Politics

WASHINGTON U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Wednesday said he has yet to hit upon a formula for repealing Obamacare and replacing it with a new healthcare program, but he expressed some optimism on another top priority, overhauling the tax code. In an exclusive interview with Reuters, McConnell said healthcare and taxes still top the Republican legislative agenda, and he added he will not be reaching out to the minority Democrats on either one because differences between the two parties are too stark. That approach will leave McConnell, a conservative 75-year-old Kentuckian with a reputation as a dealmaker, a narrow path to win passage of these ambitious goals, which are also at the head of Republican President Donald Trump’s policy agenda. Referring to behind-the-scenes work among Senate Republicans on a healthcare bill, McConnell said, “I don’t know how we get to 50 (votes) at the moment. But that’s the goal.” Under a scenario of …

VATICAN CITY Pope Francis urged U.S. President Donald Trump to be a peacemaker at their highly anticipated first meeting on Wednesday, and Trump promised he would not forget the pontiff’s message. Under clear blue skies, Trump, who exchanged sharp words with the pope during the U.S. election campaign last year, received a tribute from the Swiss Guard in a Vatican courtyard when he arrived. He entered a small elevator taking him to the third floor of the Apostolic Palace and, after a long ceremonial walk past frescoed corridors, shook the pope’s hand at the entrance to the private study, which the frugal pontiff uses only for official occasions. Before the door of the wood-lined elevator closed, a Vatican protocol official was heard quipping to the president that it was not “like Trump Tower in New York”. Francis smiled faintly as he greeted Trump outside the study and was not as outgoing as he sometimes is …

VATICAN CITY Pope Francis urged U.S. President Donald Trump to be a peacemaker at their highly anticipated first meeting on Wednesday, and Trump promised he would not forget the pontiff’s message. Under clear blue skies, Trump, who exchanged sharp words with the pope during the U.S. election campaign last year, received a tribute from the Swiss Guard in a Vatican courtyard when he arrived to meet the pope. Trump entered a small elevator taking him to the third floor of the Apostolic Palace and, after a long ceremonial walk past frescoed corridors, shook the pope’s hand at the entrance to the private study, which the frugal pope uses only for official occasions. Francis smiled faintly as he greeted Trump outside the study and was not as gregarious as he sometimes is with visiting heads of state. Trump, seeming subdued, said “it is a great honor.” Even when the two were sitting at the pope’s desk …

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AUSTIN, Texas The Texas House of Representatives gave preliminary approval on Tuesday to a new bill on showing identification when voting after a previous voter ID law was struck down by U.S. courts which said it discriminated against black and Hispanic people. The measure called Senate Bill 5 is intended to remedy flaws found by courts in the previous Republican-backed law. It allows people who cannot produce an authorized photo ID to show other documentation such as a utility bill or bank statement and sign an affidavit stating that they had a reasonable impediment in presenting an authorized ID. Critics contend the measure backed by the Republican-dominated lawmakers will still exclude ethnic minorities, who tend to support Democrats, and imposes harsh penalties of up to 10 years in prison for lying on the affidavit. Texas is the most-populous Republican controlled state. For more than 20 years, the party has won every statewide race for offices …

ROME U.S. President Donald Trump visits the Vatican on Wednesday for talks with one of his most high-profile critics, Pope Francis, after the two men exchanged sharp words during the presidential campaign last year. Trump’s meeting at the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace, his third stop on a nine-day foreign tour due to end on Saturday, is part of his world tour of religions after meeting leaders of Muslim nations in Saudi Arabia and visiting holy sites in Jerusalem. But while his talks in Saudi Arabia and Israel were mostly friendly, the meeting between the head of the Roman Catholic Church and the thrice-married, blunt-spoken Trump could be a little more confrontational. The pope last year said a man who thinks about building walls and not bridges is “not Christian,” a sharp reprimand for Trump’s vow to build a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico. Trump said it was “disgraceful” of the Argentine-born pope, who represents …

MEXICO CITY President Donald Trump on Tuesday proposed drastically slashing U.S. foreign aid spending in Mexico and Central America, which are struggling with drug violence, graft and poverty that prompts many from the troubled region to migrate north. Trump’s austere 2018 budget proposal, which seeks to trim $3.6 trillion from government spending over the next decade and is unlikely to get legislative approval in its current form, envisages steep cuts in most federal departments, but particularly the State Department. Ever since launching his presidential campaign in 2015, Trump has attacked Mexico, threatening to rip up the North American Free Trade Agreement, build a Mexico-funded southern border wall and ramp up deportations of those living without documents in the United States. Tuesday’s proposal foresees 2018 Mexican aid of $87.66 million, down more than 45 percent from the 2016 outlay. The proposed spending cuts comes as the United States leans on Mexico to do more to prop …

WASHINGTON President Donald Trump is asking Congress for $1.6 billion to begin building a wall along the border with Mexico, far short of the amount needed for a project sharply criticized by Democrats and even some conservative Republicans. An internal Department of Homeland Security (DHS) plan in February estimated the total cost for the wall at $21.6 billion, but the White House’s budget proposal for 2018, released in full on Tuesday, included a request for just $1.6 billion. Two Republican aides in Congress said the modest request is an acknowledgement from the White House that full funding is not realistic given opposition from Freedom Caucus conservatives in the House of Representatives as well as Democrats in the House and the Senate. Unless Trump is able to rally broader support and win more funding for construction in another fiscal year, his plans for a “big beautiful wall” that he promised during his election campaign last year …

The U.S. Labor Department will implement its fiduciary rule on June 9 with no further delays, U.S. Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta said on Tuesday. The department’s rule, which requires brokers offering retirement investment advice to act in the best interest of their customers, has been heavily criticized by Republicans and Wall Street amid concerns it may make investment advice too costly. The rule has faced a rocky time becoming effective, with President Trump last month delaying its enactment date, originally April 10, for 60 days. Trump has also ordered a review of the rule. Acosta, in an opinion piece for the Wall Street Journal, which was also shared with Reuters, said there was “no principled legal basis to change the June 9 date while we seek public input”. Calling the fiduciary rule a “controversial regulation”, Acosta said while courts have upheld the rule as consistent with Congress’ delegated authority, it may not align with Trump’s …

SAN FRANCISCO The U.S. Justice Department on Monday asked a federal judge to reconsider a ruling which blocked President Donald Trump’s attempt to cut off federal funding for so-called sanctuary cities, citing a new memo from the attorney general. U.S. District Judge William Orrick III in San Francisco last month said Trump’s order targeted broad categories of federal funding for sanctuary governments and that plaintiffs challenging the order were likely to succeed in proving it unconstitutional. The Republican president’s moves on immigration have galvanized legal advocacy groups, along with Democratic city and state governments, to oppose them in court. The administration suffered an earlier defeat when two federal judges suspended executive orders restricting travel from several Muslim-majority countries. The government has appealed those decisions. The new filing comes in the wake of a memo released on Monday in which Attorney General Jeff Sessions formally endorsed a narrower interpretation of Trump’s order, saying that the only …

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