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A one-time Republican rising star abruptly quit Congress today, amid allegations of lavish spending from his office account.
Illinois Representative Aaron Schock faced reports of costly office decor, private jet flights and excessive mileage reimbursement for his private car. In his statement today, he said: "The constant questions have proven a great distraction that made it too difficult for me to serve."
Schock won a fourth term last November. His resignation takes effect at month's end.
A House committee grilled the Secret Service director today over an alleged drunken driving incident involving two senior agents. Joseph Clancy disputed reports that they crashed into a White House construction barrier during a bomb investigation. He said they — quote — "nudged the barrier." He acknowledged not learning of the incident for several days. JOSEPH CLANCY, Director, Secret Service: At the least of the description of these events, I should have still been informed of what transpired that evening. Any time you have a senior level on the president's detail who is alleged to have even come through a secure area, as he did that evening, I should have been informed. And we're following up on that, and there will be accountability.
REP. HAL ROGERS, (R) Kentucky: You can't run an agency like this, for God's sake, or any other agency unless you have discipline in the ranks. And this is a breakdown, to put it mildly, of discipline within the ranks of your agency. And that — that's a cancer.
Clancy said it's clear he's got a lot of work to do to change the agency's culture.
The Senate deadlocked again today on a bill to help victims of human trafficking. Democrats objected to an anti-abortion provision.
Republicans said they won't vote on attorney general nominee Loretta Lynch until the bill passes. The two sides traded arguments away from the Senate floor.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, Majority Leader:
I have said all along I thought the president's nominee for attorney general is entitled to be considered on the Senate floor, and she will be considered just as soon as we finish this very important bill.
SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER, (D) New York: We can approve nominees while we work on legislation. We did that just yesterday when we passed two nominees. They could do the same with Loretta Lynch and she'd pass like that.
Lynch is the U.S. attorney in Brooklyn, New York. She was nominated in November.
Federal agencies have set a new record for paying benefits to those who don't qualify. The Government Accountability Office said today mistaken payments topped $125 billion last year. That was up $19 billion from 2013, after declining for several years. Most of the payments involved Medicare, Medicaid and the Earned Income Tax Credit.
The United Nations' Health Agency reports 500,000 newborns die each year in developing nations for lack of good sanitation. The World Health Organization says it found many could be saved by using — by being washed and cared for in a clean environment. But more than a third of hospitals in those countries have nowhere for staff and patients to wash their hands.
Relief workers today reached some of the outlying islands in Vanuatu, in the wake of a fierce cyclone. The storm tore through the South Pacific nation last weekend. The island of Tanna took a direct hit, and aid groups warned today the 29,000 people there are running out of food and basic supplies.
ALEX SNARY, World Vision:
Food relief, temporary shelter, these are the life-sustaining elements that we need to get in place and we need to get them in a hurry.
Despite the devastation, the storm's death toll was lowered today to 11.
California will face tougher curbs on water use, as a drought heads into its fourth year. The state Water Resources Control Board moved today to extend existing limits and add new ones. Among other things, residents must limit watering lawns to twice a week. And if they want water at restaurants, they will have to ask for it.
The glow of the Northern Lights may push substantially farther south tonight, thanks to a powerful solar storm. Forecasters say the display could be visible as far south as Tennessee and Oklahoma. The solar storm could also affect power grids and throw off GPS tracking devices.
On Wall Street, stocks mostly gave back some of Monday's gains, as investors worried again about interest rates. The Dow Jones industrial average lost nearly 130 points to close below 17850. The Nasdaq rose eight points, but the S&P 500 slipped seven.
And St. Patrick's Day brought the usual celebrations, and a renewed debate over who gets to march. New York City held its 254th annual parade, and for the first time included one openly gay group. But similar groups were still barred, and gay rights advocates called for greater inclusion.
Boston's parade, last Sunday, lifted its ban on gays and lesbians marching.
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