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Congressional Hits and Misses: Week of Jan. 26, 2015

Lawmakers spent the week calling one another by the wrong name, professing their love for Gouda and discussing their Valentine's Day plans.

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McCain to Protesters: 'Get Out of Here You Low Life Scum'

Senate Armed Services Chairman John McCain lashed out Thursday at Code Pink protesters who were calling for former National Security Advisor and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger to be arrested for war crimes. McCain, a Vietnam War veteran, called the demonstration "outrageous" before directly telling a protester: "Get out of here you low-life scum.

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WH Draws Distinction Between Taliban, al-Qaida

One day after White House Deputy Press Secretary Eric Schultz said the Taliban was not a terrorist group, but rather an "armed insurgency," Press Secretary Josh Earnest found himself clarifying that position to ABC News Chief White House Correspondent Jon Karl at the daily White House news conference Thursday. Earnest said while the Taliban does carry out tactics "akin to terrorism," there is a difference between al-Qaida and the Taliban. "The Taliban has resorted to terror tactics, but those terror tactics have principally been focused on Afghanistan," Earnest said. "Al-Qaida is a terrorist organization that has aspirations that extend beyond just the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Al-Qaida and their affiliates around the globe have sought to carry out terror attacks against Americans and American interests all around the globe.

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What You Missed: Loretta Lynch's Confirmation Hearing

Torture, marijuana and President Barack Obama's executive orders on immigration were among the range of topics covered during Wednesday's Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the nomination of Loretta Lynch to be attorney general. Roll Call wraps up key moments from the nearly eight-hour hearing into four minutes.

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Jim McGovern Joins Sips & Suppers Trio at Rayburn Reception

Massachusetts Democrat and House Hunger Caucus Chairman Jim McGovern welcomes "Sips & Suppers" co-founders Alice Waters, Joan Nathan and Jos Andrs to the halls of Congress, following their whirlwind weekend of raising money for local food charities D.C. Central Kitchen and Martha's Table.

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Murkowski: WH Proposed Wilderness Regulations 'Unacceptable'

Sen. Lisa Murkowski on Tuesday again slammed an Interior Department proposal to block areas in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from future oil and gas exploration, a plan Murkowski called "unacceptable" and said violated the 1980 Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA). "What this administration is doing is moving forward into essentially de facto wilderness," Murkowski said. "What the president is doing is not unlike what we are seeing with the selective interpretation of the Affordable Care Act or immigration, where he is unilaterally acting. He is ignoring the law from 1980, ANILCA."

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McConnell: DHS Spending Bill Up Next in Senate

The Senate will turn to a potentially bruising battle over immigration, once it dispatches with its debate over the Keystone XL pipeline. But Senate Republicans are spelling out little about their plans for handling the contentious Department of Homeland Security spending bill with only a month to go before its funding expires. All I can tell you right now is were going to the DHS bill after we finish Keystone. The procedure by which we deal with that will be determined later, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said.

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Protestors Disrupt Senate Hearing on Trade Promotion Authority

Protesters disrupted a Senate Finance Committee hearing on President Barack Obama's trade policy Tuesday. Three protesters were arrested and others were escorted out of the hearing room by Capitol Police.

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Senate Dems Delay Push for Iran Sanctions

Make that one more veto threat President Barack Obama probably wont have to carry out: Senate Democrats are abandoning efforts to pass an Iran sanctions bill over its nuclear program while talks continue, at least until March 24. Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey announced during a Senate hearing Tuesday that he and other Senate Democrats would not support bringing the sanctions bill he co-sponsored to the floor until that date. It comes after Menendez, in particular, has been harshly critical of the White House and the president over the handling of the Iran talks, and amid a brouhaha over the decision by Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, to snub the president and invite Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak to the Congress without prior notification to the White House.

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Congressional Hits and Misses: Week of Jan. 19, 2015

Members spent a short week in Congress learning about drones, women's health and the difference between one trillion and one thousand billion.

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The Art of John Boehner Clapping

During Tuesday's State of the Union address, it often wasn't about how many times Speaker John A. Boehner clapped so much as how he did it. HOH is here to document the many styles of the Boehner clap.

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Reid Opines on '#Deflategate'

Toward the end of his first media availability since his New Year's Day injury, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid weighed in on reports that 11 of the New England Patriots' 12 game balls were under-inflated, saying he didn't know why it was allowed to happen. "As far as how much weight's in a football, as far as I know, I can't believe the National Football League, with the billions of dollars they make, couldn't at least determine how much air should be in a football ... why it should be left up to the teams," Reid said.

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Harry Reid Reflects on Life of Wendell Ford

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid reflected on the life of the late former Sen. Wendell Ford, calling Ford a "fine man" during a news conference in Reid's Capitol office suite. "As a new senator I met with him, Reid said. He said I am from Kentucky, I drink Kentucky bourbon, and I smoke Kentucky cigarettes all the time He was a fine man, people in Kentucky love him, as they should.

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Harry Reid 'Intending to Run,' Expects Swift Recovery

The venue was different, and his face was bruised and bandaged, but Harry Reid was still Harry Reid. With an American and Nevada flag in the background, along with a bald eagle and a box of "Search Light" matches on the wall over his shoulder, Reid held court with reporters in a meeting room in his Capitol office suite for a news conference that could've taken place any Tuesday afternoon near the Senate's iconic Ohio Clock. Of course, many of the questions were about the minority leader's medical prognosis and any effect it might have on his decision about making a run for another six years in the Senate in 2016. The Nevada Democrat expects to be back to full-time work soon, and intends to run for re-election.

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Pelosi Accuses Boehner of 'Hubris'

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi dinged Speaker John A. Boehner Thursday for not consulting with Democrats or the White House on the decision to invite Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address Congress. "It's out of order in terms of the protocol," Pelosi said of the invite. Boehner apparently did not consult with the White House on the joint session, nor did he make Democratic leadership aware of the Netanyahu invite. Pelosi said her understanding was that the joint session which was originally slated for Feb. 11 but has since been moved to March 3 would take place within two weeks of the Israeli elections on March 17. "I don't think that's appropriate for any country," the California Democrat said.

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Pelosi on Abortions: Health of Mother 'Preeminent'

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi found herself defending abortion rights at her weekly news conference Thursday, one day after House Republicans pulled a bill banning abortions after 20 weeks, saying it is not up to politicians in Washington to decide an issue the Supreme Court has ruled on. "The life and the health of the mother is what is preeminent in when a decision is made about women's reproductive health," Pelosi said. "It isn't an ideological fight, it's a personal health issue. And as a mother of five in six years, I have great standing on this issue, great understanding of it, more than my colleagues."

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James Morhard Survived the Plane Crash that Killed Sen. Ted Stevens

Deputy Senate SAA James W. Morhard had a harrowing near-death experience in 2010, as a passenger on then-Sen. Ted Stevens plane. He narrowly survived a crash in the mountains of Alaska that killed the Republican senator, his former boss, and four others. McConnell and his wife, former Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, visited Morhard, a longtime Senate aide, in the hospital before when they arrived for Stevens funeral. As much as you know the outer persona, there is a warmness to this man that people dont see, Morhard said, recalling how the couple sat with him and held his hand. You never forget, he said. And, you know, I hope I can give back as Frank does, too to this place and also [to] the majority leader.

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Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Larkin on His 9/11 Heroics

On Sept. 11, 2001, Frank J. Larkin was a supervisor in the Secret Services New York Field Office, located in the World Trade Center. The Senate sergeant-at-arms was later awarded a Medal of Valor for his life-saving actions at Ground Zero. When the first tower collapsed, I was actually moving to the center square between the towers, Larkin told CQ Roll Call during a recent interview in his office on the first floor of the Capitol. I was leading a group of folks with the intention of getting some folks that had been injured out of that center plaza area. At the same time, we were dodging, unfortunately, folks who were jumping to their deaths, you know, witnessing that, which is something you just never forget. Larkin was initially reported missing, and suffered severe respiratory injuries, coughing up blood during the three months he spent leading recovery efforts before being transferred back to Washington.

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The 31 Times Republicans Applauded Obama During SOTU

Amid the myriad applause lines during Tuesday's State of the Union address, Republican lawmakers put two hands together to applaud President Barack Obama 31 times.

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Ted Cruz Slips Up in Unedited SOTU Response

In a video posted and later removed from Sen. Ted Cruzs YouTube channel, the Texas Republican slammed President Barack Obamas sixth State of the Union address, but not before hitting the reset button. The president tried to say his policies are lifting the middle class and yet today, median incomes have stagnated for over a decade, Cruz said before cutting himself off: Ah, let me start over.

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GOP Senators Outline Areas Ripe for Bipartisanship Ahead of SOTU

Senate Republicans pushed back on an Obama administration tax proposal while outlining areas ripe for bipartisanship at their weekly news conference Tuesday and ahead of President Barack Obama's sixth State of the Union address. "It's important to remember, it's not unusual to have divided government. We've had it a lot," Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said. "What I hope to hear from the president tonight is an emphasis on things that we can agree on, things that give us a chance to actually advance the agenda of the American people."

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Late Congressman's Wife Inherits a Nightmare

CQ Roll Call went with Beverly Young to St. Petersburg College to see what remained of the late congressman's archival memorabilia. Video by Warren Rojas.

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Congressional Hits and Misses: Week of Jan. 12, 2015

Even with party retreats last week, members still found time to recognize illegitimate children, debate NFL rules and bake cookies in the House chamber.

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Roll Call Presents: The 2015 State of the Union Promo

Join Roll Call at 8:45 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 20 for the 2015 State of the Union, streaming live at rollcall.com and featuring member interviews as well as analysis from Roll Call editors and reporters.

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Democrat Laments Abortion Bill Co-Sponsoring Debacle

Co-sponsoring a bill in Congress doesn't really mean all that much. But maybe it ought to mean a member has agreed to sign on, and will actually sign. At least, that's the argument Washington Democrat Adam Smith made on the House floor Wednesday. Smith took to the House podium to lambaste co-sponsorship practices after he was accidentally listed as a co-signer of GOP legislation, authored by Tennessee Republican Diane Black, that would prohibit certain funds to abortion clinics. Smith says he never consented to being listed as a co-sponsor and first found out about the mishap after a pro-life group started praising him. "I just rise about a particular issue that happened to me, and I'm sure has happened to other members that you might not be aware of," Smith said on the floor Wednesday. "Other members can sign you on to a piece of legislation without your consent."

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Boehner Quotes Obama 22 Times on Immigration Action

In a last-minute effort urging lawmakers to support a Homeland Security spending bill blocking President Barack Obama's immigration orders, Speaker John A. Boehner, in a rare floor speech, quoted 22 examples of Obama saying he did not have the authority to take action to change immigration laws during a seven-minute speech. "Today I rise, and the House rises, to support and defend our constitution," Boehner said. "We do not take this action lightly, but simply, there is no alternative. ... This executive overreach is an affront to the rule of law and to the constitution itself." Lawmakers voted 236-191 to pass the spending measure.

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McConnell Highlights Items Ripe for Compromise

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell opened his weekly news conference Tuesday touting agenda items ready for "bipartisan progress" following an earlier meeting with the White House, including Trade Promotion Authority, cybersecurity and an Authorization for Use of Military Force in the fight against the Islamic State.

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21 Guantánamo Protesters Arrested in the Capitol

Nearly two dozen protesters from "Witness Against Torture," a group dedicated to closing the detention facility at Guantnamo Bay, Cuba, were arrested in the Capitol Building Monday afternoon, after demonstrating in the Senate gallery and the Capitol Visitor Center. According to the U.S. Capitol Police, 21 protesters were arrested Monday: 11 in the Senate and 10 in the CVC. All of them were arrested for demonstrating in an area where it is unlawful to demonstrate. The protesters in the Senate gallery were arrested after causing a disturbance as Senate Minority Whip Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., was speaking on the floor. The protesters began yelling, "U.S. torture, it's official! Prosecute now!" during his speech, halting action on the floor for about a minute and a half. Freshman Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., was presiding at the time.

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Congressional Hits and Misses: Week of Jan. 5, 2015

Lawmakers kicked off 2015 lobbying for 7-Elevens, sparing grandmas from purgatory and taking their talents to South Beach.

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Boehner Not Ruling Out Gas Tax Increase

A renewed push by some Democrats for an increase in the federal gas tax to replenish the Highway Trust Fund drew a frosty reception Thursday from Speaker John A. Boehner though the Ohio Republican stopped short of ruling the idea out. Both Boehner and the top-ranking Democrat in the House, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, were asked Thursday about an increase in the 18.4 cent-per-gallon federal gas tax after the National Republican Campaign Committee sought to make a gas tax increase a political liability for Democrats. "Ive never voted to raise the gas tax. Funding the highway bill is critically important, it is a priority for this year. How we will fund it were going to have to work our way through it, Boehner said at his weekly news conference.

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Boehner Fires Back, Says He's Not 'Spineless'

Speaker John A. Boehner took to the press conference podium Thursday to set the record straight on a line of attack he seems to be hearing from conservatives: That he has no spine. "It does pain me to be described as 'spineless' or a 'squish,'" a somewhat-jocular Boehner said. "I tell you what pains me the most is when they describe me as 'the establishment,'" Boehner said. The Ohio Republican described himself as "the most anti-establishment speaker we've ever had," and he enumerated some of his credentials for the title.

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Pelosi Open to Increase in Gas Tax

Amid reports of Republicans being open to increasing the gas tax, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi was cautiously supportive of raising the tax to pay for transportation spending while pushing back against a "show-biz" proposal of lowering income taxes in exchange. At her weekly news conference Thursday, Pelosi said the decrease in gasoline prices is already a tax break for consumers. "I do think that if there's ever going to be an opportunity to raise the gas tax the time when gas prices are so low, oil prices are so low, is the time to do it," Pelosi said. The tax, which has not been raised since 1993, provides most of the funding for the Highway Trust Fund.

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Pelosi Reacts to Boxer Retirement Announcement

Sen. Barbara Boxer's announcement Thursday that she will not run for re-election in 2016 took fellow California Democrat and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi by surprise. Upon learning the news at her weekly news conference, Pelosi stood in silence, collected herself and praised Boxer as one of the most unselfish politicians I have ever known. She called me and said she wanted to talk to me personally, Pelosi said. I just thought she wanted to have dinner tonight.

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Barbara Boxer to Retire

California Sen. Barbara Boxer announced Thursday she will not run for re-election in 2016, opening up an attractive seat for ambitious fellow Democrats. Boxer made the announcement in a video posted to her campaign website, in which she conducted a mock interview with her grandson Zach. "I am never going to retire. The work is too important. But I will not be running for the Senate in 2016," she said.

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McConnell: Congress Will Fund Department of Homeland Security

While discussing how the Senate would combat President Barack Obama's immigration actions and the impact of Wednesday's terrorist attack in Paris, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said "at the end of the day" Congress would fund the Department of Homeland Security, which runs out of money on Feb. 28. The DHS, which was funded by a short-term continuing resolution in December, has become the focal point for congressional Republicans trying to halt Obama's executive orders on immigration issued in 2014.

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McConnell Doubles Down on Keystone, Says Obama Will Not Set Agenda

Senate GOP leadership reaffirmed its commitment to voting on a bill to build the Keystone XL pipeline during a weekly news conference Wednesday, adding that President Barack Obama's veto threat on Keystone legislation could give someone "whiplash." "It seems with every new day, we have a new veto threat from the president," Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said. "I think it's interesting to note, this is exactly the same bill that was before the Senate last month, when the then-majority was trying to save Sen. [Mary L.] Landrieu in a runoff, and I don't recall the president mentioning at that point he would veto the bill.

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Boehner Elected to Third Term as Speaker

In a dramatic vote in which Republican dissidents staged yet another unsuccessful coup attempt, John A. Boehner was elected to a third term as speaker of the House Tuesday. Boehner won re-election with 216 of the 408 votes cast, as 25 Republicans voted for someone else or voted present in an act of protest. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi received 164 Democratic votes, with four members of her party voting for someone other than the California Democrat. In his remarks to the full House after retaking the gavel, Boehner expressed hope for a new era of cooperation and productivity. They say nothing is going to be accomplished here, divisions are greater than ever. Skepticism of our government is healthy and in our time quite understandable. But one problem with saying, it cant be done, is that it already has been done, or at least started.

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Following Workout Injury, Reid Addresses 114th Congress

Following a workout accident last week, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid addressed the 114th Congress from his Washington, D.C., home on Tuesday, joking about his injury while saying Senate Democrats would "fulfill expectations" of fighting for the middle class. "As most people know, I fought for a couple of years. After any one of those fights, I never looked like I do now," Reid said. "However, I didn't get this black eye by spurring with Manny [Pacquiao], by challenging Floyd Mayweather, I didn't go bull riding, I wasn't riding a motorcycle I was exercising in my new home.

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Congressional Hits and Misses: Best of 2014

From food to Janet Jackson and from mic drops to outer space, Heard on the Hill presents the best gaffes, insults and soundbites from Capitol Hill you just had to see one more time.

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Lawmakers Offer Sobering Holiday Message

Thinking about hitting the road after knocking back a whole mess of eggnog? This Greek chorus of sitting politicos wont hear of it. This cacophony of concern is brought to you by the nearly three dozen lawmakers who cut anti-drunk driving spots for the Beer Institute this holiday season.

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Stalemate: How an Immigration Rewrite Died in the 113th Congress

The 113th Congress began with an overhaul of the nation's immigration laws seeming likely, if not inevitable. But despite an overwhelming bipartisan Senate vote to send a broad measure to the House, the issue died by the time Congress adjourned. Heres how it happened.

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Congressional Hits and Misses: Farewell to the 113th Congress

Before leaving for the holidays, lawmakers paid tribute to one another recalling "spawned" marriages while thanking their "awful" staff.

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December 16 Senate GOP Leadership Press Conference

Incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell discussed the remaining Senate schedule for the 113th Congress and the Keystone XL Pipeline at his weekly news conference Dec. 16.

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McConnell Puts Keystone First on 2015 Agenda

The incoming Senate majority leader is putting approval of the Keystone XL pipeline project first on his 2015 agenda, telling reporters Tuesday a bill sponsored by Republican John Hoeven of North Dakota would lead off the floor schedule. "We'll be starting next year with a job-creating bill that enjoys significant bipartisan support," McConnell said of the pipeline legislation. "It will be open for amendment. We'll hope that senators on both sides will offer energy-related amendments, but there will be no effort to try to ... micromanage the amendment process."

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Michele Bachmann Delivers Farewell Address

Rep. Michele Bachmann gave her farewell speech on the House floor on Dec. 9, repeatedly talking about the privilege of serving as the first female Republican elected from Minnesota, while thanking her supporters, staff and congressional employees for their service.

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Congressional Hits and Misses: Week of Dec. 8

With holiday jet fumes in the air, Congress spent its final full week of 2014 on "The Colbert Report," strategizing for bar fights and telling their favorite Dick Cheney quail hunting stories.

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Pot Protesters Create Traffic Jam for Congressman

The pro-pot group protesting Congress' intervention into local marijuana policy did not cause an uproar on Capitol grounds Wednesday night, but they did clash with a congressman. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II, riding with his chief of staff in a black sedan, encountered a few of the most antagonistic individuals on Maryland Avenue Northeast. About two dozen demonstrators, mostly associated with the DC Cannabis Campaign, were blocking traffic following a brief protest at The Heritage Foundation's nearby headquarters. When the Missouri Democrat's car pulled up to the intersection with D Street Northeast, a few protesters refused to let him pass. Cleaver leaned out the passenger side window and yelled that he had "somewhere" to be, but one man waving a 'Legalize' flag stood in front of the car.

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CIA Director: 'Unknowable' if Torture Program Led to Useful Intelligence

CIA Director John O. Brennan maintained his objections about a Senate Intelligence Committee report on the agency's post-9/11 interrogation program during a rare news conference Thursday, saying the use of enhanced techniques produced useful intelligence while adding it is impossible to know if that was because of those techniques. "The cause and effect relationship between the use of EITs and useful information subsequently provided by the detainees is in my view unknowable," Brennan said. Brennan also said he was troubled by the study's findings that the CIA for years misled the Congress, the White House and the public about the brutality of interrogation techniques, their effectiveness and how often they were used. "The study's contention that we repeatedly and intentionally misled the public and the rest of the U.S. government rests on the committee's view that detainees subjected to EITs did not produce useful intelligence, a point on which we still fundamentally disagree."

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Pelosi: Members 'Blackmailed' on 'Cromnibus'

In a scathing floor speech on the House floor, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., defied the White House's call to pass the "cromnibus," saying she was "enormously disappointed" with the administration's call to vote for the bill. "I was so really heartbroken ... to see the taint that was placed on this valuable appropriations bill from on high," Pelosi said about the spending bill riders related to Wall Street regulation and political donation limits. "So here we are in the House, being blackmailed to vote for an appropriations bill ... this is a ransom, this is blackmail. You don't get a bill unless Wall Street gets its taxpayer coverage."

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Nail-Biting Vote Moves 'Cromnibus' Closer to House Passage

The product of hours and hours of hard-fought negotiations could be lost Thursday if House Democrats decide, just hours before the government is to due to shut down, to band together and rebuff a trillion-dollar federal spending bill over two so-called "poison pill" policy riders. Every Democrat voted with 16 Republicans against the rule to advance the "cromnibus," with the GOP lawmakers voicing discontent over the lack of explicit language in the legislation to prohibit President Barack Obama from carrying out his executive orders on immigration. At a certain point, the votes were tied. At the very end, Republican leaders pressured two members to vote "yes," bringing the final tally to 214-212.

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