The World-Herald’s Washington Bureau rounds up news highlights from Capitol Hill and beyond.

Lawmakers were away from Washington last week as they visited foreign countries, held town halls, attended Memorial Day parades or simply took some vacation time.

While they were gone, trade disputes continued to put the hurt on Midwestern farmers, and the Trump administration signed off on a key rule for the ethanol industry.

Three Nebraska spellers gave it their best at the Scripps National Spelling Bee but fell short of the finals. In the end, an unprecedented eight contestants were crowned as co-champions. In other news:

Mueller speaks. Special Counsel Robert Mueller made his first public appearance to talk about his report on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Mueller did not take questions from reporters but did say that if he’d had confidence that the president did not commit a crime he would have made that clear.

Most Republicans in Congress are eager to move on from the matter, but Democrats seized on Mueller’s comments to press for further investigations.

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His comments also drew reaction from Democratic candidates such as Ann Ashford, who is seeking the party’s nomination in Nebraska’s Omaha-based 2nd District.

Ashford called on Congress to take steps to prevent future election interference, such as criminalizing the failure to report foreign offers of assistance.

“Above all else — including all political considerations — it is Congress’ job to do everything in their rightful power to protect the Constitution of the United States of America,” Ashford said in a statement.

Kara Eastman, who is likewise seeking the Democratic nomination in the 2nd District, also weighed in.

“The Russians clearly interfered in the 2016 election,” she tweeted. “Yet, this current administration is doing nothing to hold Russia and the President accountable. It’s time to move past partisan politics and demand justice.”

Fixing up the airports. Eppley Airfield will receive $2.8 million for taxiway rehabilitation in a round of discretionary grants from the U.S. Department of Transportation, according to a press release from Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb.

Other airports in Nebraska also will receive grants — $562,158 for apron and runway rehabilitation at McCook’s airport, nearly $2.2 million for an aircraft rescue and firefighting building at Grand Island’s and $738,861 for runway rehabilitation at Norfolk’s.

“These continued investments in our state’s infrastructure provide for major improvements and will make a big difference in our state’s future,” Fischer said.

Disaster relief coming. The House is expected to pass a bipartisan $19 billion disaster aid package when lawmakers return to Capitol Hill early this week, a measure that will include funding to help Nebraska and Iowa recover from this year’s devastating floods.

Members of the Nebraska and Iowa congressional delegations all showed support for disaster relief last month.

The Senate passed its version before leaving for Memorial Day break, but that was after House members had already departed.

The plan was for the House to sign off by unanimous consent, but a few conservative Republicans objected.

They complained about the spending in the bill as well as the absence of President Donald Trump’s desired funding to address the situation at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Although only a small number of GOP lawmakers were responsible for the holdup, Democrats sought to hold the party responsible more broadly.

“Every day that House Republicans obstruct and delay, more American families are left to suffer,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said in a statement. “This sabotage is unconscionable, dangerous and must stop.”

Reporter - Politics/Washington D.C.

Joseph Morton is The World-Herald Washington Bureau Chief. Morton joined The World-Herald in 1999 and has been reporting from Washington for the newspaper since 2006. Follow him on Twitter @MortonOWH. Email:joseph.morton@owh.com

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