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October 7, 2015 / 24 Tishri, 5776
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Mitch McConnell’

Senate Passes Bill for Limited NSA Surveillance

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2015

The Senate voted 62-37 Tuesday night to pass a House bill that resumes clauses in the Patriot Ac t that expired Sunday night and left the NSA without power to collect phone data of suspected terrorists.

The bill revises the Patriot Act and ends the freedom of the NSA to collect data on everyone, even if not suspected of terror.

The new bill calls for phone companies to collect and forces the NSA to receive court permission to access records.

President Barack Obama signed the bill into law after tweeting:

Glad the Senate finally passed the USA Freedom Act. It protects civil liberties and our national security. I’ll sign it as soon as I get it.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who failed to block the passage of the bill, said, This is a step in the wrong direction. [It[ does not enhance the privacy protections of American citizens. And it surely undermines American security by taking one more tool from our warfighters at exactly the wrong time.”

House speaker John House Speaker John Boehner responded, “This legislation is critical to keeping Americans safe from terrorism and protecting their civil liberties. I applaud the Senate for renewing our nation’s foreign intelligence capabilities.”

Post-Bibi Bipartisanship May Result in Congressional Ability to Review Iran Deal

Friday, March 6th, 2015

In what may be the most significant direct result of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to the joint session of Congress last Tuesday, March 3, Democrats and Republicans are now within spitting distance of  ensuring that Congress will be able to review the details of the nuclear capabilities agreement the administration and the other members of the P5+1 are currently negotiating with Iran.

Just a few days ago it did not look as if any bipartisan breakthrough was in the cards any time soon, especially given several real tangles between the parties before, during and immediately after Netanyahu’s speech.

The Israeli prime minister’s speech to Congress became, despite Netanyahu’s claimed efforts to avoid that to the contrary, a wildly partisan mosh pit, with allegations of disrespect hurled at Netanyahu by certain Democrats and allegations of anti-Semitism smeared on those who refused to attend.

But Democrats and Republicans escorted Netanyahu into the chambers, and there was enthusiastic applause for the Israeli head of state from nearly everyone in the room (Rep. Pelosi’s very public meltdown notwithstanding).

And then, just a few hours after the address, Netanyahu met with a small bipartisan group of Senators in Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office.

That meeting included Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), Sens. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), John Thune (R-S.D.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), John McCain (R-Ariz.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) and Bob Corker (R-Tenn.).

But the boxing match bells went off signaling yet another round when Sen. McConnell (R-KY) announced later on Tuesday that he intended to call a vote next week on proposed legislation which would require congressional approval of any deal with Iran.

That legislation, the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015, had been introduced by Sen. Corker (R-TN) last Friday, Feb. 27.

INARA would delay the lifting of sanctions on Iran and block the implementation of any agreement between Iran and the P5+1 at least until after a period of Congressional review takes place.

The Democratic co-sponsors of that legislation were infuriated by McConnell’s move. They said they understood there had been an agreement to wait to bring the bill up for a vote until after the March 24 framework deadline for the negotiating parties.

Nine Senate Democrats and one Independent (Angus King, of Maine) who had supported the congressional approval legislation penned a curt letter to McConnell, which was sent on Wednesday, March 4

The letter was signed by Sen. Menendez (D-NJ), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), and others, and informed McConnell that there was no need to rush the bill out for a vote, as no final agreement with Iran was expected before the end of June.

“We remain committed to working on this bill in a bipartisan manner,” the senators informed McConnell, but they warned him, “we will only vote for this bill after it has gone through the regular mark-up process in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and after the March 24the deadline for the political framework agreement.”

Without the support of the Democrats who signed the letter, there is no way the INARA could survive President Obama’s promise of a presidential veto.

McConnell, ceding to the wishes of the Democrats who are willing to support INARA, so long as the timing is right, chose to undo his decision to call up INARA for a vote next week.

As a result of McConnell’s concession, INARA won the support of an additional four Senate Democrats: Chuck Schumer (NY), Ben Cardin (Maryland), Richard Blumenthal (Connecticut) and Chris Coons (Delaware).

In other words, this exercise in bipartisan cooperation means that INARA is now only three votes away from a veto-proof majority, and with lots more time to seek additional supporters.

Netanyahu Will Meet With Bipartisan Senate Leadership Prior to March 3 Speech

Friday, February 27th, 2015

According to a press advisory issued by Majority leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) and Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV), the Senate Leadership will host Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday, March 3, at 3:00 p.m.

The meeting and photo opportunity will take place in Majority Leader McConnell’s office.

Netanyahu’s speech to the joint session of congress is expected to take place about six hours later.

The timing and fact of Netanyahu’s speech to congress has been the subject of rancorous debate between Israeli and the American governments. Approximately two dozen Democrats have said that they will not attend the Israeli prime minister’s speech in the wake of serious pushback to the speech by the White House and State Department.

A few lone Democrats had extended an invitation to Netanyahu for him to meet separately with them. Netanyahu rejected that offer, one many believed was made so that those Democrats could be “excused” for their absence at Netanyahu’s speech to the full Senate on the evening of March 3.

The announcement issued under McConnell and Reid’s names suggests there was great pressure to avoid turning the speech into a purely partisan issue.


Republicans Seize Control of Both Houses of Congress

Wednesday, November 5th, 2014

In an election that spells the end of the Democrat’s vise over the U.S. Senate, U.S. President Obama now looks ahead to a long 27-months of lame-duckship.

Obama and the Democrats have had their talking points headed with “blame Republicans for Washington gridlock,” but the U.S. administration and its cheering squad in congress will now own the gridlock title, as columnist Jonathan Tobin at Commentary rightly predicted going into yesterday’s election.

The Republicans have taken control of the U.S. Senate, gaining 7 seats from the Democrats, and retained control of the House, achieving a net gain of 10 seats.The Republicans have 235 of the 435 House seats, so they are ahead by a comfortable margin.

Political commentator Charles Krauthammer objected to the use of the term “wave” to describe the routing of Democrats in yesterday’s election. He diagnosed it instead as a “tsunami.”

The growth of House control by the Republicans spells changes in chairmanships of important committees. One to watch will be the Ways and Means Committee,which will be headed by Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan. This committee is about to rewrite the tax code, and given the IRS scandals and numerous investigations which critics have claimed were stymied by the Democrats’ control, this should be interesting to watch.

Similarly, the control by the GOP of the Senate will have a significant impact on committee chairmanships in that chamber. Insiders are expecting Sen. John McCain to assume leadership over the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Watch that space! McCain has been deriding this administration’s bungling of foreign policy all over the globe.

Another big change is that Harry Reid will no longer be the powerful Senate majority leader. That plum is expected to go to Sen. Mitch McConnell, although Ted Cruz (R-TX) very publicly refused to commit to backing the Kentucky Republican in what looks to be a secondary backstage battle to watch next week.

A breakdown of significant changes and what they mean for those who care about U.S.-Israel relations to follow.

Obama to Nominate Frum Chief of Staff for Treasury

Wednesday, January 9th, 2013

There are those who think a politician cannot be charged with anti-Semitism or anti-Zionism if the politician appoints Jews or Israelis to high positions. President Obama has just handed such people another shield to hold up against those charges.  Bloomberg and other news sites are reporting that tomorrow, January 10, Obama will nominate his Orthodox current chief of staff, Jack Lew, to head the Treasury Department.  Lew would replace the out-going Timothy Geithner.

Staunchly pro-Israel and pro-American leaders and organizations have harshly criticized the president’s most recent nominations for three of the most significant positions in the U.S. government. Claims against all three have centered on their documented inclinations towards conciliation and negotiation with the most intractable Islamist and repressive governments, including Iran and Syria, and terrorist groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah, while at the same time exhibiting a decided frigidity towards the Jewish State.  Those claims have been leveled against Senator John Kerry (R-MA) for Secretary of State, Senator Chuck Hagel (R-NB) for Secretary of Defense, and John Brennan for Director of the CIA, all of whom have encountered fierce resistance in certain sections of the staunchly pro-Israel community.

It is unlikely that Lew’s nomination will be met with hostility by the pro-Israel crowd, but that is not because he is an Orthodox Jew who strives to maintain his Shomer Shabbat life despite his demanding position.  Rather, a cursory review of Lew’s professional and academic background reveals a candidate who appears eminently qualified for what is a non-foreign policy position.

Lew was born and raised in Queens, New York, received degrees from Harvard College and Georgetown Law School, and spent most of his career in the public sector, including two stints heading the Office of Management and Budget, and serving as an aide to the late Speaker of the House, Tip O’Neill (D-MA). His private sector positions have included managing director for Citigroup and as an executive vice president of New York University.

In his role as right hand man to the president, the Orthodox Lew was useful in using that hand to reach out to, and smooth down the feathers of, those mainstream American Jewish organizations and leaders for whom such outreach is meaningful. It was widely reported that Lew assisted Obama in making calls to the heads of such organizations, in trying to derail “Jewish” criticism of the Hagel nomination.

While Lew is unlikely to face hectoring from pro-Israel forces, what he will face as Treasury Secretary is more than sufficiently harrowing.  It will be his job to try and tame the $16.4 trillion debt ceiling.  That limit was reached on December 31, at which point the Treasury Department began using “extraordinary measures” to keep the government operating.  But those measures will be exhausted within the next few weeks, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

As the president’s chief of staff, Lew was already used as the president’s kosher imprimatur, but the Treasury Secretary is a higher profile position and one that sets policy, whereas chief of staff ostensibly controls access to the president, but is not an independent policy-making position.

An in-depth article about Lew which ran in November’s National Journal, reveals a man who very much shares this president’s views of government and spending priorities.

If Lew became Treasury secretary, members of the business sector and political observers say, it would send two messages from the administration to Wall Street and the financial community. First, that they don’t have an ally or one of their own in Washington. Second, that the White House intends to keep close watch over tax policy and international financial decisions.

The choice would make the Treasury job  an extension of the White House’s economic team.  “And [appointing] Jack Lew suggests that [Obama] is going to continue to be the principal economic spokesperson because Jack Lew is not Mr. Outside. He’s Mr. Inside,” says Rothkopf, the former Clinton official.

And in the most recent fiscal cliff negotiations, Lew was seen by some as being particularly obstructionist.  Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) was reportedly irked by Lew’s intransigence.

Still, Treasury is hardly a position like Secretary of State or Secretary of Defense from which decisions that have an existential impact on Israel will be made.  Domestic spending issues are more frequently the focus of centrist Jewish organizations which tend to be dominated by Democrats, for whom a fiscal conservative might be a lightening rod.  Lew is unlikely to raise the ire of non-partisan pro-Israel organizations.

Of course, if Lew is moving to Treasury, who will be the president’s next chief of staff?  So far the names being floated include Denis McDonough, currently a deputy national security adviser, and Ron Klain, who had served as Vice President Joe Biden’s chief of staff.

If Lew’s replacement is Denis McDonough, sparks may yet fly.  McDonough has been fingered as one of the people most likely to have altered the famous CIA talking points on the attacks on Benghazi. The alteration of those points, it has been claimed, led the Obama administration to publicly blame the murderous violence on a crude little video which Muslims deemed insulting to their prophet, rather than immediately acknowledging that it was a planned attack by an al Qaeda affiliate against the United States on the anniversary of 9/11.  It is hard to believe the White House would want to bring the focus back on Benghazi, although most news sites which have mentioned McDonough as one of Lew’s likely successors did not even make the connection.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/obama-to-nominate-frum-chief-of-staff-for-treasury/2013/01/09/

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