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Friday
Dec082017

Lewandowski: White House lacks 'top political operative' ahead of 2018 elections

David Hume Kennerly/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) --Two former top campaign aides to President Trump still working outside of the White House, David Bossie and Corey Lewandowski, shared their candid assessment of the ups and downs of the Trump presidency thus far on the “Powerhouse Politics” podcast with ABC News' Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl and Political Director Rick Klein.

Both Bossie and Lewandowski were rumored to be taking positions in the White House following the firing of former White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, but did not end up taking positions.

Bossie and Lewandowski, out with a new book on the campaign, “Let Trump be Trump” said they wrote the book to pull back the curtain on the historic campaign.

“The reason we wanted to write the book is because we want the American people to understand what it was really like on the campaign and what Donald Trump’s vision was, what he saw and what he executed,” Lewandowski said.

Bossie had praise for how current White House Chief of Staff General John Kelly has managed the staff and the job after Priebus’ departure.

“The president loves to get lots of information from lots of people he loves that. The general has taken a different tack, and he has buttoned up the building and the management style. I think the president has taken to it and I think that they’re working as a great team it seems,” Bossie said.

Lewandowski said that Kelly has “brought order from chaos” but said the White House still lacks a top political mind to make key decisions.

“What I don’t see, and this is not pejorative to anybody in the building, I don’t see the Karl Rove, the David Axelrod, that top political operative who is helping craft the political decisions going into what will be a very competitive 2018 cycle for members of the House and Senate,” Lewandowski said, “I think you might see some changes coming in that regard.”

When asked if President Trump ever lies, Lewandowski deflected his answer back on their 2016 presidential foe, Hillary Clinton, claiming that former top aides of hers had lied to the FBI.

“Look, I don’t know. My kids lie. Here’s what I tell everybody: If you tell the truth, you’ll be better off,” Lewandowski said. “But, look, I think that’s a very difficult question because if we want to talk about lying we need to talk about the severity of the lies, and those lies include Hillary Clinton to the FBI and Cheryl Mills and Huma Abedin to the FBI.”

When former FBI Director Comey testified in July 2016 in front of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, he was asked if Clinton lied to the FBI, to which he responded, “I have no basis for concluding that she was untruthful with us.”

The two also had plenty to say about what it was like to work for Donald Trump on the campaign trail, and the stamina the candidate showed and asked of his staff.

"He never complained about how many times we asked him to do things or sign things or take pictures, he just did it," Lewandowski said, "He asks the staff to be as good as him, he doesn't ask us to be better, he says be as good as me. Work as hard as I do."

When asked about one of the most pivotal moments of the campaign, the second debate, Bossie defended the decision by the campaign to try and seat women who have accused President Bill Clinton of sexual misconduct in the family section of the audience.

“We wanted to change the conversation, we wanted to remind the American people that Bill Clinton was an abuser of women while he was in the White House,” Bossie said, “It was a calculation for us to try and get in the Clinton camp’s head, and really I think it worked.”

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Friday
Dec082017

Al Franken accusers respond to his resignation announcement

US Senate (WASHINGTON) -- Two women who came forward with allegations that Minnesota Sen. Al Franken groped them, said his resignation announcement on the Senate floor Thursday didn't fully address the specific accusations against him.

"People have asked me, 'Do you feel relieved' [now that he has resigned]," Leeann Tweeden said in an interview with "Nightline." "I said, 'No, I don't know that I'll ever feel good about it.'"

Eight women have spoken out publicly detailing different alleged incidents when the now Democratic lawmaker groped or tried to kiss them, including Tweeden and Lindsay Menz, a mother of three daughters.

"I definitely wanted more answers today," Menz told "Nightline." "I expected for him to come and share the truth, share what he had experienced, you know, give us some sort of resolve to the situation. And I don’t feel like there was a resolve to the situation today."
 
Menz accused Franken of groping her while posing for a photo together at the Minnesota State Fair in 2010. She is the only one of the eight accusers who claims an alleged incident occurred while Franken was serving as a senator.

"I felt like he was going to actually talk about the accusations against him," Menz said. "I felt like he was going to share his point of view. I felt like he was going to either say, you know, 'I did these things, and I'm sorry for doing these things. I shouldn't have done them.' Or, you know, fully renounce them, because he hasn't fully renounced them."

Franken announced Thursday he will resign from the United States Senate "in the coming weeks," a day after several of his Democratic colleagues called for him to step down amid mounting allegations of sexual misconduct against women.

"Today I am announcing that in the coming weeks, I will be resigning as a member of the United States Senate," Franken said on the Senate floor Thursday. "It's become clear that I can't both pursue the Ethics Committee process and at the same time remain an effective senator for [the people of Minnesota]."

"All women deserve to be heard and their experiences taken seriously," he continued. "Some of the allegations against me are simply not true. Others I remember very differently."

The allegations against Franken began less than three weeks ago. Tweeden, a Los Angeles radio host, was the first woman to come forward with allegations of impropriety. She claimed Franken groped her while she was sleeping aboard a military plane on her way home from a USO tour in 2006. The alleged incident was captured in a photograph. She also claimed he forcibly kissed her when they were practicing a performance together for troops overseas.

"I do think my voice was heard," Tweeden said.

Though Franken apologized -- Tweeden said she has received three apologies from the senator -- as well as acknowledged some wrongdoing and called for an ethics investigation to be initiated, he resisted early calls for his resignation, even after additional accusations of misconduct surfaced. Franken has issued multiple statements apologizing in some instances and saying that he does not remember other alleged incidents or remembers them differently.

The tipping point seemed to come on Wednesday, when Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y.; Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii; Claire McCaskill, D-Mo.; Maggie Hassan, D-N.H.; Patty Murray, D-Wash.; and Kamala Harris, D-Calif., called for Franken to resign.

"A couple months ago, I felt that we had entered an important moment in the history of this country," Franken said in his announcement. "We were finally beginning to listen to women about the ways in which men's actions affected them. The moment was long overdue. I was excited for that conversation and hopeful that it would result in real change that made life better for women all across the country and in every part of our society. Then the conversation turned to me. Over the last few weeks, a number of women have come forward to talk about how they felt my actions had affected them. I was shocked. I was upset."

Tweeden, a mother of two, said she didn't call for Franken's resignation when she came forward with her allegations, but that his announcement today made her feel "some sort of validation."

"It doesn't make me feel good but I would use that word," Tweeden added.

Menz said she decided to come forward after she learned of Tweeden's story and said she hopes sharing her story will help change the culture. She said she felt sorry Franken had to resign.

"Instead of being able to own mistakes and move forward and make things right, he's having to resign," she said. "I feel sadness that he's having to leave a job because of the actions that he's taken, but it's unfortunate he's left a wake of women in his path that have had bad interactions with him."

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Thursday
Dec072017

Some Senators shying away from comparisons between Al Franken and Roy Moore

Credit: Architect of the Capitol(WASHINGTON) -- After Democrats called for — and got — Sen. Al Franken's resignation amid sexual misconduct allegations, Republicans are now being forced to face the question of why the Republican-backed Senate candidate Roy Moore in Alabama isn't being held to the same standard.

"I of all people am aware that there is some irony – the fact that I am leaving while a man bragged on tape about his history of the sexual assault sits in the oval office and a man who has repeatedly preyed on young girls campaigns for the senate with the full support of his party," Franken said in announcing his resignation Thursday. He sought to distinguish between his own response to accusations and those against Donald Trump and Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, who also face and dispute claims of sexual misconduct.

In conversations with ABC News, a number of Republicans on Thursday shied away from the comparison between Franken and Moore, who both face multiple accusations of sexual misconduct. Some suggested to ABC News that if Moore wins, he should be dealt with by the Senate Ethics Committee, not pushed out.

"[Moore has] denied the allegations, he deserves due process," Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said. "If he gets elected, he’ll get due process. If he wants to resign, that’s up to him. I want him to step aside. I wish he were not our nominee. I think if he wins, he’s the gift that keeps on giving for democrats."

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, also deferred to the ethics committee, if it comes to that.

"If he wins, I don’t know how that’s gonna pan out, that’ll be up to the Ethics Committee," Hatch said, declining to answer whether he sees a double standard here.

Asked if he's concerned it looks like the parties are operating by different standards when it comes to sexual misconduct, Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., responded with a simple "no."

"Franken didn’t have to resign," Cassidy argued. "There was clearly no due process. But when you have everybody coming after you, that’s what he chose to do. But, but that’s really up to Franken, and up to Moore, not up to the parties."

While many Republicans — and GOP leaders — were quick to call for Moore to bow out of the race initially, now, with Moore digging in and just days before his election, some are increasingly saying it's up to the Alabama voters. Republican Leader Mitch McConnell says, if elected, Moore would likely face an immediate investigation by the Senate Ethics Committee.

Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., refused to equate the two senators because he said there is no evidence that Roy Moore did anything wrong.

"There’s a big difference you guys are going to have to acknowledge sooner or later, that is Roy Moore has denied these things. There’s not evidence. In fact, the people in Alabama, apparently most of them agree with him," Inhofe told reporters, insisting the photo of Franken that an accuser said shows him groping her during a USO trip to Afghanistan before he was an elected official amounted to clear evidence of his wrongdoing.

With the Alabama election just days away, and the midterms fast approaching, Democrats are unlikely to drop the issue.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., summed up her party's stance, saying their Republican colleagues should look at sexual harassment situation in a more "responsible" way.

"I think most people looking at this in the White House, to the Senate, to the House -- look at it a little differently," Stabenow said.

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Thursday
Dec072017

Congress passes two-week stopgap to avoid government shutdown

Credit: Architect of the Capitol(WASHINGTON) -- With one day to spare before a looming government shutdown, Congress passed a short-term funding measure Thursday, sending the bill to President Donald Trump's desk and providing legislators with two additional weeks to negotiate a longer-term solution.

The Senate passed the funding bill 81-14 Thursday afternoon, shortly after it advanced through the House of Representatives by 235-192 margin.

Earlier in the day, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said that Democrats in her chamber would not vote for the measure because it lacked funding to address the opioid epidemic, the Children's Health Insurance Program, the Dream Act, emergency disaster relief and other items on the party's agenda.

“This is a waste of time,” Pelosi said. “There could be some good things that could be advanced and because it doesn't have things in it, doesn't mean that makes it OK."

Republicans, who hold a 240-193 advantage in the House, were nevertheless able to pass the bill, with 14 Democrats joining the majority to vote "yea." Eighteen House Republicans opposed the funding measure.

Funding under the bill passed Thursday expires on Dec. 22.

This is a developing story. Please refresh for updates.

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Thursday
Dec072017

Rep. Trent Franks to resign from Congress after discussing surrogacy with female staffers

US Congress(WASHINGTON) -- Eight-term Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., announced on Thursday his resignation from the U.S. House of Representatives, effective January 31, 2018.

In a statement, Franks said that he and his wife have "long struggled with infertility" and that he broached the subject of surrogacy with multiple female staffers.

"I have recently learned that the Ethics Committee is reviewing an inquiry regarding my discussion of surrogacy with two previous female subordinates, making each feel uncomfortable," Franks said. "I deeply regret that my discussion of this option and process in the workplace caused distress."

He added, "Rather than allow a sensationalized trial by media damage those things I love most, this morning I notified House leadership that I will be leaving Congress as of January 31st, 2018."

House Speaker Paul Ryan first demanded Franks resign last Thursday, on Nov. 30, after one of his aides was contacted with information about "troubling behavior" Franks directed at a former staffer.

After the speaker’s general counsel interviewed the former staffer, and validated misconduct against a second aide, Ryan was briefed and soon presented the claims to Franks. The speaker then filed a complaint with the Ethics Committee on Friday, according to his office.

Franks, a prominent evangelical Christian member of Congress and high-profile anti-abortion advocate, was a member of the Freedom Caucus and the Republican Study Committee.

Franks is the second U.S. congressman to resign in recent days, following Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich.

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Thursday
Dec072017

Civil rights icon skipping museum opening because President Trump is expected to attend

US Congress(JACKSON, Miss.) -- President Trump’s expected attendance at the opening of a civil rights museum in Jackson, Mississippi this weekend has led one of the country’s top civil rights heroes to boycott the event.

Georgia Democratic Rep. John Lewis, an organizer in the 1963 March on Washington who has served 16 terms in the House of Representatives, said he will skip the event on Saturday – unless the president backs out beforehand.

Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Mississippi, joined Lewis in announcing they won't attending the museum's opening because the president is expected to be there, contending his attendance and "hurtful policies" would be an "insult" to civil rights leaders.

“After careful consideration and conversations with church leaders, elected officials, civil rights activists, and many citizens of our congressional districts, we have decided not to attend or participate in the opening of the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum,” Lewis and Thompson stated. “President Trump’s attendance and his hurtful policies are an insult to the people portrayed in this civil rights museum.”

The duo said that the civil rights struggles represented in the new museum “exemplify the truth of what really happened in Mississippi” but President Trump’s “disparaging comments about women, the disabled, immigrants and National Football League players disrespect the efforts” of Mississippi’s greatest civil rights champions.

“After President Trump departs, we encourage all Mississippians and Americans to visit this historic civil rights museum,” Lewis and Thompson stated.

The White House expressed disappointment in their decision.

“We think it’s unfortunate that these members of Congress wouldn’t join the President in honoring the incredible sacrifice civil rights leaders made to right the injustices in our history," White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said. "The President hopes others will join him in recognizing that the movement was about removing barriers and unifying Americans of all backgrounds.”

This isn’t the first time President Trump’s presence at a museum has upset some African-Americans.

Just before the inauguration last January, then President-elect Trump pulled out of plans to tour the National Museum of African American History and Culture in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, citing “scheduling issues.”

Trump ultimately visited the museum more than a month later on Feb. 21.

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Thursday
Dec072017

President Trump wants controversial governor to run for Senate in Maine

Staff Photo by Gregory Rec/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Trump is hoping controversial Maine Gov. Paul LePage will make a run for the U.S. Senate in 2018, a source familiar tells ABC News.

The Washington Post reported on Wednesday that the president had encouraged LePage to challenge Independent Sen. Angus King in next year's election. King often caucuses with the Democrats.

The White House has declined to comment on the record about whether the President is encouraging LePage to run, but Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah said "the president is actively engaged in fundraising, candidate recruitment and other efforts to help elect Republicans up and down the ballot."

LePage has made headlines over the years for controversial comments, including a remark about out-of-state drug dealer in 2016 than many considered racist.

"These are guys by the name D-Money, Smoothy, Shifty. These type of guys that come from Connecticut and New York. They come up here and sell their heroin, then they go back home," he said at the time. “Incidentally, half the time they impregnate a young white girl before they leave, which is a real sad thing.”

LePage later expressed regret for the remark, saying he made a "slip-up."

"I was going impromptu and my brain didn't catch up to my mouth," LePage said. "Instead of saying Maine women I said white women...and I'm not going to apologize to the Maine women for that because if you go to Maine, you can see it's 95 percent white."

LePage also received criticism in 2012, when he compared the Internal Revenue Service to the Nazis.

"The Holocause was a horrific crime against humanity and, frankly, I would never want to see that repeated," he told a reporter for an alternative weekly newspaper in Vermont. "Maybe the IRS is not quite as bad -- yet," he said.

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Thursday
Dec072017

Gay man denied marriage license by Kim Davis challenging her for county clerk: I want to bring 'people back together'

Ji?í Flögel/Hemera/Thinkstock(MOREHEAD, Ky.) -- Two years after Rowan County, Kentucky, clerk Kim Davis denied a marriage license to David Ermold and his partner of more than 15 years, Ermold and Davis are crossing paths once again: He is challenging Davis for her seat.

Ermold filed on Wednesday to run for Rowan County clerk, with his husband, David Moore, by his side. Ermold is a professor at the University of Pikeville and formerly a professor at the Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College, where he was named faculty member of the year.

"The message I want to send out is one of bringing people back together," Ermold told ABC News Wednesday. "People are just hurt, people are angry, and we don’t have to follow this path ... We can change."

In 2015, soon after the Supreme Court upheld the right of same-sex couples nationwide to marry, Ermold went to the county clerk's office with a copy of the ruling in his hand. He was met by a defiant Davis, the chief clerk, who refused to issue a license to him and Moore.

She sparked a national outcry after refusing to issue marriage licenses to many same-sex couples. She was later jailed for nearly a week for violating an order by a federal judge to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Thinking back to the day when Davis defied the Supreme Court's ruling for him and Moore, Ermold said, "We're looking at an office that touches the lives of everyone in the community."

"We need to reconsider the leadership of our county. We need to reconsider the leadership of our state and maybe our country. Our leaders are dividing us," he said.

Ermold is facing a crowded field, with three other candidates already opposing Davis' re-election. President Donald Trump carried Rowan County over Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election.

For now, Ermold's focus is on challenging Davis, who he says would rather "saunter off into other countries" than focus on the issues facing Rowan County.

ABC News attempted to reach out to Davis for comment but did not immediately hear back.

Mat Staver, a Liberty Counsel attorney who represents Davis, told ABC News that Ermold has a "personal vendetta" in running and has no experience fit for the job. Staver said Davis also intends on running for re-election and that she "loves her job," which he stressed is more than just issuing marriage licenses.

Ermold, who has lived in the county for 14 years, is ready to challenge those who might say Kentucky isn't ready for a candidate like him.

Responding to critics, Ermold said, "They aren't looking at a larger picture here. They aren't looking at the consequences of what happened in 2015."

"This is the campaign that [voters] need to follow, because it's the one that really is what they've been looking for, for a long time," he said. "Let the people decide."

Ermold is optimistic about his "win-win" campaign, which he hopes will inspire others in the LGBTQ community.

"We're just going to run this campaign," he said. "We're just going to do it because we can and because people came together and they are coming together."

He added, "I know that spirit is out there."

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
Dec072017

Who is on the short list to replace Al Franken in the Senate

Credit: Architect of the Capitol(ST. PAUL, Minn.) -- Minnesota Senator Al Franken announced Thursday that he would resign from the Senate in the coming weeks, during a speech on the Senate floor.

"This decision is not about me, it's about the people of Minnesota," Franken said. "It has become clear that I can't both pursue the Ethics Committee process and at the same time remain an effective senator for them."

A number of women have accused Franken of unwanted touching. Franken denied some of the incidents and some he said he remembers "very differently."

On Wednesday, a majority of his Democratic colleagues in the Senate, including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said it was time for him to step aside.

His decision to leave Congress will prompt a special election in Minnesota next November. Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton, a Democrat, will appoint an interim senator in the meantime.

Following Franken's announcement Thursday, Gov. Dayton said he has not yet decided who he will appoint to fill the upcoming vacancy, but expects to make his decision known in the "next couple of days."

Democratic strategists both in Washington, D.C., and Minnesota told ABC News they expect Dayton will chose a woman.

"I think it would be a great opportunity for us," Alex Boutrous, President of Minnesota’s Young Democrats, told ABC News. "Especially in light of having a male senator who is stepping down because of sexual harassment allegations, to have a woman replace him would make a statement that not only do we believe women, but we believe in their leadership and we want to empower them to take this role on."

When Minnesota’s senior senator Amy Klobuchar was elected in 2006, she was the first woman elected to the Senate from the state.

Minnesota’s Lieutenant Governor Tina Flint Smith, is likely at the top of Dayton’s list, several sources have said. Smith was Dayton’s chief of staff before she was his running mate.

However, an interesting wrinkle in local law, wherein the Minnesota senate president becomes lieutenant governor should the lieutenant governor leave could make Smith a less likely candidate. The current senate president is a Republican.

Congresswoman Betty McCollum, a longtime member of the congressional delegation who represents part of the city of St. Paul, could be at the top of the list.

Other experts have suggested, though, that Dayton may want to send more a progressive message and may perhaps chose an up-and-comer such as state representative Ilhan Omar.

Elected last year, Omar is the highest-ranking Somali-American elected to office in the country, and she would likely be the first Muslim to serve in the United States Senate. She was featured on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah last year and said, "I am America’s hope and the president’s nightmare.” Her appointment could be seen as sending a message from the state.

Another possibility is U.S. Congressman Keith Ellison, who is the first Muslim to have been elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. An African-American who has close to ties to progressive, grassroots activists and a leadership role in the Democratic National Committee. Though not a woman, Ellison is also likely on the short-list.

Other names that Minnesota political experts have floated include: Lori Swanson, the state’s attorney general since 2006; Rebecca Otto, the state’s auditor who is also running for governor, but not seen as front-runner; Erin Murphy, a long-time state lawmaker who is also running for governor, and Congressman Tim Waltz.

Waltz is more of a moderate and one of many Democrats jockeying for the party’s nomination for governor next year. He is largely considered the favorite in that race to replace Dayton, so people familiar with the state's politics think he would be less likely to accept the Senate seat.

His running mate Peggy Flanagan, however, could be an interesting choice. A young, Native American woman and political activist, Flanagan spoke last year at the Democratic National Convention.

“I would love to see [Flanagan] taking on a bigger leadership role in our state, whether that is as a Senator or a lieutenant governor," Boutrous said,"but I think since we have so many great women, I think pulling from women that are not currently on a ticket [in the state] is what I would [propose.]”

“Thinking about how many incredible women of color and indigenous women we have in elected leadership in Minnesota, I think it is great opportunity to take that one step farther and appoint and hopefully a woman of color or an indigenous woman to the Senate for Minnesota,” she added.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
Dec072017

House to vote on government funding bill to avert federal shutdown

Credit:Architect of the Capitol(WASHINGTON) -- The House is preparing to vote on a short-term funding measure to keep the government funded until Dec. 22, as congressional leaders prepare to meet with President Donald Trump at the White House to continue budget negotiations.

With the government set to run out of money on midnight Friday, GOP leaders are moving forward with a short-term fix to give negotiations another two weeks to ink a larger long-term spending deal between Democrats, Republicans and the White House.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Thursday that Democrats would not vote for the two-week continuing resolution to fund the government. GOP leaders have historically needed bipartisan support to pass spending bills through the House.

Pelosi said Democrats will oppose Thursday’s expected vote because the legislation lacks funding to address opioid addiction, pensions, community health centers, veteran funding, children’s health insurance funding, the Dream Act and emergency disaster relief.

“This is a waste of time,” she said. “There could be some good things that could be advanced and because it doesn't have things in it, doesn't mean that makes it OK.”

Without Democrats, House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., is counting on his rank-and-file -- including the House Freedom Caucus -- to help keep government’s doors open. Some hardline conservatives signaled concerns about a Dec. 22 deadline but are expected to back the first continuing resolution to avert a shutdown.

In an interview earlier this week, Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev., a member of the House Appropriations Committee, expressed frustration with the situation, saying it felt like “Groundhog Day,” given Congress’ repeated reliance on continuing resolutions to temporarily fund the government at current levels.

Ryan says he “feels good” about the GOP’s chances avert a government shutdown, but wiggled out of a guarantee as he punted to Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., who is tasked with counting votes.

“I feel good where we are,” Ryan said Thursday of the government funding vote. “I think it's just kind of just basic governing, is keeping government going while we negotiate the final details.”

Ryan said he hoped the White House meeting would reignite bipartisan negotiations on lifting defense and non-defense spending caps but cautioned “it’s going to take time.”

Pelosi said she will push Republicans for “parity” in any changes to the caps but does not believe the meeting will be “confrontational.”

In the Senate, any funding measure will have to clear a 60-vote threshold, meaning that GOP leaders will need at least some Democratic votes to avert a shutdown -- which would be the first under unified Republican control of the government.

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