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April 20, 2014 / 20 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Senate’

Senate Considers Plight of Impoverished Holocaust Survivors

Saturday, January 18th, 2014

The U.S. Senate’s Special Committee on Aging held a hearing on the plight of Holocaust survivors in the United States.

Both Republicans and Democrats on the committee said at the Wednesday hearing that survivors are better off aging at home.

“The emphasis on caring for aging survivors must be on creating a safe space surrounded by a trusting caretaker, familiar environment, and a basic sense of control over daily life,” said Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), the committee chair.

“For many of these seniors, this means staying in their homes to receive medical care in their twilight years, a model of care not supported by the traditional Medicaid model, for instance,” Nelson said, referring to the federal medical funding program for the impoverished.

According to the Senate committee, one fourth of the roughly 140,000 survivors in America live at or below the poverty line, the Washington Jewish Week reported.

Many face significant health and mental illnesses beyond normal aging due to nutritional deprivation and the lack of medical care during World War II.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), the committee’s top Republican, said institutional living presents added challenges for survivors.

“The emotional triggers that can be set off by institutional care can be devastating for them,” she said. “Things that other residents would likely ignore can take aging Holocaust survivors psychologically and emotionally back to their traumatic youth or childhood. Confinement is an institutional setting with certain rules, schedules and uniformed staff can literally bring back nightmares. Everyday experiences — showers, doctors, hunger, a lack of privacy — can trigger flashbacks and nightmares.”

Vice President Joe Biden last month laid out a program to assist impoverished Holocaust survivors, including appointing a Health Department envoy to the community and creating additional capacity for volunteers to help the survivors.

Jack Rubin, a constituent of Nelson’s and a survivor of several Nazi concentration and death camps, said many Holocaust survivors are living below the poverty line and can’t afford two hearing aids let alone someone to come into their house daily to help out. He suggested that the German government should contribute.

“U.S. taxpayers are already burdened enough,” he said, adding, “We are not schnorrers. We are not beggars. What we are asking for is what we deserve.”

Besides Rubin and Anat Bar-Cohen, a daughter of survivors, several organizational leaders testified for the need for increased funding, including the Jewish Federations of North America and Selfhelp, a community services organization that helps survivors living in New York.

“Living in poverty, plagued by immeasurable loss, they are at risk of falling into isolation and despair,” Lee Sherman, the president of the Association of Jewish Family and Children’s Agencies, said in his testimony.

The Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany provided written testimony.

Senators Introduce Sanctions Bill to Break Iran Deal

Thursday, December 19th, 2013

Senators from both the Democratic and Republican parties introduced a bill on Thursday that would toughen sanctions on Iran and effectively squash the interim deal between the major Western powers and Iran. The deal has been ridiculed by many as appeasement in return for a nuclear bomb.

Republican Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois said the bill’s proposals for a worldwide boycott on Iranian oil exports and blacklisting the country’s mining industries are “an insurance policy to defend against Iranian deception.”

Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey said, “Current sanctions brought Iran to the negotiating table and a credible threat of future sanctions will require Iran to cooperate and act in good faith at the negotiating table.”

In the unlikely event that the Senate defies President Barack Obama and passes the bill, and the House of Representatives goes along for the ride, it would render the deal null and void because of the negotiators’ promise that no new sanctions would be introduced before the end of talks for a final deal in six months.

The bill also states, “If the government of Israel is compelled to take military action in legitimate self-defense against Iran’s nuclear weapon program, the United States government should stand with Israel” with diplomatic, military and economic support.”

The 26 senators who introduced the deal basically made a stand against President Obama, and when the time comes that it is clear that the President and the leaders of the major powers were duped, the bill’s sponsors can say, “We told you so.”

But that won’t be of much help to Israel.

Congress Considers Congressional Gold Medal for Shimon Peres

Thursday, August 1st, 2013

Members of the U.S. Congress have introduced legislation to award Israeli President Shimon Peres the Congressional Gold Medal.

Spearheading the push to award Peres the medal are Ezra Friedlander, a New York-based lobbyist, and Rabbi David Baron of the Temple of the Arts in Beverly Hills.

Should the legislation pass, Peres, who turns 90 on Friday, would be one of just nine individuals to win both the Congressional Gold Medal and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which President Obama accorded Peres last year. The two medals are the highest U.S. civilian honors.

Dual recipients include Nelson Mandela, who led the struggle against Apartheid in South Africa; Martin Luther King, the U.S. civil rights giant; Elie Wiesel, the Holocaust memoirist; and Aung San Suu Kyii, the Burmese democracy activist. Of the eight dual medalists, five — like Peres — are also Nobel peace laureates.

“Shimon Peres has honorably served Israel for over 70 years, during which he has significantly contributed to United States interests and has played a pivotal role in forging the strong and unbreakable bond between the United States and Israel,” said the legislation introduced Thursday in the Senate by Sens. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.).

Almost identical legislation was introduced Thursday in the U.S. House of Representatives by Reps. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) and Joe Kennedy (D-Mass.).

Senate Passes Immigration Bill, Provisions for Camp Counselors

Friday, June 28th, 2013

The immigration overhaul passed in the U.S. Senate includes provisions that protect a visa program used by Jewish summer camps and that makes permanent a law that facilitates immigration for victims of religious persecution.

The bipartisan bill passed Thursday by the Senate, 68-32, creates a path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million undocumented workers living in the United States.

A broad array of Jewish groups supported the reforms, and lavished praise on its passage, although its fate in the Republican-led U.S. House of Representatives is uncertain.

“The bill contains priorities the Reform Jewish Movement has long championed, including a pathway to citizenship, legal avenues for future flow of immigrants, enhanced ways for families to be reunited, and important protections for workers,” Rachel Laser, the deputy director of the Reform movement’s Religious Action Center, said in a statement.

Other groups praising the bill included the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee, B’nai B’rith International, the National Council of Jewish Women, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society and Bend the Arc.

Provisions in earlier versions of the bill aimed at preventing abuse of immigrant workers included regulatory changes that religious groups feared would make onerous the hiring of temporary overseas workers.

Jewish groups bring in summer camp counselors, shlichim — Israeli emissaries — and other workers through the J-1 visa program.

The Reform movement and JCPA, the umbrella body for public policy groups, joined other faith-based groups in lobbying senators to modify the proposed changes so they would not onerously affect hiring through J-1.

Also included was language that makes permanent the Lautenberg Amendment, the law first passed in 1989 and initiated by the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) that loosens tough refugee status standards for designated persecuted religious minorities.

As it stands, the law must be renewed with each annual budget; the new language in the Senate bill would grant the president discretion to apply it on an as-needed basis.

The law helped facilitate the exit of hundreds of thousand Soviet and Iranian Jews among other minorities. HIAS, which led the bid to make Lautenberg’s language permanent, said it was a fitting tribute to the senator, who died earlier this month.

“If enacted into law, this bill would preserve Senator Lautenberg’s legacy of protecting persecuted religious minorities while creating new opportunities for other persecuted groups—with an emphasis on those seeking religious freedom—to receive protection,” HIAS said in a statement.

US Immigration Bill May Hurt Jewish Summer Camps

Tuesday, June 25th, 2013

The proposed immigration bill now in the Senate has been altered to t remove requirements that would  affect Israeli and other foreigners wanting to work temporarily in Jewish summer camps, but the House may block its passage.

Provisions for the J-1 non-immigrant visa for exchange visitors  now “allow an important cultural exchange” between American youth and foreign staff members, Rachel Laser, deputy director of the Reform Movement’s Religious Action Center told the Jewish Forward.

The original version of the bill contained extra requirements that were changed after Jewish camp operators said it would hurt their programs, where 1,400 Israeli counselors and almost the name number work in summer camps.

The altered Senate version could come unraveled if House of Representatives  Speaker John Boehner goes through with his threat to block its passage if he thinks a majority of republicans will not vote for the measure.

Christie Declares Special August Primaries for Lautenberg’s Seat

Tuesday, June 4th, 2013

New Jersey’s Republican Gov. Chris Christie announced Tuesday a special primary election will be held August 13, followed by general elections Oct. 16, to fill the seat left vacant by the death on Monday of Democratic Sen. Frank Lautenberg. By law, he could have appointed a temporary replacement.

“I want to have an elected senator as soon as possible,” Christie told reporters at a news conference. “I firmly believe that the decisions that need to be made in Washington are too great to be determined by an appointee for a period of 18 months.”

The new senator who will be elected will serve only a year because Sen. Lautenberg’s term of office expires in 2014, when the seat again will be up for grabs.

Frank Lautenberg, Senate’s Oldest Member, Dies at Age 89

Monday, June 3rd, 2013

World War II veteran and New Jersey Jewish Sen. Frank Lautenberg died Monday at the age of 89. His health had failed the past several months, and the Democratic senator has not been seen on the Senate floor for most of the year because of what his office said was “muscle weakness and fatigue.”

Republican Gov. Chris Christie will appoint a replacement until a special election this year, followed by another election in 2014, when Lautenberg’s six-year term of office expires.

Last week, the Hillel Foundation for Jewish Campus life honored Sen. Lautenberg for his contributions to the Jewish community and Israel. The celebration was broadcast to his home, where he was confined because of his illness, and his wife Bonnie accepted the organization’s Renaissance Award.

He was the son of poor but hard-working Russian and Polish immigrant parents in Paterson, New Jersey, and he succeeded in business and helped found the nation’s first payroll services company, Automatic Data Processing. He served in the Senate for 18 years, retired in 2000 and returned to the Senate in 2002.

Sen. Lautenberg was a strong liberal. He was pro-choice, supported gun control, introduced bills increasing penalties for carjacking and car theft, and criticized the Bush administration on national security issues.

He was vigorous in his opposition to the war in Iraq.

The senator was heavily involved in various anti-smoking and airline safety legislation and co-sponsored legislation to increase drunken driving penalties.

One of his best known bills that passed into law was the prohibition of smoking from most commercial airline flights.

He also authored the Ryan White Care Act, which provides services to AIDS patients.

How to Use a Midterm Victory

Wednesday, May 29th, 2013

There are good reasons to be hopeful about the 2014 midterm election.  The second presidential midterm election has historically been murder.  With the exceptions of Clinton in 1998 and Reagan in 1986, the president in his second midterm has lost massively in the House of Representative: FDR (-71 seats), Ike (-49 seats), Nixon (-49 seats), Bush II (-31 seats.)

Except for Clinton in 1998, each of those midterms produced losses for the president’s party in the Senate (Reagan, in fact, lost the Senate in 1986).  Senate elections are affected by the particular class of senators elected six years before as well as the sentiments of voters in the particular midterm at hand.  That is why Republican Senate losses in 1986 were so bad: Republicans defending their seats in 1986 had last faced voters in the 1980 Reagan landslide.

In 2014, the Senate class strongly favors Republicans both by the number of seats each is defending (21 Democrats to 14 Republicans) and the particular states involved, which are predominately conservative and Republican.  Sensing this, many Senate Democrats from conservative states are retiring.  The chances of Republicans taking the Senate are very good.

Winning in House races and state government elections will depend upon turnout.  Those eager airheads who have now turned out for Obama in two presidential elections will find few reasons to go to the polls in November 2014, when Obama is a lame duck and is not on the ballot.

Voter fatigue, more important than any notional polls of presidential approval or voter intentions, may well hand Republicans the sort of major victory that has been the norm in a president’s second midterm.  The growing sense of unease, even among the otherwise docile establishment media, may combine into a major Republican victory in 2014, giving perhaps fifty-five or more Senate seats and perhaps 260 seats in the House (a gain of 24 seats).  If this happens, what should Republicans do?

First, Senate Republicans should very directly state that only strict constructionist jurists will be confirmed onto the federal bench.  In fact, Senate Republicans should make it clear that no radical leftists will be confirmed for any appointed to federal courts or independent regulatory agencies.  Democrats have done this for decades — just ask Robert Bork — and Republicans must do it, too.

Second, Senate Republicans ought to do what Harry Reid threatened to do:  adopt a rule which ends filibusters and always moves for cloture with fifty-one senate votes.  This would allow Republicans in Congress to actually pass bills which would be placed on Obama’s desk to sign or to veto.  Ideally, these bills should have unanimous Republican support and, perhaps, that of a few conservative Democrats as well.

Obama will never sign ever moderate conservative reforms, so the nation would see the president vetoing one bill after another, accomplishing nothing but obstruction.  Republicans ought to research these bills as they did with the Contract With America:  find out what bills appeal to Americans, and then pass those out of Congress.

Third, Republicans must conduct aggressive investigations of the myriad abuses of power by Obama and his lackeys.  The best way to do this is would be to create a Joint Congressional Special Committee composed of members of both houses of Congress and, of course, both political parties.  Those called to testify before this committee would think twice before lying or acting flippantly.  In fact, if only a few Democrats on this Joint Committee called the Obama administration to the carpet, then the political stakes could rise dramatically for Obama almost overnight.

Unless the president and his flacks behaved much more respectfully and much more seriously than they have so far — and that, of course, would involved miles of backtracking — a Contempt of Congress citation adopted by both houses with some bipartisan support would be a real possibility.

The goal should be to deny Obama: to deny him any real power to influence the judiciary and regulatory agencies, to deny him any legislative victories by compelling Obama to veto reasonable legislation supported by the American people, and to deny Obama the unmerited support of many Americans by showing him before joint congressional committees to be a mendacious and venal politician.  There is no need to try to do too much, but doing these three things is critical to turning our nation around.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/how-to-use-a-midterm-victory/2013/05/29/

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