TRNS News Notes is brought to you by Victoria Jones. Victoria Jones is the Chief White House correspondent and global analyst of the Washington DC based Talk Radio News Service, where her insight and analysis are made available to over 400 news talk radio stations around the country and internationally.

In the News

  • Senate vote-a-rama: GOP budget passes
  • Vote-a-rama: Long eared bats / edible marijuana
  • Plane crash: Police find “significant clue”
  • Yemen turmoil: Regional conflict
  • Yemen now: Why it matters
  • Rouhani speaks with world leaders
  • U.S. plan: Fight antibiotic resistant bacteria – but
  • Scott Walker’s immigration flip flops
  • DEA agents’ sex romps with prostitutes
Senate Vote-a-Rama: GOP Budget Passes
The Senate early this morning passed, 52-46, a Republican-authored budget that seeks $5.1 trillion in domestic spending cuts over 10 years while boosting military funding, putting Congress on a path to complete its first full budget in six years. The Senate’s been adjourned until 13 April. Take them that long to recover – see below (Politico, Reuters, me)

• The Senate plowed through hours of voting Thursday during its budget “vote-a-rama” – with each party trying to force the other into tough spots on the minimum wage, taxes and health care, all in the hopes of scoring political points

• Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) offered to buy all senators dinner once Congress returns from its two week recess in mid-April if they would just hurry along and finish by 11.30 pm. “For all you new members, you see what it’s like,” Reid said. “The time has come for senators to show some restraint.” They didn’t

• Defense spending quickly showed the gaps between GOP presidential hopefuls, as Sen Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Sen Rand Paul (R-KY) got votes on their respective plans to boost funding for the military early Wed afternoon. “My amendment increases defense spending but pays for it with spending cuts,” Paul said on the floor

• Those comments appeared to be a veiled shot at Rubio, who said Wed that the increase shouldn’t have to be offset, because “a national defense is a priority.” But his amendment failed Thursday afternoon. Sen Ted Cruz (R-TX) appeared torn over how to vote on Rubio’s measure, standing at the well of the chamber and staring at the text of the legislation before voting yes

Vote-a-Rama: Long-Eared Bats / Edible Marijuana
• Sen Orrin Hatch (R-UT) wants to make sure children don’t munch edible marijuana, Sen David Vitter (R0LA) wants to prevent “Washington elites” from forcing Americans to give up their paper dollar bills and use coins like Europeans (god forbid) (NYT, me)

• Sen Dean Heller (R-NV) would allow open season on the sage grouse or, more specifically, development of the bird’s habitat, while Sen John Thune (R-SD) would like federal protection for the beleaguered northern long-eared bat. It’s the vote-a-rama, folks

• Asked what the point of the “vote-a-rama” is, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) paused, then laughed and walked away

• Aides shuffled paper, as if the endless stream of amendments  – there were 500 in 2013 – actually carried the force of law. They don’t. By 4:10 pm, Sen John Boozman (R-AR) pronounced, “I’m already tired,” before promising to rally for the night shift

• Twenty minutes later, tubs of Rocklands barbecue were wheeled into the Mansfield Room off the Senate chamber for a bipartisan meal, courtesy of McConnell. Chaos? “Yes, that would be a good description,” said Sen Susan Collins (R-ME)

• House Lawmakers Thursday overwhelmingly approved a bipartisan bill to permanently repair the flawed way Medicare has paid physicians – the “doc fix,” to fund a children’s health insurance program for two more years and to enact some minor changes to entitlement programs (Hill, TRNS)
Plane Crash: Police Find “Significant Clue”
German police have seized possessions belonging to a co-pilot who apparently crashed his plane in the French Alps killing all 150 people on board, as they investigate his possible motives. They said they had found a significant clue, according to media reports. Meanwhile, German Bild newspaper reports that Lubitz had a major depressive episode six years ago (BBC, NYT, Bild, TRNS, me)

• Data from the plane’s voice recorder suggest Andreas Lubitz had deliberately started a descent while the pilot was locked out of the cockpit. The Barcelona-Dusseldorf Germanwings flight crashed on Tuesday. Several airlines have now pledged to change their rules to ensure at least two crew members are present in the cockpit at all times

• The revelations by the German police come after officers searched Lubitz’s apartment in Dusseldorf and the house the 27-year-old shared with his parents in Montebaur, north of Frankfurt, late Thursday. A number of items were removed, including boxes and a computer, from the two properties

• “We have found something which will now be taken for tests. We cannot say what it is at the moment but it may be a very significant clue to what has happened,” police spox Markus Niesczery said. However, police said the discovery wasn’t a suicide note


• German govt officials said Lubitz was not known to the country’s security services. Earlier, Carsten Spohr, the head of Lufthansa, the German carrier that own Germanwings, said the co-pilot had undergone intensive training and “was 100% fit to fly without any caveats.”

• Spohr said Lubitz’s training had been interrupted for several months six years ago, but didn’t say why. There are strict privacy rules in Germany. The training was resumed after “the suitability of the candidate was re-established,” he said

• Thursday, Marseille prosecutor Brice Robin said the co-pilot appeared to want to “destroy the plane.” Citing info from the recovered black box recorder, Robin said Lubitz was alone in the cockpit just before the crash

• Robin said there was “absolute silence in the cockpit” as pilot Capt Patrick Sonderheimer fought to re-enter it. Air traffic controllers made repeated attempts to contact the aircraft, the prosecutor added, but to no avail. The pilot had probably left the cockpit to go to the toilet, he said

• “At that moment, the co-pilot is controlling the plane by himself. While he is alone, the co-pilot presses the buttons of the flight monitoring system to put into action the descent of the aeroplane,” Robin said. Passengers were not aware of the crash “until the very last moment” when screams could be heard. They died instantly. Lubitz was alive until the final impact
• President Obama pushed for stricter payday lending rules Thursday as he defended the federal govt’s consumer protection watchdog against Republican efforts to defund the agency (TRNS)
Yemen Turmoil: Regional Conflict
The turmoil in Yemen grew into a regional conflict Thursday, with Saudi Arabia and its allies bombing Shiite Houthi rebels allied with Iran, while Egyptian officials said a ground assault will follow the airstrike. The aim is not to occupy Yemen but to weaken the Houthis until they enter negotiations for power-sharing, officials said (AP, me)

• Iran denounced the Saudi-led campaign, saying it “considers this action a dangerous step,” and oil prices jumped in New York and London after the offensive. The  military action turned impoverished and chaotic Yemen into a new front in the rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran

• Yemen’s U.S.-backed President Abed-Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who fled the country Wednesday as the Houthis advanced on his stronghold in the southern port city of Aden, reappeared Thursday. He arrived by plane in Saudi Arabia’s capital of Riyadh

• Saudi warplanes pounded an air base, military bases and anti-aircraft positions in the capital of Sanaa and flattened a number of homes near the airport, killing at least 18 civilians. Rebel leader Abdul-Malik al-Houthi angrily accused the U.S., Saudi Arabia and Israel of launching a “criminal, unjust, brutal and sinful” campaign aimed at invading and occupying Yemen

• WH spox Eric Schultz told reporters that president Obama had authorized logistical and intel support for the strikes, but that the U.S. isn’t joining with direct military action. Also involved in the assault were aircraft from the UAE, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, Jordan, Morocco, Sudan and Egypt, though unclear which carried out actual strikes
Yemen Now: Why It Matters
Al Qaeda’s most feared affiliate. Yemen is home to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, which Washington views as the most lethal branch of al Qaeda. AQAP has been linked to several attempted attacks on the U.S. President Hadi was a close ally of the U.S. in the fight against AQAP but he has fled Yemen (AP, me)

U.S. drone campaign against AQAP is now in disarray. About 100 U.S. military advisers withdraw last weekend from a base where they had been leading the campaign. The Houthis have overrun the base. The loss of Hadi and splintering of the military leave the U.S. with fewer allies on the ground gathering intel and launching raids

Saudi-Iranian proxy war. The airstrikes have transformed Yemen into another arena for the regional struggle between Saudi Arabia and Iran, which also back opposite sides in Syria’s civil war

ISIS. The turmoil has allowed supporters of ISIS to gain a foothold in Yemen, where ISIS militants killed more than 130 people last week in suicide attacks on two Houthi-linked mosques. Such attacks, along with the Saudi intervention, could add a toxic sectarian dimension to what until now has mainly been a political conflict – making it bloodier and more intractable

Guantanamo Bay detainees. The Obama admin said recently that the U.S. isn’t considering sending any of the Yemeni detainees back to their homeland for the foreseeable future because of volatile conditions. That could make it even harder for President Obama to make good on his 2008 campaign promise to close the prison for terrorism suspects
• Thousands of Shiite militiamen boycotted the new U.S. airstrike campaign against ISIS militants holed up in Tikrit on Thursday, others threatened to attack any Americans they found, and Iraqi officials said nine of their fighters has been accidentally killed in an airstrike. In DC, American military leaders insisted that things were going according to plan. (that’s alright then) (NYT, TRNS, me)
Rouhani Speaks with World Leaders
• Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani spoke with the leaders of France, Britain, China and Russia on Thursday in an apparent effort to break an impasse holding up a nuclear deal. Rouhani also sent a letter outlining Tehran’s position to all of six countries negotiating with Iran, including the U.S. (Reuters, AP, me)

• Rouhani also raised the Saudi-led military operation against Iranian-backed Houthi fighters in Yemen, a divisive issue. British PM David Cameron said after the call that the two sides agreed it was possible to conclude a framework nuclear deal by the end of March

• Meanwhile, SecState John Kerry and Iranian FM Javad Zarif met twice on Thursday in Lausanne, Switzerland. Kerry raised the Yemen crisis before negotiations began, though a senior U.S. official said the issue didn’t have any impact on the nuclear negotiations. Iranian media quoted Zarif as condemning the Saudi-led military operation against the Houthi fighters

• The Obama admin may allow Iran to operate hundreds of centrifuges at a fortified, underground bunker under an emerging deal, AP reports. Iran would be allowed to run several hundred centrifuges at Fordo, a once-secret facility, with international inspectors given access to the work. Iran could only pursue non-military research using those devices

• Sources said that the U.S. could further limit Iran by banning the use of uranium in any centrifuges. The end result would allow the country to pursue energy and medical research while keeping its nuclear program more than a year away from enriching enough uranium to build a weapon. The deal would only let Iran use zinc, xenon or germanium in its centrifuges instead

• Vid: President Obama tells “The Wire” creator David Simon he’s a huge fan. He says he thinks it’s one of the “greatest, not just television shows, but pieces of art, in the last couple of decades.” It’s a 12-minute sitdown for the First Fan in which they talked about overhauling the criminal justice system (Hill, me)

U.S. Plan: Fight Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria – But…
• The Obama admin will this morning release a long-awaited plan to fight the spread of antibiotic resistant bacteria – but scientists and lawmakers are already dismissing it as too weak to make enough progress against one of the most urgent public health risks (Politico, me)

• The plan outlines actions over five years to achieve five goals: slowing the spread of resistant bacteria, strengthening surveillance, speeding the development of tests and new drugs, improving how govt agencies work together on the issue, and expanding international efforts on the global health threat

• It’s a response to dire warnings that the spread of bacteria resistant to medications could bring about an era when a child’s scrape can cause grave illness and routine surgeries turn fatal. The plan is based on recommendations issued last year by the President’s Council on Advisers on Science and Technology

• But critics were already dismissing the plan as too lenient on big farms giving important drugs to animals – a major driver of antibiotic resistance – and doing little to spur the discovery of new germ-killing compounds

• Rep Louise Slaughter (D-NY) said, “They’re about 10 years behind,” and despite her longtime work on the subject: “They didn’t even send me a copy of this.” Goals set for 2020 in the president’s plan fall short and won’t move quickly enough, Slaughter said, especially in areas of antibiotic use in food animal farming, which accounts for 75% of antibiotic use in America

” You’re an asshole @govpenceIN,” singer Miley Cyrus posted on Instagram Thursday, alongside a headshot of the GOP gov. Cyrus got serious after Pence signed legislation Thursday that would allow people in Indiana to withhold their services for same-sex weddings and other activities for religious reasons. Discrimination against gays? Smells like it (Politico, TRNS, me)

Scott Walker’s Immigration Flip Flops
• Gov Scott Walker (R-WI) told a private dinner of New Hampshire Republicans this month that he backed the idea of allowing undocumented immigrants to stay in the country and to eventually become eligible for citizenship, a position at odds with his previous public statements on the matter. Walker is a likely presidential candidate for 2016 (WSJ, me)

• Walker’s remarks, which were confirmed by three people present and haven’t been reported previously, vary from the call he’s made in recent weeks for “no amnesty” – a phrase widely employed by people who believe immigrants who broke the law by entering the country without permission shouldn’t be awarded legal status or citizenship

• Walker’s “no amnesty” position was itself a change from his prior decade-long support for a pathway to citizenship. But during the 13 March NH dinner, Walker said undocumented immigrants shouldn’t be deported and he mocked 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney’s suggestion that they would “self-deport,” according to people who were there


• Instead, they said, Walker said undocumented immigrants should be allowed to “eventually get their citizenship without being given preferential treatment” ahead of people already in line to obtain citizenship. Walker’s statements were at odds with what he told reporters the next day in Concord, where he defended his position opposing a path to citizenship (dizzying)

• A Walker spox, Kirsten Kirkowski, on Thursday said in a statement that Walker “does not support citizenship for illegal immigrants.” She called the account of the dinner “false.” For more than a decade before seriously entertaining a presidential campaign, Walker publicly favored a broad overhaul of immigration laws

• Walker plans to tour the Mexican border today with Texas Gov Greg Abbott (R), who has sued to stop President Obama’s executive action aimed at reducing deportations of illegal immigrants

• Pics: The remains of King Richard III (1483-1485) reinterred in Leicester Cathedral on Thursday. Benedict Cumberbatch read a poem / Procession – Leicester welcomed King Richard’s remains on Sunday (Telegraph, Guardian)

DEA Agents’ Sex Parties With Prostitutes
• Agents of the Drug Enforcement Administration had “sex parties” with prostitutes hired by drug cartels in Colombia, according to a new IG report released by the Justice Dept Thursday (Politico, me)

• In addition, Colombian police officers allegedly provided “protection for the DEA agents’ weapons and property during the parties,” the report states. The DEA agents later admitted attending the parties, and some of the agents received suspensions of two to 10 days (scary punishment)

• The stunning allegations are part of an investigation by the DoJ’s IG into claims of sexual harassment within DEA, FBI, the ATF, and the U.S. Marshals Service. The IG’s office found that DEA didn’t fully cooperate with its probe. “We cannot be fully confident that the FBI and DEA provided us with all information relevant to this review.”

• House Oversight Committee chair Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) on Thursday said he wanted the agencies to swiftly fire those involved. “You can’t ignore this. This is terribly embarrassing and fundamentally not right. We need to understand what’s happening with the culture … anytime you bring a foreign national into your room you’re asking for trouble.” Major action coming from his panel


• Other allegations outlined in the report include: A deputy U.S. Marshal “entered into a romantic relationship” with a fugitive’s spouse and wouldn’t break off the relationship for more than a year, even after being told by supervisors to end it (like an episode of Justified)

• An ATF “Director of Industry Operations” had “solicited consensual sex with anonymous partners and modified a hotel room to facilitate sexual play.” (fly on tacky wall) The ATF employee even disabled a hotel’s fire detection system, and when caught by the hotel, said he had done it before (fire games?)

• “For over 3 years, an ATF Program Manager failed to report allegations that two training instructors were having consensual sex with their students.” According to the incident report, the Program Manager learned the same instructors had done about the same thing 3 years earlier, but had merely counseled them without reporting the alleged activities to the IAD

• Vid: Rocking into the weekend with “Girl Crush” – Little Big Town – note – this is a song about female jealousy, not about lesbianism. Country music fans are accusing the song of “promoting the gay agenda” and country stations are folding and pulling it from their play lists. Really? Come on people

Get it first. Sign up here for TRNS News Notes


Victoria Jones – Editor

TRNS’ William McDonald, James Cullum, Nicholas Salazar, Loretta Lewis and Midori Nishida contributed to this report

The Talk Radio News Service is the only information, news booking and host service dedicated to serving the talk radio community. TRNS maintains a Washington office that includes White House, Capitol Hill and Pentagon staffed bureaus, and a New York office with a United Nations staffed bureau. Talk Radio News Service has permanent access to every breaking newsevent in the Washington, D.C. area and beyond.

Copyright © 2015 The Talk Radio News Service, All rights reserved.