Day: March 28, 2017

Road map to the Senate's nuclear option for confirming Gorsuch

With complications mounting for Republican efforts to rally 60 votes to confirm Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, you’re going to hear a lot in the next few weeks about the so-called “nuclear option.”

Here’s what it all means:

Let’s start with the mathematics.

There are 52 Republicans in the Senate and 48 senators who caucus with the Democrats.

It only takes a simple majority to confirm a Supreme Court nominee. But it takes 60 votes to break a filibuster on a Supreme Court nominee. Never before has there been a successful filibuster of a Supreme Court nominee.

The Senate filibustered the nomination of Associate Justice Abe Fortas to become chief justice of the United States in 1968. But Fortas was already on the Supreme Court. Nominees have withdrawn. President George W. Bush nominated Harriet Miers in 2005 before she pulled out, anticipating a rocky confirmation process. President Ronald Reagan tapped Douglas Ginsburg for the Court in 1987. But Ginsburg withdrew over his marijuana use. Twelve Supreme Court nominees went down to defeat outright on the Senate floor. The most recent Supreme Court nominee to stumble at confirmation came in 1987 when Reagan selected Robert Bork. Bork only garnered 42 ayes for confirmation and the nomination failed.

Senate Democrats have made it clear that they intend to filibuster Gorsuch and make Senate Republicans cough up 60 yeas to break their filibuster.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., insists that the Senate will fact confirm Gorsuch.

But how do they get there?

Republicans think they can persuade some Democratic senators who represent swing states who face re-election in 2018 to at least vote to break the filibuster (known as voting for cloture) if not voting to confirm Gorsuch. Those senators include Sens. Bill Nelson, D-Fla.; Joe Donnelly, D-Ind.; Angus King, I-Maine; Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich.; Claire McCaskill, D-Mo.; Jon Tester, D-Mont.; Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D.; Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio; Bob Casey, D-Pa.; Tim Kaine, D-Va.; Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.; and Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis.

But if not, Republicans are stuck. They can’t get Gorsuch to a final vote.

They say paybacks are hell. And both sides have a lot to say about paybacks right now.

For Democrats, this is about Republicans failing to ever hold a confirmation hearing for President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland. For Republicans, this is about Democrats taking the extraordinary step in 2013 to lower the bar to from 60 to 51 to break filibusters for all Executive Branch nominees except Supreme Court nominees.

This was known as the “nuclear option” and cast the Senate into “nuclear winter” for more than a year.

Both sides feel the other side wronged them. Now, this is about revenge.

Let’s go back to the fall of 2013 when Democrats teed up the nuclear option.

Democrats intensified their criticisms of Republicans when the GOP stalled the nomination of Patricia Millett to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. The Senate didn’t clear a procedural hurdle which required 60 votes to break a GOP filibuster of the Millett nomination.

The filibuster is the quintessence of the Senate. The right of the minority to stall and delay – even upend the agenda the majority party intends to advance. Stripping the Senate of at least part of that opportunity for dissent fundamentally changes the place. But these filibusters stymied general Senate business and drove Democrats up a wall.

So, they hit the nuclear button.

It should be noted that the “nuclear option” is not a rules change, but a change in precedent. But much of what the Senate does is based on precedent.

The Senate must be in a very unique parliamentary posture in order to detonate a “nuclear option.” It has to get onto a parliamentary item which is “non-debatable.” In other words, senators can’t demand more time to speak on a given topic, and a senator cannot appeal how the chair rules on a parliamentary question. That is the key. If a senator can challenge how the chair has ruled, they can gum up the works. But if the chair establishes a new precedent by ruling something to be in or out of order, no one can contest that ruling.

And therefore, the Senate establishes a new precedent.

This is how it worked in 2013: That year, then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., tried to proceed to consider again a failed vote to end debate on the Millett nomination for the D.C. Circuit. That motion was non-debatable … so the GOP couldn’t stop him. So, the Senate voted to make the failed vote the business at hand before the Senate.

At that point, Reid made a point of order that the votes required to break a filibuster on “all nominations other than for the Supreme Court of the United State States is by majority vote.” The presiding officer (a Democrat) ruled against Reid (this was pre-baked). After all, that was the old precedent. So Reid then appealed the chair’s ruling. That forced the Senate to vote on what the chair ruled: a simple majority wasn’t valid to end filibusters on Executive Branch nominees. Just a supermajority (60). But on the appeal, the Senate voted against the chair. That affirmed Reid’s position. The Senate overrode the chair’s ruling, establishing a new precedent to break filibusters on all nominations except the Supreme Court.

The Senate then voted to end the filibuster on the Millett nomination with just 55 yeas (not 60, as per the old way). The Senate then confirmed Millett, 56-38.

And thus, the Senate established a new precedent.

For a new nuclear option, McConnell would have to pitch the Senate into a special parliamentary posture in order to mimic Reid’s 2013 gambit and lower the bar to break a possible filibuster against Gorsuch.

The question is whether he has 51 senators (or 50 senators and Vice President Pence) willing to go along with the tactic. Keep in mind that Republicans were very sad that Reid hit the nuclear switch in 2013. They felt it diminished the Senate and its history of “unlimited debate.” Republicans and some Democrats didn’t like that the Senate was changing the bar for filibusters, because, well, they may like to filibuster a given issue sometime.

It is unclear if McConnell, an institutionalist, wishes to go that route. It is risky. And he may not even have the votes to get Republican senators to vote against the ruling of the chair to establish a new precedent to end filibusters on Supreme Court nominees.

There are also questions as to whether Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., may want to truly go to the mat on this nominee or put vulnerable Democratic senators up for re-election next year in challenging states on the hook. Confirming a conservative to take the place of a conservative like Antonin Scalia on the court may be okay for some Democrats. It doesn’t disrupt the balance of the court. But confirming another conservative to take the place of say, a liberal, like Ruth Bader Ginsburg, is entirely different.

There is another way for Gorsuch to wind up on the Supreme Court if he can’t overcome a filibuster: a recess appointment.

Article I, Section 5 of the Constitution says that “Neither House, during the Session of Congress, shall, without the Consent of the other, adjourn for more than three days, nor to any other Place than that in which the two Houses shall be sitting.” In other words, the House and Senate must earn the blessing of the other before taking off for more than three days. If they don’t, the House and Senate sometimes meet for just a few seconds at a time at three-day intervals with skeleton staff. These are called “pro-forma” sessions and constitute a “meeting” of the House or Senate.

The founders anticipated periodic congressional recesses. So to maintain the operation of government, the founders grafted a clause onto Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution. It states that “The President shall have Power to fill up all Vacancies that may happen during the Recess of the Senate.”

In 2012, President Obama made four recess appointments during a three-day respite between two pro-forma sessions. Opponents of the effort challenged the president’s appointments to the Supreme Court. Justices ruled Obama’s ploy to be unconstitutional. In National Labor Relations Board v. Canning, Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer wrote that it was out of bounds for the Executive Branch to tell the Legislative Branch what constitutes a recess.

“The Senate is in session when it says it is,” wrote Breyer in the majority opinion.

Moreover, the court also determined that a recess between three and 10 days is too abbreviated for a recess appointment. In other words, the Senate has to be gone for more than 10 days to make the recess appointment valid.

So, the Republican House and Senate would have to work together in order to engineer a recess, thus opening the door to a recess and giving Trump the window he needs for a possible recess appointment.

Recess appointments to the Supreme Court aren’t unprecedented. President Dwight Eisenhower advanced two individuals to the high court via recess appointments: William Brennan in 1956 and Potter Stewart in 1958. However, all recess appointments are temporary. The Senate later confirmed both Brennan and Stewart.

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Domestic abuse survivor finds love with first responder who helped her

Four years ago, Melissa Dohme got a phone call that turned her life upside down – for the worst and eventually the better.

The nursing student, then 20 years old, got a call from her ex-boyfriend about meeting one last time in Clearwater, Fla., to get some closure.

The meeting took a gruesome turn when he pulled out a switchblade and stabbed her 32 times.

“I felt the first three and not the rest,” she told Fox News on Tuesday. “The injuries were so severe.”


Ten months later, at a luncheon in her honor, Dohme met Cameron Hill, an emergency worker who carried her from an ambulance to a helicopter for treatment.

The two tied the knot in an outdoor wedding earlier this month.

“Cameron helped to learn to trust again, to feel safe – to put my heart out there again,” Dohme said. “He showed me what real love is.”

After the horrific attack, Dohme flat-lined four times, lost so much blood that she went into a coma, had a stroke and had facial paralysis.


Throughout her recovery, the now-25-year-old closed herself off to the possibility of love and told herself that she would be single for the rest of her life. She was OK with that.

However, when she met Hill, 42, it all started changing.

“I would think ‘I can’t believe how much I like him,’” Dohme recalled. “This was almost a year later – my whole life had transformed. He’s my best friend. I’m a normal person (again).”

She added: “I definitely wouldn’t be where I am without him. He cheers me on every day.”

Through her recovery, Dohme underwent more than 10 surgeries including two facial nerve reconstructions that helped her smile again. She had to wear an eyelid weight because she couldn’t close her eye.

The two got engaged in 2015 at a Tampa Bay Devil Rays game after she threw out the first pitch. They waited until Dohme was recovered from her nerve surgeries to walk down the aisle.


“I wanted to be able to smile on my wedding day,” she said.

It was all worth it.

A smiling Dohme, surrounded by 200 friends, family, EMTs and doctors who helped save her life, said ‘I Do.”

“The wedding day was the most beautiful day of my life,” she said. “So many good people helped me get me get here… The trauma surgeon was there and I want him to realize that he made this possible.”

Dohme said she got her “dream wedding” thanks to Brooke Palmer, a local wedding planner who was inspired by their story and donated her services. Other Tampa businesses donated their services for the wedding after hearing Dohme’s story.

“It was so incredible,” she added. “I can’t think of enough adjectives to explain it.”

Now, more than four years after the attack, Dohme is an advocate for domestic violence prevention at Hands Across the Bay.

“I know that God saved me for a reason because I shouldn’t have survived,” she said. “It’s my duty as a survivor to speak out. This is my life purpose.”

A judge in 2013 sentenced Dohme’s ex, Robert Burton, to life in prison for attempted murder.

Lucia I. Suarez Sang is a US/World News Editor/Writer for

She can be reached at

Follow her on Twitter @luciasuarezsang

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Calif. middle school losing funding because it has too many white students

Having too many white students will cost a California middle school funding and imperil the jobs of some teachers and others.

Last week the Los Angeles Unified School District informed parents of students at the Walter Reed Middle School in North Hollywood that because the white population had exceeded 30 percent, it had to make cuts.


Under provisions of a district policy, the school had qualified for additional funding, which enable the hiring of more teachers and having smaller classes, because it had a student body that  was 70 percent or higher of Hispanics, blacks, Asians and non-Anglos. However, in the last two years that percentage has fallen beneath the 70 percent level, meaning Walter Reed no longer qualified for those extra funds.

The announcement infuriated parents, who fear that class sizes will increase as the number of teachers and other school personnel decreases.


The parental outcry prompted the district to modify its planned funding cut.

“A school qualifies for PHBAO status if 70 percent or more of its students who live within the school’s attendance boundary are identified as ‘Hispanic, Black, Asian, or non-Anglo,’” the letter from Local District Northeast Superintendent Linda Del Cueto stated.

 “Under a court-ordered integration program that has been in place since 1978, PHBAO schools qualify for smaller class sizes and additional positions. When a school no longer qualifies for PHBAO status, fewer positions are funded.”

And so, the district still is going to pursue some cuts, Del Cueto said, just not as many as it would have under the original plan. The superintendent noted that the nurse, librarian and counselor will not be cut.

Critics said it was racist and did more harm than good.

“When your class sizes are getting larger and you’re taking resources away from students, I mean as parents, you do want your kid to go out to college,” one parent, Rosemary Estrada, was quoted as saying to the local ABC News affiliate.

Another parent, Sheila Edmiston, said: “Thankfully we’re going to keep our librarian. We’re going to keep our nurse, but we may lose a few teachers, but not as many as we once thought.”

People who posted comments online were pointed about their thoughts about the racial quota system for funding.

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NEED A WAKE-UP? 'Black Insomnia' may be world's strongest coffee

If you think your morning Starbucks is strong, wait till you take a sip of a new coffee now being sold in the U.S. for the first time ever.

Black Insomnia Coffee, which made its debut in South Africa last year, packs a serious punch. According to creator Sean Kristafor, the java jams 702 milligrams of caffeine into just 12 ounces. Compare that to a Tall Starbucks Pike Place, which has about 230 milligrams.

According to the coffee company, the makers sent bags of its coffee to a Swiss-based laboratory to confirm its claims as the world’s strongest brew. Samples were then tested via liquid chromatography (the separation of a mixture by passing it in a solution) and Black Insomnia was the strongest of those reviewed with 17.5 grams of caffeine per kilogram of coffee.

By comparison, “Death Wish” coffee was evaluated as having 13.2 grams per kilogram, while WodFee (marketed as the “world’s strongest coffee blend with added caffeine”) had 13.8 grams. A dark roast from Starbucks has around 5 grams of caffeine per kilogram, approximately.

According to Grub Street, the makers of the new “most caffeinated” coffee know that they have their work cut out for them marketing-wise. Black Insomnia allegedly discovered “nine different brands on Amazon” alone that claim some version of the title the Black Insomnia makers have allegedly proven to be scientifically theirs for the taking. 


And there’s more caffeine available, according to the coffee makers. They say they’ve actually reduced the amount of caffeine in their drink prior to making it available for consumption.

Black Insomnia may have dangerously high levels of caffeiene but the brand is already warning other coffees not to compete in an “attempt to surpass this content in the interest of public health and safety.”

The brew is available in 16-ounce bags online. In South Africa, a cold brew version and machine pods are available. 

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Powerful Cyclone Debbie slams into Australia – 'Idiot' caught surfing in giant storm

A powerful cyclone packing winds of up to 160 miles per hour roared across Australia’s tropical northeast on Tuesday, uprooting trees, tearing down fences and knocking out power to thousands, officials said.

Cyclone Debbie, which slammed into the coast of Queensland state as a fierce Category 4 storm, quickly began to weaken after making landfall near the resort town of Airlie Beach, the Australian Bureau of Meteorology said. By Tuesday night, it had been downgraded to a Category 2 storm, with wind gusting up to 95 miles per hour.


One man was injured after a wall collapsed in Proserpine, a town south of Airlie Beach, Queensland Police Commissioner Ian Stewart said. The man was taken to a hospital, where he was in stable condition.

The extent of the damage from the storm was not known as night fell across the region, but there were reports of roofs peeling from homes, fences crumbling and trees snapping in half. The idyllic Whitsunday Islands, a popular tourist destination, were hit particularly hard, with one recorded wind gust of 163 miles per hour, the meteorology bureau reported.


The slow-moving storm pounded the coastal region for hours, creating what Stewart called a “battering ram effect,” with the same areas enduring the howling winds and drenching rains for a punishingly long time.

Communities along more than 190 miles of coastline were expected to be impacted, Stewart said.

Australia’s military was sending vehicles, aircraft and supplies to the region, with soldiers focusing on clearing debris and reopening roads, State Recovery Coordinator Brigadier Chris Field said.

John Collins, a member of the Whitsundays government council, was sheltering from the storm with his wife and four daughters inside their house in Proserpine. He could see that four of his neighbors’ sheds had been destroyed and every house within sight — including his own — had lost their fences. At least four trees had been smashed to pieces.

“It sounds like you got a jumbo jet sitting on the roof of your house,” Collins said by telephone of the wind roaring outside. “It really is so loud. It’s incredible.”

Collins’ wife and two of their daughters were so scared they were hiding under blankets. Meanwhile, one of his other daughters — whom he described as “a real weather nerd” — was enthralled with the storm, and was diligently listening to the radio for updates on its path. The family’s power had been out since Tuesday morning, and they were resigned to several more hours of waiting until it was safe to emerge from their house.

“It’s just going on and on and on,” he said.

Thousands of people evacuated low-lying areas in the storm’s path on Monday. Hundreds of schools were closed on Tuesday and more than 50,000 households were without power.

“Conditions have deteriorated rapidly,” Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said in an address to Parliament. “Take care and stay safe. Be prepared to shelter in place until Wednesday.”

The storm also poses a serious threat to the farming region’s crops. The area produces sugarcane and a wide range of fruits and vegetables, including tomatoes, mangoes and peppers.

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'Duck:' What you don’t know

Sadie Robertson of “Duck Dynasty” fame is one of the busiest 19-year-olds in the entertainment business.

After the success of her family’s reality show, a stint on “Dancing with the Stars,” landing roles in movies and writing several books, Robertson isn’t slowly down anytime soon.

Here are some surprising facts about Sadie Robertson that she exclusively shared with Fox News.

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Biggest dino print found


Mar. 28, 2017 – 1:22 – The biggest dinosaur footprint ever found, measures at about 5 feet 9 inches. A Team of paleontologists from the University of Queensland and James Cook University discovered 21 different types of fossils in area dubbed, ‘Australia’s Jurassic Park’

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Truth about flour tortillas

In Chicago,  more than a few tortillerias supply fresh tortillas to grocery stores big and small across the city. This does wonders for Taco Tuesday. 

But if you can’t find them fresh, there are plenty of supermarket options. Store-bought tortillas are a $12 billion industry, and if you haven’t noticed, the supermarket is stacked with options, from mini “street taco” tortillas, to gluten-free, whole-grain, and low-carb ones (arguably toeing the line between tortilla and wrap, but that’s another story), to everyone’s childhood favorite, the hard-shell taco. A pumpkin spice tortilla can’t be far behind.

The shelf-stable tortilla is a relatively recent phenomenon, says Stephen Jones, a wheat breeder and director of the Bread Lab at Washington State University. (The exception is the hard-shell taco, which dates to the late 1940s.) “Tortillas always used to be refrigerated,” says Jones, who led development of a preservative-free tortilla for the Chipotle restaurant chain.

So how did we go from a four-ingredient tortilla to a 14-ingredient one? In a nutshell: food science. Here’s how to make sense of all that the tortilla aisle has to offer.

Tortilla basics

You can count on one hand the number of ingredients in a traditional tortilla.

A flour tortilla contains flour, salt, water, oil, and, usually, a leavening agent. For a corn tortilla, it’s corn, lime—as in calcium hydroxide—salt, and water. (oaking corn in this lime solution, a process called nixtamalization, makes the corn easier to grind into fresh masa and its nutrients more available and easier to digest. That said, most supermarket corn tortillas start not with masa but masa harina flour.

If your store stocks fresh, locally made tortillas like mine does, the ingredients on the package will read something like the above.

“Any deviation from that, in terms of what else is in there, is there to make the process more simple—that’s probably truer for flour tortillas than corn—to make [the tortilla] last longer, and to make it more pliable,” says Jones.

So what else is in a typical store-bought tortilla?

A lot! Guar gum and cellulose gum keep tortillas soft. Other additives such as fumaric acid, phosphoric acid, sorbic acid, and calcium propionate have dual roles as dough conditioners and preservatives, Jones says.

Depending on the brand and the style of tortilla—super soft seems to be the ideal quality tortilla-makers strive for—there might be sweeteners and other starches and stabilizers that help with texture and shelf life.

“It’s tough to wrap something with a cold tortilla, so that’s why a lot of that stuff is in there. They’re incredibly pliable, which is not a natural state. That takes some chemistry,” says Jones.

The best way to buy tortillas

Buy in quantities you know you’re going to use and read the labels. Better-quality tortillas will have fewer ingredients, all of which you should be able to pronounce. Locally made ones are as fresh as you can get. They won’t have been sitting for weeks, on a truck en route to the store and then on the shelf in the store, like typical industrial tortillas.

With flour tortillas, check if they’re made with bleached or unbleached flour and go with unbleached if possible. Common bleaching agents include acetone peroxide and benzoyl peroxide—as in, acne-fighting benzoyl peroxide, says Jones.

What’s the shelf life of tortillas?

A long time, if we’re talking mass-market ones; a few days for freshly made.

The typical shelf life for a pack of flour or corn tortillas is anywhere from 16 to 45 days—a little longer for those sold in the refrigerated section—and up to six months for taco shells, according to Mission Foods, a leading brand whose parent company dominates the U.S. tortilla market.

Check the date on the package. Once you open it, the tortillas will keep until that date whether stored in your pantry or the fridge, according to Mission.

But do you really want to eat a three-month old tortilla? Better to think of tortillas as you do fresh produce, says Jones. Buy and use what you can right away, freeze what you don’t use within a day or two—tortillas freeze well, in airtight packaging—and thaw them in the fridge. Taco Night will be here again before you know it.

More: How to Make Fresh Corn Tortillas at Home

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Notre Dame hosts Charles Murray, braces for protests

Controversial author Charles Murray is scheduled to speak at the University of Notre Dame on Tuesday and despite growing calls for protests from some students and faculty, organizers are standing behind the invitation.

The event comes weeks after violent protests broke out at Middlebury College where Murray was set to speak.

The 74-year-old author of “Coming Apart: The State of White America” was invited to the Catholic university as part of a lecture series for a constitutional law and politics class.


Kate Hardiman, a senior who is organizing the event, told “Fox and Friends” on Tuesday morning it was “unfortunate” that students have promised to protest against Murray.

“I think that the majority of Notre Dame students are committed to free speech and open dialogue on campus and that these protests are being driven by a very vocal minority who seek to disrupt the event,” she said. “This is part of a larger trend of students who want to shut down ideas that they find disagreeable. The irony is that ‘tolerance’ is the watchword on campuses these days, yet only certain ideas are apparently worthy of being tolerated.”


The calls for protest at Notre Dame came just weeks after the violent protests broke out at Middlebury, a small liberal arts college in Vermont, where Murray also was set to speak. Demonstrators interrupted Murray’s speech and the event was forced to be canceled after the protests turned violent, sending one professor to the hospital.

In a letter to alumni last week, college President Laurie L. Patton condemned the violence and reiterated the college’s commitment to free speech and dialogue.

“A 21st century education must embrace an uncompromising commitment both to free speech and to open dialogue that creates a more inclusive public sphere,” she wrote, according to VermontBiz. “Free speech must be defended on all sides, and only through this principle will we achieve the work of making society more inclusive.”

Vincent Phillip Muñoz, the Notre Dame professor who invited Murray to speak, stood behind the invitation, saying in an op-ed on Real Clear Politics that rescinding it would “communicate that violence works.”

Notre Dame prof: Why I invited Charles Murray to speak

“I want my conservative students to read smart, persuasive liberal thinkers, and I want my liberal students to read thoughtful conservatives,” he wrote. “Educated citizens can give reasons for their beliefs and can defend intellectually the positions they hold. That requires that we understand and articulate the positions with which we disagree.”

He said that while he appreciates the concerns for the wellbeing of students, he believes that “what is most harmful to students – and, to speak candidly, most patronizing – is to ‘protect’ our students from hearing arguments and ideas they supposedly cannot handle.”

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TLC makes big announcement

“Trading Spaces,” the addictive home design show that ran in the early 2000s, is returning to TLC, the network announced Tuesday. 

Nancy Daniels, TLC’s president and general manager, took a deep breath before making the announcement at the Discovery Communications Upfront presentation. 

“This is a big one,” she told the room of reporters and advertisers before sharing the news. 

“I am excited to announce that TLC’s most successful and most iconic series… ‘Trading Spaces’ is coming back.”

Her word were met with mild applause. 

Daniels said the show would return in 2018.

“Trading Spaces” went off the air in 2008. The concept of the series was pretty simple: Neighbors would swap houses and work with big-personality professionals to revamp a room in their neighbors’ home. Sometimes things went well, and other times the neighbors hated the renovations. It was a top show for the network during a large portion of its run. 

Daniels did not immediately provide any additional information about the reboot, but revamped classic shows are becoming a theme at Discovery Communications as of late. On Monday, news broke that “Cash Cab” is set to return to Discovery and “Mythbusters” is also headed back to the network this year. 

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