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Posts tagged ‘United States House of Representatives’

McCain: Immigration Reform Crucial to GOP Success.


Sen. John McCain says he hasn’t yet given up on immigration reform – and he believes failure to pass anything will hurt GOP chances at the ballot box.

“States like mine, over time, the demographics will overtake, not only mine but throughout the whole Southwest and many other parts of the country,” the Arizona Republican said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.” 

A failure to embrace Latino voters could spell doom as Republicans approach this years midterm congressional elections and the 2016 presidential campaign, McCain said.

Story continues below video.

The Senate, where McCain serves, has already passed immigration reform, but the effort is stalled in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.

McCain said he will work see a bill passed through Congress for the president’s signature before the midterms.

“I have not given up hope that we will act, and we must act,” he said.

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By Greg Richter

Oduah: Civil Society Groups Demand Release Of Presidential Panel Report On N255m Bulletproof Cars Scam.


Stella-Oduah-003

The political stormy weather for Aviation Minister, Ms. Stella Oduah seems not to be over yet as Civil Society Groups have launched fresh demands into the immediate release of the report of the presidential panel that investigated the N255 million BMW bulletproof cars scam.The three-man administrative panel set up by President Goodluck Jonathan submitted its report on November 13, two days after its deadline but as earlier feared by skeptics, the outcome of the panel’s investigation has been closely guarded by the presidency. This is just as the House of Representatives adopted a recommendation of its Committee on Aviation which advised the president to review the continued terms of engagement of Ms. Oduah as a member of the Federal Executive Council, FEC.Leaders of the Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders, and the Campaign for Democracy, who spoke to SUNDAY PUNCH asked the Presidency to make the report available to the public, the way the lower legislative chamber made its own known recently.The Executive Director, CACOL, Debo Adeniran, urged the Presidency to release the report if it had nothing to hide.He said, “When they set up all these panels, we said it was like doing the funeral for the issues that led to the controversy. Up till now, we are still raising the question.  They didn’t need to set up the committees. It was a case for anti-corruption agencies such as Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, the Code of Conduct Bureau, the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission, or the special fraud unit of the Nigerian Police.“We are demanding that the report be made public. We said it from the beginning that when the panels finish their work, they should make their reports available to whoever wants it. We are still demanding that if the Presidency has nothing to hide, it should not treat the report of the panel with secrecy”.Also the Coordinator of CD, Joe Okei-Odumakin, said civil society groups would reject any attempt to cover up the bulletproof car scam.She said, “We have said any attempt to sweep the matter under the carpet will be met with stiff opposition. We shall resist it with all our might and within the ambit of the law. Time has come for those who are holding onto the report to release it. We must get to the root of this, because we cannot continue to cure the symptoms and allow the cause of the problem.“If an amount of money

was spent in the purchase of bulletproof cars and we said we are interested in due process; they have refused to release the report, it shows that there is no political will on the part of those in government who claim they want to fight corruption. We are demanding the release of that report and those found culpable must not only be shown the way out, they must be made to face the full wrath of the law.”The groups also called on President Jonathan to implement the recommendation of the House of Representatives committee that probed the scam.

Source: Radio Biafra.
by: daniel

Mike Rogers, King Blast NYT Benghazi Report: ‘Misleading’.


Image: Mike Rogers, King Blast NYT Benghazi Report: 'Misleading' Rep. Peter King, left, and Rep. Mike Rogers

By Newsmax Wires

Two of the House’s top experts on terrorism blasted a New York Times report that says al-Qaida did not carry out the 2012 attack on the U.S diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya.

The Times report, published Saturday and based on numerous interviews with Islamists in Benghazi, concludes that there was no evidence that al-Qaida or any other international terrorist groups had any role in the assault that killed four Americans on September 11, 2012.

Instead, the Times reports that the attack was fueled in large part by anger at an American-made anti-Islamic video, as the Obama administration first claimed. The attackers were entirely locally based Islamist malcontents with few if any contacts outside of Libya.

But New York Rep. Peter King, member and former chairman of the House’s Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, told Fox News that the story’s premise that other anti-American militias led the attack is at best academic.

“It’s misleading,” King said. “It’s a distinction without a difference.” King specifically challenged the notion in the Times piece that the Libya-based terror group Ansar al-Shariah somehow was not part of the al-Qaida Islamist network.

“They are saying that ­al-Shariah is involved, but al-Shariah is a part of the al-Qaida umbrella, the al-Qaida network,” King said, challenging the Times’ conclusion that al-Shariah “had no known ­affiliations with terrorist groups.”

“Al-Shariah is a pro- al-Qaida terrorist organization,” King said, adding that the video had little to do with the attack, which he said was highly organized.

“This was a well-coordinated attack,” he said. “This was not a ragtag group.”

Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Michigan, told “Fox News Sunday” that the attack was clearly an “al-Qaida-led event.”

Rogers, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said his panel has gone through 4,000 classified cables, talked to people on the ground and done a postmortem on the event. He doubts, he said, whether the newspaper conducted such an exhaustive investigation.

“So what did they get wrong?” host Chris Wallace asked.

“That al-Qaida was not involved in this,” Rogers said. “There was some level of pre-planning. We know that. There was aspiration to conduct an attack by al-Qaida and their affiliates in Libya. We know that. The individuals on the ground talked about a planned tactical movement on the compound even. … That tells me they didn’t talk to people on the ground who where doing the fighting, shooting and the intelligence-gathering.”

Fellow committee member Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., agreed with Rogers that intelligence shows that al-Qaida was involved in the attack. But other groups were involved, too, Schiff said.

Schiff called it a “complex picture.” There was some pre-planning, he said, but it was not extensive, and people joined in the attack for multiple reasons, including because of an anti-Muslim video produced by a man in the United States.

Rogers also disputed the contention that al-Shariah was key to the attack. The intelligence shows otherwise, he told Wallace.

“Now, do they have differences of opinion with al-Qaida core? Yes. Do they have affiliations with al-Qaida core? Definitely,” he said.

Rogers said he doesn’t know whether the story was politically motivated to clear former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton before an expected presidential run in 2016. But he is suspicious of the timing, especially with former U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice talking about the subject on “60 Minutes” last week.

“I don’t want to speculate on why they might do it,” Rogers said, adding that what is being presented in The Times and on “60 Minutes” has been shown by committee testimony not to be accurate.

The attack killed Ambassador Chris Stevens, Foreign Service officer Sean Smith and former Navy SEALs Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty.

The Times’ conclusion also conflicts with other evidence, including the testimony of Greg Hicks, Stevens’ deputy, Fox reports. 

Hicks described the video as “a non-event in Libya” at that time, and consequently not a significant trigger for the attack. Also, a separate report by a leading social media firm found that the first reference to the anti-Islam film that was initially blamed for sparking the attack was not detected on social media until a day later.

Rep. Darrell Issa also stood by his conclusions that a group affiliated with al-Qaida was involved.

“It was accurate,” Issa said on NBC’s Meet the Press. “There was a group that was involved that claims an affiliation with al-Qaida.”

Issa said that Times reporter David Kirkpatrick did “very good work” but that he has seen no evidence that the video was the attack’s leading cause, a claim made by then-UN ambassador Susan Rice in the immediate aftermath of the attack.

The administration should come clean about misstatements about the causes of the attack, even if those claims were made to protect the CIA outpost in Benghazi, Issa said.

“They went out on five stations and told the story that was at best a coverup for the CIA or at worst something that cast away this idea that there was a real terrorist operation in Benghazi,” Issa said.

Kirkpatrick, who also appeared on the show, said that Republicans like Issa, King and Rogers conflated local Islamic militant groups with international al-Qaida.

“If you’re using the term al-Qaida to describe even a local group of Islamist militants who dislike democracy or have a grudge against the United States, If you’re going to call anybody like that ‘al-Qaida,’ then, okay,” he said.

A senior Obama administration official told NBC News on Saturday that the White House does not dispute the New York Times report.

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Poll: Americans Say 113th Congress is Worst Ever.


Image: Poll: Americans Say 113th Congress is Worst EverSpeaker of the House John Boehner swears in members of the 113th U.S. House of Representatives during the opening session at the U.S. Capitol on January 3, 2013.

By Lisa Barron

An overwhelming majority of Americans say the 113th Congress is the worst in their lifetime, according to a new CNN/ORC International poll released Thursday.

While nearly three quarters of the respondents said this has been a “do-nothing” Congress, two thirds of those surveyed said the current Congress is the worst in their lifetime, with 28 percent disagreeing.

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“That sentiment exists among all demographic and political subgroups. Men, women, rich, poor, young old — all think this year’s Congress has been the worst they can remember,” Keating Holland, CNN polling director, said.

“Older Americans — who have lived through more congresses — hold more negative views of the 113th Congress than younger Americans. Republicans, Democrats and independents also agree that this has been the worst session of Congress in their lifetimes.”

The telephone poll of 1,035 adults nationwide showed that 73 percent say Congress has done nothing to solve the country’s problems, with roughly 25 percent disagreeing.

Indeed, less than 60 bills have been passed and signed into law during the past year, according to CNN, and there is not much optimism that next year will be much better.

Fifty-two percent believe the policies of Democratic leaders in Congress would move the country in the wrong direction, and 54 percent think the policies of the Republican leaders would do the same, the survey found. The poll, conducted Dec. 16-19, had a sampling error of plus or minus three percent.

One of the first tests of where Congress is headed in 2014 will be the fight over the debt ceiling, and analysts are somewhat divided about the prospects, reports The Washington Times.

“I don’t think there’s any political reason why they’ll fight over this, at least not to the degree that they have in the past,” Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, said Wednesday on CNN.

But others maintain that could still be gridlock, despite the bipartisan budget dealreached earlier this month.

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“I believe we very quickly began to move away from ‘Kumbaya’ a couple weeks ago,” Jared Bernstein, a senior fellow at the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, said Tuesday on MSNBC.

“I’m afraid we’re not going to see a lot [of cooperation], but we’ll see some,” he added.

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Okonjo-Iweala Suffers Twitter Backlash – PM News, Lagos.


Nigeria‘s Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala
By Seun Bisuga

Minister for Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, suffered a public attack on social network site, Twitter this afternoon after she responded to harsh remarks made at her. Okonjo-Iweala’s twitter handle, @NOIweala was barraged by users after she allegedly tweeted in response to @OccupyNaija.

@OccupyNaija tweeted at the two-time Finance Minister in response to claims that House of Representative members walked out on her during an interactive session Thursday.

The report that the House of Representative members walked out on Okonjo-Iweala, is a report she claims is false. @OccupyNaija read “I hope you’ll honourably resign from that office you hold than embarrassing your person in the international world.”
Okonjo-Iweala’s response was “Thanks but you should resign from Occupy you nattering nabob of negativism.”

But her response did not go down well with many as she suffered attack after attack on Twitter.

@Akin_Official tweeted that he was disappointed she was a minister. “Really disappointed in u being a minister” and her response to him was “no problem get another one am not only one capable of serving.” Okonjo-Iweala’s responses also raised questions of her temperament. ‏@TempXXL tweeted “Is this anger?” and she promptly responded that it was “no just fairness.”

If Okonjo-Iweala thought her response were in fairness she was in for a surprise as @OccupyNaija who started it tweeted again. “When you get results of your careless utterance on Twitter, I hope 1 day, you’ll get it on the streets where it really matters.”

But there was more from others who felt exasperated by her tweet. @AFOketunji tweeted, “she is just talking anyhow.” while @KrissyPearlie wrote “Wow. #TwitterBrawlAlert All we really want is respectable, transparent & accountable public officers o,” tweeted.

There were claims that Okonjo-Iweala did not post the tweet claiming that perhaps her account was hacked but that claim was quickly punctured. @Solar_unique “What are you now trying to say sir? Her acct was hacked? Her PR guys goofed? @NOIweala” definitely one of d 2.”
Okonjo-Iweala got some respite from Obiageli Ezekwesili, former Minister of Education who tweeted on her account ‏@obyezeks account. “I would bet any day that SHE did not post that tweet.) @NOIweala @OccupyNaija,” she tweeted.

Source: SAHARA REPORTERS.

US Rep. Tom Latham Won’t Seek Re-election in 2014.


Image: US Rep. Tom Latham Won't Seek Re-election in 2014

U.S. Rep. Tom Latham announced Tuesday he won’t seek re-election in 2014, creating a potentially competitive race for a seat that likely would have favored the 10-term Iowa Republican.

The 65-year-old Republican from Clive will have spent 20 years in Congress and is Iowa’s senior U.S. House member. The decision creates an open seat that includes the Des Moines area in central Iowa and the vast rural tracts of southern and western Iowa.

The news, coming late Tuesday, took Iowa’s GOP senior strategists by surprise.

“It’s a bombshell politically in Iowa because he was so strong,” said Doug Gross, a longtime aide to Republican Gov. Terry Branstad and former nominee for governor. “It throws open a congressional seat in a very, very important district I think you’ll have a scrum on both sides. I think you’ll have lots of interest.”

Democrat Staci Appel, a former state senator from Ackworth, had already announced her plans to seek the seat before Latham’s decision.

Latham was heavily courted this year by Iowa Republicans, especially Branstad, and the national GOP to seek Iowa’s open Senate seat in 2014, but he turned that down in February. Five-term Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin announced in January that he would retire, and several Republicans have announced their candidacies.

Latham is a member of the Appropriations Committee and chairman of the transportation subcommittee. He’s known for his friendship with House Speaker John Boehner and his love of golf.

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

Source: Newsmax.com

Despite Budget Deal, Atmosphere in Washington Remains Toxic.


Image: Despite Budget Deal, Atmosphere in Washington Remains Toxic

Anyone expecting a new era of good feeling to break out on Capitol Hill in the wake of this week’s bipartisan budget deal should probably forget about it.That was the clear message from most lawmakers interviewed on Friday as well as from close observers of Congress, after the deal passed through the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday on its way to the Senate.

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The budget bill, negotiated by Republican Representative Paul Ryan and Democratic Senator Patty Murray, is vague and non-specific, avoiding tough, divisive issues. But Congress’ agenda for the next year is full of specifics, including raising the debt ceiling, funding individual government programs, immigration reform and passing a farm bill.

“I think next year is tougher,” said Nebraska Republican Senator Mike Johanns. “It’s an election year. Tens of millions of dollars will be spent trashing people, and it’s hard to forget that.”

The deal was a “one-off,” said Norm Ornstein, a scholar of Congress at the conservative American Enterprise Institute.

It may avoid government shutdowns, assuming it passes the Senate next week as expected, he said. But “I don’t see any signs that the fundamentals have changed.”

That was also the message from the floor of the U.S. Senate, where Republicans, some red-faced with rage, kept berating Democrats on Friday for stripping away their right to block President Barack Obama’s judicial nominations using the filibuster, a procedural hurdle.

“The whole atmosphere here is totally poisoned, OK,” said Senator John McCain when asked as he left the floor if the budget deal changed anything.

“There’s no cooperation, there’s no comity. And it is what it is,” notwithstanding the fact that Democrats and Republicans came together to approve the budget bill.

“It can’t get much worse,” he said.

That does not bode well for the issues facing Congress as it enters its second half, with all seats in the Republican-led House and a third of those in the Democratic-led Senate up for election next November.

The political advantage of the budget agreement was its vagueness. It set overall spending levels for two years, a significant break from the recent pattern of short-term funding bills that required extension every few months, always under the threat of a government shutdown like the 16-day closure in October.

But it did not tackle the most volatile issues, such as Democratic demands for tax increases and Republican efforts to control spending on “entitlements,” such as the healthcare program for seniors, Medicare, or Social Security retirement.

While it set as a goal $1.012 trillion in spending, it did not specify how the sum would be divided up among individual programs, each of which has a constituency.

Indeed, once the budget bill is approved by the Senate, as expected next week, a more challenging and potentially acrimonious appropriations process will begin that could set off a scramble among advocates for particular interests.

“We have a heavy lift ahead of us,” said House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers, “drafting, negotiating, and passing these bills in just over one month.”

In an interview on PBS, Murray acknowledged that she and Ryan avoided the divisive questions. “You set aside the hot issues,” she noted in describing the formula for success in the negotiations.

In the immigration fight, for example, setting aside the “hot issues” might not be possible, as Democrats, including Obama, insist that any legislation contain a “pathway to citizenship” for the 11 million undocumented people living in the United States.

That presents a problem for many conservative Republicans, who see those people as having broken the law by either entering the United States illegally or overstaying their visas.

Nor did the budget deal address the bill expected in the spring to increase the nation’s borrowing limit. Conservatives, particularly those associated with the Tea Party movement, have regularly opposed the debt ceiling measure, twice bringing the government to the brink of a potential default.

Since Republican House Speaker John Boehner enraged conservatives this week by pushing through the budget deal they equated with surrender, Ornstein believes he may feel a need to mollify them by again demanding big spending cuts in exchange for raising the debt ceiling.

“If you do something” that angers “the radical wing, does that give you more ability and incentive to do it again or does it require you to do something to make it clear that you really love them?” said Ornstein.

Editor’s Note: 75% of Seniors Make This $152,000 Social Security Mistake 
The debt ceiling “will come up,” said Johanns. “We are going to struggle with that issue.”

“The fact that the debt ceiling fight will come right before the Republican primaries means that the fiscal battles haven’t gone away, but instead will likely heat up,” said Ron Bonjean, a former Republican leadership aide in the House.

“Republican members of Congress will want to show how conservative they are to voters back home,” he said. “This deal looks like a peaceful retreat made by both parties in order to rest up for the major battle over the debt ceiling.”

© 2013 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

Source: Newsmax.com

House on Collision Course With White House Over Iran.


As the House of Representatives re-convened this week following its Thanksgiving break, it is clear that members of both parties are headed for a major showdown with the White House over the recent agreement between Iran and the leading world powers.

The White House left no doubt that the new agreement with the P5+1 group — the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany — that permits Iran to enrich uranium should be implemented without further sanctions.

But numerous House members pulled no punches in saying they did not trust Iran and are still worried about the possibility that the Islamic regime in Tehran could obtain a nuclear weapon.

In recent foreign policy disagreements such as those over Syria and Egypt, the most vocal opponents of the administration’s position were often the most junior Republicans in the House.

But what makes this clash with Iran different is that Democrats as well as some senior Republicans in the House are lining up as hardline opponents of trusting Iran.

In October, freshman Reps. Luke Messer, an Indiana Republican, and Brad Schneider, an Illinois Democrat, organized 76 of their fellow freshmen from both parties to sign a letter calling on the administration to do everything in its power to make sure Iran did not obtain nuclear weaponry.

“In foreign policy, this president will be judged by one simple standard: did he prevent Iran from getting the bomb?” Messer told Newsmax.

Messer, who is president of the class of freshman Republicans in the House and a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said the agreement supported by the administration “validates Iran’s right to enrich uranium to a 5 percent level in six months.”

Senior lawmakers in the House also weighed in strongly against any new agreement with Iran.

Republican Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey, a 33-year incumbent and the longest-serving Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said any agreement that permits Iran to have nuclear enrichment is “egregiously flawed.”

“When it comes to Iran, this president has not been helpful at all,” Smith told Newsmax. “He tried to weaken previous sanctions and opposes newer and tougher sanctions.”

Smith recalled that he and other House members from both parties fought to keep Iranian crude oil off the market. “This is what is keeping their economy afloat and we were trying to hit Iran’s lifeline,” he said.  But the Obama administration helped torpedo the harder-hitting sanctions.

Smith noted that Rep. Eliot Engel of New York, ranking Democrat on the Foreign Affairs Committee, “is working side-by-side with me to promote the next sanctions bill.”

Smith and Messer spoke to Newsmax a day after White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters “the agreement reached by the P5+1 with Iran needs to be implemented, and that both the president and Congress have a responsibility to fully test whether we can achieve a comprehensive solution through diplomatic means before pursuing alternatives.”

Carney warned that “passing any new sanctions right now will undermine our efforts to achieve a peaceful resolution to this issue by giving the Iranians an excuse to push the terms of the agreement on their side. Furthermore, new sanctions are unnecessary right now because our core sanctions architecture remains in place and the Iranians continue to be under extraordinary pressure.

“There is no doubt in Iran that should this agreement fail, Congress and this administration will quickly impose harsh new sanctions. It would make more sense to… keep our powder dry until we see whether Iran violates the understanding,” Carney said.

But Messer and his colleagues do not want to give Iran the opportunity to violate the agreement and then have Congress move to impose new sanctions after a violation.

Iran “needs to reach two certain benchmarks: first, an end of nuclear enrichment and second, a public declaration that they won’t build a nuclear bomb,” Messer said.

Citing Ronald Reagan’s axiom of “trust but verify” in negotiating arms control with the former Soviet Union, Messer said that “the key to dealing with Iran is to be able to verify. Without verification, there can be no trust.”

John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

House Votes to Extend Ban on Undetectable Firearms.


Image: House Votes to Extend Ban on Undetectable Firearms

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill on Tuesday to extend for 10 years a ban against firearms that cannot be detected with metal detectors or X-ray scanners.

On a voice vote, the Republican-led House sent the measure to the Democratic-led Senate, which is expected to consider a tougher alternative before likely approving it.U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder urged Congress last month to extend the ban, citing a proliferation of plastic guns made with 3-D printers.

While the House has agreed on little this year, contributing to one of the most unproductive and unpopular Congresses ever, it passed the bill with bipartisan support despite reservations by a number of Democrats that it does not go far enough.

Democratic Senator Charles Schumer of New York has proposed plugging “a loophole” in the ban by requiring that all firearms include at least four ounces of metal that cannot be removed.

Without such a provision, Schumer and others warn, the metal could be taken off the firearm, allowing it to avoid detection and be carried into a supposedly secure area.

Schumer does not have much time to make his case. The ban expires on Monday, the day the Senate returns from a two-week recess.

On that day, Democrats may try to quickly approve Schumer’s proposal with the unanimous consent of the Senate.

If that fails, as anticipated, the Senate is expected to give final approval to the House passed bill, clearing the way for President Barack Obama to sign it into law.

Democratic Representative Steve Israel of New York joined Republican Representative Howard Coble of North Carolina in drafting the House bill. Like Schumer, Israel prefers a stricter measure, but said at a minimum wants an extension of the ban.

“We now have enough momentum to pass an extension of the ban before December 9. But we don’t have enough momentum to pass a modernization of the ban before December 9,” Israel said.

“But once we pass this bill, we need to make sure bad guys can’t skirt the law,” said Israel, voicing confidence that the law will be strengthened. “It’s common sense.”

Representative Hal Rogers of Kentucky, a leading Republican, expressed concerns of his own, and said, “I’ll be looking to tighten up the process.”

Israel has proposed requiring that two major components for a handgun and three major components for a rifle be made of unremovable metal.

Earlier this year, the U.S. gun lobby helped defeat tougher gun control sought by Obama in wake of a massacre at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn.

Overall, the gun industry has not said much about the drive to extend the ban on undetectable guns, but backers believe fear of the industry is a reason why the House bill was not tougher.

Winnie Stachelberg, an executive director of the Center for American Politics, a liberal advocacy group, denounced the House bill as inadequate.

“We urge Congress to put public safety ahead of craven politics by enacting comprehensive legislation,” Stachelberg said.

Israel said the National Rifle Association, one of the most influential lobbying groups in Washington, had been essentially silent on the effort to renew the ban.

But the National Shooting Sports Foundation, a trade association for the firearms and ammunition industry, backed the extension in a letter to Congress.

“The current law has proven effective,” wrote Lawrence Keane, the foundation’s senior vice president and general counsel.

Keane said on Tuesday, however, that his group opposes proposals to toughen the ban, dismissing them as excessive and potentially harmful to the legal manufacturing of firearms.

© 2013 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

Source: Newsmax.com

Rep. Jim Cooper: End Congressional ‘Death Gratuities’.


Image: Rep. Jim Cooper: End Congressional 'Death Gratuities'

By Sandy Fitzgerald

Survivors of deceased lawmakers should not get “death gratuities,” says Rep. Jim Cooper. He does not believe Congress should be in the business of making such payments, he said.

“Members should choose the death benefit they want by buying life insurance like regular citizens,” Cooper told The Hill. “No special treatment for Congress.”

The Tennessee Democrat introduced the bill after Congress agreed to pay $174,000 to the widow of Democratic New Jersey Sen. Frank Lautenberg, a move which angered many in light of the nation’s deficit issues. Lautenberg’s worth was estimated at $55 million to $116 million.

No matter what the financial situation of a deceased lawmaker might be, the government should not be paying death gratuities, Cooper said.

“The death gratuity became customary starting in 1918 before the birth of modern life insurance (1924), the creation of Social Security (1935), the establishment of civil service pensions (1942), and health benefits under Medicare (1965),” Cooper said. “A lot has changed since 1918, and the gratuity custom should have been abandoned a long time ago.”

The payment to Bonnie Englebart Lautenberg was included in a short-term spending bill, which one group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, said made no sense when other spending items were being cut.

“The average member of Congress is much wealthier than the average citizen, and has sufficient resources to purchase life insurance and otherwise plan ahead,” Cooper said in a news release. “While there is reasonable debate about congressional compensation, a death gratuity is unseemly and unnecessary. When you look at what Congress should be prioritizing, it is outrageous.”

Typically, the House and Senate offer an amount equal to the lawmaker’s salary, reports the Congressional Research Service. According to Senate rules, the death gratuities must be offered in the next appropriations bill after the death, and the payments are made as gifts, so survivors pay no income taxes on the money.

In addition, Congress can go into adjournment in memory of the deceased member or appoint a delegation to attend the lawmaker’s funeral, as it did recently after the death of Rep. Bill Young, a Florida Republican.

And according to the Congressional Research Service, a member’s funeral also can be paid for with public funds, with the House or Senate’s sergeant at arms authorized to make arrangements for lawmakers to attend the funeral and to “defray the funeral expenses of the deceased member and the expenses of duly appointed congressional participants.”

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

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