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October 1, 2014

Posts in "Foreign Policy"

September 25, 2014

Boehner: Don’t Expect War Authorization Vote in Lame-Duck Session

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Boehner says the new Congress, not the lame duck, should vote on war authorization for operations in Syria. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Speaker John A. Boehner thinks Congress should debate authorizing use of force against the Islamic State in Syria — but not until new members of the House and Senate take office in January.

The Ohio Republican told The New York Times in an interview published Thursday morning the lame-duck session following the midterms in November would not be an appropriate time to make those decisions.

“Doing this with the whole group of members who are on their way out the door, I don’t think that is the right way to handle this,” Boehner told the Times.

That statement is sure to rankle many members on both sides of the aisle who had hoped the House would weigh in as soon as possible on President Barack Obama’s decision to use airstrikes to target the terrorist organization, also known as ISIS or ISIL. Full story

September 17, 2014

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

Watch Live: Select Committee on Benghazi Holds First Hearing (Video)

The House Select Committee on Benghazi holds its inaugural hearing, titled “Implementation of the Accountability Review Board recommendations.” The hearing begins at 10 a.m.

 

Related stories:

Parties’ Shared Benghazi Goals: Win the Hearings, Control the Narrative

ISIS Puts Spotlight Back on Terror as Benghazi Hearings Kick Off

Gowdy Hires Top Lawyer for Benghazi Committee

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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 8, 2014

September Congressional Agenda: Must-Pass Bills and Messaging Gambits

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Boehner wants to contrast House action with Senate inaction. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

With Congress back in town Monday after five weeks off, plenty of Republicans and Democrats have made it clear the session’s No. 1 priority is passing a spending bill to avoid a government shutdown.

There’s also a lot of bipartisan consensus, it turns out, on No. 2 — which can be summed up fairly neatly under the heading “Make the Other Guys Look Bad Ahead of the Elections.”

In a final, jam-packed sprint to Nov. 4 — the House is in session just 12 days, the Senate 15 — members in both chambers will be scrambling to check off those top two items, and a few others as well.

First Things First. No one wants another government shutdown. Federal funding runs out on Sept. 30, so Congress has to pass a short-term continuing resolution to keep agencies operational or risk a repeat of last year’s disaster that put congressional approval ratings at an all-time low. Leaders on both sides of the aisle and rotunda say they want a policy-rider free CR that runs through early December, but some Republicans could revolt over immigration executive orders or reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank.

Which Leads Us to … Reauthorizing the Ex-Im. Funding for the institution that underwrites sales of U.S. goods abroad will expire at the end of the month, and its future is shaky: Far-right lawmakers say the Export-Import Bank represents corporate welfare, while other Republicans say that dissolving the institution would be catastrophic for small businesses. There’s growing interest in extending the bank’s charter for just a few months to buy Congress more time to reach a long-term agreement, but aides to senior GOP lawmakers caution that a deal on how to proceed is still elusive.

War on ISIS. It’s not clear whether Congress will be compelled to act on legislation authorizing air strikes in the region following the execution by Islamic extremists of two American journalists. But calls are coming from both sides of the aisle for Congress to definitively authorize President Barack Obama to use force against ISIS, the group that controls parts of Syria and Iraq. For the time being, the only planned House response is in the form of committee hearings. In the Democratic-controlled Senate, an aide said that “we are many steps away from knowing whether this is going to be an issue to come to Congress or not.”

The GOP ‘Closing Argument.’ Republicans intend to pass a number of jobs and energy bills over the next few weeks in what Speaker John A. Boehner referred to recently as a “closing argument” before the midterms: The GOP is working for Americans, while “the leader of the dysfunctional, do-nothing Senate plans to spend the final legislative days before November talking about the Koch brothers.”

Spotlight on Benghazi. Along with taking already-passed bills and re-bundling them to send over to the Democratic Senate a second time, House Republicans will also remind voters that they are paying attention to national security concerns: South Carolina Republican Trey Gowdy, the chairman of the specially-created committee to probe the 2012 attacks on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, will convene the panel’s first hearing this month.

Pelosi’s Aces: UI, Immigration. Democrats don’t control the legislative agenda in the House, but they have a couple of cards they can play to try and spare their party of some bloodletting this fall. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s troops will likely continue to support White House plans to use executive orders to grant more stays of deportation to undocumented immigrants in light of the GOP’s failure to act on comprehensive overhaul legislation. They will also undoubtedly focus on the GOP’s refusal to extend the emergency unemployment insurance program, nine months after funding lapsed.

Speaking of the Koch Brothers … In the Senate, Democrats will kick off their first day back by proceeding with a vote to cut off debate on a constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court ruling allowing unlimited campaign spending by corporations and individuals. They are banking that Republicans filibuster the effort so they can spend their remaining weeks before the midterms reconsidering items from Majority Leader Harry Reid’s “fair shot” agenda, the first of which would be a bill to improve college affordability. A proposal to raise the federal minimum wage would follow.

Senate Republicans Playing It Safe. Reid’s Republican colleagues, anticipating a banner year at the polls in November, have not tipped their hands as to how they want to spend September. To thwart Reid’s wish to force politically loaded votes on the Senate floor, GOP leaders could urge members to allow debate on the campaign finance bill — the quintessential symbolic messaging measure that will never advance.

Humberto Sanchez and Niels Lesniewski contributed to this report.

House, Senate Laying Groundwork for War on ISIS

House GOP Plan for September: Shame the Senate

Boehner Defers to Hensarling on Export-Import Bank (Updated)

McConnell, Reid Spar Over Campaign Financing

Roll Call Election Map: Race Ratings for Every Seat

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September 4, 2014

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 7, 2014

Watch Live: CDC Director Testifies on Ebola Threat Before House Committee

The House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations holds a 2 p.m. hearing on the Ebola virus, which has reportedly killed more than 900 people.

Witnesses include: Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Dr. Ariel Pablos-Méndez, the assistant administrator for global health at the U.S. Agency for International Development, and representatives from the State Department, Samaritan’s Purse and SIM.

 

July 29, 2014

Watch Live: Director of Citizenship and Immigration Services Testifies Before House Committee

The House Judiciary Committee holds a 10 a.m. oversight hearing questioning Leon Rodriguez, the director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, who was sworn in on July 9.

July 2, 2014

Congressman: We Can’t Just Kick Them Off a Bus in Guatemala

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Farenthold, R-Texas, wants Congress to respond to the surge of unaccompanied minors at the U.S.-Mexico border (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

President Barack Obama deserves blame for much of the misery in overcrowded illegal immigrant facilities on the Southwest border, a conservative Texas congressman told CQ Roll Call Wednesday.

But “instant deportation,” Republican Blake Farenthold said, is no answer to the crisis.

The second-term congressman is part of a group of lawmakers taking a firsthand look this week at Texas facilities that have been stretched to the breaking point in recent weeks as thousands of Central American children and mothers have streamed across the border seeking asylum.

The sudden surge of young immigrants from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador is a direct result of the president’s rhetoric on immigration, Farenthold said.

“He telegraphed a message that if you’re a kid, you’re gonna get to stay,” Farenthold explained.

But the Corpus Christi lawmaker, who before 2012 redistricting represented the area now at the center of national scrutiny, is also frustrated with many of his constituents — and even with some of his colleagues — who call for instant deportation of “alien” children.

“We can’t just take them to the town square in Guatemala and kick them off the bus,” Farenthold said. “I also make the point that, if I were to send my child on a journey this perilous, child protective services would be knocking on my door trying to take away custody of my children.

“Here’s the thing with border security,” he continued. “Let’s assume it’s 100 percent secure, we catch anybody who crosses the border within a mile of the border, alright? Even if we capture a child, we still have to do something with that child.”

The “national security” and “humanitarian crisis” elements of the child migrant border surge are different, according to Farenthold — a distinction that needs to be clear for both Republicans and Democrats as Congress reconvenes next week with just 16 legislative work days scheduled before the August recess.

Full story

June 20, 2014

House Democrats Overwhelmingly Vote Against Funding Combat Operations in Iraq (Updated)

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Lee is leading the antiwar effort in the House. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 2:57 | With President Barack Obama grappling with how to respond to the escalating violence in Iraq and the rapid rise of an insurgent terrorist organization there, House Democrats have spoken: They overwhelmingly want to cut off funding for combat in the region, especially boots on the ground.

Late Thursday, 142 Democrats and a handful of Republicans joined forces behind an amendment to the fiscal 2015 defense appropriations bill that would have barred any spending on combat operations in Iraq.

The amendment failed 165-250, but the overwhelming Democratic support for the provision signals a Congress increasingly weary of war. Full story

June 18, 2014

Amendments Opposing Iraq War Could Put House Democrats in Tough Spot

 

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Rep. Barbara Lee, among the most staunchly antiwar lawmakers on Capitol Hill, wants Congress to repeal the 2002 vote giving the White House authority to take military action in Iraq.  (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

House Democrats are still grappling with how to confront the escalating violence in Iraq, but in the next 24 hours they could be forced to vote on the issue.

Staunch antiwar Democrat Barbara Lee, D-Calif., told CQ Roll Call on Wednesday afternoon that she planned to offer three amendments to the fiscal 2015 defense appropriations bill, which is on the House floor this week.

“One, no funds will be used for combat operations in Iraq,” she said. “Two, I want to repeal the 2002 authorization to use force. You know, in the farm bill, transportation bill, it sunsets. This is far too long to have that authorization in effect, so I want to repeal that.

“And,” Lee continued, “I want to repeal the 2001 authorization to use force, which has been used as the legal justification for wire tapping and other kinds of those activities.”

Full story

June 11, 2014

Watch Live: House Armed Services Hearing on Bowe Bergdahl Exchange

The House Armed Services Committee holds a hearing Wednesday on President Barack Obama’s decision to exchange five Taliban prisoners from Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Department of Defense General Counsel Stephen Preston will testify about the swap.

The hearing, “The May 31, 2014 Transfer of Five Senior Taliban Detainees,” begins at 10 a.m.

June 10, 2014

Boehner: White House Explanation for Bergdahl Secrecy ‘Just Not True’

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Boehner said Tuesday the administration’s explanation on Bergdahl is “just not true.”  (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio cast doubt Tuesday on the administration’s claim that it did not inform members of Congress about the prisoner swap that freed Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl due to a fear of leaks, and said the swap will lead to consequences.

“The biggest issue here is a violation of a policy that the United States has had for many, many years that we don’t negotiate with terrorists,” he said. “The fact is we have violated that policy and as a result, this made America less safe, here and all around the world. And we’re going to pay for it. There is not any doubt in my mind there are going to be costs … lost lives, associated with what came out of this.”

Boehner said he and several other members of Congress were briefed multiple times in the run up to the special forces raid of Osama bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan.

“Six times before Osama bin Laden was taken down I was briefed on it. I was briefed multiple times over the course of the six months. I was given a heads up several days before it happened. So this idea that they couldn’t trust us with not leaking anything, it’s just not true,” Boehner told reporters. Full story

June 9, 2014

House Republicans Stress Concerns Over Bergdahl, Prisoner Swap

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Bachmann and others still skeptical after briefing. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

House Republicans made one thing clear Monday evening: They would not soon abandon calls for congressional oversight into the Obama administration’s decision to swap five Guantánamo Bay Taliban prisoners for U.S. prisoner of war Bowe Bergdahl.

Emerging from their first briefing from White House officials on the details of Army Sgt. Bergdahl’s May 31 release from Taliban custody, GOP lawmakers’ tempers were running high.

Rep. Walter B. Jones, R-N.C., said he was “not satisfied” by the information he received. Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., scoffed at the premise that the briefing was “classified” because, she said, no new information was disseminated to members. And veteran Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., said the officials were “trying to put lipstick on a pig.”

Above all, members appeared to be most upset that no member of Congress in either chamber was consulted prior to the transfer of the Taliban prisoners for Bergdahl, arguing that President Barack Obama acted unilaterally and, perhaps, in violation of the law. Full story

June 3, 2014

Boehner Backs Hearings on Bergdahl Swap for ‘Taliban 5′

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Boehner (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 4:11 p.m. | Speaker John A. Boehner charged the Obama administration with intentially keeping the swap of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl for five Taliban officials from Congress ahead of time and backed a push for hearings by Armed Services Chairman Howard “Buck” McKeon Tuesday.

The Taliban officials were transferred to Qatar from the detention camp at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, without the legally required 30 days Congressional notification.

The Ohio Republican acknowledged Tuesday that an exchange like the one that took place Saturday had been previously discussed years ago.

But he said that while Congress kept the idea secret despite concerns about the wisdom of a transfer, the administration intentionally kept them in the dark.

“There was every expectation that the administration would re-engage with Congress, as it did before, and the only reason it did not is because the administration knew it faced serious and sober bipartisan concern and opposition,” Boehner charged.

Boehner spokesman Michael Steel also pointed to a statement by White House Press Secretary Jay Carney on June 21, 2013 when asked about the possibility of exchanging five Guantanamo prisoners for Bergdahl.

“We would not make any decisions about transfer of any detainees without consulting with Congress,” Carney said, per the White House transcript.

The White House and President Barack Obama have contended the lack of notice was due to the desire to complete the deal and get Bergdahl home safely, and the White House has contended the lack of notice was lawful.

Full story

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