Congress wants a pay raise while the rest of the country struggles: They say if you pay them more they will do a better job


Important Takeaways:

  • Campaign opens for performance-based congressional pay and 70% raise
  • A campaign has started to raise the salaries of House and Senate members by 70% to $294,000 from the current $174,000 in return for better “performance.”
  • Federal analyst Steven Kopits, the president of Princeton Policy Advisors, argued that since most members are lawyers, salaries should at least be equal to what first-year associates in Manhattan receive, plus a 20% bump up.
  • “Most legislators are lawyers by trade, and we — or at least I — would hope that the public would prefer the best and the brightest to become members of Congress. First year law associates in New York are the best and brightest of their year, typically from Ivy League universities, and their salaries are tied to the market for premium legal services in the U.S. Therefore, if we believe we would like to recruit top-line legal professionals to serve in Congress, then first year associate salaries are a plausible comparable,” Kopits said in a memo.
  • “I would argue that a senator should make considerably more than a first year lawyer, perhaps twice as much, but the political equilibrium seems to fall considerably lower. Even so, a congressman should make at least 20% more than a first year lawyer, about the same ratio as in the 1980s. If we apply that metric, congressional salaries should be set at $294,000 for 2024, a 70% increase over the current pay level,” he said.
  • “It’s one thing to bad mouth your opponents when it’s costless. But when your bonus depends on using money wisely, well, people find a way to cooperate. If you’re a burn-it-to-the-ground MAGA Republican, the most revolutionary thing you could do is introduce a performance-based bonus. Democrats might have to go along with it. After all, they want a pay raise, too,” Kopits argued.

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Shocking: Feds asked financial institutions to flag Bible purchases and terms like MAGA, Trump, and Bass Pro

Important Takeaways:

  • Shocking report from Rep. Jim Jordan, chairman of the Judiciary Committee and the Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government, indicates that federal law enforcement agencies wanted financial institutions to identify potential extremists by flagging otherwise benign purchases and search terms affiliated with former President Donald Trump in the wake of the incident at the Capitol on January 6, 2021.
  • On Wednesday, Jordan sent an alarming letter to Noah Bishoff, the former director of the Treasury Department’s Office of Stakeholder Integration and Engagement in the Strategic Operations Division of the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, better known as FinCEN. According to the letter, Jordan’s committee and select subcommittee have collected documents which suggest that FinCEN was targeting law-abiding Americans “on the basis of protected political and religious expression.”
  • One FinCEN document referenced in the letter allegedly urged financial institutions to query “Zelle payment messages” for terms such as “TRUMP” and “MAGA.” Another FinCEN analysis mentioned in the letter apparently suggested that these same institutions could identify possible “Lone Actor/Homegrown Violent” extremists by examining customers’ transactions, looking for the purchase of “religious texts” — including the Bible, Jordan said — or “bus tickets, rental cars, or plane tickets, for travel areas with no apparent purpose.”
  • The letter also alleges that Key Bank created presentation slides about merchant category codes and keywords that financial institutions could use that might identify “potential active shooters” or other “dangerous International Terrorists / Domestic Terrorists / Homegrown Violent Extremists (‘Lone Wolves.’)” The MCCs Key Bank suggested supposedly included “3484: Small Arms” and “5091: Sporting and Recreational Goods and Supplies,” and the keywords supposedly included the names of notable national gun stores, such as “Cabela’s” and “Bass Pro Shops.”

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Congress requests new map showing where damaging earthquakes are most likely to occur


Important Takeaways:

  • Nearly 75% of the U.S. could experience damaging earthquake shaking, according to a recent U.S. Geological Survey-led team of more than 50 scientists and engineers.
  • This was one of several key findings from the latest USGS National Seismic Hazard Model (NSHM). The model was used to create a color-coded map that pinpoints where damaging earthquakes are most likely to occur based on insights from seismic studies, historical geologic data, and the latest data-collection technologies.
  • The congressionally requested NSHM update was created as an essential tool to help engineers and others mitigate how earthquakes affect the most vulnerable communities by showing likely earthquake locations and how much shaking they might produce. New tools and technology identified nearly 500 additional faults that could produce a damaging quake, showcasing the evolving landscape of earthquake research.
  • Key findings from the updated seismic hazard model include:
    • Risk to people: Nearly 75% of the U.S. could experience potentially damaging earthquakes and intense ground shaking, putting hundreds of millions of people at risk.
    • Widespread hazard: 37 U.S. states have experienced earthquakes exceeding magnitude 5 during the last 200 years, highlighting a long history of seismic activity across this country.
    • Structural implications: The updated model will inform the future of building and structural design, offering critical insights for architects, engineers, and policymakers on how structures are planned and constructed across the U.S.
    • Unified approach: This marks the first National Seismic Hazard Model to encompass all 50 states simultaneously, reflecting a massive collaborative effort with federal, state, and local partners.
    • Not a prediction: No one can predict earthquakes. However, by investigating faults and past quakes, scientists can better assess the likelihood of future earthquakes and how intense their shaking might be

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White House pressures Congress saying ‘out of money and nearly out of time’ to aid Ukraine


Important Takeaways:

  • White House warns it is ‘out of money and nearly out of time’ to aid Ukraine
  • The warning, issued on Monday in a letter to congressional leaders, laid out how the government had already gone through about $111bn appropriated for Ukraine military aid.
  • “I want to be clear: without congressional action, by the end of the year we will run out of resources to procure more weapons and equipment for Ukraine and to provide equipment from US military stocks,” Shalanda Young, director of the office of management and budget, wrote in the letter, parts of which were published by the Hill.
  • The latest plea for money comes after the White House asked Congress to act on a $100bn supplemental funding request in October, arguing that it “advances our national security and supports our allies and partners”.
  • The request identified border security, allies in the Indo-Pacific, Israel and Ukraine. About $61bn covered money for Ukraine, which included $30bn to restock defense department equipment sent to support the country after Russia invaded in February 2022.

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Biden suggests he has a path around Congress to get more aid to Ukraine


Important Takeaways:

  • Facing a likely roadblock from House Republicans on aid for Ukraine, President Joe Biden said Wednesday he’s planning to give a major speech on the issue and suggested there may be “another means” to provide support for Kyiv if Congress continues to balk.
  • “There is another means by which we may be able to find funding, but I’m not going to get into that right now,” he said.
  • Last week’s deal to keep the government open through mid-November excluded the $13 billion in supplemental aid that the Biden administration sought last month, raising questions about just how long the U.S. could continue to send money to Ukraine.

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White House, Congress to hammer out short-term funding measure to avoid Oct. 1 shutdown

US Capitol Building

Important Takeaways:

  • Current funding for most government programs expires on Sept. 30. If no action is taken before the next fiscal year begins on Oct. 1, large swaths of government functions would shut down.
  • The need for a stop-gap spending bill — one that might extend through late November or early December — has been a foregone conclusion for months
  • Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell on Wednesday told a business group in Kentucky: “I think we’re going to end up with a short-term congressional resolution, probably into December as we struggle to figure out exactly what the government’s spending level is going to be.”
  • Such a measure is expected to be attached to new emergency money to pay for natural disasters throughout the United States and to bolster Ukraine’s battle against Russia.

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Still no documents turned over to Congress from the FBI, but Director Wray has confirmed they exist

Ecclesiastes 5:8 If you see the extortion[a] of the poor, or the perversion[b] of justice and fairness in the government, [c] do not be astonished by the matter. For the high official is watched by a higher official, [d] and there are higher ones over them! [e]

Important Takeaways:

  • FBI Director Confirms Existence of Document Alleging Biden Engaged in Bribery: House GOP
  • The FBI has still failed to hand over the document to the Oversight Committee, prompting further threats of contempt of Congress charges
  • FBI Director Christopher Wray has confirmed the existence of a document alleging that President Joe Biden engaged in a criminal bribery scheme with a foreign national according to Republicans on the House Oversight and Accountability Committee.
  • In a Twitter post, the panel announced that Wray had told them the document was real and offered to let them review it, but has failed to produce the document for the Oversight Committee as a whole.
  • If true, the acknowledgment is the latest in an escalating showdown between House Oversight Chairman James Comer (R-Ky.) and Wray over the document.
  • In a May 3 letter, Comer and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) revealed that they received “highly credible unclassified whistleblower disclosures” that the FBI possessed an unclassified record that “describes an alleged criminal scheme involving then-Vice President Joe Biden and a foreign national relating to the exchange of money for policy decisions.”
  • Comer gave Wray a May 30 deadline to produce the document or face charges for contempt of Congress—a deadline Wray missed. The threat got a boost after it won the support of Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who agreed to hold Wray in contempt if the deadline wasn’t met.
  • On May 31, Wray met with Comer and others, when he allegedly revealed the truth of the document’s existence.
  • But he’s failed to turn it over to the panel, prompting Republicans to again warn that they’ll move forward with contempt charges.
  • “If the FBI fails to hand over the FD-1023 form as required by the subpoena, [Comer] will begin contempt of Congress proceedings,” the Oversight panel wrote on Twitter.

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$3 Billion accounting error means Defense Department can send more weapons without asking Congress

Revelations 6:3-4 “when he opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, “Come!” 4 And out came another horse, bright red. Its rider was permitted to take peace from the earth, so that people should slay one another, and he was given a great sword.

Important Takeaways:

  • The Pentagon has overestimated the value of the weapons it has sent to Ukraine by at least $3 billion
  • An accounting error that could be a boon for the war effort because it will allow the Defense Department to send more weapons now without asking Congress for more money
  • The acknowledgment Thursday comes at a time when Pentagon is under increased pressure by Congress to show accountability for the billions of dollars it has sent in weapons, ammunition and equipment to Ukraine and as some lawmakers question whether that level of support should continue.
  • To date the U.S. has provided Ukraine nearly $37 billion in military aid since Russia invaded in February 2022.
  • Members of Congress have repeatedly pressed Defense Department leaders on how closely the U.S. is tracking its aid to Ukraine to ensure that it is not subject to fraud or ending up in the wrong hands.

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U.S. Transportation Department says 3,700 employees furloughed

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Transportation Department said Friday that 3,700 employees had been temporarily furloughed after Congress failed to reauthorize surface transportation programs before a deadline that expired early Friday.

A department spokesperson said the agency is “taking every step we can to mitigate the impacts of this temporary lapse in authorization.” Safety critical employees are exempt from the furloughs. Aides said U.S. lawmakers are considering a 30-day surface transportation extension as negotiations continue over a pair of infrastructure and spending bills.

(Reporting by David Shepardson)

White House asks Congress for funding on Afghanistan and hurricanes

By Trevor Hunnicutt

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -President Joe Biden’s aides on Tuesday asked Congress for billions in new funds to deal with hurricanes and other natural disasters as well as the evacuation of tens of thousands of people from Afghanistan.

The White House said in a blog post at least $24 billion in new money will be needed for disasters, including Hurricane Ida, and $6.4 billion will be needed for the Afghan evacuation and refugee resettlement.

The request for Congress to pass a short-term funding bill known as a continuing resolution underscored the financial strain posed by two crises that have occupied Biden in recent days.

It also set up a coming showdown with Congress over whether it will fund the full set of Biden’s policy priorities or even ongoing government functions by raising what is known as the debt ceiling.

About 124,000 people were evacuated last month from Kabul in a U.S.-led airlift of U.S. and other foreign citizens as well as vulnerable Afghans as the Taliban took control of the country during the chaotic American withdrawal from Afghanistan.

The evacuation was one of the largest airlifts in history but thousands of at-risk Afghans and about 100 U.S. citizens have remained behind.

Meanwhile, Biden was traveling in flood-damaged New Jersey on Tuesday, one of several states suffering in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida. The president has sought to highlight the financial toll of stronger storms whipped up by climate change.

Biden’s acting director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), Shalanda Young, said in a blog post that some of the temporary funding would go to still-unmet needs from prior hurricanes and wildfires even as the government responds to Hurricane Ida.

She also said most of the funds directed toward the Afghan effort would be for sites to process refugees from the country recently overtaken by the Taliban as well as public health screenings and resettlement resources.

The funding measure would give lawmakers additional time to negotiate over Biden’s proposals to spend trillions on new social safety net programs, infrastructure and other priorities he wants to fund with tax hikes on corporations and wealthy individuals.

Biden in May proposed a $6 trillion budget plan for the fiscal year that starts on Oct. 1, reflecting a sharp increase including measures for climate resilience. Lawmakers are also tangling over separate, Biden-backed legislation that would spent $1 trillion on infrastructure and $3.5 trillion on social safety net spending.

Young said the short-term spending bill “will allow movement toward bipartisan agreement on smart, full-year appropriations bills that reinvest in core priorities, meet the needs of American families, businesses and communities, and lay a strong foundation for the future.”

Congressional debate is expected to heat up in the coming weeks over whether lawmakers will raise the debt ceiling, the government’s ability to borrow to pay for programs it has already authorized. The Treasury is due to run out of money sometime in October.

Biden’s Democratic Party controls the House of Representatives and Senate by only narrow margins, with the balance of power at stake in elections next year.

(Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt; Editing by Chris Reese and Alistair Bell)