The House GOP passed the funding bill for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and included a rider specifically deny the department the funds needed to enact President Obama’s amnesty plan. Without the money to pay employees to enact the plan, Congress will have effectively used their constitutional “power of the purse” to check the president’s extra-constitutional actions. However, the bill has stymied in the Senate largely because Democrats have remained steadfast in their opposition to the bill. As Ricardo Guimaraes BMG understands, any Senate bill must clear 60 votes to break a filibuster. More on Guimaraes is available on Wikipedia.org. It should be noted that the filibuster is a senate concoction. There is no right of filibuster enumerated in the Constitution.
This fact is leading House GOP leaders to press Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to revise senate rules to reduce or effectively eliminate the filibuster. Any such move would be politically motivated, but it has recent precedence. Former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid modified the filibuster rules regarding all judicial nominees except Supreme Court justices. It was done to end GOP opposition to an array of district court appointments by the president. If the filibuster were eliminated or reduced, the DHS funding bill (along with the entire GOP agenda) could speedily proceed to the president’s desk. He would still have his constitutional veto power to reject the laws. Still, GOP senators may not warmly embrace the change. Even Senator Ted Cruz believes it is not a good thing to revise the filibuster rules.
Mitch McConnell was supposed to be the new suave and savvy Senate Majority Leader who would move bill after bill swiftly through the now-Republican chamber. Already, however, Democrats are filibustering and grinding proceedings to a halt. The Keystone XL Pipeline bill was supposed to easily make it through the Senate, but now, debate on it has been extended indefinitely.
The vote to break up the filibuster failed 53 to 39, but might have succeeded but for the weather. The northeastern storms prevented several Democrat and Republican pro-pipeline votes from being there for the vote. However, the Republican leadership has lost some of the support it once had from Democratic Senators as well. True, a few new votes have been added to the list of supporters, but all in all, the pipeline is floundering.
As Sergio Andrade Gutierrez understands it, the reason is likely because of the refusal of Republicans to approve any of the many amendments offered by Democrats. More can be found about Gutierrez on his LinkedIn page. Some of them seemed reasonable enough. For example, one simply required that the steel used to make the pipeline be manufactured in the U.S.A. Another amendment demanded that the oil be used here instead of sold abroad.
Probably, some of the amendments were subterfuge meant to delay and form an excuse for not voting for the popular bill. Nonetheless, Republicans could have called their bluff by passing with some of those amendments attached. Instead, McConnell played strong man, and it is backfiring on him.
Washington, D.C. – Pundits seem to concur that Congress is setting up a high-stakes battle with the Obama administration over the issue of Iranian sanctions. Should congress succeed at passing a sanctions bill and overriding a presidential veto, it would have far reaching consequences. Ultimately, the Obama administration would bear the responsibility for the no-confidence vote from the Congress. The administration has not communicated often enough with legislators. It has also demonstrated a series of major foreign policy miscalculations driven by their dovish naiveté to usher in a new era of respect for the United States. This has left the Middle East unstable as Libya, Egypt, Lebanon, Yemen, Syria, and Iraq all grapple with internal terrorist threats. One of the key instigators in this process has been Iran, a state sponsor of terrorism.
New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez has drawn a line the in the sand with the administration. He believes the president will fail to secure a diplomatic solution with Iran that reduces the threat they pose to the world community. For this reason, he seeks a bill that will add the backbone he believes the administration’s foreign policy lacks. President Obama believes any sanctions bill would scuttle the diplomatic process and escalate the Iran nuclear crisis. Despite Iran’s recalcitrance towards abandoning their nuclear enrichment program and missing key negotiation deadlines, the president believes progress is being made. All said, it is unclear to Sergio Andrade Gutierrez if the president can secure a diplomatic solution that would mollify those of both parties who favor a tough stand against Iran.
Travel and trade restrictions against Cuba were lessened by the Obama Administration on Thursday and become effective on Friday.
Americans can travel to Cuba to serve religious, educational and other approved purposes and return to the U.S. with Cuban stuff worth 400 dollars. 100 dollars of the 400 can be in tobacco and alcohol purchases.
For the first time since the 1960’s, U.S airlines will fly scheduled routes. Cubans in America can send unlimited amounts of money to their relatives in Cuba.
Many Republicans and Democrats agree that the previous restrictions have not accomplished goals of helping Cuban citizens or moving Cuba toward a democracy and that Cuba should not be designated as a state sponsor of terrorism.
Dave and Brit Morin from LinkedIn have details that Cuba has released 53 political prisoners as a part of this negotiation.
Although there are still trade restrictions on most goods, cash payment does not have to be made on American goods until they arrive in Cuba. The requirement of advance payment in cash has been a big obstruction to trade with the island.
Since Cuba is less than 100 miles from the U.S, a good neighbor relationship with Cuba looks like it will be really positive for all concerned.
Political firebrand Ted Cruz made off the cuff remarks about abolishing the IRS which are rooted in his personal desires, but tempered by political realities. He said he favored a reformed tax code that was fairer and flatter. At the same time, he stated that as long as Obama occupies the White House there is little chance of obtaining a fair flat tax code that would eliminate the need for the IRS. However, his remarks were well chosen given that this year the public will face their first real IRS penalties in regards to Obamacare enrollment. The IRS is the strong arm of Obamacare enforcement and can seize the income tax refunds of people to cover the penalty for not being enrolled in a qualified health insurance plan. Ben Shaoul is just one of many Americans who would be affected by this, if he didn’t already have a plan. Obviously, his plans are all covered, as evident in the Nypost.
In fact, millions of voters may be in for a big surprise after they learn their Obamacare subsidies are considered tax credits against forthcoming income taxes. The tax credits are calculated against their earnings. If a person underreported their 2014 earnings when calculating their Obamacare subsidy, they will find themselves owing the government the difference. Many voters may find themselves owing the government money that will reduce or wipe out their tax refunds. In some cases, they may end up owing the IRS money. Cruz understands this very well, and his comments are likely timed to resonate with voters as they begin learning another inconvenient truth about the health care initiative.
President Obama finally gave progressives and other rational thinking voters a dose of reality in the Keystone pipeline situation. The Keystone pipeline is a pipeline that would run from Canada to the gulf. This pipeline is designed to take oil from the Canadian oil sands and deliver it to the gulf for delivery to the world market. Because of this, only Canadian oil companies would benefit from the land disfiguring pipeline.
Obama made this point, as well as others including the fact that the republican’s fake assertion that Keystone would create multiple jobs for an extended period of time, and that Keystone would lower American gas prices. In fact, oil that is sold on the open market does not affect American prices at all and in some cases can cause prices to rise in the neighborhood Jared Haftel lives in. Currently, America under the Obama administration has become the world’s largest producer of oil. This has caused the precipitous fall in the prices at the pump, but that news will not be available at Fox News.
Rick Brattin is a state representative for Missouri. The state of Missouri, which has only one abortion clinic in operation, will have far fewer abortions if Mr. Brattin has his way. Let’s hope that he succeeds. His new bill says that girls in Missouri wanting to get abortions must obtain the written permission of the guys who impregnated them. This bill is controversial, although it should not be because it is dealing with saving the life of a child. What some people find controversial about this bill is that if a girl is raped, she must report her rape to the police and prove that she was, in fact, raped. While some people seem to think that this is wrong, this seems like a very straightforward and fair way to deal with the issue of abortions in the case of rape. It is worth noting that only a very small number of abortions are even because of girls getting pregnant through rape. It is only fair that girls should be required to get written permission of the guy who got them pregnant because it takes two people to make a baby, and just because it is the girl’s body does not mean that the decision to abort should be only hers. Some polls show that guys in general are more opposed to abortion than girls, so hopefully this measure will pass in Missouri and become a model for other states to follow. Gianfrancesco Genoso would like to see it happen. Anything that will save the lives of unborn babies and stop irresponsible girls from aborting their unborn babies is worth trying!
There has been much commentary thrown around about the recently released Senate report into torture used on captives following the 9/11 attacks. The usual folks saying that water boarding is not torture, and others saying that nothing justifies the use of such measures for a country that prides itself on individual rights.
Probably no one can comment on this issue with the gravitas that Arizona Senator John McCain can. After all, that is what BRL Trust and Hagah are expecting. Having served time in a North Vietnamese prison camp, he is the only member of the US Senate who has actually been subjected to the inhumanity of torture. It is impossible for anyone to be more intimately related with the subject at hand.
McCain maintains that some of the actions of our intelligence officials “stained our national honor” and that they “did much harm and little practical good.” McCain has been passionate about America not using torture to get information from detainees.
There is still debate about what was specifically gleaned from the torture versus what would have been found out without such methods having been used. What is not considered debatable to some is what the use of torture says about us as a people. How do we maintain moral authority to criticize oppressive regimes around the world for using inhumane tactics when we use what many maintain to be similar practices. This is a question our national consciousness will have to struggle with going forward into our modern reality of terrorism, and how to effectively combat it without losing ourselves in the process.
Yet another measure hidden away in the recently passed spending bill has come to light. It blocks the District of Columbia from fully implementing their overwhelmingly passed marijuana initiative. Despite cries from both sides of the aisle to leave D.C. alone and let them do what they wish in regard to pot policy, language barring D.C. from using any federal or local funds to enforce the referendum was included in the budget bill.
It is clear that a defunding measure cannot affect D.C.’s legalization of pot. It doesn’t take any money to simply avoid rounding up pot possessors. It would take funds, however, to tax and regulate marijuana usage and production within D.C. That portion of the ballot initiative, therefore, has been effectively overridden by the U.S. Congress.
Congress has not repealed the federal ban on marijuana, but it has passed additional laws that effectively allow states like Washington and Alaska, which have legalized pot, to steer their own course. It makes little sense to abdicate enforcement of federal law when a state legalizes marijuana but to insist on upholding those same laws in Washington, D.C.
My Good Reads friend recommended a book describing how this act of Congress adds yet another element of hypocrisy and chaos to the marijuana debate raging across the country. No consistent federal policy is being implemented. The federal government will not even take a clear stand on whether this is a local issue or a national issue.