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Washington Digest: Rep. Don Bacon wants a compromise on money for Trump's border wall

Washington Digest: Rep. Don Bacon wants a compromise on money for Trump's border wall

The World-Herald’s Washington Bureau rounds up news highlights from Capitol Hill and beyond.

WASHINGTON — Another round of headline-dominating impeachment proceedings came to an end as Capitol Hill lawmakers departed for a weeklong Thanksgiving break.

On the way out the door, though, they finalized a “continuing resolution” to extend government funding through Dec. 20.

That avoided a government shutdown — with mere hours to spare — but continued use of the spending bill snooze button could spell trouble for some Midlands priorities.

Those stopgap measures do not include additional money needed to help Offutt Air Force Base recover from this year’s devastating flooding.

“We have to get (defense) appropriations done if we’re going to get the disaster aid for Offutt,” said Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb. “That’s the big thing.”

Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb., also stressed the importance of getting a defense appropriations measure approved rather than the endless string of temporary patches.

One major hang-up between the two parties is money to build President Donald Trump’s desired wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, which Democrats are resisting.

Bacon said the wall has never been his top priority, and he thinks bolstering internal immigration enforcement — such as through employment verification procedures — would do more to improve the situation.

Still, he said that targeted sections of border walls have been proven successful and noted that it was a core campaign issue for the president.

“It’s important to me, it’s important, I think, to our team,” Bacon said. “The president made the wall his No. 1 priority.”

Bacon said it’s a sign of dysfunctional government that the two parties have been unable to come together on wall money.

“I’m for compromise on this,” Bacon said. “I think ‘my way or the highway,’ whether it’s the president or (House Speaker) Nancy Pelosi, has got us in this pickle.”

In other news, bipartisan Senate talks have also stalled out on reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act.

Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, is negotiating for GOP senators and said she hopes they can find a way forward to re-up those federal programs that help victims of abuse.

When the head of the Federal Bureau of Prisons testified last week, she received a grilling from members frustrated with the lack of information about Jeffrey Epstein’s suicide.

Those members included Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., who said the absence of details is “crazy” given how much time has passed since Epstein’s death in August.

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Pets for vets

Backers of the Puppies Assisting Wounded Servicemembers Act, or PAWS Act, held a press conference promoting their legislation last week.

That bill would set up a grant program providing service dogs to veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb., joined the event, saying those four-legged companions can help struggling warriors.

“This is a great unifying piece of legislation that is actually important for veterans and that we could actually get done,” Fortenberry said.

Stopping violence in the workplace

The House voted 251-158 to approve legislation aimed at protecting health care employees from workplace violence.

The bill requires health care employers to adopt comprehensive plans for safeguarding their workers.

Republicans opposed to the measure described it as one more set of overly burdensome federal mandates.

Backers say it would protect nurses, doctors, social workers and others vulnerable to workplace violence.

Bacon and Fortenberry were among the 32 Republicans who crossed the aisle to support the measure. Rep. Cindy Axne, D-Iowa, also voted for it.

Seeking divine guidance

Rabbi Steven Abraham of Omaha’s Beth El Synagogue delivered the House’s opening prayer on Wednesday at Bacon’s invitation and asked for wisdom for those running the country.

“May you bless our leaders with compassion to open both their hearts and their minds to places and ideas where they are currently closed,” Abraham said. “May you bless our leaders with the courage to do what is hard, to do what is unpopular, but to do what is right.”


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Reporter - Politics/Washington D.C.

Joseph Morton is The World-Herald Washington Bureau Chief. Morton joined The World-Herald in 1999 and has been reporting from Washington for the newspaper since 2006. Follow him on Twitter @MortonOWH.

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