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Posts tagged ‘Saxby Chambliss’

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.

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

Republicans Looking at Several Routes to Senate Majority.


Republicans count enough competitive races to challenge Democrats for control of the Senate in the 2014 elections, if only they can figure out what to do with the tea party.

Crowded primaries in states such as Georgia, Iowa and North Carolina, where tea partyers and social conservatives are fighting for the nomination and pushing candidates farther right, worry many Republicans, especially after they saw their legitimate shots at a Senate majority slip away in 2010 and 2012.

Republicans need a net gain of six seats to capture control from Democrats, who effectively hold a 55-45 advantage now. But Democrats will be defending 21 of 35 seats to be decided in November, and President Barack Obama is looking like a major drag for them. Midterm elections are often tough for a president’s party in any event.

“History is with us, geography is with us and the president’s signature legislative achievement is the most unpopular” law of his tenure, Rob Collins, executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said of Obama and his health care overhaul.

Republicans inside and outside the Senate speak confidently about snatching open seats in West Virginia and South Dakota. They like their chances against Democratic incumbents in Republican-leaning Arkansas, Louisiana and Alaska and remain upbeat about Montana even if Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock names Lt. Gov. John Walsh to succeed Sen. Max Baucus, Obama’s choice for U.S. ambassador to China.

The looming question is whether Republicans undercut their solid shot with tea party-style candidates who fizzled out in Delaware, Colorado and Nevada in 2010 and Indiana and Missouri in 2012.

Georgia is keeping some Republicans awake at night. Eight candidates, including three House members, are pursuing the open seat of retiring two-term Sen. Saxby Chambliss in a state that dramatically went Republican in 1994 and rarely has looked back. Georgia hasn’t elected a non-incumbent Democrat since 1998.

A loss of the GOP seat would complicate any Republican math for a majority.

The top Democratic hopeful is Michelle Nunn, CEO of the volunteer organization Points of Light and daughter of former Sen. Sam Nunn. The younger Nunn’s diligence gets high marks from Democrats and Republicans. She has raised more than $1.7 million and campaigned with a purpose.

While more attention has focused on Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes, who is challenging Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., in the marquee race of the cycle, Republicans say Nunn is the real deal.

She stands as a moderate Democrat who could appeal to Georgia’s electorate and a Washington outsider in a year when congressional approval is in single digits.

Republicans are nervous about Rep. Paul Broun, who has said evolution and the Big Bang theory are “lies straight from the pit of Hell.” Although the four-term Georgia congressman has avoided incendiary comments in his latest campaign, several Republicans privately fret about him winning the nomination.

Looking to seize the edge in the free-for-all primary, Broun recently pounded rival Rep. Jack Kingston, considered more moderate, after Kingston suggested that Obama’s health care law could be fixed. Kingston quickly backtracked on an issue that resonates with core GOP voters, but then came under criticism for saying poor children could pay a small fee or work cleaning up to receive school-subsidized lunches.

“‘Why don’t you, you know, have the kids pay a dime, pay a nickel to instill in them that there is, in fact, no such thing as a free lunch — or maybe sweep the floor in the cafeteria,'” he said at a Jackson County event.

Guy Cecil, executive director of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, argued that the presence of tea partyers in primaries is forcing all Republican candidates to race to the right. The result is nominees unacceptable in the general election, he said.

“Primary electorates are so small it essentially encourages the Akin-ization of the entire Republican primary,” Cecil said.

His reference was to Missouri 2012. Republicans were certain they could defeat Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., but their nominee, Rep. Todd Akin, flamed out after saying women’s bodies can avoid pregnancy in cases of “legitimate rape.” McCaskill won re-election by 16 percentage points.

Georgia rules set the primary for May 20, but if no candidate gets 50 percent, a runoff occurs July 22.

Several Republicans insist that establishment candidates will eventually prevail and the internal fights won’t matter as Democrats struggle with the most contentious issue of the year — Obama’s health care law — and the political damage from its many problems.

“I think it may be the most difficult political yoke to carry in the history of American politics,” said Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga. “Where else do you have something that affects everybody? And health care does.”

Democrats don’t dispute that the troubled rollout of the health care website has hurt them.

“There’s no doubt Republicans are a little more gleeful,” said John Anzalone, a Democratic pollster and adviser to North Carolina Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan, who is seeking a second term. “Who can say with a straight face that this has not been a bad month for Democrats?”

But Anzalone added: “It’s not a permanent thing. This is really about the political environment nationally. It evens out.”

In the North Carolina race, Senate Republicans have been raising money for Thom Tillis, speaker of the state House. Tillis faces challenges from Greg Brannon, a physician who has the backing of Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and has been seeking the support of the tea party and Rev. Mark Harris, a Baptist minister who was instrumental in the state fight to ban gay marriage.

Hagan has struggled to answer for her support for the health care law, and in a clear sign of Democratic concern, the Senate Majority PAC, which backs Democratic candidates, bought $750,000 of television air time in December to counter Republican attacks against her. The group spent hundreds of thousands of dollars more for Hagan earlier in the year.

North Carolina’s primary is May 6 and if no candidate gets 40 percent of the vote, a runoff is set for July 15.

Collins, the Senate Republicans’ campaign director, maintained that competition in the primaries will make the party’s eventual nominees stronger for the general election.

Republicans see a potential to expand the field from the top tier races to contests in Michigan and Minnesota. Iowa seemed like a prime opportunity for Republicans after five-term Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin announced he would not seek another term.

Democrats rallied around four-term Rep. Bruce Braley. But on the GOP side, there are no fewer than seven candidates seeking the nomination in Iowa, including conservative radio host Sam Clovis, state Sen. Joni Ernst, former energy company CEO Mark Jacobs and former U.S. Attorney Matt Whitaker. There is talk that even more will enter the race.

Iowa’s June 3 primary has a 35 percent threshold. If no candidate gets that much, the nomination would be decided at a party convention where the most conservative members typically nominate a harder-right candidate.

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

Ga. Lawmakers, Civil Rights Leaders Object to Obama’s Judge Nominees.


President Barack Obama has come under fire from both House Democrats and civil rights leaders for the nominees he has chosen to fill four federal bench vacancies in Georgia’s Northern District.

The office of Georgia Democratic Rep. John Lewis, who appeared at a news conference alongside some of his fellow lawmakers in Atlanta on Monday, issued a statement saying, “The group cites serious concerns that the proposed candidates do not adequately reflect the diversity of the Northern District and that the selection process lacked meaningful community input,” reports The Hill.

The nominees include Mark Howard Cohen, who defended Georgia’s voter ID law in court, and Michael Boggs, who, as a state legislator in 2001, voted against changing the Georgia state flag to remove the Confederate battle emblem.

Those joining Lewis in his condemnation of Obama’s picks were Democratic Reps. Hank Johnson and David Scott, as well as civil rights leaders Joseph Lowery and the Rev. C.T. Vivian, The Hill reports.

Martin Luther King Jr., if he were here this day, he would tell the president not to make these appointments,” Scott said at the news conference, The Washington Times also reported.

The news conference took place inside the Ebenezer Baptist Church, where King served as pastor.

Speaking later on CNN, Lowery, a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, said, “We recognize that somebody in his administration has done [the president] a disservice in giving him these names, and he made a mistake in accepting them.”

Story continues below video.

According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the nominations were part of a deal the administration made with Georgia Republican Sens. Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson in exchange for their approving Obama’s pick for the Eleventh Circuit court.

“I think there’s always side deals,” Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond, told The Washington Times.

“There are always compromises to be brokered. But this one, I think, is particularly thorny because of the diversity and racial issues involved. The president has been very strong about diversity on the bench. That’s what makes this surprising, this group of nominees,” he said.

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

By Lisa Barron

Chambliss: Uninsured Didn’t Realize Obamacare Would Cost.


Image: Chambliss: Uninsured Didn't Realize Obamacare Would Cost

By Wanda Carruthers

Americans without health insurance might not be signing up for Obamacare because they didn’t realize they would have to pay for it, Sen. Saxby Chambliss said Wednesday.

“They were sold a product that they said they’re not going to have to pay for. And that’s just not true,” the Georgia Republican said on MSNBC‘s “Morning Joe.”

“They are now finding out that everybody’s going to have to pay something at some point in entering the system,” he added.

Uninsured Americans remain wary of Obamacare, a New York Times/CBS poll released Wednesday reveals. More than a third of people without healthcare insurance believe the law will hurt them personally. The poll also found that 58 percent of the uninsured have not explored their options under Obamacare.

Chambliss said that having to pay up front when people go to the doctor or hospital “is money that some folks just don’t have.”

Chambliss also voiced concern for the number of people who will remain uninsured under Obamacare. He said when the healthcare law was debated, up to 40 million people were estimated to be uninsured. That number will remain high even under the new healthcare law, he insisted.

“What we’re hearing is that, at the end of the day, when all is said and done, there are still going to be about 30 million people who are uninsured,” he said.

The uninsured are not the only ones with reservations about the healthcare law. Young people are not excited about signing up for Obamacare because of the cost, Chambliss added.

“They’re not jumping on board, and not willing to shell out $300, $400, $500 bucks a month that they haven’t been used to paying,” he said.

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Hatch, Chambliss Back Ryan Budget Bill.


Several conservative Senate Republicans have swung behind a bipartisan budget bill, apparently giving it enough momentum to win a pivotal test in the Senate over the passive resistance of top GOP leaders.

It’ll take at least five Republicans to advance the measure over a filibuster threshold demanded by GOP leaders. Announcements Monday by Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah and Georgia Sens. Johnny Isakson and Saxby Chambliss, as well as a strong hint by Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., that they would back that step appeared to seal enough GOP support to advance the measure. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., whose home-state GOP colleague, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, was a top negotiator on the bill, swung behind it Sunday.

Others, like Arizona Republicans John McCain and Jeff Flake, said last week they would help advance the bill.

The measure would ease some of the harshest cuts to agency budgets required under automatic spending curbs commonly known as sequestration. It would replace $45 billion in scheduled cuts for the 2014 budget year already under way, lifting agency budgets to a little more than $1 trillion, and essentially freeze spending at those levels for 2015. It substitutes other spending cuts and new fees to replace the automatic cuts and devotes a modest $23 billion to reducing the deficit over the coming decade.

Taken together, the announcements appeared to cement the budget bill’s advancement Tuesday, with a vote to send the House-passed measure to President Barack Obama no later than Wednesday.

“Sometimes the answer has to be yes,” Hatch said. “The reality is that Republicans only control one-half of one-third of government. Ultimately, this agreement upholds the principles conservatives stand for and, with Democrats controlling the White House and the Senate, it is the best we could hope for.”

Most Senate Republicans are going to oppose the legislation despite the sweeping support it enjoyed from the GOP when it breezed through the House last week. But the top Senate Republican, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, is widely expected to oppose the measure, though he has yet to reveal his position.

In an episode that illustrates the dilemma facing top GOP leaders, who are trying to burnish their conservative credentials as they face tea party-backed challengers, the Senate’s No. 2 Republican, John Cornyn of Texas, announced his opposition Monday morning on his campaign’s website — a step his Senate office was unwilling to take. It was later deleted after reporters from The Associated Press asked for confirmation of a Cornyn quote that appeared on the conservative Internet site Breitbart.com.

“Senator Cornyn opposes this budget deal because it breaks previously set spending caps and goes in the ‘wrong direction’ with regards to entitlement spending,” according to the post. His Senate spokeswoman, Kate Martin, would only say that Cornyn would take “a close look” at the measure and is “concerned” that it reverses some of the spending cuts won in a hard-fought 2011 budget pact.

The silence of GOP leaders was taken by Democrats and Republicans alike that McConnell and Cornyn were in the “vote ‘no,’ hope ‘yes'” camp. That’s a derogatory term sometime employed by conservative critics who blast Republicans for voting a tea party line when it’s clear they actually prefer an opposite result.

“It’s a safe bet, pretty safe bet, McConnell will not let this go down,” a senior Senate Democrat, Chuck Schumer of New York, said Monday on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” ”I’m sure the Republican leadership, I would bet, is not going to risk another government shutdown. The vote in the House made that certain.”

Nobody is claiming the pact worked out between the high-profile Ryan, the Republican Party’s vice presidential nominee last year, and Washington state Sen. Patty Murray, a Democratic loyalist over her 21-year Senate career, is perfect. It eases $63 billion in scheduled spending cuts over the next two years and replaces them with longer-term savings measured over 10 years, many of which don’t accumulate until 2022-23. Deficits would increase by $23.2 billion in 2014 and by $18.2 billion the year after that.

But the deal would put a dysfunctional Washington on track to prevent unappealingly tough cuts to military readiness and weapons, as well as continued cuts to programs cherished by Democrats and Republicans alike, including health research, school aid, FBI salaries and border security. The cuts would be replaced with money from, among other things, higher airline security fees, curbs on the pension benefits of new federal workers or working-age military retirees, and premium increases on companies whose pension plans are insured by the federal government.

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

Congress Plans Tough Iran Sanctions If Deal Fails.


Lawmakers from both parties said Sunday they are skeptical that Iran will stick to a new nuclear deal and want Congress to prepare beefed up economic penalties to hit Tehran if the accord falls apart.

In an early morning announcement, Tehran agreed Sunday to a six-month pause of its nuclear program while diplomats continue talks aimed at preventing Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. International observers are set to monitor Iran’s nuclear sites and ease about $7 billion of the crippling economic sanctions.

But the announcement, after months of secret face-to-face talks between the United States and Iran, left many U.S. lawmakers deeply doubtful of the most significant agreement between Washington and Tehran in more than three decades of estrangement.

The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey, said Sunday he would work with colleagues to have sanctions against Iran ready “should the talks falter or Iran fail to implement or breach the interim agreement.”

Such distrust that Iran was negotiating in good faith ran across political parties that are otherwise deeply divided. And ready-to-go sanctions seemed to have rare bipartisan support across both of Congress’ chambers.

The House in July passed its latest round of sanctions against Iran with backing from both parties but the measure stalled in the Senate.

President Barack Obama convinced Senate leadership to hold off consideration of the measure while negotiators pursued an agreement. Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada agreed to the request but said his chamber would take up new sanctions in December — with or without an agreement with Iran.

Sen. Chuck Schumer, a member of his party’s leadership team, said he was “disappointed” by the deal, which he called disproportional. The New York Democrat said sanctions forced Iran to negotiate and said he plans further discussions with colleagues.

“This agreement makes it more likely that Democrats and Republicans will join together and pass additional sanctions when we return in December,” Schumer said.

The Senate returns to session on Dec. 9 and lawmakers already were talking about sanctions designed to caution Iran that failure to use the six-month window to reach a deal would only leave Iranians in worse economic straits.

“Congress, I think, will want to make it clear that if Iran does not live up to these commitments, we will not only insist that the sanctions be reapplied, but we will have stronger sanctions against Iran,” said Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md.

Added Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.: “There is now an even more urgent need for Congress to increase sanctions until Iran completely abandons its enrichment and reprocessing capabilities.”

In the House, the No. 2 Democrat, Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, said the threat of even tougher sanctions could help keep Iranian diplomats at the negotiating table for talks designed to prevent Tehran from being able to produce a nuclear weapon. Hoyer said he supports having the sanctions ready to go in case Iran proves an unreliable negotiating partner.

“It is appropriate that we wait six months to implement those, which will say to the Iranians: ‘We need a final deal, and if not a final deal, these tougher sanctions are going to go into place,'” Hoyer said.

Congress has been layering sanctions against Iran for years, crippling its economy and putting pressure on the nation’s middle class. Many of the economic penalties would remain in place during the six-month negotiating window, but lawmakers seemed to expect talks to collapse warrant new sanctions.

“If Iran does not consent to a comprehensive agreement that ensures it cannot acquire a nuclear weapon, there is a broad consensus in Congress to impose even tougher sanctions,” said Sen. Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat who is chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

A deep distrust of Iran pervaded Sunday’s discussion of the deal.

“We need to be very, very careful with the Iranians,” said Rep. Eliot Engel of New York, the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. “I don’t trust them, I don’t think we should trust them. …. Sanctions should always be hanging there because that’s what brought Iran to the table in the first place.”

Rep. Ed Royce, the California Republican who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said Iranians “are capable of cheating.”

Republican House Speaker John Boehner, too, said the six-month pause deserves healthy skepticism.

“Iran has a history of obfuscation that demands verification of its activities and places the burden on the regime to prove it is upholding its obligations in good faith while a final deal is pursued,” he said.

Rep. Mike Rogers, the Michigan Republican who chairs the House intelligence panel, was more critical of a deal he said aids “the leading nation state of terror.”

“We have just rewarded very bad and dangerous behavior,” he said.

During interviews on Sunday, some lawmakers compared the current deal with the 1990s pact that gave North Korea a respite from sanctions if they promised to stop work on their nuclear program.

“We’ve seen what’s happened in North Korea; they now have nuclear weapons. And I don’t want to see that happen in Iran,” said Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn.

Added Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga.: “We’ve trusted the Iranians before, just like the North Koreans, on nuclear issues, and what have we gotten for it?”

Cardin and Corker spoke with “Fox News Sunday.” Hoyer was on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” Engel, Royce and Rogers appeared on CNN’s “State of the Union.” Chambliss joined ABC’s “This Week.”

 

© 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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