In our news wrap Wednesday, the House opened debate on a Democratic bill to lower prescription drug costs through government negotiations. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi appealed for bipartisan support, but Sen. Mitch McConnell said he won’t bring the bill up for a vote. Also, the Justice Department is appealing a federal judge’s ruling against spending Pentagon funds on a U.S.-Mexico border wall.
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In the day's other news: Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives begin work this evening on approving two articles of impeachment against President Trump. The Judiciary Committee will consider two separate accusations of abuse of power and obstruction of justice.
Committee votes could come tomorrow, sending the articles to the full House for possible action next week.
A sweeping defense policy bill passed the House this evening and headed to the Senate. It authorizes nearly $74 billion for the fiscal year that began two months ago. Major provisions include a 3 percent military pay raise, creation of a Space Force, and paid parental leave for federal workers.
The House also opened debate on a Democratic bill aimed at lowering the cost of prescription drugs. It calls for the government to directly negotiate prices of at least 50 medicines a year. Democratic leaders agreed to that number after party progressives demanded that it be increased from 35.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi appealed today for support across party lines.
Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.:
The burden touches every family, hurting not only their health, but their financial health. There is every reason in the world for Republicans to join us to pass this bill. Even the president has supported this key — these key provisions.
In the Senate, Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said that he will not bring the bill up for a vote.
The U.S. Justice Department is appealing a federal judge's ruling that bars using Pentagon funds for a southern border wall. The judge in Texas blocked $3.6 billion in military construction money from being diverted, unless Congress approves it. The U.S. Supreme Court has allowed other Pentagon funds to be spent on the wall, pending a legal challenge.
New disclosures tonight about the deadly crashes of Boeing 737 MAX jets. It turns out the Federal Aviation Administration had predicted up to 15 more crashes unless flight control software was fixed. That was after the first crash in Indonesia last year. The FAA didn't ground the planes until a second crash last March in Ethiopia.
At a House hearing today, the agency's new head, Stephen Dickson, declined to place blame.
There was information out there, but it was difficult to put the whole picture together to make a sound decision. That's absolutely something that we need to address going forward.
A retired Boeing production manager testified today that the company put production speed over safety.
In New Zealand, two more people died of injuries from a volcanic eruption that caught tourists by surprise. The overall death toll is now 16. The volcano, on White Island, has continued to spurt steam, mud and ash since Monday's eruption; 28 people remain hospitalized, most of them badly burned.
Thousands of people marched in Algeria's capital today, calling for a boycott of tomorrow's presidential election. The crowds chanted as security forces struggled to block them. They demanded that the ruling elite quit and the military get out of politics.
Longtime President Abdelaziz Bouteflika was ousted in April. All five candidates running tomorrow are linked to him.
A United Nations report finds that protesters in Iraq are facing abduction, arbitrary detention and outright murder. The report comes amid a string of targeted assassinations and arrests of civil activists and journalists. Just today, 31 more protesters were wounded by security forces in Central Baghdad.
Back in this country, the Federal Reserve left its benchmark interest rate unchanged today. And it indicated there might be no changes through next year. Fed Chair Jerome Powell said that he sees little risk that low rates will lead to an overheated economy.
We can sustain much lower levels of unemployment than had been thought. And, as I mentioned, that's a good thing, because that means we don't have to worry so much about inflation. And you see the benefits of that in today's labor market.
The Fed raised rates four times last year, before cutting them three times this year.
The Fed decision left Wall Street mostly unmoved. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 29 points to close at 27911. The Nasdaq rose 37 points, and the S&P 500 added nine.
Meanwhile, stock in the state-owned oil giant Saudi Aramco went public on the Saudi exchange, and it jumped 10 percent. That made it the world's most valuable publicly traded company, passing Apple.
And there's word that Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein and his movie studio will settle allegations of sexual misconduct. The New York Times reports that $25 million would be divided among dozens of accusers. Weinstein still faces criminal charges of rape and sexual assault. Today, a judge in New York increased his bail fivefold, to $5 million, for leaving his ankle monitor deactivated.
And 25 films, spanning 100 years, are this year's additions to the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress. They go all the way back to a 1903 film, emigrants landing at Ellis Island. Oliver Stone's Vietnam War story "Platoon" is also on the list. So are the Disney classics "Old Yeller" and "Sleeping Beauty."