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House passes $19 billion disaster relief bill

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WASHINGTON — The House on Monday evening passed the Senate-approved $19 billion disaster aid measure that three conservative Republicans had taken turns blocking in separate votes over the past two weeks.

With the 354-58 vote, the bill will now be sent to President Donald Trump for his signature, which can be delivered via auto-pen while he’s on a state visit to the United Kingdom.

The vote came as lawmakers returned to Washington after the Memorial Day holiday recess. During that break, the three Republican members — Reps. Chip Roy of Texas, Thomas Massie of Kentucky and John Rose of Tennessee — each objected to Democratic attempts to pass the legislation by unanimous consent.

House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., slammed Republicans Monday ahead of the vote.

“When disaster strikes, we shouldn’t let a zip code dictate our response. And Americans across the country have been waiting far too long for the relief and recovery assistance they deserve,” she said on the House floor ahead of the vote.

Passage of the bill comes just days after 2019’s hurricane season began. The measure provides disaster aid funding to parts of the country hit by hurricanes, flooding earthquakes and wildfires in recent years.

The Senate passed the bill last month in a 85-8 vote, and at the time, Trump had signed off on the parameters of the agreement, which excludes $4.5 billion in border funding that the White House and the Republicans kept demanding.

The bill provides about $900 million to Puerto Rico, which was ravaged by Hurricane Maria in 2017, for nutrition assistance and a community development block grant, both of which were key Democratic priorities.

Funding for Puerto Rico had long been a sticking point in negotiations because Trump was opposed to giving the territory more aid. In April, he falsely claimed on Twitter that “Puerto Rico got 91 billion dollars for the hurricane,” when the federal government had allocated only $40 billion for the island’s recovery and most of it hasn’t arrived yet.

Lawmakers from both parties had long been at an impasse over the bill. In early May for example, Trump urged House Republicans, despite their status as the minority, to reject what he called a “BAD DEMOCRAT Disaster Supplemental Bill.”



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Democratic 2020 hopefuls tout their pride at Iowa LGBTQ forum

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — Ten Democratic presidential candidates gathered at Coe College on Friday night to make their pitches to LGBTQ voters in the nation’s first caucus state. Candidates were largely united on passing the Equality Act, addressing violence against transgender women, and undoing president Trump’s ban on transgender military service.

The LGBTQ Presidential Forum was the first such forum since 2007. The candidates spoke in tight, ten minute segments. Here’s a rundown of what each had to say.

Marianne Williamson

First on stage was Marianne Williamson, a candidate who has struggled to register in opinion polls.

The Advocate’s editor-in-chief Zach Stafford quizzed Williamson about her writing that “love” can heal sickness, such as AIDS. “I believed that with love for each other, we could get through it,” Williamson said of her sister’s fight with cancer.

Williamson said as president she would “speak very loudly” about the Equality Act, a bill that would add sexual orientation and gender identity to the Civil Rights Act, banning conversion therapy, and would advocate for repealing the ban on transgender people serving in the military.

She said that while some believe diversity is like “an incredible garden,” a “panoply of diversity,” others disagree — sometimes violently. “Some people find that entire idea as psychically annihilating to their identity,” Williamson said, noting that LGBTQ opponents are politically active and do vote. “You make me president, I’ll have your back,” Williamson said.

Joe Sestak

Second up for the night was Joe Sestak, another long-shot candidate who has struggled to register in opinion polls. Sestak was quizzed by Keenan Crow, director of Iowa LGBTQ advocacy group One Iowa. Sestak touted his experience as a navy officer who was “deeply opposed to the discriminatory ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy from the time of its inception.”

Sestak spoke about how sailors on aircraft carriers “didn’t care” about the gay servicemembers, whose surreptitious service under “don’t ask, don’t tell” was widely known by their peers. He was quizzed in detail about how he would undo Trump’s transgender military ban. “What you need to do is have those types of mandated reports that they do have,” he said, “and then hold the admirals and generals to task.”

“You really must inspect, and when you have the result, go back and hold the military accountable” if there is still discrimination against transgender service members, Sestak said.



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Labour coup to oust Watson after he plotted to be PM in anti-Brexit Government

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THE sneaky bid to oust Labour’s deputy leader Tom Watson was sparked by suspicions he was scheming with Tory rebels and Liberal Democrats MPs to become prime minister of a caretaker Government.

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Booker says it's time for his campaign to 'grow or get out'

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MSNBC’s Vaughn Hillyard asked 2020 presidential candidate Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., about a memo that says his campaign needs to raise support or he may drop out of the race.

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