Archive for category congress

Reps. Stewart and Bishop Promote Public Land Grab

It’s unconstitutional and enjoys essentially zero public support, but the Koch brothers want it– therefore our so-called representatives are calling for national legislation to seize and sell America’s public lands.

More info:
Reps. Stewart and Bishop Launch New Federal Land Action Group
GOP House Leaders Create ‘Action Group’ To Seize And Sell America’s Public Lands

UPDATE:
Editorial: Public-lands deal fades as posturing rises

Bishop and Stewart are seeking leverage. In trying to negotiate with the environmental groups who want more wilderness and other protections under the Public Lands Initiative, they are playing the state-takeover card. Those environmental groups would be more inclined to take less if they thought state ownership was looming. It’s a wild card, in that it’s not clear such a land transfer bill would ever make it through Congress.

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Another Fake Crisis

Fake crisis

The looming shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) at midnight Friday is a fake crisis. Speaker of the House John Boehner has the votes to pass a “clean” DHS appropriations bill. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has already caved on the Tea-GOP’s shutdown threat.

This thing is totally fake. Why are the media talking about it as if it were real?

UPDATES:
1. Friday afternoon now,and Speaker Boehner is still refusing to allow a vote on the “clean” DHS appropriations bill.
2. Democrats to the Rescue: Congress Averts Shutdown for One More Week
3. John Boehner Blinks, Will Allow For Clean Funding Of Department Of Homeland Security

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Draft AUMF ‘Intentionally Fuzzy’

Countries bombed by USA
Source: The Daily Mirror

The Constitution vests the power of declaring war in Congress; therefore no offensive expedition of importance can be undertaken until after they shall have deliberated upon the subject and authorized such a measure.

George Washington

Via MSNBC:

President Obama asked Congress on Wednesday for new war powers to go after the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The draft resolution (PDF) asks Congress to enact a three-year Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) against ISIS. The resolution notably restricts the use of American ground troops and seeks to avoid a prolonged conflict.

Obama announced his plan to launch airstrikes against ISIS back in September, and the White House’s AUMF resolution seeks to formalize the U.S. military campaign to “degrade and defeat” ISIS.

The draft AUMF has already been criticized as imprecise. For example, it defines the enemy as “ISIL [sic] or associated persons or forces.” But that would include the so-called “moderate” Syrian rebels (armed by the U.S.), who routinely fight alongside ISIS. Like the 2001 AUMF (which would remain in effect), there is no geographical limitation in the new draft AUMF. Potentially it could authorize attacking Boko Haram in Nigeria.

Asked today if he agreed that language was “fuzzy,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest replied with a firm yes, saying it is “intentionally” fuzzy “because we believe it’s important that there aren’t overly burdensome constraints that are placed on the commander-in-chief.”

I left the Army with the rank of captain, but it doesn’t take a four-star general to realize you can’t fight a war intelligently unless you know who the enemy is, and where to find them. Oh, and by the way this draft AUMF is probably a violation of the U.N. Charter – though that’s somewhat debatable.

UPDATE:
Hill Progressive Leaders Come Out Against Obama’s AUMF: ‘Too Broad’

“The devastating and costly wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have taught us that when we give military authority to the executive, it should not be a blank check,” Progressive Caucus Co-Chairs Rep. Reps. Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) and Keith Ellison (D-MN), and Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) said.

“Unfortunately, the authorization proposed by the president this week is too broad. In order to ensure meaningful limits on executive branch authority, an AUMF should at a minimum contain a clear objective and geographical limitations. It should also include an enforceable ban on the deployment of ground troops with exception for only the most limited of operations, unambiguous language, and a repeal of the 2001 AUMF,” they said.

UPDATE:
State Dept. Official: US Can’t ‘Kill Our Way Out Of This War’ With Islamic State

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Tell Congress: Reject the ‘No More National Parks’ Bill

Grand Staircase-Escalante NM
Grand Staircase-Escalante NM

Via CREDO Action:

The way the law works now, presidents can use the Antiquities Act to quickly set aside public lands for protection and conservation through national monument proclamations, instead of going through the difficult congressional process of designating a national park. In fact, it’s often the first step to creating a national park – the Grand Canyon was first proclaimed a monument under the Antiquities Act by President Theodore Roosevelt.

The power to proclaim national monuments is a presidential privilege that has literally shaped America’s landscape and its history, but Republicans in Congress now think it’s time to end all of that. Last month, Representative Don Young (R-AK) introduced a bill that would strip the president of this authority. H.R.4988 (the MAST Act) would overhaul the Antiquities Act, making it nearly impossible for presidents to declare new national monuments. It’s a cynical attempt to forever block the president’s ability to protect our public lands from corporate drilling and mining.

Stop the MAST Act, it could be a big win for the Tea-GOP right-wing agenda. We can’t allow that to happen. Click the link below to sign the petition:
Stop Republicans from blocking new national parks.

More info:
The Highs and Lows of the Antiquities Act

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Robert Reich: TPP is Part of the Global Race to the Bottom

Republicans in Congress want to work with the Obama administration to fast-track the passage of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

The TPP is the largest—and worst—trade deal you’ve never heard of, having been devised in secret by representatives of some of the world’s largest corporations.

It’s so big and has the potential to do so much damage, it’s been likened to “NAFTA on steroids.”

Once you’ve watched the video, please join the growing chorus of Americans who are saying no to fast track and the TPP by adding your name to this petition from Larry Cohen, president of the Communication Workers of America.

UPDATE:

Media Matters: Trans-Pacific Partnership Barely Noticed By Weeknight News Over The Past 18 Months

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Keystone XL Zombie Lie

Via Media Matters.

Yesterday, the House of Representatives passed a bill approving the controversial Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. Virtually all the Republicans and 28 Democrats voted for this foreign-owned project, which is likely to impose significant environmental costs, cause an increase in American gasoline prices, and contribute to global warming. The proposed 1,200 mile dirty oil pipeline would carry bitumen — a tar-like substance mined from the Alberta tar sands, chemically diluted, and heated to improve flow — at high pressure across Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas to Gulf Coast refineries. Existing pipelines of this type spring dozens of leaks every year, and the mess is much more difficult to clean up than a crude oil spill.

Why allow this? Right-wing propagandists insist that Keystone XL will create “42,000 jobs.” This is false.

The State Department concluded that the Keystone XL project will result in just 50 jobs, including “35 permanent employees and 15 temporary contractors.” Further, their report stated that spending on the project would support only 3,900 temporary construction jobs if construction lasted one year and just 1,950 temporary construction jobs if construction lasted two years.

President Obama has threatened to veto the congressional attempt to force the issue, however he seems to be keeping the option open to ultimately approve this disastrous project.

UPDATE:
Senate Advances Bill To Approve Keystone Pipeline Despite Obama’s Veto Threat

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More Awfulness From Congress

Hell no we won't go
Hell no, we won’t go!!

The must-pass National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) contains a 449-page package of public lands riders. As you might expect from this Congress, it’s a stinker full of corporate giveaways. It transfers 110,000 acres of our public lands into private ownership. Part of the Tonto National Forest in Arizona will be given to Rio Tinto for a copper mine, including sacred Apache lands. Coal reserves in the Bull Mountains of Montana will be given to Great Northern Properties, a Houston-based coal company. Sealaska Corporation gets 70,000 acres of the Tongass National Forest for clear-cutting timber that used to belong to all Americans.

There’s a stealth provision removing existing Wilderness Study Area (WSA) protections for two areas in eastern Montana, without any public input whatsoever.

The legislation also mandates automatic renewals of livestock grazing on our public lands, even where grazing operations are degrading wildlife habitat and fouling streams and rivers — without the evaluation under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) that’s currently required. The so-called “Grazing Improvement Act” also automatically extends grazing permits on public lands from 10 to 20 years. The exemption of grazing permits from NEPA basically puts public land management agencies out of business with regard to ecosystem management. That is a heavy hit with far-reaching consequences.

Ten right-wing Tea-GOPers including Tom Coburn of Oklahoma had objected to including parks and wilderness bills in a defense bill. They were joined by Democratic Senators Jeff Merkeley (OR), Ron Wyden (OR), and Kirsten Gillibrand (NY) and Independent Bernie Sanders (VT). On December 11, the Senate voted 85-14 to break the filibuster.

As a “Christmas tree” bill enjoying widespread bipartisan support, the NDAA passed the House by a vote of 300-119 last Thursday and the Senate by 89-11 yesterday. The package of legislation is expected to be signed by the President soon.

On the plus side, the NDAA riders would add 250,000 acres to the National Wilderness Preservation System, establish or expand national parks, and designate more than 100 miles of Wild and Scenic Rivers. But the losses far outweigh the wins.

More info:
Some Context on the Defense Bill Riders: Public Lands Losses Far Outweigh Any Wins
Top 5 Offensive Provisions of the Public Lands Rider
Defense bill with wilderness & parks plus land giveaways beats cloture 85-14. 3 Dems & Sanders no
Congress Protects New National Parks And Wilderness Areas For The First Time In 5 Years
Defense Bill Passes, Giving Sacred Native American Sites To Mining Company

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Senator Elizabeth Warren: Who Does Congress Work For?

Wall Street wants to get bailed out by taxpayers AGAIN, the next time they recklessly crash our financial sector with risky derivatives. This could cause the next Great Depression. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) is trying to stop them, even though the Tea-GOP is threatening to shut down the federal government (in less than five hours) if a Dodd-Frank repeal proposal written by Citigroup lobbyists doesn’t pass.

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‘Did we torture people? Yes. Did it work? No.’

There’s a good chance we’ll never see the $50 million, 6,000-page Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA torture during the Bush administration. Today they are releasing a heavily-redacted 480-page executive summary.

The report, which was completed two years ago, found that torture did not lead to actionable intelligence. “Did we torture people? Yes. Did it work? No.”, says Senator Angus King (I-ME), a member of the committee. The Senate investigation also concluded that CIA torture techniques were far more brutal than previously known, and that the agency (including then-CIA director Gen. Michael Hayden) lied to the White House and Congress when they asserted torture thwarted specific terrorist plots, and falsely claimed terrorists were captured as a result of torture.

It has long been known that torture is not an effective means of acquiring intelligence, yet the Bush administration authorized, conducted, and promoted an illegal torture program in our name. There will be no accountability on the part of those who authorized and conducted the torture regime, we know that already.

More info: Senate Select Committee on Intelligence: Committee Study of the Central Intelligence Agency’s Detention and Interrogation Program (Executive Summary).

UPDATES:
The 5 Most Damning Revelations From The Senate’s Report On Bush-Era Torture
Obama Responds To CIA Torture Report: Enhanced Interrogation ‘Contrary To Our Values’ “Rather than another reason to refight old arguments, I hope that today’s report can help us leave these techniques where they belong—in the past.”
Faux News primal scream therapy: “The United States of America is awesome, we are awesome!” says Faux News pinhead Andrea Tantaros.
UN human rights expert: US legally obliged to prosecute senior Bush officials for torture crimes
Reminder: George W. Bush Said The U.S. Didn’t Use Torture
CIA Still Argues That Torture Worked David Kurtz: “So long as the CIA continues to assert that torture (though it doesn’t use that word) yielded actionable intelligence, I don’t see how you can call this a closed chapter in American history.”
This goes way past irony: The One Man Jailed For CIA Torture Tried To Expose It

50 Comments

Jonathan Chait Predicts Permanent Gridlock

Do nothing Congress

There is no shortage of gloom and doom today in the wake of the Democratic Party’s epic electoral fail. Jonathan Chait’s analysis is that the Dems may be locked out of the majority in Congress for the foreseeable future, although they might be able to keep control of the White House.

Mitch McConnell did not become the majority leader by cooperating. His single strategic insight is that voters do not blame Congress for gridlock, they blame the president, and therefore reward the opposition. Eternally optimistic seekers of bipartisanship have clung to the hope that owning all of Congress, not merely half, will force Republicans to “show they can govern.” This hopeful bit of conventional wisdom rests on the premise that voters are even aware that the GOP is the party controlling Congress. In fact, only about 40 percent of the public even knows which party controls which chamber of Congress, which makes the notion that the Republicans would face a backlash for a lack of success fantastical.

McConnell’s next play is perfectly clear. His interest lies in creating two more years of ugliness and gridlock. He does not want spectacular, high-profile failures that command public attention — no shutdowns, no impeachment. Instead, he wants tedious, enervating stalemate. McConnell needs to drain away any possibility of hope and excitement from government, so that the disengaged Democratic voters remain disengaged in 2016.

OTOH Majority Leader McConnell may not get what he wants, because Other Majority Leader Rafael “Ted” Cruz has different ideas.

UPDATES:
Right-Wing Media Outraged After Obama Declares Intent To Cooperate With GOP
“Stop Barack Obama”: Right-Wing Media Demand No Compromise

29 Comments

House Intelligence Committee Finds No Wrongdoing by the Administration in Benghazi

Conservatives have now spent 2 years shrieking hysterically about BENGHAZI, convinced of some sort of malfeasance or deliberate wrongdoing by the Obama Administration. According to the Republican led House Intelligence Committee, not so much.

Among the key findings:

– Intelligence agencies were “warned about an increased threat environment, but did not have specific tactical warning of an attack before it happened.”

— “A mixed group of individuals, including those associated with al Qaeda, (Moammar) Khadafy loyalists and other Libyan militias, participated in the attack.”

— “There was no ‘stand-down order’ given to American personnel attempting to offer assistance that evening, no illegal activity or illegal arms transfers occurring by U.S. personnel in Benghazi, and no American was left behind.”

— The administration’s process for developing “talking points” was “flawed, but the talking points reflected the conflicting intelligence assessments in the days immediately following the crisis.”

Anyone betting this will mean conservatives will stop hysterically shrieking about Benghazi is taking a sucker’s bet.

,

46 Comments

House GOP Could Force Government Shutdown Over EPA Carbon Rule

The Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed coal regulations have angered Tea-GOP right-wingers who deny climate science.

Via The New Republic:

A standoff with Senate Democrats and the president over funding for the EPA and Interior Department could set the stage for a budget showdown, risking a partial government shutdown. Here we go again.

In an interview with Bloomberg, Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID) said the House Appropriations Committee may include a rider to the bill that’s necessary to keep the Department of Interior and EPA open after the fiscal year’s end in September.

…A partial shutdown to the Interior and EPA might seem like it would cause less damage to the GOP than the full-scale shutdown of 2013. But remember that includes national parks, which was one of the most visible and unpopular consequences from last year’s shutdown. And the EPA is charged with a lot besides fighting climate change, like protecting our drinking water and overseeing cleanup of toxic waste sites.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has warned the Tea-GOP not to shut down the government over climate change. But really, if they do it right before the midterm elections it might do more good than harm.

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