Briefly

House holds officials in contempt

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Democratic-controlled House voted Wednesday to hold two top Trump administration officials in contempt of Congress for failing to comply with subpoenas related to a decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census.

The House voted, 230-198, to hold Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in criminal contempt. The vote, a political blow to the Trump administration, is largely symbolic because the Justice Department is unlikely to prosecute the two men.

President Donald Trump abandoned the citizenship question last week after the Supreme Court said the administration’s justification for the question “seems to have been contrived.” Trump directed agencies to try to compile the information using existing databases.

The White House called the vote “ridiculous” and “yet another lawless attempt to harass the president and his administration.”

Talks could yield spending deal

WASHINGTON (AP) — Washington negotiators are closing in on a budget and debt deal that would stave off the chance of a government shutdown this fall and allow Congress to speed through legislation to increase the government’s borrowing cap.

The emerging two-year framework would satisfy demands for an outline to guide congressional work on more than $1.3 trillion in agency operating budgets. It would still need to be fleshed out in follow-up legislation, and puts off battles over political land mines like immigration and President Donald Trump’s unfulfilled promises of a border wall.

Obstacles remain and conservative forces inside the White House are resisting a quick deal and want more concessions from Pelosi, who says a deal is needed this week in order to ensure it passes before the summer recess.

Sen. Paul slows bill for victims fund

WASHINGTON (AP) — Republican Sen. Rand Paul on Wednesday blocked fast-track approval of a bipartisan bill that would ensure a victims’ compensation fund related to the Sept. 11 attacks never runs out of money.

Paul objected to a request by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., to approve the bill by unanimous consent.

Paul, R-Ky., questioned the bill’s 70-year time frame and said any new spending should be offset by corresponding cuts. The government already faces a $22 trillion debt, a figure that grows every year, Paul said.

The Congressional Budget Office estimates the 9/11 bill would result in about $10.2 billion in additional compensation payments over 10 years.

Gillibrand said 9/11 first responders and their families have had “enough of political games.” The legislation has 74 Senate co-sponsors, including Gillibrand, and easily passed the House last week.

The bill would extend though 2092 a victims compensation fund created after the 2001 terrorist attacks, essentially making it permanent. The $7.4 billion fund is rapidly being depleted, and administrators recently cut benefit payments by up to 70%.

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