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U.S. student loan refinancing bill fails Senate hurdle

US loan refinance bill failsDemocratic-sponsored legislation to allow student loan borrowers to refinance at lower interest rates failed to clear a procedural hurdle in the U.S. Senate on Wednesday.

The Senate voted 56-38 to end debate and move to a final vote, short of the 60 votes required.

Democrats had said their measure would let holders of both federal and private undergraduate loans - some with rates of 9 percent or higher - to refinance at 3.86 percent.

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2 Million Will Go Hungry If Congress Has Its Way

maritime billIn the coming weeks, Senators on the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee will have a choice to make: Give a $75 million subsidy to the maritime shipping industry, or ensure that several million people in impoverished and war-torn countries have food to eat.

At issue is how the Senate will address a provision quietly tucked into the House-approved version of the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act. The obscure provision would raise the percentage of U.S. food aid that is required to be transported on privately owned, U.S.-flagged commercial vessels from 50 to 75 percent. This would effectively deny 2 million people in countries like Haiti, South Sudan and the Central African Republic access to lifesaving U.S. food assistance.

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House stops feds from executing raids in medical marijuana states

House of RepresentativesJust after midnight Friday, congress voted to approve an amendment that would bar federal agencies from holding raids in states that allow medical marijuana.

If the amendment passes, the Senate, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Justice Department would have to halt all efforts to curb the distribution and cultivation of marijuana in states that legally "authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana."

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VA groups slam Burr over Shinseki letter

Richard BurrSen. Richard Burr and several veterans' groups continued swiping at each other throughout the weekend over the allegations plaguing Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki.

The scuffle was set off when the North Carolina Republican sent an open letter to veterans, accusing many of the veterans' service organizations who testified before the VA committee earlier this month of being "more interested in defending the status quo within VA, protecting their relationships within the agency, and securing their access to the Secretary and his inner circle."

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Civil rights icon John Lewis opposes controversial Obama court nominee for Georgia

George court appointee opposedGeorgia congressman and civil rights icon John Lewis on Monday denounced President Barack Obama’s effort to appoint a former defender of the Confederate flag to a federal judgeship in Georgia.

Lewis’ condemnation of Michael Boggs could be enough to sink his chances of being confirmed by the Senate.

Lewis, a Democratic member of the House of Representatives, said Boggs’ record “is in direct opposition to everything I have stood for during my career.” Lewis also said that Boggs misrepresented his record in testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

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The unemployment insurance graveyard

unemployment insurance Senate negotiators toiled for months to revive long-term unemployment benefits in a manner that could draw the support of both centrist Republicans and liberal Democrats.  But in a few days, that effort will be all for naught.

The jobless aid bill that narrowly passed the Senate in early April would extend the benefits to June 1 — but barring a surprise breakthrough, there’s almost no chance the House will take up that legislation or an alternative of its own during the last two weeks of May.

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Federal funding for police bulletproof vest program in question

police jacket fundingA program that has supplied more than 1 million bulletproof vests to police departments in Texas and around the country is facing a holdup on Capitol Hill.

Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., has blocked reauthorization of the 15-year-old Bulletproof Vest Partnership Grant, arguing that the federal government has “no role” in funding local police departments

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