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News Wrap: Mulvaney confirmed to run Budget Office

February 16, 2017 at 6:40 PM EDT
In our news wrap Thursday, the Senate narrowly confirmed Rep. Mick Mulvaney, a tea party conservative from South Carolina, to run the White House Budget Office. Republican Sen. John McCain joined Democrats in voting against Mulvaney. Also, David Friedman, the president's choice for ambassador to Israel, apologized at his confirmation hearing for some of his past fiery rhetoric.

HARI SREENIVASAN: In the day’s other news: The Senate narrowly confirmed Congressman Mick Mulvaney to run the White House Budget Office. The Tea Party conservative from South Carolina was approved 51-49. Senator John McCain joined all 48 Democrats in voting no because of Mulvaney’s support for defense spending cuts.

The new budget chief also favors trimming entitlement programs like Medicare and Social Security.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The president’s nominee for ambassador to Israel says he’s sorry for some of his fiery rhetoric. David Friedman apologized today for inflammatory criticism of President Obama and Hillary Clinton and for calling a liberal Jewish group — quote — “worse than kapos.” That was a reference to Jews who helped the Nazis.

But several Democratic senators challenged Friedman over his language, as they grilled him at his confirmation hearing.

SEN. BEN CARDIN, D-Md.: The diplomat has to choose every word that he or she uses. So, why should I believe that these were just emotional expressions and that you now understand the difference between that role and that as a diplomat?

DAVID FRIEDMAN, U.S. Ambassador to Israel Nominee: If you want me to rationalize it or justify it, I cannot. These were hurtful words. And I deeply regret them. They’re not reflective of my nature or my character.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Friedman has strongly backed Israeli settlements and opposed Palestinian statehood. But, today, he said he’d be delighted if a two-state solution can be achieved.

Meanwhile, the head of the Arab League today warned against moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem. He said it would be explosive for the situation in the Middle East.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Islamic State bombers carried out two deadly strikes today, killing 130 people. In Southern Pakistan, a suicide bomber blew himself up at a famous Sufi Muslim shrine. At least 75 people died there, and hundreds more were wounded.

Hours earlier, in Iraq, a car bomb ripped through a Shiite neighborhood in Baghdad. The death toll there was at least 55.

JUDY WOODRUFF: In Russia, a Kremlin spokesman warned today that political turmoil in Washington has put a damper on improving relations with U.S. And President Vladimir Putin called for restoring contacts between U.S. and Russian intelligence agencies.

But at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Defense Secretary James Mattis said the U.S. is not ready for any military collaboration.

JAMES MATTIS, U.S. Secretary of Defense: Our political leaders will engage and try to find common ground or a way forward where Russia, living up to its commitments, will return to a partnership of sorts here with NATO. But Russia is going to have to prove itself first and live up to the commitments they have made in the Russia-NATO agreement.

JUDY WOODRUFF: At the same time, Mattis said there is very little doubt that the Russians have interfered with elections in a number of countries.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Authorities in Malaysia have arrested two more suspects in the assassination of Kim Jong-nam, the North Korean leader’s half-brother. He was attacked Monday at a Malaysian airport. Local news accounts say North Korean agents poisoned him, but results of an autopsy have not been released. North Korea’s Kim Jong-un is widely suspected of ordering the murder.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Back in this country, production workers at Boeing’s plant in South Carolina have rejected an effort to unionize, for the second time. The aircraft maker had campaigned for weeks against efforts to organize its plant in North Charleston. President Trump plans to visit the facility tomorrow.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Stocks were mixed on Wall Street today. The Dow Jones industrial average gained nearly eight points to close at 20619. The Nasdaq fell four points, and the S&P 500 slipped two.