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Disaster relief funds hit partisan wall in Congress

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – With aid to disaster victims running out, Congress on Friday ratcheted up a high-stakes confrontation over spending that once again threatens the government’s ability to function smoothly.

By a vote of 59 to 36, the Democratic-controlled Senate rejected a broad spending bill that had passed the Republican-controlled House of Representative hours earlier.

Lawmakers from both sides said the bill, which would keep the government running beyond the end of September and provide badly needed aid to victims of recent floods, tornadoes and other disasters, should not be controversial.

But the bitter partisan divide over spending that has dominated Washington this year once again threatened Congress’ ability to pass even the most basic legislation as lawmakers squabbled over two provisions that account for a fraction of the trillion-dollar-plus bill.

Aid for disaster victims could dry up by Tuesday if Congress does not replenish a dwindling relief fund. Congress also must extend funding for the entire government to avoid a shutdown on September 30, the end of the fiscal year.

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Democrats want to increase the amount of disaster funding and remove a cut to an electric-car program that Republicans included to partially offset the added disaster costs.

With both chambers eager to adjourn for a week-long recess, it was not immediately clear how Congress would resolve the standoff.

The dispute throws into question lawmakers’ ability to find common ground on the more painful choices they will have to confront in the coming months as a special bipartisan committee searches for trillions of dollars in budget savings.

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“Any delay that occurs because of inaction in the Senate will only imperil needed disaster relief for these thousands of families all across our country,” House Speaker John Boehner said at a news conference.

Boehner and other Republican leaders have promised to lower the temperature onCapitol Hill after fierce budget battles with Democrats pushed the government to the brink of a shutdown in April and the edge of default in August.

The months of turmoil in Washington have spooked consumers, rattled investors and led to a cut in the country’s top-notch AAA credit rating.

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Boehner said he spoke with the Senate’s top Democrat, Harry Reid, before the vote. “There wasn’t much progress made,” he said.

(Additional reporting by Susan Cornwell and Thomas Ferraro; editing by Doina Chiacu)

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Will Hurd becomes first GOP lawmaker to condemn Trump’s ‘racist and xenophobic’ attacks on Dems

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Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX) on Monday became the first Republican lawmaker to unequivocally condemn President Donald Trump's racist attacks against four Democratic lawmakers.

When asked by CNN's Christiane Amanpour about Trump's weekend tweets, in which he told Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) to “go back” to their countries despite the fact that all four are American citizens, Hurd did not hold back on repudiating the president's statements.

"Those tweets are racist, and xenophobic," he said. "They’re also inaccurate. The four women he’s referring to are actually citizens of the United States."

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Opponents of Fox News’ racism are ignoring the most important target: columnist

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Over the weekend, Fox News host Tucker Carlson went on a rant against Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (R-MN), claiming that she poses a danger to America and is the reason U.S. immigration laws should be changed.

Writing in The Intercept, columnist Peter Maas points out that while it's important to call out Carlson's racism, journalists shouldn't lose sight of the fact that the real culprits are the Murdoch family, which funds the xenophobia and racism of Fox News.

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Trump says his racist attacks were ‘not at all’ racist as Pelosi preps resolution condemning him

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President Donald Trump on Monday said his racist attacks on four Democratic lawmakers were "not at all" racist, even as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) announced a congressional resolution to condemn him for his "disgusting" smears.

While taking questions from reporters, the president was asked if he believed his attacks on Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) -- whom Trump told to "go back" to their countries despite the fact that all four are American citizens -- were racist.

"Not at all," the president replied.

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