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U.S. House rebukes Biden administration over pause in heavy bomb shipments to Israel • South Dakota Searchlight

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U.S. House rebukes Biden administration over pause in heavy bomb shipments to Israel • South Dakota Searchlight


WASHINGTON — The U.S. House passed legislation Thursday rebuking President Joe Biden’s decision to withhold some military assistance from Israel amid its ongoing war in Gaza.

The 224-187 vote (including a yes vote from South Dakota Republican Dusty Johnson) approved a bill released over the weekend by a handful of Republicans that, in part, “calls on the Biden Administration to allow all previously approved arms transfers to Israel to proceed quickly to ensure that Israel can defend itself and defeat threats from Iran and its proxies, including Hezbollah, Hamas, and the Houthis.”

The measure says withheld military assistance “shall be delivered to Israel not later than 15 days after” the bill becomes law and requires the secretaries of Defense and State to obligate all funding for Israel within 30 days of the bill becoming law.

The legislation now goes to the Senate, but it’s unlikely that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, will bring it up for a vote. The White House issued a veto threat for the bill.

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“The president has already said he’d veto it, so it’s not going anywhere,” Schumer said Wednesday.

At a Thursday morning press conference outside the U.S. Capitol, House Speaker Mike Johnson accused Biden of emboldening Iran and “using his authority to defend himself politically.”

“Israel needs to finish the job and America needs to help Israel extinguish the flame of terror that is wrought by Hamas. It wasn’t that long ago when President Biden called for the elimination of Hamas. But he’s not doing that anymore. And now it’s clear that Biden and Schumer have turned their back on Israel. They’re carrying water for Iran and its proxies,” Johnson, a Louisiana Republican, said.

House Appropriations Chairman Tom Cole, of Oklahoma; Defense Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Ken Calvert, of California; State-Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Mario Díaz-Balart, of Florida; and Financial Services Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman David Joyce, of Ohio, released the nine-page bill this weekend.

Quiet pause

The legislation comes weeks after the Biden administration quietly paused one shipment of heavy bombs to Israel over concerns that more civilians in Gaza could be killed by U.S.-supplied weapons.

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The death toll has reached more than 35,000 in Gaza, according to the Gaza Health Ministry. Biden is facing severe opposition from progressives, including high-profile protests on college campuses, over Israel’s continued offensive following Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack.

The previously scheduled single shipment that was paused in late April contained 1,800 2,000-pound bombs and 1,700 500-pound bombs, according to a Pentagon update on May 9.

Pentagon spokesman Gen. Pat Ryder told reporters on May 9 that the administration has “not made a final determination on how to proceed with this shipment.”

“And as you know, we’ve provided billions of dollars in security assistance to Israel. We’ve supported their efforts to defend themselves, most recently (during) Iran’s unprecedented attack. So there should be no question that we will continue to stand by Israel when it comes to their defense,” Ryder said during a press conference.

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The U.S. and allies shot down dozens of drones and missiles launched by Iran at Israel in mid-April, according to the Pentagon.

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Israel has been the largest cumulative recipient of financial support from the U.S. since World War II, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service.

Some House Democrats, including Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, expressed concern over the administration’s paused shipment, though she voted against the bill Thursday.

“President Biden has been ironclad in his commitment to Israel over the last seven months. His Administration must stay the course and avoid any impression that our support is wavering,” Wasserman Schultz said in a statement Friday.

“Targeting remaining Hamas fighters while minimizing harm to civilians will require the best of our combined efforts. I share the President’s concern for Palestinian civilians used as human shields and understand the risks posed by a full-scale invasion of Rafah. However, we must remember that Hamas is eager to sacrifice as many Palestinian lives as possible and wants to maximize the civilian toll of this operation as part of their cowardly PR campaign,” she continued.

Numerous media reports are citing congressional aides who say the White House is poised to sign off on a $1 billion arms transfer to Israel.

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When asked by reporters Thursday about the reported deal, Johnson criticized it as “window dressing” to provide Biden with “political cover.”

White House ‘strongly’ opposes bill

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Monday during the press briefing that the administration didn’t support the legislation.

“We strongly, strongly oppose attempts to constrain the president’s ability to deploy U.S. security assistance consistent with U.S. foreign policy and national security objectives,” she said.

Jean-Pierre added the Biden administration plans “to spend every last cent appropriated, consistent with legal obligations.”

White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said during the same press briefing the administration had “paused a shipment of 2,000-pound bombs because we do not believe they should be dropped in densely populated cities.”

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“We still believe it would be a mistake to launch a major military operation into the heart of Rafah that would put huge numbers of civilians at risk without a clear strategic gain,” Sullivan said. “The president was clear that he would not supply certain offensive weapons for such an operation, were it to occur.”

Sullivan said the Biden administration was working with the Israeli government “on a better way to ensure the defeat of Hamas everywhere in Gaza, including in Rafah.” He also noted that the U.S. is “continuing to send military assistance” to Israel.

The White House released a statement of administration policy on Tuesday further criticizing the legislation and issuing a veto threat.

“The bill is a misguided reaction to a deliberate distortion of the Administration’s approach to Israel,” it states. “The President has been clear: we will always ensure Israel has what it needs to defend itself.”

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South Dakota

Petition returns Roe v. Wade to South Dakota ballot

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Petition returns Roe v. Wade to South Dakota ballot


RAPID CITY, S.D. (KEVN) – With Roe v Wade being overturned at the federal level in 2022, the pro-choice community has been working to bring back those rights. At South Dakota’s state level, Dakotans For Health put together a petition with more than 55,000 signatures to put the measure on the ballot.

Rick Weiland, Co-Founder of Dakotans for Health, believes these rights are important to protect women, living in a State that prides itself on freedom.

“We’ve spent millions of South Dakota tax dollars advertising what a free state we are. ‘come here and work in South Dakota, enjoy the freedom living in our state’, and then I look at the hypocrisy, and I think if you’re a woman and you’re raped and you’re pregnant, do you have freedom to make a choice of what to do? No, you’ve lost that,” Weiland said.

Travis Lasseter, executive Director of Black Hills Pregnancy Center, says no matter what happens with this initiative, their center will continue to answer all of their patient’s questions with medical facts, allowing women to make an informed decision.

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Weiland says his group has faced backlash over potential late-term abortions. He went on to say the initiative is simply restoring women’s rights.

“I think this freedom amendment is so important to just restore the rights Women had for 50 years, we’re getting criticized for being too radical, that this goes way beyond Roe, which is just a bold-faced lie,” Weiland said.

Weiland says he is optimistic voters from both sides will bring women’s rights back to the most restrictive reproductive rights state of South Dakota.

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U.S. House panel debates nutrition benefit changes in GOP farm bill proposal • South Dakota Searchlight

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U.S. House panel debates nutrition benefit changes in GOP farm bill proposal • South Dakota Searchlight


WASHINGTON — Democrats and Republicans on the U.S. House Agriculture Committee clashed late into the evening Thursday over funding for food and nutrition programs as part of Republicans’ sweeping proposal for the new five-year farm bill.

The committee’s $1.5 trillion omnibus farm bill would set policy and funding levels for agriculture and conservation programs for the next five years, as well as for food and nutrition programs for families in need.

House Agriculture Chair Glenn “GT” Thompson, a Pennsylvania Republican, introduced the long-awaited bill last week and his panel undertook a marathon markup Thursday. The committee is expected to vote on a series of amendments and the bill around midnight Eastern.

SD’s Rep. Johnson defends criticized provisions in farm bill draft

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The bill is tied up over disagreements between Democrats and Republicans on a funding calculation that would place limits on the formula that calculates benefits for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, SNAP, the food aid program formerly referred to as food stamps.

Democrats said Thursday it would lead to cuts in SNAP and kill any future of bipartisan support for the farm bill, which it would need to pass the Senate.

“There is absolutely no way you are going to get a farm bill unless we take care of this business, which is the heart of the matter,” Rep. David Scott of Georgia, the ranking Democrat on the committee, said of the SNAP funding mechanism.

As the House committee debated the bill, Michigan Democrat Debbie Stabenow, the chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, said in an interview Thursday that the legislation has no chance in the Senate.

“It tears up the farm and food coalition and does not have the votes to pass on the House floor. And certainly not in the Senate,” Stabenow told States Newsroom. 

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Nutrition programs account for the majority of farm bill spending. There are more than 41 million people who use SNAP benefits, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. 

Dems pan changes to SNAP funding

Thompson’s bill would limit future updates to the Thrifty Food Plan, the formula that calculates benefits for SNAP. This would result in a nearly $30 billion reduction in spending over ten years, based on the estimates from the Congressional Budget Office, lawmakers say.

Democrats say that would significantly reduce food purchasing power for needy Americans.

“Any effort that takes the food off the table for hard-working families takes my vote off the table,” said Rep. Gabe Vasquez, a Democrat from New Mexico.

“If we want a farm bill that is able to pass into law with the bipartisan levels that it requires to pass beyond this committee, it is necessary that we go back to the negotiating table and remove this provision,” said Colorado Democrat Yadira Caraveo.

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Connecticut Democrat Jahana Hayes offered an amendment that would have struck the changes to the program. But after more than two hours of impassioned debate on the issue Thursday night, the amendment failed on a party-line vote, 25-29.

“It is unfathomable that we are once again attacking the most vulnerable in this country, the hungry,” Hayes told the committee. “There are components of the bill that are promising, but that should not come at the expense of the most vulnerable.”

Republicans defend new formula 

The underlying issue is cost projections for the farm bill over the next 10 years. The farm bill has to remain budget neutral, so lawmakers must fit their proposals into a baseline of how much the government would spend if the current farm bill was extended.

Republicans insist the SNAP changes are a cost calculation that would not actually reduce food support for needy families. The change would not kick in until 2027 and would not directly reduce current SNAP levels. Rather, it would freeze the list of products that families can buy with their benefits and the values allowed to purchase them, except for increases from inflation.

As such, the limits would make it more difficult for the U.S. Department of Agriculture to add new items to SNAP or offer more support for certain categories, like the Biden administration did in 2021 when it increased the benefit for fruits and vegetables.

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New York Republican Mark Molinaro said it is “dishonest” to describe the changes as a cut to SNAP benefits and South Dakota Republican Dusty Johnson said the benefits on the electronic benefit cards for SNAP would not go down.

U.S. Rep. Dusty Johnson, R-South Dakota, speaks to the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on June 14, 2023, in Washington, D.C. (Courtesy of Rep. Johnson’s Office)

But Democrats pointed to the CBO cost estimates that project a reduction in federal spending for SNAP if the bill became law.

“Let’s not try to make believe that this is no big deal, it is a huge deal… we need to do better,” said Massachusetts Democrat Rep. Jim McGovern.

California Democrat Salud Carbajal said Republicans were trying to “have it both ways.”

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“If the committee’s considering it a paid-for then that is funding you are taking away from hungry families,” said Carbaja.

The farm bill funds programs across 12 titles for five years. The massive bill stitches together support for agriculture producers, energy and conservation programs on farmland and food and nutrition programs for families in need.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack raised concerns this week that the Republican proposal’s adjustment to SNAP benefits threatened that coalition.

The Republican bill would increase farm “safety net” payments for some commodity crops, expand eligibility for disaster assistance and increase funding for speciality crops, organic farmers and dairy farmers.

It is expected to cost $1.5 trillion over 10 years. A title-by-title summary of the 942-page bill can be is available online.

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Jennifer Shutt contributed to this report.

 

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Trump up by almost 20 points over Biden in South Dakota

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Trump up by almost 20 points over Biden in South Dakota


Former President Donald Trump

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (SOUTH DAKOTA NEWS WATCH) – Former President Donald Trump leads President Joe Biden by nearly 20 points in South Dakota but is struggling to get more than half of the statewide vote, according to a scientific poll of 500 registered voters co-sponsored by South Dakota News Watch.

Trump was at 50%, well ahead of Biden’s 31% in the poll, which was also sponsored by the Chiesman Center for Democracy at the University of South Dakota.
Third-party challenger Robert Kennedy Jr., who is not yet on the ballot in the state, polled at 11% percent, while 7% were undecided.

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Those holdouts are keeping former President Trump from matching his previous election share of 62% in South Dakota the last two presidential cycles – against Hillary Clinton in 2016 and Biden in 2020. Trump won the presidency in 2016 and lost in 2020.
A similar Mason-Dixon poll in October 2020 showed Trump at 51% in South Dakota (with 6% undecided), but the former Manhattan real estate mogul and reality TV star came in 11 points higher than that number on Election Day.

There could also be major movement this time around, said Jon Schaff, a political science professor at Northern State University in Aberdeen.
“The support you’re seeing for (RFK Jr.) is not uncommon for a quasi-significant third-party candidate at this stage of the game,” said Schaff. “When you get closer to the election and people realize that candidate doesn’t have a chance of winning, voters tend to drift back to a major-party candidate. And so I suspect that 11% (for Kennedy) will go down.”

The only third-party candidate to reach double-digits in South Dakota in the past century was Texas billionaire Ross Perot, who finished third in 1992 with 22% behind Republican George H.W. Bush (41%) and Democrat Bill Clinton (37%). Clinton won nationally against the incumbent Bush.



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