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Posts tagged ‘Bob Corker’

Putin Assembles Blacklist of US Leaders for Asset and Travel Ban to Russia.


President Vladimir Putin has reportedly assembled a blacklist of Obama administration officials and U.S. senators, including Majority Whip Dick Durbin, banning their travel and freezing any assets there.

Putin’s sanctions are expected to come Tuesday, The Daily Beast reported, citing diplomatic sources.

The retaliatory slap comes in the wake of President Obama’s asset and travel ban Monday on seven Russian officials and four Ukrainian officials.

At the top of Putin’s tit-for-tat list is the Illinois Democrat, who with fellow Senate Foreign Relations Committee member Sen.Jeffrey Flake, R-Ariz., passed a measure last week to give Ukraine financial aid and impose sanctions on Russia.

“Are we going to stand by and say this is acceptable conduct? Because this isn’t the end of his ambition,” Durbin said on NBC’s Meet the Press” Sunday.

Durbin’s listing would mirror that of Valentina Matvienko, the head of the upper chamber of the Russian Duma, who wound up on Obama’s sanction list, The Daily Beast pointed out.

“My Lithuanian-born mother would be proud her son made Vladimir Putin’s American enemies list,” Durbin said in a statement to the newssite.

Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain, who’s been to Kiev to meet with Ukrainian leaders, said he fully expects to be on the Putin enemies list — and couldn’t be more pleased.

“You think I’m not going to be on it?” McCain asked The Daily Beast. “I would be honored to be on that list,” then joked: “I guess I’m going to have to try to withdraw my money from my secret account in St. Petersburg.”

The Daily Beast said other names that may be listed, but that the news site had not confirmed, include Sens. Robert Menendez , D-NJ,  and Bob Corker, R-Tenn., also members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee leading a sanctions drive, and Victoria Nuland, the assistant secretary of state for Europe, who’s been been working with the Ukrainian opposition.

McCain told The Daily Beast the U.S. cannot bend to any of Russia’s sanctions.
“If we acquiesced to that, that would be a green light for him to go for Moldova, where there are also Russian troops,” he said. “That’s the problem with this appeasement policy.”
McCain wants even stronger measures against Putin to thwart any possible expansion of the invasion.

“… Putin has put everything in place for a de facto partition of Eastern Ukraine,” he told The Daily Beast. “Will he do it? I don’t know. But I don’t think he can be discouraged from that by these limited actions by the United States…. We must commit to the ultimate return of Crimea to Ukraine, just as we promised to the so-called captive nations that they would eventually be free of Soviet domination.”

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By Cathy Burke

Cruz: Debt Ceiling ‘Trickery’ Shows Why Americans Hate Congress.


Senators and their “trickery” on last week’s vote on the debt ceiling was “a perfect illustration of everything that is wrong in Washington,” Texas Sen. Ted Cruz says.

“Republican leadership said, we want this to pass but if every senator affirmatively consents to doing it on 51 votes, then we can all cast a vote ‘no’ and we can go home to our constituents and say we opposed it,” the Republican freshman senator told CNN’s Dana Bash on Thursday.

That “show vote,” Cruz continued, is the “sort of trickery to the constituents [which] is why Congress has a 13 percent approval rating.”

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Story continues below video.

The Senate last week approved the “clean” debt-ceiling bill, but two key Republicans, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Minority Whip John Cornyn of Texas voted to end Cruz’s filibuster on the legislation.

Cruz had called for a 60-vote threshold to end debate on the measure, but after discussions among GOP senators on the floor of the chamber, McConnell and Cornyn came forward to cast “aye” votes to end debate — a move called “cloture.”

A total of 12 Republican senators voted to invoke cloture, joining with 53 Democrats and two independents who caucus with Democrats. The bill then advanced to the floor and was approved 55-43 on a straight party-line vote.

Besides McConnell and Cornyn, the other Republicans voting against Cruz were Sens. John Barrasso, Wyoming; Susan Collins, Maine; Bob Corker, Tennessee; Jeff Flake, Arizona; Orrin Hatch, Utah; Mike Johanns, Nebraska; Mark Kirk, Illinois; John McCain, Arizona; Lisa Murkowski, Alaska; and John Thune, South Dakota.

Cruz told Bash that he likes Cornyn and has agreed with him on many issues, but disagrees with him on the debt ceiling vote.

“What I said at the outset was that I am not going to affirmatively consent to giving [Senate Majority Leader] Harry Reid the authority to do this,” Cruz said. “It’s irresponsible, and it’s sending our nation’s future down the road.”

But he denies criticism that he “threw five Republicans under the bus.”

“My response is, I don’t want to throw any Republicans under the bus,” Cruz said. “I want to see all 45 Republicans stand together and actually do what we tell our constituents we are going to do.”

Overall, Cruz said, lawmakers need to be honest with their constituents.

“Last week, what it was all about was truth and transparency,” he said.

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By Sandy Fitzgerald

GOP Senate Leadership Bucks Cruz’s 60-Vote Debt Ceiling Bid.


Image: GOP Senate Leadership Bucks Cruz's 60-Vote Debt Ceiling Bid

After a dramatic Senate tally in which top GOP leaders cast the crucial votes, must-pass legislation to allow the government to borrow money to pay its bills cleared Congress Wednesday for President Barack Obama’s signature.

The Senate approved the measure by a near party-line 55-43 vote. All of the “aye” votes came from Obama’s Democratic allies.

But the vote to pass the measure was anticlimactic after a dramatic 67-31 tally — held open for more than an hour — in which the measure cleared a filibuster hurdle insisted on by tea party Republican Ted Cruz of Texas. The Senate’s top two Republicans — both facing tea party challenges in their GOP primaries this year — provided crucial momentum after a knot of Republicans in the Senate well were clearly unhappy at having to walk the plank.

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After Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and Minority Whip John Cornyn, voted “aye” several other Republicans switched their votes in solidarity. Twelve Republicans ultimately voted to help the measure advance but the tally appeared to be in doubt for several anxious minutes.

“A lot of people stepped up and did what they needed to do,” said Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, who voted to advance the bill, as did Mark Kirk of Illinois, who said: “Members didn’t want to” vote for it.

The 12 Republicans who voted against Cruz’s measure were: John Barrasso, Wyo.; Susan Collins, Maine; Bob Corker, Tenn.; John Cornyn, Texas; Jeff Flake, Ariz.; Orrin Hatch, Utah; Mike Johanns, Neb.; Mark Kirk, Ill.; John McCain, Ariz.; Mitch McConnell, Ky.; Lisa Murkowski, Alaska; John Thune, S.D.

Cruz’s demands irritated Republicans because it forced several of them, particularly McConnell, to cast a difficult vote. McConnell faces a May primary against tea party candidate Matt Bevin, whose supporters adamantly oppose increasing the debt limit.

“In my view, every Republican should stand together against raising the debt ceiling without meaningful structural reforms to rein in our out of control spending,” Cruz said.

After the tally, Cruz said he had no regrets, saying the “Senate has given President Obama a blank check.”

Asked about forcing a difficult vote upon McConnell, Cruz said: “That is ultimately a decision … for the voters of Kentucky.”

The legislation would permit Treasury to borrow normally for another 13 months and then reset the government’s borrowing cap, currently set at $17.2 trillion, after that.

It passed the House Tuesday after Republicans gave up efforts to use the debt ceiling measure to win concessions from Obama on GOP agenda items like winning approval of construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.

The measure is required so that the government can borrow to pay bills like Social Security benefits, federal salaries, and payments to Medicare and Medicaid providers.

Quick action on the debt limit bill stands in contrast to lengthy showdowns in 2012 and last fall when Republicans sought to use the critically necessary measure as leverage to win concessions from Obama. They succeeded in 2011, winning about $2 trillion in spending cuts, but Obama has been unwilling to negotiate over the debt limit since his re-election, and Wednesday’s legislation is the third consecutive debt measure passed without White House concessions.

Republicans have been less confrontational after October’s 16-day partial government shutdown sent GOP poll numbers skidding and chastened the party’s tea party faction. Republicans have instead sought to focus voters’ attention on the implementation and effects of Obama’s health care law.

The measure is required so that the government can borrow to pay all of its bills, including Social Security benefits, federal salaries, payments to Medicare and Medicaid providers and interest on the accumulated debt. Congress has never failed to act to prevent a default on U.S. obligations, which most experts say would spook financial markets and spike interest rates.

Most Republicans say any increase in the debt ceiling should be accompanied by cuts to the spiraling costs of costly benefit programs like Medicare.

“We need some reform before we raise the debt ceiling. We need to demonstrate that we are taking steps that will reduce the accumulation of debt in the future,” said Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, top Republican on the Budget Committee. “And the president and the Democratic Senate have just flatly refused. So they’ve just said, `We’ll accept no restraint on spending’.”

Some Republicans seemed irked that Cruz wouldn’t let the bill pass without forcing it to clear a 60-vote threshold that required some Republicans to walk the plank and help it advance..

“I’m not going to talk about that,” said Orrin Hatch when asked if Republicans are annoyed with Cruz.

Passage of the debt limit measure without any extraneous issues comes after House GOP leaders tried for weeks to find a formula to pass a version of their own that included Republican agenda items like approval of the Keystone XL oil pipeline and repeal of an element of the health care law. But a sizable faction of House Republicans simply refuse to vote for any increase in the government’s borrowing abilities, which forced House Speaker John Boehner to turn to Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to pass the measure on the strength of Democrats.

The debt measure permits Treasury to borrow regularly through March 15, 2015, putting the issue off until after the November elections and setting it up for the new Congress to handle next year. If Republicans take over the Senate, they’re likely to insist on linking the debt ceiling to spending cuts and other GOP agenda items, but for now at least, the issue is being handled the old fashioned way, with the party of the incumbent president being responsible for supplying the votes to pass it but with the minority party not standing in the way.

“I think we will go back to the responsible way of making sure that our country does not default,” said Democratic Budget Committee Chairman Patty Murray.

Senate action Wednesday would safely clear the debt issue off of Washington’s plate weeks in advance of the Feb. 27 deadline set last week by Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew. The debt limit was reset to $17.2 trillion after a four-month suspension of the prior, $16.7 trillion limit expired last Friday. Lew promptly began employing accounting maneuvers to buy time for Congress to act.

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

Source: Newsmax.com

Unemployment Insurance Has Little GOP Support.


With a Senate vote on extending unemployment insurance to more than 1 million Americans scheduled for Monday evening, it is not clear there will be enough Republican support for the bipartisan plan to pass.

proposal by Republican Sen. Dean Heller of Nevada and Democratic Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island  would provide benefits to about 1.3 million eligible workers for three months, costing roughly $6.5 billion.

While it has the support of Heller and 55 members of the Senate Democratic caucus, many GOP senators have said they won’t back the program because it does not include a way to pay for the benefits, reports The Washington Post.

Spokespeople for Republican Sens. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, Johnny Isakson of Georgia, Rob Portman of Ohio, and Roger Wicker of Mississippi, all states with high unemployment rates, told the newspaper that the legislators will vote against the Reed-Heller proposal.

Aides to Bob Corker of Tennessee and Mark Kirk of Illinois, also states with high levels of unemployment, told the Post they didn’t know how the senators would vote.

Meanwhile, Organizing for Action, the Obama administration’s lobbying arm, has planned events in 30 cities for Tuesday to pressure Republicans to support the plan, reports Politico.

Labor groups are also organizing phone calls to the Capitol and holding a Wednesday rally featuring unemployed workers and Democratic members of Congress who support the proposal, according to the publication.

But a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, reaffirmed on Sunday that he would not consider any unemployment benefit extension unless it is paid for.

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By Lisa Barron

Democrats Looking for Just Five GOP Senators to Back Budget Bill.


Lost in the din of the debate among Republicans over the controversial budget bill is the fact that only five GOP senators need to jump ranks to move the bipartisan measure forward.

With Republican opposition to the bill mounting, Democrats seem firmly in favor of the compromise bill forged by Democrat Sen. Patty Murray and Republican Rep. Paul Ryan.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said all 53 Democrats and two independents will vote Tuesday to end debate on the two-year spending bill, which passed the House Thursday on a 332-94 vote — paving the way for a final vote.

“I think it would be suicide if the Republicans didn’t pass it,” the Nevada Democrat told Bloomberg Television Friday.

But tea party groups are pressuring GOP senators to reject the bill or potentially face primary challenges and angry constituents. And, 62 Republicans and 32 Democrats broke ranks with their respective leaders and opposed the measure. The deal was backed by House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio and Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia.

But to end the debate on the Senate bill — or “cloture” — Democrats would need five GOP votes, though the final vote would require only 51 votes for passage.

Where would those five votes come from? Here are some of the senators seen as likely “yes” votes, according to news reports.

Sen. John McCain of Arizona

McCain has said he’d likely vote to end cloture on the bill.

“I’m not OK with it, but I think it’s better than shutting down the government,” McCain said Friday, according to Politico.

He has since, however, voiced concerns about the bill’s proposed pension cuts to working-age military retirees.

Pensions for such retirees would be cut by 1 percentage point, through it would have a practical effect of cutting the payments by 20 percent over the next two decades, according to veterans groups.

Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee

Corker said he’d end debate on the bill, adding, “My sense is that the procedural issues could be overcome and there could be just” a yes or no vote.

However, the two-term legislator said he would vote against the bill because it raises spending.

“I appreciate the dilemma Paul Ryan was in, but I’m disappointed,” Corker told The New York Times.

“For three years in a row, Congress has spent less on discretionary programs than the year before.

“Unfortunately, the deal announced this week busts these budget caps without making meaningful changes to mandatory programs, so it violates the only real progress we have made in getting our fiscal house in order.”

Sen. Susan Collins of Maine

Collins, who is in her third term, said she would vote to move the bill forward but that she has not definitively decided on whether she would support it.

“I will vote for cloture,” she told Politico. “I’m still weighing [final passage] but I’m inclined toward it … The advantages of having a budget outweigh the reservations that I have.”

In addition, Collins told The Hill that “I am concerned about the impact on the military retirees.”

Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska

Murkowski, who was first appointed to the Senate in 2002, is viewed by Democrats as a potential supporter of ending debate on the budget bill.

The deal, she told Politico, “is weighing heavily on my mind as I leave the chamber on a Friday afternoon.”

When asked whether she would vote to move the legislation forward, she responded, “I might.”

Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona

McCain’s colleague in the upper chamber has also said he’d vote to move the budget legislation forward, though he said he would block final passage.

Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina

The senator, who has served in the upper chamber since 2005, is likely to support ending debate, but not to back the budget deal, an aide told Newsmax.

Other GOP senators who have been mentioned as possible supporters of ending cloture — though they may not support the final vote — are Sens. Rob Portman of Ohio, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Orrin Hatch of Utah, John Hoeven of North Dakota, Mark Kirk of Illinois, Richard Shelby of Alabama, and Mike Johanns of Nebraska.

The spending deal is opposed by the Senate’s top three Republicans — Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, John Cornyn of Texas and John Thune of South Dakota — as well as Sen. Jeff Sessions, the ranking GOP member of the Senate Budget Committee.

They all contend the budget would increase the spending limits required by the Budget Control Act of 2011. Those sequestration cuts took effect in March.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

 

By Todd Beamon

States, Insurers Seek Ways to Bypass Obamacare.


Some insurers and at least one state are seeking ways to decouple from the improved but still flawed federal HealthCare.gov site, The Wall Street Journal reported.
Connecticut, which runs its own Affordable Care Act insurance marketplace, aims to establish enrollees are legal residents without relying on the need to tap into the federal system.
In addition, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is also developing work-arounds that would reduce the need for callcenter workers to turn to the federal site when calculating the value of tax credits. This would speed the processing of straightforward applications, according to the Journal.
While navigating the site is now more problem-free for average users, the issues of identity-verification and accurate enrollment data have not been resolved.
Meanwhile, insurers continue to press the Obama administration for ways to enroll customers directly — though doing so undermines Obamacare’s goal of offering comparison shopping to consumers.
Authorities expect a surge in demand on the federal site as millions of Americans — including the uninsured and those who will lose their coverage under Obamacare — rush to meet the Dec. 23 deadline for insurance that commences Jan. 1
According to Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., elected officials are still getting calls “from incredibly distressed citizens who’ve had their policies canceled, and yet are unable to enroll in a new plan.”
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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

By Elliot Jager

Tech Bugs Persist Even as White House Touts Obamacare Fixes.


The worst of the online glitches, crashes and delays may be over for the problem-plagued government health care website, the Department of Health and Human Services said Sunday.

But that doesn’t mean HealthCare.gov is ready for a clean bill of health.

Officials acknowledged more work remains on the website that included hundreds of software bugs, inadequate equipment and inefficient management for its national debut two months ago. Federal workers and private contractors have undertaken an intense reworking of the system, but the White House’s chief troubleshooter cautioned some users could still encounter trouble.

“The bottom line — HealthCare.gov on Dec. 1 is night and day from where it was on Oct. 1,” Jeff Zients told reporters.

But on CNN Sunday, reporters trying to test the site found that it still crashed.

“We’ve been trying to get into the site since October 1 on and off again,” said CNN medical reporter Matt Sloane. “I have to say it did work a lot more smoothly this morning. I got through. I picked my state. I put in all of my information and I got through the whole process in eight minutes.

“And then it said my status was in progress. So I went to refresh it and I got the error message.”

Story continues below video.

More than 50,000 people can log on to the website at one time and more than 800,000 people will be able to shop for insurance coverage each day, the government estimated in a report released Sunday. If true, it’s a dramatic improvement from the system’s first weeks, when frustrated buyers watched their computer screen freeze, the website crash and error messages multiply.

The figures — which could not be independently verified — suggest millions of Americans could turn to their laptops to shop for and buy insurance policies by the Dec. 23 deadline.

“There’s not really any way to verify from the outside that the vast majority of people who want to enroll can now do so, but we’ll find out at least anecdotally over the coming days if the system can handle the traffic and provide a smooth experience for people trying to sign up,” said Larry Levitt, a senior adviser at the Kaiser Family Foundation.

But, he added, HealthCare.gov is clearly working better than when it first went online. Its challenge now is to convince users who were frustrated during their first visit to give it another chance.

Politically, a fixed website could also offer a fresh start for President Barack Obama and his fellow Democrats after a wave of bad publicity surrounding the president’s chief domestic achievement.

“This website is technology. It’s going to get better. It’s already better today,” said Rep. Keith Ellison, a Minnesota Democrat who is a co-chairman of the liberal Congressional Progressive Caucus. “And we’re only going to be working out more kinks as we go forward.”

HealthCare.gov was envisioned as the principal place for people in 36 states to buy insurance under Obama’s health care law. But its first few weeks were an embarrassment for the administration and its allies.

Obama set Saturday as the deadline to fix several significant problems and the administration organized a conference call with reporters Sunday morning to boast that 400 technical problems had been resolved. Officials, however, declined to say how many items remain on the to-do list.

Even with the repairs in place, the site still won’t be able to do everything the administration wants, and companion sites for small businesses and Spanish speakers have been delayed. Questions remain about the stability of the site and the quality of the data it delivers to insurers.

“The security of this site and the private information does not meet even the minimal standards of the private sector, and that concerns me,” said Rep. Mike Rogers, the Michigan Republican who leads the House intelligence panel. “I don’t care if you’re for it or against it, Republican or Democrat, we should not tolerate the sheer level of incompetence securing this site.”

Obama promised a few weeks ago that HealthCare.gov “will work much better on Nov. 30, Dec. 1, than it worked certainly on Oct. 1.” But, in trying to lower expectations, he said he could not guarantee that “100 percent of the people 100 percent of the time going on this website will have a perfectly seamless, smooth experience.”

Obama rightly predicted errors would remain. The department reported the website was up and running 95 percent of the time last week — meaning a 1-in-20 chance remains of encountering a broken website. The government also estimated that pages crashed at a rate less than once every 100 clicks.

“Yes, there are problems,” said Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, the top Democrat on the House Budget Committee. “There’s no denying that. Let’s work to fix them.”

The nation’s largest health insurer trade group said significant problems remain and could be a barrier for consumers signing up for coverage effective Jan. 1.

“HealthCare.gov and the overall enrollment process continue to improve, but there are significant issues that still need to be addressed,” said Karen Ignagni, president and CEO of America’s Health Insurance Plans.

Republicans, betting frustration about the health care law is their best bet to make gains in 2014’s congressional and gubernatorial elections, continued their criticism of the system.

“I don’t know how you fix it, I’ll be honest,” said Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn. “I don’t know how you fix a program that was put together in this manner with only one side of the aisle, and taking the shortcuts we’re taking to put it in place.”

Democrats, sensing their potential vulnerability, sought to blame Republicans for not offering ideas on how to improve the website.

“Yes, we have to fix it. We should be working together to fix it,” said Van Hollen, a former chairman of the committee tasked to elect more Democrats to the U.S. House.

The first big test of the repaired website probably won’t come for a few more weeks, when an enrollment surge is expected as consumers rush to meet a Dec. 23 deadline so their coverage can kick in on the first of the year.

Avoiding a break in coverage is particularly important for millions of people whose current individual policies were canceled because they don’t meet the standards of the health care law, as well as for a group of about 100,000 in an expiring federal program for high-risk patients.

Ellison spoke to ABC’s “This Week.” Rogers and Van Hollen were interviewed on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” Corker joined CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

 

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