Khorri Atkinson

Trump admin nixes Obama bag fee rules

Photo: Matt Rourke / AP

The Trump administration on Thursday scrapped an Obama-era proposal that would have required airlines and ticket agencies to disclose baggage fees at the start of a ticket purchase rather than later, and dropped another propose rule seeking to mandate disclosure of more information about revenue from fees charged for extra services.

The department said the proposals have “limited public benefit" and that airlines would" incur significant costs" if required to report data on revenue from fees such as early boarding.

Why it matters: Airlines are already required to disclose bag fees. But the Associated Press reports critics argue that the information is often hidden until after customers already purchased a ticket. Travel agents and websites that sell tickets also reportedly complain that airlines sometimes declined to disclose informatin on fees, preventing third-party sellers from providing passengers with a detailed total cost.


House to consider sexual harassment reforms in January

J. Scott Applewhite/AP

The chairman of the House Administration Committee Gregg Harper said he plans to push through a bill by late January of next year to reverse a 1995 law that conceals the identities of lawmakers accused of harassments. The Mississippi Republican also told the Washington Examiner that he would also seek to end the practice of using taxpayer money to settle claims.

Why it matters: This comes on the heels of mounting scrutiny over multiple accusations of unwanted sexual advances emerged against several lawmakers. They include Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Texas), Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) and Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.). Conyers, Franken and Franks all announced their resignations this week amid the allegations.


Ethics committee to probe Rep. Farenthold over harassment claims

Photo: Jacquelyn Martin / AP

The House Ethics Committee on Thursday said it has launched an investigation into Rep. Blake Farenthold amid allegations that he sexually harassed a former aide and then retaliated when she complained about it.

Why it matters: Politico reported last week that a $84,000 sexual harassment settlement was paid by the Office of Congressional Ethics in 2014, using tax-payer funds, following allegations against Farenthold. Farenthold said this week he will repay the money, adding "I want to be clear that I didn't do anything wrong, but I also don't want taxpayers to be on the hook for this."

The panel will also examine whether the Texas Republican had discriminated against the staffer on the basis of her gender, retaliated against her for complaining of discriminatory conduct and made inappropriate statements to other staffers.

What's happening:

  • Rep. Mia Love became the second House Republican to call on Farenthold to resign on Thursday evening, following Rep. Barbara Comstock.
  • Bech K. Bruun, chairman of the Texas Water Development Board, has reportedly resigned from his post and is expected to run to unseat Farenthold.

Trump's popularity falling with almost every demographic, poll finds

President Donald Trump's popularity has fallen or remained the same since February with every demographic group surveyed by Pew, according to a newly released poll.

Data: Pew Research Center, survey of U.S. adults; Chart: Axios Visuals

Key Findings:

  • Trump's approval rating has fallen from 78% to 61% with white evangelical Protestants, a key constituency of his base.
  • Now, only 41% of white voters approve of his performance, a 7% decline since February.
  • His support among blacks dropped to just 7%, while his support was unchanged among Hispanics, at 17%.

His approval continues to be divided by gender and education....

  • 40% of men approve, while just 25% of women do.
  • His support among white college graduates dropped by 5 % to 31%, while white voters without college degrees dipped by 10% to 46%.
  • He remains popular among people who identify as conservative. 76% of Republicans and leaners approved his job performance, comparing to 84% 11 months ago.

Sessions spars with DOJ interns over marijuana, guns and police violence

Carolyn Kaster/AP

A question-and-answer session with interns from the Department of Justice led to tense exchanges with Attorney General Jeff Sessions, according to ABC News, which obtained video of the event.

The highlights: Sessions dismissed an intern's claims of widespread fear of police in poor communities, and laughed at a woman who questioned why said he supports harsher policies for marijuana but not increased gun control.

On guns and marijuana:

  • Intern: "So I'd like to know, since guns kill more people than marijuana, why lax laws on one and harsh laws on the other?"
  • Sessions laughed and said she comparing “apples and oranges." He added, “The Second Amendment, you're aware of that, guarantees the right of the American people to keep arms, and I intend to defend that Second Amendment. It's as valid as the First Amendment." He later said “Marijuana is not a healthy substance" and the “American Medical Association is crystal clear on that."

On police violence:

  • An intern told Sessions that he grew up in the projects and that people there were more afraid of the police than their neighbors.
  • Sessions: “Well, that may be the view in Berkeley," he began, before saying law enforcement needs to “confront violent crime in America in cities that have abandoned traditional police activity like Baltimore and Chicago." He asserted that murder rates “have surged, particularly in poor neighborhoods."


58 House Dems vote for failed resolution on Trump impeachment

J. Scott Applewhite

58 House Democrats vote on Wednesday to open debate on a motion to impeach President Trump, but the effort for Rep. Al Green of Texas was overwhelmingly rejected by a 364-58 margin.

Why it matters: Green was the first member of Congress to advocate for Trump's impeachment, an idea supported by 40% of Americans, according to an October poll from the Public Religion Research Institute. House Democratic leadership called Green's move premature.

Key Quote: “Now is not the time to consider articles of impeachment," Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer said in a joint statement, moments after Green introduced his articles of impeachment.

Dig deeper: The current list of lawmakers who want to impeach Trump.


Here's how much the Mueller probe has cost so far

Robert Mueller. Photo: J. Scott Applewhite / AP

Special counsel Robert Mueller, who has been probing Russia's meddling in the 2016 election and possible coordination with the Trump campaign, has spent more than $3.2 million in four-and-a-half months, according to a report released Tuesday. Meanwhile, the Department of Justice spent $3.5 million to support the investigation.

Why it matters: Some GOP members have criticized the spending, and President Trump lashed out on twitter in May, saying "The Russia-Trump collusion story is a total hoax, when will this taxpayer funded charade end?" But partisan outcries about the use of taxpayer funds for government investigations are nothing new.

The breakdown:

  • $1.7 million for salary and benefits. About $1.2 million went to DOJ employees who have worked on the probe.
  • $733,969 for office equipment.
  • $2,800 for travel.
  • $157,339 for a variety of contractual services, including $111,245 for information technology, $17,217 for building services and $24,456 for transcription work.

Some FEMA workers may have to repay overtime money

FEMA / Wikimedia Commons

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has told employees who earned overtime after responding to a number of natural disasters this year that they may have to repay some of their extra pay, Bloomberg reports. The agency is reportedly monitoring 500 employees whose compensation have thus far exceeded the cap.

Why it matters: Federal law limits the amount of premium pay some federal employees can receive. It also permits federal agencies to recover additional money they pay from future paychecks.


Trump calls Roy Moore after full-throated endorsement

Photo: Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP

Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore said President Trump called him on Monday after his full-throated endorsement, saying that Moore is a "fighter" who would help him pursue his major agenda items in Congress. The Moore campaign said Trump wrapped up his call saying, "go get 'em, Roy!"

Background: Moore has been under intense scrutiny amid multiple accusations that he made unwanted sexual advances on teenage girls in the 1970s. In recent comments, the President stopped short of explicitly endorsing Moore in the closely watched special election to be held next week.


Supreme Court declines to hear same-sex marriage benefits case

Jon Elswick / AP

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to review a ruling by the Texas high court that married, same-sex couples may not be entitled to government-subsidized marriage benefits.

Why it matters: The all-Republican Texas Supreme Court ruled that the landmark 2015 Supreme Court ruling which overturned bans on gay marriage nationwide did not hold that "states must provide the same publicly funded benefits to all married persons," per The Texas Tribune. The ruling suggests that not all marriages must be treated equally.

Background: The suit centers around a policy by the city of Houston, which extends benefits to spouses of gay and lesbian public employees. Despite the court battle, the city is still providing benefits to all of its married employees, the Tribune reports. This decision comes a day before the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in a case involving a Colorado baker who refused to provide a cake for a same-sex wedding.