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Senate to Vote on 9/11 Victims Fund Bill

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  • Comedian Jon Stewart and Sen. Rand Paul took swipes at each other this week amid Paul’s efforts to stall a bill that would reauthorize funding for the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund (VCF).
  • The House passed a version of the bill July 12 after Stewart, a long-time advocate for VCF funding, gave testimony before a House committee that later went viral.
  • Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand brought the bill to the Senate floor for a unanimous consent vote Wednesday
  • But the vote failed when Paul objected and argued that funding should be cut from other areas to offset the funding for VCF.
  • Another vote on the bill is set for early next week. 

Senate Vote Rescheduled

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) and comedian Jon Stewart exchanged heated remarks this week after Paul blocked a bill that would reauthorize the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund from passing on Wednesday.

The VCF was originally formed by Congress after the 9/11 attacks in 2001 in order to assist the families of people who died or were injured. Funding for the VCF was last reauthorized by Congress in 2015, with funds set to expire December 2020.

However, earlier this year VCF administrator Rupa Bhattacharyya announced that the fund did not have enough money to pay either existing or anticipated claims.

The House voted earlier this month, 402 to 12, to reauthorize the bill through 2092 after comedian and long-time VCF advocate Jon Stewart delivered a powerful testimony during a House committee hearing. 

Despite the overwhelming support in the House, many were concerned about objections from the Senate.

On Wednesday, Sen. Paul prevented the Senate from voting on the reauthorization by unanimous consent. Under Senate rules, any one Senator can purpose that a measure is approved by unanimous consent, but that request can also be rejected by a single Senator.

Paul argued that funding should be cut from other areas to offset the money that would be allocated to the VCF. He also added that he would be proposing an amendment. 

Sen. Mike Lee also placed a procedural hold on the bill.

Jon Stewart Responds

Paul and Lee’s efforts to stall the VCF reauthorization drew the ire of many, including Jon Stewart, who voiced his frustration on Wednesday while speaking to Fox News host Bret Baier.

“It’s absolutely outrageous,” Stewart said. “And you’ll pardon me if I’m not impressed in any way by Rand Paul’s fiscal responsibility virtue signaling.”

“Bret, this is about what kind of society do we have,” he continued. “At some point, we have to stand up for the people who have always stood up for us, and at this moment in time, maybe cannot stand up for themselves, due to their illnesses and their injuries. And what Rand Paul did today on the Senate was outrageous.”

“He is a guy who put us in hundreds of billions of dollars in debt,” he added, noting how Paul voted for President Donald Trump’s $1.5 trillion tax cut.

“And now he’s going to tell us that a billion dollars a year over 10 years is just too much for us to handle?

Rand Paul Responds

Paul responded to Stewart’s retorts while speaking to Fox News host Neil Cavuto Thursday.

“I know Jon Stewart, and Jon Stewart is sometimes funny, sometimes informed, but in this case, he’s neither funny nor informed,” the Senator said, going on to argue that he has spent his whole Senate career “putting forward “pay-fors anytime spending is expanded.”

“So he’s really not informed and his name-calling just sort of exposes him as a left-winger, part of the left-wing mob that really isn’t using his brain and is willing to call people names,” he continued. 

“Its really kind of disgusting, because see he pretended for years when he was on his comedy show to be somebody who could see both sides and see through the B.S. on both sides. Well, now he is the B.S.”

Proposed Amendments 

Both Paul and Lee argued that the reauthorization bill should be passed through an amendment vote and not a unanimous consent vote. 

“Not blocking the 9/11 bill – simply asking for a vote on an amendment to offset the cost,” Paul said in a tweet on Wednesday. 

An amendment proposed by Lee would give the VCF finite funding of $1 billion a year for 10 years, rather than providing indefinite funds through 2094, like the House bill.

“Since 2011, the 9/11 Victims Fund has always had finite authorizations, and by all accounts it has an excellent record avoiding waste and abuse,” Lee said in a statement on Thursday. “These two things are not coincidental. They go together.”

Others argue that the limited terms set out by Lee’s amendment would just set Congress up for another reauthorization debate in 10 years.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), who brought the bill to the floor for the unanimous consent vote, the called Lee’s amendment “unbelievably callous.” She also told the Senators “to stop these political games and pass this bill now.”

Paul also proposed an amendment, though it is not immediately clear how it would change the bill, according to reports.

After negotiations, Gillibrand and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) made a joint announcement Thursday saying that the Senate is set to vote on the bill early next week.

They also said that they would oppose both of the amendments put forward by Paul and Lee. Both Senators expect the bill to pass before the Senate leaves for recess in August. 

“Senator Paul may have turned his back on our first responders today, but now we have a filibuster-proof bipartisan support of 73 cosponsors in addition to myself,” Gillibrand said.

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (Vox) (Fox News)

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Intense White House Meeting Prompts “Meltdown” Accusations

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  • Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and other Democratic leaders walked out of a meeting with President Trump about Syria on Wednesday, with Pelosi later saying Trump had a “meltdown.”
  • Trump hit back by tweeting a picture of Pelosi at the meeting, saying she was the one who had a meltdown.
  • The post backfired when the image went viral and Pelosi made it her cover photo.
  • Both liberals and conservatives applauded her and mocked Trump for sharing a picture of Pelosi where she looked powerful, while some argued that she disrespected the president.

Democrats Walk Out

President Donald Trump and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) threw “meltdown” accusations at one another after Democratic leaders walked out of a meeting with the President Wednesday.

Pelosi along with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-NY) left in the middle of a meeting at the White House about Turkey and Syria after things got heated with the president.

Check out our previous coverage about the situation in Syria.

In a press conference at the White House, Pelosi said she believed Trump was upset about a resolution the House had passed earlier that day, formally condemning Trump’s decision to remove U.S. troops from Northern Syria.

She noted that the resolution had massive bipartisan support and passed with 354 votes in favor and 60 against.

“I think that vote – the size of the vote, more than 2-1 of the Republicans voted to oppose what the president did – probably got to the president. Because he was shaken up by it,” the speaker said. “And that’s why we couldn’t continue in the meeting because he was just not relating to the reality of it.” 

“What we witnessed on the part of the president was a meltdown. Sad to say,” she added later. 

Schumer chimed in as well, telling reporters that Trump was “insulting, particularly to the speaker.”

“She kept her cool completely, but he called her a third-rate politician,” he continued. “He said that there are communists involved and you guys might like that. I mean, this was not a dialogue, it was sort of a diatribe. A nasty diatribe, not focused on the facts.” 

Pelosi later said she thought Trump called her a “third-grade politician.” 

Hoyer also spoke to the way the president acted.

“We were offended deeply by his treatment of the Speaker of the House of Representatives,” he said, adding that there were “very offensive accusations being made by the President of the United States.”

“I have served with six Presidents. I have been in many, many, many meetings like this. Never have I seen a president treat so disrespectfully a co-equal branch of the government of the United States,” he continued.

Pelosi addressed the situation again later while speaking at the Capitol.

“I think now we have to pray for his health, because this was a very serious meltdown on the part of the president,” she said. 

Trump Responds

In a tweet, White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said that Trump had been “measured & decisive.”

She also accused Pelosi of having “no intention of participating” in the meeting, adding, “Dem ‘leadership’ chose to storm out & whine to cameras, everyone else stayed to work on behalf of our country.”

Trump himself responded, tweeting a picture of Pelosi at the meeting with the caption, “Nervous Nancy’s unhinged meltdown!”

If Trump’s plan was to make it look like Pelosi was the one having a meltdown, it seems like that plan largely backfired. Soon after he posted that picture, Pelosi made it her Twitter cover photo.

“Thanks for the new cover photo @realDonaldTrump!”  her deputy chief of staff tweeted, sharing a screenshot of her profile.

After that, Trump appeared to try to double down in another tweet.

“Nancy Pelosi needs help fast! There is either something wrong with her ‘upstairs,’ or she just plain doesn’t like our great Country,” the president wrote. “She had a total meltdown in the White House today. It was very sad to watch. Pray for her, she is a very sick person!”

Response on Twitter

Trump’s later comment did not seem to add too much to the conversation, because, by that point, the photo had already gone viral, with #PelosiOwnsTrump, #SpeakerPelosi, and #PelosiMeltdown trending on Twitter.

A lot of Democrats and prominent liberal voices responded by applauding Pelosi, and saying Trump had inadvertently shown a picture where she came off very strong.

“Only Trump would tweet this perfect picture of his weakness & humiliation,” MSNBC‘s Lawrence O’Donnell tweeted.

Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) and 2020 candidate Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) also praised the speaker.

Notably, a number of conservative voices also chimed in to commend Pelosi.

“What is this thing everywhere where tough women who don’t put up with shit are ‘unhinged’?! Nancy looks like a bad bitch in control of a room entirely filled with men!”  wrote conservative commentator Meghan McCain.

Other conservatives like Republican strategist Ana Navarro-Cárdenas and conservative commentator and analyst Bill Kristol also appeared to express support for Pelosi.

However, plenty of others defended Trump.

See what others are saying: (Vox) (Newsweek) (The Washington Post)

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Internet Slams Bill O’Reilly for Doubting Story of Mom With 4 Jobs

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  • During Tuesday’s Democratic Debate, Beto O’Rourke said he had met a woman in Las Vegas who works four jobs and is raising a child with disabilities. 
  • Disgraced former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly was live-tweeting the debate and said he did not believe this story. 
  • People on the internet were quick to criticize O’Reilly for appearing out of touch with society.
  • O’Rourke also responded himself, showing a picture of him with the woman and her daughter to prove he did not make the anecdote up.

O’Reilly Live-tweets Debate

Disgraced former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly is facing backlash after accusing Beto O’Rourke of lying during the presidential debate on Tuesday. 

During the debate, the former Texas representative was asked about wealth taxes as a solution to wealth inequality. In his response, he told a story.

“I think of a woman that I met in Las Vegas, Nevada. She’s working four jobs, raising her child with disabilities, and any American with disabilities knows just how hard it is to make it and get by in this country already,” O’Rourke said. 

“Some of those jobs working for some of these corporations, she wants to know how we are going to help her,” he added, “how we’re going to make sure that her child has the care that she needs, that we strengthen protections for those with disabilities, that she just has to work one job because it pays a living wage.” 

This story caught O’Reilly’s attention. The news personality, who was let go from Fox News in 2017 after reports showed had settled multiple sexual harassment claims at the company, including one for $32 million, said he did not believe the anecdote. 

Twitter Responds to O’Reilly

O’Reilly’s tweet got a lot of backlash from those who thought it sounded out of touch. He ended up trending on Twitter as a result. Many brought up his settlements when responding to the message. 

O’Rourke’s Team Responds:

O’Rourke’s team also responded to O’Reilly. The campaign’s Digital Director, Rob Flaherty, shared a photo of O’Rourke with the woman in the story. 

“I was there. Her name was Gina.  Her daughter is named Summer,” he wrote. Here’s their picture. Asshole.”

O’Rourke shared the same photo himself.

“The problem with our economy is she has to live in her car—while a disgraced TV host like you makes millions,” the candidate said.

O’Reilly continued to live-tweet the rest of the debate. He also tweeted again about it on Wednesday morning. He has not yet acknowledged his tweet and the controversy it stirred.

See what others are saying: (NBC News) (The Hill) (Huffington Post)

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#DeleteFacebook Trends After Reports of Zuckerberg Meetings With Conservatives

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  • #DeleteFacebook trended on Twitter after Politico reported that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg had been hosting informal and off-the-record dinners with prominent conservatives like Tucker Carlson, Sen. Lindsey Graham, and Ben Shapiro.
  • Facebook has recently received backlash from the left for allegedly appeasing the Trump administration, especially after the company announced a few weeks ago that anything politicians post will be exempt from the platform’s rules, including hate speech and false information.
  • 2020 presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren responded to the new rule by running her own false ads saying Zuckerberg endorsed Trump in the 2020 election.

Politico Report

#DeleteFacebook trended on Twitter Monday after Politico reported that multiple sources confirmed Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg had been hosting informal and off-the-record dinners with conservative pundits, journalists, and at least one lawmaker.

According to a source, the conversations at those dinners centered around “free expression, unfair treatment of conservatives, the appeals process for real or perceived unfair treatment, fact checking, partnerships, and privacy.”

A person familiar with the gatherings told Politico some of the people who attended the dinners included conservatives who have been critical of Facebook in the past, like Fox News Host Tucker Carlson, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and conservative radio talk host Hugh Hewitt.

The list also included conservative journalists like Townhall editor and Fox News contributor Guy Benson, Washington Examiner chief political correspondent and Fox News contributor Byron York, as well as conservative commentators like Ben Shapiro, among other prominent conservative voices.

A spokesperson for Graham confirmed to Politico that he had spoken with Zuckerberg, but all the others either refused to comment or did not respond.

According to Politico, the gatherings started back in July and were all held at one of Zuckerberg’s homes in California as part of “Zuckerberg’s broader effort to cultivate friends on the right amid outrage by President Donald Trump and his allies over alleged ‘bias’ against conservatives at Facebook and other major social media companies.”

#DeleteFacebook Trends on Twitter

A number of people took to Twitter to respond to the report.

Some condemned Facebook, like actress Yvette Nicole Brown, who wrote, “I stopped actively posting on @Facebook in 2016 after it was revealed that it helped elect the orange fecal smear. Now #DeleteFacebook seems like the best course of action.”

Others posted screenshots of themselves deleting Facebook.

“Zuckerburg has allowed lies to spread on his platform and it was the last straw for me,” one user wrote. “His greed is clear so I have no need for his service.” 

On the other side, some criticized the trending hashtag as hypocritical and intolerant.

“The Left is pushing the hashtag #DeleteFacebook, because Mark Zuckerberg had meetings with conservative politicians, and commentators… in an effort to make the platform less biased,” co-founder of Students for Trump Ryan Fournier wrote. “The Left give the most lip service on tolerance, yet they turn out to be the most intolerant.”

That sentiment was also echoed by conservative commentator Graham Allen.

Zuckerberg himself respond in a Facebook post. 

“To be clear, I have dinners with lots of people across the spectrum on lots of different issues all the time,” he wrote. “Meeting new people and hearing from a wide range of viewpoints is part of learning. If you haven’t tried it, I suggest you do!”

Source: Mark Zuckerberg

Partisan Debate

Facebook’s alleged efforts to work with conservatives come as the company faces mounting criticism from the Trump administration and others on the right who say Facebook is biased against conservatives.

After the 2016 election, Facebook changed its policies to try and limit the spread of false information and foreign-bought ads.

But conservatives have pushed Facebook to minimize and correct bias within those policies after a report in 2016 alleged that Facebook employees may have suppressed stories from right-leaning publications in the “Trending Topics” section.

Part of those efforts included Facebook launching a yearlong “conservative bias audit” in 2018, which was led by former Republican Senator Jon Kyl and a team from his law firm. That effort resulted in Facebook changing some advertising policies.

Other conservatives have also criticized Facebook for how it defines hate speech. President Trump himself said back in June that the U.S. should sue Facebook and Google because of bias against conservatives.

However, many have pointed out, a lot of claims that Facebook censors conservatives have been largely unsubstantiated, with those who accuse Facebook of liberal bias providing little evidence.

In fact, just this past May, conservative publications like Fox, Breitbart, and Shapiro’s Daily Wire were some of the top publishers on Facebook, according to data from Newswhip.

Those factors have pushed people on the left to condemn Facebook and Zuckerberg for caving to appease the Trump administration.

“The discussion in Silicon Valley is that Zuckerberg is very concerned about the Justice Department, under Bill Barr, bringing an enforcement action to break up the company,” an anonymous cybersecurity researcher and former government official based in Silicon Valley told Politico.

“So the fear is that Zuckerberg is trying to appease the Trump administration by not cracking down on right-wing propaganda.”

Pelosi Video

This idea that Facebook and Zuckerberg are trying to cater to Trump and his administration is not new.

Facebook sparked controversy in May after the company refused to remove a video of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) which had been slowed down to make her appear drunk or otherwise impaired.

Several Democrats responded to the incident in a letter to Facebook in June, where they asked Facebook what they were doing to address “the spreading of political disinformation by real accounts.”

“We are concerned that there may be a potential conflict of interest between Facebook’s bottom line and immediately addressing political disinformation on your platform,” they added.

Facebook’s vice president of U.S. public policy responded in another letter three weeks.

There, he said Facebook was working to reduce misinformation by “removing fake accounts, disrupting the financial incentives behind propagating false and misleading information,” and letting users know “when they are reading or sharing information (excluding satire and opinion) that has been disputed or debunked.”

“Leading up to 2020 we know that combating misinformation is one of the most important things we can do,” he added later.

Warren Ads

Just a few weeks ago, Facebook again came under fire when it announced that anything politicians post will be exempt from the platform’s rules, and that it will not remove or label posts by politicians that violate community guidelines, even if it contains fake information or hate speech.

That policy change was met with a lot of outrage, but some people have been pretty creative with it.

Last week, 2020 presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) ran an ad on Facebook falsely claiming that Zuckerberg endorsed Trump in 2020.

“You’re probably shocked, and you might be thinking, ‘how could this possibly be true?’” the ad said. “Well, it’s not. (Sorry.) But what Zuckerberg *has* done is given Donald Trump free rein to lie on his platform — and then to pay Facebook gobs of money to push out their lies to American voters.”

Warren also took to Twitter to address the ads and go after Facebook.

“Facebook holds incredible power to affect elections and our national debate. They’ve decided to let political figures lie to you—even about Facebook itself—while their executives and their investors get even richer off the ads containing these lies,” she wrote in one tweet.

“Once again, we’re seeing Facebook throw its hands up to battling misinformation in the political discourse, because when profit comes up against protecting democracy, Facebook chooses profit,” she continued in another post.

Warren also condemned Facebook for airing a Trump campaign ad NBC and CNN refused to run because it made false statements about former Vice President Joe Biden.

In a rare occurrence, Facebook responded to Warren on Twitter, saying that they also ran pro-impeachment and anti-impeachment ads that aired nationally.

“FCC doesn’t want broadcast companies censoring candidates’ speech. We agree it’s better to let voters—not companies—decide,” it added.

See what others are saying: (Politico) (Newsweek) (TIME)

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