The U.S. federal government partially shut down at midnight, and the proximate cause is Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who refused to give consent Thursday night to vote on the massive spending bill worked out by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). Paul's stated concern was the federal deficit — which, he pointed out, was the Republican Party's stated concern until about a year ago. "How come you were against President Obama's deficits, and then how come you're for Republican deficits? Isn't that the very definition of intellectual dishonesty?" he asked his colleagues. "Isn't that the very definition of hypocrisy?"
Sen. Rand Paul to Republican colleagues: "How come you were against President Obama's deficits, and then how come you're for Republican deficits? Isn't that the very definition of intellectual dishonesty?" pic.twitter.com/thnTl2E7SB
— Axios (@axios) February 9, 2018
Paul, who voted in favor of the GOP's $1.5 trillion tax cut two months ago, wasn't done. Amid glares from a "visibly irritated" McConnell, The Washington Post reports, Paul said "this new stimulus of deficit spending will be as big as President Obama's stimulus," passed during the height of the Great Recession. "Don't you remember when Republicans howled to high heaven that President Obama was spending us into the gutter, spending us into oblivion?" he asked. "And now Republicans are doing the same thing."
The Senate is expected to pass the spending bill early Friday morning, but its fate in the House is less clear. GOP deficit hawks are in more or less open revolt, and Democrats are threatening to withhold their support unless House Speaker Paul Ryan promises to hold a vote on a replacement for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) immigration program. The two-year spending bill also suspends the debt limit for a year, adds $90 billion for disaster relief, extends $17 billion in business tax breaks, and renews several large health-care programs, paying for some of the spending by selling oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and other revenue offsets. Peter Weber
Jupiter's massive gravitational attraction has collected some fresh followers.
While looking for a possible ninth planet, scientists instead discovered another 12 moons orbiting the gas giant, per a Monday press release from Carnegie Science. The find brings Jupiter's total number of moons to 79, the most in the solar system.
Eleven of the new moons are pretty normal, orbiting either with or against Jupiter's rotation. But in the release, scientists called one an "oddball" because it lives far out with moons that orbit counterclockwise, but travels clockwise itself.
Carnegie's team put together this video to explain the mysterious moon, named Valetudo after the Roman god Jupiter's great-granddaughter.
Scientists suggest Valetudo's reverse orbit could cause a head-on crash one day, per the release. But in a family of 79 moons, Jupiter was bound to have one rebel. Kathryn Krawczyk
In his first major speech since leaving office, former President Barack Obama endorsed the idea of providing a universal basic income.
Speaking at the Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture in South Africa on Tuesday, Obama raised the notion of guaranteed income as a way to reduce what he called "yawning disparities" in wealth, education, and security across different socioeconomic groups.
"It's not just money that a job provides," said Obama. "It provides dignity and structure and a sense of place and a sense of purpose. So we're going to have to consider new ways of thinking about these problems, like a universal income, review of our workweek, how we retrain our young people, how we make everybody an entrepreneur at some level. But we're going have to worry about economics if we want to get democracy back on track."
He additionally called on the rich to support higher taxation, saying that "you don't have to take a vow of poverty just to say 'let me help out a few of these folks.'"
Watch the moment, along with Obama's other suggestions for improving on these "strange and uncertain" times below, via NBC News. Summer Meza
Former President Barack Obama said that these "strange and uncertain" times can only be combated with an effort to "keep marching" and "keep building" away from discrimination and institutional inequality.
Obama made his first major speech since leaving office at the Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture in South Africa on Tuesday. He warned of "strongman politics" that are ascendant, "whereby elections and some pretense of democracy is maintained, but those in power seek to undermine every institution or norm that gives democracy meaning." He additionally condemned "far-right" political parties that "are based not just on platforms of protectionism and closed borders, but also on barely hidden racial nationalism."
The former president voiced concern that the world is "threatening to return to a more dangerous, more brutal way of doing business," and worried that social media is helping spread "hatred, and paranoia, and propaganda, and conspiracy theories." He said that humanity is at a crossroads, and hoped that people would be willing to work towards accepting a single "objective reality" in order to keep politicians honest.
Watch his full speech below, via the Obama Foundation. Summer Meza
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) has been a powerhouse in the Senate for the last 26 years. She's also 85 years old, and even her own party thinks it's time for a fresh face.
Feinstein doesn't think so.
In an interview with Politico, the centrist Democrat said she doesn't "really feel that pressure" to give up her six-term Senate seat to welcome in a new Democrat. The most likely replacement would be California state Sen. Kevin de León (D), who is running against Feinstein this fall — and who received support from 54 percent of the state's Democratic Party delegates at their annual convention. Just 37 percent opted for Feinstein. Neither candidate achieved 60 percent of the vote, so a runoff gave de León the endorsement.
The 51-year-old de León declared the landslide victory an "astounding rejection of politics as usual" in a statement, Politico says. But Feinstein, who's known for her cautious yet progressive politics, doesn't think her time is up. "I'm sure some people think that way," she told Politico. "But I look at my vote, and there aren't a lot of people that can win every county in the state," referring to the results of California's June primary, which Feinstein definitively won.
Now, the Senate's oldest member — who even Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has referred to as "your majesty" — is planning to take on President Trump's Supreme Court nominee. And she told Politico that "there's no question" other Democrats will have their day — once she's done having hers.
The Afghan government is planning its second-ever ceasefire with the Taliban since the U.S. invasion in 2001, The Wall Street Journal reported Monday night.
The ceasefire is scheduled to coincide with a Muslim holiday in August. Its announcement comes close on the heels of a United Nations report that civilian deaths for the first six months of 2018 are at a record high since the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan began tracking casualties in 2009.
Taliban leaders agreed to an initial ceasefire timed for another holiday in June. The agreement did not include foreign troops, like U.S. forces, and other militant groups, like the Islamic State, were not involved.
The new ceasefire is intended to pave the way for peace talks between the Taliban, the United States, and the Afghan government. Defense Secretary James Mattis has said he does not think a "military victory" is plausible in Afghanistan; rather, "the victory will be a political reconciliation" between the Taliban and the Afghan government. Bonnie Kristian
President Trump's tariffs and the trade war they launched have not been kind to American farmers, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue has conceded.
"Farmers love their lifestyle, but they're businesspeople," he said at an event hosted by Axios. "They have to make a profit. They're some of the best patriots in America, but they can't pay the bills with patriotism." Perdue said he hopes to have a relief plan in place by the end of the summer.
The secretary made similar comments in a late June interview with the Chicago Tribune. "There's legitimate anxiety if it's your livelihood," he admitted, but argued farmers are "patriots" who understand trade war is necessary retaliation against "a country that has been unfair at trade practices for a number of years." Still, Perdue added, "it's kind of like a drought: 'When will it end?'"
China has levied a 25 percent tax on 545 U.S. imports, including agricultural products like soybeans, rice, beef, pork, and more. Soybean farmers expect a particularly hard hit, as China previously bought fully one-third of their product. Maine lobster harvesters are already suffering, as Chinese buyers turn to Canada — subject to a 7 percent lobster tariff — to avoid 35 to 40 percent tariffs on American lobsters.
Farmers may be willing to give Trump the benefit of the doubt, said the National Farm Union's Matt Purdue, but "there's a lot of anxiety and I think that anxiety is growing over time." Bonnie Kristian
Fox News' Jeanine Pirro sarcastically wonders if Trump should 'take out a gun and shoot Putin' to satisfy everyone
President Trump may have lost quite a few supporters since his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. But one of the loudest conservative voices is still on his side.
Fox News host Judge Jeanine Pirro appeared on Fox & Friends on Tuesday, vehemently defending the president's refusal to condemn Russian meddling in American elections. During his Monday press conference with Putin, Trump implied that he believed Putin's denials of interference over the conclusion of American intelligence agencies — a statement an array of conservatives, and even the Fox & Friends hosts themselves, had slammed earlier that morning.
But Trump had to be cautious because Russia is one of the world's biggest nuclear powers, Pirro said Tuesday. Plus, he has already placed sanctions on the country. "Come on everybody, snap out of it," Pirro said. "What was he supposed to do? Take a gun out and shoot Putin?" Pirro sarcastically questioned. "Putin said, 'I didn't meddle in your election,' so the president should say, 'Hang on, let me execute this guy'?"
It's enough that Trump has recognized that meddling happened, Pirro said. And there are probably better ways to prevent it from happening again than a round of Russian roulette. Watch the whole clip below. Kathryn Krawczyk
Jeanine Pirro on Fox & Friends: "What was he supposed to do, take a gun out and shoot Putin?" pic.twitter.com/0839HfMRI2
— John Whitehouse (@existentialfish) July 17, 2018