Republican amendments are holding up Sept. 11 Victim Compensation Fund renewal

WASHINGTON — A measure to permanently fund Sept. 11 compensation faces just two last hurdles — a pair of amendments by renegade conservative Republicans Sen. Mike Lee and Rand Paul that would either cap payouts or threaten passage altogether.

The amendment by Paul, of Kentucky, who blocked passage of the bill by unanimous consent last week, would offset the costs of compensation by cutting other programs, including Medicaid.

Multiple sources told the New York Daily News it is unlikely to pass, but if it did, would jeopardize the larger legislation because it would pit responders against other Americans in need.

Democrats would be adamantly opposed to such cuts, according to a memo by Senate budget staffers that the Daily News obtained.

“There is no reason why Medicaid, for instance, must be cut in order to fund (compensation) programs for 9/11 first responders,” the memo says. And it adds that the idea of offsetting the costs of helping 9/11 victims while “the nearly $2 trillion cost of the GOP’s 2017 tax cuts may simply add to the deficit is wholly indefensible.”

Paul’s would cut $2 billion a year from elsewhere in the budget for five years to make up for the Congressional Budget Office’s cost estimate of $10.180 billion for the bill over its first 10 years.

Lee, of Utah, has a better chance of passing his amendment, and it probably would not kill the bill — but it would cap the first 10 years of the program at the CBO estimate, with just $10 billion more to last until 2092.

— New York Daily News

Al Franken tells New Yorker he regrets resigning from Senate

MINNEAPOLIS — Former Sen. Al Franken, who resigned in late 2017 after multiple women accused him of unwanted touching or kissing, received a measure of redemption Monday with the release of a lengthy article in The New Yorker that questions the severity and circumstances of the allegations.

Seven current and former senators told reporter Jane Mayer that they regret calling for the Minnesota Democrat’s resignation, among them former Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Sen. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois.

Franken, in his first interview since leaving the Senate, said he regrets resigning: “Oh, yeah. Absolutely.”

The bulk of the magazine article takes up the accusation made by Leeann Tweeden, now a conservative media figure, who made the first allegation that led to Franken’s downfall. In a photo that eventually doomed Franken, he can be seen reaching for her breasts while she is asleep while wearing a flak jacket aboard a military plane on the way home from a USO tour to entertain soldiers.

Tweeden also alleged that Franken wrote a skit with her in mind in which she was forced to kiss him. She also alleged that he gave her an ugly, unwanted open-mouth kiss during a “rehearsal.”

But several actresses recall to The New Yorker that they performed the same skit with Franken in prior years — and without incident — calling into question Tweeden’s claim that Franken wrote it for her alone.

The radio station where Tweeden worked also released the piece about her allegations without reaching out to Franken, a violation of basic journalistic practice.

Tweeden declined to comment for the magazine article.

— Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

A Disney World tourist didn’t have a FastPass for a ride, so she punched an employee and started pressing buttons

ORLANDO, Fla. — A Chicago tourist who was angry she didn’t have a FastPass to Tower of Terror ended up punching a Disney World cast member in the face and began pushing buttons, which the employee warned could have affected the ride, according to a sheriff’s report.

The 23-year-old woman wasn’t charged — the Disney worker didn’t want to press charges, said the Orange County Sheriff’s Office report.

The attack began in the evening of July 13 when the Chicago woman and her group were upset their FastPasses weren’t valid for the popular ride at Tower of Terror that often draws a long wait at Hollywood Studios.

The incident did not happen in the elevator shaft portion of the ride but in the pre-show area where visitors are ushered into the creepy library to watch “The Twilight Zone” host Rod Serling’s introduction.

A 23-year-old Disney worker offered to help them with the FastPasses, but the group only became more angry.

On her podium phone, the worker called for a supervisor to request security.

That’s when the Chicago woman “began pushing buttons on her ride podium,” the report said.

The Disney worker asked the Chicago woman to stop and when she was ignored, she pushed the tourist’s hand away from the buttons. She got a punch in the face, the report said.

The scene kept escalating.

“The family continued to yell profanities and record her with their phones,” the report said.

The woman and her group left Tower of Terror as the worker spoke with security. But they were soon found by security.

— Orlando Sentinel

Power outage hits most of Venezuela, shutting down Caracas subway

CARACAS, Venezuela — Most of Venezuela is in the dark after several states and Caracas were hit by a blackout Monday afternoon, prompting the evacuation of office buildings and a shutdown of the capital’s subway system.

At least 15 states and the capital lost electrical power, according to local media reports. The Caracas subway system shut down its three lines and provided buses instead, according to the state television Twitter account.

President Nicolas Maduro and his government have insisted that the electrical problems are a product of sabotage and sophisticated attacks by the U.S. and local opposition, while industry experts and critics point to a lack of investment and maintenance.

Power failures in March cut into Venezuela’s already flagging oil production, with output falling to zero in some areas for several days.

Maduro’s regime has been rationing electricity in more than 20 states since April, excluding Caracas from the restriction to avoid spurring protests there. Still, de facto rationing has been in effect nationwide and in Caracas for years.

The blackout also hit Puerto Ordaz, a city near the Guri hydroelectrical power plant on which most of the country depends.

— Bloomberg News