Policy snags hold up $1.1 trillion spending bill

WASHINGTON (AP) — Ahead of Congress' midnight Thursday deadline, snags caused by policy differences are holding up a $1.1 trillion, government-wide spending bill, including a provision that could lead to pension cuts for more than 1 million retirees and a plan to relax new regulations on some risky financial products.

The massive measure is the main piece of unfinished business before the lame-duck Congress packs up for the holidays and Republicans take full control of Capitol Hill next month. GOP leaders want a clean slate to start next year and are eager for a deal. Democrats want a deal as well — while they retain power in the Senate.

Also on the packed agenda for the week is a one-year renewal of a package of expired tax breaks for individuals and businesses; a renewal of the government's terrorism insurance programs, eagerly sought by the construction industry; and a defense policy measure that renews the Pentagon's authority to train Syrian rebels to battle Islamic State militants who control large swaths of Iraq and Syria.

Senate passes measure to improve FOIA

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate has passed a bill to update the Freedom of Information Act.

By voice vote on Monday, lawmakers endorsed a bill by Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas that the sponsors said would require federal agencies to have a presumption of openness.

GOP seeks to ease regulations on spending bill

WASHINGTON (AP) — Republicans sought to ease federal regulations on the trucking industry, financial sector, federally-funded school lunch program and more on Monday in last-minute bargaining over a $1.1 trillion spending bill to keep the government operating past a Thursday midnight deadline.

The funding legislation was one of a handful of must-pass items clogging the agenda for lawmakers eager to adjourn for the new year. Others were bills to extend dozens of expiring tax breaks, authorize President Barack Obama's policy of arming Syrian rebels to fight Islamic state forces and a Democratic drive to confirm as many administration nominees as possible before the Republicans take control of the Senate in January.

Skrmetta wins re-election to La. Public Service Commission

The Times-Picayune

In a Louisiana election runoff Saturday, incumbent Eric Skrmetta beat back a challenge from Forest Wright to keep his seat on the state Public Service Commission, the body that regulates consumer services including electricity and water, The Times-Picayune reports.

Obama, GOP-led Congress prepare for veto showdowns

WASHINGTON (AP) — Veto brinkmanship between congressional Republicans and President Barack Obama was virtually absent in his first six years in office, but it's about to unleash itself on Washington.

Until now, controversial Republican-backed legislation rarely reached the president's desk because Senate Democrats blocked it. Starting in January, however, Republicans will control both the House and Senate, and Obama may have to decide more often whether to sign or veto GOP-crafted bills.

Associated Press

Cassidy defeats Democratic Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy has defeated Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu, denying her a fourth term and extending the GOP's domination of the 2014 midterm elections that put Republicans in charge of Capitol Hill for the final two years of President Barack Obama's tenure.

With Cassidy's victory, Republicans will hold 54 seats when the Senate convenes in January, nine more than they have now. Republican victories in two Louisiana House districts Saturday — including the seat Cassidy now holds — ensure at least 246 seats, compared to 188 for Democrats, the largest GOP advantage since the Truman administration after World War II. An Arizona recount leaves one race still outstanding.

Fundraising for NextGen fell short of Steyer’s goal

The Hill

NextGen Climate raised $67.7 million in 2014, short of the $100 million goal founder Tom Steyer set earlier in the year, but records filed with the Federal Election Commission Thursday show one late donor was ex-media mogul Ted Turner, The Hill reports.

Landrieu can't settle on message in Senate runoff

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Seniority and clout. The Keystone XL pipeline. Her opponent's timesheets. And a slap at national Democrats who abandoned her bid for reelection.

Trying to gain traction with Louisiana's voters ahead of Saturday's runoff election, Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu has hopscotched through messages and blame for what's now her underdog status. Rep. Bill Cassidy, Landrieu's Republican opponent, meanwhile, appears set for success on Saturday by hammering Landrieu on just one theme: her ties to President Barack Obama.

GOP may keep weaker Senate filibuster rule

WASHINGTON (AP) — Poised to take over the Senate next month, Republicans may well keep weaker filibuster rules that they angrily denounced Democrats for muscling through the chamber a year ago.

GOP senators remain divided on the issue, and it is uncertain what will happen when they discuss it Tuesday behind closed doors. But several Republicans said they think they will stick with the Democratic-imposed old threshold that a simple majority of votes can end filibusters against most nominations, instead of reviving the tougher 60-vote standard that lasted four decades before it was scuttled last November.

Greens condemn Michigan bill to expand renewable definition


Burning tires could be classified as renewable energy, under a bill approved in the Michigan House Thursday that was condemned by environmentalists as setting a dangerous precedent for increasing pollution, MLive.com reports.


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