By Justine Rellosa- Talk Radio News Service
Senator Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) made an appearance at a rally Tuesday morning held by gay and lesbian veterans who hope to convince members of Congress to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the controversial policy barring gay Americans from openly serving in the military, this year.
“The repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ is consistent with our country’s best values and it is consistent with the best interests of the United States military, and therefore, Americans’ national security,” Lieberman said. “We have justice on our side … we really can, and I believe will, repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ this year.”
The veterans and Lieberman converged on the steps of the U.S. Capitol. Following the rally, the veterans planned on going inside the Congressional office buildings and talking to members and their staffs directly.
“We need to repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ now … this legislation is sending good people out of the military,” said Joe Lazzerini, a member of the Army Reserve from Massachusetts. “I want to be able to continue serving my country, not because I’m gay, but because I do like serving my country.”
In the coming weeks, Congress will take on the Defense Authorization Bill. Opponents of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” are expected to attempt to add an amendment to repeal the policy.
By Justine Rellosa- Talk Radio News Service
Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) says Tuesday that since the arrest of alleged Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad, law enforcement officials have learned that he did not plan the attack on his own. (0:19)
A trio of Senate Republicans failed in their quest to put an end to the days of taxpayer bailouts for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
The GSE (Government Sponsored Enterprise) Bailout Elimination and Taxpayer Protection Amendment, sponsored by Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) and Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), would have forced the government to relinquish control of the two government-backed mortgage giants within two years.
Recently, Fannie Mae, which lost $13.1 billion during the first quarter of this year, asked the government for an additional $8.4 billion to stay afloat. Similarly, Freddie Mac asked the government for $10.6 billion in funds after reporting a loss of $8 billion for the quarter. Combined, the two companies have borrowed $145 billion from the Treasury Department since the government took complete ownership of them during the heart of the nation’s financial collapse in 2008.
“We are not saying that Freddie and Fannie have to go out of business. We’re saying we want them to be a business that is on a level playing field with other private sector competitors,” said McCain to reporters today, hours before his amendment went down in a 56-43 vote.
Though most Republicans supported the item, it had its fair share of skeptics.
First, critics, including many Democrats in Congress, believed the measure would unwind Fannie and Freddie so quickly that it would create chaos throughout the entire housing market. House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.), who has said he supports reforming the two GSE’s, called the amendment a huge gamble.
“Simply to abolish Fannie and Freddie…and not do anything to replace the functions they are now performing with a conservatorship, would be a disaster for housing, and therefore for the economy as a whole,” he said last week.
Furthermore, the liberal Center for American Progress recently referred to the legislation as “The Credit Crunch Restoration Act of 2010,” arguing that by abolishing a large chunk of the mortgage backing industry, millions of Americans would lose access to credit.
An amendment to increase the transparency through which the Federal Reserve (Fed) operates passed on Tuesday by a vote of 96-0.
The measure, sponsored by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), would require the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to conduct a one-time audit of the powerful central banking agency, going back to December 1, 2007. At a press conference with reporters immediately following the vote, Sanders praised his colleagues for their unanimous support.
“What just transpired is an historic vote for the American people in terms of finally bringing transparency to what is perhaps the most powerful federal agency, and that is the Fed,” he said.
A similar amendment that would’ve required the GAO to conduct a far more wide-ranging audit, and would’ve made such audits recurring, failed by a vote of 62-37. The measure was the product of Sanders’s initial, less watered-down effort to shine more light on the Fed, mirrored after a proposal put forth by Reps. Ron Paul (R-Texas) and Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) that passed the House last year.
After Sanders modified his amendment, Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) re-introduced the original version.
By Justine Rellosa
Talk Radio News Service
On Tuesday House Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence (R-Ind.) issued a definitive ‘no’ on the U.S. contributing any financial assistance to Greece.
“Instead of putting American taxpayers and future generations at further risk by bailing out European countries…our country should be tending to our own fiscal crisis,” he said. “Where did this administration get the impression that we have the money to be bailing out fiscal recklessness in the European Union?”
The International Monetary Fund (IMF), of which the U.S. is a member, has agreed to contribute $39 billion of the total $140 billion rescue package to help Greece avoid defaulting on its massive debt. Pence said he fears the U.S. would be on the hook for billions as its status as the IMF’s largest contributor.
As a result, Pence said he will lead a coalition of Republicans in drafting a bill designed to prevent the U.S. from participating in bailing out nations in the “Euro Zone.”
“The [legislation] would block any funding that has not been borrowed by the IMF, from being used by the IMF, to provide loans to any nation that uses the Euro as its primary currency.”
Pence added that House Republicans are determined to oppose more bailouts forced on the American public.
By Benny Martinez – University of New Mexico / Talk Radio News Service
Senators Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) announced Monday that they have created an amendment that will replace the Volcker Rule, a provision proposed by former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker aimed at requiring banks to limit their riskier financial activities, in the Wall Street reform bill.
According to Merkley, the Volcker rule served as a place holder that asked regulators to conduct studies in search of problems in the financial market and would then provide Congress with suggestions on how to fix them, but the Senators’ new amendment would effectively eliminate high-risk proprietary trading, an element included in the language of the Volcker Rule and that lay at the heart of the financial meltdown.
“We are declaring as a Congress that high-risk proprietary trading is inappropriate to have in the same house as a bank holding company and then having the normal partnership with regulators to implement that direction, that direction being carve this off and remove it separately,” Merkley said.
The Democratic duo said that this bill has as many as 17 co-sponsors and is supported by Chairman of the Senate Banking Committee Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) and by the Department of Treasury. Despite the fact that the amendment does not have a single Republican co-sponsor, both Senators are riding the support of Chairman Dodd and said there will be a vote on the Senate floor soon.
“We clearly do expect that that will be the case based on the support of Senator Dodd,” Levin said. “We are confident that this will be voted on and we’re confident that it will have not just Senator Dodd’s support, but with that support, have an extremely good chance of passing.”
By Justine Rellosa
Talk Radio News Service
During a conference call Monday, Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) said he will soon introduce an amendment to the Senate’s financial regulatory reform bill aimed at closing loopholes within the financial sector.
Reed’s bill would require investment pools, such as hedge funds, private equity funds and venture capital funds, to register with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). According to Reed, this would boost transparency within the greater system.
“This approach is designed to give the regulators better insight about size, leverage and risk-taking in private pools of capital and I think that is going to be helpful,” he said.
Specifically, Reed wants to require advisers that fall short of the new $100 million adviser registration threshold to either register with the SEC or open their documents to state regulators for inspection.
Reed said he will introduce his amendment on the floor next Monday and assured that there is bipartisan support for it.
“By in large, there is strong support on both sides.”
Following President Barack Obama’s nomination of Solictor General Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court Monday, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) predicted that there will be some Republican opposition. Leahy quipped that if President Obama had nominated Moses for the Supreme Court, there would still be those who would object and raise questions over his birth certificate.
Leahy added that he is confident that Kagan will be confirmed after the Senate looks at her qualifications. (0:37)
Late yesterday afternoon I started hearing rumors that President Obama had settled on his pick for the next Supreme Court Justice. Later, just before I went to bed, my BlackBerry started buzzing with reports that indeed, the President had made his choice, and that he would be publicly announcing it early Monday morning. Well, as luck would have it, I had already booked a tour of the Pentagon for this morning at 10:00 am, the exact time the President would be unveiling his nomination.
When you tour the Pentagon, there are a few rules. Among them: no carrying any weapons of mass destruction. Check. No chewing gum. Check. And most importantly, no cell phone use (the guide makes everyone turn them off). Not wanting to cause a stir, I politely obeyed that last rule. But my obedience came with a price, I would not be able to read all the breaking news and Tweets from reporters covering the major announcement.
My tour ended around 11:00 am. Naturally, the first thing I did was turn my phone on and check Twitter to see what had been written about the announcement. As I had expected, based on numerous reports both yesterday and earlier this morning, the President had nominated Solicitor General Elena Kagan to replace the retiring Justice John Paul Stevens at the end of the summer. The next thing I did was check my inbox for press releases. Not surprisingly, I had already received more than a few.
Now, I don’t pretend to be a Supreme Court expert — I’ll leave that to my colleague — so I’ll spare you my misguided opinions on whether or not Ms. Kagan is qualified to serve on the High Court. However, as someone who covers Congress, I plan on paying close attention to the forthcoming nomination process because I am interested in seeing how it plays out in a political context.
It’s no secret that the divide between the two major parties has only grown larger over the past few years. Now, thanks to one-party control of both Houses, the rise of the anti-big government Tea Party movement and a monumental healthcare reform bill that re-ignited a once politically doormant legion of voters nationwide, that divide is arguably at an all-time high.
The first email I read was a lengthy statement on the nomination from Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, a sure-to-be VIP in the months to follow. Near the end of his statement, Leahy said the following:
“Among the most serious constitutional duties entrusted to the Senate is the confirmation of Supreme Court Justices. Americans are looking to Washington to cast aside the political rancor and partisanship that has fueled so many recent debates.”
Indeed, driven by such partisan rancor, the battle lines have been definitively drawn on every single substantive issue Congress has worked on lately. From health care, to extending unemployment benefits, to Wall Street reform, the debate has become fairly predictable. In a nutshell it’s this: if you’re a ‘D’, you’re probably with the President and his administration. If you’re an ‘R’, you’re opposed.
Case in point, the following three statements were sent to my inbox from Democrats this morning:
“President Obama has chosen a candidate who will protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. Solicitor General Kagan’s outstanding service as a lawyer, professor, public servant, and administrator prepares her for this challenge, and she will come to the bench with a deep knowledge of the law and respect for all individuals.”
“Elena Kagan has won the respect and admiration of colleagues on both the left and the right for her legal and policy knowledge and for her success in working with advocates of a wide range of viewpoints. I have no doubt that she will bring the same skills to the Supreme Court, as its unprecedented third female justice, where I know that she will be mindful of the impact of the law on the lives of ordinary Americans.”
“It appears that Elena Kagan would bring a great deal of knowledge and real-world experience to the Supreme Court…Elena Kagan’s experience outside courtrooms should not be held against her.”
Which three Democrats issued those statements, you ask? I say, does it matter? To me, anyone with a D after their name could’ve written them. 100% of Democrats (at least in the Senate) will do anything the current President asks or demands of them. During last year’s confirmation battle over Sonia Sotomayor, Democrats often chided Republicans, saying they wouldn’t even vote to confirm Moses if he had been nominated to serve (they’re still using that talking point, by the way). I don’t know about that, but let’s suppose the President had chosen a candidate completely lacking in qualification. I am willing to bet that most Democrats would have uniformly supported a quick confirmation.
To be fair, when it comes to solidarity, the same can be said of the other side as well. Here are some excerpts of a few emails I received this morning from Republicans.
“President Obama’s decision to nominate Elena Kagen to the Supreme Court demonstrates his willingness to sacrifice experience and judicial impartiality for political activism. Despite Ms. Kagen’s lack of judicial experience and limited legal practice, it is clear that she will use her position to push her personal and political agenda.”
“We know that several areas warrant close scrutiny. Ms. Kagan’s lack of judicial experience and short time as Solicitor General, arguing just six cases before the Court, is troubling.”
“There is nothing that requires the President to replace a liberal Justice with a liberal; but unfortunately it appears President Obama is doing just that. Though Kagan has no prior judicial record for the Senate to review, her role as an Obama-insider and senior official in the Administration indicates that she shares the same liberal judicial philosophy as the President and his top advisors.”
Again, I’d reveal the names of the Republicans that released these statements, but it’s a moot issue. They are Republicans, they CAN’T support anything this administration attempts to do. Especially with mid-terms coming up.
Listen, if you’re still not convinced that this is about anything more than D versus R, consider Arlen Specter. As a Republican last year, he voted against confirming Ms. Kagan as Solicitor General. Now, as a Democrat, he says he is open to supporting her confirmation to the Supreme Court. Really? Did she change that much over the past 12 months? Hmmmmmm.
The bottom line is this: In the end, Elena Kagan will be sworn in as our nation’s next Supreme Court Justice, probably sometime before the Fall. The question is, will her confirmation process go smoothly? That all depends on whether or not the divide between parties diminishes or grows larger. And based on what I’m seeing so far, I’d say it’s safe to expect bumpy conditions this summer.
Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas) says middle size employers are often called the engine of growth. “I guess I am troubled by the thought that our main street vs. our wall street companies aren’t hiring. (0:15)