In brief: Progress makes farm bill OK likely
WASHINGTON – The Senate late Monday broke a deadlock that had threatened to bring down a half-trillion-dollar farm and food bill, setting the stage for expected passage of the measure later this week.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced a list of 73 amendments that were acceptable to both parties. That was out of the approximately 300 proposed amendments to the measure, a 1,000-page bill that will set farm policy over the next five years and provide nearly $80 billion a year for the federal food stamp program.
The two parties had negotiated for days on a package of allowable amendments, with the main sticking point being amendments concerning issues unrelated to the farm bill.
The Senate will start voting on the amendments today.
Iraq envoy nominee withdraws name
WASHINGTON – The Obama administration’s pick to be the next ambassador to Iraq withdrew from consideration Monday as Senate Republicans suggested his confirmation was endangered because of his behavior and judgment while working at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad in 2008.
Brett McGurk’s nomination, which was scheduled for a vote today by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, became endangered after the release on the Internet of sometimes racy emails he sent to journalist Gina Chon while he was married and was negotiating a security agreement with the Iraqi government during President George W. Bush’s administration.
The emails indicated McGurk had an intimate relationship with Chon. McGurk has since married Chon, who resigned from the Wall Street Journal last week after acknowledging that she violated in-house rules by showing McGurk unpublished stories.
In a letter to President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, McGurk said he was removing himself from consideration for the job with a “heavy heart.”
GOP budget target of nuns’ bus tour
DES MOINES, Iowa – A group of Roman Catholic nuns began a nine-state bus tour protesting proposed federal budget cuts Monday, saying they weren’t trying to flout recent Vatican criticisms of socially active nuns but felt called to show how Republican policies are affecting low-income families.
The tour was organized by Network, a Washington-based Catholic social justice group criticized in a recent Vatican report that said some organizations led by nuns have focused too much on economic injustice while failing to promote the church’s teachings on abortion and same-sex marriage.
They plan stops at the offices of several closely tied to the budget process, including House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, and Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, the architect of the House-passed budget. The tour will end in Washington on July 2.
Police have video of Picasso defacer
HOUSTON – Police have video recordings to help them search for a man who spray-painted Pablo Picasso’s “Woman in a Red Armchair” at a Houston art museum.
The vandalism happened Wednesday afternoon at the Menil Collection, where the 1929 painting is one of nine Picassos. Menil spokesman Vance Muse said security officers detected the vandalism almost immediately, when the paint was barely dry. Chief conservator Brad Epley began repair work right away.
The vandal fled and hasn’t been arrested.