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Friday, Apr 25th

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The fabulous life of your US legislator

us legislatorsMatch your U.S. lawmaker with the corresponding charges on his or her fundraising expense account, and one can get a textured glimpse of exactly what it takes these days to charm donors.

For example, which congressman spent $91,000 in 2013 for a getaway at Dorado Beach Club, a luxury resort in Puerto Rico known for its championship golf courses and plantation-style residences?

That would be Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, the No. 2 Democrat in the House, who has lamented the widening income gap that separates rich and poor and has been a forceful advocate for a minimum wage hike.

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Republicans block Senate bill to boost veterans' benefits

Senate GOPA divided Senate on Thursday derailed Democratic legislation that would have provided $21 billion for medical, education, and job-training benefits for the nation's veterans. The bill fell victim to election-year disputes over spending and fresh penalties against Iran.

Each party covets the allegiance of the country's 22 million veterans and their families, and each party blamed the other for turning the effort into a chess match aimed at forcing politically embarrassing votes.

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House Passes Bill To Ease Freedom Of Information Act Requests

House of representativesThe House on Tuesday afternoon easily passed legislation to make it easier for people to ask for — and actually receive — information from the government about the government's activities.

Members passed H.R. 1211, the FOIA Oversight and Implementation Act, in an easy 410-0 vote. The bipartisan bill was sponsored by House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and ranking member Elijah Cummings (D-Md.).

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Senate GOP again opposes UN treaty protecting persons with disabilities

Persons with Disabilities ConventionAny suspicion that the political right, after suffering a defeat on the debt ceiling and facing threats from business donors, is losing its clout can be dismissed by the fight over the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

The treaty has been ratified by 141 countries. It is backed by the White House, former President George H.W. Bush, the major U.S. disability and veterans advocacy groups, and American businesses.

Senate Republicans, however, already defeated the treaty in 2012, and it now faces an uphill slog to get the two-thirds vote needed for ratification. Right-wing critics, led by former Senator Rick Santorum, the Heritage Foundation and home-schoolers, charge that adopting it would allow global enforcers to dictate the treatment of Americans with disabilities or the permissibility of home schooling, and ease access to abortion.

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House approves 'clean' debt ceiling extension

US House of Rep.House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, bowed to political reality on Tuesday and allowed a vote on a debt ceiling increase with no conditions attached despite strong resistance from the GOP rank and file and outside conservative forces.

The 'clean' debt measure suspends the nation's borrowing limit through March 15, 2015, and relied heavily on Democratic support to get it passed. The bill was approved, 221-201, with 193 Democrats and 28 Republicans voting to pass it.

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Jobless Benefits Fall One Vote Short After GOP Filibuster

unemploment bill filibusterRepublican senators on Thursday blocked a three-month revival of long-term unemployment compensation for 1.7 million Americans out of work.

Democrats fell just one vote short of the 60 needed to break a filibuster. Four Republicans voted with Democrats -- Sen. Dean Heller (NV), Kelly Ayotte (NH), Lisa Murkowski (AK) and Susan Collins (ME). Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) changed his vote at the last minute to preserve the option of bringing up the bill in the future. The final vote was 58-40.

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Congress approves five-year farm bill

CongressThe long-tortured farm bill cleared Congress Tuesday, ending a two year struggle that split the old farm-food coalition as never before and dramatized the growing isolation of agriculture and rural America in an ever more urban House.

Written off as dead just months ago, the giant five-year measure won final approval from the Senate on a 68-32 roll call and goes next to President Barack Obama for his signature.

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