US: House Speaker blocks Yemen resolution

            By Umar Farooq</p>  <p>WASHINGTON (AA) – U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan moved Wednesday to block a resolution on ending U.S. support for the war in Yemen from reaching the House of Representatives for a vote. </p>  <p>Ryan inserted a provision into a must-pass farm bill that essentially blocks a vote on any legislation dealing with War Powers resolutions for the remainder of the current Congress’ term, which ends on Jan. 3.</p>  <p>The House Speaker created a hurdle for senators who are trying to advance the resolution on Yemen, which would have to pass in the House after the Senate.</p>  <p>&quot;Despicable. @SpeakerRyan is shirking responsibility for debating our involvement in the Yemen war by hiding the war resolution in a procedural vote on the farm bill. SAD!&quot; Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky said on Twitter.</p>  <p>The resolution, which was set to be voted on in the Senate later Wednesday, seeks to end U.S. support for Saudi Arabia's ongoing war in Yemen, which has created a humanitarian disaster in the country.</p>  <p>If it passes in the Senate, the provision Ryan introduced would block it from reaching the House floor for a vote.</p>  <p>Yemen has been wracked by violence since 2014, when Houthi rebels overran much of the country, and the crisis escalated in 2015 when a Saudi-led coalition launched a devastating air campaign aimed at rolling back Houthi gains.</p>  <p>Tens of thousands of people, including civilians, are believed to have been killed and the UN estimates around 14 million Yemenis are at risk of famine.</p>  <p>In the Senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell urged other senators to block the resolution, saying it goes too far in invoking the Wars Powers Resolution, advising them not to &quot;pick a fight&quot; with the executive branch.

CIA chief to brief House leaders on Khashoggi: Reports

            By Michael Hernandez</p>  <p>WASHINGTON (AA) - CIA Director Gina Haspel will brief lawmakers Wednesday on her agency's findings in its investigation into the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, according to multiple reports. </p>  <p>The briefing of leaders of the House of Representatives will be Haspel's second on Capitol Hill after briefing their Senate counterparts last week. </p>  <p>It comes as U.S. President Donald Trump and his top officials continue to deny that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman played any role in Khashoggi's murder.</p>  <p>Khashoggi went missing after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2, with Saudi Arabia producing varying and contradictory narratives to explain his disappearance. </p>  <p>Riyadh eventually admitted to his murder, seeking to blame the act on rogue agents performing an alleged botched rendition operation.</p>  <p>But the explanation has left lawmakers on both sides of the aisle unmoved, and they insist the operation could not have been conducted without bin Salman's consent. </p>  <p>Following Haspel's briefing of top senators last week, several left lashing out at Trump and his administration, maintaining the administration is downplaying the links between the murder and Saudi Arabia's de facto leader.</p>  <p>&quot;There’s not a smoking gun, there’s a smoking saw,&quot; said Sen. Lindsey Graham, a leading critic of bin Salman, referring to the instrument Saudi agents allegedly used to dismember Khashoggi's body inside the diplomatic building. </p>  <p>&quot;You have to be willfully blind not to come to the conclusion that this was orchestrated and organized by people under the command of MBS and that he was intricately involved in the demise of Mr. Khashoggi,&quot; Graham added, referring to bin Salman, who is commonly known by his initials. </p>  <p>Amid the outrage, the Senate is preparing to take up three legislative efforts in response to Khashoggi's killing. The chamber will likely vote Wednesday on a resolution to stop U.S. support for Saudi Arabia's ongoing war in Yemen. </p>  <p>Another measure planned to be taken up this week is a formal rebuke of bin Salman being introduced by Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker.</p>  <p>The committee is also deliberating whether to suspend weapons sales to Saudi Arabia and sanction top officials, including bin Salman. </p>  <p>It is unclear if the third effort will be taken up before year's end. 

US: Democrats aim to lift headwear ban on House floor

By Umar Farooq

WASHINGTON (AA) – Democrats in the House of Representatives are attempting to change a 181-year-old rule banning the wearing of hats in the chamber in order to accommodate one of the first Muslims elected to Congress, who wears a headscarf.

The leader of the House Democrats, Nancy Pelosi, along with Democrat Rep. Jim McGovern of Massachusetts and Minnesota Representative-elect Ilhan Omar, put together a proposal with a number of rule changes for when the Democrats take control of the House next year.

The ban on head coverings in the House was adopted in September 1837 and prohibited any person from wearing a hat or headscarf.

But the proposal seeks an exemption that will "clarify in the rules that religious headwear is permitted to be worn in the House chamber".

Omar is a Somali-American who came to the U.S. over two decades ago as a refugee. She campaigned on a progressive platform and won and will become the first member of Congress to wear a headscarf. Joining her will be Rashida Tlaib, an activist of Palestinian descent, who was elected to represent Michigan’s 13th district.

The draft of the proposal, which was published by The Washington Post, is part of an effort to be inclusive of diversity and stop discrimination in Congress.

"No one puts a scarf on my head but me. It’s my choice—one protected by the first amendment," Omar said on Twitter. "And this is not the last ban I’m going to work to lift."

The proposal comes after a midterm election season which saw many Republican candidates use anti-Muslim rhetoric in their campaigns and at a time when many European nations are implementing bans or restrictions on wearing face veils, including France, which was the first European country to ban full-face veils in public places.

UPDATE – US: Democrats win House, Republicans keep Senate

ADDS DETAILS THROUGHOUT

By Michael Hernandez

WASHINGTON (AA) – Democratic hopes for a "blue wave" fueled by opposition to U.S. President Donald Trump fell short Tuesday with the party on track to take control of the House of Representatives even as it lost critical ground in the Senate.

Republicans increased their hold on the 100-member chamber, holding at least 51 seats in the Senate as both parties claimed legislative victories. Additional Senate races have yet to be called, but Republicans are on pace to increase their hold of the chamber after taking at least three seats held by Democratic incumbents.

Democrats were at a disadvantage heading into the midterms, holding most of the seats up for election in the Senate even as they were expected to take the House.

"Today is more than about Democrats and Republicans. It's about restoring the Constitution's checks and balances to the Trump administration," House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said in Washington while announcing her party's victory in the House.

U.S. President Donald Trump phoned Pelosi, who is expected to be the next speaker of the house late Tuesday evening to extend his congratulations over the Democratic victory in the House, according to Drew Hammill, who is Pelosi's chief of staff.

Trump himself lauded the Republican electoral gains, saying on Twitter: "Tremendous success tonight. Thank you to all!"

Still, he is unlikely to be pleased with the Democratic inroads that will see Democrats now hold the power to hold subpoena-backed investigations of the president and his administration that could see the president make public his tax returns, something he has vehemently opposed despite prior precedent.

With control of the House comes control of its committees, a power that previously laid with Republicans who were resistant to calls to take a tough line against the president.

Democrats are now more likely to actively seek to stymy the president's agenda barring a dramatic and highly doubtful about-face by the president on his major policy goals. They also now wield the power to launch a formal impeachment hearing, which if passed in the House, would be tried in the Republican-held Senate.

Trump had worked hard to ensure neither chamber fell to the Democrats, holding a campaigning blitz in the run-up to Tuesday's polls that saw him traverse the continental U.S.

In addition to Pelosi, Trump spoke by telephone with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnel to congratulate him on the Republican gains, and also spoke with outgoing House Speaker Paul Ryan, the White House said.

US: Democrats win House, Republicans keep Senate

By Michael Hernandez

WASHINGTON (AA) – Democratic hopes for a "blue wave" fell short Tuesday as the party took control of the House of Representatives but lost critical ground in the Senate.

Republicans increased their hold on the 100-member chamber, holding at least 51 seats in the Senate as both parties claimed legislative victories. Additional Senate races have yet to be called.

"Today is more than about Democrats and Republicans. It's about restoring the Constitution's checks and balances to the Trump administration," House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said in Washington while announcing her party's victory in the House.

U.S. President Donald Trump phoned Pelosi, who is expected to be the next speaker of the House, late Tuesday evening to extend his congratulations over the Democratic victory in the House, according to Drew Hammill, who is Pelosi's chief of staff.

Trump himself lauded the Republican electoral gains, saying on Twitter: "Tremendous success tonight. Thank you to all!"

UPDATE – US midterms: Democrats flip first seats in House

ADDS DETAILS THROUGHOUT

By Michael Hernandez

WASHINGTON (AA) – Democratic challenger Jennifer Wexton upset Republican incumbent Barbara Comstock Tuesday night for a seat in the House of Representatives — the first in a growing wave of victories critical to Democratic hopes in the chamber.

The seat in Virginia's 10th congressional district was the first Democratic pickup of the night in the federal legislature as the party seeks to seize on an energized American electorate in this year's midterm elections.

It was closely followed by a rapid-fire projection in favor of Democrat Donna Shalala, who is set to replace outgoing Florida Republican Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. Democrats took at least 14 more races as polling stations closed in much of the western U.S.

Among those victories is Sharice Davids, who is set to replace four-term Representative Kevin Yoder. Her victory marks yet another historic milestone in the federal legislature, as Davids will be the first Native American woman and the first lesbian Native American elected to Congress.

Democrats need to pick up 23 seats in the chamber without losing any they currently hold in order to take control of the House. They have the best chance of securing a majority in that chamber but face steep odds in being able to do the same in the Senate, where most of the seats up for election are held by Democratic incumbents.

But at least one House seat held by a Democrat has gone to the Republicans.

In the Senate, Republicans are projected to pick up at least two seats from Democrats, putting the total number of seats they will control in the 100-member chamber at just under half, or 49 seats.

The midterms are critical for U.S. President Donald Trump as he seeks to secure his legislative agenda for the final two years of his first term in office.

Ocasio-Cortez youngest woman elected to US House

By Michael Hernandez

WASHINGTON (AA) – Democratic socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez became the youngest woman to be elected to the House of Representatives Tuesday.

Republican Representative Elise Stefanik previously held the distinction when she won her seat at the age of 30.

Ocasio-Cortez, who will be 29 years old when she begins her term next January, had widely been expected to win, having received the endorsement of former presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders.

The Latina pulled off an upset victory earlier this year in a primary race against Democratic incumbent Joe Crowley. Ocasio-Cortez’s victory shot her into the national spotlight with questions about whether the far-left wing of the Democratic party she represents is posing a viable challenge to the establishment.

Crowley was one of the highest-ranking Republicans in the House, with expectations that he would assume the speakership.

Ocasio-Cortez is set to represent New York's 14th congressional district, which includes parts of Queens and the Bronx.