Nation & World Briefs 04-29-14 Congress returned to work Monday to do bare minimum


WASHINGTON -- Congress got back to work Monday after a two-week vacation, and it's looking like lawmakers will do what they do best: the bare minimum.

Forget immigration, a tax overhaul, stiffer gun checks. They're all DOA.

Raising the minimum wage or restoring lost unemployment benefits? Not going to happen. Forcing government approval of the Keystone XL pipeline? Veto bait.

The only things likely to become law in a Congress bitterly divided between House Republicans and the Democratic-led Senate are those that simply have to pass, such as a measure to avoid a government shutdown.

That's a short, short list.

It gets even shorter if you leave off things that can wait until a postelection lame-duck session.

Atop the list is a short-term spending bill to keep the government running past the Oct. 1 start of the new budget year. Votes on the bill aren't needed until September.

Active search ends for bodies: For more than five weeks, crews painstakingly sifted through mud and debris, at first searching for survivors and then for the remains of those buried by the mudslide in Washington state. On Monday, officials called off the active search, though two bodies remain entombed in the tangled pile. At times, people dug with their bare hands, recovering 41 victims, but Steve Hadaway and Kris Regelbrugge have not been found after a hillside collapsed March 22 and swept across the small community in Oso, about an hour northeast of Seattle. Frank Hadaway, whose brother Steve died in the slide, said he understood the county's decision.

FDA offers another warning: Apparently, the FDA's warning four months ago was missed by many physicians, pharmacists and patients, so the drug agency, in an unusual move, saw fit Monday to remind us: Stop writing prescriptions for, stop dispensing prescriptions for, and stop taking medications containing more than 325 milligrams of acetaminophen. Your liver will thank you, since acetaminophen overdose has overtaken viral hepatitis infection as the most common cause of acute liver failure. It is now the second most common cause of liver failure requiring transplantation in the United States.

Voters mixed over fraud charges: A Congressional campaign that's already promising to be tightly contested is now even more controversial. Voters on Staten Island have mixed views over the impact of incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Michael Grimm facing charges including wire and tax fraud. Grimm was charged Monday following a two-year investigation that initially focused on alleged attempts to bypass contribution limits. He pleaded not guilty through his lawyer in federal court in Brooklyn to mail, wire and tax fraud charges in connection to a small Manhattan restaurant and was released on $400,000 bond secured by his Staten Island home.

McAllister won't seek re-election: Louisiana GOP Rep. Vance McAllister, caught on camera kissing a married female aide, said Monday he's failed his family, let down his district and doesn't intend to run for re-election this fall. In a statement, McAllister apologized for conduct he called a "personal failure," and said he spent the Easter congressional recess reconciling with his family. "I've failed those I care most about and let down the people who elected me to represent them," the freshman lawmaker said. Though he won't be on the November ballot, McAllister said he'll serve out the remainder of his term, and he returned to Washington on Monday to resume work. The married father of five children has been in office fewer than six months.

Likely to reiterate flexible policy: Federal Reserve chairman Janet Yellen has made one thing clear: The Fed will keep all options open in deciding when to raise interest rates from record lows. Gone are the benchmarks that her predecessor, Ben Bernanke, used to try to guide investors. In a speech this month, Yellen said the Fed "must respond to significant unexpected twists and turns the economy may take." The Fed will likely repeat that theme on Wednesday, when it ends a policy meeting.

Toyota moving U.S. base: Toyota is moving its U.S. headquarters from California to Texas in a bid to improve communication between units now spread over several states. Toyota will break ground this year on a new environmentally friendly headquarters in Plano, Texas, about 25 miles north of Dallas. Small groups of employees will start moving to temporary office space there this year, but most will not move until late 2016 or early 2017 when a new headquarters is completed. The new campus will bring together approximately 4,000 employees from sales, marketing, engineering, manufacturing and finance currently in California and Kentucky.

EU names 15 new targets: The European Union has released the names of 15 new targets of sanctions because of their roles in the Ukraine crisis. The list released today includes Gen. Valery Gerasimov, chief of the Russian General Staff, and Lt. Gen. Igor Sergun, identified as head of GRU, the Russian military intelligence agency. Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak and pro-Russian separatist leaders in Crimea and the eastern Ukrainian cities of Lugansk and Donetsk were also on the list. The decision taken by the EU governments' ambassadors in Brussels brings the total number of Russians or pro-Russian individuals in Ukraine targeted by the EU's sanctions to 48.

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