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Posts tagged ‘United States Congress’

Dems Hope to Force House Vote on Minimum Wage Hike.


House Democrats said Thursday they will try to highlight GOP resistance to a higher minimum wage with a tactical maneuver meant to bring new attention to an issue they consider a political winner.

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said her party will push a “discharge petition” when Congress returns from its recess on Feb. 24. If Democrats can persuade roughly two dozen Republicans to sign the petition, it would force GOP leaders to allow a House vote on the wage issue.

Most Republican lawmakers oppose a higher minimum wage. They say it prompts employers to cut down on hiring, a claim Democrats dispute.

It’s by no means clear Democrats can collect enough signatures in the House, where they hold 200 seats to the Republicans’ 232. Three seats are vacant.

Pelosi’s announcement, at a House Democratic retreat in rural Maryland, might displease immigration reform advocates who want priority given to a discharge petition on that subject. Pelosi said a discharge effort may come later for immigration, but “right now we’re starting with the minimum wage.”

Democrats say most Americans favor both a higher minimum wage and sweeping changes to immigration laws. They say Republican leaders thwart the public’s will by refusing to allow House votes on these topics.

President Barack Obama and many congressional Democrats want to raise the federal minimum wage from the current $7.25 an hour to $10.10.

An AP-GfK Poll in January found 55 percent of U.S. adults favor an increase in the minimum wage. Just 21 percent oppose it, and 23 percent are neutral.

Democrats say it’s frustrating to see polls show widespread support for their proposals — including a higher minimum wage and an immigration overhaul — even as Republicans appear likely to retain their House majority and possibly gain control of the Senate in this year’s elections.

Some strategists want congressional Democrats to find new ways to underscore their differences with Republicans, and paint Republicans as obstructionists.

“The minimum wage is one of the illuminating contrasts we have,” Rep. Steve Israel, of New York, told reporters at the party’s retreat. He chairs the committee overseeing Democrats’ House races.

Earlier, Republicans dismissed the idea of Democrats getting enough petition signatures to force a House vote on a Senate immigration bill that would grant new pathways to legal status for millions of immigrants.

“This scheme has zero chance of success,” said Michael Steel, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner. “A clear majority in the House understands that the massive Senate-passed bill is deeply flawed.”

House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer said he believes nearly all House Democrats would sign a petition seeking a vote on a higher minimum wage. If all 200 Democrats did so, they would need 17 Republicans to join them.

© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Source: Newsmax.com

Rove: Obama Will Lose Court Challenges on Executive Orders.


President Barack Obama should lose court challenges to his attempts to bypass Congress through the use of regulations or executive order, Karl Rove predicted Monday.

“These things tend to be litigated in court. And, so far, when they have been litigated, the president has tended to lose,” Rove, former deputy chief of staff to President George W. Bush, told Fox News’ “America’s Newsroom.”

“I don’t see any part of the Constitution, or the amendments to it, that say the president has the right, if Congress is less popular than he is, to ignore their responsibilities to legislate, and his responsibility to execute, to faithfully execute, the law of the United States,” he said.

Story continues below video.

The White House had to defend in court appointments the president made to the National Labor Relations Board, Rove explained. The president justified the appointments, saying he had deemed Congress was in recess. The administration ultimately lost the case when it went to the Supreme Court.

Rove maintained the use of presidential authority always raised “contentious issues and arguments.” He predicted many of the president’s attempts to use regulations and executive orders to bypass Congress would end up in court.

“Some of these things, like the Keystone XL pipeline, or the NLRB appointments, or the EPA regulations, they’re likely to end up in court. And, the courts are going to have to be asked to adjudicate this dispute between the executive and the legislative (branches),” he said.

The president has limitations to his ability to act, and must stay within statutory guidelines, Rove explained. To do otherwise threatened the foundation of the nation’s laws.

“The president has to act within the statutory limits given to him by the United States Congress, or we are not a nation of laws. We’re not a nation with a constitution. We are simply an authoritarian regime. The president has to be very careful about this,” he said.

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By Wanda Carruthers

Dennis Hastert: GOP Can’t Ignore Path to Citizenship for Immigrants.


The House immigration bill should include a pathway to citizenship for those who are already here, former Republican House Speaker Dennis Hastert says. 

“The whole formula for immigration reform can fall into place if two basic issues are solved,” Hastert, of Illinois, wrote in an opinion piece for Politico. “First, securing our borders so we know who is entering our country and for what purpose. Second, a legalization of those folks who are already here, many of whom have been here for a decade or more.”

And, Hastert explains, legalization means that there must be “a path to citizenship much like any other immigrant would have.” 

But the country cannot just do nothing, he said. “The cost of inaction is high,” Hastert claims. 

The United States has too much to gain economically, according to reports from the Congressional Budget Office and and the Bipartisan Policy Center that Hastert cites. The CBO predicted that Gross Domestic Product would increase 5.4 percent if the immigrants here were given citizenship over 20 years, and the BPC has said that immigration reform would reduce the federal deficit more than $1.2 trillion in the same amount of time. 

According to Hastert, immigration reform is also necessary to fill jobs in a variety of sectors such as science and technology, agriculture, and manufacturing, where immigrants are needed. 

“Immigration is necessary for our economic recovery,” he wrote. “We need a reasonable way to bring [immigrants] out of the shadows so that they can legally contribute to our economy.”

“Removing them is neither practical nor economically smart,” he added. 

There are national security issues at stake, as well. If Homeland Security knows who is here, it will make it easier for “law enforcement to refocus their resources on removing individuals with criminal backgrounds.” 

He also explains that embracing Latinos, which are expected to make up 30 percent of the population by 2050, is necessary for the political survival of the Republican Party. 

“My own party must acknowledge this reality and embrace these ever-growing constituencies if it is to remain relevant in national elections,” Hastert concluded in his opinion piece. 

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

By Courtney Coren

Democrats Breaking with Obama on Key Issues.


Image: Democrats Breaking with Obama on Key IssuesFrom left: Sens. Heidi Heitkamp, Joe Manchin and Martin Heinrich

By Melanie Batley

 

A growing number of Senate Democrats are speaking out publicly against a range of President Barack Obama’s policies in an attempt to distance themselves from theincreasingly unpopular president in the run-up to the 2014 midterm elections.

According to Politico, the lawmakers appear to have become unusually comfortable with criticizing the president, particularly since the State of the Union Address. 

“You had two or three Democrats in the Senate who made statements after the president’s State of the Union speech that wouldn’t have been written any different if they had been written by the [National] Republican Senatorial Committee,” Missouri GOP Sen. Roy Blunt told Politico.

Until recently, criticism of the president was concentrated among vulnerable red state Democrats, but now others are becoming vocal in their dissent on a range of issues including energy policy, Obamacare, the Nation Security Agency surveillance programs, and the Keystone XL pipeline. 

For example, West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, who isn’t up for re-election until 2018, has taken issue with Obama’s insistence in his State of the Union Address that he would bypass Congress whenever necessary to advance his agenda.

“I don’t think that’s what he meant. I swear to God I don’t,” Manchin said in an interview with Politico. “Could he have picked these words better? I would have thought he could have, I would have hoped he would have. But it came out offensive to a lot of people.”

Manchin is also part of a faction in the Senate that would approve construction of the Keystone pipeline, a group that is also critical of the administration’s positions on coal and energy exports.

North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, another Democrat who isn’t up for re-election until 2018, has called Obama’s energy policies “schizophrenic.”

Meanwhile, New Mexico Sen. Martin Heinrich, a freshman, has been a persistent critic of the White House on NSA policy, according to Politico. 

“I think the framers did an incredible job of finding the right balance, so, we’ve gotten away from that. And when we get back to that, my outspokenness will diminish,” he said.

Sens. Ron Wyden of Oregon and Mark Udall of Colorado have also been vocal about the need for changes to the NSA’s surveillance programs.

A number of Democrats have for months been attempting to distance themselves from the president on Obamacare, aware that the GOP is likely to highlight the program’s failures throughout the 2014 campaign. But as Blunt put it, it may be an uphill battle.

“The White House and the Senate leadership understand the need of senators in states where the president is not popular to differentiate themselves from the president when they can,” Blunt told Politico. 

“On the healthcare bill, it’s going to be particularly difficult because all of them voted for it, all of them supported it. And it’s not going to get better between now and Election Day.”

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Hillary Clinton Warns New Iran Sanctions Could Upend Talks.


Image: Hillary Clinton Warns New Iran Sanctions Could Upend Talks

Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is warning Congress that new unilateral sanctions against Iran could upend sensitive international negotiations over its nuclear development, imploring lawmakers to work with the Obama administration in presenting a unified front to Tehran.

Echoing President Barack Obama’s deep concerns about another round of tough economic penalties, Clinton said any congressional action could undercut U.S. work with its allies as well as American influence with Russia and China in forcing Tehran to negotiate after years of inconclusive talks.

“Now that serious negotiations are finally under way, we should do everything we can to test whether they can advance a permanent solution,” Clinton said. “As President Obama has said, we must give diplomacy a chance to succeed, while keeping all options on the table.”

Clinton offered her assessment in a three-page letter to Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., the chairman of the Armed Services Committee. Levin’s office released the letter, dated Jan. 26, on Sunday.

Levin and several other committee chairmen have expressed a willingness to hold off on sanctions to give diplomatic efforts a chance. However, 59 Republicans and Democrats back legislation to impose a new round of penalties on Iran, maintaining that crippling economic sanctions forced Tehran to make concessions.

The legislation, sponsored by Sens. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., and Mark Kirk, R-Ill., would blacklist several Iranian industrial sectors and threaten banks and companies around the world with being banned from the U.S. market if they help Iran export any more oil. The provisions would only take effect if Tehran violates the six-month interim deal or lets it expire without a comprehensive nuclear agreement.

Iran agreed in November to slow its uranium enrichment program to a level that is far below what would be necessary to make a nuclear bomb. It also agreed to increased international inspections to give world leaders confidence that it is not trying to build weapons in secret.

In exchange, the U.S. and five other nations — Britain, Germany, France, Russia and China — agreed to ease an estimated $7 billion worth of international sanctions against Iran’s crippled economy for a six-month period while negotiators try to broker a final settlement.

Iran has long maintained that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.

Clinton said the intelligence community has said new sanctions could undercut the chances for a comprehensive nuclear agreement with Iran.

“I share that view. It could rob us of the diplomatic high ground we worked so hard to reach, break the united international front we constructed and in the long run, weaken the pressure on Iran by opening the door for other countries to chart a different course,” said the former New York senator and possible 2016 presidential candidate.

In his State of the Union address this past week, Obama repeated his threat to veto any new Iran sanctions if Congress passes legislation.

Clinton, who said she repeatedly backed Iran sanctions during her eight years as senator, cautioned lawmakers.

“If the world judges — rightly or wrongly — that negotiations have collapsed because of actions in the United States Congress, even some of our closest partners abroad — to say nothing of countries like Russia and China — may well falter in their commitment. And without help from our partners in enforcing them, any new measures we put in place will not achieve maximum impact,” Clinton said.

Levin, who had written to Clinton Jan. 16 seeking her views, said her letter “is another strong signal to Congress that we should not take any legislative action at this time that would damage international unity or play into the hands of hard-liners in Iran who oppose negotiations.”

© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

 

Paul Ryan: Obama Presidency ‘Increasingly Lawless’.


Image: Paul Ryan: Obama Presidency 'Increasingly Lawless'

By Greg Richter

President Barack Obama’s presidency is becoming ‘increasingly lawless’ as he signs executive orders contradicting existing law or proposing new ones, says Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc.

“Presidents don’t write laws, Congress does,” Ryan said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.” 

Obama, in his State of the Union address last week, promised to go it alone by issuingeven more executive orders if Congress fails to pass laws he deems necessary.

“This Week” host George Stephanopoulos noted that the number of executive orders issued by Obama at this point in his presidency is fewer than those of the most recent two-term presidents, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton or Ronald Reagan.

Ryan argued that the issue isn’t numbers, but scope.

“Executive orders are one thing, but executive orders that actually change the statute, that’s totally different,” Ryan said. He gave as an example Obama’s unilateral delay of some parts of the Affordable Care Act.

Still, Ryan doesn’t see impeachment proceedings over the issue, which he labeled a “dangerous trend.” Instead, he predicted court battles over individual incidents.

On others issues, Ryan:

  • Predicted New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will continue to lead the Republican Governors Association despite his deepening troubles over the Bridge-gate scandal.
  • Said that despite internal GOP disagreement on immigration, the party does agree that it doesn’t trust Obama to enforce the law. He said Congress is unlikely to pass a bill this year to send to the president. Republicans want a secure border, interior security (a worker verification system and a visa tracking program), before the rest of law can take effect.
  • Said attaching policy to a debt limit bill is not a new approach, and that Congress should stop rubber stamping debt limit increases.
  • Defended comments he made that Pope Francis isn’t familiar with American capitalism because he is from Argentina, where “crony capitalism” is practiced. Francis is starting the debate on helping the poor, not ending, it, Ryan said. He admitted Francis wouldn’t back his budget proposal because “Popes don’t endorse budgets.”

Obamacare Alert: Massive Rule Changes to Affect Your Medicare 

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Chief Justice Roberts: Federal Courts Need More Funds.


Image: Chief Justice Roberts: Federal Courts Need More Funds

Congress and the White House need to restore funding to the nation’s federal courts to keep from undermining “the public’s confidence in all three branches of government,” Chief Justice John Roberts said Tuesday in his year-end report.

Roberts has made similar calls for more money in the past.

“I would like to choose a fresher topic, but duty calls. The budget remains the single most important issue facing the courts,” he said.

The courts have been severely affected by government cost-cutting, Roberts said.

“The combined effects since July 2011 of flat budgets followed by sequestration reduced on-board court staffing levels by 3,100 (14 percent) to about 19,000 employees — the lowest staffing level since 1997, despite significant workload increases over that same period — and reduced federal defender offices staffing by 11 percent in fiscal year 2013 alone,” he said.

What would happen if the sequestration cuts continue? If Congress instead freezes court funding at sequester level, it “would lead to the loss of an estimated additional 1,000 court staff,” Roberts said.

“The first consequence would be greater delays in resolving civil and criminal cases. In the civil and bankruptcy venues, further consequences would include commercial uncertainty, lost opportunities and unvindicated rights. In the criminal venues, those consequences pose a genuine threat to public safety.”

Court officials are calling for $7.04 billion for fiscal year 2014, which they calculate at less than two-tenths of 1 percent of total federal outlays.

“In the coming weeks, and into the future, I encourage the president and Congress to be attentive to the needs of the judicial branch and avert the adverse consequences that would result from funding the judiciary below its minimal needs,” Roberts said.

“The judiciary continues to depend on the vision and statesmanship of our colleagues in the executive and legislative departments. It takes no imagination to see that failing to meet the judiciary’s essential requirements undermines the public’s confidence in all three branches of government.”

The judiciary system also is working to save money by ensuring any new space requested by a judicial circuit is offset by an equivalent reduction in the same fiscal year. The courts also are looking to reduce their overall space by 3 percent by the end of fiscal 2018.

“The only exceptions from these policies are new courthouses and repair and alterations projects specifically approved by Congress,” Roberts said.

© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Source: Newsmax.com

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