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House Democrats averted shutdown amid GOP's 'brinkmanship,' Biden's budget director says

ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- It was Democrats in the House who helped avert a partial government shutdown this weekend, in the final hours before funding ran out amid "brinkmanship" and "theater" by hard-line conservatives, President Joe Biden's budget director argued on Sunday.

"I will tell you, if I'm sick of it, I can only imagine what the American people are feeling," White House Office of Management and Budget Director Shalanda Young told ABC "This Week" co-anchor Jonathan Karl. "Why go down this road, take us so close?"

After increasingly urgent deliberations in the House, Republicans on Saturday introduced a stopgap funding bill that will fund the government until Nov. 17, a near "clean" continuing resolution that did not include the priorities of some in the party, such as border security measures and broader cuts.

The measure only passed on Saturday in the House with Democratic support, as 90 Republicans voted against it and 126 of them voted for it.

"Let me tell you, there were over 200 Democrats who saved us from shutdown. Go look at the votes," Young said on "This Week."

The temporary funding bill was then quickly approved by a bipartisan majority in the Senate and signed by President Joe Biden late Saturday night -- an hour before the midnight deadline.

Young on Sunday urged lawmakers to resume work on longer-term funding legislation.

"We need to start today to make sure that we do not have this brinkmanship, last-minute anxiousness of the American people," she said. "Let's do our jobs to not have this happen again. Let's have full-year funding bills at the end of this 47 days."

Karl asked Young if Speaker Kevin McCarthy -- now threatened with a motion to remove him by one vocal GOP critic -- deserved credit for putting the bipartisan bill to a vote on the floor, despite threats to his job.

"That's the job of speaker," Young said. "Put the American people before anything else, keep your end of the bargain, keep your end of the deal."

"I appreciate the speaker for keeping it, but, boy, vote after vote after vote, 30% cuts," Young said, referring to some previous Republican-led attempts at funding legislation. "When none of that worked, finally, finally, putting a bill on the floor that serves the American people and kept his end of the bargain," she added.

However, a major priority of the president's -- that has bipartisan support -- was left out of the bill that eventually passed: billions in financial assistance for Ukraine in defending against Russia's invasion.

In a written statement on Saturday, Biden said he expected McCarthy "will keep his commitment to the people of Ukraine and secure passage of the support needed to help Ukraine at this critical moment."

Senate leaders Chuck Schumer and Mitch McConnell, along with key committee heads, said in their own joint statement on Saturday that their chamber intends to continue "to provide critical and sustained security and economic support for Ukraine."

A separate bill focused on Ukraine funding is expected to be taken up in the House.

Asked by Karl on Sunday whether more assistance could pass over strong opposition from some House Republicans, who believe the money could be better used on domestic priorities or not poured into an overseas conflict, Young said she is still "confident" it will.

"We've seen that the majority of Congress understands what's at stake in Ukraine," Young said. "Who are you for? Western democratic values or dictators like Vladimir Putin?"

Karl pressed Young on how confident she is that McCarthy will be able to shepherd through spending legislation, over the objections within his own conference, that satisfies an earlier deal with the Biden White House.

"Speaker McCarthy is one member. You saw a coalition, mostly Democrats, and Republicans, who say, 'Enough is enough.' That's what that vote was yesterday," Young said.

"We have to use that coalition of bipartisan members to start work now to make sure we aren't in this place again."

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Matt Gaetz says he is planning a vote to oust Speaker Kevin McCarthy over government funding bill

ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- In a dramatic move that could roil the House, hard-line Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz said Sunday that he plans a vote this week to try and remove Speaker Kevin McCarthy from his role as punishment for McCarthy backing a bipartisan stopgap funding bill to stave off a partial government shutdown.

In an interview with ABC "This Week" co-anchor Jonathan Karl, Gaetz, a longtime McCarthy critic, savaged the speaker's leadership and handling of the spending fights since conservatives retook the House this year.

"The one thing Democrats, Republicans, the White House, that we all have in common is that Kevin McCarthy, at one point or another, has lied to all of us," Gaetz said.

The stopgap legislation that was hastily passed on Saturday, with hours to go before the federal government ran out of money, did not include border security provisions or broader spending cuts that had been demanded by some in the GOP. McCarthy had previously supported such moves as well.

The measure funds the government through mid-November while Republicans continue to work on single-subject, longer-term spending bills.

All Democrats but one joined 126 Republicans in approving the temporary bill on Saturday; 90 Republicans voted against it.

"I tried every possible way listening to every single person in the conference," McCarthy told reporters Saturday after the vote. "I want to be part of a conservative group that wants to get things done," he added.

He also sought to play down the risk to his speakership, via a so-called motion to vacate.

Because Republicans hold only a five-seat majority, a small group of detractors could successfully remove McCarthy from his leadership role -- which would essentially halt all legislative business in the House until a replacement is picked.

"If somebody wants to make a motion against me, bring it," McCarthy said Saturday. "There has to be an adult in the room. I am going to govern with what's best for this country."

Gaetz, on "This Week" on Sunday, responded.

"Kevin McCarthy's going to get his wish," he said.

It remains unclear if Gaetz currently has more than a handful of votes for such a dramatic move. Once Gaetz introduces his motion to vacate, it must be voted on within two legislative days.

The motion has never successfully been used against a speaker before, though a few lawmakers have tried throughout history.

"I'll survive," McCarthy said on Sunday on CBS. "Let's get over with it. Let's start governing," he said.

Pressed by Karl on "This Week," Gaetz acknowledged he may not yet have the support to actually oust McCarthy. Still, he said that he might get enough votes before 15 rounds of ballots -- which is how long it took for McCarthy to win the gavel.

"If, at this time next week Kevin McCarthy is still speaker of the House, it will be because the Democrats bailed him out," Gaetz said, "and he can be their speaker, not mine. ... This is an exercise to show the American people who really governs you and how that governing occurs."

On CNN on Sunday, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a prominent Democratic lawmaker, said she would vote to remove McCarthy as he had "clearly lost control." Other Democrats have indicated they may merely vote "present" on a motion to vacate -- not weighing in while making it easier for McCarthy to win, because it would lower the number of total votes he needs.

Gaetz said on "This Week" that his motion being defeated wouldn't stop him from trying again.

"I am relentless, and I will continue to pursue this objective," he said.

When Karl followed up to ask whom Gaetz would support as McCarthy's replacement, Gaetz suggested he hadn't decided on someone. A similar dynamic played out during the speakership contest in January, when McCarthy's Republican critics -- a minority of the conference -- could not settle on an alternative who could unite the party.

"We have a lot of talented people in our conference," Gaetz told Karl. "Obviously, it's an awkward discussion while our No. 2, [Majority Leader] Steve Scalise, is in treatment for blood cancer. ... I want to see how Steve Scalise comes out of that."

In a separate interview on "This Week," New York Rep. Mike Lawler, a more moderate Republican, called Gaetz's position "delusional" and accused him of being "mealy mouthed" and "duplicitous."

Despite his harsh words for McCarthy, Gaetz insisted what he was doing "isn't personal."

He said McCarthy had failed to live up to his promises in order to become speaker, including consistently pursuing broad spending cuts and rejecting a pattern of approving funding via continuing resolutions -- like the one passed Saturday -- and sweeping omnibus bills that tie all government programs together in one vote.

"I don't think the adult in the room would allow America to sit atop a $33 trillion debt facing $2.2 trillion annual deficits," Gaetz said.

"This is about what turf we battle on to reduce spending. I do not believe that we will ever reduce spending if the manner of negotiation is just, what is the condition or the ornament that we're going to hang on to a continuing resolution," he said.

He also pushed back on criticism from other conservatives for not supporting an earlier funding bill that did include spending cuts. He argued that was a "mirage" because the Senate didn't back it and President Joe Biden would veto it.

He conceded that because Washington is currently divided between the two parties, there has to be some kind of compromise -- while still pushing single-subject spending bills.

"I don't think you should work with them on a continuing resolution or omnibus bill," he said. "You should make those Senate Democrats have to take up our defense bill to give troops a raise, take up our homeland security bill to make changes at the border, take up our veterans bill."

ABC News' Meghan Mistry and Benjamin Siegel contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


RFK Jr. teases announcement amid third party bid rumors

Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- Robert F. Kennedy Jr. teased an announcement on Friday that he said would create a "sea change in American politics" amid speculation that the Democratic candidate may leave the party. Kennedy previously refused to rule out an independent run for president in August. 2024 contest.

Kennedy said in a video on Friday that voters were frustrated with Congress and the leadership of both political parties.

"A lot of Americans who had previously given up any hope of real change would ever come through the American electoral process have begun to find new hope in my candidacy," Kennedy said in the video entitled 'Save the Date. Save the Country,' declining to provide any specifics. "I want to tell you now what I've come to understand after six months of campaigning: there is a path to victory. The hope we are feeling isn't some kind of trick in the mind."

Kennedy's announcement is set for Monday, October 9, in Philadelphia.

But Kennedy -- the nephew and son of party stalwarts President John F. Kennedy and Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, respectively has flirted with the idea of running independently before -- refusing to close the door earlier this month on leaving his party's primary amid a bitter fight with the Democratic National Committee over its rules governing the nomination process, even after saying he would only run as a Democrat.

Speaking during a town hall in North Charleston, South Carolina, in September, Kennedy said he was keeping all options open when asked by an attendee if he was prepared to run an independent campaign amid perceived hurdles erected by the DNC, which the campaign claims were built to foil his candidacy.

"They're trying to make sure that I can't participate at all in the political process, and so I'm going to keep all my options open," Kennedy said of the DNC. A day later, he told another crowd in New Hampshire that he "would have to make a call before Oct. 15" if he decided to run independently.

While Kennedy has long assumed the role of an outsider Democratic candidate up against Biden's better-established and better-funded incumbency, he has frequently brushed aside questions about any potential third-party bids.

During a NewsNation town hall in June, Kennedy called being a Democrat part of his identity.

"You know, people have said to me, 'Why don't you run it as an independent?'... and I say 'because I'm a Democrat,'" Kennedy said.

"This is who I am. This is my identity. But I want my party back. I want my party to be … the party that I grew up in. The party of John Kennedy, the party of Robert Kennedy, the party of FDR and Harry Truman," he said.

And again, when asked during a Fox News interview in August if he would consider a third-party bid in the 2024 election, Kennedy explicitly said he would not.

"No, I'm a Democrat. You know, I'm a traditional Democrat, and … part of my mission here is to summon the Democratic Party back to its traditional ideals," Kennedy said. "I'm not surprised that the people who are aligned with the DNC, people who are closely aligned with the White House, are troubled by my candidacy."

When asked by ABC News a day after his North Charleston town hall if he were willing to make a third-party run, Kennedy said he was going to "wait and see."

"I'm hoping to run in the Democratic Party. If it's possible to have a fair election in the Democratic Party, I will run in the Democratic Party, and I haven't made any kind of plans other than that," he said.

No Labels, a bipartisan group committed to launching a third-party 'unity ticket,' commented that they are not involved with RFK Jr.s' announcement; however, the group supports Kennedy's decision to potentially do the same.

"The failures of our two major parties have created an unprecedented groundswell of support for new voices and choices in our politics, which is why the No Labels movement is growing exponentially," No Labels national co-chair Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr. said in a statement.

The Kennedy family members have long been standard-bearers in the Democratic Party -- a fact Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has sought to capitalize on in his bid to defeat President Joe Biden in the contest for the 2024 Democratic presidential nomination.

Earlier this week, the New York Times broke the news of a previously unreported meeting Kennedy had in July with the Libertarian Party Chair Angela McArdle, where the two "had a really good conversation," McCardle told ABC News on Friday.

"I have not had any conversations [with Kennedy] since then," McCardle said. "At the time, you know, he said he wasn't looking to switch parties. But you know…the Libertarian Party is the only third party. We are the third party," McCardle said, referring to the Libertarian Party's status as the third largest in the country by membership. "And there is no other party that's going to come close to getting 50-state ballot access at this point."

ABC News' Kelsey Walsh contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Special counsel raises more concerns over Trump's attacks on witnesses

David McNew/Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) -- Special Counsel Jack Smith’s office filed a reply Friday evening to former President Trump’s opposition to the prosecution's proposed gag order in Trump's federal election interference case.

Smith's office raises new concerns about Trump's recent public statements attacking prosecutors and other potential witnesses and also suggests he may have violated a law prohibiting people under felony indictment from purchasing firearms.

"Since [the] date [the government proposed the gag order], the defendant has continued to make statements that pose a substantial likelihood of material prejudice to this case and that fall within the narrowly tailored order proposed by the Government," Smith's office writes.

The filing specifically flags to DC district judge Tanya Chutkan in a footnote that earlier this week when Trump was visiting a firearms dealer in South Carolina -- he was "caught potentially violating his conditions of release" by saying he was going to buy a Glock and posing with it.

They say despite a statement from Trump's spokesperson that later sought to clarify he did not actually purchase the firearm, Trump later re-posted a video from one of his followers with a caption stating he did buy the gun.

"The defendant either purchased a gun in violation of the law and his conditions of release, or seeks to benefit from his supporters’ mistaken belief that he did so," they write. "It would be a separate federal crime, and thus a violation of the defendant’s conditions of release, for him to purchase a gun while this felony indictment is pending."

Smith’s office raised issue with several posts by Trump on his Truth Social platform attacking a Special Counsel prosecutor and former VP Mike Pence, as well as comments he made in his interview on “Meet the Press.”

Smith's office also points to Trump's post attacking Mark Milley, saying Trump "falsely claimed [Milley]... had committed treason and suggested that he should be executed."

"The defendant’s baseless attacks on the Court and two individual prosecutors not only could subject them to threats—it also could cause potential jurors to develop views about the propriety of the prosecution, an improper consideration for a juror prior to trial," Smith's filing says.

"Likewise, the defendant’s continuing public statements about witnesses are substantially likely to materially prejudice a fair trial."

Smith’s office argued Trump's attorneys in their opposition filing, "makes light of some of his previous attacks on witnesses" and claims none were actually intimidated. "Even assuming that certain witnesses are not intimidated by the defendant’s statements, other witnesses see and may be affected by what the defendant does to those who are called to testify in this case," Smith's filing says.

"And regardless of whether certain witnesses are intimidated by the defendant’s extrajudicial statements, the defendant should not be permitted to attack or bolster the credibility of any witness in a manner that could influence prospective jurors."

The filing also seeks to dispute Trump's claim they are trying to "unconstitutionally silence" him, saying their proposed narrow gag order "would in no way hinder the defendant’s ability to campaign and publicly maintain his innocence."

"All it would limit is the defendant’s use of his candidacy as a cover for making prejudicial public statements about this case—and there is no legitimate need for the defendant, in the course of his campaign, to attack known witnesses regarding the substance of their anticipated testimony or otherwise engage in materially prejudicial commentary in violation of the proposed order," they argue.

They also accuse Trump of trying to play clean-up after his Truth Social post had stated, "IF YOU GO AFTER ME, I'M COMING AFTER YOU!"

"[Trump's] spokesperson’s after-the-fact explanation is implausible on its face," they write. "The truth is clear: the defendant was caught making a public threat and then had a spokesperson issue an excuse."

"The defendant should not be permitted to obtain the benefits of his incendiary public statements and then avoid accountability by having others - whose messages he knows will receive markedly less attention than his own—feign retraction," Smith’s office states.

In seeking to pick apart the arguments put forward by Trump's team, they argue Trump's filing is "premised on inapplicable caselaw and false claims."

"[Trump] demands special treatment, asserting that because he is a political candidate, he should have free rein to publicly intimidate witnesses and malign the Court, citizens of this District, and prosecutors," they say.

"But in this case, Donald J. Trump is a criminal defendant like any other."

Trump last month pleaded not guilty to charges of undertaking a "criminal scheme" to overturn the results of the 2020 election by enlisting a slate of so-called "fake electors," using the Justice Department to conduct "sham election crime investigations," trying to enlist the vice president to "alter the election results," and promoting false claims of a stolen election as the Jan. 6 riot raged -- all in an effort to subvert democracy and remain in power.

On Tuesday, Trump's attorneys said they vehemently oppose Smith's office's request, calling it an affront to Trump's First Amendment rights and accusing Smith's team of having political motivations due to Trump's strong standing in the 2024 presidential race.

"Following these efforts to poison President Trump's defense, the prosecution now asks the Court to take the extraordinary step of stripping President Trump of his First Amendment freedoms during the most important months of his campaign against President Biden," the filing said. "The Court should reject this transparent gamesmanship and deny the motion entirely."

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Vivek Ramaswamy’s TikTok presence draws young voters' attention -- and GOP rivals' attacks

Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) -- It started with a short clip of him dancing with social media influencer Jake Paul and what Vivek Ramaswamy called a vision to better engage with younger voters.

It's continued with him documenting his travels on the campaign trail, showing time spent with his two young sons and responding to commenters.

However, the GOP presidential candidate's presence on the popular app TikTok has put a spotlight on his past business dealings and comments, drawing criticism from his rivals about his lack of political experience, as leaders on both sides of the aisle grapple with how or whether to use TikTok because of its links to the Chinese government.

On the GOP debate stage in Simi Valley, California, Wednesday night, Ramaswamy's TikTok presence was the target of aggressive attacks from his primary rivals, including Nikki Haley, who cut off Ramaswamy to shout, "We can't trust you with TikTok," as he tried to explain the importance of reaching the younger generation in order to win the general election.

"TikTok is one of the most dangerous social media apps that we could have," Haley cut in, "... Honestly, every time I hear you, I feel a little bit dumber for what you say."

It was a full-on attack from Haley who had previously said Ramaswamy's "combination of honesty, intellect, and foresight are exactly what we need to overcome our challenges in the years ahead" in her review of his first book, "Woke, Inc.: Inside Corporate America's Social Justice Scam."

Continuing to talk over Ramaswamy as he attempted to defend himself, Haley took another shot: "When you were in business with the Chinese ... we can't trust you with TikTok"

Later in the debate, Haley again attacked Ramaswamy when he spoke out against providing military support for Ukraine, saying: "A win for Russia is a win for China. But I forgot you like China."

Haley was referring to Ramaswamy's company, Roivant Sciences, which has subsidiaries in China and has previously partnered with a private-equity arm of a state-owned investment company there. Sen. Tim Scott also took a swipe at Ramaswamy's business dealings in China on the debate stage Wednesday night, comparing it to the scrutiny President Joe Biden's son Hunter Biden is under for his alleged business dealings in China.

However, it's not just Haley. Ramaswamy's TikTok debut comes as most GOP candidates have proposed banning the app or enacting similar safety features, citing national security risks at the hands of the Chinese-owned technology company ByteDance that controls the app.

Scott has pushed legislation that would require app stores to list an app's country of origin "so that parents can make better choices," he's said, while former Vice President Mike Pence has been a vocal proponent of banning TikTok altogether. Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson last year banned TikTok on state-owned devices, saying he does not want China accessing state data. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, too, when asked if he would ban the app as president, said "I think so."

Concern about TikTok's digital footprint is also leading to bipartisan efforts in Congress and by the White House to limit its reach. President Joe Biden's administration, which has prohibited the app from being downloaded on federal employees' work devices, has also threatened a national ban if the Beijing-based corporation doesn't divest.

Ramaswamy has also shared his own criticisms of the app, maintaining that children 16 and under "should not be using addictive social media."

Still, Ramaswamy, who has swarmed early states with campaign events, joined TikTok earlier this month, gaining tens of thousands of followers, but also sparking parody accounts and trolls, and forcing him to defend his flip-flop on the widely popular social media app he's previously called "digital fentanyl."

The comments are part of his hard line proposing "decoupling" from China, a country he believes the U.S. relies on too heavily.

"Because you know what he's thinking, he's looking back at me and he's saying, 'Okay. You don't have it in you because you're addicted to me. You're addicted to the fentanyl that I'm pumping across your southern border. You're addicted to the digital fentanyl that I'm putting in your kid's hands in the form of modern social media,'" Ramaswamy said to voters in August, weeks before posting his first TikTok after a convincing conversation with influencer and boxer Jake Paul.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Government shutdown live updates: Millions in military would go without a paycheck

Mint Images/Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) -- With Congress failing to agree on spending, the U.S. is barreling toward what could be one of the largest government shutdowns in history.

Lawmakers have until the end of the day Saturday to reach a deal to keep much of the government open.

If they don't, 3.5 million of federal workers are expected to go without a paycheck, millions of women and children could lose nutrition assistance, national parks would likely close and more.

Latest headlines:

  • Millions of military members will go without a paycheck
  • White House says they're pleading with House GOP to 'do the right thing'
  • How did we get here?

Here's how the news is developing. All times Eastern.

Sep 29, 5:07 PM EDT
Shutdown would 'hurt' service members, drive down recruitment

A partial government shutdown would hurt military recruitment -- as well as its members, White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said Friday.

Military recruitment, which is already suffering, would take a hit in a shutdown and send a "horrible message to young people" and deter them from enlisting, Kirby said.

"Young people … graduating high school here, you know, in the spring, they can be forgiven for thinking, 'Maybe that's not where I want to go. Why would I want to sign up and do that dangerous work, when I can't even guarantee that there's going to be a paycheck for it?'" Kirby said.

While Kirby said there is patriotism and a sense of duty in serving in the military, he said a shutdown hurt service members.

"You start missing a couple of paychecks when you're in active-duty service to the nation, and it starts to hurt. You can't buy groceries, or as many, anyway. Bills are tougher to pay, rent and mortgage payments are tough to cover."

If the government shuts down, an estimated 3.5 million federal workers would have to go without pay – about 2 million of which are in the military.

ABC News' Ben Gittleson

Sep 29, 4:47 PM EDT
Millions of military members will go without a paycheck

Unlike shutdowns past, where lawmakers passed appropriations bills to fund the Department of Defense personnel, the White House estimates that 2 million military members will have to without pay if the government shuts down over the weekend.

President Joe Biden, at a farewell ceremony for Gen. Mark Milley, said if the House fails to keep the government open it will have "failed all of our troops," going as far as calling it a "disgrace."

Austin Carrigg, a military spouse, spoke to ABC News Live about the impact a partial government shutdown will have on her family. Carrigg said she and her husband, Master Sgt. Joshua Carrigg will be in a life-or-death situation if they don't receive a paycheck because they might not be able to afford medication for their 11-year-old daughter, who has Down syndrome, a congenital heart defect, metabolic disorder and recently suffered a catastrophic stroke.

"It really feels like a smack in the face that they think so little of us that they're unwilling to pay our troops while they are going through this negotiation," Carrigg explained about her frustrations with lawmakers. "We understand that negotiations have to happen and that everybody takes a stand. But that stance shouldn't be on the backs of our military families and that's what they're doing this time."

Sep 29, 4:36 PM EDT
White House says they're pleading with House GOP to 'do the right thing'

OMB Director Shalanda Young told ABC News Senior White House Correspondent Selina Wang that to avert a shutdown, "we're doing everything we can to plead, beg, shame, House Republicans: do the right thing."

Asked to respond to the concerns of mothers who rely on WIC for their babies' nutrition, Young gave an impassioned response:

"The cavalierness is what gets me. I've heard people say in a Republican House conference, 'Oh, shutdown. It's not that bad. It's not like the debt ceiling.' Well, you go tell people who cannot pay their daycare bill ... You go tell men and women in uniform that they don't get a paycheck when they show up to work every day. You will tell that mother that she cannot … And you're right, it -- it sets an expectation for how people deal with their government throughout their lives."

Sep 29, 4:16 PM EDT
How did we get here?

Earlier this year, amid the threat of a first-ever default on the nation's debt, President Joe Biden and Speaker Kevin McCarthy negotiated a spending cap for the 2024 budget year beginning Oct. 1. But spending legislation remains mired in Congress with the hard-liners in the House insisting on curbing spending further and other proposals that couldn't pass the Senate.

A last-ditch effort by McCarthy to pass a short-term funding measure with border security measures to keep the government open until Oct. 31 failed on Friday. More than 20 Republicans voted against it.

The Democrat-led Senate is considering a separate stopgap bill to keep the government open until Nov. 17 as well as additional funding for Ukraine and FEMA, but McCarthy has already said it would be dead on arrival in the House.

Congress remained at a standstill Friday afternoon with the shutdown deadline roughly 32 hours away.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Exclusive: Biden campaign to air ad aimed at Black voters during college football game

Jacob Snow/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) -- President Joe Biden's re-election campaign is kicking off a new TV advertisement in the heat of the college football season, with the ad set to air during the University of Colorado Buffaloes and University of Southern California Trojans game Saturday.

First shared with ABC News, the TV spot zeroes in on the Biden White House's investments into racial and economic equity for Black Americans.

"Getting ahead means getting the same chance to succeed as everyone else. It's why on his first day, President Biden signed an executive order to address racial inequity, working to narrow the racial wealth gap by creating millions of new, good paying jobs and more funding for black businesses," a narrator says.

The narrator continues: "But it's also lowering the cost of living, including health premiums, prescription drugs, and the cost of insulin. Getting ahead with the president, Joe Biden, who is putting in the work for black America."

The 30-second ad, titled "Get Ahead," is part of the campaign's big ticket $25 million investment, which includes the largest and earliest re-election ad-buy any campaign has placed in Hispanic and African American media outlets. A source familiar with planning tells ABC News the Biden campaign intends to pepper those advertisements throughout news, entertainment and sports adjacent programming, including the NFL, NBA and NCAA programming in select markets.

The campaign targeting high-viewership sporting events was first put into practice during the NFL season opener earlier this month. These various ad placements are part of their broader plan to aggressively invest in battleground states like Arizona, Nevada, Michigan, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Georgia.

The ad will air in the Atlanta market, one of the largest African American media markets in the country, in efforts to reach Black fans who are tuning into Colorado games at high margins. That spiked viewership comes thanks, in part, to the popularity of University of Colorado's newest football coach Deion Sanders.

The University of Colorado's first three games of the season rated 77% higher among Black viewers, making up 23% of the audience for those games, compared to 15% for non-Colorado games, per ESPN research -- a figure that doesn't go unnoticed by Biden's re-election campaign. The number of African American viewers tuning in from the Atlanta area is helping to drive viewership numbers two-to-three times larger than a typical high profile college football game when Colorado is playing, according to data from the Biden campaign.

"The Coach Prime phenomenon reaches well beyond Boulder, CO and well beyond the traditional college football fanbase. It just so happens that many among the millions of fans tuning in every Saturday to watch Colorado football represent the core coalition of voters who were so integral to Joe Biden and Kamala Harris's victory in 2020," Biden for President communications director Michael Tyler said in a statement to ABC News.

"So as millions more tune in Saturday afternoon, we're making sure that we're tapping into moments like these and presenting audiences with President Biden's historic record of accomplishment for Black families," he added.

After the Buffaloes' first win of the season last September, Sanders spoke candidly about the racism he -- and his team -- are up against.

"We're doing things that have never been done, and that makes people uncomfortable," Sanders said. "When you see a confident Black man sitting up here talking his talk, walking his walk, coaching 75% African Americans in the locker room, that's kind of threatening. 'Oh, they don't like that.' But guess what? We're going to consistently do what we do. Because I'm here and 'ain't going nowhere."

Only 14 black coaches currently head NCAA Division I football teams.

Black voters were critical in Biden's victory over former President Donald Trump in 2020, supporting him in overwhelming margins, 87%-12% per ABC News exit polls. Maintaining that coalition will be critical to his re-election efforts, too. A New York Times/Siena Poll conducted in July, still shows that 60% of Black Americans currently approve of Biden's job performance.

ABC News' Fritz Farrow contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Student loan payments restart Oct. 1. Here's what to know

Peter Dazeley/Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) -- The government's unprecedented three-year pause on federal student loan payments officially ends this Sunday, Oct. 1, when roughly 28 million borrowers will once again be on the hook for their loans.

The restart to payments comes after eight extensions of the pandemic-era pause, beginning during former President Donald Trump's administration. The end to the pause was finally set in stone after the Biden administration's attempt at broader debt cancellation was thwarted by the Supreme Court in June.

Throughout the twists and turns, many borrowers have been left confused about the status of their loans and how policy changes could impact them.

Here's what borrowers need to know.

Find out how much you owe and when you owe it

Not all borrowers' bills will be due on Oct. 1 -- you can find your specific payment date through your loan servicer, a private company that handles federal government loans. The bill due date could be at any point throughout the month.

The Department of Education encourages borrowers to log into their Federal Student Aid portals and check who their servicer is, then log onto their servicer portals.

Many Americans were moved to a new servicer during the pause and payment amounts could be different than they were three years ago.

Payment amounts could also be different because of loan servicer mistakes, which have been well-documented by debt relief advocacy groups. The groups have also reported long hold times for customer service representatives, or multiple different answers to the same question.

In particular, advocacy groups and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau have shared concerns that servicers aren't providing adequate information on the Biden administration's newest repayment plan, called the SAVE Plan, which the administration calls the most affordable plan for the majority of Americans.

What is the SAVE Plan?

Under the new plan, the lowest-income borrowers would see their payments fall by about $0.83 per each dollar they owe, the Department of Education estimates, and people making below minimum wage wouldn't be required to make monthly payments at all.

The changes would also stop unpaid monthly interest from accruing and allow debts to be forgiven sooner, between 10 and 20 years after the loans were taken out.

But not everyone will see clear benefits from the new plan, so it's important to run the numbers before enrolling.

One option to do that: the Office of Federal Student Aid has a loan simulator for comparing different repayment plans.

What if the government shuts down?

In a messy twist of fate, a government shutdown could coincide exactly with the student loan restart. But even if the government doesn't have the money to stay open, borrowers will still need to pay up.

The government shutdown won't delay the student loan payment restart, government officials say.

It could make the process bumpier, though, by halting government coordination with loan servicers that provide them guidance on how to answer borrowers' questions or implement the new policies the Biden administration has rolled out, like the SAVE plan.

The borrower experience would likely get more muddled the longer a shutdown lasts.

"If it is a prolonged shutdown lasting more than a few weeks, it could substantially disrupt the return to repayment effort and long-term servicing support for borrows," White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a briefing on Sept. 25.

The government also provides oversight of the student loan servicers, making sure servicers accurately bill borrowers the right amount or pass along the right information about new, lower payment options -- two issues that advocates say borrowers are already running into, even without a shutdown getting in the way.

"I think even less oversight will be very harmful for borrowers as payments come due," said Persis Yu, deputy executive director at the Student Borrower Protection Center, an advocacy group for student debt relief.

What happens if I miss a payment?

For the next year, the Department of Education has created a temporary, yearlong on-ramp period through Sept. 30, 2024, during which borrowers won't be reported for missing payments.

According to the department, that will prevent the "worst consequences" of missed, late or partial payments.

However, interest will still continue to add up during the yearlong on-ramp period, meaning borrowers will see their balances grow whether they make the payments or not.

And the Department cannot ensure that credit scoring companies don't pull information on whether someone is making their payments, which could impact whether people qualify for credit cards or loans tied to their credit scores.

Could my loans still get cancelled?

There's still hope, but the details remain sparse as a rulemaking process plays out for the next few months.

President Joe Biden's initial plan was derailed by the Supreme Court — an attempt to grant between $10,000 and $20,000 of relief to 43 million Americans.

In the wake of that political defeat, Biden announced another attempt at debt relief through the Higher Education Act of 1965.

And on Friday, the Biden administration announced it's putting together a committee to discuss different ways to design the policy — a sign to borrowers that they haven't given up on debt relief, even as bills come due again.

The Department of Education specifically asked the committee to consider how to help people who, for example, are drowning in interest and owe more than they initially took out because of the accrual, or people who have been paying their loans for decades.

Some experts say the relief will need to be narrower than the previous attempt to have a better chance at holding up in the courts, but advocates are still pushing for broad cancellation.

ABC News' Karen Travers contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Democrats, Republicans release dueling abortion ads in high-stakes Virginia elections

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(WASHINGTON) -- Democrats and Republicans in the state are ramping up their attacks ahead of high stakes state-wide elections in Virginia, releasing dueling ads about abortion -- a hot-button issues at the center of nearly every race in both the GOP-led state House and the Democratic-controlled state Senate.

Last week, Virginia Republicans ran an ad titled "No Limits" accusing Democrats of fighting to make late-term abortions "the rule and not the exception," while Democrats released a number of ads across the state this week warning Republicans would ban abortion if they take full control of the General Assembly.

Virginia is currently the southernmost state that hasn't banned or restricted abortion since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

Political science experts told ABC News that while Republicans in the state refrained from campaigning on the issue of abortion last year and much of this campaign season, they are joining in now to mobilize Republican voters.

"While Dobbs served Republicans well, they lost the messaging enemy in Roe that had been successful for them," Dr. Chapman Rackaway, a professor and Chair of Political Science at Radford University. "The inverse happened for Democrats. Dobbs gave them a threat on which they could message, and they did so aggressively in 2022."

"From the newly-released ads, it looks like Republicans believe that using the extremist tag on Democrats is the messaging on which they can mobilize," Rackaway added.

Activists who oppose abortion told ABC News that Republicans in the state are backing Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin's stance on abortion -- a 15-week ban with exceptions.

"In 2022 with the midterm elections, Republicans used the ostrich strategy ... kind of burying your head in the sand and hoping the issue goes away," said Billy Valentine, the vice president of Political Affairs for Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America. "Looking ahead to Virginia, I think the party has recognized that strategy didn't work. We need to find where we stand and contrast that with the Democrats."

Valentine told ABC News that he believes Democrats in the state are trying to misrepresent Republican candidates' stance on abortion by saying they would ban abortion without exception, pointing to several recent ads from Democratic candidates.

"It's incumbent on our candidates to tell the truth, which is what we are advocating for, is a 15-week limit, not a ban because it has exceptions for life of the mother, rape, and incest," he said.

Republicans in the state say Democrats are putting out "misrepresentations and half truths" about several Republican candidates' stance on abortion.

"This is out of character even for them," said Garren Shipley, director of communications for Republican House Speaker Todd Gilbert. "They're our caucus and our candidates. We're behind the governor on the 15-week limit with common sense exceptions."

Meanwhile, Democrats in the state say their ads are informing voters that the Virginia GOP will ban abortion if they take full control of the General Assembly.

"This is nothing more than the Governor's handlers trying to correct a narrative that their candidates themselves have been pushing," said House Democratic Caucus Leader Don Scott.

"Just this year Republicans introduced life at conception bills, banning all abortions at the moment of fertilization and criminalizing anyone who performs the procedure," Scott said. "No matter how they try to dress it up, if something is legal today, and a law changes making it illegal tomorrow, then that's a ban. There's no lies about that."

Virginia Democratic Party Chairwoman Susan Swecker echoed Scott's concerns that Republicans will increase restrictions on abortion.

"Anyone who has looked at Republicans' records knows that Youngkin and the MAGA extremists who are running to control the General Assembly want to ban abortion immediately and will increase the restrictions every chance they get," Swecker said in a statement. "They'll overturn our rights and then keep taking more."

In the highly competitive Fredericksburg-area state Senate race, Republicans criticized Democrats for releasing an ad about Republican candidate Tara Durant who is running against Joel Griffin, the Democratic nominee.

The ad published by Griffin's campaign said Durant supports letting Virginia ban abortions without exception.

"Virginia Democrats are reverting to their tired tactics of overt falsehoods and flagrant fear mongering," said Dave Rexrode, Youngkin's political adviser and chairman of his PAC, Spirit of Virginia.

"Joel Griffin's ad is just the latest desperate and despicable attempt to mislead voters. It will not work," Rexrode added in a press release.

Griffin's campaign defended the ad, saying Durant publicly praised the overturning of Roe v. Wade.

"While we watched the legal landscape shift, Durant reaffirmed where she was on abortion rights, sending a mailer stating her 100% pro life stance," a spokesperson for Griffin's campaign told ABC News. "The stakes are clear: If elected, Tara Durant would let Virginia ban abortions with no exceptions."

On Tuesday, Durant responded to Griffin's ad, calling it "misinformation" and doubled down on her support for a 15-week limit on abortion . Control of both chambers of the General Assembly is up for grabs, with several political experts indicating that the results could be viewed as a referendum on Youngkin given his successful push for his preferred candidates to win their primary races earlier this year.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Trailblazing California Sen. Dianne Feinstein dies at 90

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(WASHINGTON) -- Dianne Feinstein, who became California's first female senator and went on to serve six terms, the longest of any woman in Senate history -- and whose political career was forever changed by the assassination of two colleagues -- has died, multiple sources confirm to ABC News. She was 90.

Over her three decades in the Senate, Feinstein transformed from a barrier-breaking member of the Democratic Party's liberal vanguard, championing the legalization of same-sex marriage and a ban on assault-style weapons, to one of the Washington's establishment members, esteemed by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle but increasingly criticized by outside progressives who argued that she refused to step aside for the next generation.

In her final years, her work on Capitol Hill had also begun to be overshadowed by concern about her mental and physical health even as she insisted she remained a robust public servant, despite her hospitalizations, reports of episodes of confusion and other issues.

In announcing earlier this year that she planned to retire at the end of her latest term, in 2025, Feinstein said: "Each of us was sent here to solve problems. That's what I've done for the last 30 years, and that's what I plan to do for the next two years. My thanks to the people of California for allowing me to serve them."

Journalist Rebecca Traister, who profiled Feinstein at length for New York magazine, told ABC News for this obituary that she believes Feinstein's approach to politics was less tethered to an absolutist ideology than to defending and supporting the importance of rules and order.

Feinstein's political positions changed over time, but what didn't was how she saw her job: "as somebody who was within these institutions to uphold the rules," Traister said.

She said what she found most surprising about Feinstein was that devotion to the institution -- outside of politics.

She cited how, in the early 1960s, before Roe v. Wade, Feinstein determined punishments for abortion providers during her time on a women's sentencing board, where Feinstein later said she saw "not medical people -- these were truly the coat-hanger type of abortions." As a pro-abortion access supporter in college, Feinstein reportedly helped a woman get to Mexico where abortion was legal, Traister said.

"She believed in civic and political control and order, and I would say that is the defining feature of her life in politics," Traister said, adding, "Sometimes that led her to positions that were on the left and sometimes it led her to positions that were on the right."

Feinstein's early life and path to the Senate

Born Dianne Emiel Goldman in 1933 in San Francisco, the first years of Feinstein's life were filled with hardship. Jerry Roberts, author of the Feinstein biography "Never Let Them See You Cry," described Feinstein's mother, Betty, as an alcoholic who frequently beat her and her two sisters, citing in his book moments where she chased Feinstein with a knife and once nearly drowned one of Feinstein's sisters in a bathtub.

"Their mother was both emotionally and physically abusive. She [Feinstein] was very much the matriarchal figure in terms of protecting her younger sisters and taking the brunt of things," Roberts said.

Feinstein's surgeon father, Leon, was just as instrumental in shaping her. A barrier-breaker himself, he was the first Jewish chair of surgery at the University of California at San Francisco's medical school.

"She really identified with her father and his kind of propriety and status," said Traister. "But it's certainly true that as the oldest sibling in that household, she really developed a passion for how to keep things in line and under control that I think you can see working its way through her political life."

After serving six years on California women's sentencing board, Feinstein ran for -- and won -- a race to be on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, beginning the first of three terms in 1970.

Her third term as a supervisor was her last and, as she suggested to reporters on the morning of Nov. 27, 1978, it was intended to be her final chapter in politics. She had lost two mayoral bids, was facing health problems and recently lost her second husband to cancer.

Then tragedy struck.

Later that November day, a colleague on the board, Supervisor Dan White, assassinated Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk, California's first openly gay elected official.

It was Feinstein who found Milk's body, subsequently recalling how her fingers slipped through a bullet hole in his body as she went to take his pulse. With TV cameras rolling, she was the one to tell a shocked city about the slayings. As the president of the Board of Supervisors, she became the city's first female mayor.

"It sounds like it was scripted in a movie. She leans in, tells reporters she's leaving politics -- you can't make up something like that," said Los Angeles Times columnist Mark Barabak, who covered Feinstein going back to her San Francisco days.

She went on to win two terms as mayor.

Barabak said Feinstein "held up the city on her shoulders ... the city was really on edge." She was "thrust in the middle of it" and "really rallied and really helped keep the city together," he said.

As mayor, she enacted a handgun ban and survived a recall attempt over it, foreshadowing a decadeslong fight over the same issue when she served in the Senate.

Her profile grew quickly. She was on Democratic presidential nominee Walter Mondale's vice presidential short list in 1984. After losing her own race for governor of California in 1990, she successfully ran in a 1992 special election to serve out the remainder of Republican Pete Wilson's term -- becoming the first women elected from the state to serve as a senator.

In Washington

More firsts followed: Feinstein became one of the first two women to join the Senate Judiciary Committee, with the support of then-Chair Joe Biden. She made it her mission to pass a ban on assault-style weapons, telling The Los Angeles Times that Biden was "ultimately supportive but initially skeptical," fearing that the measure might stymie a broader bill focused on crime. But he nonetheless thought it would be a good "lesson" for her if she wanted to give it a shot.

The opposition was fierce. Idaho Republican Sen. Larry Craig was one of the people who challenged her, saying, "The gentlelady from California needs to become a little bit more familiar with firearms and their deadly characteristics."

Feinstein replied, "I am quite familiar with firearms. I became mayor as a product of assassination. I found my assassinated colleague and put a finger through a bullet hole trying to get a pulse. I was trained in the shooting of a firearm when I had terrorist attacks, with a bomb in my house, when my husband was dying, when I had windows shot out. Senator, I know something about what firearms can do."

The ban, which included some exemptions and came with a sunset date of 10 years, to bolster its support, became law in 1994. Feinstein continued to push for similar laws in her remaining time in office.

She was also known for championing same-sex marriage and in 1996 was one of 14 senators who voted against the Defense of Marriage Act -- the law, later overturned, that prevented the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriage -- nearly two decades before the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage was a constitutional right.

Barbarak said her extensive time in San Francisco likely shaped her ideas on the issue. "The gay community was very large and influential in San Francisco, in a way that really it wasn't in any other city in the country," he said. "And that was just part of the political culture. It was just part of being mayor of San Francisco."

But the accomplishment that she told reporters was the most important work of her career was during her time as chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Feinstein called for a full investigation of the CIA's detention and interrogation program after Sept. 11.

Because of her push for further transparency under both the Bush and Obama administrations, it was alleged that the CIA repeatedly misled the public and mismanaged the program, which was "far more brutal" than the agency previously had conveyed, with torture ranging from waterboarding prisoners often dozens of times to severe sleep deprivation, including a detainee who was chained to the concrete floor and appeared to die from hypothermia, ABC News reported at the time.

The subsequent, Feinstein-backed report from the committee found the methods used on more than 100 detainees were "not effective."

Probing the CIA's tactics was risky for Feinstein, in part because she was challenging her own party. "There was an enormous amount of opposition including from the [Obama] administration to not make this stuff public," Traister said.

But that doggedness was consistent with "how seriously she took the violation of norms that she so believes in," Traister said.

"When she discovered that they had been behaving outside of the expectations ... it was like hellfire. She really went after them hard," Traister said.

Annette Bening went on to play Feinstein in the 2019 drama about the CIA probe, "The Report."

"I just think that's real legacy stuff, which she did there because nobody wanted that report out ... certainly the CIA didn't," said Roberts, her biographer. "That was, I think, a demonstration of her independence and her determination and her ability to fight."

But her independence was often seen in more recent years as too moderate compared to other Democrats, especially as a representative of one of the country's most reliably blue states.

During the contentious Supreme Court confirming hearings for Brett Kavanaugh, liberal groups criticized Feinstein for hugging Republican Sen. Linsey Graham and praising him for running "one of the best hearings I've participated in." Then-Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer later told reporters they had a "long, serious talk" about it.

And the way she dismissed school children who urged her to support the progressive "Green New Deal" to address climate change went viral after she told them, "I've been doing this for 30 years. I know what I'm doing. You come in here and you say it has to be my way or the highway. I don't respond to that ... I was elected by almost a million-vote plurality and I know what I'm doing."

The interaction was satirized on Saturday Night Live.

Final years and service amid decline

In the final years of her political career, some voices in Feinstein's own party grew louder in saying that she should retire. Her defenders, too, often spoke up for her. In 2017, then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called her a "strong voice and a staunch advocate for the people of California."

During Feinstein's last and final campaign for Senate, the California Democratic Party backed challenger Kevin de León instead. At the time, León said he was offering "a new voice, a new change represented in California of today, not of the past."

Feinstein still won by a landslide -- by roughly a million votes. But the discontent continued.

In April 2022, Feinstein's home paper, The San Francisco Chronicle, published a piece citing multiple anonymous staffers and Senate colleagues who said Feinstein's memory was "rapidly deteriorating. They said it appears she can no longer fulfill her job duties without her staff doing much of the work required to represent the nearly 40 million people of California."

Feinstein pushed back in an interview with the Chronicle's editorial board. "I meet regularly with leaders. I'm not isolated. I see people. My attendance is good. I put in the hours," she said then, echoing what she told The Los Angeles Times in 2020: "I don't feel my cognitive abilities have diminished. ... Do I forget something sometimes? Quite possibly."

In February 2023, Feinstein announced she would not be seeking reelection, telling reporters soon after, "The time has come."

Schumer said during a closed-door lunch meeting when she made her announcement, "She got a standing ovation that lasted minutes and minutes and minutes. One of the longest I've ever seen, which shows the love that our caucus and our country have for this wonderful, wonderful leader and legend."

Feinstein's pending retirement was soon eclipsed by her health struggles. For three months in 2023, she remained at home in California to recuperate from shingles, which also caused her to suffer brain inflammation and Ramsay Hunt syndrome, which affects facial nerves.

That absence also temporarily halted Democrats' ability to confirm nominees through the Judiciary Committee on which Feinstein sat.

California congressman Ro Khanna and some others called for her to step down. But she never left her job.

That tenacity, Barabak said, fueled her success as much as the controversy at the end of her career.

"She's very determined. She's very stubborn. She's very dogged," he said, adding, "She's shown, time and again and again and again, [she] is not someone who is going to be pushed around. I think that this is pretty consistent with who she has been her whole career, her whole public life."

ABC News' Benjamin Siegel contributed to this report.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


DeSantis commits to a 15-week national abortion ban for the first time

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(SIMI VALLEY, Calif.) -- In an easily missed moment during Wednesday night’s chaotic GOP presidential primary debate, Gov. Ron DeSantis said he would sign a federal 15-week abortion ban.

Wednesday's comment marked the first time since the launch of his presidential campaign that he said he would sign a national abortion ban.

The Daily Signal was the first to report and confirmed the governor's remarks.

The moment occurred during an exchange with Sen. Tim Scott, where he asked the governor if he would support a 15-week abortion ban. DeSantis said yes.

The moment was widely missed due to the moderators talking over the pair while the exchange was happening, trying to regain control of the debate.

Throughout his campaign, DeSantis, who has signed both a 15-week and six-week abortion ban in Florida, has walked a very fine line on abortion access, saying that he would be a “pro-life” president and support “pro-life legislation,” but has stopped short of saying he would support any national abortion ban.

This is a complete flip from the last debate in August, where the governor indicated that he would prefer states to make their own abortion laws.

“I understand Iowa and New Hampshire are going to do different. But I will support the cause of life as governor and as president,” DeSantis said during the August debate.

In a statement to ABC News, Scott's campaign communications director, Nathan Brand, said they're glad DeSantis is "on board" with a federal limit.

“Ron had months to advocate for a federal limit, yet discouraged efforts to protect life. If you’re going to back down on an issue, this is the one to do it on. Glad Ron is now on board.”

Just a few weeks ago, Scott criticized DeSantis, along with Donald Trump, Vivek Ramaswamy and Nikki Haley, at a town hall in Mason City, Iowa, for not “standing” with him on the issue.

DeSantis’ comments in Wednesday's debate elicited a statement from Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America President Marjorie Dannenfelser, who applauded DeSantis’ agreement to support a 15-week abortion ban.

“We thank Governor Ron DeSantis for his commitment to support minimum federal protections for babies in the womb when they feel pain by 15 weeks, while keeping states free to be as ambitious as possible for life,” Dannenfelser said in a statement. “We thank Senator Tim Scott for raising this vital point in the debate and for advocating these protections for months, as has Vice President Mike Pence.

This past August, Dannenfelser attacked DeSantis for being non-committal to a 15-week abortion ban.

DeSantis now joins the rank and files of other presidential hopefuls who have committed to signing a national abortion ban if elected president, including Sen. Tim Scott and former Vice President Mike Pence.

When asked by ABC News about the governor’s commitment to support a 15-week abortion ban, DeSantis’ communication director said the governor has always supported “pro-life legislation.”

ABC News' Gabriella Abdul-Hakim contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Guns, abortion pill and free speech will top Supreme Court docket in new term

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(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. Supreme Court opens a new term on Monday staring down a fresh docket of cases and more opportunities to deliver big wins for conservatives that could continue to transform American life and the law.

Second Amendment advocates want the justices to allow Americans under domestic violence restraining orders to possess guns. Business groups are seeking to gut the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and roll back federal agency power. South Carolina Republicans are asking to reinstate an election map that lower courts deemed racist.

The justices will also likely take up the legality of Food and Drug Administration regulations around the abortion pill mifepristone; a federal ban on machine guns applied to bump stocks; and school bans on transgender students using bathrooms consistent with their gender identity.

The big question is how far the high court's six-member conservative-leaning majority will go.

"There was a lot of evidence that the court had become a 6-3 conservative court that was moving very quickly and very far in a rightward direction. This past term, though, looked different," said Irv Gornstein, executive director of the Supreme Court Institute at Georgetown University Law Center.

Decisions handed down in June upholding a key section of the Voting Rights Act, siding with Native American tribes and affirming President Joe Biden's immigration policy surprised many veteran court watchers for their restraint compared to prior rulings like the 5-4 decision to reverse Roe v. Wade's protections of abortion access.

Gornstein said the more recent decisions reflect a "3-3-3 court" -- referring to the alignment of the justices -- with Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett in the middle bloc, exerting a relatively moderating influence that could extend into the new term.

"The liberal justices on the court last term were more often in the majority than Justices [Samuel] Alito and [Clarence] Thomas," said David Cole, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union. "This term will give us more evidence as to what type of court this is."

One of the most consequential cases facing the court this fall is U.S. v. Rahimi, the first gun rights dispute to reach the court since its landmark 2022 decision enshrining an individual right to carry a firearm outside the home.

Rahimi involves the constitutionality of a longstanding federal law that prohibits people subject to domestic violence restraining orders from possessing a gun.

"Firearms in the hands of people who have a history of domestic violence are tools of death -- to intimidate partners, children and the broader community," said Esther Sanchez-Gomez, litigation director at the Gifford Law Center, a gun safety group which wants the law upheld. "The Supreme Court must look to these harms."

Challengers say the law is overly broad and curbs legitimate gun rights of Americans who are not dangerous. "The notion that any right is limited to only law-abiding citizens is really odd," said Cole.

Other major cases on the court's docket in the upcoming term involve social media platforms and free speech.

The justices are expected to review laws in Florida and Texas that prohibit social media platforms from removing or de-emphasizing certain content and force them to publish details of their algorithms. They will also hear a pair of cases on whether public officials can block constituents on Facebook and Twitter and censor their comments.

"Trying to figure out how to distinguish between a public official talking to the public [on social media] as part of his job, as opposed to as a private person, including a private person running for reelection, is I think one of the important issues," said Hashim Mooppan, a veteran Supreme Court litigator and former clerk to Justice Antonin Scalia.

Last month, the court also agreed to wade into an emotionally charged dispute involving liability for the opioid epidemic, which claimed the lives of more than 80,000 Americans from overdoses in 2021 alone, according to government statistics.

The justices will review a major settlement between state and local governments and OxyContin-maker Perdue Pharma over a provision that would shield members of the Sackler family, which owns the company, from lawsuits. The Biden administration sued to block it.

"This is an outrage, according to the government, and the court set the case for argument," said Lisa Blatt, a veteran Supreme Court litigator. "I think the government has a lot of law on its side."

With the 2024 presidential election on the horizon, the high court is also likely to be confronted with questions about state voting rules and candidate eligibility.

Experts say the justices may soon have to address efforts to disqualify former President Donald Trump from the ballot under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, which states that candidates aren't eligible for future office if they previously took an oath to support the Constitution but then "engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same or have "given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof."

"That has been almost entirely ignored by history for 150 years until recently, as people looked at the events of the 2020 election and especially the attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, as a possible example of an insurrection," said University of Chicago law professor and constitutional scholar William Baude.

"If any state were to try to exclude Trump for the ballot, then it will certainly have to go to the state courts," Baude said. "And if a state court did conclude that lawful, whether in Minnesota or Colorado or somewhere else, the Supreme Court could well review that."

Overshadowing the court's official business are lingering questions about its ethics practices prompted by a recent wave of reports alleging undisclosed financial dealings and misuse of court resources.

"We can increase confidence. We're working on that," Kavanaugh told a gathering of judges last month in Ohio. He added that he hopes there will be "concrete steps soon," but there is no indication from the court that any new action is imminent.

Justice Elena Kagan, a member of the liberal-leaning minority, said last week that there are "legitimate concerns" holding up the adoption of a new ethics code but that she is hopeful "totally good faith disagreements" can be worked out soon.

In April, the justices released a rare, jointly-signed statement attesting to ethical principles and practices, but it did little to quell public concern or congressional Democrats' efforts to advance a mandatory ethics code.

"Public scrutiny is welcome," Barrett said in an August appearance in Wisconsin, projecting optimism the recent firestorm around the court would subside.

One issue certain to draw continued scrutiny this fall: Alito's public refusal to recuse himself from a major tax law case, Moore v. U.S., because of his association with an attorney in the matter.

The lawyer, David Rivkin, has published columns in The Wall Street Journal editorial page based on multiple interviews with Alito. Senate Democrats had written to Roberts demanding that Alito step aside in the case.

Rivkin's "access to Justice Alito and efforts to help Justice Alito air his personal grievances could cast doubt on Justice Alito's ability to fairly discharge his duties in a case in which Mr. Rivkin represents one of the parties," Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., wrote in August.

In a four-page statement attached to orders from the court this month, Alito flatly rejected the request, saying Rivkin was acting as a journalist and that there was "no sound reason" to recuse.

Durbin also called on Justice Thomas to recuse himself from a major regulatory case, Loper Bright Enterprises v. Raimondo, after the nonprofit investigative news outlet ProPublica reported that Thomas had attended donor summits hosted by billionaire businessmen Charles and David Koch, who have long championed deregulation.

"The Koch brothers are the architects of one of the largest, most successful political operations in history, aimed at influencing all levels of government and the courts. Justice Thomas hid the extent of his involvement with the Koch political network and never reported gifts associated with these engagements," Durbin said in a statement last week.

Thomas did not respond to a request for comment.

The justices return to action with public opinion of the court holding at a historic low, according to a Gallup poll released Friday: Just 41% of Americans say they approve of how the court is handling its job; 58% disapprove.

Continuing a practice that began during the COVID-19 pandemic, the court said it will offer an audio livestream of oral arguments available to the public throughout the term.

Decisions in cases argued before the court this fall are expected to be released before the end of June 2024.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Trump drops bid to move Georgia election case to federal court

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(ATLANTA) -- Attorneys for Donald Trump have notified a Fulton County court that the former president will not seek to have his Georgia election interference case removed to federal court.

The move comes three weeks after a judge denied a bid by co-defendant Mark Meadows, Trump's former chief of staff, to have his case moved.

Meadows had sought the move to federal court on the basis that his alleged actions were all performed while he was acting "under color" of his role as chief of staff.

Trump, Meadows, and 17 others have pleaded not guilty to all charges in a sweeping racketeering indictment for alleged efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election in the state of Georgia. The former president says his actions were not illegal and that the investigation is politically motivated.

Trump's filing on Thursday said his decision is based on his "well-founded confidence that this Honorable Court intends to fully and completely protect his constitutional right to a fair trial and guarantee him due process of law throughout the prosecution of his case in the Superior Court of Fulton County, Georgia."

Trump last month notified the court that he may file to remove, which the new filing says was done "in an abundance of caution."

"President Trump now notifies the Court that he will NOT be seeking to remove his case to federal court," the filing states.

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Biden impeachment inquiry live updates: House Republicans hold first hearing

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(WASHINGTON) -- House Republicans Thursday are holding the first public hearing of their impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden.

The House Oversight Committee hearing will kick off at 10 a.m.

Republicans say the inquiry will focus on whether Biden was involved in or benefitted from his family's foreign business dealings, among other issues. So far, House Republicans have yet to release evidence that Biden profited from his son Hunter's business deals or was improperly influenced by them.

The White House has blasted the impeachment inquiry as "extreme politics at its worst."

Here's how the news is developing. All times Eastern:

Sep 28, 9:29 AM EDT
Committee says it will examine emails, bank records, text messages

Chairman James Comer, R-Ky., will claim in his opening remarks that the committee has "uncovered a mountain of evidence revealing how Joe Biden abused his public office for his family’s financial gain."

But Republicans, to date, have yet to produce any hard direct evidence of wrongdoing by President Biden or that he was involved in or personally profited from his family's foreign business dealings, or that he improperly influenced policy based on them when he served as vice president.

Comer will also say the panel will examine over "two dozen pieces of evidence" including emails, text messages, bank records and testimony of Biden business associates during today's hearing.

Sep 28, 9:20 AM EDT
What to expect at today's hearing

The committee is expected to reexamine the findings of months of GOP-led investigations and offer an explanation as to why an inquiry is warranted.

"This week, the House Oversight Committee will present evidence uncovered to date and hear from legal and financial experts about crimes the Bidens may have committed as they brought in millions at the expense of U.S. interests," chairman James Comer, R-Ky., said in a statement.

The committee will hear from four witnesses, three of whom were called by Republicans to provide testimony.

The panel's 46 members (plus other lawmakers) will be allowed to question the witnesses in a hearing that could stretch on for more than six hours.

Sep 28, 9:07 AM EDT
Who are the witnesses?

Republicans have called three witnesses, one constitutional law scholar and two financial experts.

They are Bruce Dubinsky, a forensic accountant; Eileen O'Connor, a former assistant attorney general, United States Department of Justice Tax Division; and Jonathan Turley, a professor of law at George Washington University and a Fox News contributor.

Democrats will hear from Michael Gerhardt, a constitutional law professor at the University of North Carolina. Gerhardt served as special counsel to the presiding officer of former President Donald Trump's second impeachment trial.

Sep 28, 8:38 AM EDT
What polls say Americans think about the inquiry

Americans are divided on the GOP-led impeachment inquiry into Biden, a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll found.

Overall, 44% of Americans said that based on what they know, Congress should begin impeachment proceedings that could lead to Biden being removed from office while 47% said it should not.

Partisan views were apparent in the poll, with 74% of Republicans favoring impeachment proceedings and 83% of Democrats opposing them. Independents were split 46-45%.

Americans by 58-32% said the inquiry reflects Biden is being held accountable under the law like any president, rather than being unfairly victimized politically.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Biden set to give speech on democracy one day after Republican debate

Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz

(WASHINGTON) -- President Joe Biden on Thursday will deliver the latest in a string of speeches about democracy, as he seeks to draw a further contrast with his Republican rivals -- and, in particular, those he calls "MAGA" conservatives -- one day after most of them gathered for their second primary debate.

While in Arizona, Biden will deliver what a White House official said is the fourth in a series of speeches focused on democracy, with this one specifically focused on "the importance of America’s institutions in preserving our democracy and the need for constant loyalty to the U.S. Constitution."

The backdrop of Arizona is intended to draw on the legacy of the late Republican Sen. John McCain, who was close with Biden and "whose intolerance for the abuse of power and faith in America sets a powerful example to live by," according to the official.

"Protecting democracy continues to be the central cause of Joe Biden’s presidency," the official said. "President Biden will talk about his conviction that we must not walk away from the sacrifices generations of Americans have made to defend our democracy."

Biden will be joined in Tempe by some of McCain's family, Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs and members of the Arizona congressional delegation.

The speech builds on a main theme that Biden has hit on since his campaign launch in 2019, for his first White House term.

At the time, Biden linked then-President Donald Trump to the deadly 2017 mob in Charlottesville, Virginia, in which a white nationalist killed a counter-protester. He has since torn into Republicans for not uniformly and vocally refuting Trump's baseless claims of widespread voter fraud in 2020 and the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection by pro-Trump rioters.

In his speech, Biden plans to explicitly cite McCain's service during the Vietnam War, when he was captured, and his tenure in the Senate, when he advocated for a restoration of civility in Washington.

"The president will honor his friend and war hero," the official said.

The speech is also likely an effort to highlight Biden's own reelection bid -- a campaign that is anticipated to face off again against Trump next year.

It comes a day after most Republican presidential contenders, but not Trump, gathered in California for their second primary debate.

Many of the candidates have said that Biden won the 2020 election, though fewer have been vocal in their denunciations of Trump's allegations of fraud, with the exceptions of former Govs. Chris Christie of New Jersey and Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


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