The chair of the Federal Trade Commission has defended her aggressive legal strategy toward the country’s biggest technology companies as she appeared before the House Judiciary Committee. House Republicans have charged that the agency has become overzealous and politicized under President Joe Biden. Agency head Lina Khan appeared before the Judiciary Committee Thursday for the first time amid her court battles with the companies. Republicans said she is “harassing” Twitter since its acquisition by Elon Musk, arbitrarily suing large tech companies and declining to recuse herself from certain cases. Khan pushed back, arguing that more regulation is necessary as the companies have grown and that tech conglomeration could hurt the economy and consumers.
The U.S. Marine Corps is without a confirmed leader for the first time in a century as Gen. David Berger stepped down as commandant and a Republican senator is blocking confirmation of his successor. Berger took over in July 2019, and must leave the job after four years. Gen. Eric Smith, the assistant commandant, has been nominated to be the next leader, but will serve in an acting capacity because he hasn’t been confirmed. Sen. Tommy Tuberville of Alabama has stalled all senior military nominations because he disagrees with Pentagon policy that funds travel for service members to go out of state for an abortion or other reproductive care.
The Pentagon is announcing its plans for tightening protections of classified information following the explosive leaks of hundreds of intelligence documents that were accessed through security gaps at a Massachusetts Air National Guard base. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has directed that all secure rooms where classified information is stored and accessed get increased levels of physical security, additional controls to ensure documents aren’t improperly removed, and electronic device detection systems. The security upgrades come as a lone airman, Jack Texeira, is accused of leaking highly classified military documents in a chatroom on Discord, a social media platform that started as a hangout for gamers.
A judge on Tuesday prohibited several federal agencies and officials of the Biden administration from working with social media companies about “protected speech,” a decision called “a blow to censorship” by one of the Republican officials whose lawsuit prompted the ruling.
An Army combat veteran with extensive cybersecurity and counterterrorism experience is taking over as one of the nation’s top election security officials. Jen Easterly, the director of the U.S. Cybersecurity Infrastructure Security Agency, made the announcement Friday. In the position, Cait Conley will coordinate with federal, state and local officials responsible for ensuring elections are secure ahead of the 2024 election. Conley takes over duties from Kim Wyman, who will depart at the end of July. Wyman joined the agency after the 2020 election in which CISA leadership was blasted by former President Donald Trump for countering false claims about the vote.
Former U.S. Senator and Connecticut governor Lowell P. Weicker Jr., has died following a short illness. He was 92. Weicker's death was announced Wednesday by his family. Weicker was a freshman Republican senator when he gained national prominence for his tough questioning of Nixon administration officials during the Watergate hearings in 1973. In his single term as governor, elected as an independent candidate, Weicker restructured Connecticut’s revenue system, shepherding in a new income tax despite strong and vocal opposition from many taxpayers.
More than $200 billion may have been stolen from two large COVID-19 relief initiatives. That's according to new estimates from a federal watchdog investigating federally funded programs designed to help small businesses survive the worst public health crisis in more than a hundred years. The numbers issued Tuesday by the U.S. Small Business Administration inspector general are much greater than previous projections issued by the office. They underscore how vulnerable the Paycheck Protection and COVID-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loan programs were to fraudsters, particularly during the early stages of the pandemic. The Small Business Administration disputed the new figures, saying the report “contains serious flaws that significantly overestimate fraud.”
New York's former lieutenant governor and longtime civic leader Richard Ravitch has died at the age of 89. Ravitch was best known for steering New York through the fiscal crisis of the 1970s and helping to stabilize the MTA in the early 1980s. He remained an influential figure in New York politics after leaving the MTA in 1983, heading the Charter Revision Commissioner and rescuing the Bowery Savings Bank. He was appointed in 2009 to serve as lieutenant governor by David Paterson. Gov. Kathy Hochul described Ravitch as “a titan of New York’s civic world who left an indelible mark” on the state.
Officials say about 100 letters containing suspicious white powder have been sent to lawmakers and other public officials across Kansas. The Kansas Bureau of Investigation on Sunday upped the initial tally from 30 letters to about 100. No injuries have been reported. A Facebook post from the agency says preliminary tests are negative for common dangerous toxins. In emails sent to legislators and obtained by The Topeka Capital-Journal, the director of Legislative Administrative Services said the Kansas Highway Patrol had informed his office of the letters, which contain a return address of either Kansas City or Topeka.
Days after the bipartisan deal on the debt limit became law, House Republicans proposed a slew of tax cuts, leading to charges of hypocrisy by Democrats in a squabble that shows clashing visions for the U.S. economy. GOP lawmakers are pushing deep tax cuts for companies and the affluent as the primary driver for sustaining economic growth. President Joe Biden and fellow Democrats seek more targeted tax cuts to achieve social goals such as reducing child poverty and shifting to renewable energy. The differences will come to the forefront in 2025, when the debt limit drama returns and tax cuts passed in 2017 are due to expire.
Speaker Kevin McCarthy is suddenly confronting a new threat to his power. Angry hard-right conservatives have brought the House chamber to a halt, reviving their displeasure over the debt ceiling deal struck with President Joe Biden. McCarthy brushed off the disruption as healthy political debate — not too different from the 15-vote spectacle it took in January for him to finally convince his colleagues to elect him as speaker. But it's a foreshadowing of the next budget fight as Congress tries to fund the government at the levels agreed to, or risk a federal shutdown in fall.
Republicans who control the U.S. House of Representatives are making a pitch to overhaul how elections are run in the District of Columbia. They are employing a conservative playbook to tighten voting rules that has been used in Georgia, Texas and other GOP-controlled states. Democrats characterized the effort as an abuse of the authority Congress has over the District and a first step in imposing voting restrictions and stripping voter protections nationwide if Republicans regain full political power in Washington during next year’s elections. The D.C. attorney general says there has been no evidence of widespread election irregularities or voter fraud in the district.
A U.S. Supreme Court decision a decade ago that tossed out the heart of the Voting Rights Act continues to reverberate across the country. Republican-led states continue to pass voting restrictions that, in several cases, would have been subject to federal review had the court left the provision intact. The conservative-leaning court has continued to take other cases challenging elements of the landmark 1965 law. The justices are expected to rule in the coming weeks in a case out of Alabama that could make it much more difficult for minority groups to sue over gerrymandered political maps that dilute their representation.
Fending off a U.S. default, the Senate has given final approval to a debt ceiling and budget cuts package. It's now on its way to President Joe Biden’s desk to become law before a fast-approaching deadline.