TIME Supreme Court

Supreme Court Declines to Hear Arizona Abortion Arguments

The justices left in place a lower court ruling

(WASHINGTON) — The Supreme Court is refusing to allow Arizona to enforce stringent restrictions on medical abortions while a challenge to those rules plays out in lower courts.

The justices on Monday left in place a lower court ruling that blocked rules that regulate where and how women can take drugs that induce abortion. The rules also would prohibit the use of the abortion medications after the seventh week of pregnancy instead of the ninth.

Planned Parenthood was among abortion providers that challenged the rules in federal court. The San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals prevented the state from putting them in place during the legal challenge. Similar laws are in effect in North Dakota, Ohio and Texas. The Oklahoma Supreme Court struck down the restrictions in that state.

The rules would ban women from taking the most common abortion-inducing drug, mifepristone, after the seventh week of pregnancy. The Food and Drug Administration approved its use in 2000 through the first seven weeks of pregnancy. It is prescribed along with a second drug, misoprostol.

Since the FDA approval, medical researchers and clinical trials have shown that mifepristone is effective in much smaller doses and for two weeks longer in a pregnancy, the challengers said. The second drug also may be taken at home.

Arizona’s rules would require that the drugs be taken only at the doses approved by the FDA in 2000 and only at clinics.

Planned Parenthood says that medical abortions now account for more than 40 percent of abortions at its clinics.

To justify the restrictions, Arizona and the other states have pointed to the deaths of at least eight women who took the drugs. But the 9th circuit said the FDA investigated those deaths and found no causal connection between them and the use of mifespristone or misoprostol.

TIME Campaign Finance

Charities Risked Tax-Exempt Status With Political Ads

Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., takes her seat for the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee hearing on "The Semiannual Monetary Policy Report to the Congress" with Federal Reserve Board Chairwoman Janet Yellen on July 15, 2014.
Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., takes her seat for the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee hearing on "The Semiannual Monetary Policy Report to the Congress" with Federal Reserve Board Chairwoman Janet Yellen on July 15, 2014. Bill Clark—CQ Roll Call/Getty Images

The Internal Revenue Service prohibits charities from getting mixed up in politics, and those that do risk losing their tax exemption. Despite the threat, a handful of groups in the 2014 midterm elections paid for ads that appeared to be campaign-related.

The Natural Resources Defense Council, for example, is known as a 501(c)(3) organization, meaning it pays no income taxes and donations to the group are tax deductible. It is organized the same way as a charity, a hospital or university.

Despite the risk, the NRDC lambasted North Carolina Republican state Sen. Bill Cook in a $700,000 ad campaign this spring. The nonprofit paid for eight different ads that aired more than 2,600 times from mid-April through mid-July, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis of data from media tracking firm Kantar Media/CMAG.

One ad opens with video of trash being emptied into a landfill, then turns to a shot of Cook.

“State Sen. Bill Cook voted for a bill that would encourage New York, New Jersey and other states to dump their trash in North Carolina,” the voiceover says. “Tell Bill Cook attracting New York trash doesn’t pass the smell test.”

The NRDC, whose mission is to promote environmentally friendly policies, said the ads had nothing to do with the Cook’s re-election campaign. If the ads had been, the organization could face a fine or lose its tax-exempt status as a charity.

Politics ‘absolutely prohibited’

The IRS says 501(c)(3) groups are “absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office.”

Despite the restrictions, the NRDC and a few other charities chose to navigate the complicated web of IRS rules to air ads that criticized or supported politicians running for election in November.

In addition to the ads targeting Cook, the NRDC partnered with the Southern Environmental Law Center and seven other charities under the name North Carolina Environmental Partnership to air ads criticizing four other state senators and four state representatives. All told, the partnership’s 20 ads — the majority of which were about the lawmakers’ support of fracking — ran more than 5,100 times from late March through mid-July and cost the groups an estimated $1.7 million to air, according to Kantar Media/CMAG.

The ads aired both before and after the state’s primary election, but disappeared months before the general. None of the candidates had primary opponents.

Rob Perks, the campaign manager for NRDC’s North Carolina efforts, offered that as proof that the ads weren’t intended to influence the election.

“We were incredibly careful,” Perks said. “During primary season, we only chose subjects of the ads to be people who ran unopposed in primaries or had no primaries of their own so that we wouldn’t run afoul of any electioneering activity.”

The goal of the ads, representatives for both the NRDC and the Southern Environmental Law Center said, was to help North Carolinians hold legislators accountable.

“We definitely were not intending to ask people to do anything at the polls, and some of the ads were about folks that were unopposed so wouldn’t even show up on a ballot,” said Mary Maclean Asbill, attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center.

Of the lawmakers targeted — all Republicans — two state representatives lost their seats in November, one representative and one senator were unopposed, and the others, including Cook, won re-election despite the ads.

Cook, who faced former state Sen. Stan White, a Democrat Cook unseated in 2012, told the Center in an email that the voters’ actions confirmed his feelings that the ads were “completely false and ineffective.” He did not answer additional questions.

Nonprofit backed Hagan

Also in North Carolina, the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, another charitable nonprofit aimed at protecting the environment, spent an estimated $500,000 airing an ad that expressed support for U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, a Democrat who lost her seat in November.

“Who’s behind the attacks on Kay Hagan? Oil industry billionaires, that’s who,” the ad intones. “They want to undermine the air safety standards that protect us, and Sen. Kay Hagan is working to stop them.”

The ad aired roughly 1,450 times between March 24 and April 13, a few weeks before the primary when Hagan faced two other Democrats, both considered longshots.

Apparently adhering to a federal law that regulates “electioneering” communications, the group filed a report with the Federal Election Commission disclosing the spending because the last week of the ad’s run was less than a month before North Carolina’s primary election, Yet the group still maintains the ad wasn’t political.

“The ad never endorsed her as a candidate,” said the group’s executive director, Stephen Smith. “For all practical purposes, Kay Hagan had no candidate opposing her in that, so it was not at all meant to influence any election.”

Larry Noble, former FEC general counsel, said the ads aired by all the groups fall into a legal gray area but come dangerously close to crossing the line into election politics.

“They’re on a spectrum,” said Noble, who is now an attorney at the Campaign Legal Center, which advocates for tighter campaign finance regulation. “It’s a question in part of whether they’re focused on a person or whether they’re focused on an issue.”

Another ad that appeared to test the limits was produced by the nonprofitChange Agent Consortium. It aired in Michigan touting a September rally about Detroit’s bankruptcy amid Republican Gov. Rick Snyder’s ultimately successful re-election bid.

“When Gov. Snyder suspended home rule 18 months ago, he and his co-conspirators promised better jobs, safer neighborhoods and improved city services. Instead crime is up, our school system is under attack and our water’s shut off,” Change Agent Consortium founder the Rev. David Alexander Bullock says in the ad. “Join me Monday, Sept. 29, at 6 p.m. at Hart Plaza and say, ‘No,’ to Gov. Snyder’s takeover of Detroit.”

While the event may have been educational, the language used borders on telling people explicitly to vote against the Republican governor, Noble said after watching the ad.

But Bullock said the ad was not about the November election.

“We did not mention [Democratic gubernatorial candidate] Mark Schauer. We did not tell people to vote for Mark Schauer,” he said. “We didn’t even tell people, ‘Don’t vote for Snyder.’”

Political or not?

In examining ads by charitable nonprofits, the IRS looks for references to a candidate — whether by name or not — and positions on “wedge” issues that are expected to turn the tide of a race, said Marcus Owens, an attorney at the Washington firm Caplin & Drysdale who previously oversaw the IRS division that regulates charities.

His firm represents the NRDC, so he declined to comment specifically on any of the ads in this story.

The IRS also considers a variety of contextual details, such as the timing of the message and whether it is consistent with the charity’s overarching mission, he said.

Unlike the FEC, which requires groups to report ads that name candidates within a certain window before an election, the IRS does not rely on specific time frames to determine whether an ad influences an election.

“When someone has been identified as a candidate and that person begins making campaign-style presentations, identifies a position on the issues, that person is a candidate under federal tax law, and so the campaign has begun,” Owens said.

Still, the likelihood that a charity would actually lose its tax-exempt status over a few political ads is pretty slim, said Brett Kappel, an attorney with the Washington firm Arent Fox. Someone could file a complaint with the IRS, but the investigators there are unlikely to jump to action.

“They’re so afraid of their shadow right now — you know, because of congressional oversight — they’ll put it on the pile and say, ‘Yep, we’ll get to that in 2018, 2019, somewhere around there,’” he said.

TIME Morning Must Reads

Morning Must Reads: December 15

Capitol
The early morning sun rises behind the US Capitol Building in Washington, DC. Mark Wilson—Getty Images

Sydney in Lockdown Amid Developing Hostage Crisis

Heavily armed police fanned out across downtown Sydney on Monday after an unidentified man took an undisclosed number of people hostage at a café in the central business district of Australia’s largest city. Five hostages fled the premises in the afternoon

Meet the Sony Exec Tied Up in the Worst Corporate Hack Ever

The Co-Chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment has been the executive behind successful movies like Skyfall and Zero Dark Thirty

Dick Cheney on CIA Interrogations Order: ‘I’d Do It Again in a Minute’

Former Vice President Dick Cheney fiercely defended the CIA’s brutal, post-9/11 interrogation tactics in an interview

Johnny Manziel Stumbles During Debut Start for Browns

Manziel looked overwhelmed and frustrated in Sunday’s 30-0 loss, throwing several passes too high and finishing with 10 completions in 18 attempts for 80 passing yards, no touchdowns, two interceptions and three sacks

Japan’s Ruling Coalition Wins Big in Elections

Japan’s ruling coalition, the conservative Liberal Democratic Party, won a resounding victory in lower house elections, firming up Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s hold on power as he prepares to push forward on several politically difficult fronts

Bill Cosby Briefly Breaks His Silence

The actor and comedian accused of drugging and/or sexually assaulting more than a dozen women briefly explained why hasn’t responded to the claims, saying his lawyers “don’t want me talking to the media”

R&B Icon D’Angelo Releases His First Album in 14 Years

D’Angelo’s first album in 14 years is impressively timely, unveiled as it was at a New York City listening session one day after an estimated 25,000 people in the same city protested police brutality against unarmed black citizens. Black Messiah came out at midnight

One of the World’s 6 Northern White Rhinos Has Died

The world has only five northern white rhinos left, after the sixth, Angalifu, died at the San Diego Zoo on Sunday. He was 44 and zoo officials said he had been refusing food for a week. Decades of wide-scale poaching have driven the rhinos to the brink of extinction

Deal Salvaged at U.N. Climate Talks in Peru

A compromise deal salvaged by climate negotiators in Lima early Sunday sets the stage for a global pact in Paris next year, but a consensus could not be reached on nations submitting to a rigorous review of their plans for greenhouse gas emissions limits

Newtown Mom Decries Gun Violence on Anniversary

The mother of a first-grader killed in the Newtown school shooting rampage spoke out against gun violence on the second anniversary of the massacre, saying it has broken the hearts of other mothers across the country

Exodus Dethrones Mockingjay to Win Weekend Box Office

Ridley Scott’s Exodus: Gods and Kings, which tells the Old Testament story of Moses and features Christian Bale, earned $24.5 million to unseat The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1 for the top spot at the American box office

Suspect Arrested in Death of Auburn Football Player

A suspect in the early morning shooting death of an Auburn University football player was arrested, police said. Markale Deandra Hart, 22, was charged with murder in connection with the death of Mitchell, who was found dead at an apartment near campus

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TIME Military

Where the U.S. Army Is Winless

Army v Navy
Army cadets cheer on their football team Saturday in their annual game against Navy. Rob Carr / Getty Images

Pall of football defeats hangs over West Point since 9/11

Thirteen years ago, two months after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, the U.S. finally had something to celebrate. “We believe the Taliban appears to have abandoned Kabul,” General Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, declared on Nov. 13, 2001, a scant 38 days after the U.S. launched its invasion of Afghanistan. The Taliban, who had given sanctuary to those who carried out the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, were on the run.

Nineteen days later, in the warm afterglow that followed, Army beat Navy, 26-17, in the annual gridiron classic between the nation’s two oldest military academies. It was the last game they’d play at Philadelphia’s now-gone Veterans Stadium.

It was also the last time Army beat Navy (Navy leads the series with 59 wins, 49 losses, and seven ties).

History repeated itself again Saturday, as Navy beat Army 17-10 in Baltimore in their 115th clash. The sting hurts even more given Army’s pregame hype.

For more than a decade, as Army loss follows Army loss, it has been distressing to see the Black Knights of West Point, N.Y., lose to the Midshipmen of Annapolis, Md. If the Army can’t prevail on the gridiron, the thinking goes, how can it beat the Taliban, al-Qaeda and the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS)? Football, after all, is a game played in the dirt—the Army’s home turf—not in salt water.

The streak has led to stories like this from Duffel Blog, a website dedicated to fake news about the U.S. military, shortly before kickoff:

The Army’s record-breaking 12-game losing streak against the Naval Academy is actually an experiment to build officer resiliency for the military’s next impossible war, according to one senior West Point official. “We’re going to win this time!” U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond T. Odierno is expected to exclaim to a crowd of crestfallen cadets in the locker room of M&T Bank Stadium, unconsciously echoing both William Westmoreland in 1971 and Secretary of Defense Charles Hagel last Friday…“Look at this way,” a leaked document of Gen. Odierno’s prepared remarks reveal. “Even at 0-12, we’ve still beaten Navy more recently than we’ve beaten any of America’s actual enemies!”

Football, with its goal lines, sidelines and referees, has a clarity that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq lack. But few believe that the Army—the service that has done the bulk of the fighting, and dying in both (accounting for 4,955 of 6,828 U.S. military deaths, or 73%)—has achieved victories there.

Since 9/11, 95 graduates of the U.S. Military Academy have died in Afghanistan and Iraq. Sixteen from the U.S. Naval Academy have made the ultimate sacrifice, including 2nd Lieutenant J.P. Blecksmith, Class of 2003. He caught a pass in the last game the Army won. Blecksmith was following in the footsteps of his father, who served as a Marine in Vietnam. As the Marines fought to retake the Iraqi city of Fallujah on Nov. 11—Veterans Day—2004, a sniper killed him.

Granted, it’s foolish to link wars with games. Football no more resembles war than it resembles life. But the ethos of football—grit, self-sacrifice, playing through pain—isn’t foreign to those on the battlefield.

And the battle continues in Afghanistan. The Taliban once again are stepping up their attacks in and around Kabul, the capital. Early Saturday, a pair of men on a motorbike shot and killed a top Afghan court official, as he walked from his home to his car in a northwestern suburb of Kabul. Late Friday, a bomb killed two U.S. soldiers north of Kabul. A pair of attacks killed six Afghan soldiers and 12 men clearing clearing landmines.

But the U.S., more or less, has decided to pick up its ball and head home. “This month, our combat mission in Afghanistan will be over,” President Barack Obama said in his weekly radio address Saturday. “Our war in Afghanistan is coming to a responsible end.”

It’s a lot easier to define end than it is to define responsible. Check back in a year to see if Army’s other losing streak has come to an end, too.

TIME Congress

Congress Approves Trillion-Dollar Spending Bill

House Speaker Boehner Holds Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony For WWII Era Civil Air Patrol
From Left: Speaker of the House John Boehner, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell gather onstage prior to the start of a Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony for World War II era Civil Air Patrol members on Dec. 10, 2014 in Washington D.C. Drew Angerer—Getty Images

Everyone on Capitol Hill won a little and lost a little

The Senate passed a $1.1 trillion government funding bill on Saturday night after days of fiery speeches on the chamber floors from both liberal firebrand Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Tea Party darling Sen. Ted Cruz. But despite some pushed back deadlines and last-minute drama, the plan provided by the parties’ leadership earlier in the week prevailed.

The top appropriators—Kentucky Republican Rep. Hal Rogers and Maryland Democrat Barbara Mikulski—and the party leaders—Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker John Boehner—can claim that they did what’s best for the country, averting a government shutdown in a bipartisan way. Indeed the bill was a compromise: Republicans continued to whack away on domestic discretionary funding, while Democrats won concessions on potential riders to the Environmental Protection Agency and secured billions in funding to combat Ebola and hundreds of millions more to fight ISIS, two key requests from the Administration.

“This bill puts the Affordable Care Act on secure financial footing for the first time in a long time,” said Reid in a statement Saturday night. “It gives our military the tools it needs to combat ISIS. It addresses the rape kit backlog, helping police and prosecutors prevent sexual assault. It increases funding for student loans. It ensures that President Obama’s executive action protecting families can move forward. And it provides funding to fight the Ebola epidemic.”

Neither conservatives nor liberals got what they wanted, but they got what they needed: a message to send back home. Those conservatives in deep red districts who oppose the President’s executive actions on immigration—deferring deportations for up to five million immigrants who came to the country illegally—now have a vote to draw a contrast between themselves and an unpopular president. As Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell left the Capitol Friday night, Texas Senator Ted Cruz stayed to throw up legislative hurdles, nabbing headlines after some had claimed his influence had been tamed by establishment figures like House Speaker John Boehner, who led the chamber to avert a government shutdown Thursday night on a close, but bipartisan vote. Even though Cruz’s strategy left his Republican colleagues furious—Reid got to push through more of Obama’s nominations with the extra time spent in the Capitol this weekend—Cruz once again raised his profile through an anti-Obama position. He has already made the choice that, as a first-term senator, his influence lies more on C-SPAN than in the party cloakroom.

“This is what voters demanded in November,” said Dan Holler, spokesman for the conservative Heritage Action, of Cruz’s weekend pushback. “The election was a referendum on Obama and his planned executive amnesty.”

Liberals, who have a tighter hold on the Democratic Party after the midterms thinned out their conservative counterparts, can now prove their bona fides sticking up for the little guy as they voted against provisions raising the amount donors can donate to the parties and another that facilitates Wall Street derivatives trading. Warren and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi found that despite losing those battles, their core supporters were pleased simply with drawing attention to their issues.

“It’s not just about wins and losses, it’s about if they’re willing to fight for it, not just talk about it,” said Josh Goldstein, an AFL-CIO spokesman. “Senator Warren and Leader Pelosi—they’re proven leaders willing to fight for it. They stand with workers, that’s why we stand with them.”

In essence, the wings of both parties, which draw their strength from picking fights, found good ones.

“Democrats won,” said Holler. “It is curious that some Republicans are unwilling to pursue the mandate they were given. Cruz, [Alabama Republican Sen. Jeff] Sessions, [Utah Republican Senator Mike] Lee and others are though. Guess which side is more popular with the base of the party?”

“They’ve done damage to Dodd-Frank but they haven’t done irreversible damage,” said Sen. Sherrod Brown, a Warren ally and future top Democrat on the Banking Committee, referring to the 2010 landmark financial reform law. “And that’s Wall Street’s game and it’s our job to make sure they don’t win all the time and to protect the public…The battle continues.”

 

TIME National Security

Dick Cheney on CIA Interrogations Order: ‘I’d Do It Again in a Minute’

Former Vice President appears on Meet the Press

Former Vice President Dick Cheney fiercely defended the CIA’s brutal, post-9/11 interrogation tactics on Sunday, days after the release of a controversial Senate report into the practices.

In a Meet the Press interview, Cheney, who has spoken in favor of the so-called enhanced interrogation program more than any other Bush administration official, said he has no qualms about seeing the order given again.

“I’d do it again in a minute,” he told NBC’s Chuck Todd.

The former Vice President was sharply critical of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence’s report, which was concluded in 2012 and partially declassified last week. It found that the interrogation practices were not effective, while the CIA maintains their efficacy is “unknowable.”

“It worked,” Cheney maintained. “It absolutely worked.”

MORE: What the Torture Report Reveals About Zero Dark Thirty

He drew a distinction between the report’s graphic description of “rectal feedings” and other tactics like waterboarding, which he maintained are not torture.

“What was done here was not one of the techniques approved,” Cheney said, adding that he believed it was carried out for medical reasons. At least five detainees were subjected to rectal rehydration or feeding, according to the report. “We made certain going forward we were not violating the law,” he continued.

Cheney said he was unconcerned by the report’s findings that more than two dozen detainees were found to be wrongfully held, including a mentally challenged man: “I’m more concerned with the bad guys that were released than the few that were innocent.”

He lauded the agency’s interrogators, who have come under renewed fire in the wake of the report’s release. “I’m perfectly comfortable that they should be praised,” he said. “They should be decorated.”

TIME Morning Must Reads

Morning Must Reads: December 14

Capitol
The early morning sun rises behind the US Capitol Building in Washington, DC. Mark Wilson—Getty Images

Streets of Outrage

Hordes of demonstrators, including relatives of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, joined civil rights groups in marches in Washington D.C. and in New York City on Saturday to peacefully protest the killing of unarmed black citizens by police

What Really Killed the Dinosaurs

It wasn’t just an asteroid. A new report focuses on a series of ongoing volcanic eruptions that dwarf anything humans have ever seen

Senate Passes Stopgap Bill

Senate Democrats sent President Obama a bill on Saturday to keep the government funded until Wednesday night, easing concerns of a shutdown

Sony Hack Reveals Tussle Over Bond Movie

According to emails released in the leak, the third and final act of the new James Bondfilm Spectre was considered so bad by executives that one screenwriter after another was dispatched to try to rewrite the climax to the $300 million project

Portland Police Arrest Suspect in School Shooting

A 22-year-old man was arrested after a shooting outside Rosemary Anderson High School on Friday injured three, with one 16-year-old girl critically wounded. Police said they suspect the shooting was gang-related

Adrian Peterson’s Future Unclear After Appeal Loss

The Vikings running back will reportedly take his case to a federal court, after an arbitrator upheld his suspension from the NFL. Where does he stand in the meantime with his team and the league? Here’s a closer look at those issues

Play With Potions in J.K. Rowling’s Latest ‘Story’

On the third day of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series ahead of Christmas, during which the famed author is publishing a dozen new pieces of content ahead of the holiday, we take a trip to potions class with Harry and company

Tornadoes at a Record, Unexplained Low in U.S.

There’s been a major lull in the number of tornadoes to strike the U.S. in each of the past three years, fewer than any three-year period since accurate record-keeping commenced in the 1950s, and scientists say they can’t explain the dip

Exit Polls in Japan Project Big Win for Ruling Party

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s party headed for a landslide victory in lower house elections Sunday, according to projections based on exit polls, which showed the Liberal Democratic Party easily retaining its majority in the 475-seat House of Representatives

Facebook Unfriends Microsoft’s Bing

Social media giant confirms it is no longer showing search results from Bing, in a sign it’s angling on the web search turf dominated by archrival Google. “We continue to have a great partnership with Microsoft in other areas,” a spokesman said

Chicken Pox Takes Angelina Off the Media Circuit

The actress, 39, recorded a video message that was posted on YouTube Friday explaining that she’s come down with chicken pox and will not be able to attend upcoming press events for Unbroken, which she directed

Dutchman’s Proposal Goes Disastrously Wrong

One hopeless romantic caused a row of houses to be evacuated in the Netherlands after the crane he hired to propose to his girlfriend toppled over into a neighbor’s roof. Despite the property destruction, the lucky woman reportedly said yes

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TIME Senate

Senate Passes Stopgap Bill to Fund Government… Until Wednesday

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid speaks during a Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony for World War II era Civil Air Patrol members, on Capitol Hill on Dec. 10, 2014 in Washington.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid speaks during a Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony for World War II era Civil Air Patrol members, on Capitol Hill on Dec. 10, 2014 in Washington. Drew Angerer—Getty Images

Shutdown averted, for now

Their power ebbing, Senate Democrats launched a last-minute drive Saturday to confirm roughly 20 of President Barack Obama’s nominees, and several Republicans blamed Tea Party-backed Texas Sen. Ted Cruz for creating an opening for the outgoing majority party to exploit.

Lawmakers took a break in their intrigue long enough to send Obama legislation that provides funds for the government to remain open until Wednesday at midnight, easing concerns of a shutdown. A separate, $1.1 trillion long-term funding bill remained in limbo.

Republicans tried to slow the nomination proceedings, but several voiced unhappiness with Cruz, a potential presidential candidate in 2016. One likened his actions to his role in precipitating a 16-day partial government shutdown more than a year ago.

“I’ve seen this movie before, and I wouldn’t pay money to see it again,” Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., said between seemingly endless roll calls.

Cruz blamed the Democrats’ leader, Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada, saying his “last act as majority leader is to, once again, act as an enabler” for the president by blocking a vote on Obama’s policy that envisions work visas for an estimated 5 million immigrants living in the country illegally.

Cruz said Reid was “going to an embarrassing length to tie up the floor to obstruct debate and a vote on this issue because he knows amnesty is unpopular with the American people, and he doesn’t want the Democrats on the record as supporting it.”

Democrats lost control of the Senate in the November, and Republicans will take over when the new Congress convenes in January.

Lawmakers in both parties said the $1.1 trillion spending measure eventually would pass. It faced opposition from Democratic liberals upset about the repeal of a banking regulation and Republican conservatives unhappy that it failed to challenge Obama’s immigration moves.

Immigration was the issue that Cruz cited late Friday night when he tried to challenge the bill. That led swiftly to the unraveling of an informal bipartisan agreement to give the Senate the weekend off, with a vote on final passage of the bill deferred until early this coming week.

That, in turn led Reid to call an all-day Senate session to be devoted almost exclusively to beginning time-consuming work on confirmation for as many as nine judicial appointees and an unknown number of nominees to administration posts.

Reid blamed a “small group of Senate Republicans” for the turn of events.

The list of nominees included Carolyn Colvin to head the Social Security Administration, Vivek Murthy to become surgeon general, Sarah Saldana as head of Customs and Immigration Enforcement and Antony Blinken to the No. 2 position at the State Department.

Democrats did not provide a complete list, saying it might change. More than a dozen judicial nominations remained on the Senate’s calendar, and dozens of appointees to administration positions.

Several Republicans fumed that Cruz had erred.

Asked if Cruz had created an opening for the Democrats, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah said, “I wish you hadn’t pointed that out.”

Hatch added, “You should have an end goal in sight if you’re going to do these types of things and I don’t see an end goal other than irritating a lot of people.”

Added Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz.: “I fail to see what conservative ends were achieved.” He also said he was worried about what the events means for next year, when Republicans are in charge.

“The other concern I have here now is the nominations that are going to get through that otherwise wouldn’t,” said Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D.

Appearing irritated, some Republicans spoke with Cruz on the Senate floor about his actions. At another point, Cruz huddled in the rear of the chamber with Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, who had supported him on Friday evening, and Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, another tea party-backed lawmaker.

The GOP leader, Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell, made no public comment on the events, even though Cruz suggested Friday night McConnell and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, should not be entirely trusted to keep their pledge to challenge Obama’s immigration policy when Republicans gain two-house control of Congress in January.

“We will learn soon enough if those statements are genuine and sincere,” Cruz said.

The $1.1 trillion spending bill provides funds for nearly the entire government through the Sept. 30 end of the current budget year.

The sole exception is the Department of Homeland Security, which is funded only until Feb. 27. Republicans intend to try then to force the president to roll back his immigration policy that removes the threat of deportation from millions of immigrants living in the United States illegally.

The events quickly overshadowed developments in the House earlier in the week, when Democratic divisions were on display over the spending bill.

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California opposed the bill, and publicly chastised Obama for giving it his support.

TIME Crime

Thousands Rally Against Police Brutality in Washington and New York City

In Washington, DC, New York City and around the country, Americans staged protests over the deaths of unarmed citizens by police

Demonstrators numbering in the tens of thousands marched on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. and in New York City on Saturday, as well as other cities across the U.S., to protest the killings of unarmed black men by police officers.

In the nation’s capital, the families of black men killed by police, including relatives of Staten Island resident Eric Garner, Ferguson, Mo. teenager Michael Brown, and Cleveland, Ohio 12-year-0ld Tamir Rice and others, joined civil rights groups and other demonstrators at the Justice For All march. The marchers called for an end to police killings and for law enforcement who kill unarmed citizens to be held to account for their actions.

In New York City, protestors held signs featuring the words “I am Eric Garner” and chanted what has become a rallying cry of the movement to end police killings of unarmed black men: “Hands up/Don’t shoot.” Andre Irving, 31 and black, attended the rally with his father Mark Irving, 57. “I’m worried for my safety, the safety of my family, my friends, my neighbors,” he told TIME. “Can I go to the store and walk home without being killed?”

Eva Osborne, 8, wore a pin featuring the words “I can’t breathe,” some of the last words Eric Garner spoke before he dies in a video of his arrest, and a phrase that has also been used as a rallying call. “I have a black brother and a black dad,” she said. Her brother is five, her father 43, the same age as Eric Garner. “When my brother grows up, he might be treated the same way.”

Police declined to estimate the size of the ground in Washington, the New York Times reports, but media estimates place the size of the crowd in the tens of thousands. Police in New York City estimated the crowd size at roughly 12,000.

The protests mark a new level of civil action in weeks of sometimes violent unrest around the country, as citizens erupted in mass outrage after no charges were brought against police officers responsible for killing Brown, an unarmed teenager shot by police in Ferguson, and Garner, an unarmed Staten Island man who died after being aggressively subdued by police during his arrest for illegally selling cigarettes on the street.

The Justice For All march in Washington was spearheaded by the National Action Network led by Al Sharpton. Some demonstrators, expressing disdain at those they considered celebrity protestors, disrupted the proceedings at a pre-march rally, The Washington Post reports.

TIME Senate

Senate in Rare Saturday Session as Shutdown Threat Looms Again

Senator Sherrod Brown Holds Hearing On "Regulatory Capture" With New York Fed's Dudley
From Left: Senator Elizabeth Warren a Democrat from Massachusetts speaks with Senator Joe Manchin a Democrat from West Virginia during a Senate Banking Subcommittee in Washington, D.C. on Nov. 21, 2014. Andrew Harrer—Bloomberg/Getty Images

The House passed a bandaid spending bill Friday but the Senate is locked in a showdown

For its grand finale before it concludes early next year, the 113th Congress is staging yet another procedural showdown in a rare Saturday session, as lawmakers work to pass a bill to fund the federal government before it runs out of money at midnight.

The House of Representatives Friday averted a government shutdown with a temporary spending bill to fund the government for five days, but the Senate must still approve the bill. The Hill has been locked in debate over a $1.1 trillion spending bill to fund the government through September of next year.

The Senate had hoped to close up shop for the year Friday, but lawmakers could not come to agreement after some Republican senators demanded a vote on a measure protesting President Obama’s controversial immigration order issued in November, which shields some four million undocumented immigrants in the United States from deportation.

“Before the United States Senate is a bill that does nothing, absolutely nothing to stop President Obama’s illegal and unconstitutional amnesty,” said Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz.

Some Democrats, however, are worried about changes to financial regulatory laws included in that measure, McClatchy reports. “A vote for this bill is a vote for future taxpayer bailouts of Wall Street,”Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D—Mass.), a longtime advocate for financial regulation reform, said Thursday.

If lawmakers cannot come to an agreement on a temporary spending bill by midnight Saturday the federal government will run out of money. A final vote on the full $1.1 trillion spending bill could come on Monday.

[McClatchy]

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