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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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Tory leadership race tracker: How Boris Johnson and Rory Stewart fared after BBC debate

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TORY leadership candidate Rory Stewart has suffered a massive drop in support following the BBC debate on Tuesday evening – whilst Boris Johnson is looking more popular than ever.

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Hope Hicks testifies before House committee behind closed doors

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WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s former aide Hope Hicks arrived on Capitol Hill Wednesday morning to testify behind closed doors before the House Judiciary Committee.

Democrats planned to focus their questions on what they say are five crimes of obstruction of justice established by the Mueller Report against Trump, as well as campaign finance violations involved with alleged election-year hush money payments.

Her appearance marks the first time a former Trump aide has come in to answer questions before that panel as part of Democrats’ obstruction of justice investigation. A transcript of the interview will be released, though it may not appear for several days.

Other issues Democrats plan to question Hicks about include Trump’s conduct and attitude towards former national security adviser Michael Flynn, Trump’s reaction when former Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation and the firing of former FBI Director James Comey, among others.

In a letter sent to Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., Tuesday evening, White House Counsel Pat Cipollone asserted that Hicks was not legally required to provide testimony regarding her time working in the White House.

“Ms. Hicks is absolutely immune from being compelled to testify before Congress with respect to matters occurring during her service as a senior adviser to the President,” he wrote.

Nadler dismissed those claims. “I reject that assertion” regarding blanket executive privilege, he said in a response released late Tuesday night, adding that after the panel poses questions to her, “we will address privilege and other objections on a question by question basis.”

Hicks’s testimony comes after the Judiciary Committee issued a subpoena last month for her appearance. She previously served as White House communications director and the White House director of strategic communications after a stint as a senior aide on Trump’s 2016 campaign.

The White House directed Hicks and another former White House aide earlier this month not to hand over any documents to the House Judiciary Committee related to their time at the White House.

Mike Memoli contributed.



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Commons erupts in fury as SNP's Ian Blackford brands Boris Johnson 'racist'

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SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford sparked fury in the House of Commons after he branded former foreign secretary Boris Johnson “racist”.

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