Fast Five: January 20, 2014

    Each week, NBN Politics recaps the top five news stories from the past week. Welcome to the Fast Five.

    House passes spending bill

    The House passed a $1.1 trillion spending bill on Thursday with broad partisan support, angering many conservative groups. The bill, which the Senate is expected to pass later this week, funds all aspects of the government up to September 30 and increases spending by $45 billion over the 2014 discretionary spending level set by sequestration in 2011. The bill also signals a loss of power by Tea Party groups as Congress moves toward fiscal cooperation.

    Wendy Davis raises more money than Greg Abbott

    Wendy Davis has surprised everyone by raising $700,000 more than her Republican opponent, Greg Abbott, in the race for Texas governor. Davis, the Texan Democratic state representative who got national attention for an eleven hour-long filibuster of a bill restricting abortion access, raised $12.2 million dollars to Abbott's $11.5 million. The question now is whether all that money will add up to a Democratic governor in a state that hasn’t had been led by a liberal since 1990.  

    Iran to get $550 million

    As per Iran's Nov. 24 nuclear agreement with six major world powers, the country will receive $550 million at the start of February from $4.2 billion blocked overseas funds. If Iran cooperates with the deal and curbs it nuclear program, it will continue to receive funding up to July.

    West Virginia tap water slowly returns

    A chemical spill in a river last week triggered a tap water ban for 300,000 people in West Virginia. On Monday, officials slowly began lifting the ban to avoid further problems caused by a rise in demand for water. About 39 percent of West Virginia American Waters' customers have been allowed to access water again. Businesses and restaurants in Charleston have begun to reopen, and every hospital but one has running water. The incident has brought national focus on the lack of inspections carried out on the plant. The full effect of the spill, though, is still not understood. 

    Oklahoma gay marriage ban ruled unconstitutional

    A federal judge ruled Tuesday that Oklahoma’s constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage was unconstitutional. The judge ruled that the amendment went against the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The ruling is pending an appeal, meaning that no same-sex marriage licenses can be issued yet. If the ruling is upheld, it will signal a major change in one of country’s most conservative states. 

    New Jersey mayor claims Christie held back Sandy relief money

    Hoboken mayor Dawn Zimmer revealed on Saturday that two members of New Jersey governor Chris Christie’s administration warned her to cooperate with a redevelopment plan, or she would lose Hurricane Sandy relief funds. Zimmer said she requested $127 million for her city, which was 80 percent underwater after Sandy. What she got instead was $142,000 for one back-up generator plus an extra $200,000 in recovery grants. Members of Christie’s administration deny the claims, yet the governor himself has yet to respond. Following a bumpy few days due to "bridgegate," Christie is sure to respond soon. Look for him to say something in the coming days. 

    Obama to curb NSA powers

    President Obama announced in a speech Friday that he would restrict the NSA’s abilities to gain access to phone records and move that information out of the government’s possession. He also said he would stop the interception of private communications of foreign heads of state. In spite of this call for reform, Obama continued to back up the need for a surveillance agency and left it up to Congress and the intelligence agencies to work out the details of the changes. Technology companies and industry groups see the speech as a move in the right direction, yet still believe he isn’t doing enough to protect people’s privacy or the economic interests of American companies. Skepticism regarding the plan is widespread, and reactions will continue to develop in weeks to come.


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