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10 things you need to know today: October 20, 2017

Senators approve budget in key step toward tax cuts, Chief of Staff John Kelly defends Trump's call to Army widow, and more


Senate Republicans push through budget, clearing way for tax cuts

The Senate on Thursday narrowly approved the Republican budget plan, a key step toward their effort to pass President Trump's tax cuts. The spending blueprint could add up to $1.5 trillion to federal deficits over a decade. It was approved in a 51-49 vote, with budget hawk Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who argued that the budget should reduce the deficit, casting the lone GOP no vote. The budget plan includes a legislative tool that will let Senate Republicans pass Trump's corporate and individual tax cuts with a simple majority, preventing Democrats from blocking the legislation with a filibuster. That gives the GOP a way to get the tax cuts approved by year's end, without the need for support from any Democrats.


Trump chief of staff defends president's call to soldier's widow

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly denounced Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.) for remarks he said politicized the "sacred" presidential role of offering condolences to the families of slain soldiers. Kelly, whose son was killed in action in Afghanistan, made an unexpected and emotional appearance in the White House briefing room on Thursday, and said he was "stunned" and "brokenhearted" when he learned that Wilson said Trump had been insensitive in his call to the widow of Army Sgt. La David Johnson, who was one of four Americans killed in an ambush in Niger. She said Trump told Johnson's family the soldier "knew what he signed up for." Johnson's mother also said she thought Trump "did disrespect my son" in the call.


Senators unveil bipartisan health-care bill

Senators Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) introduced their bipartisan health-care bill on Thursday, announcing it had 11 additional Republican co-sponsors plus 11 more Democratic co-sponsors. The legislation seeks to stabilize health insurance markets by extending for two years government subsidy payments that insurance companies use to lower costs for poorer customers. Alexander predicted the plan "will become law in some fashion before the end of the year," but it faces significant hurdles. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has not committed to holding a vote, and House Speaker Paul Ryan has come out against it.


Bush and Obama criticize Trump without mentioning his name

Former President George W. Bush on Thursday delivered what was interpreted as a rebuke of President Trump's nationalist and protectionist policies, although he never mentioned Trump by name. Bush, speaking at a bipartisan conference that his presidential center sponsored in New York to promote democracy and freedom, also decried the coarsening of public debate and erosion of civility in American politics. Bush said "bigotry seems emboldened" and "our politics seems more vulnerable to conspiracy theories and outright fabrication." On the same day, former President Barack Obama also delivered a thinly veiled criticism of Trump during a speech to support Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ralph Northam in Virginia. "If you have to win a campaign by dividing people," Obama said, "you're not going to be able to govern them."


White nationalist leader's speech met with protest at Florida university

Protesters chanted "Go home Nazis" as white nationalist leader Richard Spencer held an event at the University of Florida on Thursday. Authorities deployed hundreds of police around the school and erected barricades in an effort to keep order and prevent a repeat of the deadly clash neo-Nazis and white supremacists had against counter-protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August. Florida Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency in the area ahead of Spencer's speech to make it easier to prepare for possible violence. Inside the building where Spencer spoke, he taunted protesters, saying they couldn't shut him down. "I'm not going home," he said. "We are stronger than you and you all know it!" [Editor's note: This article originally misstated Spencer's first name. It has since been corrected. We regret the error.]


Trump gives Puerto Rico hurricane response a '10'

President Trump on Thursday rated his administration's response to Hurricane Maria's devastation in Puerto Rico as a "10." Trump made the comment in response to a question during an appearance with Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló at the White House, and he asked Rosselló whether the federal government had done a "great job." Rosselló responded, "You responded immediately, sir," but pointed out that "there's a lot left to do." Many Puerto Ricans have complained about the pace of progress and aid from the federal government, as most of the island is still without electricity and much of it lacks safe drinking water a month after the powerful storm slammed into the U.S. Caribbean territory.


Judge refuses to clear Arpaio's record despite pardon

A federal judge on Thursday denied former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio's request to clear his record of his conviction for criminal contempt. Arpaio was convicted after a five-day trial earlier this year for failing to comply with a 2011 court order to stop detaining people on the basis of their suspected immigration status. He could have faced up to six months in jail, but President Trump pardoned him on Aug. 25. U.S. District Judge Susan R. Bolton said the pardon only spared Arpaio from punishment, but he was still convicted. "The power to pardon is an executive prerogative of mercy, not of judicial recordkeeping," Bolton wrote in the decision. Arpaio's attorney is appealing.


Dodgers beat Cubs to advance to their first World Series since 1988

The Los Angeles Dodgers advanced to the World Series on Thursday by beating the Chicago Cubs 11-1 at Wrigley Field, winning the National League Championship Series in Game 5. Dodger Enrique Hernandez hit three home runs, including a grand slam in the third inning that essentially sealed the Cubs' fate, and set an NLCS record for most RBIs in a game. This will be the Dodgers' first appearance in the World Series since 1988. They will face either the Houston Astros or New York Yankees in the first game of the World Series Tuesday in Los Angeles.


Lyft gets $1 billion in new financing thanks to Alphabet

Lyft said Thursday that it had raised $1 billion in new financing from a group led by CapitalG, the venture investment arm of Google parent Alphabet. The funding will help the ride-hailing app battle larger rival Uber, which has been hampered by internal troubles in recent months. The investment valued Lyft at $10 billion before the new financing, marking a jump from $6.9 billion in the San Francisco-based company's last valuation. The deal showed that Alphabet is continuing its shift away from Uber, and hints at a possible link between Alphabet's Waymo autonomous vehicle program and Lyft's ride-delivery network.


Pro leagues play on same day in rare 'sports equinox'

Thursday marked the 17th time in history when there were MLB, NFL, NBA, and NHL games on the same day. Baseball fans got to watch Game 5 of the National League Championship Series, in which the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Chicago Cubs to advance to the World Series. In football, the Oakland Raiders beat the Kansas City Chiefs 31-30 in a game with a memorable finish. Six professional basketball teams kicked off their NBA seasons. In hockey, there were nine games. The confluence of action, known as a "sports equinox," could happen again, on Oct. 29, if there is a Game 5 of the World Series.


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