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Obama, Biden reunite at White House to tout Obamacare, new provision
Former President Barack Obama visited the White House for the first time since leaving office in 2017 on Tuesday to praise the benefits of his landmark healthcare reform and support his friend and former governing partner, Vice President Joe Biden.
Obama entered the East Room to rousing applause from the assembled crowd of members of Congress and White House personnel and remarked on the changes that had occurred in the White House since he last visited, including the introduction of a feline.
Obama made a joke about Biden being "vice president" before correcting himself, prompting a salute from Biden. Obama then praised the Affordable Care Act, calling its passage a "high point" of his presidency.
"To quote a famous American, if you can offer millions of people health care and better protection, it's a fairly... huge deal," Obama said to applause from the audience, referring to an off-color Biden remark picked up by a hot mic when the bill was enacted.
Biden, who hosted Obama for lunch, joked that the two men didn't know where to sit while they ate and praised Obama's leadership on the healthcare reform.
"The Affordable Care Act has gone through many names, but Obamacare is the most accurate," Biden remarked.
In a heated exchange, the U.S. defense chief defends Ukraine's response
During a tense exchange with a Republican senator on Tuesday, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin defended America's reaction to the war in Ukraine. The lawmaker accused the Pentagon of overestimating Russia's military capability.
"Has it dawned to you that Russia has not invaded Ukraine as a result of our actions? What about our allies? Have you ever given it a thought?" During his appearance before the House Armed Services Committee, Austin posed a hypothetical question to Rep. Matt Gaetz.
According to Austin and other US officials, US backing for Ukrainian forces, combined with Ukraine's strong determination to fight, has stymied Russia's intentions for a quick victory in the six-week-old campaign.
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The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, has stated that the fight in Ukraine could extend for years.
During the same session, Milley told lawmakers, "I do believe this is a very protracted struggle, and I believe it is at least measured in years."
"NATO, the US, Ukraine, and all of the allies and partners who are helping Ukraine will be involved in this for quite some time," he continued.
Russian-backed separatists have already been fighting in eastern Ukraine since 2014, a conflict that has killed about 15,000 people.
U.S. House Republicans seek to punish Citigroup over abortion feud
Several Republican members of the US House of Representatives asked on Tuesday that Citigroup Inc (NYSE:C) be dropped as the chamber's credit card supplier after the banking institution offered to cover travel expenses for staff seeking abortions.
The credit cards are used to pay for airline flights, office supplies, and other items by all 435 members of the House.
New abortion restrictions have been imposed in Texas and other states, and the United States Supreme Court is considering a challenge to the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling that protects abortion access nationwide. Citigroup was the first big American bank to commit to covering the costs of abortion for its employees.
Abortion is a very polarizing subject in the United States, and it is a major campaign issue for both parties ahead of the Nov. 8 midterm elections, which will determine who controls Congress in 2023 and 2024.
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"By choosing to underwrite travel to abortions for its employees, Citi has explicitly staked out its position to advance the liberal agenda of abortion on demand and has shown no regard for whether a particular state's laws are in place to protect the safety of a woman and her child," wrote Representative Mike Johnson and 44 Republican colleagues in a letter to the House's chief administrative officer, who oversees logistics issues like credit cards.
Biden nominates the first woman to lead U.S. military branch
Admiral Linda Fagan, the first female uniformed leader of a branch of the US armed forces, has been nominated by US President Joe Biden to lead the US Coast Guard.
In a tweet announcing the nomination, Biden stated, "Her leadership and honesty are second to none."
Fagan, who presently serves as the Coast Guard's deputy commandant, must be confirmed by the Senate.
Admiral Karl Schultz, who has been commandant since 2018, would be replaced.
U.S. Senate Republicans border push, Democratic worries complicate path for COVID aid
The prospects for a $10 billion COVID-19 relief package in the United States were hampered on Tuesday by Senate Republicans' demand that the bill be linked to a vote on border restrictions, as well as objections raised by some House Democrats that the proposal did not include international aid.
Top Democrats are attempting to pass the bill, which is less than half of the $22 billion demanded by President Joe Biden, before a two-week recess begins late this week.
When the Senate eventually moves to pass the COVID bill, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters that a resolution to keep in place Title 42 border crossing restrictions imposed by then-President Donald Trump early in the pandemic would be one of several amendments his caucus wants to consider.
"In order to move the bill forward, there will have to be an amendment on Title 42," McConnell said at a press conference, adding that he and his Democratic counterpart, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, would have to agree on an amendment procedure first.