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Wednesday, August 04, 2021 5:01 PM

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WASHINGTON, Aug. 4 (UPI) -- Democrats overcame a Republican filibuster 61-38 Wednesday to move forward a $26.1 billion package of aid to U.S. states.

The funding will keep nearly 140,000 teachers on the job across the country and provide ongoing extra funding for healthcare to low-income families during the recession, the Los Angeles Times reported.

With two Republicans voting for the legislation, the measure is headed toward a final vote this week, the Times said.

Governors from nearly every state had asked for the extra Medicaid funds that many legislatures had already voted for in their budgets, the Times said. All together, the states face a $12 billion deficit if the funding is not eventually approved.

Teachers also fought for the legislation to save jobs from fall layoffs, the newspaper said.

The bill was fully paid for by cuts in the federal budget and by closing tax loopholes, but Republicans contended the federal government should not be rescuing the states, the Times said.

Congressional Republicans also contend the bill is a payback to teachers' unions for supporting Democrats.

The bill advances as the Senate is racing the clock with a full agenda in the final days before the August recess and is headed toward a final vote this week.

Obama: 'Moving forward' without GOP help

WASHINGTON, Aug. 4 (UPI) -- President Barack Obama said Wednesday the U.S. economy is "moving forward largely without the help" of Republicans.

The president's remarks about jobs and the U.S. economy came after the AFL-CIO Executive Council Meeting in Washington.

"We're moving forward largely without the help of the opposition party," Obama said, adding that congressional Republicans are now blocking an emergency measure to save teacher, police officer and firefighter jobs, and have said no to high speed rail and small business tax cuts.

On the decline of manufacturing, Obama touted a revived private sector of clean, green jobs in a new economy. "At the heart of it are three powerful words: Made in America," he said.

"We are not giving up, we're not giving in" on the economic fight for the middle class, he said, adding his administration is working on an economy for everyone, "not just a privileged few."

The president said he knew union members are frustrated with the speed of change. Obama told union leaders, "You have to remind them that in the next three months, this election is a choice." Republicans have driven the car into the ditch, while Democrats are getting into the mud to push it out, he said. "When you want to go forward, you put it in D."

Obama also referred to developments in the Gulf of Mexico where the spill from a damaged BP offshore well spewed oil for nearly three months. The process of putting mud into the well had stabilized pressure from the oil, meaning the leak has at least temporarily been defeated. "The long battle to stop the leak ... is close to coming to an end," Obama said, but the government remains committed as long as the recovery takes.

In the afternoon, Obama was scheduled to present the 2010 Citizens Medal to 13 winners from across the country at the White House. The Presidential Citizens Medal recognizes Americans who have "performed exemplary deeds of service for their country or their fellow citizens" and is among the highest honors a president can bestow.

Obama also will receive the daily briefings, lunch with senators and meet privately with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky before departing for Chicago where he will celebrate his 49th birthday with friends, the White House said.

Dems plan to party on behalf of president

WASHINGTON, Aug. 4 (UPI) -- Democratic fundraisers say they'll be making a big deal of President Obama's birthday Wednesday even though the president is publicly downplaying the event.

Obama hit 49 Wednesday and was hailed by supporters at about 600 parties thrown around the country by Organizing for America, the fundraising arm of the Democratic National Committee.

DNC spokeswoman Lynda Tran told ABC News that the parties won't be all cake and pinatas. Guests will be urged to hit the phones and e-mails and rev up the party faithful for the upcoming November elections.

"We thought we'd take the opportunity to celebrate his birthday today to pay homage to his career, but also accomplish something serious at the same time," said Tran.

Obama was due to mark his birthday on his home turf of Chicago. His wife and family are on vacation in Spain.

Obama hasn't said much about his last birthday before hitting 50. He noted at an appearance in Atlanta that his gray-hair count has risen sharply in the past 12 months.

After the AFL-CIO Executive Council Meeting in Washington Wednesday, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka wished the president a happy birthday. Trumka joked the union had planned on singing happy birthday and cutting a cake, "but the Secret Service nixed the cake."

Trumka thanked Obama for helping build a stronger middle class and Wall Street reforms. "We're ready to work side by side with you," Trumka said.

Pawlenty hints support of English-only law

ST. PAUL, Minn., Aug. 4 (UPI) -- Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty entered the national debate on immigration, saying the state should consider making English its official state language.

Pawlenty, a Republican testing the waters for a 2012 presidential bid, said such a designation could help an increasingly diverse country know that the official language is English, the (Minneapolis) Star Tribune reported Wednesday.

Pawlenty made the comments during a news conference outside the governor's mansion when he asked about his support for so-called English-only measures, such as one recently approved in the Twin Cities suburb of Lino Lakes, a spokesman said.

Pawlenty's comments came shortly after a meeting with Chilean ambassador Arturo Fermandois, in which they discussed investment partnerships between Minnesota and Chile.

Pawlenty didn't elaborate on his position or offer any proposals, the Star Tribune said. The Legislature doesn't convene until after he leaves office.

About half of the states have official English language designations, including three of Minnesota's neighbors, Iowa and the Dakotas.

For his part, the president said it was good to spend his 49th birthday with "good friends."

Chicago arrest linked to terror plan

CHICAGO, Aug. 4 (UPI) -- A Chicago man allegedly was about to travel to Somalia to engage in jihadist fighting just hours before he was arrested, U.S. officials said Wednesday.

Shaker Masri, 26, was arrested late Tuesday in Countryside, Ill., by members of the Chicago FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force. Officials said the arrest followed an 18-month investigation.

Masri was charged in a criminal complaint with one count each of trying to provide material support to a terrorist organization and trying to provide material support through the use of a weapon of mass destruction, a U.S. Justice Department statement said.

Both charges are felonies.

The complaint said Masri, a U.S. citizen, has been espousing increasingly violent opinions and openly began to express a desire to join a "jihad" and fight against what he called "infidels," the department said.

Officials said Masri during the last month began to actively plan a trip to Somalia, where he hoped to join elements of al-Qaida and the Somali Islamist terrorist group al-Shabaab and participate in a suicide attack.

Masri appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Geraldine Soat Brown in Chicago Wednesday, at which point he was formally charged. He was ordered held without bond, and Brown set his next hearing for Monday.

If convicted, Masri faces up to 15 years in prison on each count.

(Source: UPI )


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