National briefs: Senate to vote on Ukraine bill

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WASHINGTON -- Democrats backed down Tuesday and removed a hurdle blocking passage of legislation to aid Ukraine and sanction Russia for its military incursion into Crimea.

With tens of thousands of Russian troops massed on Ukraine's eastern border, Senate Democrats decided it was more important to denounce Russia, codify sanctions against Russian President Vladimir Putin's inner circle and aid Ukraine rather than push right now for International Monetary Fund changes.

The Senate set a vote on the altered bill for Thursday. The House Foreign Affairs Committee on Tuesday approved its version of the measure and it appeared Congress could send its first retort to Russia's annexation of Crimea before the end of the week.

Monument to reopen

WASHINGTON -- After 32 months and $15 million in repair work, the Washington Monument will reopen for public tours May 12, the National Park Service said Tuesday.

The monument has been closed since a 5.8-magnitude earthquake struck the Washington region on Aug. 23, 2011. For months, the 555-foot-tall monument was encased in 500 tons of scaffolding, inside and out, as workers repaired cracks and places where stone had been shaken loose.

Channel partially open

HOUSTON -- One of the nation's busiest seaports partially reopened to ship traffic Tuesday, the Coast Guard said.

There was no estimate when the Houston Ship Channel will be reopened fully, or how long it will take to clear the backlog of more than 100 vessels waiting to get through.

The channel was closed Saturday after a collision between an oil barge and a ship led to a spill of about 168,000 gallons into the waters used by craft serving refineries.

2 killed at naval base

NORFOLK, Va. -- A civilian approaching a destroyer at the world's largest naval base late at night took a weapon from a sailor who was standing watch and used it to shoot and kill another sailor who was trying to help his embattled colleague, Navy officials said Tuesday.

Navy security forces killed the suspect, who was authorized to be on Naval Station Norfolk and did not bring his own weapon on base, officials said. The identities of the civilian and the sailor who were killed Monday have not been released. It wasn't immediately clear why the civilian approached the USS Mahan or if he ever had access to it previously.

Justice Dept. selection

WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration has selected Karl Remón Thompson, a counselor to Attorney General Eric Holder as acting head of the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, the once-obscure agency that has become more prominent amid highly charged legal policy disputes in the war against al-Qaida.

On Monday, Mr. Holder appointed Mr. Thompson to replace Caroline Krass, who was confirmed earlier this month as general counsel of the CIA.

Also in the nation ...

An emergency track-side braking system activated but failed to stop a Chicago commuter train from jumping the tracks and barreling to the top of an escalator at O'Hare International Airport on Monday, a federal investigator said Tuesday. More than 30 passengers were injured. ... An investigation by a state prosecutor in Florida has found that the FBI agent based in Boston who shot and killed a Chechen man who was being interrogated in Orlando, Fla., about his connections to the Boston Marathon bombing suspects should not be prosecuted.

-- Compiled from news services

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