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Negotiators try for U.S. border security funding deal Monday: Senator Leahy

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Negotiators try for U.S. border security funding deal Monday: Senator Leahy

FILE PHOTO: Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) makes an opening statement before Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt testifies before a Senate Appropriations Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Subcommittee hearing on the proposed budget estimates and justification for FY2019 for the Environmental Protection Agency, on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S. May 16, 2018. REUTERS/Al Drago/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. congressional negotiators were working into the night in hopes of striking a deal on funding border security programs through Sept. 30 and averting another round of federal agency shutdowns, Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy said on Monday.

Leahy and Republican Senator Richard Shelby spoke to reporters during a break in private meetings. “Senator Shelby and I … both agree that if we can wrap this up tonight, do it tonight, not go over to tomorrow” with negotiations.

“We’re talking about reaching an agreement on all of it,” Shelby said.

Reporting by Richard Cowan; Editing by Peter Cooney

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Cory Booker calls warnings about Green New Deal price tag a ‘lie’

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Cory Booker calls warnings about Green New Deal price tag a ‘lie’

Democratic presidential candidate Cory Booker, campaigning in New Hampshire on Monday, said it’s a “lie” for critics to say the Green New Deal is too expensive to implement.

GREEN NEW DEAL, ‘MEDICARE-FOR-ALL’ DRAW FRESH SCRUTINY FROM OTHER 2020 DEMS

“This is the lie that’s going on right now,” Booker told Fox News in Nashua, N.H., as he campaigned in the first-in-the-nation primary state.

The New Jersey senator was asked about the costs of the Green New Deal, which is supported by New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other progressives and aims to implement a range of big-government programs while pursuing a level of “net-zero greenhouse gas emissions” — essentially, a total economic transformation toward clean energy that, among other points, includes building upgrades across the country.

The Wall Street Journal recently reported it cost nearly $2,000 per apartment for the New York City Housing Authority to switch to LED lighting, which lasts longer and consumes less energy than incandescent bulbs. Asked about that report, Booker said it’s possible to “revive your economy, and create a bold green future,” citing his experience as mayor of Newark, N.J.

“We environmentally retrofitted our buildings. Saves taxpayers money, created jobs for our community and lowered our carbon footprint,” Booker said.

He added, “This lie that’s being put out – that somehow being green and responsible with the environment means you have to hurt the economy – a lie.”

WHAT IS THE GREEN NEW DEAL? A LOOK AT THE ECONOMIC AND CLIMATE CONCEPT PUSHED BY PROGRESSIVES

The Green New Deal is a sweeping proposal designed to tackle income inequality and climate change at the same time. It’s modeled after President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal package of public works programs and projects created to help the economy during the Great Depression — but in many ways goes much further.

The rollout itself was muddled by the release of Ocasio-Cortez documents that, among other things, promised economic security even for those “unwilling” to work.

The plan itself aims to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions from manufacturing and agriculture and dramatically expand energy sources to meet 100 percent of power demand through renewable sources. The proposal also calls for a job-guarantee program and universal health care, among other things.

Republican critics have vehemently pushed back against the proposal, pointing in part to the price tag – estimated to be about $7 trillion. Republicans have also decried the job guarantee idea, calling it a “deeply flawed policy” that would be detrimental to small businesses.

Fox News’ Kaitlyn Schallhorn contributed to this report.

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N.C. congressional contest marred by voter fraud scheme: official

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N.C. congressional contest marred by voter fraud scheme: official

RALEIGH, N.C. (Reuters) – An investigation into a disputed 2018 congressional election in North Carolina has uncovered a “coordinated, unlawful and substantially resourced absentee ballot scheme” to influence the vote’s outcome, a state election board official said on Monday.

FILE PHOTO: Mark Harris, Republican candidate from North Carolina’s 9th Congressional district speaks as U.S. President Donald Trump looks on during a campaign rally in Charlotte, North Carolina U.S., October 26, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo

The scheme involved collecting absentee ballots in contravention of state laws, and, in some cases, filling out those ballots in favor of Republicans.

Investigators found evidence that a political operative working for Republican candidate Mark Harris collected absentee ballots from voters in the state’s 9th congressional district, the executive director of the state’s election board, Kim Strach, said at the start of a hearing that could lead to a new vote.

The scheme affected 1,019 ballot requests in Bladen and Robeson counties during the 2018 election, Strach said.

Harris declared victory in November over Democratic rival Dan McCready after early vote tallies showed him with a 905-vote lead, out of 282,717 ballots cast.

But the U.S. House of Representatives seat has remained vacant as state officials have refused to certify Harris’ apparent victory after voters said the Harris campaign team had collected their incomplete absentee ballots.

Republican political operative Leslie McCrae Dowless conducted an absentee ballot operation from April 2017 up to the 2018 elections while working for Red Dome Consulting, a firm hired by the Harris campaign, Strach said.

Lisa Britt, who said she worked for Dowless, testified that she collected unsealed ballots and filled them out in favor of Republicans at Dowless’ home or office.

Britt said Dowless tried to prevent her from testifying at Monday’s hearing by asking her to invoke her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

Dowless paid workers $150 for every 50 absentee ballot requests they collected and another $125 for every 50 ballots collected, Strach said.

Investigators found Dowless tried to avoid detection by instructing those who worked for him to deliver ballots to the post office in small batches and to ensure the same color ink was used for forged witness signatures, Strach said.

State officials have named Dowless as a person of interest in their election fraud probe after voters in Bladen County said people working with Dowless came to their homes and collected ballots, which would violate state law.

Dowless and Harris both attended Monday’s hearing in Raleigh. Dowless’ lawyer, Cynthia Adams Singletary, has denied her client violated state or federal campaign laws, and Harris has said he was unaware of any wrongdoing.

Under state law, the five-member elections board could order a new vote if it finds sufficient evidence that fraud affected the outcome of the election. If it does not, it could certify Harris as the district’s congressional representative.

“We hope to have Dr. Harris certified so he can take his seat in the congressional district,” said David Freedman, a lawyer representing Harris.

Representatives for McCready did not respond to a request for comment.

If the Democrats pick up the seat, they would widen their 235-197 majority in the House after taking control of the chamber from President Donald Trump’s fellow Republicans in the Nov. 6 election.

Reporting by Marti Maguire; Additional reporting by Gabriella Borter in New York; Editing by Colleen Jenkins, Tom Brown and Bernadette Baum

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‘Heartbeat’ bills gaining momentum in several states, including Kentucky and Mississippi

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'Heartbeat' bills gaining momentum in several states, including Kentucky and Mississippi

Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant has vowed to sign a “heartbeat” abortion bill that was passed by state legislators last Wednesday. Kentucky passed a similar bill a day later. And Texas state lawmakers are also pushing to advance a similar bill in the coming weeks or months.

As both sides of the abortion debate are preparing for the possibility — however remote — of Roe v. Wade being overturned, at least 10 states are currently considering or have passed “heartbeat bills,” which prohibit an abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected, which can be as early as six weeks of gestation or as late as 12 weeks.

While it’s unclear whether the bills will withstand court challenges — similar proposals have been struck down by judges because of Roe v. Wade — lawmakers are pursuing them in case the 1973 Supreme Court ruling is reversed.

In Mississippi, Bryant trumpeted state lawmakers for passing a bill he hopes will be mirrored across the country.

ABORTION SURVIVORS ON NEW LATE-TERM ABORTION BILLS: ‘WHERE WERE MY RIGHTS IN THE WOMB?’

“I’ve often said I want Mississippi to be the safest place for an unborn child in America,” Bryant wrote on Twitter. “We will stand for life here in the Magnolia State and hope the rest of the nation follows.”

Florida, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississipi, Missouri, Ohio, South Carolina and West Virginia are among the states that have either passed “heartbeat” legislation or are hoping to do so. This comes as states like New York, New Mexico, Maryland, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Virginia, among other Democratic-leaning states, are supporting bills that allow abortion up to the moment of birth.

The bills on both sides of the issue have become politically, and emotionally, charged.

In Kentucky, a pregnant woman, April Lanham, sat as a witness in support of the bill while the audience listened to her preborn child’s heartbeat via an electronic monitor.

April Lanham, center, undergoes a procedure in Frankfort, Ky., that allows the audience at a Kentucky legislative meeting to hear her unborn son's heartbeat, Thursday, Feb. 14, 2019 in Frankfort, Ky. Her appearance came shortly before a Kentucky Senate committee advanced a bill that would ban most abortions in the state once a fetal heartbeat is detected. (Tom Latek/Kentucky Today via AP)

April Lanham, center, undergoes a procedure in Frankfort, Ky., that allows the audience at a Kentucky legislative meeting to hear her unborn son’s heartbeat, Thursday, Feb. 14, 2019 in Frankfort, Ky. Her appearance came shortly before a Kentucky Senate committee advanced a bill that would ban most abortions in the state once a fetal heartbeat is detected. (Tom Latek/Kentucky Today via AP)

“That child in her womb is a living human being,” State Sen. Matt Castlen, a sponsor of the bill, said. “And all living human beings have a right to life.”

WOMEN’S RIGHTS GROUPS SUPPORT LATE-TERM ABORTION, DESPITE OUTCRY

But critics say the bills will not hold up in court. In Arkansas, Iowa, and North Dakota, federal judges found similar bills “unconstitutional.”

In Mississippi, while the “heartbeat” bill was being debated, Democratic State Sen. Derrick Simmons asked if it was worth the money to fight this bill in court, referencing the state spending $1.2 million over a 15-week abortion ban that a district judge found unconstitutional. His Republican colleague, State Sen. Michael Watson, responded: “What is a life worth?”

DEM CO-SPONSOR OF LATE-TERM ABORTION BILL APOLOGIZES, SAYS SHE DID NOT READ THE TEXT

Ohio was the first state to introduce the so-called “heartbeat bill” in 2011, and after being revived last year was vetoed by then-Gov. John Kasich late in December. The current governor, Mike DeWine, has vowed to sign the legislation that is expected to pass in March. He said he believes it will be ultimately be decided by the Supreme Court.

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The heartbeat bills prohibit abortion as early as six weeks. Roe v. Wade’s ruling allows abortions until 24 weeks, which the justices said is the “point of viability,” when the fetus can survive outside of the womb.

OB/GYN: ‘ABSOLUTELY NO REASON TO KILL A BABY’ IN 3RD TRIMESTER

Florida’s version redefines a fetus as an “unborn human being,” would make it a third-degree felony to perform an abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected. Gov. Ron DeSantis has vowed he will sign the legislation if it passes this spring.

Anti-abortion advocates believe they have a better chance at the Supreme Court following President Trump’s appointment of Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.

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