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Misdemeanor Guilty Plea Rejected in Capitol Police Manager's Embezzlement Case

A planned misdemeanor guilty plea from the head of the Capitol Police Department's Office of Diversity on allegations that she embezzled public funds was not accepted Tuesday in federal court.

The case involves Deborah K. Lewis's previous employment at Immigration and Customs Enforcement, before she took her job in July 2011 with the Capitol Police force.

Lewis had been prepared to enter a guilty plea Tuesday to one count of misdemeanor theft of public money, property, or records, according to court papers filed by her attorney.

However, no plea was accepted during the scheduled plea agreement hearing Tuesday afternoon before U.S. District Judge Richard Leon, according to court officials. Her attorney, David Benowitz of Washington, could not be reached for comment after the hearing.

A future court date in the matter has not yet been set, according to William Miller, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia.

The probe that led to Lewis being charged earlier this year was handled by investigators from the Office of Inspector General who were assigned to ICE at the Homeland Security Department.

Lewis had been employed at that agency, according to a work history, from 2004...

VA Conferees Agree on One Thing: Fire More Bureaucrats

While significant policy gaps remain among lawmakers working to overhaul the Veterans Affairs Department, legislators from both parties and houses agreed on Tuesday that making it easier to fire employees is essential to any reform effort. 

Members of both the House and Senate Veterans Affairs Committees pledged to move quickly on a compromise bill to revamp the department, repeatedly stating at the initial conference meeting they must seize the opportunity to effect change. Nearly every legislator spoke of the need to increase accountability within the bureaucracy and to punish those who were complicit in covering up extended wait times for veterans seeking care at VA facilities.

“Most people are surprised you even need a law to make this possible,” said Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who introduced the VA Management Accountability Act in the Senate. “It’s common sense.”

Some members of the conference committee were careful to praise the efforts of most VA employees. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said the department “should be proud” of its recent accomplishments.

“We shouldn’t castigate those who are innocent and we shouldn’t punish VA employees at large,” Brown said. At the same time Congress and VA must hold poor performers accountable, he...

Play of the Day: The Only Correct Military Move for Iraq

There's not much the United States can do to solve the sectarian conflict in Iraq. But President Obama's announcement that a few hundred military advisers will be sent to combat ISIS forcces might just be a winning strategy. According to late-night host Jon Stewart, 300 is the perfect number.  

Plus: Obama wants his daughters to work minimum wage jobs, Iraq's military spokesperson cuts a sad figure, and nobody knows who Kevin McCarthy is. It's a good thing David Letterman has some information about the House Republicans' new majority leader

House Panel Moves Postal Service Closer to Eliminating Saturday Mail Delivery

The House has taken a major step to allow the U.S. Postal Service to eliminate Saturday mail delivery.

The Financial Services and General Government Appropriations subcommittee -- headed by Rep. Ander Crenshaw, R-Fla. -- did not include a rider in its version of the fiscal 2015 funding bill to require USPS to deliver mail six days each week. The language has been included in every postal-related appropriations bill since 1983.

House Republicans have backed off their plan to move the Postal Service to five-day mail delivery to pay for a one-year extension of the Highway Trust Fund since members of their caucus rejected the proposal and its author, Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., lost his reelection bid. Republicans are pushing forward with their USPS-backed five-day mail delivery plan, however, which would remove the only roadblock preventing the agency from eliminating Saturday delivery.

The Postal Service announced in February of last year its plan to eliminate Saturday mail delivery, while keeping it for packages. It was forced to backtrack when the Government Accountability Office ruled the appropriations rider prevented the agency from delivering fewer than six days per week.

Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe has been a staunch advocate for modifying the delivery...

Rand Paul Throws Obama a Lifeline on Iraq, Spars With Dick Cheney

Americans received a new education on Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul's labyrinthine foreign policy views as he sparred with former Vice President Dick Cheney across the Sunday shows.

In a segment that was teased ahead of his appearance on Meet the Press today, Paul was asked by David Gregory if he believes that Cheney is a credible critic of President Obama on the recent turmoil in Iraq. (In case you missed it, Cheney and others have been quite vocal .)

After turning the question around by asking whether supporters of the Second Gulf War had it right about weapons of mass destruction or the ease with which democracy would take root in Iraq, Paul said something pretty remarkable.

And what’s going on now, I don’t blame on President Obama. Has he really got the solution? Maybe there is no solution. But I do blame the Iraq War on the chaos that is in the Middle East. I also blame those who are for the Iraq War for emboldening Iran. These are the same people now who are petrified of what Iran may become, and I understand some of their worry."

On he went, linking the consequences of the U...

Tensions Mount Over Spending Bills as Congress Nears July 4 Homestretch

Lawmakers head toward their Independence Day recess at week's end still in search of a solution to a looming highway funding crisis, dealing with growing tension over government spending bills due on Oct. 1and debate over how this nation should address developments in Iraq.

House and Senate conferees will also be working this week on legislation to reduce veterans' wait times for health care and stop a rash of preventable veterans' deaths—facing pressure to hammer out compromise legislation and get a bill to the president's desk.

The chairmen of the two Veterans Affairs' committees, Republican Rep. Jeff Miller and independent Sen. Bernie Sanders, met Thursday and conference committee staff were scheduled to meet Friday, but the conferees themselves are not due to meet for the first time until Tuesday.

Meanwhile, even though the calendar is flipping closer to the Oct. 1 start of the new fiscal year, the Senate is likely to spend the week on nominations and possibly a bipartisan labor bill that cleared the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, as well as a bipartisan sportsmen's bill.

This, after a three-in-one government appropriations bill for fiscal 2015—cobbled together by Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman...

Play of the Day: How a TV Doctor Sells His Magic to Capitol Hill

Congress grills beloved TV personality Dr. Oz over his role in promoting dietary supplements as "magic." John Oliver wishes there were some regulatory agency in charge to investigate such weight loss claims. 

Plus, Hillary Clinton visits the Lone Star state without her husband. And with violence escalating in Iraq, President Obama is looking to send reinforcements abroad: Dennis Rodman is at the top of his list. 

Americans Have Less Confidence In Congress Than Just About Anything, Ever

Now is not a good time to be a member of Congress, particularly for people who want to inspire "a great deal" of confidence in their fellow Americans. The latest Gallup poll found that only 7 percent of those polled have "a great deal" or "quite a bit" of confidence in Congress. Another 7 percent said they have no confidence in Congress whatsoever, even though that wasn't really one of the options on the survey.

Currently, 4 percent of Americans have a great deal of confidence in Congress, 3 percent have quite a bit, a third have "some," and half have very little. As Gallup explained, the current ranking "is not only the lowest on record, but also the lowest Gallup has recorded for any institution in the 41-year trend."

To offer some perspective: On Wednesday an NBC/WSJ poll found that only half of Americans think President Obama is a competent leader. NBC News's Chuck Todd went so far as to say the poll meant Obama's presidency is "over." But according to Gallup, 29 percent of Americans still have confidence in the president.

Congress ranks lower than public schools (26 percent), the criminal justice system (23...

Republican Critics Say Obama May Have Learned His Lesson From Benghazi

Criticism of President Obama's foreign policy is roiling around the Capitol, as devastation and terror quickly creep through Iraq and House Republicans prepare for yet another investigation of the 2012 attack that killed four Americans in Libya. But for all their highly charged rhetoric aimed at the administration, Republicans have one point of praise: Obama appears to be building on lessons learned in Benghazi in working to keep Americans in Iraq secure.

"What I see is a learning from Benghazi," Sen. Lindsey Graham told National Journal this week, saying that the administration is "absolutely" doing a better job protecting Americans there than they did in Libya just two years ago.

Although Graham said that the administration should have seen the issues in Iraq coming sooner, he largely praised their response in trying to protect Americans in the country, calling it a direct response to what happened in Benghazi.

"To the extent that they've been trying to provide some security, you know, trying to talk to the regional players about security is a smart thing to do.… We have a security situation that is really deteriorating by the hour," Graham said. "So I think they're trying to consolidate...

Play of the Day: Dick Cheney Is a True Conservative

Dick Cheney penned an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal criticizing President Obama's foreign policy, but the liberal media wasn't buying it. Ultra-liberal Megyn Kelly went after him in an interview, so he did what any true conservative would: called her Reagan "accidentally."

Plus: The Redskins lost their trademark, but owner Dan Snyder won't let the team lose its traditions. Colorado has roused the ire of some marijuana users — luckily that ire is very tame due to their recreational activities. And Smithsonian has made a lifelike 3D-printed model of Obama.

(Image via Albert H. Teich / Shutterstock.com)