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Friday, Feb 12th

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Congress approves bill to boost nation's infrastructure

America's infrastructureCongress has approved a 5-year, $305 billion bill to address the nation's aging and congested transportation systems, loading down the measure with industry favors, parochial projects, safety improvements and union demands, to win overwhelming bipartisan support.

The bill was approved on a 359-65 vote in the House, and an 83-16 vote in the Senate. The bill that was passed on Thursday now goes to the White House for President Barack Obama's signature.

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Senate passes budget repealing Obamacare, Planned Parenthood funding

McConnellThe Senate narrowly passed a budget bill to repeal core provisions of the Affordable Care Act and strip funding from Planned Parenthood for one year, approving legislation that is sure to be vetoed.

The legislation passed 52 to 47 and needs to be approved by the House before being sent to the White House, where President Obama has already vowed to veto it. Republicans hailed the bill as a political message and a fulfillment of promises to force Obama to veto his landmark healthcare reform law.

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Obama signs defense bill despite Guantanamo provisions

Obama signs defense billPresident Barack Obama on Wednesday signed a $607 billion defense policy bill, despite his opposition to restrictions in the legislation that ban him from moving Guantanamo Bay detainees to the United States — a campaign promise that remains unfulfilled.

Obama has opposed provisions preventing detainee transfers since Congress first attached the measures to spending bills in an attempt block his plans. The dispute has taken on added intensity this year, because the White House has launched a final push to close to the prison before Obama leaves office.

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Ex-staffer sues Gowdy and Benghazi panel

Gowdy and Benghazi panel suedThe ex-GOP House Benghazi investigator who accused the panel of conducting a partisan witch-hunt against Hillary Clinton filed suit Monday against the committee and Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) for wrongful termination and defamation.

Air Force Reserve Maj. Brad Podliska in his court filing alleged he was fired from his post in June because he took leave for active duty. He also says he was singled out because he refused to focus his investigative work on Clinton and the State Department.

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Ex-Benghazi investigator alleges Rep. Gowdy violated federal law

gowdt broke lawsThe legal battle between the House Benghazi Committee and its former investigator, Todd Podliska, escalated Monday afternoon, when Podliska’s lawyers alleged that Chairman Trey Gowdy violated government confidentiality rules and federal law in responding to allegations made by Podliska.

“Both Representative Gowdy and the committee have clearly violated terms of the confidentiality agreement and the Congressional Accountability Act,” said Peter Romer-Friedman, one of Podliska’s attorneys, to MSNBC on Monday afternoon.

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Evidence comes under attack: How Congress is quietly killing one of the best ideas in government.

Evidence under attack“Every man has a right to his own opinion,” investor Bernard Baruch said in 1950, “but no man has a right to be wrong in his facts.”

Politicians are, of course, sometimes wrong on the facts, but the federal government is actually making significant progress to bring hard evidence into the policymaking process. It might sound obvious, but it’s actually one of the most promising ideas in governance: “evidence-based policymaking,” the use of credible research to drive public policy, and independent evaluation to decide which government programs work, and which don’t.

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Obama signs Boulder-White Clouds Wilderness bill

Boulder wilderness billLess than three days after the U.S. Senate unanimously passed a bill approving the Boulder-White Cloud Mountains area for wilderness designation, President Barack Obama has signed the bill into law, ending a 40-year effort.

Obama signed the Senate's approval of H.R. 1138, the “Sawtooth National Recreation Area and Jerry Peak Wilderness Additions Act,” which designates three new wilderness areas (encompassing about 275,665 acres) in Idaho as components of the National Wilderness Preservation System; releases four wilderness study areas so that the land would be managed for multiple-use activities; and provides for several land conveyances in Idaho.

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