Archive for September, 2013

This Week in Washington…

Posted on September 6, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized |

TOP FIVE STORIES THIS WEEK

  • The Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved by a 10-7 vote Wednesday a resolution authorizing the use of force in Syria. House Democrats are facing pressure ahead of the lower chamber’s vote next week on the authorization. Read more
    Look ahead: The full Senate is expected to take up a resolution to grant President Obama authority to use military force against Syria next week, National Journal‘s Billy House and Michael Catalini reported. Read more
  • President Obama is taking part this week in the Group of 20 summit in St. Petersburg, where the ongoing crisis in Syria is distracting from the planned focus on the economy. Read more
    Look ahead: In addition to the Syria issue, Obama must contend with tensions arising from the U.S. surveillance tactics disclosed by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden. Read more
  • The intractable budget battles in Washington over sequestration and the breakdown of the normal budgeting process are harming offices nationwide that are dependent on federal financing, leaving many uncertain of how much money they will have to spend in the year ahead, The New York Times reported. Read more
    Look ahead: In a stopgap measure, Congress is expected to pass another continuing resolution after returning from recess.
  • Few issues in the immigration debate enjoy the broad-based agreement that exists about how the U.S. should treat highly skilled workers, National Journal‘s Rebecca Kaplan reported. Yet plans to revise the H-1B visa program have been tied to a comprehensive immigration bill that has a very uncertain future.  Read more
    Look ahead: Backers of immigration reform are planning to hold large demonstrations in major U.S. cities on Oct. 5 and a march on Washington on Oct. 8 that organizers, including Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., hope will draw 15,000 for a rally for the passage of comprehensive reform legislation, The Hill reported. Read more
  • The Federal Reserve said Wednesday that increased consumer spending on homes and cars has fueled a “modest to moderate” pace of economic growth from early July through late August, Bloomberg reported. Read more
    Look ahead: A majority of economists surveyed by Reuters ahead of Friday’s jobs report expect the figures to reflect increased hiring in August—growth that could cement an expected decision by the Federal Reserve to begin scaling back its $85 billion in monthly bond purchases. Read more

WHITE HOUSE

  • Against the backdrop of the Syrian conflict, President Obama is in St. Petersburg, Russia, for the Group of 20 summit, where he finds his position diminished, The New York Times reported. Read more
  • President Obama met with Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt on Wednesday at an energy expo at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, The Hill reported. Read more
  • Attorney General Eric Holder announced in a letter to congressional leaders Wednesday that the Veterans Affairs Department will extend federal benefits to the same-sex spouses of military veterans. Read more
  • President Obama will meet with human-rights activists in St. Petersburg on Thursday, while in Russia for the Group of 20 summit, BuzzFeed reported. Read more
  • The White House has postponed a scheduled speech by Vice President Joe Biden on college affordability at the University of Central Florida, USA Today reported. Read more
  • The Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service announced plans to view same-sex marriages as equivalent to heterosexual marriages for tax purposes, The Washington Post reported. Read more
  • The Justice Department will not challenge state laws legalizing the medicinal or recreational use of marijuana, The Washington Post reported. Read more

CONGRESS

  • The Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed a resolution Wednesday, by a 10-7 vote, giving President Obama limited power to use military force against Syria, in the wake of allegations that the government used chemical weapons on its people, The Washington Post reported. Read more
  • Few issues in the immigration debate enjoy the broad-based agreement that exists about how the U.S. should treat highly skilled workers, National Journal‘s Rebecca Kaplan reported. Yet plans to revise the H-1B visa program, which is the primary vehicle for foreign-born workers to live in the U.S.—and often a precursor to citizenship—have been tied to a comprehensive immigration bill that has a very uncertain future. Read more
  • Many Republicans insist that congressional investigation into the IRS’s singling out of conservative groups will continue, despite acknowledging that looming fiscal fights this fall may detract attention from the investigation, The Hill reported. Read more
  • House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller, R-Fla., kicked off the “VA Accountability Watch,” which locates reports that have found defects with various aspects of the department, then aggregates them on the committee’s website, The Washington Post reported. Read more
  • Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., will propose next week a jobs bill that links community colleges with businesses and helps to provide training for workers, The Hill reported. Read more
  • Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., believes that the Army should award victims of the 2009 Fort Hood, Texas, shooting the Purple Heart Medal and reclassify the attack as an “international terrorist attack,” The Hill reported. Read more

POLITICS

  • Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee, a Democrat, announced Wednesday that he will not seek reelection next year, avoiding what would have likely been a contentious primary battle, USA Today reported. Read more
  • Charles Baker, the Republican gubernatorial nominee in 2010, announced in a video Wednesday that he would make another bid for Massachusetts’ top office, The Boston Globe reported. Read more
  • Former Montana state Sen. Corey Stapleton, the last Republican in the race, said Tuesday that he is dropping his Senate bid to run for the House instead, clearing the path for a likely bid from Rep. Steve Daines, R-Mont., Roll Call reported. Read more
  • The NRA spent another $250,000 on the Colorado recall elections during the last week of August, according to a new campaign finance report, boosting the group’s overall spending on the recalls above New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s, The Denver Post reported. Read more
  • If you’re like 75 percent of Americans, you think the polling data presented in this news article is biased, Hotline‘s Steve Shepard reported. Read more
  • The debate in Congress over President Obama’s call for a military strike against Syria comes at an ideal moment for Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, the non-interventionist expected to seek the Republican nomination in 2016, National Journal‘s Beth Reinhard reported. Read more

BUDGET & ECONOMY

  • Shortly after his reelection, President Obama began considering former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers as a replacement for Ben Bernanke as chairman of the Federal Reserve after 2013, and the president has been working to court senators to his cause ever since, The New York Times reported. Read more
  • Standard & Poor’s said Tuesday that the federal government brought an “impermissibly selective, punitive, and meritless” lawsuit against the rating agency “in retaliation for defendant’s exercise of their free speech rights with respect to the creditworthiness of the United States of America,” Reuters reported. Read more
  • The intractable budget battles in Washington over sequestration and the breakdown of the normal budgeting process are harming offices nationwide that are dependent on federal financing, leaving many uncertain of how much money they will have to spend in the year ahead, The New York Times reported. Read more
  • A recent Gallup Poll offers a window into the nature of the U.S. economic recovery, The Atlantic Cities‘ Richard Florida reported. Read more
  • Big business, once a firmly rooted pillar of the Republican Party, is increasingly being marginalized by a modern GOP inflated with antigovernment activists, The New York Times reported. Read more
  • The Federal Reserve said Wednesday that increased consumer spending on homes and cars has fueled a “modest to moderate” pace of economic growth from early July through late August, Bloomberg reported. Read more

ENERGY & ENVIRONMENT

  • On Thursday, former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich recommended that House leadership hold a combined vote on the Keystone XL oil-sands pipeline and military action in Syria, National Journal‘s Alex Brown and Patrick Reis reported. Read more
  • Oil Change International, in partnership with the Sierra Club, 350.org, and Environment America, released a report Thursday calling for President Obama to reject the Keystone XL pipeline, National Journal‘s Clare Foran reported. Read more
  • In strongly worded remarks Monday, Secretary of State John Kerry asserted the irrefutability of climate change, Agence France-Presse reported. Read more
  • Federal regulators on Friday released guidelines on storage and handling of ammonium nitrate, the substance involved in an April explosion at a fertilizer plant in West, Texas, The Hill reported. Read more
  • Judge Natalia Combs of the D.C. Superior Court on Friday ruled against a motion to dismiss a lawsuit filed by climate scientist Michael Mann against the National Review, The Hill reported. Read more
  • Japanese leaders revealed a plan Tuesday to protect groundwater near the radiation-leaking Fukushima Daiichi complex—a mile-deep ice sheet that will prevent the spread of contaminated water and cost $472 million, The Wall Street Journal reported. Read more
  • The boom in American oil and natural gas is helping the U.S. economy and its contributions could substantially increase by the end of the decade, says a study released Wednesday by several major players in the fossil-fuel industry, National Journal‘s Alex Brown reported. Read more
  • President Obama met with Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt on Wednesday at an energy expo at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm and praised Sweden for its efforts to create a carbon-neutral economy, The Hill reported. Read more

FOREIGN AFFAIRS

  • Thousands of Islamist supporters of deposed President Mohamed Morsi demonstrated in streets across Egypt on Tuesday, the second such effort in four days, Reuters reported. Read more
  • Intelligence about Syria’s use of chemical weapons differs considerably among the U.S. and its closest allies, but all reports agree that Sarin gas was used and that only President Bashar al-Assad’s government could have carried out the use of chemical weapons, The New York Times reported. Read more
  • Chelsea (nee Bradley) Manning formally submitted a pardon request to President Obama on Tuesday, The Hill reported. Read more
  • The 178-page summary of the U.S. intelligence community’s $52.6 billion “black budget”—revealed last week by The Washington Post—shows increased surveillance of Pakistan’s nuclear arms, cites concerns about biological and chemical sites in the country, and outlines efforts to gauge the loyalties of counterterrorism sources working for the CIA. Read more
  • Al-Qaida is tasking engineers with finding out how the group could shoot down, jam, or remotely take control of a drone, in hopes of changing the U.S. drone policy, according to intelligence documents provided to The Washington Post by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. Read more
  • Israel and the United States launched a missile from the Mediterranean Sea today as part of a “successful test” of a new air-defense system, The New York Times reported. Read more
  • Congress has formally declared war 11 times in U.S. history, and authorized the use of military force another 11 times, The Atlantic‘s Garance Franke-Ruta wrote. Read more
  • Unnamed intelligence officials told the Associated Press on Wednesday that their agencies missed signs that the Syrian regime was preparing a large-scale chemical-weapons attack in the days leading up to the Aug. 21 strike on a suburb of Damascus. Read more
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin conceded in an interview today that Edward Snowden contacted Russian diplomats in Hong Kong prior to flying to Moscow, countering earlier comments by Putin that Snowden’s June arrival was a “complete surprise,” The Wall Street Journal reported. Read more

HEALTH CARE

  • For the vast majority of Americans, premium prices will be higher in the individual exchange than what they’re currently paying for employer-sponsored benefits, according to a National Journal analysis of new coverage and cost data, National Journal‘s Clara Ritger reported. Read more
  • The Rand Corp. released a study Thursday showing that the Affordable Care Act will not result in increased premiums nationwide, The Hill reported. Read more
  • The Department of Health and Human Services announced Thursday that access to care in the same nursing home as one’s spouse is extended to Medicare beneficiaries in same-sex marriages. Read more
  • Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee sent a letter to navigator organizations requesting information about how they will spend the grant money, Kaiser Health News reported. Read more
  • Labor unions are growing increasingly upset with the Obama administration’s lack of response to their concerns regarding the Affordable Care Act, The Hill reported. Read more
  • The Baltimore Ravens will help to promote new insurance options under the Affordable Care Act in Maryland, The Wall Street Journal reported. Read more
  • Since the Affordable Care Act was signed into law in 2010, 21 states have passed laws prohibiting private insurance companies from covering abortions, The Huffington Post reported. Read more
  • A new poll released Wednesday found that young adults are the most supportive of the health care law across age groups, and notably more likely to consider purchasing insurance on the exchanges, National Journal‘s Sophie Novack reported. Read more
  • In a speech that fell smack in the middle of the nation’s debate on Syria, former President Clinton urged Congress to revise a number of issues he has with the Affordable Care Act, National Journal‘s Clara Ritger reported. Read more

TECHNOLOGY

  • Three major Monday deals, involving Verizon-Vodafone, CBS-Time-Warner, and Microsoft-Nokia, have reshaped major industries, USA Today reported. Read more
  • Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., asked constituents to send him their opinions on authorizing military intervention in Syria by way of e-mail, Twitter, and Facebook, The Hill reported. Read more
  • Brazilian and Mexican officials expressed outrage after documents supplied by Edward Snowden and Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald over the weekend indicated the National Security Agency spied on the communications activities of both countries’ presidents, Bloomberg reported. Read more
  • A survey of 3,700 scientists found a large number reporting that their research has been adversely affected by sequestration, Inside Higher Ed reported. Read more
  • Cars are becoming more and more like computers in several ways, giving way to increased vulnerability to hackers, the Associated Press reported. Read more
  • Russian computer-security expert Eugene Kaspersky discussed with The Wall Street Journal his conviction that “there is no more privacy” for consumers desiring the best of new technologies. Read more
  • Google is often heralded for being an open marketplace for developers wanting to create apps on its Android platform, but such openness lends itself to scams and security vulnerabilities, Quartz‘s Leo Mirani reported. Read more

OTHER NEWS

  • Ariel Castro, sentenced last month to life in prison plus an additional 1,000 years for crimes against three Ohio women, was found hanged in his cell Tuesday night, Reuters reported. Read more
  • Jimmy Simmons, the president of the NAACP’s branch in Casper, Wyo., met with John Abarr, a kleagle of the United Klans of America, on Saturday, in what is likely the first formal meeting between representatives of the two organizations, the Casper Star-Tribune reported. Read more
  • Diana Nyad, 64, made the 110-mile swim between Key West, Fla., and Cuba, becoming the first to do so without a shark cage, the Associated Press reported. Read more
  • The Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service on Thursday announced plans to view same-sex marriages as equivalent to heterosexual marriages for tax purposes, The Washington Post reported. Read more
  • House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said “no that’s not my thing. I did that,” in response to a question from National Journal‘s Ben Terris about if she wanted to be speaker of the House again. Read more

QUOTES

  • “[Y]ou are not my God.” – Former Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., yelling at a voter, who insulted Weiner about his marriage to longtime Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin, in a New York CIty deli. (National Journal)
  • “I don’t want to take off the table an option that might or might not be available to a president of the United States to secure our country.” — Secretary of State John Kerry, “thinking out loud” about putting boots on the ground in Syria. (National Journal)
  • “I pay no attention to Heritage Action. They’ve become a purely partisan group that never asks anybody’s opinion.” — Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla. (The Washington Post)
  • “He ought to worry about fixing up the visiting clubhouse at Fenway Park.” — Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland, on Boston Mayor Thomas Menino’s call to “blow up [Detroit] and start all over.” (MLive)
  • “We certainly don’t have a dog in the fight. … That’s why young men and women sign up to join the military, not to, as you know, serve as al-Qaida’s air force.” — Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, on the situation in Syria. (The Huffington Post)
  • “I don’t know about you, but seeing Chris Christie frolicking on the beach is not going to drive me to go to the shore.” — New Jersey state Sen. Barbara Buono, on Christie’s appearance in New Jersey tourism ads. (Associated Press)
  • “You have a problem with that? Would you have a problem with an American Christian saying, ‘Thank God, thank God’? … For someone to say ‘Allahu Akbar’ is about as offensive as someone saying ‘Thank God.’ ” — Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., to a Fox News host who took issue with Syrian rebels yelling “Allahu Akbar!” (Talking Points Memo)

CHARTS AND GRAPHICS

  • The Washington Post‘s Wonkblog charts the high amount of federal housing subsidies that went to six-figure households.
  • Pew charts the narrowing gender gap in workforce participation.
  • Team Marketing Report graphs the price per ounce of beer at major league ballparks (sorry, Boston fans).
  • The Center for American Progress graphs the relation between upward mobility and middle-class size.
  • Pew charts the decline of military members in Congress.
  • Wonkblog charts the workforce and how it has evolved over the years.

Future events

  • Thursday, September 5 — The Hispanic Heritage Foundation will hold the 26th Hispanic Heritage Awards ceremony to “celebrate Hispanic cultural pride, contributions, and accomplishments” at 8 p.m. at 2700 F Street NW.
  • Thursday, September 5 — The Johns Hopkins University Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies will hold a discussion, “Why Europe Is the Other Power of the 21st Century (and China Is Not)” at 4:30 p.m. at 1619 Massachusetts Avenue NW.
  • Thursday, September 5 — The New America Foundation and Free Press will hold a discussion, “The Open Internet Goes to Court,” on Verizon’s lawsuit challenging the Federal Communications Commission’s Open Internet Order and net neutrality at 3 p.m. at 1899 L Street NW.
  • Friday, September 6 — The George Washington University Elliott School of International Affairs will hold a discussion on “The Reconstruction of Central and Eastern Europe,” focusing on the “frozen conflicts” in Transnistria, Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and Cyprus at noon at 1957 E Street NW.
  • Friday, September 6 — President Obama will participate in the G-20 summit in St. Petersburg, Russia.
  • Friday, September 6 — First lady Michelle Obama, retired NBA star Shaquille O’Neal, Olympic gold medalists Allyson Felix and Dominique Dawes, DC Public Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson, and North America Reebok President Uli Becker will participate in an event to announce new commitments for “Let’s Move! Active Schools,” which “aims to get physical activity back into schools, before, during and after the school day,” at 1 p.m. at 2200 Minnesota Avenue SE.
  • Monday, September 9 — The American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research holds a discussion on “The Labor Market Today: Is Unemployment Cyclical or Structural?” at 2 p.m. at 1150 17th Street NW.
  • Monday, September 9 — The Commerce Department and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research will hold a meeting of the National Climate Assessment and Development Advisory Committee on producing a national climate assessment at 3 p.m. at 1717 Pennsylvania Avenue NW.
  • Tuesday, September 10 — Access Intelligence will hold the fifth annual Renewable Energy Technology Conference and Exhibition at 9 a.m. at 2660 Woodley Road NW.
  • Tuesday, September 10 — The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a full committee hearing on “Conflicts Between State and Federal Marijuana Laws” at 10 a.m. in 216 Hart. Attorney General Eric Holder and Deputy Attorney General James Cole will testify.
  • Tuesday, September 10 — Congress will hold a Gold Medal Ceremony to honor the 1963 Birmingham bombing victims at the U.S. Capitol at a time to be announced. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif, are scheduled to attend.
  • Tuesday, September 10 — The House Homeland Security Committee’s Border and Maritime Security Subcommittee will hold a hearing on “Fulfilling a Key 9/11 Commission Recommendation: Implementing Biometric Exit” at 10 a.m. in 311 Cannon.
  • Tuesday, September 10 — The Kaiser Family Foundation will hold a webinar on “Helping Consumers Understand What They Will Pay in the New Marketplaces,” focusing on “key aspects of the Affordable Care Act, its implications for consumers, and strategies for connecting the dots for different audiences” at 12:30 p.m.
  • Tuesday, September 10 — The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation will hold a debate, “Is Technology Responsible for American Job Loss?,” at 9 a.m. at 1101 K Street NW. Robert Atkinson, president of ITIF; Andrew McAfee, principal research scientist in the Sloan School of Management at Massachusetts Institute of Technology; and Edward Luce, chief U.S. commentator at the Financial Times will participate.
  • Tuesday, September 10 — The Future of Privacy Forum and the Center for Internet and Society at Stanford Law School will hold a forum on “Big Data and Privacy” at 9 a.m. at 901 K Street NW. Jay Stanley, senior policy analyst at the American Civil Liberties Union, will participate in a panel discussion on “Government Use of Big Data.”
  • Wednesday, September 11 — The House Financial Services Committee’s Monetary Policy and Trade Subcommittee will hold a hearing, “The Fed Turns 100: Lessons Learned over a Century of Central Banking” at 2 p.m. in 2128 Rayburn.
  • Wednesday, September 11 — The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will hold a full committee hearing, “The Department of Homeland Security at 10 Years: Examining Challenges and Achievements and Addressing Emerging Threats” at 10 a.m. in 342 Dirksen.

 

 

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Here we go Again.

Posted on September 6, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized |

By James Scott

Congress returns to Washington from its summer recess, ready to again do battle over whether or not the federal debt ceiling should be raised to avoid a government shutdown sometime in the middle of next month.

The Republicans, led by House Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio are promising a pitched battle and if the government gets shut down, well, so be it. President Obama, meanwhile, has vowed that the administration will not negotiate with congressional Republicans.

If this sounds familiar, it should. This same scenario has played out every time the federal government’s borrowing authority needed to be increased over the last several years. The Republicans have tied upping the borrowing authority to a list of demands and the president has said he will not yield.

The good news is that every time both sides have realized the folly in their behavior and face-saving compromises have been crafted.

Still, this Congress, which by some measures is the least productive in history, heads toward the start of the new fiscal year Oct. 1 without having passed a single spending bill, not one. Add to that the mid-October debt ceiling deadline and it’s easy to see why federal employees might be well advised to prepare for some time off this fall.

One big problem with government closures, aside from the fact that nothing gets done and the national parks are closed, is that they don’t save money. In fact, they cost money. So there is no political mileage for either party in allowing the government to shut down.

What it really comes down to is gaming the political system. Boehner said as much last week, speaking to the Idaho Statesman during a fund raising trip to the Gem State. “What I’m trying to do here is to leverage the political process to produce more change than what it would produce if left to its own devices. We’re going to have a whale of a fight.”

Leveraging the political process is not how democratic governments are supposed to work.

Treasury Secretary Jack Lew told Boehner in a letter August 26 that even “extraordinary measures” won’t protect the government from running out of money by mid October.

“Under any circumstance — in light of its schedule, the inherent variability of cash flows, and the dire consequences of miscalculation — Congress must act before the middle of October,” Lew wrote.

“Congress should act as soon as possible to protect America’s good credit by extending normal borrowing authority well before any risk of default becomes imminent,” he  added.

Allowing the government to shut down is not even a smart move from a political perspective. Remember the shutdowns 1995 and 1996, when Republicans refused to accept President Clinton’s veto of the budget sent to him by the Republican controlled Congress? It left the political career of Speaker Newt Gingrich, the Georgia Republican, badly damaged and helped Clinton coast to reelection over Bob Dole, the Kansas Republican who had been the Senate majority leader.
While Obama’s favorability ratings are not exactly sterling, Congress is the most unpopular political institution in America, and perhaps the most unpopular ever.
This is why.

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The President’s Third and Long on Syria

Posted on September 6, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized |

By James Scott

When it was time to punish Syria for using chemical weapons on its own civilians, the White House punted.

The question highlighted anew the oft-visited debate about when Congress should be asked its imprimatur ahead of military action. President Obama said he felt he had the authority to launch the attack on his own, but decided to seek the blessing of Congress nonetheless.

Last week, some House Republicans, mostly those of little seniority, cried out for an early end to Congress’s August recess to all a vote on launching an offensive in Syria. A few first term senators joined the chorus. And they got their way.

It’s not like the president was keeping lawmakers of either party in the dark during the run up to attacks against the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad. Obama spoke by phone at least once with House Speaker John Boehner, (R-Ohio) and White House staff briefed members of the relevant committees.

Some voices on the right had complained that an attack on Syria would violate the War Powers Clause of the Constitution, which requires congressional approval before the United States goes to war. The question, though, is what is a war? The Congress has not declared war since World War II, the conflicts in Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq must have been something less than wars.(Iran?  Bush1?)

Something like a measured attack on Syria is hardly in the same league. This seems clearly to fit within the intent of War Powers Act of 1973, which gives the administration the authority to conduct military activities for 60 days without first seeking a declaration of war from Congress.

Still, Obama’s opponents dug up some powerful ammunition in the form of a statement the president made when he was a senator criticizing President George W. Bush for not seeking renewed authorization for the war in Iraq. “The president does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation,” Obama said.

And he doubled down on the statement later, as a candidate for president in 2008.

By 2011, when Obama wanted to launch U.S. military action in Libya, he has changed his tune completely. Rather than seeking approval, Obama informed Congress by letter that he was invoking the 60-day clause of the war power act. When the 60-days expired, he informed them that since the U.S. participation was in a support role he didn’t need their approval.

There is no doubt that the president has the power to launch measured attacks when they are deemed to be in U.S. national security interests. He can even commit the country to war without first gaining congressional approval when the U.S. is attacked or during national emergencies.

The White House has been doing a good job of keeping congressional leaders informed, as it should. Seeking congressional approval, however, opens the debate up to all kinds of political posturing and gamesmanship. And it provides Obama with political cover, should the attack have unforeseen consequences.

The Syria situation is a no-win proposition for the United States. Do we help topple the Syrian regime and hand the country and all its weapons over to an opposition that is dominated by terrorists? Or do we help sustain the blood-soaked regimes of Assad and allow the people of Syria to continue to suffer?

Getting the Congress involved is the right move, even if when designed for political motives.

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Federal Holiday Shines Light on Labor’s Pain

Posted on September 6, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized |

By Carl Chancellor

Parades, cookouts, speeches, rallies, and even a bridge walk in Michigan are just some of the events held nationwide on Monday, Sept. 2, to celebrate the untold contributions of America’s workers and its unions throughout our nation’s history. But more than 130 years since the first Labor Day parade was held in New York City, organized labor in our country is seeing its numbers shrink—down to just 11.3 percent of the American workforce in 2012. To put it simply: the state of union isn’t good.

What’s more, state-level policies in places such as Indiana, Wisconsin, and Michigan threaten to further weaken unions. In 2012, both Indiana and Michigan passed “right-to-work” laws that undermine unions, while other states, including Wisconsin, have repealed collective bargaining rights for most public-sector workers.

At the height of union membership in this country in the early to mid-1950s, more than one-third—35.9 percent—of American workers were represented by organized labor. In 2012, the private-sector unionization was just 6.6 percent.

While unions are certainly down, they are not necessarily out. In the last week of August low-wage workers across the country—mainly fast-food workers—engaged in a series of national protests demanding a living-wage of $15 per hour and the right to unionize.

Still there is no denying that organized labor is just “a whisper of its former greatness,” according to Phillip Dray, author of There is Power in a Union: The Epic Story of Labor in America.  Dray says that the demise of unions can by attributed to Americans’ short memories, which has resulted in a less than favorable perception of unions. However, it is important to remember that most of what we take for granted in the workplace from the eight-hour work day to child-labor laws to fire escapes in factories were the result of hard earned union victories.

Of course unions have often been their own worse enemies with at times absurd, strict adherence to outdated and arcane work rules not to mention a history replete with racial and sexual discrimination.

Speaking of history and memory: let’s not forget that 60 years ago when union membership was at its zenith the U.S. economy was booming—from 1947 through 1973, before unions went into serious decline, the U.S. economy nearly tripled from $1.7 trillion to $4.9 trillion.  Americans with good union benefits and wages were able to purchase homes, buy cars, appliances, and other big-ticket items, and save for college—in short, were able to move into the middle class— which in turn drove a strong economy.

As Congress returns to work facing still unacceptable levels of unemployment, lawmakers would do well to remember that policies that build a strong middle class build a strong economy.

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Welcome back from the dog days of summer!

Posted on September 6, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized |

Well, does he or doesn’t he have the legal right to strike Syria?   First the Administration asserts they have the right to unilaterally strike, then they ask for congressional approval, then the POTUS asserts at the G-20 that he can strike unilaterally.. C’mon man… Fish or cut bait… !    “Mother May I “only works for kids… !

Nonetheless, it’s unusual to see the ultra right agree with the ultra left.  They both assert, for different reasons that we have no business going after the guys who are apparently gassing their population with Sarin.    We predict the middle will prevail.  Congress will authorize limited action against Syria.

Our monthly newsletters will now have a section to focus on the actions of the federal agencies.

Modifications to airworthiness, exemptions for  organic  produce,  small business tax credits for health insurance coverage and education for the disadvantaged are some of the proposed changes.    Interested in Conflict metals reporting guidance?      Please let us know if you need the SEC guidance for this…     http://www.sec.gov/divisions/corpfin/guidance/conflictminerals-faq.htm.
For further information please reach out!

Speculation is that the Navy’s usage of biofuels will increase usage in the private sector. http://www.nationaljournal.com/daily/navy-s-use-of-biofuels-could-trigger-private-sector-adoption-20130815  With the growing number of cities declaring bankruptcy, there is growing acknowledgement that something’s gotta give.  http://www.governing.com/gov-data/municipal-cities-counties-bankruptcies-and-defaults.html

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