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Posts tagged ‘John Cornyn’

GOP Senate Leadership Bucks Cruz’s 60-Vote Debt Ceiling Bid.


Image: GOP Senate Leadership Bucks Cruz's 60-Vote Debt Ceiling Bid

After a dramatic Senate tally in which top GOP leaders cast the crucial votes, must-pass legislation to allow the government to borrow money to pay its bills cleared Congress Wednesday for President Barack Obama’s signature.

The Senate approved the measure by a near party-line 55-43 vote. All of the “aye” votes came from Obama’s Democratic allies.

But the vote to pass the measure was anticlimactic after a dramatic 67-31 tally — held open for more than an hour — in which the measure cleared a filibuster hurdle insisted on by tea party Republican Ted Cruz of Texas. The Senate’s top two Republicans — both facing tea party challenges in their GOP primaries this year — provided crucial momentum after a knot of Republicans in the Senate well were clearly unhappy at having to walk the plank.

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After Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and Minority Whip John Cornyn, voted “aye” several other Republicans switched their votes in solidarity. Twelve Republicans ultimately voted to help the measure advance but the tally appeared to be in doubt for several anxious minutes.

“A lot of people stepped up and did what they needed to do,” said Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, who voted to advance the bill, as did Mark Kirk of Illinois, who said: “Members didn’t want to” vote for it.

The 12 Republicans who voted against Cruz’s measure were: John Barrasso, Wyo.; Susan Collins, Maine; Bob Corker, Tenn.; John Cornyn, Texas; Jeff Flake, Ariz.; Orrin Hatch, Utah; Mike Johanns, Neb.; Mark Kirk, Ill.; John McCain, Ariz.; Mitch McConnell, Ky.; Lisa Murkowski, Alaska; John Thune, S.D.

Cruz’s demands irritated Republicans because it forced several of them, particularly McConnell, to cast a difficult vote. McConnell faces a May primary against tea party candidate Matt Bevin, whose supporters adamantly oppose increasing the debt limit.

“In my view, every Republican should stand together against raising the debt ceiling without meaningful structural reforms to rein in our out of control spending,” Cruz said.

After the tally, Cruz said he had no regrets, saying the “Senate has given President Obama a blank check.”

Asked about forcing a difficult vote upon McConnell, Cruz said: “That is ultimately a decision … for the voters of Kentucky.”

The legislation would permit Treasury to borrow normally for another 13 months and then reset the government’s borrowing cap, currently set at $17.2 trillion, after that.

It passed the House Tuesday after Republicans gave up efforts to use the debt ceiling measure to win concessions from Obama on GOP agenda items like winning approval of construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.

The measure is required so that the government can borrow to pay bills like Social Security benefits, federal salaries, and payments to Medicare and Medicaid providers.

Quick action on the debt limit bill stands in contrast to lengthy showdowns in 2012 and last fall when Republicans sought to use the critically necessary measure as leverage to win concessions from Obama. They succeeded in 2011, winning about $2 trillion in spending cuts, but Obama has been unwilling to negotiate over the debt limit since his re-election, and Wednesday’s legislation is the third consecutive debt measure passed without White House concessions.

Republicans have been less confrontational after October’s 16-day partial government shutdown sent GOP poll numbers skidding and chastened the party’s tea party faction. Republicans have instead sought to focus voters’ attention on the implementation and effects of Obama’s health care law.

The measure is required so that the government can borrow to pay all of its bills, including Social Security benefits, federal salaries, payments to Medicare and Medicaid providers and interest on the accumulated debt. Congress has never failed to act to prevent a default on U.S. obligations, which most experts say would spook financial markets and spike interest rates.

Most Republicans say any increase in the debt ceiling should be accompanied by cuts to the spiraling costs of costly benefit programs like Medicare.

“We need some reform before we raise the debt ceiling. We need to demonstrate that we are taking steps that will reduce the accumulation of debt in the future,” said Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, top Republican on the Budget Committee. “And the president and the Democratic Senate have just flatly refused. So they’ve just said, `We’ll accept no restraint on spending’.”

Some Republicans seemed irked that Cruz wouldn’t let the bill pass without forcing it to clear a 60-vote threshold that required some Republicans to walk the plank and help it advance..

“I’m not going to talk about that,” said Orrin Hatch when asked if Republicans are annoyed with Cruz.

Passage of the debt limit measure without any extraneous issues comes after House GOP leaders tried for weeks to find a formula to pass a version of their own that included Republican agenda items like approval of the Keystone XL oil pipeline and repeal of an element of the health care law. But a sizable faction of House Republicans simply refuse to vote for any increase in the government’s borrowing abilities, which forced House Speaker John Boehner to turn to Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to pass the measure on the strength of Democrats.

The debt measure permits Treasury to borrow regularly through March 15, 2015, putting the issue off until after the November elections and setting it up for the new Congress to handle next year. If Republicans take over the Senate, they’re likely to insist on linking the debt ceiling to spending cuts and other GOP agenda items, but for now at least, the issue is being handled the old fashioned way, with the party of the incumbent president being responsible for supplying the votes to pass it but with the minority party not standing in the way.

“I think we will go back to the responsible way of making sure that our country does not default,” said Democratic Budget Committee Chairman Patty Murray.

Senate action Wednesday would safely clear the debt issue off of Washington’s plate weeks in advance of the Feb. 27 deadline set last week by Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew. The debt limit was reset to $17.2 trillion after a four-month suspension of the prior, $16.7 trillion limit expired last Friday. Lew promptly began employing accounting maneuvers to buy time for Congress to act.

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© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Source: Newsmax.com

Lawmakers Press Holder to Explain Prosecution of Reddit’s Swartz.


Lawmakers are demanding answers from Attorney General Eric Holder over the Justice Department’s conduct toward late Internet activist Aaron Swartz, who committed suicide one year ago, after he was slammed with federal charges over breaking into a Massachusetts Institute of Technology computer network.

A bipartisan group of eight lawmakers from the House and Senate wrote to Holder on Friday, one day before the first anniversary of Swartz’ suicide, calling him a “brilliant technologist and activist” and demanding that Holder explain how the Justice Department’s conduct toward the 26-year-old was “appropriate,” reports The Hill.

Lawmakers said they asked for details a year ago over the department’s treatment, but got no answers, “not even the sentencing memoranda that surely were prepared in a case such as this.”

Swartz’s family maintain he killed himself because of the overzealous federal prosecutors in his case. He was facing up to 35 years in prison and up to $1 million in fines after he was charged with wire and computer fraud, among other charges, for breaking into the MIT servers and downloading nearly 5 million documents from the JSTOR academic service.

The eight lawmakers, Sens. John Cornyn, R-Texas; Ron Wyden, D-Ore.; Jeff Flake, R-Ariz.; and Reps. Darrell Issa, R-Calif.; James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis.; Alan Grayson, D-Fla.; Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif.; and Jared Polis, D-Colo., also said they “respectfully disagree” with Holder’s claims that the case represented “a good use of prosecutorial discretion.”

Beyond his legal troubles, Swartz was considered a computer genius who as a teenager helped create the publishing program RSS, which allows people to subscribe to website, blog, and news site updates. Swartz co-founded the social news website Reddit, which was later sold to Conde Nast, as well as the political action group Demand Progress, which campaigns against Internet censorship.

Meanwhile, web visionaries Saturday remembered Swartz and his legacy, reports Wired.com.

Story continues below video.

“I think Aaron was trying to make the world work – he was trying to fix it,” World Wide Web founder Tim Berners-Lee said. “So he was a bit ahead of his time.”

And Creative Commons founder Lawrence Lessig, who noted “he was just doing what he thought was right to produce a world that was better.”

Director Brian Knappenberger, whose documentary “The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz” will debut at the Sundance Film Festival later this month, drew parallels between Swartz and National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden.

“Now we are all submerged in a massively networked world where every important part of our lives has an online component to it,” Knappenberger said. “Geeks and hackers already knew this but, thanks to Edward Snowden, now everyone realizes it.”

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By Sandy Fitzgerald

Rep. Fitzpatrick: Take Budget Burden Off Military Retirees’ Backs.


Republican lawmakers are seeking to undo military retirees’ pension cuts that were included in congress’ new budget agreement by closing a loophole that allows illegal immigrants to claim cash payments through an IRS tax credit.

Pennsylvania Republican Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick says the the Bipartisan Budget Act,  which passed this week, should not place the burden on veterans, reports Fox News.

“This nation desperately needs a return to fiscal normalcy and bipartisan cooperation. While the Bipartisan Budget Act is a step in that direction, it does so partly on the backs of our brave military veterans,” said Fitzpatrick, who proposes closing the immigrants’ tax loophole. “What I’ve done is introduce a bill to remove that burden from our military retirees and replace it with common sense reforms.”

The legislation offsets added spending for programs such as Head Start and education with about $85 billion cut from other places in the budget, including a provision that reins in cost of living increases for military retirees under the age of 62. That planned cut would save the government $6.3 billion over the next decade.

The IRS mailed out some $4.2 billion in child credit checks to undocumented immigrants in 2010, according to a 2011 Treasury Inspector General Report.

“Millions of people are seeking this tax credit who, we believe, are not entitled to it,” the report said.

On Wednesday, just before the Senate voted to pass the budget act, Alabama Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions attempted to force a vote on an amendment to undo the military retirees’ cuts and close the loophole.

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Patty Murray, D-Wash., who worked on the bipartisan package with Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., accused Sessions and Republicans of coming up with the amendment to kill the budget bill.

The bill did not pass without continuing opposition from several powerful lawmakers, including Republican Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida; Rand Paul of Kentucky; and Ted Cruz of Texas, all of whom are potential presidential candidates in 2016.

Republican party leaders Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and John Cornyn of Texas also opposed the budget bill.

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By Sandy Fitzgerald

Split GOP Advances Ryan-Murray Budget Deal in Senate.


A bipartisan budget bill that would ease some, but not all, of painful budget cuts that would otherwise slam the Pentagon and domestic agencies passed a pivotal test in the Senate on Tuesday.

The Senate advanced the Ryan-Murray measure over a filibuster threshold on a 67-33 vote that ensures the measure will pass the Democratic-led chamber no later than Wednesday, then head to the White House to be signed into law.

Twelve Republicans voted with Democrats to advance the measure over a 60-vote filibuster threshold demanded by GOP leaders.

Announcements Monday by Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah and Georgia Sens. Johnny Isakson and Saxby Chambliss, as well as a strong hint by Republican Sen. John Hoeven of North Dakota, that they would back that step appeared to seal enough GOP support to advance the measure. Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson, whose home-state GOP colleague Ryan was a top negotiator on the bill, got behind it Sunday.

Other Republicans voting for the measure included Roy Blunt of Missouri, Rob Portman of Ohio, Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker of Tennessee, and John McCain and Jeff Flake of Arizona.

“Sometimes the answer has to be yes,” Hatch said. “The reality is that Republicans only control one-half of one-third of government. Ultimately, this agreement upholds the principles conservatives stand for and, with Democrats controlling the White House and the Senate, it is the best we could hope for.”

Still, with 2014 primary opponents waiting in the wings, some Republican lawmakers are finding it difficult to support even such a limited deal. And those who voted, for it, all of whom are up for re-election next year, are sure to face pressure from more conservative Republicans.

“Anyone up in 2014 is as nervous as a Christmas goose and they’ll probably vote against it,” said Ross Baker, a congressional expert at Rutgers University in New Jersey. “Given the risks involved, none of them wants to gratuitously antagonize the conservative Republican base.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who is up for re-election next year, opposed the measure but did not try to engineer its defeat.

McConnell is embroiled in a primary battle with a tea party challenger — businessman Matt Bevin — who has been sending out daily news releases needling McConnell.

“Where’s Mitch?” yesterday’s email was headlined.

Sen. Thad Cochran, a Mississippi Republican, received similar treatment in a dispatch yesterday from his 2014 primary challenger, Chris McDaniel.

“Mississippi taxpayers deserve to know if Sen. Cochran will support this disastrous bill or if he will have the courage to vote against it,” McDaniel said.

In an episode that illustrates the dilemma facing GOP leaders trying to burnish their conservative credentials as they face tea party-backed challengers, the Senate’s No. 2 Republican, John Cornyn of Texas, announced his opposition Monday morning on his campaign’s website — a step his Senate office was unwilling to take.

It was later deleted after reporters from The Associated Press asked for confirmation of a Cornyn quote that appeared on the conservative Internet site Breitbart.com.

“Senator Cornyn opposes this budget deal because it breaks previously set spending caps and goes in the ‘wrong direction’ with regards to entitlement spending,” according to the post. On Monday, his Senate spokeswoman, Kate Martin, would only say that Cornyn would take “a close look” at the measure and is “concerned” that it reverses some of the spending cuts won in a hard-fought 2011 budget pact.

The silence of GOP leaders was taken by Democrats and Republicans alike that McConnell and Cornyn were in the “vote ‘no,’ hope ‘yes'” camp. That’s a derogatory term sometimes employed by conservative critics who blast Republicans for voting a tea party line when it’s clear they actually prefer an opposite result.

“It’s a safe bet, pretty safe bet, McConnell will not let this go down,” a senior Senate Democrat, Chuck Schumer of New York, said Monday on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” ”I’m sure the Republican leadership, I would bet, is not going to risk another government shutdown. The vote in the House made that certain.”

Nobody is claiming the pact worked out between Wisconsin Republican Rep. Paul Ryan, chairman of the House Budget Committee, and Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington is perfect. It eases $63 billion in scheduled spending cuts over the next two years and replaces them with longer-term savings measured over 10 years, many of which don’t accumulate until 2022-2023. Deficits would increase by $23.2 billion in 2014 and by $18.2 billion the year after that.

The measure would ease some of the harshest cuts to agency budgets required under automatic spending curbs commonly known as sequestration. It would replace $45 billion in scheduled cuts for the 2014 budget year already underway, lifting agency budgets to a little more than $1 trillion, and it also would essentially freeze spending at those levels for 2015. It substitutes other spending cuts and new fees to replace the automatic cuts and devotes a modest $23 billion to reducing the deficit over the coming decade.

It would also stabilize a broken budget process after a partial government shutdown in October that inflicted political harm upon Republicans. The GOP has since rebounded because of the much-criticized rollout of Obamacare, and the party wishes to keep the focus on that topic rather than Washington political brinksmanship.

“This bipartisan bill takes the first steps toward rebuilding our broken budget process. And hopefully, toward rebuilding our broken Congress,” said Murray, chairwoman of the Senate Budget Committee. “We’ve spent far too long here scrambling to fix artificial crises instead of working together to solve the big problems we all know we need to address.”

“We’re far better off approving this budget than not, so I will be voting for it,” Sen. Susan Collins, a Maine Republican, said Monday in an interview at the Capitol. Still, she said she had “some reservations,” particularly over the treatment of military retirees.

Spending cuts would be replaced with money from, among other things, curbs on the pension benefits of new federal workers or working-age military retirees. The measure was opposed by groups representing military retirees, who attended a news conference with bill opponents just minutes before the vote.

“We’re keeping the government open and screwing all military retirees,” said Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.

© Copyright 2013 Bloomberg News. All rights reserved.
Source: Newsmax.com

Hatch, Chambliss Back Ryan Budget Bill.


Several conservative Senate Republicans have swung behind a bipartisan budget bill, apparently giving it enough momentum to win a pivotal test in the Senate over the passive resistance of top GOP leaders.

It’ll take at least five Republicans to advance the measure over a filibuster threshold demanded by GOP leaders. Announcements Monday by Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah and Georgia Sens. Johnny Isakson and Saxby Chambliss, as well as a strong hint by Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., that they would back that step appeared to seal enough GOP support to advance the measure. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., whose home-state GOP colleague, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, was a top negotiator on the bill, swung behind it Sunday.

Others, like Arizona Republicans John McCain and Jeff Flake, said last week they would help advance the bill.

The measure would ease some of the harshest cuts to agency budgets required under automatic spending curbs commonly known as sequestration. It would replace $45 billion in scheduled cuts for the 2014 budget year already under way, lifting agency budgets to a little more than $1 trillion, and essentially freeze spending at those levels for 2015. It substitutes other spending cuts and new fees to replace the automatic cuts and devotes a modest $23 billion to reducing the deficit over the coming decade.

Taken together, the announcements appeared to cement the budget bill’s advancement Tuesday, with a vote to send the House-passed measure to President Barack Obama no later than Wednesday.

“Sometimes the answer has to be yes,” Hatch said. “The reality is that Republicans only control one-half of one-third of government. Ultimately, this agreement upholds the principles conservatives stand for and, with Democrats controlling the White House and the Senate, it is the best we could hope for.”

Most Senate Republicans are going to oppose the legislation despite the sweeping support it enjoyed from the GOP when it breezed through the House last week. But the top Senate Republican, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, is widely expected to oppose the measure, though he has yet to reveal his position.

In an episode that illustrates the dilemma facing top GOP leaders, who are trying to burnish their conservative credentials as they face tea party-backed challengers, the Senate’s No. 2 Republican, John Cornyn of Texas, announced his opposition Monday morning on his campaign’s website — a step his Senate office was unwilling to take. It was later deleted after reporters from The Associated Press asked for confirmation of a Cornyn quote that appeared on the conservative Internet site Breitbart.com.

“Senator Cornyn opposes this budget deal because it breaks previously set spending caps and goes in the ‘wrong direction’ with regards to entitlement spending,” according to the post. His Senate spokeswoman, Kate Martin, would only say that Cornyn would take “a close look” at the measure and is “concerned” that it reverses some of the spending cuts won in a hard-fought 2011 budget pact.

The silence of GOP leaders was taken by Democrats and Republicans alike that McConnell and Cornyn were in the “vote ‘no,’ hope ‘yes'” camp. That’s a derogatory term sometime employed by conservative critics who blast Republicans for voting a tea party line when it’s clear they actually prefer an opposite result.

“It’s a safe bet, pretty safe bet, McConnell will not let this go down,” a senior Senate Democrat, Chuck Schumer of New York, said Monday on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” ”I’m sure the Republican leadership, I would bet, is not going to risk another government shutdown. The vote in the House made that certain.”

Nobody is claiming the pact worked out between the high-profile Ryan, the Republican Party’s vice presidential nominee last year, and Washington state Sen. Patty Murray, a Democratic loyalist over her 21-year Senate career, is perfect. It eases $63 billion in scheduled spending cuts over the next two years and replaces them with longer-term savings measured over 10 years, many of which don’t accumulate until 2022-23. Deficits would increase by $23.2 billion in 2014 and by $18.2 billion the year after that.

But the deal would put a dysfunctional Washington on track to prevent unappealingly tough cuts to military readiness and weapons, as well as continued cuts to programs cherished by Democrats and Republicans alike, including health research, school aid, FBI salaries and border security. The cuts would be replaced with money from, among other things, higher airline security fees, curbs on the pension benefits of new federal workers or working-age military retirees, and premium increases on companies whose pension plans are insured by the federal government.

© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Source: Newsmax.com

Sen. Johnson Says He’ll Support Ryan-Murray Budget Deal.


Image: Sen. Johnson Says He'll Support Ryan-Murray Budget Deal

By Lisa Barron

Republican Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin says he will support the bipartisan budget bill negotiated by fellow Badger State legislator Rep. Paul Ryan and Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington.

“The budget deal struck by Paul Ryan and Patty Murray is no ‘grand bargain,’ but I credit Paul with understanding that a grand bargain is not possible at this point in time,” the tea party-backed senator said in a statement Sunday, reports the Huffington Post.

“Although I disagree with a number of provisions in the bill, on balance the good outweighs the bad. As long as the Senate does nothing to worsen the bill, I intend to support it,” he added.

The move comes just a few days after Johnson called the bill “more of a Patty Murray budget,” arguing it did not offer long-term solutions.

“The real problem is President Obama and Democrats in the Senate and House, they don’t want to fix the long-term problems,” Johnson told MSNBC last week. “That’s the situation Paul was in, trying to negotiate something. I don’t want to shut down the government. They do enough harm to our economy. We don’t need to do shutdowns to increase the plan,” he said.

Meanwhile, no Senate Democrat has publicly stated opposition to the deal, while GOP Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Senate GOP Whip John Cornyn of Texas, both of whom face challengers in next year’s primaries, have indicatedthey will vote against it, reports The Hill.

The bill is expected to come up for a vote in the Senate Tuesday.

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Top Three Senate Republicans All Oppose Budget Deal.


Image: Top Three Senate Republicans All Oppose Budget Deal

From left, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Republican Conference Chairman John Thune and Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn.

By Courtney Coren

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn and Sen. John Thune, chairman of the Senate Republican conference, have all come out in opposition to the Ryan-Murray budget deal.

While all three senate GOP leaders have expressed their skepticism to the Budget Control Act, only McConnell has said for certain that he will vote against it.

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According to The Wall Street Journal, the Kentucky senator met with House Republicans in November and told them not to compromise on across the board spending cuts that began under the budget sequester earlier this year.

Cornyn and Thune have both said they are skeptical of the budget proposal that has been put together by House Budget Committee chairman Rep. Paul Ryan and Senate Budget Committee chairwoman Sen. Patty Murray, also saying that they want the budget caps that were part of the sequester retained, while offering some “flexibility” to the Pentagon,Breitbart reported.

“I am concerned about the budget proposal because it breaks the spending caps that were a part of the Budget Control Act, which is one of the main reasons why federal spending has actually gone down this year and last year as opposed to having a straight upward trajectory,” said Cornyn during a conference call with reporters Wednesday.

“All along, there was some discussion about providing flexibility to the Department of Defense to allow them to spend the money more efficiently and effectively,” the Texas senator explained. “But the tradeoff was going to be to deal with entitlement reform and to shore up Medicare and Social Security. So I’m wondering where the beef is.”

Cornyn added that the deal increases airplane fees and that raises revenues, “but it’s for more spending” which is “heading in the wrong direction.”

“I think one of the things, the most important things, to do here in Washington is to rein in wasteful spending and to reform important safety net programs like Medicare and Social Security and this does none of that,” the Texas Republican said.

“As you can tell I’m skeptical,” he concluded.

Thune had similar thoughts on the budget deal in a statement sent to Breitbart.

“I have serious concerns about any agreement that breaks the budget caps set by the Budget Control Act without making meaningful spending reforms that address our debt and deficit,” the South Dakota senator said. “Irresponsible Washington spending and kicking the can down the road got us into this mess in the first place and have a responsibility to address the crisis.”

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

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