Political News

Raskin dons headwear as he undergoes chemo, receives encouragement from GOP colleague

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(WASHINGTON) -- Rep. Jamie Raskin, sporting a cap as he undergoes chemo, received applause from GOP colleagues.
In a moment of bipartisanship, Democratic Rep. Jamie Raskin received words of encouragement from a Republican colleague as he undergoes cancer treatment.

House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer, R-Ky., told Raskin "we're all rooting for you" as he kicked off the panel's meeting Tuesday to adopt its official rules for this Congress.

"We know that you're gonna win this battle," Comer said. "You're in our thoughts and prayers, and it's good to see you here today."

Raskin, who was elected by his Democratic colleagues to serve as the committee's ranking member, said the words meant a lot to him.

"I’ve been gratified to receive so many kind words of encouragement and sympathy from colleagues on both sides of the aisle," he said. "I hope that these expressions of concern and solidarity will become seeds of friendship over the year."

"I certainly plan on getting through this thing and beating it, and I thank you for your patience and indulgence," he added, prompting a round of applause from committee members on both sides of the aisle.

Raskin announced in late December he'd been diagnosed with diffuse large B-cell lymphoma, which he described as a "serious but curable form of cancer," and said he was about to begin chemo-immunotherapy.

Raskin joked at the time he was advised the regimen will cause hair loss and weight gain, but that he was "still holding out hope for the kind that causes hair gain and weight loss."

The Maryland Democrat wore a black-and-white bandana during Wednesday's oversight meeting, and has been seen wearing other caps as he endures treatment.

House rules have generally long prohibited the wearing of hats on the floor, though Democrats amended the century-old rule in 2019 to allow for religious headwear.

Raskin rose to national prominence as he led two impeachments against former President Donald Trump, and was a leading member of the House Jan. 6 Select Committee tasked with investigating the U.S. Capitol attack.

He's said he expects to continue working as he battles the disease, but was advised by his medical team to "to reduce unnecessary exposure" to COVID-19 or other viruses.

Raskin on Wednesday offered an amendment to allow members of the influential House Oversight Committee to participate remotely for certain situations, including medical circumstances.

"No one should be prevented from performing their duties on behalf of their constituents due to unavoidable and uncontrollable health conditions, whether it's being immunocompromised or having COVID-19 or being injured in some way that prevents him or her from coming to work," Raskin said.

The measure was rejected along party lines as House Republicans make good on their vow to end remote participation and proxy voting measures enacted by the Democrat-controlled chamber during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Comer and other Republicans on the panel voted against the amendment, calling it unnecessary as the chairman's already pledged to work to with Raskin.

"I will do everything in my ability to work with you to make sure we can accommodate anything with respect to committee work while you're undergoing treatment. I'm very sympathetic to what you're going through," Comer said.

Democrats on the panel, pushed back and described the amendment as a failsafe for both sides.

"Protecting individuals based on health outcome should be part of our workplace protections," Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., said during the hearing.

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House Republicans kick off fraud investigation into billions in COVID pandemic relief money

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(WASHINGTON) -- Kicking off its investigations into the Biden administration, the Republican-led House Oversight Committee on Wednesday held a hearing on the billions of dollars that were apparently scammed from COVID-19 relief programs.

Republicans argued the programs were a "prescription for waste, fraud and abuse" and haven't been investigated thoroughly enough by Democrats over the last two years of Biden's administration, though much of the COVID relief money was also discharged under the Trump administration.

"We owe it to the American people to get to the bottom of the greatest theft of American taxpayer dollars in history," Republican Chairman James Comer of Kentucky told the committee in his opening remarks.

"We must identify where this money went, how much ended up in the hands of fraudsters or ineligible participants and what should be done to ensure it never happens again," Comer said.

A total of about $5 trillion was used for pandemic response and recovery under the Trump and Biden administrations, with nearly 90% of it spent by last November, according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

The Oversight Committee intends to evaluate that money, which was given out largely as grants or loans to businesses who had to shut down during the pandemic and unemployment insurance to people who lost their jobs, so as "to ensure those funds were appropriately used to respond to the pandemic, and not wasted on ineligible payees or unrelated matters," Comer said.

While Republicans argued that Democrats should've done more to wrangle the programs into better shape over the last two years while they had majority control in Congress, Democrats pushed back. They said longstanding bureaucratic problems within the Small Business Administration and the Department of Labor created the ripe opportunity for fraud because of understaffing and underinvestment.

And at one point, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Ortez, D-N.Y., also took a shot at Comer, charging that he was using the committee to specifically investigate pandemic-era fraud in blue states, pushing responsibility on Democrats, when his own state reportedly gave unemployment insurance to people who were employed with the state government itself.

The ranking member of the Oversight Committee, Maryland Democrat Jamie Raskin, also pushed back on the notion that fraud hasn't been properly investigated over the last two years by citing multiple past hearings -- while also acknowledging that more investigation, in a bipartisan fashion, was necessary.

"Democrats have systematically ferreted out fraud, waste and abuse in pandemic-relief programs, although we all certainly can do a more effective job and that's what this hearing should be about," Raskin said.

He noted that the programs were "by no means perfect" -- an issue he largely blamed on "anachronistic government IT systems, many running obsolete software," that were unable to efficiently respond when unemployment insurance claims ballooned by 30-fold over just three weeks in March 2020.

But he heralded their benefits, even with their flaws.

"Recall that, while the former president [Donald Trump] denied and trivialized and dismissed the COVID-19 pandemic, it was Congress which acted responsibly and swiftly and in bipartisan fashion to create and supercharge programs that saved countless businesses and families from bankruptcy and ruin throughout the pandemic," Raskin said.

Three witnesses from nonpartisan groups that have been tracking COVID 19-era fraud testified before the committee on Wednesday. Each group found evidence indicating billions of dollars were stolen from programs intended to help people during the height of the pandemic.

One of those groups, the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee (PRAC), reported on Monday that nearly $5.5 billion of pandemic aid that was supposed to reach small businesses suffering from COVID-19 shutdowns may have been eaten up by fraudsters instead.

The report found that in the rush to get assistance out the door, the Small Business Administration granted billions of dollars under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) to applicants who used Social Security numbers that ultimately didn't match up with the person applying.

"We determined that 69,000 questionable [Social Security numbers] were used to obtain $5.4 billion in pandemic loans and that another 175,000 questionable [Social Security numbers] were used in applications that were not paid or approved," Michael Horowitz, the PRAC chair, told the committee.

The proper checks and balances were not in place in time, PRAC found, but there was tremendous pressure to get massive amounts of money quickly to businesses that were on the brink of failure because of COVID-19 interruptions.

The result was that many pandemic aid programs were left open to fraud.

That conclusion was from David Smith, the assistant director of the Office of Investigations within the U.S. Secret Service, which has been overseeing criminal investigations into COVID-19 relief fraud.

"My colleagues and I have seen and countered the full spectrum of pandemic-related fraud to date," Smith said.

"From N95 mask non-delivery schemes to synthetic accounts used in identity theft scams to apply for millions of dollars in loans. From medical facilities targeted with ransomware attacks at the height of the pandemic to prison inmates applying for unemployment benefits," Smith said.

And while a "similar dynamic" has been seen with other major relief efforts and natural disasters, the money stolen amid COVID-19 "was and is substantial," Smith said.

The Secret Service has clawed back more than $1.43 billion in funds that were wrongfully obtained, Smith said, with 2,300 investigations into unemployment insurance fraud and 2,900 investigations into loans and grants given to businesses.

Over 1,000 people have also been charged, forced to return money or convicted for defrauding the programs, though that work is ongoing, according to Comptroller General Gene Dodaro of the Government Accountability Office, another witness before the Oversight Committee on Wednesday.

But Dodaro also pointed to improvements that could be made to weed out fraud before it happened.

"We have found a range of internal control shortcomings across a wide range of programs and made many recommendations that agencies are in the process of implementing," Dodaro said.

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No documents with classified markings found in FBI search of Biden's beach home

President Joe Biden's residence in Rehoboth Beach, Del., Feb. 1, 2023, during a search by FBI agents. - Pool via ABC News

(REHOBOTH BEACH, Del.) -- The FBI conducted a "planned search" Wednesday morning of President Joe Biden's home in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, according to Biden's personal lawyer amid an ongoing probe into the potential mishandling of classified documents.

Afterward, Biden's persoinal attorney Bob Bauer said no documents with classified markings were found, but "DOJ took for further review some materials and handwritten notes that appear to relate to his time as Vice President."

The search took place for three-and-a-half hours, Bauer said -- from 8:30 a.m. to noon ET.

"Today, with the President's full support and cooperation, the DOJ is conducting a planned search of his home in Rehoboth, Delaware," Bauer wrote in a statement released Wednesday morning after pool reporters spotted four vehicles there. "Under DOJ's standard procedures, in the interests of operational security and integrity, it sought to do this work without advance public notice, and we agreed to cooperate. The search today is a further step in a thorough and timely DOJ process we will continue to fully support and facilitate. We will have further information at the conclusion of today's search."

Hours later, White House counsel spokesperson Ian Sams came before cameras at the White House to address reporters' questions -- and did not rule out the possibility of additional FBI searches of homes or offices used by Biden throughout his career.

"I'm not going to speak to decision making that the Justice Department is going to make about how to conduct their investigation. That certainly would be more appropriate to be asked of them as opposed to us but, you know, we're being fully cooperative," Sams said when asked whether there are deliberations to conduct more searches.

Asked point-blank whether the FBI has conducted any searches of any other locations associated with Biden, Sams dodged giving a yes or no answer.

"Look, I think we're providing information as this goes on and answering questions about the search activities as they've been happening," he said.

After Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed Robert Hur as special counsel last month to investigate the potential mishandling of classified documents, Hur was expected to formally begin his work this week, according to a source familiar with the investigation.

Wednesday marks the second DOJ search the president's lawyers have acknowledged. The first was the nearly 13-hour search of Biden's Wilmington, Delaware, home on Jan. 20, disclosed on Jan. 21, which found additional classified documents after Biden's attorneys searched the home themselves in December and found some classified materials, the president's lawyers have said.

Biden's team has not acknowledged the FBI's search of the Penn Biden Center back in mid-November, which ABC reported.

While the contents of the dozens of documents discovered classified markings are still unclear, in a statement in mid-January, Richard Sauber, another lawyer to Biden, said: "We are confident that a thorough review will show that these documents were inadvertently misplaced, and the President and his lawyers acted promptly upon discovery of this mistake."

Biden has maintained he is cooperating fully with Justice Department authorities, but reporters have questioned whether the White House is being fully transparent on the matter.

Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre has struggled at the podium when confronted with reporters' questions as news continues to break around the classified documents drama ahead of the White House informing the public.

Sams defended the White House's handling of the situation earlier Wednesday.

"I think we've been pretty transparent from the very beginning with providing information as it occurs throughout this process," he said. "We have released, probably thousands of words of statements from the president's personal attorney and the White House Counsel's Office about the process that has been undertaken here."

Classified documents were also taken from former President Donald Trump's home at Mar-a-Lago last summer, in a court-authorized FBI search, after what the government has called a months-long effort to get Trump to return all of the classified material he kept after leaving office. Trump denies wrongdoing.

Former Vice President Mike Pence's lawyers recently did their own search of his Indiana home and found some classified records that he retained after leaving office, which he returned to the government, according to his attorneys. Pence said on Friday that it was a "mistake" and he was unaware the documents were there, but he took "full responsibility."

Biden has largely declined to comment on the classified documents found at his home and office but has said he was "surprised" records were located at the Penn Biden Center.

ABC News' Alexander Mallin contributed to this report.

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House Republicans hold first border hearing of new Congress

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(WASHINGTON) -- Republicans on Wednesday took their first opportunity of the new Congress to illustrate what they call a protracted migration crisis across the southwestern border caused by the overly lax policies of the Biden administration.

"How many illegal aliens will cross the southern border this month?" House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, who led the hearing, wrote on Twitter last week.

To answer Jordan's question: The number of illegal border crossings has recently declined, a data point that undermines the GOP narrative. This past week, according to the Department of Homeland Security, the pace of border apprehensions dropped to the lowest rate since February 2021 -- to about 5,000 per day. That's down from levels as high as 8,000 to 9,000 in December, according to DHS, and sources tell ABC News the downward trend continues to hold for now.

Regardless, Republicans continue to deride the administration over its latest efforts to pair a border crackdown with new, narrow pathways for certain migrants to seek relief.

Regional officials invited to the House Judiciary hearing provided a contrasting view of the challenges along the southern border, with familiar characterizations along party lines.

"The rule of law is not being fulfilled," Cochise County, Arizona, Sheriff Mark Dannels told lawmakers, pointing at what he called the slow pace of deportations under the Biden administration.

But El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego said the migration challenges in his area stem from the need to stop unauthorized crossings while providing support to those exercising lawful asylum rights.

Border authorities responded swiftly to contain a surge of migrants who crossed into El Paso last December. Border Patrol agents were brought in from less impacted sectors and migrants were transported to other processing facilities while many others were immediately turned back.

"We have a strategy that I think people should look at," Samaniego said at the hearing, denying that the Biden administration opened the border in any way.

A group of mostly-GOP led states has sued the administration over its latest parole program expansion, which allows up to 30,000 vetted migrants from Cuba, Nicaragua, Haiti and Venezuela to apply for temporary parole and a chance to seek more permanent humanitarian relief. Democrats have long supported pathways for asylum-seekers with some saying more can be done to support those fleeing violence.

"We need to establish a safe and orderly way for people to be able to get processed and, and be able to seek asylum," said Rep. Greg Casar, D-Texas, a member of the House Oversight and Accountability Committee, which is planning its own border hearing later in February.

Along with the parole programs, Mexico has agreed to accept the return of up to 30,000 migrants from those four countries. For now, the administration is relying on the controversial Trump-era order under Title 42 of the U.S. health code which allows for the rapid expulsion of migrants from the border.

"I believe that expansion of Title 42 is something that is being implemented in order to slow Republican political attacks on immigrants and on the administration," Casar said. "I think that's a mistake."

Whether Title 42 is in fact expanded will depend on migrants continuing to attempt unauthorized border crossings. Given the message sent by an enhanced enforcement posture, combined with the opportunity to seek admission away from the border, the declines seen so far in January are an encouraging sign for the Biden administration.

Wednesday's hearing also featured Judge Dale Lynn Carruthers of Terrell County, Texas, who has likened the historic level of unauthorized migration across the southwest to an "invasion."

Far-right extremists have towed a similar line. Authorities documented anti-immigrant motivations and "invasion" rhetoric in connection with 2019 El Paso Walmart shooter Patrick Crusius, who killed 23 people and wounded dozens more. Crusius said he traveled to El Paso to stop what he called "the Hispanic invasion" of Texas.

Dannels, the sheriff in Arizona who testified at the hearing, has called the Biden administration's approach to immigration policy "open borders by design" regardless of the continued implementation of Title 42.

Despite progress made to reduce illegal crossings, a growing number of migrants have been turning to the seas -- showing up in South Florida. Seasonal weather patterns and storms in the Caribbean can slow migration temporarily and may indicate a false sign of progress.

This week the Biden administration announced the upcoming formal end of the COVID-19 health emergency. After attempting to repeal Title 42 border expulsion order, the Biden administration has been blocked in court by groups of mostly GOP-led states from fully repealing the emergency policy.

The broader end of the government's pandemic emergency declaration could serve as another attempt at rescinding the policy that has received significant criticism from the left. Immigrant advocates have denounced the administration for continuing to implement a program which allows for the sharp curtailment of humanitarian protections for migrants across Central and South America fleeing targeted violence.

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Ex-colleague of chief justice's wife makes ethics claim

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(WASHINGTON) -- A Boston attorney and former colleague of U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts' wife, Jane, has filed a complaint with Congress and the Justice Department alleging her work as a legal recruiter poses a conflict of interest at the Supreme Court.

The confidential complaint, first obtained and reported by The New York Times on Tuesday, suggests Jane Roberts' past position as legal recruiter -- helping high-profile firms hire top talent, some of whom later have business before the court -- may present an ethical concern.

While she quit her job as a law partner when her husband was confirmed as chief justice in 2005, Jane Roberts made millions of dollars in commissions helping recruit for firms regularly involved in court business, according to the former colleague, Kendal Price, as reported by the Times.

"I do believe that litigants in U.S. courts, and especially the Supreme Court, deserve to know if their judges' households are receiving six-figure payments from the law firms," Price wrote, according to the Times.

Neither John nor Jane Roberts immediately responded to ABC News' request for comment.

A spokeswoman for the Supreme Court did not respond either, though a spokesperson told the Times that the court's members were "attentive to ethical constraints" and cited the federal judges' code of conduct and related advisories, which specifically said a judge didn't have to recuse themselves solely because their spouse had been a recruiter for a firm before the court.

ABC News has reached out to the Department of Justice and didn't immediately receive a response.

The complaint, which the Times reported was sent in December, has not been independently reviewed by ABC News. But in a statement provided by his attorney, Price explained why he is coming forward years later.

"I made the disclosures at this time for two principal reasons. First, any potential influence on what cases are accepted by the Supreme Court is a serious matter that affects the justice system in the U.S., particularly if that influence is not publicly known," Price said.

"Second, the national controversy and debate regarding the integrity of the Supreme Court demanded that I no longer keep silent about the information I possessed, regardless of the impact such disclosures might have upon me professionally and personally," he added.

Jane Roberts is currently the managing partner at a Washington-based legal recruiting firm. She previously worked with Price at a separate firm in Maryland.

Price was fired from the firm in 2013, according to the Times, and later sued Jane Roberts and another executive.

Price is calling on lawmakers and Justice Department attorneys to investigate. However, the Supreme Court is not typically subject to outside ethics oversight and largely polices itself.

"This complaint raises troubling issues that once again demonstrate the need for a mandatory code of conduct for Supreme Court justices," Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said in a statement. "We must work on a bipartisan basis to pass Sen. [Chris] Murphy's bill, the Supreme Court Ethics Act, which would simply require Supreme Court justices to adhere to the same standard of ethics as other federally appointed judges. Passing this requirement is a common sense step that would help begin the process of restoring faith in the Supreme Court."

Price's complaint is the latest in a string of ethics allegations against sitting justices and their spouses, which have stoked longstanding calls for greater transparency and enforceable ethics rules at the Supreme Court.

Justice Clarence Thomas has faced calls to recuse himself on a number of issues and cases over the conservative political activism of his wife, Ginni. Justice Samuel Alito was recently accused by a former anti-abortion activist of leaking the outcome of a major case at a dinner with his wife.

Both justices have denied any wrongdoing.

Separately, independent watchdog group Fix the Court -- which has long lobbied for a Supreme Court ethics code -- argued the Roberts' case shows "there effectively are no rules."

"Judicial spouses should of course have whatever jobs they want, but the public should have more information as to whether those jobs might pose a conflict to their wives' or husbands' judicial work," said Gabe Roth, Fix the Court's executive director.

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Biden to meet McCarthy amid debt limit fight: 'Show me your budget'

Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz

(WASHINGTON) -- When President Joe Biden sits down with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy in the Oval Office Wednesday, he says he'll tell the GOP leader: "Show me your budget; I'll show you mine."

The highly anticipated meeting, the first the two men will hold since McCarthy narrowly won the speakership last month, comes amid an ongoing standoff over the national debt limit.

The president told reporters Monday that would be his message for McCarthy, who has insisted on budget cuts in exchange for Republican support to lift the debt ceiling -- and avoid a catastrophic default.

The White House has repeatedly said it would not negotiate with Republicans -- that the stakes for the U.S. economy were too high, and that the limit had been raised 74 times before, including with Republican support under then-President Donald Trump.

But on Tuesday, the president suggested he was open to talking. Asked if he would negotiate with the speaker during Wednesday's meeting, which is scheduled to take place at 3:15 p.m., Biden responded simply, "Show me his budget."

The president has long cast himself as a dealmaker, eager to sit down with Republicans to reach bipartisan agreements. At a fundraiser in New York on Tuesday, Biden referred to McCarthy as "a decent man."

But he has also lambasted congressional Republicans as "extreme" and said McCarthy had given in to that faction to take control.

"Look at what he had to do," the president said Tuesday. "He had to make commitments that were just absolutely off the wall for a speaker of the House to make in terms of being able to become a leader."

Responding to Biden's comments at the fundraiser, McCarthy said, "apparently he doesn't understand."

"I'm looking forward to sitting down with the president negotiating for the American public -- the people of America -- on how we can find savings," McCarthy said.

When asked if he planned to make Biden a specific offer, McCarthy said, "I think we're gonna sit down and negotiate."

That public posturing was only the latest salvo launched between the two men.

Earlier Tuesday, McCarthy told reporters that he was "willing to sit down" with Biden "and finally get this done long before the debt limit hits its point that we have to get something done."

"Because why would you put the economics of America in jeopardy?" he said. "Why would you play political games?"

McCarthy has noted he and Biden had "met many times prior to him being president," although "not as often as being president."

He said Tuesday the White House should "say they're willing to negotiate, because the only irresponsible way is to play a political game and say, we're not going to talk about it. It sounds pretty childish to me."

Earlier in the day, top White House officials wrote in a memo that Biden planned to pose two questions to McCarthy during the meeting.

The president is expected to ask McCarthy if he will "commit to the bedrock principle that the United States will never default on its financial obligations" and whether he agrees with "former presidents, including Presidents Trump and Reagan, that it is critical to avoid debt limit brinksmanship," according to the memo, which was first obtained by ABC News.

The authors of the memo -- the president's top economic adviser, Brian Deese, and the director of the White House budget office, Shalanda Young -- noted Biden planned to release a budget on March 9. They challenged McCarthy to do the same.

"It is essential," they wrote, "that Speaker McCarthy likewise commit to releasing a budget, so that the American people can see how House Republicans plan to reduce the deficit – whether through Social Security cuts; cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, and Affordable Care Act (ACA) health coverage; and/or cuts to research, education, and public safety – as well as how much their Budget will add to the deficit with tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and large corporations, as in their first bill this year."

In response, McCarthy wrote in a statement Tuesday: "Mr. President: I received your staff’s memo. I'm not interested in political games. I'm coming to negotiate for the American people."

Republicans in the House have insisted on deep spending cuts in exchange for their cooperation on raising the debt ceiling.

The Republican Study Committee, which represents the largest group of Republicans in the House, previously called for revisions to Social Security and Medicare, including raising the age for Medicare to 67 and Social Security to the age of 70 for younger workers.

But McCarthy recently said any cuts to Social Security and Medicare would be "off the table."

McCarthy pointed to the "Commitment to America" plan presented by Republicans before the midterms, which he said "strengthens" Medicare and Social Security. The White House has accused McCarthy of being "evasive" on his plan for government spending.

Pressed on what he meant by "strengthen" and whether he would seek to raise the retirement age -- McCarthy said: "No, no, no. What I'm talking about Social Security, Medicare, you keep that to the side."

"I want to find a reasonable and a responsible way that we can lift the debt ceiling but take control of this runaway spending," McCarthy said.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has expressed support for McCarthy.

"We’re all behind Kevin," he said Tuesday. "Wishing him well in the negotiations."

Meanwhile, the White House has repeatedly said Biden will not negotiate or compromise by tying a debt limit increase to spending cuts, with the administration pointing to the bipartisan history of the ceiling being increased by both parties over the years.

"Attempts to exploit the debt ceiling as leverage will not work," White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters last month. "There will be no hostage taking."

Earlier this month, McCarthy made it clear he was holding firm.

"For the president to say he wouldn't even negotiate -- that's irresponsible. We're going to be responsible. We're going to be sensible, and we're going to get this done together. So the longer he waits, the more he puts the fiscal jeopardy of America up for grabs," McCarthy told ABC News Senior Congressional Correspondent Rachel Scott last month. "We should sit down and get this done and stop playing politics," he added.

The debt limit doesn't allow government spending on new programs -- instead it allows the U.S. to borrow any money it needs to pay for the nation's existing bills.

The federal government hit the current debt ceiling, about $31.4 trillion, earlier this month prompting the Treasury Department to step in with "extraordinary measures" which will allow the nation to avert a catastrophic default until June.

"President Biden will ask Speaker McCarthy to publicly assure the American people and the rest of the world that the United States will, as always, honor all of its financial obligations," the memo stated.

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Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley expected to announce presidential run: Sources

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(WASHINGTON) -- Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley is expected to announce her run for president in the coming weeks, sources familiar tell ABC News.

The announcement is likely to come mid-February, and invitations are expected to be sent to her supporters in the coming days, according to sources familiar.

Haley, who served as former President Donald Trump's U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, previously said she would not run against Trump.

The former governor has since backed away from those comments, calling for a new generation of leadership.

Just days ago, Trump told reporters he recently received a phone call from Haley.

"She called me and said she'd like consider it and I said you should do it," Trump told reporters over the weekend.

ABC News has reached out to Haley's team for comment.

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House set to vote to keep Ilhan Omar off House Foreign Affairs Committee

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(WASHINGTON) -- The House could vote as soon as Wednesday on a resolution to keep Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., from the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

The House Rules Committee voted along party lines on Tuesday night, 9-4, to advance a resolution to effectively block Omar from the panel -- by removing her once she is seated.

The resolution, which was introduced by Republican Rep. Max Miller of Ohio, cites some of Omar's previous controversial statements to argue she doesn't have an "objective mindset."

Omar has since apologized for antisemitic remarks, including one suggesting that pro-Israel lobbyists were buying political support.

Miller insisted it wasn't about a "tit-for-tat," given that Democrats and some Republicans had removed two GOP lawmakers from committees in the last Congress.

Omar "attempted to undermine" the U.S. relationship with Israel and "disqualified" herself from the panel, Miller argued.

In response, Omar wrote on Twitter that "there is nothing objectively true in this resolution. It's all perceived and filled with pretext."

To the claim of a lack of objectivity, she wrote, "We vote our districts. ... This censorship really underscores their true intentions."

Democrats still need to formally submit a resolution outlining their members on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, which they have not yet done.

Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who has repeatedly vowed to remove Omar and two other Democrats once his party retook power, said on Tuesday night when leaving the House floor that he believes he has the votes to boot Omar from her committee assignment, despite some objections in his conference.

Earlier Tuesday, a GOP holdout on removing Omar, Indiana Rep. Victoria Spartz, announced that she was now a yes on the issue.

"I appreciate Speaker McCarthy's willingness to address legitimate concerns and add due process language to our resolution. Deliberation and debate are vital for our institution, not top-down approaches," Spartz said in a statement.

She had said last week that she would oppose removing Omar: "Speaker McCarthy is taking unprecedented actions this Congress to deny some committee assignments to the Minority without proper due process."

Reps. Ken Buck, R-Colo., and Nancy Mace, R-S.C., have indicated that they will not support blocking Omar from the committee. Florida Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz is undecided and Rep. Greg Steube, also R-Fla., is recovering from an accident -- so the GOP can only lose four votes, if Democrats unite to keep Omar on the committee.

Notably, the resolution states that "any member reserves the right to bring a case before the Committee on Ethics as grounds for an appeal to the Speaker of the House for reconsideration of any committee removal decision."

Some Democrats were quick to call out the process.

"The notion this resolution has any due process is simply bull----," the House Rules Committee's ranking member, Massachusetts Democrat Jim McGovern, said during an emergency meeting Tuesday night to consider the resolution.

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Video shows Donald Trump give deposition ahead of $250 million lawsuit

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(NEW YORK) -- Former President Donald Trump turned to New York Attorney General Letitia James and smiled briefly as she began to depose him Aug. 10, newly released video obtained by ABC News shows.

The video represents the first time the public can see portions of the hours-long deposition that preceded James' $250 million civil lawsuit filed against Trump, his eldest children, his business and its top executives for inflating his net worth.

Trump declined to answer most questions other than affirming he understood the ground rules and the procedures.

When Kevin Wallace, the attorney general's senior counsel, asked what Trump did to prepare for the deposition he answered "very little."

Trump began the deposition with a statement that denounced the investigation and the investigator.

"This is the greatest witch hunt in the history of our country," Trump is seen saying. "She has made a career out of maliciously attacking me and my business even before she understood or was elected."

Wallace replied, "Obviously we disagree."

When Wallace began to ask question about his finances, Trump repeatedly invoked the Fifth Amendment and continued to do so for the next several hours.

Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr. were also deposed in the investigation. All three depositions were briefly delayed in the wake of Ivana Trump's death.

James eventually filed the lawsuit against Trump, both children and his business in September 2022.

"We found that Mr. Trump, his children and the corporation used more than 200 false asset valuations over a 10-year period," James said at a press conference announcing the charges.

The suit claims that the former president's Florida estate and golf resort, Mar-a-Lago, was valued as high as $739 million, but should have been valued at $75 million. Trump is also alleged to have overvalued assets such as his Trump Tower apartment; Trump Turnberry, his golf course in Scotland; and 40 Wall Street.

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US accuses Russia of violating key nuclear treaty

Bai Xueqi/Xinhua via Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) -- The State Department has informed Congress that Russia is no longer meeting obligations set by the only nuclear arms control pact shared by two powers, putting a rare area of cooperation between Washington and Moscow at risk.

"Russia is not complying with its obligation under the New START Treaty to facilitate inspection activities on its territory," a spokesperson for the department said in a statement. "Russia's refusal to facilitate inspection activities prevents the United States from exercising important rights under the treaty and threatens the viability of U.S.-Russian nuclear arms control."

The New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, commonly known as New START, is an agreement between the U.S. and Russia that sets limits on strategic arms. The terms of the deal dictate that those restrictions be verified through on-site inspections, data exchanges and other monitoring measures.

Both countries agreed that on-site inspections should be suspended during the pandemic, but while Washington expressed a willingness to resume the practice in the summer of 2022, Russia continued to shut off access to its nuclear arsenal, claiming that travel restrictions imposed by the U.S. in response to the invasion of Ukraine unfairly hindered its ability to conduct reciprocal inspections.

The State Department spokesperson disputed that claim.

"Russia has a clear path for returning to full compliance," the person said. "The United States remains ready to work constructively with Russia to fully implement the New START Treaty."

As of Tuesday afternoon, the Kremlin had not responded to the U.S. accusation.

The New START treaty, which has been in force since 2011 and is set to run through February 2026, also stipulates a schedule for the parties to hold diplomatic meetings on renewing the pact and related topics. Russia abruptly called off scheduled talks in November 2022 and as so far refused to set a new date -- another example of Moscow's failure to comply, according to the Biden administration.

The State Department's declaration to Congress comes at the behest of Republicans on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, who issued a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, and Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines last week expressing concern that Russia has failed to uphold key tenets of the treaty.

But until recently, the department maintained that Russia continued to meet at least some of its obligations, including by providing data and sharing notifications.

The New START treaty caps both U.S. and Russia deployed strategic nuclear warheads and bombs at 1,550 and caps each power's deployed intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarine-launched ballistic missiles, and heavy bombers assigned to nuclear missions at 700.

The terms of the agreement also provide for 18 on-site inspections each year for both U.S. and Russian authorities.

"The United States continues to view nuclear arms control as an indispensable means of strengthening U.S., ally, and global security," the State Department said. "It is all the more important during times of tension when guardrails and clarity matter most."

However, when it comes to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, speculation and fear from Western officials regarding the potential use of weapons of mass discussion by Moscow has centered around tactical nuclear weapons, which are not covered by the treaty.

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Promised green cards, catfishing, threats: How George Santos' ex-boyfriends say they were left feeling trapped, manipulated

Alex Wong/Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) -- As Rep. George Santos continues to face mounting scrutiny over fabricating large swaths of his biography, multiple men have described to ABC News past relationships with the New York congressman -- some allegedly occurring when they were still teenagers -- that they said turned toxic due to a flood of lies that Santos told to try to manipulate and trap them.

The new allegations come as Santos on Tuesday informed his Republican colleagues at a closed-door conference meeting that he would be recusing himself from committee assignments.

Several of the men ABC News spoke with said that they met Santos as young men, when Santos, who later ran for Congress as an openly gay Republican, was several years older than they were.

Leonardo Bris said he was 19 years old when he met Santos at a bar in Manhattan in 2013, when Bris was in town from Brazil. Bris told ABC News in an interview that he knew the now-embattled congressman as Anthony Zabrovski, one of a handful of aliases that Santos has reportedly used over the years.

'He promised me the world'

Bris said that over the next few weeks, he began a romantic relationship with Santos, who was 25 at the time. Bris recalled Santos telling him tales of dating supermodels and how they still begged him to become a model himself.

But Bris said he would later find out those claims were lies, and the relationship quickly turned "toxic" -- filled with what Bris said were "manipulative" things that Santos told him to keep him from leaving.

"He promised the world," Bris said of Santos, who Bris said at one point promised to marry him in order to help him secure U.S. citizenship.

"He promised me, 'Don't worry,' and that he will get me a green card if I marry him and stay under his 'wings,'" Bris recalled.

At the time, Bris said, he felt like Santos was trying to trap him.

"If you get a green card from him, you will be in his hands forever," Bris recalled thinking. "If you divorce, you had the leave the country."

When he first met Santos, Bris said it was a vulnerable time in his life; he was young and it was his first year in the United States on a tourist visa.

"It was an illusion ... now I realize he just wanted to get people under his hand," Bris said. Eventually, after Santos' "lies" piled up, Bris said he decided to move back to Brazil.

"Thank God I didn't believe him [or] stayed longer and married him," he said.

Santos did not respond to a request for comment from ABC News.

'The way he is'

Since getting elected in November to represent New York's 3rd Congressional District, Santos has been under fire for misrepresenting portions of his biography, including his work history, education, religion and charity work, as well as falsely claiming his grandmother was a Holocaust victim and that his mother died in the 9/11 terror attack.

Santos has insisted he has committed no crime and has vowed to serve out his term for his constituents, suggesting it's up to them to reelect him or vote him out of office in two years' time. He was given assignments on the congressional committees for small business and for science, space and technology, before telling GOP colleagues that he would recuse himself from those appointments.

Santos, who ran as an openly gay candidate, was married in 2012 to a woman named Uadla Vieira in Manhattan. She filed for divorce in June 2019 and the marriage was dissolved later that fall. Divorce records are sealed in New York, and ABC News has been unable to reach her.

Pedro Vilarva, who told ABC News he met Santos in 2014 on the dating app Tinder, said he shared an apartment with Santos' wife without knowing the two were married at the time. Santos encouraged Vilarva to move into the apartment with his then-wife, according to Vilarva, who said Santos would introduce her as his "friend."

Vilarva said that he and Santos started dating while Vilarva was still in high school. "He was 26 and I was 18," Vilarva said.

At the start of the relationship, Santos and Vilarva would spend the weekends together because Vilarva had his high school classes on weekdays, Vilarva said. The pair dated for about a year until Vilarva said the lies started to pile up.

Vilarva said he didn't find out about Santos' marriage until months into their relationship. At that point, Vilarva said, Santos proposed to him multiple times and promised him he would get a divorce. But the divorce would not come until years later, after the two had gone their separate ways.

Vilarva said the relationship ended after he started searching online for information on the multiple names he noticed Santos had used over the course of their relationship.

"The way that he is, is that he lies and then he tries to cover up that lie with another lie," Vilarva told ABC News.

'You're partners with Santos?'

Kevin Guzman, who says he met Santos over ten years ago, told ABC News that he was pursued romantically by Santos and that he ultimately declined Santos' advances.

But that didn't stop Santos from telling people they were dating, Guzman said.

Guzman remembers mutual friends asking him, "Oh, you're partners with Santos?" which shocked Guzman since they hadn't been romantically involved.

"He wanted me to be in a relationship with him, which I didn't want," Guzman told ABC News. "Then he made everybody think that I was with him."

A mutual friend, Yasser Rabello, corroborated Guzman 's account. Rabello, a former roommate of Santos, told ABC News that he remembered Santos lying about being in a relationship with Guzman.

"He was with me all the time then," Guzman said. "I didn't realize how much he had sold it."

Guzman says his feeling of violation increased even more what he discovered later that Santos had been using his photo on dating apps.

"He hurt me a lot mentally," Guzman said. "If I hear his name, if I see a picture ... I was so scared of him."

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


FBI searched Biden's former office last year after his lawyers found classified documents: Sources

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(WASHINGTON) -- The FBI searched the Penn Biden Center in November after President Joe Biden's lawyers reported finding classified documents at a former office he used there, according to three sources familiar with the situation.

It is unclear if the FBI discovered any additional documents during the search, which was done in coordination with Biden's lawyers and occurred after his aides disclosed to the National Archives that classified documents were found at his old office on Nov. 2, sources said.

According to one source, the FBI checked the center to make sure all Biden-related documents were retrieved.

The White House, Justice Department and FBI declined to comment.

CBS News first reported the FBI search.

The Penn Biden Center is a Washington, D.C., think tank that Biden helped launch after leaving office as vice president under Barack Obama. He "periodically used this space from mid-2017 until the start of the 2020 campaign," Richard Sauber, a special counsel to Biden, said in a statement earlier this month confirming the documents had been in the office.

Classified materials have since been recovered from Biden's Wilmington, Delaware, home, according to his lawyers, and all of the records were returned to the government.

His attorneys have said that the material dates from his decades as a senator or as vice president, from 2009-2017.

The White House hasn't specified what was in the documents or how they ended up being retained in the years Biden was out of office, in apparent violation of statutes about the handling of classified records.

Though the materials were discovered beginning in November, days before the midterm elections, the matter only became public via news reports in early January.

The White House has since faced scrutiny -- even from those in Biden's party -- over the decision not to disclose what was happening.

"I think the administration will need to answer that question. I'm going to reserve judgment until they do," Rep. Adam Schiff, a former chair of the House Intelligence Committee, recently said on ABC's "This Week."

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., told NBC's "Meet the Press" last week that the president had been "irresponsible."

"We make mistakes," Manchin said then. "I can tell you I don't think anyone intended, he sure didn't intend, for it to fall in wrong hands and use it against our country. I know they didn't intend that to happen."

White House spokeswoman Kate Bedingfield appeared Tuesday on CNN and pushed back on questions about transparency: "We have been clear from the outset that the president will cooperate with every request the Justice Department has, and we have put out multiple statements."

Earlier this month, Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed Robert Hur, a former federal prosecutor, to investigate as special counsel.

Hur is expected to formally begin his work this week, according to a source familiar with the investigation.

In addition to the November search of the Penn Biden Center, the FBI conducted a similarly voluntary search of Biden's home in Wilmington earlier this month and found additional classified documents after Biden's attorneys searched the home themselves in December and found some classified materials, the president's lawyers have said.

In a statement in mid-January, Sauber, Biden's counsel, said: "We are confident that a thorough review will show that these documents were inadvertently misplaced, and the President and his lawyers acted promptly upon discovery of this mistake."

Classified documents were also taken from former President Donald Trump's home at Mar-a-Lago last summer, in a court authorized FBI search, after what the government has called a months-long effort to get Trump to return all of the classified material he kept after leaving office. Trump denies wrongdoing.

Former Vice President Mike Pence's lawyers recently did their own search of his Indiana home and found some classified records that he retained after leaving office, which he returned to the government, according to this attorneys. Pence said on Friday that it was a "mistake" and he was unaware the documents were there, but he took "full responsibility."

Biden has largely declined to comment on the classified documents found at his home and office but has said he was "surprised" records were located at the Penn Biden Center.

He has also defended his handling of the investigation.

"We found a handful of documents … were filed in the wrong place, we immediately turned them over to the [National] Archives and the Justice Department," he told reporters on Jan. 19. "We're fully cooperating and looking forward to getting this resolved quickly."

"I think you're going to find, there's nothing there," he said then. "I have no regrets. I'm following what the lawyers have told me they want me to do. It's exactly what we're doing. There's no 'there' there. Thank you."

ABC News' Adam Carlson and Alexander Mallin contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Biden touts infrastructure improvements in New York City

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(NEW YORK) -- President Joe Biden hit the road again Tuesday as part of a multi-day pitch to Americans on the benefits of the bipartisan infrastructure law passed last year, stopping Tuesday in New York City to tout funding for the Gateway Hudson Tunnel Project.

"This is just the beginning," Biden said, as he described how the law was transforming American infrastructure. "It's the beginning of finally constructing a 21st century rail system that's long, long overdue in this country. This project is critical to transforming the Northeast Corridor, increasing speeds, capacity, reliability and safety."

From the West Side Rail Yard, Biden announced $292 million in funding from the infrastructure law Tuesday to complete a critical early phase of the Hudson Tunnel Project intended to improve travel between New York and New Jersey.

The project "will result in 72,000 good-paying jobs, rehabilitate the old North River Tunnel which opened in 1910, build a new tunnel beneath the Palisades, Hudson River, and the waterfront area in Manhattan, and improve reliability for 200,000-weekday passengers on New Jersey Transit and Amtrak," according to the White House.

So far, the Biden administration has announced over $185 billion in funding from the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill, the White House told ABC News. That money is going to over 7,000 projects -- ranging from building and repairing roads, bridges, ports, and airports; to investing in clean energy and clean water; cleaning up legacy pollution; and funding access to high-speed internet -- and by end of the year, the administration expects the total number of projects to far exceed 20,000, according to the White House.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, joining Biden in his home state Tuesday, mocked former President Donald Trump for being unable to achieve the same. If Biden runs for reelection, as he's expected to do, he could again face Trump -- the only Republican candidate to so far declare candidacy.

"For four years, the former president was shoveling you know what, and now we're going to put real shovels in the ground, wielded by real American workers. That's the basic contrast between this presidency in the last," a smiling Schumer said. "Get on the Joe Biden express now because we are not stopping."

Introducing Biden, Schumer called the president "Mr. Amtrak."

"This is one of the biggest most consequential projects in the country," Biden said, tempering expectations. "But it's going to take time. It's a multi-billion-dollar effort between the states and the federal government but we finally have the money and we're going to get it done. I promise you, we're going to get it done."

The trip to tout rail infrastructure comes after a similar appearance Monday in Baltimore and one week before Biden's State of the Union -- the first time Biden will address a joint session of Congress with the newly-empowered Republican majority in the House.

Biden, who commuted daily between Wilmington and Washington as a senator, said he's traveled more than one million miles on Amtrak and understands how the economy runs stronger when transportation runs on time.

"To have the best economy in the world, you have to have the best infrastructure in the world," he added.

In New York, Biden was joined by Gov. Kathy Hochul, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, Sen. Cory Booker, Sen. Bob Menendez, and Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, and other local leaders.

Biden visited Baltimore on Monday to kick off a $6 billion rail tunnel reconstruction project primarily funded by the bipartisan infrastructure law; federal funding could reach up to $4.7 billion, according to the White House. The new tunnel will replace the aging Baltimore and Potomac Tunnel, and remove what the White House says is the largest bottleneck between New Jersey and Washington, D.C.

He and Vice President Kamala Harris plan to travel to Philadelphia on Friday to discuss removing lead pipes – another initiative funded by the infrastructure law -- to cap off a week highlighting federal investments in infrastructure.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


At meeting, Biden to challenge McCarthy to avoid default, release detailed budget, per White House memo

Official White House Photo by Hannah Foslien

(WASHINGTON) -- President Joe Biden is expected to pose two questions to House Speaker Kevin McCarthy during a Wednesday meeting and will challenge him to commit to avoiding a catastrophic default and unveil a specific, detailed and comprehensive budget, according to a White House memo obtained first by ABC News.

The highly anticipated meeting comes amid an ongoing standoff over the debt limit.

According to the memo, the president is expected to ask McCarthy if he will "commit to the bedrock principle that the United States will never default on its financial obligations" and whether he agrees with "former presidents, including Presidents Trump and Reagan, that it is critical to avoid debt limit brinksmanship."

The memo -- written by senior advisers Brian Deese and Shalanda Young -- notes President Biden will release a budget on March 9 and challenges McCarthy to do the same.

"It is essential that Speaker McCarthy likewise commit to releasing a budget, so that the American people can see how House Republicans plan to reduce the deficit – whether through Social Security cuts; cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, and Affordable Care Act (ACA) health coverage; and/or cuts to research, education, and public safety – as well as how much their Budget will add to the deficit with tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and large corporations, as in their first bill this year."

McCarthy responded to the memo in a statement on Tuesday, writing: "Mr. President: I received your staff’s memo. I'm not interested in political games. I'm coming to negotiate for the American people."

Republicans in the House have insisted on deep spending cuts in exchange for their cooperation on raising the debt ceiling.

The Republican Study Committee, which represents the largest group of Republicans in the House, previously called for revisions to Social Security and Medicare including raising the age for Medicare to 67 and Social Security to the age of 70 for younger workers.

But McCarthy recently said any cuts to Social Security and Medicare would be "off the table."

McCarthy pointed to the "Commitment to America" plan presented by Republicans before the midterms, which he said "strengthens" Medicare and Social Security. The White House has accused McCarthy of being "evasive" on his plan for government spending.

Pressed on what he meant by "strengthen" and whether he would seek to raise the retirement age -- McCarthy said: "No, no, no. What I'm talking about Social Security, Medicare, you keep that to the side."

"I want to find a reasonable and a responsible way that we can lift the debt ceiling but take control of this runaway spending," McCarthy said.

Meanwhile, the White House has repeatedly said Biden will not negotiate or compromise by tying a debt limit increase to spending cuts, with the administration pointing to the bipartisan history of the ceiling being increased by both parties over the years.

"Attempts to exploit the debt ceiling as leverage will not work," White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters earlier this month. "There will be no hostage taking."

Earlier this month, McCarthy made it clear he was holding firm.

"For the president to say he wouldn't even negotiate -- that's irresponsible. We're going to be responsible. We're going to be sensible, and we're going to get this done together. So the longer he waits, the more he puts the fiscal jeopardy of America up for grabs," McCarthy told ABC News' Senior Congressional Correspondent Rachel Scott earlier this month. "We should sit down and get this done and stop playing politics," he added.

The debt limit doesn't allow government spending on new programs -- instead it allows the U.S. to borrow any money it needs to pay for the nation's existing bills.

The federal government hit the current debt ceiling, about $31.4 trillion earlier this month prompting the Treasury Department to step in with "extraordinary measures" which will allow the nation to avert a catastrophic default until June.

"President Biden will ask Speaker McCarthy to publicly assure the American people and the rest of the world that the United States will, as always, honor all of its financial obligations," the memo states.

Editor's note: This article has been revised to reflect an updated memo released by the administration.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Santos tells House Republicans he'd recuse himself from committee assignments: Sources

Tetra Images - Henryk Sadura/Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) -- Embattled GOP Rep. George Santos told House Republicans during a closed door meeting on Tuesday that he would recuse himself from sitting on any committees.

Santos was recently assigned two committees -- the House Small Business Committee and the House Science, Space and Technology Committee.

Leaving the House Republican meeting, Speaker Kevin McCarthy confirmed that Santos said he would recuse himself from committees but indicated if he were to fill the committee seats, it would be on a temporary basis.

"If I fill them it will be on a temporary basis. He'll be able to get committees back once he's cleared," McCarthy said.

A spokesperson for Santos' office told ABC News, "The congressman is reserving his seats on his assigned committees until he has been properly cleared of both campaign and personal financial investigations."

Santos was elected in November to represent New York's 3rd Congressional District but by the time he was sworn in, he was under a cloud of controversy for fabricating much of his resume. He now also faces several investigations into his campaign's finances.

McCarthy reiterated that the House Ethics Committee will have questions about many of those concerns and once he answers those questions he may be able to be seated on committees.

"I think it was an appropriate decision that until he can clear everything up he's off the committees," McCarthy said, adding that they discussed the matter during a meeting on Monday.

McCarthy wouldn't say explicitly whether he encouraged Santos to step aside from his committee assignments but told reporters, "I think we had a good discussion inside the meeting" and said Santos found this decision was the best way forward.

Santos was also questioned about the decision as he exited the Capitol on Tuesday.

“Nobody tells me to do anything, I made the decision on my own that I thought best represented -- in interest of the voters," Santos told ABC News Senior Congressional Correspondent Rachel Scott.

Santos was assigned to the two House panels earlier this month despite calls for his resignation by Democrats and at least seven Republicans.

McCarthy has declined to join calls for Santos to step down, stating he will treat him like any other member of the House.

“I will hold him to the same standard I hold anyone else elected to Congress,” McCarthy told reporters last week. “If he has broken the law then we will remove him, but it is not my role. I believe in the rule of law.”

Santos' committee assignments were also the subject of scrutiny given McCarthy blocked Democratic Reps. Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell from serving on the House Intelligence Committee. McCarthy is also seeking to remove Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar from the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Santos himself has remained defiant against stepping down.

When asked by ABC News' Rachel Scott Tuesday if he was now considering resigning, he replied, "No, I'm not."

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


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