WASHINGTON — The House on Thursday took the first major legislative step toward enacting a promised overhaul of the tax code, approving a budget blueprint that would allow a future tax bill to pass Congress without any Democratic votes.
The House voted 219-206 to pass the budget resolution, with 18 Republicans voting against it.
The belated approval of a spending and tax plan for the fiscal year that began Sunday offered a momentary display of Republican cohesion as the party moves ahead in its attempt to overhaul the tax code for the first time since Ronald Reagan was president. The document itself ostensibly charts a path toward a balanced budget over the next 10 years, giving Republicans something to offer their core conservative voters and Democrats several lines of attack in 2018.
“We need to pass this budget so that we can deliver real relief for middle-income families across this country,” exhorted Speaker Paul Ryan, Republican of Wisconsin, saying the budget blueprint “paves the way for historic tax reform.”
Sessions halts protections for transgender workers
WASHINGTON — Attorney General Jeff Sessions has reversed a three-year-old Justice Department policy that protected transgender workers from discrimination under federal law.
In a memo to his US attorney offices and agency heads, Sessions said that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 does not protect transgender people from workplace discrimination by private employers and state and local governments.
‘‘Title VII’s prohibition on sex discrimination encompasses discrimination between men and women but does not encompass discrimination based on gender identity per se, including transgender status,’’ Sessions wrote in the memo dated Wednesday.
The attorney general’s memo says the Justice Department will take this position ‘‘in all pending and future matters,’’ indicating his policy will have a wide-ranging impact.
Civil rights groups quickly lashed out at Sessions and accused him of ‘‘yet another rollback of protections for LGBTQ people.’’
Jailed former congressman to get new sentence hearing
McLEAN, Va. — A former Louisiana congressman sentenced to 13 years in prison on bribery charges who was famously caught hiding $90,000 cash in his freezer has been ordered to be immediately released from jail to receive a new sentencing hearing.
The ruling ordering the release of ex-representative William Jefferson follows a Supreme Court decision last year making it more difficult to convict public officials on bribery-related offenses.
Jefferson, 70, a Democrat who represented parts of New Orleans, has been serving his sentence since 2012. He was convicted of accepting more than $400,000 in bribes and seeking millions more in exchange for brokering business deals in Africa. The 2005 raid of his Washington home that turned up cash stuffed in frozen food boxes made him fodder for late-night comedians.
In a ruling made public Thursday, US Senior Judge T.S. Ellis III in Alexandria said a new sentencing hearing is necessary because the Supreme Court has subsequently changed what constitutes ‘‘an official act’’ for which a public official can be convicted of bribery.
GOP representative resigns amid affair, abortion talk
WASHINGTON— Republican Representative Tim Murphy of Pennsylvania, an anti-abortion lawmaker who allegedly urged his mistress to have an abortion when he thought she was pregnant, is resigning from Congress.
House Speaker Paul Ryan on Thursday announced Murphy’s plans to leave Congress, effective Oct. 21. The decision comes less than 24 hours after Murphy said he would retire at the end of his term next year.
‘‘It was Dr. Murphy’s decision to move on to the next chapter of his life, and I support it,’’ Ryan said in a statement. ‘‘We thank him for his many years of tireless work on mental health issues here in Congress and his service to the country as a naval reserve officer.’’
Murphy’s downfall came quickly, within days of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette publishing text messages between the married congressman and Shannon Edwards.
A Jan. 25 text message from Edwards told the congressman he had ‘‘zero issue posting your pro-life stance all over the place when you had no issue asking me to abort our unborn child just last week when we thought that was one of the options,’’ according to the newspaper.
AG will revive Bush-era
WASHINGTON — Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Thursday he is reviving a Bush era crime-fighting strategy that emphasizes aggressive prosecution of gun and gang crimes.
Similar efforts fizzled in recent years due to funding cuts and concerns that they focused too heavily on common street criminals as opposed to major players. But Justice Department officials insist they are drawing from lessons learned since Project Safe Neighborhoods was initially launched in 2001.
Part of the program’s focus is on sending certain gun crimes to federal court, where they carry longer sentences in faraway prisons. The department will station 40 additional federal prosecutors in districts that are struggling with spikes in crime.