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Twitter/@univmiami(WASHINGTON) -- Former Vice President Joe Biden took fresh jabs at President Donald Trump on Tuesday while speaking at an anti-sexual assault rally, telling students at the University of Miami that he probably would have "beat the hell out" of Trump if they'd attended school together.

"A guy who ended up becoming our national leader said, 'I can grab a woman anywhere and she likes it,'" Biden said. "They asked me if I’d like to debate this gentleman, and I said 'no.' I said, 'If we were in high school, I’d take him behind the gym and beat the hell out of him.'"

"I've been in a lot of locker rooms my whole life," Biden continued. "I'm a pretty damn good athlete. Any guy that talked that way was usually the fattest, ugliest S.O.B. in the room."

Biden made the comments Tuesday afternoon at the university's "It's on Us" rally, an event aiming to change on-campus culture surrounding sexual assault.

The 47th vice president also commended the country on progress it's made in battling sexual assault, mentioning the success of the #MeToo movement, but he also said there was still a lot of work to be done.

"Sexual assault is about power and the abuse of power more than it is about sex," he said, before going on to tell women in the audience that they should arm themselves with more resources.

"It's not just on the men. It's on you women, as well, on campus," Biden said. "All the studies show that 95 percent of young women who are abused -- the first person they tell is their roommate, their friend, someone on campus. You've got to inform yourself as to what facilities are available, what help is available, not just empathize, hug and say, 'I'm so sorry.' You have an obligation to be informed."

Biden, who also headlined a political fundraiser with Latino leaders during his time in South Florida on Tuesday, ended the speech by encouraging students to participate in the Sexual Assault Awareness Month next month and the Day of Action April 3.

The University of Miami thanked Biden in a statement on Twitter, sharing candid images from his appearance, including some where he's taking selfies with students.

"Today's @itsonus rally reminded us that we are responsible for creating an environment where sexual assault and gender-based violence is unacceptable," the university said in a tweet. "Thank you @joebiden for bringing us your legacy of ending violence against women and empowering our students to take action."

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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Money was the big winner in a marque Illinois primary race Tuesday night as two multi-millionaires faced off in the governor's race.

In a key Democratic congressional primary featuring Blue Dog Democrat Rep. Dan Lipinski and Democratic progressive activist Marie Newman, it took until the early hours of the morning for the incumbent to emerge victorious.

And in a landmark year for female candidates, the Illinois House primaries seem, thus far, to be following the national trend.

Here's are some of the results in the Illinois primary races.

Governor’s race goes big

The race to become Illinois' next governor continued on its track to be one of, if not the most expensive gubernatorial races in American history on Tuesday night, as two self-funding candidates who have already poured millions into their campaigns advanced to the November general election.

The Associated Press projected that Democrat J.B. Pritzker, heir to the Hyatt Hotel fortune, and incumbent GOP Governor Bruce Rauner won their respective primaries Tuesday night.

Rauner, who poured over $50 million of his own money into his campaign and is widely viewed as the most vulnerable Republican governor in the country, barely held off a primary challenge from conservative State Rep. Jeanne Ives, winning by a little more than 20,000 votes.

Dogged by a budget crisis during his tenure, Rauner has seen his approval rating dip into the 30’s heading towards November, and his performance Tuesday night only further reinforces the narrative that even those in his own party are skeptical of his effectiveness as governor.

But regardless of the margins Tuesday night, more money is now expected to flow into the race now that two independently wealthy candidates will be on the ballot in November.

If the current rate of spending holds, Illinois could break the current record for the most expensive gubernatorial race in American history, a title currently held by California's 2010 gubernatorial election, which saw roughly $280 million spent.

"It’s entirely possible that that could happen here. The only two people who know how expensive the race will be are the two self-funders," Sarah Brune, the executive director of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, a non-partisan group that tracks political spending in the state, told ABC News.

"All in sum, all of the candidates for governor have raised about $160 million so far," Brune said, an impressive total considering the general election campaign just now getting underway.

The Democratic Governors Association (DGA) praised Pritzker’s victory Tuesday night, saying he is a candidate that will deliver “much-needed change for Illinois.”

“With a strong candidate like JB Pritzker, Illinois is a top pickup opportunity for Democrats in the fall. The DGA looks forward to working to elect JB Pritzker to serve as Illinois’ next governor,” said Washington Governor Jay Inslee, who chairs the DGA.

The DGA also ran television ads in the waning days of the campaign hoping to boost Ives by reinforcing her conservative credentials and hurt Rauner, a move that appears to have paid dividends Tuesday night.

Lipinski emerges as victor in tight 3rd Congressional District race

It was a nail-biter in one of the most-watched congressional races in the country, but seven-term incumbent Rep. Dan Lipinski will likely head towards an eighth term in Illinois 3rd Congressional District after a narrow projected victory over his opponent, Marie Newman.

The Associated Press called the race at 1:17 a.m. EST with 97 percent of precincts reporting and Lipinski holding a slim edge of fewer than 1,600 votes over Newman.

On the Republican side in the 3rd Congressional District, Holocaust denier and self-described "white racialist" Arthur Jones captured the party's nomination after running unopposed.

'Pink wave' hits Illinois House primaries

Heading into the Illinois House primary races, 17 women were vying to win a spot in the November general election. At least six will be on the ballot in November as of late Tuesday night.

Incumbents Democratic Reps. Robin Kelly, Jan Schakowsky, and Cheri Bustos all won their contests. First-time candidate Betsy Dirksen Londrigan will run against GOP Rep. Rodney Davis and Lauren Underwood will run against Republican Rep. Randy Hultgren in November.

Sara Dady in IL-16 came out on top in the Democratic primary race to ultimately run against GOP Rep. Adam Kinzinger this fall.

Marie Newman fell just short in her hotly contested primary battle with Lipinski.

Kelly Mazeski leads the pack in IL-06, a race that had five women vying to take on Rep. Peter Roskam in November's general election.

Suburbs set the stage for a battle for the House

Democrats see the path to the 24 seats they need to regain control of the House as going through the nation’s suburbs.

Prosecutor Brendan Kelly won the Democratic primary to take on GOP Rep. Mike Bost. Donald Trump carried this district, which sits outside the St. Louis suburbs, by 15 points.

This race is in Democrats' "red to blue" program, meaning it’s one they are going to heavily invest in.

Bost has long ties to the district. He’s represented it since 2015 in Congress and before that was in the Illinois House of Representatives.

Both men are about evenly matched in fundraising.

Kelly has raised almost a million for his bid and had $663,000 cash on hand while Bost raised a little over a million and had $684,000 cash on hand, according to FEC reports.

Female candidates dominated the other two contests in suburban districts.

First-time candidate Betsy Londrigan won the nomination to take on Republican Rep. Rodney Davis in the fight to represent a suburban district outside of Champaign which Trump won by three points.

She has a compelling personal story, saying she was inspired to run after Davis voted in favor of the GOP health care plan, The American Health Care Act.

Londrigan’s candidate biography notes that in 2009 her 12-year-old son, Jack, was fighting a rare, life-threatening illness that resulted from a tick bite. He eventually recovered.

A former teacher, she has been self-employed since 1998, doing fundraising for people like Sen. Dick Durbin and for entities including the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation. She was endorsed by EMILY’s List.

Finally, there’s the 6th Congressional District seat west of Chicago held by five-term GOP Rep. Peter Roskam.

Clinton won this seat by seven points in 2016 and it’s a heavy Democratic target this cycle.

Kelly Mazeski, a scientist, leads the Democratic primary with 84 percent of precincts reporting but the race has yet to be called by the Associated Press as of early Wednesday morning.

Energy executive Sean Casten is close behind her in second place.

Five women are among the seven candidates running for the Democratic nomination.

Mazeski has the backing of EMILY’s List and Illinois Democratic Reps. Cheri Bustos and Jan Schakowsky. A breast cancer survivor, Mazeski announced her candidacy last May on the same day Roskam joined his fellow Republicans in voting to repeal Obamacare.

Republicans are downplaying concerns about this district.

One GOP strategist pointed out that Roskam has long ties the district. He grew up in the area and represented it in the state legislature from 1993 until he was elected to Congress in 2007.

Republicans also believe their tax cut message will play well here and in other suburban races.

Garcia could represent Latino-majority district

Democratic Rep. Luis Gutierrez is retiring after more than 20 years in Congress. Hillary Clinton won his Latino-majority district in 2016 with more than 80 percent of the vote.

Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, the winner of the Democratic primary, is highly favored to win the general election November and be the next member of Congress.

Garcia had been contemplating another run against Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel in 2019 before Gutierrez announced his retirement. But he quickly pivoted to the congressional race and was endorsed by Gutierrez. In 2015, Garcia forced Emanuel into a runoff for the city’s top spot.

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The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania(HARRISBURG, Penn.) -- A plethora of candidates filed to run for House seats in Pennsylvania, setting up intra-party contests in some key races that could help determine control of the lower chamber of Congress — including primary challenges for Democrat Conor Lamb and Republican Rick Saccone.

Lamb and Saccone filed to run in different districts than the 18th Congressional District – which held a closely-watched special election last week. Less than 1,000 votes separate the candidates and the results have not been certified.

Instead, Lamb filed to run in the 17th Congressional District, where his hometown of Mt. Lebanon was moved to under the new House map. Republican Representative Keith Rothfus holds that seat and has $1.2 million in his campaign account.

Meanwhile, Saccone filed to run in the 14th Congressional District, which holds a lot of the 18th’s original acreage and is much friendlier to Republicans than the district in which his hometown of Elizabeth was placed. The new 14th Congressional District has no sitting incumbent. Its area mainly consists of the seat that former Representative Tim Murphy held before he resigned after a report that he allegedly asked an extramarital lover to end her pregnancy.

But both men will face something they didn’t in their last election – primary contests.

Two other Democrats filed to run against Lamb in the 17th Congressional District while one other Republican has filed to challenge Saccone in the 14th Congressional District, according to the Pennsylvania Secretary of State’s website.

Both men would be favored to win their respective contests in the May 15 primary given the national name recognition they received in last week’s special election.

Tuesday was the filing deadline for House candidates in the state.

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court denied a GOP-led request to hold off using a new House map that came after the state Supreme Court ruled the old map should be thrown out because it unconstitutionally favored Republicans.

The court's decision was a blow to Republican hopes and a boost to Democratic chances of retaking control of the House of Representatives.

Republicans currently hold 12 of the state's 18 congressional districts, while Democrats control just five. The special election last week for Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District was held under the old map.

Political experts predict Democrats could net three to five House seats under the new map, helping them on their way to the 24 seats they need to retake control of the House of Representatives.

Several GOP lawmakers found their House districts dramatically affected by the new map, including Rep. Ryan Costello, who is considering retirement, several state, and national officials in GOP politics told ABC News.

Costello did file his petition to run for reelection on Tuesday but, under the new map, his 6th Congressional District seat transformed from one that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton won by one point in 2016 to one she would have won by nine points.

A Costello campaign spokesperson told ABC News on Monday the congressman would file his petitions but neither the spokesperson nor Costello has said anything about campaigning again, leading to questions as to whether he will decide down the line not to run.

He is seen as the GOP’s best hope for keeping that district. Democrats are enthusiastic about their candidate — Chrissy Houlahan — an Air Force veteran endorsed by former Vice President Joe Biden last week. She will be unopposed in her primary.

In a move that could complicate matters, another Republican — Gregory Michael McCauley — filed petitions to run in Costello’s district.

If Costello withdraws his petitions, McCauley would be the only GOPer on the primary ballot. If Costello decides not to run after the May 15 primary — assuming he wins the nomination — the state GOP would appoint a candidate to run in the general election, according to the state party’s bylaws.

In other House races:

Three Democrats filed to run against Republican Representative Brian Fitzpatrick, whose 1st Congressional District became slightly more favored by Democrats under the new lines.

Democratic Representative Brendan Boyle filed to run in the 2nd Congressional District, which contains about 50 percent of his old district.

The other half of Boyle’s old district ended up in the new 4th Congressional District, where four Democrats and one Republican have filed to run.

The big primary to watch will be in the 5th Congressional District, which is retiring Representative Patrick Meehan’s old seat. A total of 14 Democrats filed to run in the primary while two Republicans filed.

Retiring GOP Representative Charlie Dent’s 7th Congressional District went from one Donald Trump won in 2016 to one Clinton would have won by one point under the new map. There are six Democrats and two Republicans who filed there.

Democratic Representative Matt Cartwright found himself in the GOP-leaning 8th Congressional District under the new map and three Republicans have filed to run in the primary for the right to take him on in November.

In the 9th Congressional District, Republican Representative Lou Barletta is running for Senate and three Republicans filed to replace him. The seat is considered solid Republican.

And, as expected, Democratic Representative Mike Doyle filed to run in the new 18th Congressional District, which saw its blue areas shored up under the new map and it contains much of his old district.

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ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Texas Republican Representative Roger Williams believes his new school security bill could have prevented Tuesday’s high school shooting in Great Mills, Maryland.

Williams’ bill, H.R. 5107, creates a grant program within the Department of Education, empowering the secretary to disburse money to schools applying for grants -- using its existing budget authority to fund the checks.

“I think it could very well begin to secure the schools and keep the safety of our teachers and students,” Williams told ABC News.

Williams’ bill allows for schools to directly request exactly what they need – whether it’s bulletproof glass or magnetometers or school resource officers — after an independent security assessment.

“We're not arming teachers,” Williams said. “Every school's going to be different, but it will allow that school to begin to secure their buildings so we don't have these issues like again happened today in Maryland.”

Williams, who was on the field and injured during the shooting at a congressional baseball practice in Alexandria, Virginia last year, introduced the bill on February 28 in the wake of the Parkland, Florida shooting that killed 17 on February 14.

“It's a big issue with me. I may see it a little different than some people,” Williams said. “It doesn't leave your mind. When I see these things happening with the children, my heart just gets so heavy and that's why we've got to fix this.”

Williams says he doesn’t want to take guns away from “good people” but doesn’t think the debate over the Second Amendment should override the public’s desire for safe schools.

“I don't think though when you start talking about the gun debate, that we need to disarm the good people, but that's the debate we're going to have,” Williams said. “But that debate does not to be ahead of school safety. That's why I want this bill to get through, get it passed and get the president to sign it.”

“We need to get this bill passed and we need to secure these schools,” Williams concluded.

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Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- A Manhattan Supreme Court judge Tuesday denied President Trump’s attempt to dismiss a defamation lawsuit filed by a former reality show contestant who accused him of sexual misconduct.

The judge rejected the president’s motion to dismiss the claim brought by Summer Zervos, who appeared on "The Apprentice" in 2005.

Zervos claimed that Trump kissed her twice on the lips in 2007 in his New York office, "making her 'uncomfortable, nervous and embarrassed,'" when she sought him out for job opportunities and advice after appearing on the show, according to the documents. She also alleged Trump kissed her, groped her breast and pressed his genitals against her at the Beverly Hills Hotel.

“No one is above the law,” Judge Jennifer Schecter wrote in the decision. “It is settled that the President of the United States has no immunity and is 'subject to the laws' for purely private acts.”

Zervos filed her defamation suit at the start of 2017, three days before Donald Trump assumed the presidency, alleging that he made defamatory statements about her on the campaign trail where he repeatedly accused her and other women who made similar allegations of lying. He attempted unsuccessfully to dismiss Zervos' lawsuit.

“Nothing in the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution even suggests that the President cannot be called to account before a state court for wrongful conduct that bears no relationship to any federal executive responsibility,” Schecter wrote.

She also rejected an alternative the president sought to delay the case until after he leaves office.

“A lengthy and categorical stay is not justified based on the possibility that, at a moment’s notice, the President may have to attend to a governmental or international crisis,” the judge wrote.

Defense attorney Marc Kasowitz had argued Trump’s comments on the campaign trail amounted to heated political rhetoric and were not specifically about Zervos. The judge rejected that argument as well.

“[Trump] not only averred that plaintiff told ‘phony stories’ and issued statements that were ‘totally false’ and ‘fiction,’ he insisted that the events ‘never happened’ and that the allegations were ‘100% false,’” Schecter wrote.

“A reader or listener, cognizant that the defendant knows exactly what transpired, could reasonably believe what defendant’s statements convey: that plaintiff is contemptible because she ‘fabricated’ events for personal gain.”

Kasowitz said he would appeal.

"We disagree with this decision, which is wrong as a matter of Constitutional law," Kasowitz said in a statement. "We intend to immediately appeal and will seek a stay of the case until this issue is finally determined."

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Pete Marovich/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Environmental Protective Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt's trip to Italy last year cost about $120,000 – just over $30,000 more than previously made public, according to an agency summary provided to a watchdog group.

The higher costs – $30,553.98 – were related to his security detail, according to a document obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request and subsequent lawsuit by the Environmental Integrity Project, a non-partisan and non-profit watchdog group.

ABC News has reviewed the agency released single redacted page with the cost of Pruitt's security detail on his trip.

The cost of Pruitt's travel for 2017 is already under review by the agency's inspector general and the watchdog is also slated to look into the cost of his security detail.

Previously released travel documents showed that the EPA spent about $90,000 for Pruitt and his staff to travel to Italy for one day of the G-7 environmental summit, including a $36,000 military flight that was approved so Pruitt could join President Trump at an event in Cincinnati and make it to New York in time for his flight to Rome.

EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox said that the agency followed the same procedures for the G-7 trip as other administrators.

"Administrator Pruitt’s security detail followed the same procedures for the G7 environmental meeting in Italy that were used during EPA Administrators Stephen Johnson, Lisa Jackson, and Gina McCarthy’s trips to Italy. EPA’s security procedures have not deviated over the past 14 years," Wilcox said Tuesday in a statement.

The EPA inspector general has said the office will review Pruitt's security expenditures but that it is not sure when it will be able to start looking into it because they have so many other investigations and reports pending.

The Government Accountability Office is also looking into the agency's spending on a "secure phone booth" for Pruitt's office, which recently released documents showed cost roughly $43,000 for construction and the booth itself.

Sen. Tom Udall, the ranking Democrat on the appropriations subcommittee with oversight of the EPA budget, said Tuesday that the EPA is not cooperating with that GAO investigation. Udall said in a statement that the GAO sent its first request on December 21 but the agency has not yet responded.

“I am concerned that the agency may be misleading the committee and the public about the function of the privacy booth while also inappropriately classifying the expense as related to national security in order to avoid proper notification under section 710,” Udall wrote in a letter to Pruitt.

But Wilcox said that's not the case and the agency has been cooperating through the proper channels.

"We do dispute that. We are responding through the proper channels which presently include EPA’s Office of General Counsel answering questions from the Government Accountability Office," he said in a statement.

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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- As President Donald Trump Tuesday was congratulating Russian President Vladimir Putin on his election victory, on Capitol Hill lawmakers were sounding the alarm about Russia’s meddling in the 2016 U.S. election and the need to take urgent action to prevent it from happening again.

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released six recommendations for shoring up U.S election system security in the wake of Russia's attempted interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential elections. The suggestions for states range from a return to paper ballots to clearer communications from federal officials about foreign intrusions.

“Let me say this with a great deal of confidence, it is clear the Russian government was looking at the vulnerabilities in our election system,” chairman Richard Burr of North Carolina said at a news conference, adding, “There is no evidence that any vote was changed.”

As part of its more than 14-month-long probe, the panel interviewed officials from nearly all of the more than 20 states whose voting systems were scanned by Russian government-backed hackers in 2016.

Committee staff also spoke to numerous former and current high-level administration officials, as well as officials from the National Security Council, Department of Homeland Security, the FBI and other intelligence agencies, along with analyzing “countless intelligence products,” Burr noted.

During the 2016 election, the committee charged that neither the FBI nor DHS provided sufficient warning to the affected states and the right officials were not informed.

Senators were "disappointed" that state and federal officials “were not more on their game,” the top Democrat on the committee, Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, said, decrying the fact that it took DHS officials nine months to notify states that their election systems “had been messed with.”

“The warnings did not provide enough information” or go to the right officials, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said, noting that the FBI, specifically was not detailed and clear in its warning to states of foreign interference.

“The Russians were relentless” in trying to undermine the 2016 election, she said.

“Clearly we’ve got to get some standards in place so that at the end of the day [the states] can certify their vote totals,” Burr said.

But the committee is virtually powerless to enforce any of their findings. States are in charge of their own elections and therefore, the committee will not be producing a legislative fix.

The lack of authority to legislate change is a poignant reminder of how difficult and cumbersome this process has been for members, as they attempt to prevent future cyber-attacks on the U.S. election system.

Burr held out hope that some of their concerns can be addressed in the upcoming omnibus spending bill due out this week. The bill includes roughly $360 million for state election security efforts, but state officials have indicated that’s not nearly enough.

“We hope Congress will fulfill its commitment to the states by appropriating the remaining $396 million in Help America Vote Act funds. This money could be disbursed quickly and would provide states with much-needed resources to further prepare for the 2018 election,” the National Association of Secretaries of State said in a statement to ABC News.

With the midterm elections around the corner, Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., warned that bad actors could target U.S. systems again, noting Russia had provided “a playbook” that could be used by others.

Asked by ABC News if these systems are any safer today than they were during the 2018 election, Sen. Kamala Harris of California said: “We're working on that.”

“I think it’s important to underscore that we have discovered no evidence that votes were changed in the last election but it is nevertheless troubling that the Russians made such efforts to probe the election systems,” Collins said. “I think we still have a long ways to go.”

The new recommendations come as the Intelligence Committee wraps up the first portion of its wider investigation into Russia meddling in the 2016 race, including whether or not there was collusion with the Trump campaign.

A hearing on the new recommendations is expected to be held Wednesday. DHS and election officials are expected to testify.

Burr has said he hopes to wrap up the remaining three components of the probe — the Intelligence Community Assessment of Russia meddling with a preference for then-candidate Trump, the role of social media platforms, and whether or not there was collusion — by mid-summer.

The next release/action is expected in roughly 30 days, though a committee aide told ABC News that that is likely an “ambitious timetable, though hope springs eternal.”

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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- With Congress heading toward another government shutdown, House Speaker Paul Ryan says he is “hoping today” that negotiators will finalize an agreement Tuesday, and said congressional leaders are not yet discussing a continuing resolution as a backup plan.

“There's some unresolved issues. We're working through them as we speak and we're hoping to post it today,” Ryan, R-Wis., said.

Appropriators are working nearly around the clock to finish the $1.3 trillion spending bill. One top GOP aide close to the negotiations said appropriators worked past 1 a.m. Tuesday, before calling it a night and picking back up at 7:30 a.m.

The agreement requires bipartisan agreement from the White House and all four corners of Congress — Senate and House Democrats as well as Senate and House Republicans.

A top Democratic aide says "there are something like 20 riders still in play and at least a dozen other major issues still being discussed" at the negotiations. "This process just takes time," the aide added.

Ryan signaled that Republicans appear ready to attach the Fix NICs gun purchase background checks bill, a move that could help build bipartisan consensus around the package.

“That's something we're discussing with our colleagues,” Ryan said. “I think we should do Fix NICS. I agree with Fix NICS. That's something we're discussing with our friends on the other side of the aisle.”

Rep. Dan Donovan, a New York Republican hoping to attach the Gateway Tunnel project to the spending bill, believes President Trump could be backing off his veto threat if the omnibus helps fund the project.

“This is important. It's important to the nation. It'd be an economic stimulus,” Donovan said. “Certainly after Hurricane Sandy, our two tunnels were deteriorating because of the storm and building two new ones and retrofitting those two old ones will be an incredible boom to the country.”

Rep. Dave Brat, a Virginia Republican and member of the Freedom Caucus, said he will vote no because of the $1.3 trillion price tag.

“I'm not happy with the product that's going to be there in four days, but we can get there. That's the problem is we're going to get there,” Brat said.

“I'm a no on just the spending piece alone,” he added.

For Donovan and the rest of Congress time is running out. Government funding lapses at the end of the day on Friday.

“We have to keep our government open,” Donovan said. “Nobody sent us to Washington to shut their government down. They sent us to make it work better for them.”

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Subscribe To This Feed -- President Donald Trump's newly-announced federal commission on school safety will meet "very soon," within the "next few weeks," Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said Tuesday.

Her testimony came on the heels of yet another school shooting on Tuesday morning. Two students were shot and wounded at an incident at a high school in Great Mills, Maryland.

"Rest assured, we have a very keen sense of urgency," DeVos told lawmakers.

The commission will be made up of Attorney General Jeff Sessions Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, and DeVos, who said they will consult a "wide variety of experts."

The secretary said she also looked forward to meeting with students who survived the Parkland shooting last month "at a time that is workable," but told lawmakers she wasn't sure she had time in her schedule on Friday when they'll be in Washington, D.C. for the March for Our Lives.

"You're not sure that you have the time to meet with the Parkland kids on Friday, and maybe you will have a meeting with the commission in a few weeks, but then, maybe not. You know, Madam Secretary, I think we understand where your priorities are. They are not with the, the young people of this country," Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., said in the hearing.

DeVos was also slammed for her apparent openness to arming teachers, especially in light of data revealing that minority students are punished more harshly for the same infractions compared to white students.

"Should the president's view prevail in arming, uh, teachers, do you see why black and brown students are really worried and anxious about this? It's very clear to me," Rep. Barbara Lee, D- Calif., said. "Madam Secretary, you just don't care much about rights of black and brown children. This is horrible."

Appearing visibly shaken by the end of the hearing the secretary pledged to work with Congress "on promoting a safe and healthy culture in our schools."

"Schools must have the resources they need to improve safety infrastructure, hire more counselors and host more programs and activities aimed at violence prevention," she said. "We owe the victims of school violence nothing less."

Lawmakers present noted that the Trump administration's proposed budget, unveiled just two days before the Parkland shooting, actually cut funds to pay for school counselors and other school violence programs.

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U.S. Congress(WASHINGTON) -- House Speaker Paul Ryan said Tuesday he's "received assurances" that firing special counsel Robert Mueller "is not even under consideration," but he would not say who gave him that assurance.

 "The special counsel should be free to follow through his investigation to its completion without interference, absolutely. I am confident that he'll be able to do that," the Speaker said.

"We have a system based upon the rule of law in this country, we have a justice system and no one is above that justice system," he added.

While many of Ryan's Republican colleagues have publicly urged the president to stop attacking the special counsel, the Speaker declined to go that far.

 Some Senate Republicans were notably more direct.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, said, "Anything directed at firing Mr. Mueller blows up the whole town. That becomes the end of governing and the presidency as we know it. And I have zero concern that Mueller is going to be fired by Trump. Zero."

"I feel very confident that his people know what would happen there," Graham said.

Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, the second-ranking Republican in the Senate, said, "I think the consequences of doing that would be um, very serious and I would hope the president would not do that."

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, was even more blunt, saying of Trump, "He's a very bright guy. That would be a stupid thing to do."

 Sen. Bob Corker, a Tennessee Republican, pointed to a statement Sunday from Trump lawyer Ty Cobb.

"They issued a statement they would not, they do not plan to fire Mueller. We have had conversations about it and I think they fully understand the type of reaction that would take place in the Senate. So hopefully it doesn't happen."

GOP Sen. Jeff Flake, a frequent Trump critic, was asked whether it was a mistake that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has so far not said anything about a possible Mueller firing.

"I do," Flake replied. "I think he needs to say that. I mean come on. This is serious. Firing the special prosecutor?! The Leader may say ‘he’s not going to do that,’ but a couple of weeks ago he said he wasn’t firing Tillerson. So I think that preemptively we need to say again don't do it, don't go there, that's a red line you cannot cross."

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ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump on Tuesday weighed in for the first time on the serial bombings in Austin, calling the person or people responsible "sick" and vowing law enforcement "will get to the bottom of it."

 "What's going on in Austin — a great place, a tremendous place — is absolutely disgraceful," Trump said in the Oval Office alongside Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman. "We have to find this very sick person or people."

Trump would not answer whether the five bombings over the past 18 days amount to acts of domestic terror or hate crimes, instead praising the cooperation between the federal government and local officials in the investigation thus far.

"We have to find them really immediately," Trump said. "I will say working with Texas, working with the local governments has been great. We have to produce and find this very sick person or people."

The White House has faced some criticism over what some have deemed a relatively muted public response to the bombings. The only previous mention by the White House prior to the president's comments was an acknowledgment by deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley that Trump was briefed on the Sunday evening trip-wire bombing and was following events closely.

Critics noted a striking contrast between the president's immediate public response in the wake of terror-related incidents such as the New York truck attack on Halloween last year and the explosions in Austin that have produced no clear indication as to who the suspect or suspects could be.

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ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- President Trump said Tuesday that he spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin to congratulate him on his recent election victory and said that the two would likely get together in the not too distant future to discuss what he called "the arms race," Ukraine, Syria, and North Korea.

 "We had a very good call,' Trump said.

He added that the arms race "is getting out of control. We will never allow anybody to have anything close to what we have."

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Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson spoke publicly for the first time Tuesday about the controversy over his agency's decision to order a $31,000 dining set for his office, contending he and his wife complained to staff about the price.

Answering questions from a congressional committee with oversight of the HHS budget, Carson acknowledged that he was involved in selecting a new dining set but said he asked his wife to help and then "dismissed" himself from the process.

"I was told that traditionally secretaries redecorate their offices, I came in I looked at it," Carson said. "You know I'm not really big into decorating if it was up to me my office would probably look like a hospital waiting room but at any rate, I invited my wife to come in and help me," he told the committee.

He also defended his wife's involvement in the selection of the furniture, saying that she chose the style and color but that they told staff they were unhappy with the price.

"If anyone knew my wife they would know how ridiculous this was she's the most frugal person in the world," Carson said.

He also said his wife is not involved in any other spending decisions at HUD.

Carson gave more details about his and his wife's involvement in the department's decision to purchase the dining set, which has since been canceled. Carson told the committee that he asked his wife Candy Carson to help him select used furniture stored in the basement of HUD's headquarters to redecorate his office and later to help choose a new dining set.

The decorating expenses have been a subject of controversy after a whistleblower filed a complaint that she was pressured to approve spending to redecorate Carson's office that was higher than the $5,000 legal limit. That whistleblower, Helen Foster, says that she was demoted from her job as chief administrative officer at the agency in retaliation for raising concerns about the spending and other misuses of taxpayer funds at the agency.

Carson said he didn't know the whistleblower and wasn't aware of any retaliation.

Foster said in a message Tuesday that she briefed Carson on issues with spending at the agency last March.

The department confirmed last week that Candy Carson was involved in selecting the table after agency emails were released referencing his wife's involvement in the decision.

Carson said Tuesday that staff told him they needed to replace the dining set because of exposed nails and chairs that might collapse and that it was a facilities decision to replace it, not a decorating expense. Carson also said he dismissed himself from the decision because he was busy with other issues and that he asked his wife to help make the decision.

"I left it with my wife I said help choose something but I said the money that is going to be used, we need to take care of the deputy secretary's office, and you know whatever's left over take care of the dining room furniture," he said.

There have been other concerns about the Carson family's involvement in HUD matters after Carson's son, Ben Carson Jr, participated in a listening tour of Baltimore despite a warning from department lawyers that it could appear as a conflict of interest. Ben Carson Jr is a businessman in Maryland. That decision is now under investigation by HUD's inspector general.

The Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee has oversight of the Department of Housing and Urban Development budget.

Chairman Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla. said in the hearing that he wrote to the HUD inspector general and the Government Accountability Office asking them to look into the furniture purchase and other financial issues at the agency dating back to 2008. Foster's complaint also said that she reported $10 million from the agency's 20146 budget had been mismanaged by the person previously in her position, but that other officials at the department did not want to report the issue to the appropriations committee.

Carson said that he has directed the agency's new chief financial officer to create a plan for new financial controls and increased oversight of spending at the agency.

The committee's ranking member Rep. David Price of North Carolina described the furniture decision as one of multiple "major ethical lapses" at the department.

"Failure to control funds and provide legally required notifications to Congress is bad enough but what's even more disturbing are apparently false public statements that intended to obscure the truth about the secretary's involvement in this matter as well as the reassignment of the whistleblower who brought these problems to the public's attention. These mistakes are apparently compounded by roles that members of the secretary's family have taken at the department," Price said in his opening statement. "a public office is a public trust, even the appearance of impropriety can damage our institutions."

Carson is also scheduled to testify on oversight of the department in a hearing with the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs on Thursday.
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Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- First lady Melania Trump is set to sit down with technology industry leaders at the White House on Tuesday for a conversation on cyberbullying and internet safety — against the backdrop of the president's penchant for tweeting insults and name-calling on social media.

Executives from Amazon, Facebook, Google, Twitter and other tech companies are among invited attendees for Tuesday’s roundtable discussion with the first lady, according to a White House official.

The White House says Mrs. Trump will be looking to discuss both the positive and negative impacts of technology on the nation’s children.

“Mrs. Trump has simply asked for a meeting to discuss one of the many things that impact children -- as she has done many times in the past, on several different topics,” the first lady’s spokesperson Stephanie Grisham said in a statement.

Prior to her husband’s election to the White House, Mrs. Trump had said that the issue of cyberbullying would be one of her “main focuses” if she became first lady.

“Our culture has gotten too mean and too rough, especially to children and teenagers. It is never okay when a 12-year-old girl or boy is mocked, bullied, or attacked. It is terrible when that happens on the playground. And it is absolutely unacceptable when it is done by someone with no name hiding on the internet,” Mrs. Trump said at the time.

In the early months of her time as first lady, Trump backed away from publicly discussing the issue of cyberbullying, leading to speculation that she had abandoned the issue altogether in light of the contrast with the president's frequent social media attacks.

But in a speech at the United Nations in September, the first lady again dove back into the issue, offering her opinion about the need to protect children from negative online experiences.

"We must turn our focus right now to the message and content [children] are exposed to on a daily basis through social media — the bullying, the experience online and in person," the first lady said in September.

Mrs. Trump’s focus on cyberbullying has attracted ridicule given the president’s propensity to name-call and attack his rivals on Twitter. The first lady has made clear she doesn’t approve of all of the president’s Twitter habits and isn’t shy about offering her opinion when she thinks he shouldn’t send a tweet.

“Sometimes he listens, sometimes he doesn’t,” Trump said in an interview with CBS in 2016. “I think he hears me. But he will do what he wants to do in the end. He’s an adult. He knows the consequences. And I give him my opinion. And he could do whatever he likes with it.”

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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- In the 2018 primaries, Democrats are looking to define the direction of their party, as the progressive grassroots movement gains strength. That fight is playing out in Illinois’ 3rd Congressional District in a race between conservative incumbent Rep. Dan Lipinski and his progressive challenger, Marie Newman.

The race has drawn national attention because it offers a window into the future of the Democratic Party, and staying power of the progressive movement. If Newman emerges as the victor and unseats Lipinski, it could be a signal that the party is less likely to accept conservative views on social issues like abortion and LGBT rights, and moving further left.

Democratic leaders have also picked sides in the race, and the leaders standing behind Lipinski and Newman respectively exemplify the tension that exists in the Democratic Party between centrist and progressives—a fight that is likely to continue into the 2020 presidential election cycle.

Progressive Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., has thrown his weight behind Newman in a district the senator won by eight points in the 2016 Democratic primary.

Sanders’ endorsement draws a sharp contrast with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s endorsement of Lipinski.

Meet the candidates

A Lipinski has represented the southwest portion of Chicago and its surrounding suburbs in Congress for the last 35 years. Rep. Dan Lipinski was first elected to Congress in 2004, after his father, Rep. William Lipinski, dropped out of the race after the primary, but before the general election, and the Democratic Party tapped the younger Lipinski to fill the empty slot.

Lipinski has served seven terms in the seat and has held positions often at odds with the majority of his party. He is a co-chair of the Pro-Life Caucus and voted against the DREAM act in 2010. He also was the only Democrat from Illinois to vote against Obamacare, and did not publically endorse President Barack Obama for a second term.

Marie Newman poses one of the most serious challenges Lipinski has faced while in office and is looking to capitalize on the progressive movement that began after the 2016 election. Newman — who is running for office for the first time — is campaigning on a pro-choice, pro-LGBT, healthcare-for-all agenda.

Newman said she’s been approached to run several times over the last 10 years, but it was only after the election of President Donald Trump that she was compelled to do so.

“I realized very clearly that this had to be done, I had to step off the sidelines,” Newman told ABC News. “The day after Trump was elected, what I realized is nobody is coming to save us, that we have to save us.”

Big tent or single issue party?

Abortion has been a major issue in this campaign with groups on both sides lending their support to Newman and Lipinski.

Newman has the support of pro-choice groups NARAL Pro-Choice America, EMILY’s List, and Planned Parenthood — which, along with other groups, have spent more than $1.6 million campaigning against Lipinski through the super PAC "Citizens For A Better Illinois".

Lipinski has also gotten a hand from Susan B. Anthony List, a pro-life organization, which deployed 70 canvassers in the district last weekend to campaign on his behalf.

In a 2017 interview with the Washington Post, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said that she doesn’t believe abortion should be a litmus test for Democrats, and Lipinski has warned against the party becoming the ‘tea party of the left.’

“Right now there is a battle for what the Democratic Party is going to be going forward,” Lipinski said in a recent interview with WGN Radio in Chicago.

“[T]here are some who want to have a Tea Party of the left in the Democratic Party to match unfortunately what has happened to the Republicans. But we need to have a big tent party, we need to rally around those issues that can bring all Democrats together.”

But Newman doesn’t believe that the race highlights divisions within her party—rather that it highlights how out-of-touch Lipinski is with party values.

“The problem is [Lipinski] is a straight-up Republican, so of course I look like I’m very left when in reality I’m just a true-blue Democrat,” Newman said.

“We are a big tent. We are a giant mosaic of lots of independent thinkers. He is not a Democrat.”

Big name endorsements

Democratic leaders are not the only endorsements at play in the race. In a rare move, two sitting representatives from Illinois: Rep. Jan Schakowsky of the state's 9th district and Rep. Luis Gutierrez of the 4th, broke with tradition and endorsed Newman over their colleague.

Newman also received the first endorsements in the country from three Indivisible groups in Illinois. Indivisible a progressive, grassroots organization that works at the local level to oppose Trump’s agenda.

But Lipinski has secured endorsements from some major unions, which could be crucial to victory. Lipinski has picked up endorsements from 27 union groups, including the endorsement of the Illinois AFL-CIO, which has the third largest union membership in the nation.

For her part, Newman has picked up Union endorsements from the SEIU Illinois State Council and the Illinois Federation of Teachers.

One endorsement not at play? The Democratic Party’s. Both the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee have not publicly endorsed Lipinski in the race.

No threat from the right

One thing that is clear heading into Tuesday night is that whoever wins on the Democratic side will almost certainly take the seat in November.

Not only is the District safely blue, but the only Republican running in the race is Arthur Jones, a Holocaust-denier and self-described "white racialist".

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