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Posts tagged ‘Richard Blumenthal’

Obama Under Pressure to Move Soon on NSA Reform.

Image: Obama Under Pressure to Move Soon on NSA Reform

Lawmakers expect President Barack Obama to announce changes to the National Security Agency’s metadata surveillance program before he makes his State of the Union address on Jan. 28.

The president met in private session with 16 members of the House and Senate Thursday,reports The Hill, and while he did not endorse any specific reforms, he said the NSA’s surveillance programs will have to undergo reform, said lawmakers after the meeting.

“Close to half the members of Congress” think reforms and reductions should be made to Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which allows the NSA to collect bulk data on phone calls inside the United States, said Colorado Democratic Sen. Mark Udall.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said Obama is still considering options, reports CBS News.

“He’s not yet finished with that and he is still soliciting input, which he did today, sort of reviewing the scope of the matter and some of the ideas that were presented,” Carney said.

Some parts of the program will still require reviews beyond the next few weeks, even if Obama makes an announcement, he added.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said after the meeting that he “wouldn’t be surprised a bit” if Obama makes an announcement next week.

“Many of us made clear our belief that the bulk collection of Americans’ phone calls must end,” Leahy said in a press statement. “This is consistent with the recommendations made by the President’s Review Group.”

Leahy acknowledged there are differences of opinion among lawmakers, “but at least the president knows where we stand.”

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., has said she will kill legislation sponsored by Leahy and Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., to end the phone records collections.

The Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technology last month proposed ending the government’s storage of metadata. After the meeting, Feinstein bashed that plan, saying it could cost phone carriers as much as $60 million a year to store records.

But lawmakers said Obama is more likely to take other actions, including adding a public advocate on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

Other senators at Thursday’s meeting included Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., the ranking GOP member on the intelligence panel; Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa; Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill.; Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss.; Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.; and Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore. However, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., a prominent NSA critic, was not invited.

House members present were House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers , R-Mich.; House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va.; Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich.; Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-N.J.; Rep. Peter Visclosky, D-Ind.; Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif.; and Sensenbrenner.

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

WashPost: White House Delayed Rules to Avoid Pre-Election Controversy.

The Obama administration deliberately postponed enacting a number of rules and regulations to avoid stirring up controversy before last year’s presidential election, according to several current and former employees, The Washington Post reports.

Some administration officials were required to have proposals vetted in advance in so-called “Mother-may-I” meetings, while some were told to not submit plans for new regulations for as much as a year before the election, the Post says.

Rules that were delayed or never enacted were related to Obamacare, workplace safety, the environment, and other issues, the Post reports.

“As we entered the run-up to the election, the word went out the White House was not anxious to review new rules,” said a former official of the Environmental Protection Agency, one of seven present or former senior White House employees interviewed by the Post.

The report flies in the face of longstanding contentions by the White House that any delays in regulation until after the election were coincidental and not affected by politics — assertions debunked by those interviewed by the Post.

Emily Cain, spokeswoman for the Office of Management and Budget, told the Post that the administration’s “approach to regulatory review is consistent with long-standing precedent across previous administrations and fully adheres” to federal rules.

“OMB works as expeditiously as possible to review rules, but when it comes to complex rules with significant potential impact, we take the time needed to get them right,” Cain said in a statement.

In addition, the Post’s article was bolstered by data released earlier this month by the Administrative Conference of the United States (ACUS), an independent agency that advises the federal government on regulatory issues.

That report was developed from anonymous interviews with more than a dozen senior Obama officials in the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), which administers the implementation of federal rules, the Post reports.

Internal reviews of proposed regulatory changes “took longer in 2011 and 2012 because of concerns about the agencies issuing costly or controversial rules prior to the November 2012 election,” the document said.

For instance, the officials told ACUS investigators that they had to meet with an OIRA officer before submitting critical regulations for review, the Post reports. That started in 2012 — and the sessions were characterized as “Mother-may-I” meetings.

The seven Post interviewees, four White House appointees and three career employees, verified that ACUS information.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, the Democrat who heads the Judiciary Subcommittee on Oversight, Federal Rights, and Agency Action, charged to the Post that “legal protection delayed is protection denied.

“I’ve spoken to officials at the top rungs of the White House power structure and at OIRA — and we’re going to hold their feet to the fire, and we’re going to make sure they’re held accountable in a series of hearings.”

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

By Todd Beamon

Paul’s Plan to Cut Aid to Egypt Gains Momentum.

Image: Paul's Plan to Cut Aid to Egypt Gains Momentum

By Sandy Fitzgerald

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul believes he has enough backing to pass an amendment next month to cut off aid to Egypt, a plan that many of his fellow Republicans have resisted.

Paul’s efforts are being boosted because of the Egyptian military crackdown on Muslim Brotherhood protesters, reports The Hill.

“It’s going to be an interesting debate to watch because I think the traditional lines appear to be shifting on the Egypt issue,” a senior GOP aide said, noting that Paul plans to force another vote on his bill to cut the $1.3 billion the United States sends to Egypt annually.

Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain had been resisting cuts in Egypt’s aid, saying Paul’s efforts would be “a terrific mistake.” But he acknowledged earlier this month, along with South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, that continuing the aid while violent street clashes continue is inappropriate.

“We urge the Obama Administration to suspend U.S. assistance to Egypt and make clear to the current leadership of the country what steps we believe are necessary to halt Egypt’s descent into civil conflict and ultimately to restore our assistance relationship,” he and Graham wrote in a joint statement after returning from a trip to Egypt.

With McCain’s change of view, a Paul amendment to stop aid could have a better outcome than his last attempt in July, when senators voted 86-13 to table his plan to redirect the aid to be used to repair domestic infrastructure instead.

Policy experts, however, believe McCain and Paul will still argue over the details of how to go about suspending aid, The Hill reported.

Michael Rubin, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute specializing in the Middle East, predicts Paul will win the vote to cut off aid, but said the sides will argue about when to restore it.

Democrats like Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut say future aid should be tied to steps to “return toward Democracy,” and Rubin believes McCain will argue to give President Barack Obama flexibility in administer the support to Egypt.

“He ultimately is traditional and old-school, and when push comes to shove, he’ll defer to the White House on implementation by ensuring that there are enough waivers and loopholes to get through what needs to get through,” Rubin told The Hill.

© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Biden Presses Case for Gun Control as Senate Readies for Debate.

Vice President Joe Biden is stepping up the pressure on senators with daily phone calls and increased face-to-face meetings in the administration’s lobbying effort to pass new gun control measures as the Senate prepares to debate the issue later this month.

According to The Hill, Biden has recently met in private with Republican senators, including John McCain of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, and Johnny Isakson of Georgia. Citing an unnamed senior administration official, the newspaper reported Monday that the vice president plans to spend even more time on Capitol Hill making the administration’s case.

“There are always a lot of dark alleys on these issues, but he’s been trying to shake that all out. He’s making sure he’s hearing from everybody and knowing where the pressure points are,” The Hill quoted the official as saying.

During a conference call organized last week by Mayors Against Illegal Guns , Biden reportedly said that he and his staff had “met with every possible stakeholder out there, a total of 229 different groups,” including governors, mayors, law enforcement officials, mental health experts, religious groups and “the NRA itself.”

Biden’s role in keeping the pressure on all parties involved is a critical one, according to Democratic consultant Chris Kofinis, who told the Hill that President Barack Obama “is the strategist” and Biden “the tactician” in the fight for tougher gun laws.

“I think the president is laying out the frame, the message, the vision about where we need to go and why,” Kofinis said. “The vice president understands how to make that happen. You have two interlocking pieces that work very well together.”

The effort to keep up contact with key Republicans on the issue may be paying off. Sen. Graham told CNN on Sunday that he would not join a GOP filibuster of a Democratic sponsored bill that includes universal background checks on gun sales unless Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid refuses senators the right to introduce amendments.

Graham and other Republican senators are pushing a measure that would make it harder for the mentally ill to obtain firearms, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Republican Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky, Ted Cruz of Texas, and Mike Lee of Utah reportedly said last week that they planned to filibuster any legislation that serves “as a vehicle for any additional gun restrictions.” Florida Sen. Marco Rubio has also threatened to join them.

The bill expected on the Senate floor will not include measures for a renewed ban on certain semiautomatic weapons and new limits on high-capacity ammunition.

But Reid has vowed to allow votes on those proposals as amendments, and Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut said on Sunday that he plans to act on that promise.

“The majority leader has assured me and other proponents of these measures that we can offer amendments on both the assault weapons ban and the prohibition on high-capacity magazines. So, there will be votes and I intend to spearhead that amendment on the high-capacity magazines,” he said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

By Lisa Barron

Bide urges gun legislation in speech 10 miles from Sandy Hook.


Vice President Joe Biden urged lawmakers to have the “courage” to pass legislation addressing gun violence on Thursday at a conference in Connecticut just 10 miles from Sandy Hook Elementary School, scene of the Dec. 14 mass shooting.

“We have an obligation to act,” Biden said of America‘s politicians, after meeting with two parents of children who were murdered at Sandy Hook. “You all should know there is a moral price to be paid for inaction.”

Biden said a “consensus” is forming around closing loopholes that allow some gun buyers to evade background checks, banning high-capacity magazines and banning some semi-automatic weapons. The vice president also said additional funding should be provided to put more law enforcement officers on the streets and to make mental health services more widely available.

Biden specifically targeted the AR-15 rifle in his speech, mocking those who argue it’s a self-defense or recreational weapon and thus should not be banned. “There are plenty of ways you can protect yourself and recreate without an AR-15,” Biden said. He later expressed disbelief at the idea that banning a 100-round drum, such as was used in the Aurora, Colo., movie theater shooting last summer, would infringe upon anyone’s Second Amendment rights.

The symposium, held at Western Connecticut State University in Danbury, was hosted by Connecticut Democratic lawmakers Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy and Rep. Elizabeth Esty. It included panel discussions with local, state and national leaders; law enforcement; mental health experts; sportsmen; faith leaders; and families and survivors of gun violence.

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan addressed the conference before Biden, telling the audience that the issue of gun violence is personal to him because of his childhood growing up on the violent South Side of Chicago. “When you grow up and see your mentors and role models dying, that has a huge impact on you,” he said. “We think the current status quo is unacceptable.”

Biden became the White House’s lead on gun violence after President Barack Obama chose him to head up a gun reform task force in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting.

Biden in 1994 was the architect of legislation that temporarily banned assault weapons. The president and Biden have been advocating to reinstate that ban as well as a ban on high-capacity magazine clips, universal background checks and other measures they believe will reduce gun violence.


By  | The Ticket

Wounded ex-Rep. Giffords meets with Conn. families.

  • Former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, center, holds hands with her husband, Mark Kelly, while exiting Town Hall at Fairfield Hills Campus in Newtown, Conn. after meeting with Newtown First Selectman Pat Llodra and other officials on Friday, Jan. 4, 2013. At far left is Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman; behind Giffords to the left is U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal. Giffords also met with families of the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary massacre that left 26 people dead. (AP Photo/The News-Times, Jason Rearick) MANDATORY CREDIT

    Enlarge PhotoAssociated Press/The News-Times, Jason Rearick – Former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, center, holds hands with her husband, Mark Kelly, while exiting Town Hall at Fairfield Hills Campus in Newtown, Conn. after …more 


NEWTOWN, Conn. (AP) — Just days before the second anniversary of a mass shooting that critically injured Gabrielle Giffords, the former congresswoman was in Newtown meeting privately with families of those killed during last month’s massacre at an elementary school.

Giffords, a Democrat from Arizona, was accompanied Friday by her husband, retired astronaut Mark Kelly, and U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal.

“As always, I was deeply impressed by the strength and courage and resolve of the families and the extraordinary caring and generosity of Gabby Giffords and Mark Kelly in visiting with them,” Blumenthal said.

A gunman fatally shot 26 people — most of them children — inside Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14. He also killed his mother and himself.

Giffords was left partially blind, with a paralyzed right arm and brain injury, when a gunman opened fire at a constituent meet-and-greet outside a Tucson grocery store on Jan. 8, 2011. Arizona’s chief federal judge and five others were killed and 13 people, including Giffords, were injured.

She met earlier in the day Friday with officials including Connecticut Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman and Newtown’s First Selectwoman Patricia Llodra. They talked about the need for changes in gun controllaws and greater awareness of mental health issues, including identifying and treating people who have mental health problems, Llodra told USA Today.

They also discussed “concerns that our society has become desensitized to acts of violence, conflict and aggression,” and the need for adults to examine their role in allowing societal values to become eroded,” the newspaper reported.

Kelly has become a vocal advocate for gun control. He lashed out at politicians for avoiding a “meaningful debate” about gun laws and called out Arizona Republicans, including the governor, for taking a pro-gun stance in the months after the Arizona shooting.

“As a nation we have repeatedly passed up the opportunity to address the issue. After Columbine, after Virginia Tech, after Tucson and after Aurora, we have done nothing,” he said in November when the Arizona gunman was sentenced.

He has issued strongly worded statements many times since the massacre in Connecticut, including a harsh response to the National Rifle Association‘s reaction to the shooting. He often begins statements with “Gabby and I” as he makes pointed comments about the direction of the gun debate in America.

Kelly said on the day of the Newtown shooting that it should lead to better gun control.

“This time our response must consist of more than regret, sorrow, and condolence,” Kelly said on his Facebook page, calling for “a meaningful discussion about our gun laws and how they can be reformed and better enforced to prevent gun violence and death in America.”

Blumenthal said he is eager to find allies as he pursues tougher gun control laws.

“I’m hopeful that everyone who cares about this issue or has a stake in it will be active in supporting our effort in gun violence prevention legislatively,” he said.

Giffords’ visit came one day after Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announced the creation of an advisory commission that will review and recommend changes to state laws and policies on issues including gun control in the wake of the rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary.

Giffords has appeared in public a few times since the shooting. She came face-to-face with Loughner when he was sentenced and attended ceremonies for the anniversary of the shooting.

She received tributes and ovations when she returned to the House in January 2012 to say goodbye as she resigned her seat and she delivered the Pledge of Allegiance at the Democratic National Convention in September.

On Wednesday, two days before Giffords visited the Newtown families, she and Kelly met for an hour with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a longtime and vociferous gun control advocate. Bloomberg’s office tweeted a photo of the meeting but wouldn’t elaborate Friday on the discussion.

President Barack Obama invoked the Tucson and Newtown elementary school shootings when he spoke at Newtown shortly after the attack. He said four shootings, including those two plus the attacks at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin and at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., marked his first term in office.

A recent Pew Research Center report says gun policy accounted for almost 30 percent of discussions examined on blogs and Twitter in the three days after the school massacre. It compares the response to the Newtown rampage with the Arizona shooting, saying that in the three days after that, just 3 percent of social media conversation was about gun laws.


Associated Press writer Susan Haigh contributed to this report from Hartford, Conn.



Many Share Newtown’s Mourning During Holidays.

PHOTO: Christmas stockings with the names of shooting victims hang from railing near a makeshift memorial near the town Christmas tree in the Sandy Hook village of Newtown, Conn.
In this Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2012 file photo, Christmas stockings with the names of shooting victims hang from railing near a makeshift memorial near the town Christmas tree in the Sandy Hook village of Newtown, Conn. In the wake of the shooting, the grieving town is trying to find meaning in Christmas. (Julio Cortez, File/AP Photo)

As residents prepared to observe Christmas less than two weeks after a gunman killed 20 children and six educators at an elementary school, people sharing in the town’s mourning brought offerings of cards, handmade snowflakes and sympathy.

Tiny empty Christmas stockings with the victims’ names on them hung from trees in the neighborhood where the children were shot. On Christmas Eve, residents said they would light luminaries outside their homes in memory of the victims.

“We know that they’ll feel loved. They’ll feel that somebody actually cares,” said Treyvon Smalls, a 15-year-old from a few towns away who arrived at town hall with hundreds of cards and paper snowflakes collected from around the state.

At the Trinity Episcopal Church, less than 2 miles from the school, an overflow crowd of several hundred people attended Christmas Eve services. They were greeted by the sounds of a children’s choir echoing throughout a sanctuary hall that had its walls decorated with green wreaths adorned with red bows.

The church program said flowers were donated in honor of Sandy Hook shooting victims, identified by name or as the “school angels” and “Sandy Hook families.”

U.S. Sends Christmas Wishes to Newtown, Conn. Watch Video
Season of Giving: Newtown Tragedy Inspires Country to Spread Kindness Watch Video
Gun Violence Victims, Survivors Share Thoughts After Newtown Massacre Watch Video

The service, which generally took on a celebratory tone, made only a few vague references to the shooting. Pastor Kathie Adams-Shepherd led the congregation in praying “that the joy and consolation of the wonderful counselor might enliven all who are touched by illness, danger, or grief, especially all those families affected by the shootings in Sandy Hook.”

Police say the gunman, Adam Lanza, killed his mother in her bed before his Dec. 14 rampage and committed suicide as he heard officers arriving. Authorities have yet to give a theory about his motive.

While the grief is still fresh, some residents are urging political activism in the wake of the tragedy. A grassroots group called Newtown United has been meeting at the library to talk about issues ranging from gun control, to increasing mental health services to the types of memorials that could be erected for the victims. Some clergy members have said they also intend to push for change.

“We seek not to be the town of tragedy,” said Rabbi Shaul Praver of Congregation Adath Israel. “But, we seek to be the town where all the great changes started.”

Since the shooting, messages similar to the ones delivered Monday have arrived from around the world. People have donated toys, books, moneyand more. A United Way fund, one of many, has collected $3 million. People have given nearly $500,000 to a memorial scholarship fund at the University of Connecticut. On Christmas Day, police from other towns have agreed to work so Newtown officers can have the time off.

At Washington’s National Cathedral, the 20 children who were killed also were remembered. Angels made of paper doilies were used to adorn the altar in the children’s chapel. They’ll be displayed there through Jan. 6.

In the center of Newtown’s Sandy Hook section Monday, a steady stream of residents and out-of-towners snapped pictures, lit candles and dropped off children’s gifts at an expansive memorial filled with stuffed animals, poems, flowers, posters and cards.

“All the families who lost those little kids, Christmas will never be the same,” said Philippe Poncet, a Newtown resident originally from France. “Everybody across the world is trying to share the tragedy with our community here.”

Richard Scinto, a deacon at St. Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church, which was attended by eight children killed in the massacre, said the church’s pastor, Rev. Robert Weiss, used several eulogies this week to tell his congregation to get angry and take action against what some consider is a culture of gun violence in the country.

Praver and Scinto said they are not opposed to hunting or to having police in schools, but both said something must be done to change what has become a culture of violence in the United States.

“These were his mother’s guns,” Scinto said. “Why would anyone want an assault rifle as part of a private citizen collection?”

A mediator who worked with Lanza’s parents during their divorce has said Lanza, 20, was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, an autism-like disorder that is not associated with violence. It is not known whether he had other mental health issues. The guns used in the shooting had been purchased legally by his mother, Nancy Lanza, a gun enthusiast.

Gun control and mental health have also been topics at Newtown United meetings, along with what types of memorials would be most appropriate and any other action residents can take to feel like they are doing something.

“We don’t want Newtown to go on the list with Columbine, Tucson and Virginia Tech and only have it associated with horrible acts,” said Lee Shull, who moderated a Newton United meeting just days after the shootings. “We want to turn this into something positive. What can we do?”

A handful of people showed up to the group’s first meeting at the town library two days after the Dec. 14 shooting. The next night, 35 attended, most scrawling ideas and notes on white paper covering the tables. A few days later there was barely room to maneuver around the meeting room when two guests showed up: Sen. Richard Blumenthal and Sen.-elect Chris Murphy, Connecticut Democrats who told the group they planned to push for gun control legislation and needed their constituents to help them press the issue in Washington.

The group sees itself as a way to spark a local and national dialogue and action in the aftermath of a tragedy. It’s also a way to do something, anything, to cope with the sadness that has settled over Newtown.

Said resident John Neuhall: “Our hearts are broken wide open and we’re here out of grief and out of love for those families.”


Associated Press Writers Pat Eaton-Robb and John Christoffersen contributed to this report.



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