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Lawmakers demand answers from Speaker Paul Ryan over House chaplain’s ouster

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Pelosi said that Ryan told lawmakers it was “because the chaplain is not administering to the pastoral needs of the Congress.”

“It can wait until next year and then have a new chaplain,” Pelosi said. “You’re touching a very bad nerve here. This is about faith. This is about freedom of speech.”

Ryan spokeswoman AshLee Strong said Thursday: “The speaker consulted with the minority leader, but the decision (to leave) was (Conroy’s). He remains grateful for Father Conroy’s service.”

Before the House left Washington Friday for a week-long recess, a large group of House Democrats gathered on the floor of the chamber behind Rep. Joe Crowley, D-N.Y., chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, who offered a resolution that would have set up a select committee to investigate Ryan’s motivation for the ouster.

Two House Republicans — Reps. Patrick Meehan of Pennsylvania and Tom Reed of New York — stood with the Democrats. Republicans immediately voted to table the resolution.

Meanwhile, at least 148 members sent a letter Ryan requesting more information about Conroy’s ouster.

“The sensitive nature of this situation requires a description of the process followed to arrive at the decision and a justification for that decision,” said the letter, spearheaded by Reps. Gerry Connolly, D-Va.; Walter Jones, R-N.C.; Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio; and Carol Shea Porter, D-N.H. “We believe that, absent such details, questions will inevitably arise about the politicization of the process for hiring and dismissing a House chaplain. Not revealing such details could also risk resurrecting prior questions of religious bias.”

Kaptur said Ryan didn’t have the authority to force out Conroy.

“It is not the speaker’s prerogative to terminate an officer of the House without a vote of the House,” she told reporters.

Image: Patrick Conroy
Rev. Patrick Conroy, Chaplain of the House, attends the 2013 National Days of Remembrance ceremony in the Capitol rotunda to honor the victims of the Holocaust.Tom Williams / CQ-Roll Call via Getty Images

Rep. Mark Walker, R-Ala., chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee, told reporters he had heard of some members who took issue with Conroy.

“I cannot give you any information on what the issue was. The only that we know is that members went to Speaker Ryan with concerns about Father Conroy,” he said.

Walker, a Baptist minister himself, suggested Friday that he would prefer that the next chaplain have experience ministering to families.

“Having spent 16 years in ministry as a pastor, there are things that you are able to understand that families go through in dealing with. It doesn’t mean you have to have to have your own,” Walker said.

On Thursday, Conroy’s resignation letter dated April 15 surfaced, which made clear that Ryan had asked him to resign.

“I’m very sorry Father Conroy was forced to resign as a House Chaplain. He is a good man. No explanation and no consultation,” Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., one of two Muslim members of Congress, tweeted on Friday.

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, D-N.Y., called it a “shameful anti-Catholic move motivated by conservative extremists in Congress.”

Conroy, whose last day as chaplain is May 24, said Thursday in an interview with The New York Times that he doesn’t know why he was asked to step aside.

“I was asked to resign, that is clear,” Conroy said, adding that the reason was “unclear.”

Conroy has been blunt in some of his remarks, including a prayer about the GOP tax bill that he offered on the House floor on Nov. 6, 2017, before the legislation was passed and signed into law by President Donald Trump.

“As legislation on taxes continues to be debated this week and next, may all members be mindful that the institutions and structures of our great nation guarantee the opportunities that have allowed some to achieve great success, while others continue to struggle,” Conroy said.

Conroy told The Times that a week after the prayer, someone from the Speaker’s office came to see him.

“A staffer came down and said, ‘We are upset with this prayer; you are getting too political’,” Conroy said he was told. “It suggests to me that there are members who have talked to him about being upset with that prayer.”

Later, Conroy said, Ryan told him, “Padre, you just got to stay out of politics.”

King said Friday that Ryan denied that the tax prayer was the reason for Conroy’s ouster and that it was solely because the chaplain did not provide “good service to the members.”

Meanwhile, some Republicans defended Ryan.

“There were questions about responsiveness,” Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colo., said about Conroy. “And it just seemed like, like it was time for a change.”



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Biden brings closing message to historically red Georgia

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Joe Biden on Tuesday made his first visit of the 2020 election cycle to the battleground state of Georgia, delivering a closing argument centered around his criticism of President Donald Trump and his goal of seeking to “heal our nation.”

Speaking in Warm Springs, Georgia, Biden took aim at Trump’s responses to the dual public health and economic crises caused by Covid-19, as well as the protests for racial justice seen across the nation this year.

“These are all historic, painful crises. The insidious virus. Economic anguish. Systemic discrimination. Any one of them could have rocked a nation,” Biden said.

When it came to addressing systemic racism, he referred to the protests as a “cry for justice from communities that have long had the knee of injustice on their neck” and vowed “a new wave of justice in America.”

Biden’s events marked his first visit of the 2020 election cycle to Georgia, a state no Democratic presidential candidate has carried since 1992 but where Democrats have been making inroads.

Just a week ahead of Election Day, polls in the key Southern battleground show a tight race. The latest Real Clear Politics polling average in the state shows Biden trailing Trump by just 0.4 percentage points, while they have each led three of the last six polls in the state tracked by NBC News.

To win the state, Biden will need to carry large numbers of the state’s Black voters and large numbers of white suburbanites and white women, political strategists said.

Early voting in the state has already reached historic levels, with ballots cast there thus far already accounting for nearly two-thirds of the total ballots cast in the state in 2016.

In his address, Biden attempted to draw stark contrasts with Trump on how he’d govern if elected, saying he will be “a president who’s in it not for himself, but for others. A president who doesn’t divide us — but unites us. A president who appeals not to the worst in us — but to the best.”

“A president who cares less about his TV ratings — and more about the American people. A president who looks not to settle scores — but to find solutions. A president guided not by wishful thinking — but by science, reason and fact,” he added.

He also drew heavily upon the symbolism of the location of his speech, making frequent reference to the fact that Franklin D. Roosevelt had a retreat in Warm Springs where he sought treatments for polio.

“Warm Springs is a good place to talk about hope and healing. This is where Franklin Roosevelt came to use the therapeutic waters to rebuild himself,” Biden noted.

Later Tuesday, Biden will hold a drive-in rally in Atlanta. His running mate, Kamala Harris, visited the state Friday.



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Nicola Sturgeon faces BACKLASH over Covid Levels system – new regions risk strict lockdown

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NICOLA Sturgeon has faced a backlash from MSPs after unveiling a new tier system of restrictions which are set to come into force next week.

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Judge rejects Justice Department bid to defend Trump in defamation case

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A federal judge in New York has ruled that a libel suit filed against President Trump by E. Jean Carroll cannot be dismissed and rejected the Department of Justice’s bid to defend him in the case. NBC’s Pete Williams has details.

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