Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
December 18, 2014

Posts in "Foreign Policy"

December 17, 2014

White House Releases Cuba Deal Fact Sheet

The White House has released a fact sheet on President Barack Obama’s sweeping new deal to open up Cuba, which has sharply split Congress.

Here it is:

Fact Sheet: Charting a New Course on Cuba

Today, the United States is taking historic steps to chart a new course in our relations with Cuba and to further engage and empower the Cuban people. We are separated by 90 miles of water, but brought together through the relationships between the two million Cubans and Americans of Cuban descent that live in the United States, and the 11 million Cubans who share similar hopes for a more positive future for Cuba. Full story

Obama’s Cuba Deal Splits Congress

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Alan Gross’ wife, Judy, spoke at a news conference in 2012 in the Capitol calling for Cuba to release her husband. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

President Barack Obama’s deal with Cuba, which he will announce at noon, drew praise and sharp criticism on Capitol Hill as the details started to leak out.

Lawmakers cheered the news that Alan Gross had been released from Cuban custody, as the American aid worker headed home — but the deal also prompted sharp complaints.

Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., the outgoing chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, torched the deal. Full story

By Steven Dennis and Niels Lesniewski Posted at 10:49 a.m.
Cuba

December 3, 2014

‘Looser’ Obama Riffs on Taxes, Trade, Regulations, Immigration, GOP

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From left: Deutsche Bank Chief executive Jacques Brand, President and CEO of Convergys Andrea Ayers, President and CEO of Dell Michael Dell, listen to President Barack Obama at the quarterly meeting of the Business Roundtable. (Getty Images News)

President Barack Obama is starting to open up, six years into the job.

“You get a little looser in your last two years in office,” he told CEOs at a meeting with the Business Roundtable.

Indeed, the remark itself would never have been made public under the old White House policy of kicking out the press for the all-important Q&As the president regularly has with business leaders and donors. Full story

October 30, 2014

Democrat Wants Obama to Stop the ‘Chickenshit’ Sideshows

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Cardin isn’t happy with the anonymous insults about Netanyahu from Obama administration officials. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The “chickenshit” continues to hit the fan in Congress. A senior Democratic senator wants President Barack Obama to hold whoever anonymously insulted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accountable.

“The only parties that benefit from anonymous sources making inappropriate comments about one of America’s closest allies are those who want to weaken the unified, bipartisan support for Israel in both the legislative and executive branches of our government,” said Maryland Senator Ben Cardin of the anonymous quotes published by The Atlantic. ”The leaks and side-shows need to end; those responsible should be held accountable.” Full story

By Steven Dennis Posted at 2:52 p.m.
Israel

October 14, 2014

White House Defends ISIS War: ‘This Strategy Is Succeeding’

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Abandoned houses in the Syrian city of Kobani after fighting between Syrian Kurds and militants from Islamic State. (Gokhan Sahin/Getty Images)

Despite gains by ISIS in Syria and Iraq in the face of airstrikes, the White House insists President Barack Obama’s strategy to “destroy” the terrorist group remains on track.

“This strategy is succeeding,” Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters of the president’s fight against ISIS, also known as ISIL or the Islamic State. Earnest appeared to minimize the potential takeover of the Kurdish town of Kobani in Syria on the border with Turkey.

Earnest blamed the lack of ground forces in the fight for the possible plight of Kobani — even as he noted that Obama has ruled out putting American ground forces into the fight. Full story

By Steven Dennis Posted at 1:30 p.m.
Iraq, ISIS, Syria

October 9, 2014

Senators to Obama: Do Something About Hong Kong

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Wicker and a bipartisan group of senators want Obama to act on Hong Kong. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Updated 2:23 p.m. Oct. 10 | A bipartisan group of senators from across the political spectrum — from Elizabeth Warren and Patrick J. Leahy to Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio — wants President Barack Obama to speak out and act to support Hong Kong’s democracy movement.

They don’t specify exactly what they want Obama to do — they say “demonstrable, meaningful steps” — but note that a 1992 law “authorizes you to suspend trade and economic provisions should Beijing not provide sufficient autonomy for Hong Kong.”

Leahy, the Vermont Democrat who is president pro tempore and Judiciary chairman, leads the letter with Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., and Rubio.

“The people of Hong Kong have sent a strong message to the world that they want the right to choose their leaders to be respected,” Leahy said in a statement. “The Administration should voice U.S. support for full democracy in Hong Kong and make clear that it is in the Chinese Government’s interest to abide by its commitment to ‘one country, two systems.’” Full story

October 8, 2014

White House Concerned About Kobani, but Not Sending Ground Troops

456849288 445x296 White House Concerned About Kobani, but Not Sending Ground Troops

Smoke rises following Kobani airstrikes Wednesday. (Aris Messinis/AFP/Getty Images)

President Barack Obama isn’t about to send in ground troops to save the Syrian town of Kobani from being overrun by ISIS.

That’s one takeaway from Wednesday’s briefing with White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest. The White House is “deeply concerned” about the town on the Syrian border with Turkey, but isn’t prepared to call it strategic and isn’t sure it will be able to hold out against the group, also known as ISIL or the Islamic State, despite stepped-up airstrikes by coalition forces.

“The United States is taking airstrikes to limit the ability of ISIL to encroach on this community. The fact remains, however, that the limitations that are in place, meaning just airstrikes, limits our capabilities in this region,” Earnest said.
Full story

By Steven Dennis Posted at 3:13 p.m.
Syria

September 24, 2014

Obama’s United Nations Speech Skips Over Congress

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Obama spoke at the United Nations on Wednesday. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

President Barack Obama’s soaring speech at the United Nations General Assembly addressed a host of pressing issues — ISIS, Ebola, Ukraine. One word he didn’t mention? Congress.

With Congress out of town, this week has seen perhaps the purest iteration of the president’s pen-and-phone-and-podium governing style. Airstrikes in Syria were launched on the president’s authority, without a new vote in Congress. And the president is pushing for a sweeping climate change agenda for the world — though that’s something he couldn’t get through a Democratic Congress, let alone a Republican House that has passed bill after bill looking to rein in his efforts, not expand them.

On the world stage, Congress has receded. It’s Obama’s policies that will carry the day — or not — on Ukraine, Iran’s nuclear ambitions, the Ebola epidemic, or fighting ISIS. Full story

September 23, 2014

Obama Touts Congressional Support for Syria Strikes (Video)

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Obama said Tuesday he has congressional backing for the airstrikes in Syria. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images/File Photo)

Congress ducked a Syria war authorization vote, but that isn’t stopping President Barack Obama from touting support for his airstrikes against the Islamic State and other terror groups in Syria.

“I’ve spoken to leaders in Congress, and I’m pleased that there’s bipartisan support for the actions that we’re taking,” Obama said Tuesday. “America’s always stronger when we stand united, and that unity sends a powerful message to the world that we will do what’s necessary to defend our country,” he said before heading to New York for meetings at the United Nations.

Obama touted the Arab coalition that joined in the strikes — Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Bahrain and Qatar.  Full story

Congress Reacts to Syria Airstrikes

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McKeon and other congressional leaders praised the airstrikes in Syria. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Congressional hawks are cheering the multifaceted overnight airstrikes in Syria that included attacks on Islamic State insurgents and an al Qaida offshoot called the Khorasan Group, while others are lamenting Congress’ decision to duck a war authorization vote.

“Our men and women in uniform are once again striking an enemy that threatens our freedom,” said House Armed Services Chairman Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Calif.  ”This is one step in what will be a long fight against ISIL. With strong coalition partners, a capable military, and a clear mission; it is a fight we can win.”

The Islamic State is also known as ISIL or ISIS.

“It is especially significant — indeed historic — that these strikes involve forces from Bahrain, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates,” said Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich. ”The visible, public involvement of Arab and Muslim nations is crucial to long-term success against ISIS. While Western military force can help combat the poisonous ideology of groups such as ISIS, ultimately it is up to Muslim nations to resist and eliminate this poison.”

Other lawmakers said the strikes should have been authorized by Congress, including Rep. Bradley Byrne, R-Ala.

Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., on MSNBC reiterated his push for Congress to act, but said he doesn’t expect Congress to return until after the elections.

So far, any opposition in Congress has been muted.

“To defeat ISIS, we must cut off the head of the snake, which exists in Syria,” said Michael McCaul, R-Texas, chairman of House Homeland Security, in a statement.

House Foreign Affairs Chairman Ed Royce of California called the strikes “long overdue.”

“While this initial attack will be a big psychological blow to the terrorist group, an air campaign will need to be major and sustained,” he said.

President Obama is scheduled to speak about the strikes in an address from the White House before he heads to New York for the United Nations General Assembly.

The simultaneous strikes against the Khorasan Group, meanwhile, were taken to disrupt an “imminent attack.”

“The United States has also taken action to disrupt the imminent attack plotting against the United States and Western interests conducted by a network of seasoned al-Qa’ida veterans — sometimes referred to as the Khorasan Group — who have established a safe haven in Syria to develop external attacks, construct and test improvised explosive devices and recruit Westerners to conduct operations,” Central Command said in a statement this morning.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the Syrian regime was informed of the intent to strike by Samantha Power, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.

“We warned Syria not to engage U.S. aircraft.  We did not request the regime’s permission.  We did not coordinate our actions with the Syrian government. We did not provide advance notification to the Syrians at a military level, or give any indication of our timing on specific targets,” she said.

John Donnelly contributed to this report.

 

Related:

Congressional Hawks Cheer Overnight Strikes in Syria

House Votes to Arm Syrian Rebels; CR Passes

Bipartisan Bloc Coalesces Behind CR, Syrian Rebels Amendment

McCarthy Suggests Post-Election Vote Authorizing Military Force

Path Forward on CR, Title 10 Authority Starts to Crystalize

Obama Asserts Authority to Take on ISIS Without Congress

Congress Locked in ISIS War Muddle

Inhofe: Obama Speech Prompts ‘Sigh of Relief’ From ISIS

Obama Speech Excerpt: We’re Going to (Air) War Against ISIS

Roll Call Election Map: Race Ratings for Every Seat

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