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Council Members Call For More Openness in San Jose's Permit Process

Two San Jose council members say their city makes it too tough on small business owners who want to open shop or expand.

CPUC to File Revised PG&E Penalty

The California Public Utilities Commission is set to file a revised penalty proposal Monday for PG&E’s part in the fatal San Bruno gas line explosion.

Israel Launches Gaza Ground Invasion

Israeli troops initiated a ground invasion of the Gaza Strip on Thursday, escalating a conflict that has raged for 10 days. The latest round of violence has claimed the lives of more than 200 Palestinians, mostly civilians. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the Israel Defense Forces will strike infrastructure and operatives posing a danger to Israeli citizens. We talk with Middle East analyst Aaron David Miller and foreign correspondent Nicholas Casey about the ground offensive.

Will New Watchdog Help Clean Up the L.A. Sheriff's Office?

In recent weeks, Los Angeles County supervisors have been wrestling with how to make sure their new Sheriff's Department watchdog gets the access he needs to provide effective oversight. The agency's top brass has been accused of allowing -- and even fostering -- a culture of violence among deputies in the County's main jail. We talk with Frank Stoltze, who covers crime and politics for KPCC in Los Angeles.

PBS NewsHour

House, Senate VA committees offer competing veteran health bills

Photo by Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

Photo by Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

WASHINGTON — With Congress scheduled to recess in a week, the chairmen of the House and Senate Veterans Affairs committees offered competing proposals Thursday to fix a veterans’ health care program scandalized by long patient wait times and falsified records covering up the delays.

Both proposals would scale back separate House- and Senate-passed bills after lawmakers in both parties expressed shock at price tags totaling more than $35 billion. The new proposals would still allow veterans to go to private doctors if they face long waits for appointments at VA hospitals and clinics, or if they live more than 40 miles from a VA site.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., chairman of the Senate panel, made the first move, announcing a proposal that would cost about $25 billion over three years to lease new clinics, hire thousands of doctors and nurses, and make it easier for veterans who can’t get prompt appointments with VA doctors to get outside care.

The proposed price tag is $10 billion less than a bill passed by the Senate last month and nearly $20 billion less than a House-backed measure.

Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., chairman of the House veterans panel, countered hours later with a proposal that would require only $10 billion in emergency spending, with a promise of more spending in future years under the normal congressional budget process. Miller’s bill would keep most of the provisions in the Senate-passed bill and also would authorize about $100 for the Department of Veterans Affairs to address shortfalls in the current budget year.

Miller announced his plan at a hastily scheduled meeting of House and Senate negotiators who have been working on the veterans bill for more than a month. Sanders skipped the meeting, as did all Democrats on the negotiating committee except one, Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, D-Ariz.

House Speaker John Boehner called Democrats’ nonappearance at the meeting “shameful” and said that if President Barack Obama cares about America’s veterans, “he needs to pick up his phone out in California and tell Senate Democrats to get to work.”

Despite the partisan divide, Miller said talks on the veterans had not collapsed and that he remains optimistic a deal can be reached before Congress adjourns next week until September.

Sanders called Miller’s proposal a “take-it-or-leave-it gambit” that showed a lack of good faith.

“We don’t need more speeches and posturing. We need serious negotiations — 24/7 if necessary — to resolve our differences in order to pass critical legislation,” Sanders said.

Miller said his proposal was merely “a public offer” that allows everyone to see what negotiators have been discussing in private for weeks.

“I am prepared keep negotiating for as long as it takes to reach a deal, and I hope Senate Democrats will work with me to address VA’s delays in care and accountability crises,” Miller said

The Obama administration says it needs about $17.6 billion to hire thousands of doctors, nurses and other health professionals, lease new facilities and upgrade its computers to reduce a backlog of veterans awaiting care at VA hospitals and clinics. The administration’s request does not include money to allow more veterans to go to private doctors to avoid long waits for VA care. Expansion of private care was the biggest cost in the bills approved by Congress.

Republicans complained that Acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson’s budget request was thinly documented. Miller told Gibson on Thursday he was surprised that such a large request was made in a slim, three-page memo.

The request “makes it very difficult for us to do our job” Miller told Gibson at a hearing of the House veterans’ panel.

Gibson said the request reflected his judgment about what the department needs to address current problems.

The VA request includes $8.2 billion to hire 1,500 doctors and thousands of nurses and other medical and mental health professionals; $6 billion for construction projects to improve safety or patient access; $1.2 billion for computer enhancements; and $400 million for more staff to deal with the agency’s backlog of benefits claims.

The post House, Senate VA committees offer competing veteran health bills appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

Central American leaders seek solution to child migrant crisis in U.S.

US House of Representatives Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) delivers brief remarks and introduces Honduran President
         Juan Orlando Hernandez (L) and Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina (R) as the three speak on the topic of the ongoing influx
         of unaccompanied Central American children into the US across the Mexican border. Photo by Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images

US House of Representatives Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) delivers brief remarks and introduces Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez (L) and Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina (R) as the three speak on the topic of the ongoing influx of unaccompanied Central American children into the US across the Mexican border. Photo by Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images

WASHINGTON — The presidents of Honduras and Guatemala are meeting with lawmakers on Capitol Hill amid a stalemate over the immigration crisis on the U.S.-Mexico border.

Before meeting privately with House Democrats, President Otto Pérez Molina of Guatemala expressed hope of finding a solution to benefit all the countries involved.

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi is urging Congress to pass an emergency spending bill to address the crisis involving tens of thousands of unaccompanied children from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.

But a solution looks unlikely with Democrats and Republicans divided over proposals to send them home more quickly. Republicans say they won’t agree to any money without policy changes that Democrats say would violate the kids’ due process.

The post Central American leaders seek solution to child migrant crisis in U.S. appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

Democrats suffer setback in key Senate race

Sen. John Walsh, D-Mont. Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

Sen. John Walsh, D-Mont. Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

The Morning Line

Today in the Morning Line:

  • Plagiarism report dampens Walsh’s election prospects
  • Lawmakers still divided on border legislation
  • Don’t discount third-party candidates

Walsh confronts plagiarism charges: Sen. John Walsh already faced long odds to winning a full six-year term in November, and that was before the New York Times reported Wednesday that the Montana Democrat plagiarized substantial portions of his final thesis at the U.S. Army War College. The Times’ Jonathan Martin writes: “An examination of the final paper required for Mr. Walsh’s master’s degree from the United States Army War College indicates the senator appropriated at least a quarter of his thesis on American Middle East policy from other authors’ works, with no attribution.” The six conclusions put forward in the 14-page thesis, Martin adds, “are taken nearly word-for-word without attribution from a Carnegie Endowment for International Peace document.” (The Times created an interactive graphic that details the sections of the paper where Walsh used passages either without attribution, or with improper sourcing.) Walsh told the Associated Press Thursday his failure to properly attribute parts of his thesis was an unintentional mistake caused in part by post-traumatic stress disorder from his service in Iraq. “I don’t want to blame my mistake on PTSD, but I do want to say it may have been a factor,” Walsh said. “My head was not in a place very conducive to a classroom and an academic environment.”

Other questions about Walsh’s record: The plagiarism controversy follows the release of an Army inspector general report late last year that Walsh improperly used his position as adjutant general of the Montana National Guard to solicit members to join the National Guard Association of the United States, a private group that lobbies on behalf of the guard. Roll Call also raised questions about Walsh’s educational background in February, noting differences in his resumes available online. Walsh has made his military service a focal point of his candidacy, with phrases such as “Montana courage” and “selfless service” featured on his campaign website, along with photos of the lawmaker in uniform. Walsh’s appointment to the Senate by Montana Gov. Steve Bullock as a replacement for former Sen. Max Baucus, who departed to become ambassador to China, was seen as a tactical advantage in the fall campaign against GOP Rep. Steve Daines. Democrats hoped the move would elevate Walsh’s profile and boost his fundraising abilities. As it happens, the Senate on Wednesday advanced legislation sponsored by Walsh that would give employers tax credits for bringing jobs back the U.S. But Walsh did not appear with his colleagues at a news conference touting the proposal. And Politico notes the measure is nearly identical to a 2012 bill offered by Sen. Debbie Stabenow. The Michigan Democrat is a co-sponsor of Walsh’s legislation.

A long shot to begin with: Despite the head start from his appointment, Walsh always faced an uphill climb in November. Most observers were putting this, South Dakota and West Virginia in the GOP column already, but Democrats were hoping to at least make Republicans work — giving them somewhere to go on offense with so few targets. Early polls showed Daines with a sizable advantage (as much as 17 points), but strategists on both sides expected the margin to narrow, especially given Montana’s history of close Senate elections. Earlier Wednesday Stu Rothenberg looked at some of the recent polling data from Montana to determine whether the race is really tightening, or if Democrats are simply manufacturing buzz. Rothenberg wrote that despite polls showing Walsh closing to within five or seven points, he still considered Daines the “clear favorite.” Any hopes for Democrats here suffered a significant setback with this news. One thing is clear here: in the big picture, heading into the summer after this first part of the primary season, Republicans have certainly done everything necessary to put themselves in the best position possible to take back the Senate.

Immigration talks continue, but still no votes: House Republicans introduced their own plan Wednesday for handling the influx of illegal immigrants coming across the southern U.S. border. And it’s $2.2 billion less than what President Barack Obama requested from Congress earlier this month and about $1 billion less than Senate Democrats proposed a day earlier. During a closed-door meeting Wednesday, a House Republican working group led by Rep. Kay Granger, R-Texas, unveiled the proposal, which focuses on the deployment of National Guard troops to the border and expediting the deportation of recent illegal immigrants. Granger told the Washington Post that the intention is not to repeal the 2008 human trafficking law, but to change parts of it. In a letter to the president, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, voiced his concerns about the ability for Republicans to compromise on immigration reform if changes are not made to the 2008 law. “It is difficult to see how we can make progress on this issue without strong, public support from the White House for much-needed reforms, including changes to the 2008 law,” Boehner wrote. Of course, immigration reform had little-to-no chance of advancing in the GOP-controlled House even before this crisis. But even passing the Republican legislation out of the House won’t be easy. Some members have indicated they are leaning no on the House Republican plan. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz met with a group of House conservatives Wednesday morning to discuss the proposal, and, according to those present at the breakfast, per The Washington Post, Cruz urged the members to stick to their convictions. Cruz is not the only senator who does not support the House GOP plan. Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., criticized the working group’s proposal, saying, “I think it would be a colossal error to pass any kind of legislation that does not prohibit the president from granting legal status to five or six million people, as he’s indicated he intends to do.” Sessions added in a written statement that “it would be tragic” for the House to compromise on any immigration legislation. And there are just eight days to go until the August recess.

Watch third-party candidates: The two political parties in this country are so entrenched they are unlikely to be dislodged, even in this era of disillusionment with all things Washington and politics. But third-party candidates should not be out and out dismissed, not so much because they have a chance at WINNING many races but because they can have a potential effect on swaying some key races. A Quinnipiac poll out in the Florida governor’s race, for example, shows the little-know Libertarian candidate Adrian Wyllie pulling in 9 percent of the vote. Democratic challenger Charlie Crist leads Republican Gov. Rick Scott in the poll 39 percent to 37 percent with Wyllie on the ballot. Without Wyllie on the ballot, Crist’s lead grows to 5 points. In North Carolina, it’s the Democrats who could stand to benefit in the Senate race. Libertarian Sean Haugh, who has qualified for the ballot, is getting high single digits to low double digits in some polling — with little to no name identification and pulling from Republican Thom Tillis. The Washington Post’s Karen Tumulty and Reid Wilson noted earlier this month that “Libertarians are poised to draw votes in at least 10 other competitive Senate elections this fall — in Montana, Oregon, Colorado, Minnesota, Iowa, Arkansas, Michigan, Virginia, West Virginia and Alaska. The party is working to collect enough signatures to appear on ballots in Kentucky and New Hampshire and is attracting attention with gubernatorial candidates in Florida and Kansas.” Remember, in the Virginia governor’s race in 2013, Libertarian Robert Sarvis got nearly 7 percent of the vote. Democrat Terry McAuliffe won by just 2.5 percentage points, though evidence suggests Sarvis did not sway the election. It’s always unclear how much support these candidates will actually get on Election Day, and they’re easy to dismiss, but they are essentially protest votes. And there’s a lot to protest for some right now. If these candidates have an impact in even one or two places, that could affect control of the Senate or a key presidential swing state governor’s race like Florida.

Quote of the day: “The facts suggest that President Obama has just used a federal regulatory agency to launch an economic boycott on Israel, in order to try to force our ally to comply with his foreign-policy demands.” — Sen. Ted Cruz, Republican from Texas, alleging a conspiracy theory that the Federal Aviation Administration shut down flights from the U.S. to Israel because of politics. It’s not like there’s a war going on and another plane hadn’t been shot down in another war zone recently.

Daily Presidential Trivia: On this day in 1862, former President Martin Van Buren died. What was Van Buren’s first language? Be the first to Tweet us the correct answer using #PoliticsTrivia and you’ll get a Morning Line shout-out. Congratulations to Kathleen Glanville (@KathleenGlanvil) for guessing Wednesday’s trivia: What was President Grant’s real name? The answer was: Hiram Ulysses Grant.

LINE ITEMS

  • At 12:40 p.m. ET, President Obama will attend a DNC roundtable. Afterward, the president will deliver remarks on job training at the Los Angeles Trade-Technical College at 4:15 p.m. ET. Mr. Obama returns to Washington Thursday night.

  • The president is planning to issue an executive order for a branch of the Commerce Department to develop privacy guidelines for commercial drones operating in U.S. airspace.

  • IRS Commissioner John Koskinen told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Wednesday that the agency is no longer investigating the missing emails of Lois Lerner, so that they will not interfere with the inspector general’s investigation.

  • Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin is using his top position on the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee to work several of his legislative priorities into the military spending bill.

  • In a speech on family values at Catholic University, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio condemned the “growing intolerance” for those who define marriage as between one man and one woman, and that said viewpoint does not make its supporters “anti-gay.”

  • A Marquette Law School poll puts Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker in a near tie, leading his Democratic opponent Mary Burke 46 percent to 45 percent among registered voters. Burke, meanwhile, has a single-point advantage among likely voters.

  • Wednesday night the Arizona Department of Corrections executed Joseph Rudolph Wood. It took them nearly two hours to do so.

  • Alaska, Alabama, Arizona, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Idaho, Utah and Louisiana all joined an amicus brief in support of Indiana’s appeal of the unconstitutionality of the state’s same-sex marriage ban.

  • A federal judge in Denver ruled that Colorado’s gay marriage ban is unconstitutional, but stayed the ruling, giving the state a month to appeal.

  • Under a proposed EPA rule to curb carbon pollution, demand for electricity from coal would be cut, while demand for natural gas would increase, benefitting Texas and Oklahoma, whose governor and senior senator, respectively, have been among the strongest skeptics of global warming and EPA regulation.

  • In a Wall Street Journal op-ed, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and the Goldwater Institute’s Clint Bolick write that “there is a reason and a need for compassion” in handling the southern border crisis, but that migrant children who come here illegally from Central America should be deported. They call on House Republicans to take the lead on comprehensive immigration reform.

  • The fate of New Hampshire’s 1st Congressional District lies in the political wind, as it has for the past two elections when former Rep. Frank Guinta was elected in the 2010 Tea Party wave, and then in 2012, when Rep. Carol Shea-Porter swept in, campaigning against that wave. This year marks their third face-off.

  • A McKinsey report finds that the Social Security Administration has spent $300 million on a computer system that was supposed to streamline disability claims. But it still doesn’t work and lines for claims are backing up, the AP reports.

  • West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin tells National Journal’s Ron Fournier that he would support legislation to make it illegal for American companies to do what his daughter’s did — renounce its citizenship and move overseas to avoid federal taxes. Manchin’s daughter is CEO of the generic drugmaker Mylan, which makes most of its money from Medicare and Medicaid payments, and announced last week it will become incorporated in the Netherlands.

  • Former South Dakota GOP Sen. Larry Pressler, who is running as an independent in this year’s Senate contest, isn’t splitting GOP voters the way Democrats had hoped he would; instead he’s cutting into Democrat Rick Weiland’s base of support.

  • Background interviews with officials on the Hill, and especially the White House, are no longer one-on-one, but more like one-on-two, as the “chaperoned interview” becomes the norm in Washington.

  • Mr. Obama is speaking more openly about his daughters, in part to connect with constituents, but also to emphasize the open-mindedness of young people, like Sasha and Malia, on issues like race or climate change.

  • Vice President Biden takes to the white board to explain American infrastructure.

  • Military dogs took over a hearing room of the House Budget Committee Wednesday, as the American Humane Society fights for the Department of Defense to grant them guaranteed retirement in the U.S. “Dogs are magical creatures because they can make a rusty, cranky old curmudgeon like Don Young seem almost lovable,” Florida Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said of the Alaska Republican, who reminded colleagues he was the only musher in Congress.

  • BuzzFeed gives props to Rep. John Dingell’s Twitter skills.

  • Keep an eye on the Rundown blog for breaking news throughout the day, our home page for show segments, and follow @NewsHour for the latest.

TOP TWEETS

For more political coverage, visit our politics page.

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Questions or comments? Email Domenico Montanaro at dmontanaro-at-newshour-dot-org or Terence Burlij at tburlij-at-newshour-dot-org.

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The post Democrats suffer setback in key Senate race appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

Why winning Georgia is crucial for the GOP’s Senate hopes

ga_senaterace

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JUDY WOODRUFF: Now to politics: Yesterday in Georgia, voters chose the Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate in what turned out to be a tight primary election.

It sets the stage for what will be one of the closest watched races of the year, a contest that could help decide control of the Senate.

With us to talk about this race and the broader Senate landscape is our political editor, Domenico Montanaro.

So, welcome back to being on air.

DOMENICO MONTANARO: Thank you.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Domenico, the Republicans have now — it was a tight race. It was the runoff, but they have their candidate now. Tell us about him. His name is David Perdue. Who is he?

DOMENICO MONTANARO: David Perdue is the former CEO of Dollar General and the sneaker company Reebok, which everybody knows.

Jack Kingston is who he defeated 51-49, Kingston, a member of Congress. It shouldn’t be lost that David Perdue in this race was the only person who ran in this primary who wasn’t either a member of Congress or a former elected official, so he really played that outsider card.

He ran this ad depicting babies on the lawn in front of Congress crying, depicting all the lawmakers are crybabies, essentially. So he really tried to play that card, hit Kingston with being on that insider status. And that’s what part of what did help him. He also poured in about $3 million of his own money, which was certainly helpful.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Didn’t hurt.

DOMENICO MONTANARO: Right.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, now Perdue faces a well-organized Democrat. And, normally, this is Deep South, not fertile territory for Democrats, but in this case, she is the daughter of a well-known former senator.

DOMENICO MONTANARO: That’s right.

And Democrats have some hope that Michelle Nunn, who is the daughter of former Senator Sam Nunn, will do fairly well in this race, and appears tied in most polling at this point with Perdue, because, one, her legacy and the name, but also because of the changing demographics of the state.

So I think that this is a state that the Democrats are starting to feel a little bit better about. And given the fact Perdue is kind of a political novice, has never run before, Nunn is in a similar situation, but she also has tried to play this outsider card.

Now you are going to see Republicans — and we have already seen Republicans take strong aim at Michelle Nunn. We know the Democrats are already picking apart David Perdue’s business experience, trying to reopen the Mitt Romney playbook, to say this is someone who cost jobs and who shipped jobs overseas.

The real question is going to be over the next two months, can Michelle Nunn withstand the barrage that comes her way?  If we look on Labor Day or two weeks after Labor Day and this race is still tied, this is going to be an actual potential pickup for Democrats.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And this race, as you and I were talking earlier, especially important to Democrats, because the overall — the national Senate landscape for them is not very friendly.

DOMENICO MONTANARO: That’s right. And that’s why we care about this race, because there are 12 races in the country that we should all be looking at right now.

But you can see from our map that 10 of those states are seats held by Democrats — well, or are Republican targets. Only two of those races are in places that are held by Republicans, Kentucky with Mitch McConnell, who is the minority leader, who could become majority leader, and this race in Georgia.

Well, if Georgia is on the board for Democrats, then the ability for Republicans to take back the Senate, to net the six seats they need out of this landscape, makes it much, much more difficult. There are already three states on this map that we have seen are likely heading toward Republicans in Montana, West Virginia and one other.

And you see that because of that, if Republicans aren’t able to hold Georgia, then the landscape becomes much more difficult for them.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Democrats start out with a disadvantage, and it’s just tough.

DOMENICO MONTANARO: Well, it is. But right now in Alaska and Arkansas, Mark Pryor and Mark Begich are doing very well and probably better than most Republicans thought they would.

And they may be a little bit of gum in the dam, so to speak, because if they can hold, then you see Democrats likely holding a one- or two-seat majority. If they lose, you could see a much broader wave come the Republicans’ way.

JUDY WOODRUFF: I like that metaphor, the gum in the dam.

But the other thing, finally, I want to ask you about, Domenico, is this report came out yesterday from the — respected organization, saying that the turnout in this year’s primaries so far is not only down, but in most of the states where there have been primaries, it’s at historic lows.

DOMENICO MONTANARO: Yes, 15 of the 25 states so far have seen historic lows.

And this is a trend, the pattern that we have seen since the 1960s, when there was a high in primary of about mid-30s of eligible population turning out from the study from the Center for the Study of the American Electorate. But now only 14.7 percent so far have turned out.

And there’s a lot of reasons for this. People are upset with almost everything. Pessimism reins. They are upset with the president. They are upset with Congress. They are upset with Republicans, who they feel are blocking the president. They are upset with the president, who they feel is using too much executive authority.

And it goes back and forth. People aren’t feeling much better about the economy, despite the headline economic numbers. And what it all leads to is a large disinterest, frankly, in what we’re seeing in politics, but it does have consequence. Elections have consequences, as we’re talking about whether or not the — who holds control of the Senate.

JUDY WOODRUFF: It’s pretty depressing, and maybe people watching and all over the country will, you know, take notice and pay more attention to those races.

DOMENICO MONTANARO: I think anybody can be in favor of more engagement.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Domenico Montanaro, we thank you.

DOMENICO MONTANARO: Thank you.

The post Why winning Georgia is crucial for the GOP’s Senate hopes appeared first on PBS NewsHour.