Politics

Hawaii lawmaker Beth Fukumoto, ousted last month as Republican leader of the state’s House of Representatives after publicly criticizing President Donald Trump, resigned on Wednesday from her party to seek membership as a Democrat. Fukumoto, 33, the youngest Hawaii legislator to serve as House minority leader, said divisive campaign rhetoric during the 2016 elections convinced her the Republican Party no longer reflected her political values or the interests of her state’s diverse population. “This election, I saw members of my party marginalizing and condemning minorities, ethnic or otherwise, and making demeaning comments towards women,” she said in an open letter of resignation to the Republican Party. Fukumoto, who is of mixed Japanese and Irish ancestry, said she found Trump’s comments about banning Muslim immigrants and the possibility of establishing a registry of Muslim-Americans to be especially troubling. “I wanted very badly to see the Republican Party denounce his comments, and that didn’t happen,” she told …

WASHINGTON Jay Clayton, the Wall Street attorney tapped by President Donald Trump to lead the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, will face questions on his vision for the agency at his confirmation hearing on Thursday before the Senate Banking Committee. A partner at Sullivan Cromwell who is not registered with any political party, Clayton has worked on high-profile initial public offerings like Alibaba Group Holding Inc and is widely expected to focus his efforts on ways the SEC can foster economic growth and help companies raise capital. Clayton will pledge to be tough on fraudsters in his opening statement to the committee, according to his prepared remarks. “Bad actors undermine the hard-earned confidence that is essential to the efficient operation of our capital markets,” he plans to say. The SEC enforces securities laws and regulates U.S. stock, options and bond markets. Clayton is expected to win confirmation easily. But he can expect sharp questioning from …

WASHINGTON U.S. President Donald Trump, who has sought to ban travelers from Iran and other Muslim-majority nations from entering the United States, issued a holiday greeting on Wednesday to Iranians celebrating the New Year holiday known as Nowruz. Trump, who has also criticized the nuclear deal between Iran and western powers negotiated during President Barack Obama’s administration, did not refer to the travel ban in his statement. “Nowruz means ‘new day’ in Persian. It is an occasion to celebrate new beginnings, a sentiment that is particularly meaningful for so many Iranians who have come to our country in recent decades to make a new start in a free land,” Trump said in a statement issued by the White House. Nowruz is Iran’s most important national event and is celebrated with family gatherings, vacations and gift-giving. “For many years, I have greatly enjoyed wonderful friendships with Iranian-Americans, one of the most successful immigrant groups in our …

WASHINGTON A U.S. Senate committee easily passed a bill on Wednesday to enable the nuclear regulator to license advanced nuclear reactors that backers say are safer than conventional plants and can help deal with a growing waste problem. The Nuclear Energy Innovation and Modernization Act requires the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to develop a regulatory framework to enable the licensing of advanced nuclear reactors that could come into development in 10 or 15 years. The bill passed 18-3 in the Environment and Public Works Committee. The committee’s chairman, Republican Senator James Inhofe, said the bill is “critical for the revitalization and improvement of our nation’s nuclear energy industry.” The bill has brought together some Republicans eager to prevent the United States from falling behind China and Russia in nuclear innovation and Democrats who want to foster technologies that do not emit gases blamed for climate change. But the legislation faces a cloudy future. The nuclear industry …

Bank lobbyists who opened the Trump era with great expectations for sweeping regulatory reform are privately striking an increasingly dismal tone as hopes for a quick and thorough rewrite of Dodd-Frank legislation dim. Lobbyists say they are facing the reality that bank deregulation legislation will have to wait in line behind other bigger priorities such as healthcare reform and taxes. “It’s so disheartening,” said one financial industry representative. “I was excited for this year, and I’m not anymore.” Even if Congress does look to rewrite the 2010 Dodd-Frank law, it is unlikely to muster enough votes in the Senate for the strong across-the-board overhaul industry leaders had hoped for, roughly a half dozen lobbyists told Reuters in recent interviews. Banks say that Dodd-Frank, which was conceived in response to the financial crisis, hobbles their growth. Among Dodd-Frank measures that banks want to see changed are the law’s ban on proprietary trading, heightened oversight for some …

GARNER, Iowa/MEXICO CITY Farmers in the U.S. agricultural heartland that helped elect Donald Trump are now pushing his administration to avoid a trade dispute with Mexico, fearing retaliatory tariffs that could hit over $3 billion in U.S. exports. The value of exports at risk is based on a Reuters analysis of a tariff list which Mexico used in a trucking dispute six years ago and which Mexican officials have said could serve as a model if President Trump sets new barriers to Mexican goods. Pork producers contacted Trump’s transition team soon after the Nov. 8 election to stress that tariff-free access to Mexico has made it their top export market by volume, said John Weber, president of the National Pork Producers Council. The council has sent the administration multiple letters, including one signed in January by 133 agricultural organizations, and is arranging for several hog farmers to fly to Washington next month to talk to …

WASHINGTON U.S. President Donald Trump will attend a summit of leaders of NATO nations on May 25 in Brussels, the White House said on Tuesday. Trump’s visit will give him an opportunity to press his case for why many NATO allies need to boost defense spending to help spread the cost of the security umbrella. Trump has made key European allies nervous with his demands that they increase defense spending and his talk of establishing an alliance with Russia to counter Islamic State militants. “The president looks forward to meeting with his NATO counterparts to reaffirm our strong commitment to NATO, and to discuss issues critical to the alliance, especially allied responsibility-sharing and NATO’s role in the fight against terrorism,” a White House statement said. Trump will welcome NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg to the White House on April 12 to discuss “how to strengthen the alliance to cope with challenges to national and international …

WASHINGTON/BRUSSELS U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson proposed new dates on Tuesday for a NATO meeting, the State Department said, after he initially decided to skip the talks and rebuffed the alliance’s efforts to reschedule them. Tillerson’s decision to miss his first meeting with NATO foreign ministers, set for April 5-6 in Brussels, unsettled European allies who worried it reopened questions about U.S. President Donald Trump’s commitment to the alliance. Reuters exclusively reported on Monday that Tillerson would stay in the United States to attend Trump’s expected April 6-7 talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Florida. U.S. officials also said Tillerson would visit Russia later in April. The alliance had offered to change the meeting dates so Tillerson could attend both it and the Xi talks but the U.S. State Department rebuffed the idea, a former U.S. official and a former NATO diplomat, both speaking on condition of anonymity, said on Monday. On Tuesday, …

The top Democrat on the U.S. Senate Banking Committee told bankers gathered in Washington on Tuesday that his party would not support drastic changes to the Dodd-Frank financial reform law. Sen. Sherrod Brown said he was eager to work on areas of bipartisan agreement, but made clear big changes to Dodd-Frank, created after the 2008 financial crisis, do not fit that bill. “What we will not do is a wholesale rollback of Dodd-Frank,” he said at an American Bankers Association conference. “That would be counterproductive… the law is working.” Brown argued that significant changes to the 2010 law, which Republicans are seeking, would actually be problematic for the banking industry, even as he expressed a willingness to revisit specific parts of financial rules. “Big changes create uncertainty, which is bad for everyone,” he said. Shortly after President Donald Trump was elected, his transition team said it would “dismantle” the Dodd-Frank legislation. As president, Trump has …

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