10 things you need to know today: February 8, 2018

Senate leaders announce a bipartisan budget deal, a top Trump aide resigns after abuse allegations, and more

Chuck Schumer and Mitch McConnell walk side-by-side
(Image credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

1. Senate leaders announce bipartisan budget deal

Senate leaders reached a two-year budget agreement on Wednesday seeking to raise military and domestic spending, and hike the federal debt limit, to end months of threatened government shutdowns. The bipartisan agreement between Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) would lift military and domestic spending caps that Republicans won in a 2011 showdown with then-President Barack Obama. Schumer called the deal "a genuine breakthrough." It still could fail and trigger a government shutdown by the end of the week, because fiscal conservatives object to the $300 million in additional military and non-defense spending over two years, and liberal Democrats want it to include a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children.

The New York Times The Associated Press

2. Top Trump aide resigns after reports he abused his ex-wives

Senior White House official Rob Porter announced his resignation on Wednesday after his two ex-wives accused him of physical and emotional abuse, although he denies the allegations. Porter served President Trump as staff secretary, often controlling Trump's daily schedule, and the flow of paperwork to his desk. Porter also was a key player in Chief of Staff John Kelly's effort to impose greater discipline in the White House after a turbulent start to Trump's presidency last year. Porter's first wife, Colbie Holderness, accused him in an interview with DailyMail.com of once punching her in the face in the early 2000s. "He was verbally, emotionally, and physically abusive, and that is why I left," she said.

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The Washington Post

3. Pelosi calls for DREAMer protections in longest House speech ever

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) spoke for eight hours and 10 minutes on Wednesday in the longest House speech ever, beating a 1909 record by nearly three hours. Pelosi, using her right as minority leader, held the floor to call on Republicans to allow a vote on protections for young immigrants brought to the U.S. as children. Pelosi recounted stories of DREAMers protected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which is set to start phasing out in March. She demanded that House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) make a more firm commitment on holding an immigration vote. Earlier Wednesday, Senate leaders announced a bipartisan budget deal to avoid a government shutdown, but Pelosi said she would not support a bill without an immigration deal.

The Hill

4. DHS cybersecurity chief says Russia penetrated some voter systems

The Department of Homeland Security's cybersecurity chief, Jeanette Manfra, told NBC News on Wednesday that Russians successfully penetrated some state voter registration systems ahead of the 2016 presidential election. "We saw a targeting of 21 states and an exceptionally small number of them were actually successfully penetrated," she said. "We were able to determine that the scanning and probing of voter registration databases was coming from the Russian government." U.S. officials have said there was no evidence any voter rolls were changed, but Jeh Johnson, who was DHS secretary during the Russian hacking, has said "2016 was a wake-up call."

NBC News

5. U.S.-led coalition airstrikes kill 100 pro-government forces in Syria

Airstrikes by the U.S.-led coalition battling ISIS in Syria killed more than 100 fighters allied with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Wednesday, the coalition said in a statement. About 500 pro-regime forces had "initiated an unprovoked attack" against the Syrian Democratic Forces headquarters where coalition advisers were working with the mostly Kurdish U.S.-backed rebels. "Syrian pro-regime forces maneuvered T-54 and T-72 main battle tanks with supporting mortar fire in what appears to be a coordinated attack on Syrian Democratic Forces" in Syria, a U.S. military official said.


6. Trump's Cuba Internet Task Force gets to work

President Trump's Cuba Internet Task Force, part of his effort to unravel the Obama administration's policy of re-engaging with Havana, held its first public meeting on Wednesday. Members of the group said Cuba's communist government restricts internet access to prevent Cubans from criticizing their leaders. "Mr. Castro, tear down this firewall," said Andre Mendes, acting director of the Broadcasting Board of Governors' Office of Cuba Broadcasting. Others said Trump's initiative to help expand internet access on the island and support independent media merely resurrected failed policies of isolation. The task force's members agreed to form two subcommittees, "one to explore the role of media and freedom of information in Cuba, and one to explore internet access in Cuba," the State Department said.

The Associated Press State Department

7. Tronc sells L.A. Times and Union-Tribune to billionaire investor

Chicago-based media company Tronc has agreed to sell the Los Angeles Times and The San Diego Union-Tribune for $500 million to billionaire physician and Tronc investor Patrick Soon-Shiong. A Californian, Soon-Shiong takes over during a turbulent period at the Times, "which has seen three editors in six months, its publisher placed on unpaid leave amid a sexual harassment investigation, and a historic vote to unionize the newsroom," the Times reported. With the purchase, Soon-Shiong will succeed Tronc head Michael Ferro, whose tenure was deeply unpopular among the newspaper staff. "It's hard to imagine the new boss being worse than the Tronc era has been," wrote CNN's media critic Brian Lowry, formerly a staffer of the Los Angeles Times.

Los Angeles Times CNN

8. California leaders aim to block oil from drilling expansion

California officials said Wednesday they will block the transport of petroleum from new offshore oil rigs through the state to thwart the Trump administration's expansion of drilling in U.S. waters. "I am resolved that not a single drop from Trump's new oil plan ever makes landfall in California," said Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom, chair of the State Lands Commission and a Democratic candidate for governor. The California move is the latest attempt by coastal states to block the proposed expansion. Officials in Florida, North and South Carolina, Delaware, and Washington also have protested, saying drilling could cost them a fortune in tourism income by polluting beaches and harming wildlife.


9. Bermuda rolls back gay-marriage legalization

Bermuda on Wednesday rolled back gay-marriage reforms, a first as an increasing number of nations around the world legalize same-sex marriage. The new legislation replaces same-sex marriage with domestic partnerships having "equivalent" rights in the British island territory. Gov. John Rankin signed it into law on Wednesday. Bermuda's Senate and House of Assembly passed the legislation by wide margins in December after a majority of citizens voted against same-sex marriage in a referendum. Minister of Home Affairs Walton Brown said the new law strikes "a fair balance" between widespread views on the socially conservative island with European court rulings ensuring protections for same-sex couples. Critics said it marked an unprecedented curbing of civil rights.

The Associated Press

10. Curling kicks off Winter Olympics ahead of opening ceremony

The Pyeongchang Winter Olympics kicked off Thursday morning with mixed doubles curling, even though the official opening ceremony was still a day away. The first event was making its Olympic debut, and it featured a pair of American siblings and a husband-and-wife team from Russia, who are among the 168 Russians competing in neutral uniforms as part of their nation's punishment for doping at the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi. Meanwhile, Vice President Mike Pence arrived for the opening ceremony on the same day as North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's sister, contributing to a "protocol headache" for the South Korean hosts arranging seating. South Korea has reached out to the North in what it is billing as a "peace Olympics."

The Associated Press The Guardian

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