TIME 2016 Election

South Carolina Presidential Straw Poll Leaves Out Lindsey Graham

Sen. Lindsey Graham
Bill Clark—CQ Roll Call/Getty Images Sen. Lindsey Graham speaks during a news conference in Washington D.C., March 26, 2014 .

Sen. Lindsey Graham is the Rodney Dangerfield of the 2016 Republican presidential primary: He can’t get no respect.

Almost two months after the South Carolina Republican announced that he was “definitely” looking at a presidential run, an online straw poll from his home state’s party still did not include him.

To make the oversight hurt just a little more, the straw poll had 25 names on it, including such unlikely candidates as former Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. It even listed the state’s junior senator, Tim Scott. When asked if Scott was interested in running for president, spokesman Sean Smith said: “Easy answer: nope.”

Graham fans could still fill out a box for a write-in candidate, however.

South Carolina GOP party chairman Matt Moore was notified of Graham’s absence when TIME emailed him about it Wednesday. He said that the poll was created before Graham became more publicly vocal about a run, although he had floated the possibility last fall.

“That straw poll was done late last year before the New Year,” said Moore. “So it’s no reflection upon him. It was just a poll we put together last year and I expect we’ll be adding Sen. Graham pretty soon. In other words, take a look today again.”

“You raised a good point,” he added. ”He’s been in recent polls so people can end up choosing him.”

By Wednesday afternoon, the poll had been updated to include Graham’s name.

But there may be little appetite for a Graham run in his own home state. A week ago, a Winthrop Poll found that 60 percent of South Carolinians and two thirds of the state’s registered voters think he should not run for president in 2016.

MONEY Medicare

Why the Bill to Fix Medicare Keeps Soaring

150311_RET_MedicareCosts
Getty Images

Congress must act to prevent a big cut in fees to Medicare doctors. But a short-term solution now will mean soaring costs for older Americans later.

A perennial congressional battle over Medicare is about to erupt. And the result is likely to be a steep increase in the program’s long-term costs—with older Americans eventually paying many of those bills.

As of April 1 fees paid by Medicare to participating doctors will be slashed by a steep 21%. This cut is the result of a 1997 budget formula, called the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR), which should have been junked years ago. Physicians have already been complaining about Medicare’s low level of reimbursement, and if the cut happens, there could be a mass exodus of physicians from the program.

Congress has had plenty of opportunities to reset the the SGR formula to permit fair fees and annual adjustments but instead has opted for short-term fixes 17 times. Last year lawmakers agreed on a long-term plan to set physician rates—a so-called “doc fix”—and this consensus proposal has been reintroduced in the new Congress. But the long-term price tag for the adjustment threatens to make it a non-starter.

How much would a long-term doc fix cost? The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated the 10-year budget hit of a permanent reform at $138 billion in early 2014. A year later, the 10-year bill has risen to nearly $175 billion. For perspective, the agency’s latest 10-year price tag for the Affordable Care Act is “only” $142 billion.

It’s hard to believe that Congress will be able to find $175 billion in spending offsets in the next couple of weeks, or that Republicans would agree to boost the deficit in order to pay the long-term tab. So expect another one-year fix—number 18. It would cost an estimated $6 billion, which would not have much of an immediate impact on consumers.

If Congress doesn’t vote in a fix, higher Medicare costs would slam older Americans and their families. As a new Kaiser Family Foundation analysis points out, under current law beneficiaries would automatically absorb their share of Part B Medicare costs if the formula is changed. That out-of-pocket price tag would be nearly $60 billion over 10 years, Kaiser estimates.

That’s just for physician fees. Consumer out-of-pocket costs are likely to rise even higher once other effects of the change are factored into Part B premiums and co-insurance payments. “One option under discussion would require beneficiaries to assume a portion of the $175 billion federal price tax, above what they will automatically pay in premiums and cost-sharing,” the Kaiser analysis says.

Other major Medicare service providers, including insurers and drug companies, could also be asked to take a haircut to finance high doctor payments. Of course, those costs are likely to be passed along to consumers eventually.

Paying higher Medicare costs is asking a lot of most older Americans. Half of all Medicare recipients live on incomes of about $23,500 or less. And seniors already spend triple the amount of money on health care, as a percentage of their household budgets, compared with younger households.

Still, a permanent doc fix has to happen at some point. And Kaiser’s report notes that Congress has been getting closer to a serious response to the problem.

So if you depend on Medicare, you would do well to set aside what savings you can to meet those inevitable health care bills. And at the very least, expect a big increase in Washington rhetoric over Medicare.

Philip Moeller is an expert on retirement, aging, and health. He is the co-author of “Get What’s Yours: The Secrets to Maxing Out Your Social Security,” and a research fellow at the Center for Aging & Work at Boston College. Reach him at moeller.philip@gmail.com or @PhilMoeller on Twitter.

Read next: The New Rules for Making Your Money Last in Retirement

TIME White House

Loretta Lynch’s Long Wait May Soon Be Over

President Barack Obama listens at right as US Attorney Loretta Lynch speaks in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington on Nov. 8, 2014.
Carolyn Kaster—AP President Barack Obama listens at right as US Attorney Loretta Lynch speaks in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington on Nov. 8, 2014.

Her nomination process has been one of the longest in recent history

The long-stalled confirmation of Attorney General nominee Loretta Lynch will soon be over. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday that the Senate will hold a vote on whether to confirm Lynch next week, ending the over 100-day delay.

In February, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved the Brooklyn prosecutor’s nomination in a 12-8 vote. Three Republicans—Sens. Orrin Hatch of Utah, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Jeff Flake of Arizona—joined all of the committee’s Democrats in supporting her then.

The vote came nearly a month after Lynch’s generally seamless confirmation hearing, which was peppered with questions about President Obama’s immigration executive action. And though Senators found little fault with her overall qualifications, her refusal to denounce the order that would allow millions of undocumented immigrants to stay in the country temporarily without risk of deportation gave many Republican Senators pause.

Democrats and some Republicans, however, have argued that the role of Attorney General is too important to get caught up in the brouhaha over immigration. “We hope we won’t see a replay on Loretta Lynch because [Republicans] care about repealing the president on immigration,” Sen. Chuck Schumer said Tuesday.

“No one has objected to anything about Loretta Lynch, her character, her history, what she’s done as U.S. Attorney,” he added.

President Obama nominated Lynch to replace retiring Attorney General Eric Holder over 121 days ago. If confirmed, she would become the first African-American woman to hold the position in our nation’s history, a fact that wasn’t overlooked during the celebration this weekend of the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday in Selma, Ala., where civil rights activist Rev. Al Sharpton and Director of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund Sherrilyn Ifill called for her swift confirmation.

On Sunday at Brown A.M.E. Church, where nonviolent protesters sought refuge after being bludgeoned bloody by Alabama state troopers en route to Montgomery some 50 years ago, Sharpton said racism was partly to blame for the delay on Lynch’s confirmation, which is among the longest in history. “You don’t think we notice that?” he asked the gathered crowd.

Under the Obama administration the office of Attorney General has been the cause of much contention between the Congress and the White House. Republicans have accused Attorney General Holder of politicizing the role of the nation’s top cop. His decisions not to enforce marijuana laws in states where the drug has been legalized and urging states attorneys general not to defend same-sex marriage bans drew the ire of many on the right. Holder is also the only sitting Attorney General to be held in contempt of Congress, a result of the investigation into a gun running scheme by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

“In some ways it’s surprising that Republicans don’t want Holder out sooner,” says Michelle Schwartz of the Alliance for Justice.

Blocking the President’s immigration action, so it seems, is more important. But, Gregory Wawro, a political science professor at Columbia University says the consequences of blocking the first African-American woman to the post of Attorney General could be great. Republicans already have a strained relationship with black voters, having garnered less than 10% of the black vote during the 2012 election. Since that time, the GOP has been working to improve relationships with the community.

“She represents constituencies Republicans have problematic relationships with,” Wawro says. “Republicans have painted themselves into a corner.”

With reporting by Alex Rogers

TIME Congress

The Most Colorful Member of Congress Is Having Some Colorful Scandals

Aaron Schock
Seth Perlman—AP Representative Aaron Schock speaks to reporters in Peoria, Ill., on Feb. 6, 2015

"Haters gonna hate"

One of Congress’ most colorful members is having some equally colorful scandals.

Republican Rep. Aaron Schock of Illinois first made a name for himself in political circles in 2011 when he posed on the cover of Men’s Health. (Headline: The Ripped Representative.)

So it’s probably not surprising that when he ended up facing ethics questions before a congressional committee, the scandals would be equally unusual.

Here’s a look at six problems that only Schock would face, in order from least to most Schocking.

• He used taxpayer money to take a private jet to a Chicago Bears game in November.

• He went on a duty-free shopping spree in Buenos Aires in May using campaign money. He said he bought gifts for donors, but wouldn’t say what.

• He used taxpayer money to hire a full-time photographer to follow him around, which may be why his famous Instagram contains shots like this one:

 

• He took at least 10 staffers to a weekend in New York that cost over $10,000 in taxpayer money.

• He took his interns to a sold-out Katy Perry concert in Washington, D.C., last June.

• He redecorated his office on Capitol Hill to look like Downton Abbey, complete with “massive arrangements of pheasant feathers.” (Schock was in trouble for accepting the help of a decorator without paying her, though he later did.) Bonus points: When asked about the decorations, he quoted Taylor Swift, saying “Haters gonna hate.”

TIME Congress

Republicans in Congress Focus on Possible Gaps in Hillary Clinton Emails

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton checks her PDA upon her departure in a military C-17 plane from Malta bound for Tripoli on Oct. 18, 2011.
Kevin Lamarque—Reuters Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton checks her PDA upon her departure in a military C-17 plane from Malta bound for Tripoli on Oct. 18, 2011.

The Republican investigation into Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s use of private email has begun to focus on whether she appropriately turned over all the emails that she sent or received about government business to the State Department.

“There are gaps of months and months and months,” said South Carolina GOP Rep. Trey Gowdy, the chief congressional Benghazi investigator, on CBS’ Face the Nation Sunday, pointing specifically to an October 2011 trip to Libya when she was photographed using her Blackberry. “And if you think to that iconic picture of her on a C-17 flying to Libya, she has sunglasses on and she has her handheld device in her hand, we have no e-mails from that day. In fact, we have no e-mails from that trip.”

Under Obama Administration policy, officials are told to conduct their business principally on official email. If they use private emails accounts, they are instructed to forward emails that are federal records onto their federal accounts. Clinton opted for a different approach by conducting all her business on private accounts and then selecting those that concerned federal business after she left office and sending them to the State Department.

Experts on federal email record-keeping say that how Clinton handled them is a meaty topic.

“There is an outstanding question, and it is a legitimate question, about whether she has now handed over all records pertaining to government business,” says Jason R. Baron, a lawyer at Drinker Biddle and Reath and former director of litigation at the National Archives and Records Administration. “For example, in the case of an email that is mostly personal in nature but also contains a sentence or paragraph related to government business, then that email is a government record appropriate for preservation at the State Department, and should not continue to be withheld.”

U.S. law gives a broad definition of what constitutes a federal record, including “all recorded information, regardless of form or characteristics, made or received by a Federal agency under Federal law or in connection with the transaction of public business and preserved or appropriate for preservation by that agency or its legitimate successor as evidence of the organization, functions, policies, decisions, procedures, operations, or other activities of the United States Government or because of the informational value of data in them.”

Based on that law, Baron says the timing of when Clinton turned over the emails could matter too.

“In my view Secretary Clinton and the State Department were out of compliance on the day she left office, as federal records created on her private network had not been transferred and preserved in an official recordkeeping system as of that date,” he says. “It appears that she came into compliance only after the State Department requested a return of the government’s records.”

Clinton left the State Department in February 2013 but finished handing over about 55,000 pages of emails in only the past few months. She has since called on the State Department to review those records to determine which are appropriate for release to the public, a process that could take months.

Gowdy, who says he wants “everything” related to Libya and Benghazi, said Sunday that he had “lost confidence” in the State Department to determine what is public record and advocated for “a neutral, detached arbiter” to decide. Some outside experts in federal record-keeping practices agree that an outside review is needed.

“To be fair, as a practical matter, on a day-to-day basis individual employees do make decisions about whether a certain email will be put in a file or whether a certain document is a personal document,” says Doug Cox, a law professor at the City University of New York School. “However the question of the record status of an entire archive of emails sent and received by someone who was the Secretary of State have to be treated differently and especially given the highly questionable, if not illegal, practice of sequestering federal records in a private email system even after leaving the position, I really think there needs to be an independent review of the larger pool of emails, perhaps both by the State Department and the Archivist.”

Even if the Administration doesn’t set up an independent review, Gowdy has done his part keeping the issue in the spotlight, subpoenaing all Clinton emails related to the 2012 attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi over Democratic objections. Robert Luskin, a lawyer who deflected a congressional subpoena request for George W. Bush political advisor Karl Rove under executive privilege concerns, says that an investigation into the former Secretary’s personal email account would not be “unprecedented.”

“Mrs. Clinton would always be amenable to a subpoena and the separation of powers/executive privilege issues depend upon the substance of what is sought, not who has custody of it,” Luskin told TIME. “Obviously, by using a personal email account, she has complicated her life. In the typical case, lawyers for the administration and Congress would fight it out and she would, more or less, be a bystander. Now, she’s in the ring.”

No matter what happens, the emails will continue to be used as a political cudgel as Clinton weighs a presidential bid. After reports that Gowdy would attend a “Beyond Benghazi” fundraiser this month, Maryland Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings said in a statement Monday that the select committee on Benghazi “appears” to have become a “surrogate for the Republican National Committee.” Gowdy quickly canceled the appearance and his office told reporters that he was “unaware” of the organizers’ planned topic.

Republicans continued to keep the pressure on. Michael Mukasey, an Attorney General in the George W. Bush Administration, said Clinton’s latest actions reminded him of the Wile E. Coyote cartoon character. “There are people who think that the laws of physics don’t apply to them,” Mukasey told TIME. “The coyote in the Road Runner cartoons—he keeps running after he goes over the cliff and he doesn’t start to fall until he looks down and sees that he’s over the cliff. It’s the ultimate existential animal.”

Nine sitting Cabinet Secretaries and the Attorney General told TIME through spokespersons last week that they use a government email account for official business. Other Cabinet officials did not comment, but Vice President Joe Biden’s office did. “The Vice President’s emails, like the President’s, are subject to the Presidential Records Act,” says a Biden spokesperson. “In accordance with the Act, the Vice President’s e-mails are preserved and maintained.”

With additional reporting by Zeke Miller/Washington

TIME Congress

Senators Introduce Historic Bill to Allow Medical Marijuana

Different strains of pot are displayed for sale at Medicine Man marijuana dispensary in Denver on Dec. 27, 2013.
Brennan Linsley—AP Different strains of pot are displayed for sale at Medicine Man marijuana dispensary in Denver on Dec. 27, 2013.

A bipartisan group of three Senators will introduce a bill that could end the federal ban on medical marijuana

A bipartisan group of three Senators will introduce a historic bill Tuesday that could end the federal ban on medical marijuana, a substance that 23 states have now legalized.

The plan sponsored by Republican Senator Rand Paul and Democratic Senators Cory Booker and Kirsten Gillibrand would “allow patients, doctors and businesses in states that have already passed medical-marijuana laws to participate in those programs without fear of federal prosecution,” according to a statement the three Senators released Monday. The measure would also reclassify marijuana as a Schedule II drug instead of a Schedule I, putting it on the same legal footing as narcotics rather than substances like heroin.

Reform advocates like Dan Riffle of the Marijuana Policy Project say the legislation “has legs.” His group, as well as the Drug Policy Alliance and Americans for Safe Access, helped shape the bill. Others are more skeptical. Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), has been following Congress’s movement on marijuana for the past 25 years. He says the bill may be “DOA” because some Republicans remain loath to touch such stuff.

At a press conference on Tuesday, the three Senators spoke alongside citizens with serious medical conditions who want to use medical marijuana but cannot access it or fear prosecution for violating federal law, even when they’re in a state that has legalized medical marijuana. Gillibrand dared her colleagues in the Senate to meet these people, like a young girl named Morgan who is debilitated by severe epilepsy, “and tell them they don’t deserve the medicine their doctors have prescribed.”

Even if Gillibrand’s colleagues don’t get on board, just the introduction of the bill remains significant. It’s a sign that some of the winds legalization advocates like St. Pierre have been fighting against for decades are now at their back. He calls the bill “historic,” noting that though the House has attempted marijuana reform for years, the Senate has largely been silent on the issue. Now they’re speaking out. Gillibrand insisted that making medical marijuana accessible is needed to “take care of America’s kids.”

At the conference Booker emphasized the need for veterans, particularly those with post-traumatic stress disorder, to be able to access the drug; prescriptions are currently not allowed at veterans’ hospitals, even in states where the substance is legalized. “These laws must change,” he said. “The government has overstepped.” The last guest he introduced was a man who grows marijuana that supplies medical marijuana dispensaries in D.C., and he spoke at length about the trials and dangers of being forced to operate entirely in cash because of federal banking restrictions.

“Marijuana prohibition is not going to end without a public conversation,” St. Pierre says. “This bill will be [introduced] and then these discussions will be happening.”

While only a slim majority of Americans favor the legalization of recreational marijuana, medical marijuana is a more decided issue. In conservative states like Kentucky, the approval ratings are still at 52%, while they climb as high as 81% in purple states like Iowa. In February, the leader of the Republican majority in West Virginia’s state senate introduced a bill to allow residents to grow and use medical marijuana if it’s recommended by a doctor. The measure was co-sponsored by the senate’s Democratic minority leader.

Paul, as St. Pierre says, is a “dyed-in-the-wool libertarian.” At the conference, he spoke the need for research to be done on the drug—something that becomes more feasible if it’s classified as a Schedule II substance—and he said that the government is “restricting people’s choices,” adding that what America needs is “more freedom for states and individuals.” His federalist tack shows how it’s possible for this to be a social issue on which Republicans can evolve and use as a carrot for younger voters. The Marijuana Policy Project’s Riffle says that ending the federal ban would get the government out of doctor-patient relationships and save taxpayer money on medical dispensary raids. “Talking about reducing the role of government interference in our personal lives and enhancing personal freedom and autonomy, reducing government spending — those are all conservative talking points,” he says.

At the Conservative Political Action Conference in February, where it is a ritual for Republican presidential hopefuls to court the base, Republican Senator Ted Cruz endorsed a federalist approach to Colorado’s marijuana legalization, saying it was a “great embodiment” of states acting as “laboratories of democracy.”

“If the citizens of Colorado decide they want to go down that road, that’s their prerogative,” he said. “I don’t agree with it, but that’s their rights.” Aaron Houston, a political strategist with Weedmaps who has been trying to get the Senate to take up marijuana reform for years, calls Cruz’s position “remarkable” and the bill “hugely significant.”

The Senators pushing this measure have precedents beyond state-level actions to cite. The spending bill that President Obama signed in December contained an amendment that prohibited the Department of Justice from using funds to go after state-level medical-marijuana programs. That new law gave many in the medical-marijuana world some peace of mind, as they continue to operate in a sphere where their actions are legal in their state and illegal in their country. Republican Representative Dana Rohrabacher, an outspoken proponent of marijuana reform, heralded it as “the first time in decades that the federal government has curtailed its oppressive prohibition of marijuana.”

California became the first state to legalize medical marijuana in 1996. The years in the interim, Riffle says, were like a “wait-and-see phase” where the sticky discrepancy between state and federal law was largely ignored. Regardless of whether the bill goes anywhere, he believes the introduction is a signal that the wait-and-see phase is over. “This is a legitimate, mainstream topic of debate,” Riffle says. “We’re ready to see Congress actually do something about it.”

TIME Congress

Sen. Lindsey Graham Admits He’s Never Sent an Email

Sen. Lindsey Graham
Bill Clark—CQ Roll Call/Getty Images Sen. Lindsey Graham speaks during a news conference in Washington D.C., March 26, 2014 .

"I don't email"

He’s been a U.S. senator for 12 years, and was a Congressman for eight more before that, but South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham says he has never sent an email.

In a discussion on NBC’s Meet the Press about the controversy surrounding Hillary Clinton’s use of a home-based email server while she was secretary of state, moderate Chuck Todd asked Graham, “Do you have a private e-mail address?”

Graham’s surprising answer: “I don’t email. No, you can have every email I’ve ever sent. I’ve never sent one.”

As Todd chuckled at the incredible notion that someone in 2015 could have never sent…

Read the rest of the story from our partners at NBC News

TIME Israel

5 Facts That Explain U.S.-Israel Relations

Israeli PM Netanyahu Addresses Joint Meeting Of Congress
Win McNamee—Getty Images Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses a joint meeting of the United States Congress in the House chamber at the U.S. Capitol on March 3, 2015 in Washington, DC.

The numbers behind Netanyahu's speech

Bibi Netanyahu delivered his controversial speech to Congress during crunch time for Israeli elections—and amidst turbulence in U.S.-Israel relations. Here are 5 stats that reveal the politics behind the speech and the state of play between Israel and the U.S.

1. Who tuned in?

Even though more than 50 congressional Democrats boycotted Netanyahu’s speech, it seems that just about everyone else was knocking down the doors. John Boehner’s office received requests for 10 times the number of available seats in the gallery. In Israel, the speech hit Israeli networks during primetime… but on a five-minute delay. That was because an election watchdog ruled that any content viewed as electioneering on behalf of the Prime Minister needed to be edited out.

(Huffington Post, New York Times, New York Times, The Telegraph)

2. The Iran threat

With all the applause in Congress for Netanyahu’s hardline stance against Iran, the American public’s actual stance might seem surprising. According to a recent poll, only 9% of Americans view Iran as “the United States’ greatest enemy today.” Three years ago, roughly a third of Americans did. (And you can’t just chalk up the difference to a more bellicose Russia: Iran fell from first place to fourth place). Over 60% of Americans support an agreement with Iran “that would include a limited enrichment capacity”—something Netanyahu pushed back against in his speech. There is a stark difference between Israeli and American opinion on Iran. In a 2013 survey, 75% of Israelis had “a very unfavorable view of Iran,” compared to just 42% of Americans. 85% of Israelis and 54% of Americans said “Iran’s nuclear program is a major threat.”

(Vox, Program for Public Consultation, New York Times, Huffington Post, Pew Research, The Atlantic)

3. A tale of two approval ratings

In Israel, public support for Prime Minister Netanyahu has decreased; his Likud party is in a tight race against the opposition party. But even if his support is waning at home, Netanyahu’s approval in the United States has grown. Almost twice as many Americans view Netanyahu favorably as unfavorably (45% v. 25%), a gain of 10 points since 2012.

(Haaretz, Gallup, i24 news)

4. Arab-Israeli Politics

Although Arabs make up about a fifth of Israel’s population, many Arabs do not vote. (In 2013, only 56% voted compared to a Jewish turnout of 70%). But Arabs are gaining ground in Israeli electoral politics. Recently three small Arab parties united to create the “Joint List.” The new party includes Muslim, Christian, Druze and Jewish Communist candidates. Recent polls indicate the new party could win 14 Knesset seats in the upcoming election. 78% of the Arab public was “very satisfied or moderately satisfied” with the creation of the new Arab bloc, while 19% of the Jewish public shared those feelings.

(The Economist, Daily Mail, Haaretz)

5. Emigration

In February, Netanyahu dubbed himself a “representative to the entire Jewish people”—and encouraged Jews to leave Europe for Israel. Immigration to Israel is on the rise. In 2014, Jews came to Israel in higher numbers than we’ve seen in a decade. But totaling just 26,500, last year’s Jewish immigration to Israel only accounted for 0.3% of the total diaspora. About half of all Jews live outside Israel. In a recent poll, 45% of Israeli Jewish respondents said Jews in America are safer than those in Israel—compared to just 28% who said the opposite.

(Haaretz, The Economist, The Telegraph, Israel Democracy Institute)

TIME Civil Rights

House Republican Leader Headed to Selma

Kevin McCarthy will be the highest ranking Republican member of Congress to attend the "Bloody Sunday" commemoration. Republican leaders were criticized Friday for being absent from the event

In a reversal of plans, Kevin McCarthy, the second-ranking Republican in the House of Representatives, will join around 100 members of Congress who are gathering in Alabama this weekend to commemorate the 50th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday.” Before McCarthy’s announcement, no members of the Republican leadership in Congress had been scheduled to attend the event.

Rep. McCarthy, the House Majority Leader, changed his plans late Friday, after a day of widespread media coverage of the lack of Republican leadership in the congressional delegation.

President Obama is scheduled to speak Saturday at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., to honor the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights march that led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA,) Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA,) Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) and Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) are among the bipartisan coalition led by Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) in his annual Civil Rights pilgrimage with the Faith & Politics Institute. Lewis was one of the student protestors on the bridge in 1965, and was in the crowd that was attacked by police for demanding voting rights.

In remarks to members of Congress traveling with Lewis Friday evening, Portman recalled how Lewis convinced him to attend the event at the White House Christmas Party last year. Pelosi told the audience that the event was “not even bipartisan– it’s nonpartisan.”

As many as 100,000 people are expected to convene in Selma Saturday to hear the President speak.

TIME Congress

Criminal Corruption Charges Expected Against New Jersey Senator

Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., arrives for the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee hearing on "The Semiannual Monetary Policy Report to the Congress" on Feb. 24, 2015.
Bill Clark—AP Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., arrives for the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee hearing on "The Semiannual Monetary Policy Report to the Congress" on Feb. 24, 2015.

Alleged political favors at play for Sen. Robert Menendez

Federal authorities are expected to bring criminal corruption charges against longtime New Jersey Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez over an allegedly improper relationship with a friend and donor, according to multiple reports.

CNN and the New York Times, citing unnamed officials, report that the Department of Justice will charge Menendez in the coming weeks. The investigation into alleged political favors for Florida ophthalmologist Salomon Melgen has been public for two years, since the FBI raided Melgen’s offices.

The government will focus on whether Menendez improperly acted on behalf of Melgen to change Medicare reimbursement policies, the Times reports. CNN, which first reported the story, notes that Melgen’s practice has been a top recipient of Medicare reimbursements in recent years.

Menendez and Melgen have denied any wrongdoing.

“Let me be very clear: I have always conducted myself appropriately and in accordance with the law,” Menendez said late Friday. “Every action I and my office have taken for the 23 years that I have been privileged to serve in the U.S. Congress has been based on pursuing the best policies for the people of New Jersey and of this entire country.”

“I am not going anywhere,” he added.

As the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Menendez has been an influential voice in international affairs, as well as an occasional thorn in the Obama Administration’s side on its diplomatic maneuvering with Iran and Cuba. He’s also one of the few Cuban Americans on Capitol Hill and the only senator in the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

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