing to run government as usual.

McCarthy’s last-ditch plan to keep the federal government temporarily open collapsed in dramatic fashion Friday as a robust faction of 21 hard-right holdouts opposed the package.

Despite the package’s proposed steep spending cuts of nearly 30% to many agencies and severe border security provisions, they called it insufficient.

The White House and Democrats rejected the Republican approach as too extreme, with the Democrats voting against it.

The House bill’s failure a day before Saturday’s deadline to fund the government leaves few options to prevent a shutdown.

“It’s not the end yet; I’ve got other ideas,” a clearly agitated McCarthy told reporters as he exited the chamber – but none have yet come to fruition.

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Later on Friday, after a heated closed-door meeting of House Republicans that pushed into the evening, McCarthy said he was considering options.

Among them, there is the suggestion of a two-week stopgap funding measure similar to the effort from hard-right senators that would be certain to exclude any help for Ukraine in the war against Russia.

Even though the House bill has already axed routine Ukraine aid, an intensifying Republican resistance to the war effort means the Senate’s plan to attach $6 billion (about €5.6bn) to the funds President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is seeking from the US may have bipartisan support from Democrats – but not from most of McCarthy’s Republicans.

Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky is working to stop the Ukraine funds in the Senate package entirely.

“We continue to work through trying to find out of this,” McCarthy told reporters. “There are no winners in a government shutdown and I think that’s the best way forward, make sure the government does not shut down.”

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The White House has brushed aside McCarthy’s overtures to meet with President Joe Biden after the speaker walked away from the debt deal they brokered earlier this year that set budget levels.

On Friday, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre urged agreement between factions, saying: “The path forward to fund the government has been laid out by the Senate with bipartisan support – House Republicans just need to take it.”

Catering to his hard-right flank, McCarthy had returned to the spending limits the conservatives demanded back in January as part of the deal-making to help him become the House speaker.

The House package would not have cut the Defence, Veterans or Homeland Security departments but would have slashed almost all other agencies by up to 30% – steep hits to a vast array of programs, services and departments Americans routinely depend on.

It also added strict new border security provisions which would kick start building the hugely contentious wall at the southern border with Mexico, among other measures. Additionally, the package would have set up a bipartisan debt commission to address the nation’s mounting debt load.

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As soon as the floor debate began, McCarthy’s chief Republican critic, Matt Gaetz of Florida, announced he would vote against the package, urging his colleagues to “not surrender”.

Gaetz added that the speaker’s bill “went down in flames as I’ve told you all week it would.”

He and others rejecting the temporary measure want the House to keep pushing through the 12 individual spending bills needed to fund the government, typically a weeks-long process, as they pursue their conservative priorities.

Republican leaders announced later on Friday that the House would stay in session next week, rather than return home, to keep working on some of the 12 spending bills.

Some of the Republican holdouts, including Gaetz, are allies of Donald Trump, who remains as President Biden’s chief rival in 2024. The former president has been encouraging the Republicans to fight hard for their priorities and even to “shut it down.”

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The hard right, led by Gaetz, has been threatening McCarthy’s ouster, with a looming vote to try to remove him from the speaker’s office unless he meets the conservative demands.

It’s still unclear, though, if any other Republican would have support from the House majority to lead the party.

Late on Friday, Trump turned his ire to McConnell on social media, complaining that the Republican leader and other GOP senators are “weak and ineffective” and making compromises with Democrats. He urged them, “Don’t do it!”

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Donald Trump to skip Republican presidential primary debates

Former U.S. President Donald Trump confirmed Sunday that he will be skipping Wednesday’s first Republican presidential primary debate — and others as well.

“The public knows who I am & what a successful Presidency I had,” Mr. Trump wrote on his social media site. “I WILL THEREFORE NOT BE DOING THE DEBATES!” His spokesman did not immediately clarify whether he plans to boycott every primary debate or just those that have currently been scheduled.

The former president and early GOP front-runner had said for months that he saw little upside in joining his GOP rivals on stage when they gather for the first time in Milwaukee Wednesday, given his commanding lead in the race. And he had made clear to those he had spoken to in recent days that his opinion had not changed.

“Why would I allow people at 1 or 2% and 0% to be hitting me with questions all night?” he said in an interview in June with Fox News host Bret Baier, who will be serving as a moderator. Mr. Trump has also repeatedly criticised Fox, the host of the August 23 primetime event, insisting it is a “hostile network” that he believes will not treat him fairly.

Mr. Trump had been discussing a number of debate counterprogramming options, according to people familiar with the discussions. He has taped an interview with ex-Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who has been hosting a show on the website formerly known as Twitter, according to one person who requested anonymity to discuss private planning. The interview is expected to air Wednesday.

“We cannot confirm or deny — stay tuned,” said Mr. Trump spokesman Steven Cheung. Mr. Carlson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The idea had been one of several alternatives Mr. Trump had floated in conversations in recent weeks. They included possibly showing up in Milwaukee at the last minute or attending but sitting in the audience and offering live commentary on his Truth Social site. He had also discussed potentially calling into different networks to draw viewers from the debate, or holding a rally instead.

The decision marks another chapter in Mr. Trump’s ongoing feud with Fox, which was once a staunch defender, but is now perceived to be more favorable to his leading rival, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. Fox executives and hosts had lobbied Mr. Trump to attend, both privately and on the network’s airwaves. But Mr. Trump, according to a person close to him, was unswayed, believing executives would not have been wooing him if they weren’t concerned about their ratings.

A person familiar had said earlier Sunday that Mr. Trump and his team had not notified the Republican National Committee of his plans.

Rivals want him to debate

Meanwhile, Mr. Trump’s rivals had been goading him to appear and preparing in the hopes that he might, concerned that a no-show might make them appear like second-tier candidates and deny them the opportunity to land a knockout blow against the race’s Goliath that could change the trajectory of the race.

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, one of the few candidates willing to directly take on Mr. Trump, has been accusing the former president of lacking “the guts to show up” and calling him “a coward” if he doesn’t.

A super PAC supporting Mr. DeSantis released an ad in which the narrator says: “We can’t afford a nominee who is too weak to debate.” And the DeSantis campaign spokesman Andrew Romeo added that, “No one is entitled to this nomination, including Donald Trump. You have to show up and earn it.”

Mr. Trump has pushed back on the attacks, telling Newsmax’s Eric Bolling that he saw little benefit in participating when he’s already leading by a wide margin.

“It’s not a question of guts. It’s a question of intelligence,” he said.

Mr. Trump has also said that he will not sign a pledge to support the eventual Republican nominee if he loses the nomination — a requirement set by the Republican National Committee for appearing on stage.

“Why would I sign it?” he said. “I can name three or four people that I wouldn’t support for president. So right there, there’s a problem.”

Nonetheless, his advisers insisted for weeks that he had yet to make a final decision, even as they acknowledged it was “pretty clear” from his public and private statements that he was unlikely to appear.

Not the first time

It’s not the first time Mr. Trump has chosen to skip a major GOP debate.

During his 2016 campaign, Mr. Trump decided to forgo the final GOP primary face-off before the Iowa caucuses and instead held his own campaign event — a flashy telethon-style gathering in Iowa that was billed as a fundraiser for veterans.

While the event earned him headlines and drew attention away from his rivals, Mr. Trump went on to lose the Iowa caucuses to Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas — a loss some former aides have blamed, at least in part, on his decision to skip the debate.

In 2020, Trump pulled out of the second general election debate against now-President Joe Biden after the Commission on Presidential Debates, a nonpartisan group that has hosted general election debates for more than three decades, sought to make it virtual after Mr. Trump tested positive for COVID-19. He refused, saying he would only debate on stage.

Mr. Trump is not the only candidate who will likely be missing Wednesday’s event. Several lesser-known rivals appear unlikely to reach the threshold set by the RNC to participate. To qualify, candidates must have received contributions from at least 40,000 individual donors, with at least 200 unique donors in 20 or more states. They also must poll at at least 1% in three designated national polls, or a mix of national and early-state polls, between July 1 and Aug. 21.

Candidates who have met the qualifications include Mr. DeSantis, Mr. Christie, former vice president Mike Pence, tech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, and South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott.

Beyond the fundraising and polling requirements, the RNC has said candidates must also sign the pledge agreeing to support the eventual party nominee as well as agreeing not to participate in any non-RNC sanctioned debate for the remainder of the election cycle. The RNC is boycotting events organised by the Commission for Presidential Debates, alleging bias.

“I affirm that if I do not win the 2024 Republican nomination of President of the United States, I will honor the will of the primary voters and support the nominee in order to save our country and beat Joe Biden,” reads the pledge, according to a copy posted by Mr. DeSantis to the social media site X. Candidates also must pledge not to run as an independent, write-in candidate or third-party nominee.

While several candidates, including Mr. Christie and former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson have taken issue with the requirement, former Texas Rep. Will Hurd so far is the only one who has said definitively that he will not sign the pledge because he refuses to support Mr. Trump if he becomes the eventual nominee. Mr. Christie has said he will sign whatever is needed to get him on the stage.

In addition to voicing opposition to the loyalty pledge, Mr. Trump has suggested he is opposed to boycotting general election debates hosted by the Commission on Presidential Debates. “You have, really, an obligation to do that,” he said in a radio interview this spring.

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Trump took classified documents, risked national security, alleges indictment

Former U.S. President Donald Trump faces 37 criminal counts that include charges of unauthorized retention of classified documents and conspiracy to obstruct justice after he left the White House in 2021, according to federal court documents made public on Friday. 

The Justice Department made the charging documents public on a tumultuous day in which two of Trump‘s lawyers quit the case and a former aide faces charges as well. The charges stem from Trump’s treatment of sensitive government materials he took with him when he left the White House in January 2021.

Trump is due to make a first court appearance in the case in a Miami court on Tuesday, a day before his 77th birthday.

According to the indictment, those documents include some of the most sensitive U.S. military secrets, including information on the U.S. nuclear program and potential domestic vulnerabilities in the event of an attack.

One document concerned a foreign country’s support of terrorism against U.S. interests.

Materials came from the Pentagon, the Central Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency and other intelligence agencies, the indictment said.

According to the indictment, Trump showed another person a Defense Department document described as a “plan of attack” against another country.


The indictment of a former U.S. president on federal charges is unprecedented in American history and emerges at a time when Trump is the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination next year.

Investigators seized roughly 13,000 documents from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida, nearly a year ago. One hundred were marked as classified, even though one of Trump’s lawyers had previously said all records with classified markings had been returned to the government.

“I AM AN INNOCENT MAN!” Trump wrote on his Truth Social platform on Thursday after announcing he had been indicted.

Trump has previously said he declassified those documents while president, but his attorneys have declined to make that argument in court filings.

CNN reported on Friday that Trump said after leaving office that he had retained military information that he had not declassified. Those comments, captured on audio, could be a key piece of evidence in the case.

U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon has been initially assigned to oversee the case, said a source who was briefed on the matter. She could preside over the trial as well, said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Cannon, appointed by Trump in 2019, made headlines last year when she decided in favor of the former U.S. president at a pivotal stage of the case and was later reversed on appeal.

Cannon would determine, among other things, when a trial would take place and what Trump’s sentence would be if he were found guilty.

It is the second criminal case for Trump, who is due to go on trial in New York next March in a state case stemming from a hush-money payment to a porn star.

If he wins the presidency again, Trump, as head of the federal government, would be in a position to derail the federal case, but not the state one in New York.

Also on Friday, Trump said on his Truth Social platform that his former military valet, Walt Nauta, had been charged in the case. Nauta worked at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort after serving in the Trump White House.

Nauta’s lawyer, Stanley Woodward, declined to comment. A spokesperson for Special Counsel Jack Smith, who is leading the prosecution, could not be reached immediately.

In an earlier post, Trump said he would be represented in the case by white collar defense lawyer Todd Blanche, who is representing him in a separate criminal case in Manhattan.

Trump made that announcement after his lawyers John Rowley and Jim Trusty quit the case for reasons that were not immediately clear.

“This morning we tendered our resignations as counsel to President Trump,” the two lawyers said in a statement. “It has been an honor to have spent the last year defending him, and we know he will be vindicated.”

Trump and his allies have portrayed the case as political retaliation by Democratic President Joe Biden, but Biden has kept his distance.

The White House said he did not find out about the indictment ahead of time, and he declined to comment when asked by reporters in North Carolina about the indictment.

Attorney General Merrick Garland has sought to minimize the perception of political interference by appointing Jack Smith as special counsel, giving him a degree of independence from Justice Department leadership to head the prosecution.

The case does not prevent Trump from campaigning or taking office if he were to win the November 2024 presidential election. Legal experts say there would be no basis to block his swearing-in even if he were convicted and sent to prison.

Popular with Republicans

Trump’s legal woes have not dented his popularity with Republican voters, according to Reuters/Ipsos polling. His main Republican rivals have so far lined up behind him to criticize the case as politically motivated.

Trump served as president from 2017 to 2021, and he has so far managed to weather controversies that might torpedo other politicians. He describes himself as the victim of a witch hunt and accuses the Justice Department of partisan bias.

Special Counsel Smith is leading a second criminal probe into efforts by Trump and his allies to overturn his 2020 election loss to President Joe Biden, a Democrat.

Trump also faces a separate criminal probe in Georgia related to efforts to overturn his loss to Biden in that state.

Smith convened grand juries in both Washington and Miami to hear evidence, but has opted to bring the case in the politically competitive state of Florida, rather than the U.S. capital, where any jury would likely be heavily Democratic.

Under federal law, defendants have a right to be charged where the activity in question took place. A Florida prosecution, legal experts say, could head off a drawn-out legal challenge from Trump’s team over the proper venue.

The Republican state-by-state presidential nominating contest kicks off early next year, and the party is due to choose its nominee for the November 2024 election in July of that year.

(Reuters)

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US House passes bipartisan bill to raise debt ceiling, avoid default

Lawmakers agreed on a bill that looks to avoid a catastrophic default of the United States. The text will now go to the Senate for approval.

Veering away from a default crisis, the House approved a debt ceiling and budget cuts package late Wednesday, as President Joe Biden and Speaker Kevin McCarthy assembled a bipartisan coalition of centrist Democrats and Republicans against fierce conservative blowback and progressive dissent.

The hard-fought deal pleased few, but lawmakers assessed it was better than the alternative – a devastating economic upheaval if Congress failed to act. Tensions ran high throughout the day as hard-right Republicans refused the deal, while Democrats said “extremist” GOP views were risking a debt default as soon as next week.

With the House vote of 314-117, the bill now heads to the Senate with passage expected by week’s end. McCarthy insisted his party was working to “give America hope” as he launched into a late evening speech extolling the bill’s budget cuts, which he said were needed to curb Washington’s “runaway spending.” But amid discontent from Republicans who said the spending restrictions did not go far enough , McCarthy said it is only a “first step.”

Earlier, Biden expressed optimism that the agreement he negotiated with McCarthy to lift the nation’s borrowing limit would pass the chamber and avoid an economically disastrous default on America’s debts. The president departed Washington for Colorado, where he is scheduled to deliver the commencement address Thursday at the U.S. Air Force Academy.

“God willing by the time I land, Congress will have acted, the House will have acted, and we’ll be one step closer,” he said. That wasn’t quite the case – the vote began about an hour and a half after Biden arrived in Colorado.

Biden sent top White House officials to the Capitol to shore up backing. McCarthy worked to sell skeptical fellow Republicans, even fending off challenges to his leadership, in the rush to avert a potentially disastrous US default .

Swift approval later in the week by the Senate would ensure government checks will continue to go out to Social Security recipients, veterans and others and would prevent financial upheaval at home and abroad . Next Monday is when the Treasury has said the US would run short of money to pay its debts.

Biden and McCarthy were counting on support from the political center, a rarity in divided Washington, testing the leadership of the Democratic president and the Republican speaker .

Overall, the 99-page bill restricts spending for the next two years, suspends the debt ceiling into January 2025 and changes some policies, including imposing new work requirements for older Americans receiving food aid and greenlighting an Appalachian natural gas line that many Democrats oppose. It bolsters funds for defense and veterans.

Raising the nation’s debt limit, now $31 trillion, ensures Treasury can borrow to pay already incurred US debts.

Top GOP deal negotiator Rep. Garret Graves of Louisiana said Republicans were fighting for budget cuts after Democrats piled onto deficits with extra spending, first during the COVID-19 crisis and later with Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act, with its historic investment to fight climate change.

But Republican Rep. Chip Roy, a member of the Freedom Caucus helping to lead the opposition, said, “My beef is that you cut a deal that shouldn’t have been cut.”

For weeks negotiators laboured late into the night to strike the deal with the White House, and for days McCarthy has worked to build support among skeptics. At one point, aides wheeled in pizza at the Capitol the night before the vote as he walked Republicans through the details, fielded questions and encouraged them not to lose sight of the bill’s budget savings.

The speaker has faced a tough crowd. Cheered on by conservative senators and outside groups, the hard-right House Freedom Caucus lambasted the compromise as falling well short of the needed spending cuts , and they vowed to try to halt passage.

A much larger conservative faction, the Republican Study Committee, declined to take a position. Even rank-and-file centrist conservatives were unsure, leaving McCarthy searching for votes from his slim Republican majority.

Ominously, the conservatives warned of possibly trying to oust McCarthy over the compromise. Biden spoke directly to lawmakers, making calls from the White House.

House Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries said it was up to McCarthy to turn out at least 150 Republican votes, two-thirds of the majority, even as he assured reporters that Democrats would supply the rest to prevent a default. In the 435-member House, 218 votes are needed for approval.

As the tally faltered in the afternoon procedural vote, Jeffries stood silently and raised his green voting card, signaling that the Democrats would fill in the gap to ensure passage. They did, advancing the bill that 29 hard-right Republicans, many from the Freedom Caucus, refused to back.

“Once again, House Democrats to the rescue to avoid a dangerous default,” said Jeffries, D-NY. “What does that say about this extreme MAGA Republican majority?” he said about the party aligned with Donald Trump’s ”Make America Great Again” political movement.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said the spending restrictions in the package would reduce deficits by $1.5 trillion over the decade, a top goal for the Republicans trying to curb the debt load.

In a surprise that complicated Republicans’ support, however, the CBO said their drive to impose work requirements on older Americans receiving food stamps would end up boosting spending by $2.1 billion over the time period. That’s because the final deal exempts veterans and homeless people, expanding the food stamp rolls by 78,000 people monthly, the CBO said.

Liberal discontent, though, ran strong as Democrats also broke away, decrying the new work requirements for older Americans, those 50-54, in the food aid program.

Some Democrats were also incensed that the White House negotiated into the deal changes to the landmark National Environmental Policy Act and approval of the controversial Mountain Valley Pipeline natural gas project. The energy development is important to Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., but many others oppose it as unhelpful in fighting climate change.

On Wall Street, stock prices were down.

In the Senate, Democratic Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell are working for passage by week’s end. Schumer warned there is ”no room for error.”

Senators, who have remained largely on the sidelines during much of the negotiations, are insisting on amendments to reshape the package. But making any changes at this stage seemed unlikely with so little time to spare before Monday’s deadline.

(AP)

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Trump challenger DeSantis to enter 2024 race in Twitter event with Musk

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, whose impassioned battles over pandemic lockdowns and divisive cultural issues have endeared him to conservatives, will announce on Wednesday he is seeking the Republican presidential nomination, placing him on a collision course with former President Donald Trump.

DeSantis will make the announcement on Twitter during a discussion with Twitter CEO Elon Musk, DeSantis’ political team confirmed. At the same time, he will file a document with the Federal Election Commission declaring his candidacy.

NBC first reported the planned announcement.

Musk confirmed his appearance on a webcast during a conference hosted by the Wall Street Journal, saying he was not endorsing DeSantis.

“I’m not at this time planning to endorse any particular candidate, but I am interested in Twitter being somewhat of a town square,” Musk said.

DeSantis was re-elected handily to a second term in November. His rising profile among Republicans and fundraising prowess likely make him the biggest threat to Trump’s hopes of becoming the Republican nominee for the White House again.

The two men were close allies during Trump’s four years in the White House – Trump endorsed him during his first campaign for governor – but DeSantis has since forged his own political identity. At 44 he may represent the future of the party more than does the 76-year-old Trump.

“Announcing on Twitter is perfect for Ron DeSantis. This way he doesn’t have to interact with people and the media can’t ask him any questions,” said a Trump adviser who asked not to be identified.

DeSantis will convene a meeting in Miami of his top donors, who will immediately launch his presidential fundraising efforts.

During the coronavirus pandemic, DeSantis became the national face of resistance to mask and vaccine mandates and has been a virulent critic of Dr. Anthony Fauci, who headed the government’s COVID-19 response in both the Trump and Biden administrations.

In stump speeches, he has argued his policies made possible Florida’s economic recovery from the pandemic, turning the state into a magnet for hundreds of thousands of new residents. Florida has consistently outpaced the country in job growth over the last two years.

“His pandemic response effectively made him the governor of Red State America,” said Justin Sayfie, a Florida lobbyist and a former aide to former Florida Governor Jeb Bush.

In the months leading up to his presidential bid, DeSantis has toured the country, visiting states like Iowa and New Hampshire that will hold early presidential nominating contests next year and talking up his accomplishments in Florida.

But his decision to wait until now to join the fray has allowed Trump to batter DeSantis with a fusillade of attacks, costing him standing in national polls.

Aggressive agenda 

DeSantis has rebuffed critics, pushed his priorities through the legislature and punished his enemies. His Democratic opponent in his 2022 re-election campaign, Charlie Crist, called DeSantis a “wannabe dictator.”

When Walt Disney Co DIS.N, one of Florida’s biggest employers, opposed the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” law that limited discussion of LGBTQ issues in schools, DeSantis moved to strip the company of its self-governing status.

Disney has since filed a federal lawsuit against the governor, accusing him of weaponizing state government to retaliate against the company.

When an elected Democratic state attorney said he would not prosecute anyone for defying DeSantis-backed limits on abortion, DeSantis removed him from his position.

He has made crusading against what Republicans call “woke” education policies a centerpiece of his politics while supporting conservative candidates for local school boards.

He backed a legislative measure that prohibits the teaching of “Critical Race Theory” – an academic doctrine that views US history through the lens of oppression – in state public schools despite little evidence it was being taught.

Republican lawmakers in Florida handed DeSantis a bevy of conservative victories in its recent session: They expanded the state’s school voucher program, prohibited the use of public money in sustainable investing, scrapped diversity programs at public universities, allowed for permitless carry of concealed weapons and, perhaps most notably, banned almost all abortions in the state.

The widespread abortion ban may help DeSantis appeal to the party’s evangelicals, but may damage him significantly in the November 2024 general election should he make it that far. Pro-business Republicans have also been critical of his feud with Disney, arguing that it is at odds with the party’s traditional hands-off approach to regulation.

Republicans nationwide have taken notice of his aggressive approach to governing. DeSantis and his affiliated political action committee raised more than $200 million in support of his gubernatorial re-election bid.

Also watching has been Trump, who has taken to deriding his one-time protégé at rallies, nicknaming him “DeSanctimonious” and claiming credit for making DeSantis the political rising star he is today.

On the stump, DeSantis has a wholly different style than the bombastic Trump: low-key, buttoned-down and prone to favoring policy over personal attacks. His campaign speeches can sometimes feel like PowerPoint presentations.

A key question going forward will be how DeSantis responds to what will certainly be a nearly endless stream of insults and insinuations from Trump. So far, he has attempted to dismiss them as “noise” and said he is focused on “delivering results.”

It may not be in DeSantis’ interest to fire back. He needs to win over some portion of Trump’s supporters. Instead, he likely will try to walk a careful line between not denigrating Trump while making clear he favours many of the same policies with perhaps a steadier hand on the tiller.

Prior to his election as governor in 2018, DeSantis served as a US congressman for three terms. His wife, Casey DeSantis, is considered his closest political adviser. The couple has three children.

(REUTERS)

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