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Congress Tag

This morning negotiators from the United States and 11 Pacific rim countries announced that they had finally reached an accord on a free trade deal nearly a decade in the making. From the Wall Street Journal:
For the U.S., the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement opens agricultural markets in Japan and Canada, tightens intellectual property rules to benefit drug and technology companies, and establishes a tightknit economic bloc to challenge China’s influence in the region. President Barack Obama lauded the trade accord on Monday, saying it would open new markets to American products and set high standards for protecting workers and the environment. ... After dozens of rounds of negotiations and five days of haggling in Atlanta, trade ministers and other top officials said they resolved bitter fights over intellectual property protection for biologic drugs, automotive-assembly rules and dairy products.

First we had the IRS targeting American citizens, now we have the Secret Service targeting a sitting member of congress. What's next? Republican congressman Jason Chaffetz of Utah was basically singled out for a smear campaign. Noah Rothman reports at Commentary:
Another Targeting Scandal “This is scary. 1984 scary,” National Journal columnist Ron Fournier remarked on Thursday. “We’ve got an agency called ‘Secret Service’ targeting political enemies. Think about that.” Indeed. This week, the fraternity house that is United States Secret Service graduated from ribald antics and hijinks to the outright political intimidation of those who would dare spoil the good time. The specific target of the Secret Service’s botched decapitation strike was House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz. According to the Department of Homeland Security inspector general, the USSS assistant director tried to get some embarrassing information about the congressman into the public sphere in the effort to coerce Chaffetz to back off his investigation of the agency responsible for the personal safety of America’s most prominent political figures.

As expected, the Iran deal disapproval measure failed to win the requisite 60+ votes to invoke cloture in the Senate and allow a vote on the merits. The linked article describes the Congressional Democrats as: "overcoming ferocious Republican opposition and delivering President Barack Obama a legacy-making victory on his top foreign policy priority." But the reality is that Obama's side not only did not get a single Republican vote, it failed to get all the Democratic votes, either. So this was another bipartisan vote---but as usual with Obama, the bipartisanship was all on the side of the opposition to the president. This "victory" of Obama's, so "legacy-making," therefore consisted of Obama getting just enough Democrats on his side to block a vote on the merits (that vote to invoke cloture failed by a margin of two). Even had cloture gotten the necessary 60+, and the disapproval bill come to a vote and been passed, Obama would have vetoed it and there would not have been enough votes to override that veto.

As a member of Generation X, I have a very clear memory of 1970's TV shows. In the days before cable, our choices were limited but the quality of many shows was much higher. Every week, my entire family would sit down together to watch certain programs and one of them was Little House on the Prairie, which was based on a classic series of books by real life settler Laura Ingalls Wilder. You've probably heard of the show and the books, but you may not have heard that Melissa Gilbert, who played Laura Ingalls on TV, is running for congress in Michigan. From the Detroit Free Press:
Melissa Gilbert running for Congress Actress Melissa Gilbert, best known for her portrayal of Laura Ingalls Wilder on NBC’s “Little House on the Prairie” in the 1970s and ‘80s, said Monday she will run for Congress in Michigan’s 8th District -- though her campaign will have to tamp down questions about a tax bill. Gilbert, who lives in Livingston County with her husband, actor Timothy Busfield, is running as a Democrat in a district that has been a Republican stronghold in recent elections: U.S. Rep. Mike Bishop, R-Rochester, won the race to replace former U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Howell, last year, beating Democrat Eric Schertzing, 54%-42%.

The senate passed the Trade Promotion Authority bill yesterday but it did so without Ted Cruz who supported an earlier version of the bill. Janet Hook of the Wall Street Journal:
Ted Cruz Flips on Trade Bill on Eve of Key Senate Vote Sen. Ted Cruz, a free-trade advocate who had supported legislation to expedite trade agreements, on Tuesday flipped his position and announced on the eve of a crucial Senate vote that he was prepared to vote against a new version of the bill, demanding that GOP leaders assure him that they had made no “secret deal” to keep the controversial Export-Import Bank alive. “As a general matter, I agree (as did Ronald Reagan) that free trade is good for America; when we open up foreign markets, it helps American farmers, ranchers, and manufacturers,” Mr. Cruz said, announcing his switch in an op-ed for Breitbart News, a conservative website that has been a vigorous critic of the Trade Protection Authority (TPA) bill known as “fast track.” “But TPA in this Congress has become enmeshed in corrupt Washington backroom deal-making, along with serious concerns that it would open up the potential for sweeping changes in our laws that trade agreements typically do not include.”
Cruz was a guest on Special Report with Bret Baier last night and although questions from the panel included a wide array of topics, Cruz's switch on TPA was the very first one.

The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, conceived at the anti-Semitic 2001 Durban NGO Conference and rolled out with a 2005 boycott call from "Palestinian Civil Society," is a weapon to isolate, demonize and dehumanize Israel and Israeli Jews. As documented here hundreds of times, the goal of BDS is the destruction of Israel, though it is packaged in vague social justice language that leads many naive and ill-informed progressives to think it is only about the "occupation" of the West Bank. In fact, the leadership and founders of the BDS movement consider all of Israel "occupied" territory which must be liberated. That's why a leading chant at rallies is "From the River to the Sea, Palestine Will Be Free." The BDS movement has gained a lot of public attention in the past couple of years and is a hot topic of discussion, particularly at academic organizations like the American Studies Association, which have been taken over by anti-Israel faculty activists. The BDS movement's relentless false and defamatory propaganda against Israel is a key factor in the rise of anti-Semitic violence in Europe and even on some U.S. campuses. When a Synagogue in Paris was attacked in the summer of 2014, it started with a BDS rally. BDS is, in my terminology, the mother's milk of modern anti-Semitism.

Earlier today we provided full coverage of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's remarks to Congress, and watched the country react as the man many are now calling the de facto leader of the free world completely and utterly devastated President Obama's plans to strike a nuclear deal with Iran. During the speech, I noted that once things got rolling, the loss of the boycotting Democrats was barely noticed. What was noticed was how proud the membership in the chamber was of Netanyahu, and his resolve in the face of not just enemies in the Middle East, but also opposition from the US, historically one of Israel's closest allies. After the speech, Obama...he didn't give a statement. He pitched a fit:
Later, at the White House, Obama took issue with Netanyahu's comments as well as the invitation that led to his speech. "On the core issue, which is how do we prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, which would make it far more dangerous and would give it scope for even greater action in the region, the prime minister didn't offer any viable alternatives," he said. Asked before a meeting with Defense Secretary Ash Carter about Netanyahu speaking before Congress, Obama said the U.S. has a system of government where "foreign policy runs through the executive branch and the president, not through other channels."
Obama's response was bad. Pelosi's was almost worse:

We've provided extensive coverage of the drama surrounding Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's address to Congress---and now, the day has finally arrived. We'll be providing tweets and commentary below the fold. Where will Obama be while Netanyahu is speaking? Huddled in the situation room:
Obama will hold a video conference at 11:30 a.m. to discuss Ukraine and other foreign policy issues with British Prime Minister David Cameron, French President François Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and European Commission President Donald Tusk, according to an updated schedule released this morning.
Feed goes LIVE at 11 am: (Video troubles? You can also watch HERE, via C-SPAN.) Background: Obama Launches Preemptive Interview on Bibi Speech Netanyahu wins narrative at #AIPAC2015 Congressional Choice not Bibi v. Barack – but Western Civilization v. Iranian Mullahs Netanyahu at #AIPAC2015 (Live) Administration Attacks on Bibi Spur Bipartisan Support for Israel

What a mess this has become. Hell bent on pursuing legislation that would allow for the dissolution of Congressional powers (a.k.a. Obama's Executive immigration overreach), House Democrats refused to pass a short term funding bill for DHS. The bill would've funded DHS through March 19 and prevented an agency shut down. Unless a deal is reached and an appropriations bill is passed by midnight tonight, agency shutdown is imminent. Some 200,000 of DHS's 231,000+ are deemed 'essential' and would remain in place in the event of a shut down (as they did in the shut down of 2013), as NRO noted. Weeks ago, the House passed a DHS appropriations bill that sought to curb Obama's immigration overreach. Since the House bill's passage, Senate Democrats have continually filibustered, thus disallowing any Senate debate on the the House bill. Then, a judge in Texas issued a temporary injunction, preventing implementation of Obama's Executive immigration action; the same executive action Democrats insist on implementing. In an attempt to build a bridge across the impasse, the Senate passed a clean funding bill, creating a separate bill to address the president's Constitutional curb stomp.

Remember all those articles about Boehner planning to take revenge on Republicans who had opposed his Speakership? Remember how he was going to take away their committee positions as punishment? And remember how angry a great many people on the right got about it? I wrote this post about it at the time. But the next day I wondered:
...[T]here’s no real evidence that the retribution [by Boehner against his conservative enemies] is occurring... Now, I’m not saying it won’t happen. As I’ve written before, politics ain’t beanbag and people with power tend to reward those who support them and punish those who don’t. But it’s interesting that nothing much has really happened yet and yet we get all these reports that it’s happened or will happen. Who is making the reports? The MSM. Since their goal is to heighten the discord on the right, they have every motivation to spread rumors that will do just that. I’ll wait for something clearer before I will believe it’s happening. Again, I won’t be surprised if it happens. But it may not.
Now comes this article in National Journal entitled: "Boehner Foes Get Gavels, Not Punishment," and subtitled "The speaker's allies are annoyed that GOP rebels are getting top subcommittee slots." Here's an excerpt:

Republicans may have just executed a historical midterm coup, but the American people are still skeptical about the new Congress' ability to rebuild trust with the American people. The 113th Congress was famously divided---and famously unpopular. It ended 2014 with its approval rating bottomed out at 16%. A new poll conducted by Gallup at the very start of the 114th Congress shows that not much has changed: only 16% of Americans approve of the job Congress is doing, and a sky-high 76% of Americans disapprove of a body that has been at work for less than a month. This, of course, says less about faith in individual members, and more about how Americans feel in general about the way Washington has played politics over the past few years. The average American finds no enjoyment or catharsis in ugly floor fights and media battles, and the poll numbers reflect this disconnect between the glass-walled terrarium that is Washington politics, and the rest of the country. Still, data from previous sessions shows that this Congress still has an opportunity to redeem itself with its skeptical electorate. Gallup explains:

After years of political opposition, conflict, and even comparisons to our infamous involvement in Vietnam and southeast Asia, lawmakers---especially those up for re-election this year---are hesitant to send another round of money and troops into Iraq. Last week, Congress approved the funding required to arm and train Syrian rebels opposed to ISIS as part of a continuing resolution to fund the government through mid-December. When the CR expires, so will the funding for Syria, and top leaders in Congress are questioning President Obama's long term strategy for the Middle East. Via the AP:
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., haven't said whether they'll take up a broader authorization. Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who hopes to replace Reid as the Senate majority leader, also isn't committing to such a process; he was a major force in ensuring the training element of Obama's plan be kept on a short leash. "I lean toward giving the president more latitude, and some of my colleagues want to be more restrictive," Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a leading proponent of even more forceful military action, said. "I don't know if we'll work out those differences or not." Still, McCain faulted the Obama administration for not explicitly asking for Congress' blessing on the larger war strategy. "This is going to be an extended conflict, and they're going to need an authorization," he said. "And they're being very short-sighted by not asking for it.
On the other end of the spectrum from Senator McCain is Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), who voted "no" on the funding for training and arms for Syrian rebels:

Congressman Adam Schiff of California appeared on FOX News Sunday today and said rather plainly that congress has pretty much given up on the rules. Patrick Brennan of National Review has the details:
Dem Congressman: Is Congress Abdicating Its Consitutional War Powers? ‘Absolutely’ Asked this morning by Fox News’s Chris Wallace whether Congress is forfeiting its responsibilities by recessing before voting on whether to authorize a new war in Iraq and Syria, one Democratic congressman was blunt: “Absolutely,” California congressman Adam Schiff said. A member of the House intelligence committee, Schiff argued “the president has said this is a war, this is going to last years, this is quintessentially something that the Constitution empowered only Congress to declare.
Here's the video: Last week, Schiff wrote a piece for Time Magazine on the same subject:

I have obtained a copy of a letter circulating in Congress denouncing the academic boycott of Israel by the American Studies Association. The authors of the letter hope to have at least 50 co-signers (maybe more), split roughly evenly between Democrats and Republicans. Here is the text of the letter, with the initiating four Members of Congress inticated:
Mr. Curtis Marez President American Studies Association 1120 19th St NW, Suite 301 Washington, DC 20036 Dear Mr. Marez: We write in strong opposition to the American Studies Association’s (ASA) recent decision to boycott Israeli universities and academic institutions. While ASA has every right to express its views on policies pursued by any nation or government, we believe that the decision to blacklist Israeli academic institutions for Israeli government policies with which ASA disagrees demonstrates a blatant disregard for academic freedom. The ASA claims that the boycott “is in solidarity with scholars and students deprived of their academic freedom and it aspires to enlarge that freedom for all, including Palestinians.” We believe that this boycott accomplishes just the opposite. The university is an institution intended to foster, encourage, and inspire constructive dialogue and original thought. However, this boycott undermines academic freedom by prohibiting educational and cultural exchanges with Israeli universities and academic institutions.

Ballotpedia has compiled data on the average net worth of our elected officials for the years 2004 to 2010. As the average net worth of Congress has increased since 2004, and held about even from 2007 to 2010, the average American family net worth dropped...

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