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September 22, 2014

Posts in "Barack Obama"

September 18, 2014

ISIS or ISIL? On the Hill, Depends on Whom You Ask

 

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One protester used ISIL at a congressional hearing, but the term ISIS is more common. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Is it “ISIS,” “ISIL,” or something else entirely? On Capitol Hill, the answer depends on whom you ask — and neither party labels nor ideological leanings seem to have any bearing on the answer.

For many lawmakers, broadcasters and the reprehensible group itself, the term of choice is clearly ISIS, which stands for the “Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.” The terrorists rebranded themselves as the “Islamic State” in July, and the acronym ISIS has grown exponentially in notoriety and infamy in the wake of the brutal videotaped beheadings of three Westerners, including two Americans. Full story

September 17, 2014

House Votes to Arm Syrian Rebels; CR Passes (Updated) (Video)

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Boehner, left, and McCarthy pushed through a continuing resolution that includes support for the president’s request to train and arm Syrian rebels. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 7:03 p.m. | After voting to give President Barack Obama the authority to arm and train Syrian rebels, the House passed legislation Wednesday to fund the government until Dec. 11, moving the bill to avoid a government shutdown and address Islamic State organizations to the Senate.

House lawmakers voted 319-108 to pass the continuing resolution, with 143 Democrats joining 176 Republicans in support of the measure. 55 Democrats and 53 Republicans voted against the bill.

A vote on the spending bill, which will continue government spending through Dec. 11 at a $1.012 trillion level, was delayed last week so lawmakers could attach a request from the president to give him Title 10 authority to fight the Islamic State group.

That authority would allow the Obama administration to equip Syrian rebels for the intended purpose of fighting ISIL, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, also referred to as ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

Obama praised the House and urged the Senate to follow suit on the legislation, which he reiterated is not an authorization for the use of U.S. troops in Syria.

“Today’s vote is another step closer to having the authorization to train and equip vetted elements of the moderate Syrian opposition so they can defend themselves against, and ultimately push back on, ISIL forces,” he said in a statement.  Full story

Pelosi Backs Obama, but Says ‘We Just Don’t Whip War Votes’ (Video)

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Pelosi: “We just don’t whip war votes.” (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

House Democratic leaders aren’t whipping votes on the continuing resolution and an amendment to give President Barack Obama authority to arm Syrian rebels against the terrorist group the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL.

But Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi used her regularly-scheduled Wednesday morning news conference to make an impassioned case for members to support their president.

“I don’t know how the vote will turn out,” the California Democrat said. “It’s not a vote we whip. We just don’t whip war votes. But I do think that, as members weigh the factors, that they will, I think, give points to the president for all that he has done, diplomatically, politically, humanitarian-wise and ask for this distinct piece.” Full story

September 16, 2014

Bipartisan Bloc Coalesces Behind CR, Syrian Rebels Amendment

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Despite reservations, Democrats are lining up behind the House GOP’s proposed continuing resolution and an underlying amendment on Syria, Hoyer said. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Despite lingering reservations on both sides of the aisle, a coalition of Republicans and Democrats is coming together behind proposals to arm Syrian rebels and fund the government beyond Sept. 30.

Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer confirmed Tuesday that, despite some provisions his colleagues don’t like — namely a reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank through only June 30, 2015 — Hoyer and a significant bloc of Democrats would not withhold their support on the continuing resolution. “You don’t get perfect,” Hoyer told reporters at his weekly pen-and-pad briefing.

The Maryland Democrat also said Democrats would support an amendment proposal from Armed Services Chairman Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Calif., that would give the Obama administration the authority it requested to arm and train Syrian rebels in order to combat Islamic terrorists.

With the support from Democrats, passage of the CR and adoption of the Syria amendment look increasingly assured. There are plenty of remaining concerns regarding the trustworthiness of the Syrian rebels. But with Republican and Democratic leadership supporting the measure — not to mention the White House, which has been calling members to drum up support for the proposal — passage of the CR does not appear to be in doubt. Full story

September 15, 2014

McCarthy Suggests Post-Election Vote Authorizing Military Force

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McCarthy signals a post-election vote authorizing use of military force. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Emerging from a GOP leadership meeting Monday evening, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy signaled that, after the midterm elections, there’s a decent chance the House holds a new vote authorizing military force in the Middle East.

Asked during an impromptu hallway interview with a gaggle of reporters whether the House would be working on a new Authorization for Use of Military Force to combat Islamic State terrorists, McCarthy said that “after November,” he thought there would be an “opportunity” to at least debate an AUMF.

“I know a lot of members would want start to have that debate, or at least have that discussion, but I think everyone needs to have more information,” the California Republican said. Full story

Path Forward on CR, Title 10 Authority Starts to Crystalize

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(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

After postponing consideration last week of a stop-gap spending measure to fund the government past Sept. 30, House GOP leaders are poised in the days ahead to bring that same piece of legislation to the floor.

That vote, however, will now likely be coupled with consideration of an amendment to the underlying bill that would authorize the Obama administration to train and arm Syrian rebels against the insurgent terrorist organization known as the Islamic State or ISIS.

This bifurcated approach would make it considerably easier for members — on both sides of the aisle — to vote against the ISIS language but not the continuing resolution, taking off the table the threat of a revolt large enough to risk another government shutdown. Full story

September 11, 2014

No. 2 House Democrat Predicts Two-Part Vote on ISIS Request

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Hoyer predicts two House votes on the president’s ISIS authority request. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer said Thursday afternoon that he expects Congress will vote next week to grant President Barack Obama authority to arm Syrian rebels against the insurgent terrorist group known as the Islamic State or ISIS.

But the Maryland Democrat also said he expected that that vote wouldn’t be Congress’s last word on the subject.

“I believe a two-step process is what we will, I think, pursue,” Hoyer told CQ Roll Call and the Washington Post on Thursday during a taping of the C-SPAN program “Newsmakers,” set to air on Sunday morning. “I think there will be consideration of the president’s request to train and equip regional players.”

Then, after the elections, Hoyer said he anticipated “consideration of a larger authorization for the use of military force.”

Full story

Deadline for Obama’s Immigration Action Hard to Pin Down (Video)

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Grisham and other Hispanic lawmakers took their immigration overhaul concerns to the administration. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

End of the year? By Christmas? By Thanksgiving?

There seems to be some disagreement among the supporters of immigration rights as to when, exactly, President Barack Obama will step in with his promised unilateral action.

But overall, frustrated advocates seemed more optimistic Thursday after a clear-the-air session with White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough.

McDonough told reporters that the president would act on immigration “before the end of the year” as he left a meeting with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

CHC Whip Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, D-N.M., said McDonough told them the president would act “by the holiday season.”

Rep. Luis V. Gutiérrez, D-Ill. who attended the meeting, talked about a “Thanksgiving blessing” a day earlier in an interview on MSNBC, but on Thursday, he was referring to a “holiday season” deadline as well.

“We are moving forward. And this will be a season, the season, you know, I’ve said this: The holiday season must be a blessing for millions of undocumented families across America,” Gutiérrez said, “where they too can, you know, reap the rewards of their bountiful work for the year.”

The talk of immigration action around the holidays mirrored a statement by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Thursday that there would be movement “by Thanksgiving or Christmas.”

The CHC members said they expressed their frustration with the president delaying action until after the November elections.

“There were a range of emotions expressed, including frustration and anger,” Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, said.

The members leaving the meeting would not talk in detail about how exactly McDonough said the president is willing to address the immigration system.

However, one member, who asked to speak on background to discuss the meeting, said it was clear “the president’s going to go as far as he can under the law.”

Gutiérrez and other advocates have suggested the president has the authority to at least temporarily defer the deportation of up to as many as 5 million of the nation’s estimated 11 million illegal immigrants.

CHC members will convene Tuesday to discuss their official caucus response to the immigration developments.

Related stories:

Obama Hasn’t Decided When to Act on Immigration

House Republicans Rally to Pass Border Funding Bill

Senate Fails to Pass Border Supplemental

Republicans Regroup on Border Funding Bill

Ted Cruz Rallies House Conservatives to End ‘Obama’s Amnesty’

White House Excoriates GOP Deportation Demands

Roll Call Election Map: Race Ratings for Every Seat

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House GOP ISIS and CR Strategy Still in Flux

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Boehner and other House GOP leaders are reportedly on board with adding to the spending bill the president’s request for authority to go after ISIS.  (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

House GOP leaders are advocating for giving President Barack Obama some authority within the continuing resolution to arm Syrian rebels against the insurgent terrorist group known as the Islamic State or ISIS, according to several Republican lawmakers present at a Thursday morning members’ meeting.

But those lawmakers also cautioned that discussions on how to proceed were far from over.

Some Republicans say as long as there is a decisive vote on a response that will adequately address the growing threat of ISIS at home and abroad, they don’t care what legislative vehicle is used.

“At the end of the day, whether it ends up as a standalone or in the CR, I don’t really understand what the big controversy is over that,” said Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., a veteran. “I think it’s a timing issue, I think it’s to get it done … we don’t leave next week without getting it done.” Full story

September 10, 2014

Obama Calls House Appropriations Chairman, Asks for ISIS Authority in CR (Updated)

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Rogers got a call from the president on the continuing resolution. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 4:45 p.m. | House Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers said Wednesday that President Barack Obama — not known for reaching out to Republicans personally — called him Tuesday to ask that authority to take action against ISIS be added to the GOP’s proposed continuing resolution.

The Kentucky Republican said the president called at 5 p.m., asking that he include in the CR the authority to arm Syrian rebels who are fighting the jihadi insurgents in control of parts of that country and Iraq.

Rogers expressed frustration that the president waited so long to make that request.

“Obviously we’re having briefings on what the president requested last night,” he told reporters on Wednesday. “However, they have known about this problem for over a year. They knew that we were getting ready to do a CR, and just as I was getting ready to drop it in the hopper the president calls and asks if we would consider it.”

Rogers said he would prefer the language related to ISIS, or ISIL as the group is also known, not be placed in the CR, which GOP leaders originally intended to be a streamlined spending bill that would, with minimal debate, clear both chambers and defuse the government shutdown looming at the end of the month.

Though consideration of the CR has now been postponed to allow lawmakers to reach a deal on the matter, Rogers maintained that the spending bill’s passage was never contingent upon inclusion of ISIS language.

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September 9, 2014

House Condemns Obama for Bergdahl Prisoner Swap

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McKeon called the prisoner swap a violation of the law. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The House voted 249-163 to disapprove of President Barack Obama’s transfer of five Guantanamo Bay detainees for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, providing a soft rebuke of the president’s actions on the prisoner swap.

On the nonbinding resolution vote, 22 Democrats joined all 227 voting Republicans to condemn the administration for not providing the 30 days of notice required by law before transferring a prisoner at the Guantanamo Bay Detention Center.

Armed Services Chairman Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Calif., called the prisoner swap an “obvious” violation of the law, and he said Congress needed to understand the national security risks posed by transferring detainees before such a swap takes place.

The ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, Adam Smith of Washington, countered that there was “considerable” debate as to whether the president overstepped his constitutional authority, and that his actions were “in no way unprecedented.” Full story

Boehner Says House Will Wait to Hear Obama’s ISIS Plan

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Boehner said the House will wait to hear the president’s plan on ISIS. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Speaker John A. Boehner repeatedly refused to say Tuesday whether he supports more U.S. troops in the Middle East or if Congress should authorize military action against ISIS, telling reporters the House needs to hear from President Barack Obama.

Boehner is scheduled to visit the White House later Tuesday — along with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. — and the president may very well ask for congressional authorization to ramp up action against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

But that doesn’t mean he’d get it — at least not anytime soon.

House Armed Services Chairman Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Calif., said Tuesday he didn’t think the House even has time to debate and vote on an authorization for military force before leaving for the pre-election recess in early October. Even if there were time, it’s unclear if there would be the votes.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney came before House Republicans Tuesday in a closed-door meeting to discuss the terrorist threat in the Middle East. And while many Republicans were quick to show deference to one of the major architects of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan — “He’s a man of great gravitas and poise,” said Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz. — many other Republicans were taking Cheney’s words with more than a grain of salt.

Justin Amash, R-Mich., said it was time for the GOP to stop listening to Cheney, particularly on foreign policy. ”Because Republicans don’t agree with him,” Amash said.

Cheney’s message to Republicans, according to members exiting the meeting, was that a strong America would provide for a stable world environment.

“And that the president’s failure of leadership, and incompetence in leadership, has put us into — put the world into — a very unstable position, has imperiled the security of the United States, and that we need to rebuild our military and have a better foreign policy so that we can restore the stability to the world,” said Rep. Bill Flores of Texas, summing up Cheney’s warning to lawmakers.

Regardless of Cheney’s message, both parties are concerned about the possibilities of a another long and costly war in the Middle East. But they are also concerned about doing nothing.

Long one of the most hawkish members of the House, Rep. Peter T. King, R-N.Y., told reporters that Obama has the authority to act without congressional authorization, and that the White House should execute a military response to ISIS, the insurgent group in control of parts of Iraq and Syria, without waiting for consent from Capitol Hill.

“I think it’s better if Congress would give approval,” King said. But he added that it would be better to give authorization “after the fact.”

King explained that debate could slow down action and distract from the task at hand, and he recalled the messiness of last year’s debate over whether to take military action in Syria.

“It would complicate the message,” King said. “I know allies were very disappointed last year when [Obama] was lining up support and then he pulled the rug out.”

Rules Chairman Pete Sessions, R-Texas, said he looked forward to hearing what Obama had to say regarding a strategy to combat ISIS, both in his scheduled address on Wednesday evening and after the White House meeting with House and Senate leaders later on Tuesday.

“If the president does not lay out a clear policy that members of Congress and the American people and our military and our enemies understand, then I don’t think there’ll be any action taken,” Sessions said. “If there’s no clear plan, what would the president be asking us to do?”

Related:

McCarthy: ‘Friends Don’t Trust Us, Enemies Don’t Fear Us’

House, Senate Laying Groundwork for War on ISIS 

Roll Call Election Map: Race Ratings for Every Seat

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September 4, 2014

House Republicans Plan Vote Condemning Obama for Bergdahl Swap

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(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The House plans to vote on a resolution disapproving of President Barack Obama’s actions during the recent Taliban prisoner swap for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, a memo from House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said Thursday.

In the memo to House Republicans, McCarthy mentioned a recent Government Accountability Office report on the prisoner swap which concluded the administration had not fulfilled its obligation in providing advance notice to Congress regarding the transfer of detainees from Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

“The  law is clear, and therefore the House will consider H. Res. 644, authored by Representative Scott Rigell, which condemns the failure to comply with the statutory requirement to provide advance notice to Congress,” McCarthy said.

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McCarthy: ‘Friends Don’t Trust Us, Enemies Don’t Fear Us’

 

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McCarthy said Obama needs to step up. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Congress is working on legislation that would authorize more aggressive military action against terror group ISIS — but President Barack Obama has to step up and take the lead in the fight, said House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy.

The California Republican, in a Tuesday interview on conservative talker Hugh Hewitt’s radio show, said he supports efforts to give the president authority to pursue Islamic extremists across borders. But he cautioned against Congress conducting foreign policy.

“We don’t need 535 foreign policy experts trying to run the military,” McCarthy told guest host Rep. John Campbell, R-Calif. “First and foremost, this president has to have a strategy. I mean, what is our foreign policy? I mean, I don’t know what it is. And if we don’t know what it is, our allies don’t know, and our enemies don’t know, so they’re pushing the envelope. Full story

August 29, 2014

Top Judiciary Republicans Demand Answers on DACA Changes

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Grassley is one of two top Republicans questioning changes on the DACA website. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Top Republicans on the House and Senate Judiciary committees are asking the Obama administration to explain changes made this summer to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that they say loosen requirements and invite fraud.

House Judiciary Chairman Robert W. Goodlatte of Virginia and Senate Judiciary Committee ranking member Charles E. Grassley of Iowa sent Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson a list of 25 questions Friday on revisions to the 2012 executive order.

The lawmakers zeroed in on a change made to the DACA website’s “Frequently Asked Questions” page that states officials “may verify information” submitted on applicant documents — imprecise language, Grassley and Goodlatte contend, that does not require the government to actually verify anything.

“Since the initial announcement regarding DACA, we … have written several letters to your Department requesting data and general information about DACA,” Goodlatte and Grassley wrote to Johnson. “We have rarely received substantive responses. Congress is entitled to know how this administration is managing the program and to whom it is providing lawful status.” Full story

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