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Congress Almost Passes a Bill

Washington – Half of the 113th of the United States passed a budget bill this week, a feat many thought impossible just a short time ago. The accomplishment has led many to hope the full Congress might pass an actual piece of legislation.

The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 was the result of an agreement reached between Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan, a Republican, and Senator Patty Murray, a Democrat from Washington. It funds the government for the next two years, thereby eliminating the threat of another government shutdown in the near future.

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Lindsey Graham to Block White House Nominees Until Obama Admits He Murdered Chris Stevens

Washington – South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham said Monday he would continue to block President Barack Obama’s appointments in the U.S. Senate, until the president admits that he murdered U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens himself.

“It is imperative that the president come clean about what happened the night of September 11, 2012,” Graham said Monday. “Namely, that he murdered J. Christopher Stevens, and possibly three other Americans, with his bare hands, in Benghazi, Lybia.”

Stevens, the U.S. Ambassador to Lybia, was murdered in an attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, and the White House has since faced continued criticism about its initial explanation of the events that unfolded that night, and about their awareness of a burgeoning threat beforehand.

Graham made his threat to filibuster the president’s nominees late last month, along with fellow Relublican senator John McCain of Arizona. Both men pointed to a recent “60 Minutes” report by a purported eyewitness to the attack as more evidence that questions needed to be answered by administration officials. However, that report has since been retracted and was the subject of an apology by “60 Minutes” host Lara Logan on Sunday night.

The backpedaling by “60 Minutes” and CBS did not dampen Graham’s fervor, however. “I’m going to continue with trying to get at the truth, CBS report or no CBS report,” Graham said. “This isn’t about a report on ‘60 Minutes.’ This is about the president murdering a U.S. ambassador, and him admitting to that and facing the consequences.”

The nominees who may face Graham’s filibuster include Jeh Johnson, nominated to head the Department of Homeland Security, and Janet Yellen, nominated to be the new Federal Reserve chair.

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Bill That Would Result in Death of Majority of Americans Falls Three Votes Short in Senate

Washington – The Senate today effectively killed the so-called “Breathing is a Privilege” bill, originally put forward by House Republicans and passed by the House of Representatives earlier this week. The bill was defeated in a 52-48 vote, with Democrat Ben Nelson of Nebraska bucking his party to vote in its favor.

The bill would have disallowed every American except the top two percent of earners from seeking access to oxygen. National Guard troops would have been tasked with seizing all available oxygen from around the country and storing it in locked, sealed containers. Armed guards would stand watch at each supply center.

Any American declared ineligible, and not in possession of an Oxygen Access card, would have been denied oxygen, beginning on February 8, 2012.

Experts said that if the bill had managed to pass, the country’s borders would have needed to be sealed off, so that a mass exodus did not occur once people realized they would run out of oxygen, and attempted to go elsewhere to get some.

President Obama faced criticism in the run-up to the Senate vote for not saying conclusively whether or not he would veto the bill, were it to come across his desk. He is no longer faced with such a dilemma.

In remarks on the Senate floor, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said, in supporting passage of the bill, “This bill is admittedly strong and unyielding, but it is necessary. No longer can we live in the welfare state of America, where anyone can receive oxygen, just because they wish to breathe. There have to be limits.”

But some Senate Democrats saw the bill differently. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he could not support the bill, though part of him agreed with its necessity.

“Although I see the logic behind this bill, and the thinking that went into its drafting,” Reid said, “I must draw the line at letting the majority of Americans die, due to lack of available oxygen. I urge my fellow Senators to vote no on this motion, if no other reason than most people in their constituencies will die if it passes.”

Following the vote, Reid admitted the vote was “closer than he would have liked,” but refused to discuss Sen. Nelson’s possible reasons for crossing the aisle. “I respect Senator Nelson very much, but of course, I’m very concerned with the current climate, yes,” Reid said. “Very concerned. Especially with things like the ‘Extermination of the Poverty-Stricken’ bill, which is coming up for a vote next month. I think that has a real shot at passage.”

Republicans, for their part, were celebrating.

“Look, three votes is awfully close, ” said Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC), a supporter of the bill. “And it’s one more than we thought we could count on. So, obviously we’re doing something right, and we have to keep doing it. We almost got this one through, and this kills almost everyone. So I’m optimistic about our chances in the future.”

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Olympia Snowe Leaving ‘Gang of Six’ to Pursue Solo Career

Washington – A publicist for Senator Olympia Snowe of Maine has confirmed that the senator is leaving the so-called ‘Gang of Six’ senators to pursue a career forming legislation outside the group.

“The time has come for Senator Snowe to move on,” Jeffrey Amle, the publicist, said. “She has nothing but the utmost respect for the rest of the ‘Gang,’ but there comes a point where you have to look at yourself and be honest with yourself, and when the senator did that, she realized that if she was going to grow, she needed to pursue opportunities on her own. If she didn’t honor that desire, she’d just wind up resenting herself and the group down the road anyway.”

Sen. Snowe had become the unquestioned breakout star of the bipartisan group of centrist and conservative senators on the Senate Finance Committee. She made headlines when she cast the only Republican vote in favor of a health care reform plan favored by Democrats, and she has emerged as one of the key players in the overall debate.

Senator Max Baucus, Democrat of Montana and a member of the Gang of Six, said he would miss Sen. Snowe, but he understood her decision.

“Look, we all kind of saw that she had reached that point where was bigger than the rest of the group,” Baucus said. “It’s time for her to spread her wings. I wish her the best.”

The remaining members of the Gang of Six are considering several options for changing their name, according to people familiar with the discussions. One option under consideration is the “Gang of Five.” Another is “Five Guys in the Middle,” since now the group consists solely of men.

Mr. Amle said Sen. Snowe will not be leaving the Finance Committee, and she will “certainly stay a senator.”

“Senator Snowe is more committed than ever to working on behalf of the people of Maine in the Senate Finance Committee, and in the Senate generally,” Mr. Amle said. “Nothing’s changed, except that now she’s Senator Olympia Snowe, instead of One of the Senators From That Group.”

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Insurance Industry Executives Negotiate Health Care Bill While Senate Is On Vacation

Washington – Executives from the health insurance industry are negotiating health care legislation in place of vacationing senators, specifically taking up the work of the Senate Finance Committee, according to people with knowledge of the ongoing meetings and members of the committee.