Review Category : Poltics

Senate Approves Measure to Fund the Military

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The Senate crossed one item off its pre-holiday to-do list Friday evening by passing a $585 billion defense authorization act that will fund the nation’s military next year.

The Senate voted 89-11 in favor of the measure.

The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) authorizes spending for basic military operations and authorizes the training and equipping of Syrian moderate forces to combat ISIS for two years. The bill also includes a one percent pay raise for troops.

This year’s NDAA is named after the Sen. Carl Levin and Rep. Buck McKeon, the chairs of the Senate and House Armed Services Committees, who are both retiring this year.

The Senate initially expected to wrap up its business this week, but the Senate still has unfinished work – from the long term spending package passed by the House Thursday night, to tax extenders to confirming President Obama’s nominees.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, announced late on Friday that the Senate will hold session Saturday, with the potential to stay in session into the early hours of Sunday, when the first procedural vote on the spending measure could occur.

Reid tried to schedule a procedural vote on the spending measure for 5 p.m. on Monday, but Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, objected due to his and other Republicans’ push for a vote to defund President Obama’s exclusive action on immigration.

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Here’s What Retiring Lawmakers Will Miss Most About Congress

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — As the 113th Congress draws to a close, departing lawmakers have taken to the floor of the House and Senate to say goodbye.

These farewell addresses, a tradition on Capitol Hill at the end of each two-year session, are a chance for soon-to-be former elected officials to give thanks, reflect on work, call for bipartisanship and push for policies one last time. But during this year’s speeches, lawmakers also revealed what they will miss most about being on the Hill.

Here’s a look:

1. Rare moments of bipartisanship

Retiring Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., acknowledged that “the need for bipartisanship and the lack of it in the Senate is a hallmark of Senate farewell speeches.” Instead, the senior senator chose to share the “rare instances” when he had experienced it, including the support he received after suffering a brain hemorrhage in 2006 and “colleagues on the other side of the aisle never once tried to take advantage of my absence.”

“In the years ahead, I will miss this family, not the bickering that I mentioned earlier, but the blessing that you have all been to [my wife] Barbara and me,” Johnson said.

2. Boozing with colleagues

Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., said that when asked what he will miss most about the Senate, “the answer is very easy.”

“I will miss my friends and the relationship we have developed over the years.” Chambliss called Sen. Diane Feinstein, D-Calif., “a great chairman and partner on the Intelligence Committee,” and said he will miss “those late afternoon glasses of California wine” with her.

3. Custom transportation

Your office probably doesn’t have an underground subway in it. But the Capitol’s does.

Retiring Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., thanked one of the Capitol’s railroad car drivers, James. Bachmann called him a “wonderful friend,” and said they “literally [had] tears in our eyes when we are saying goodbye to each other in these last days. He has brought joy to my heart.”

4. Making a difference

Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., who lost re-election after serving for 12 years to Republican Tom Cotton, confessed he “will miss waking up every morning and thinking, ‘How can I make a difference for Arkansas and America today?’”

5. Sunsets with a view

Look who’s enjoying the Capitol sunset? Michele Bachmann and Steve King. “My last one,” she says. pic.twitter.com/eLlLIFZNqx

— Jeff Zeleny (@jeffzeleny) December 11, 2014

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Obama Thanks Troops Ahead of Holidays in Weekly Address

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) — With the holidays approaching, President Obama used his weekly address to preview his Monday trip to a New Jersey military base, thank the troops and promote the changing mission in Afghanistan as the year comes to a close.

Obama will travel to Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst on Monday, where he says he will “salute [troops] for their service and thank them for their sacrifices.”

“Since our nation was attacked on 9/11, these men and women, like so many others in uniform, have met every mission we’ve asked of them,” Obama said. “They deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq.”

With many of the troops coming home and the combat mission in Afghanistan turning into an effort to help the Afghan Army protect the country, Obama urged all Americans to express gratitude to the troops that keep our country safe. “As a nation, as Americans, let’s always keep striving to serve them as well as they have always served us,” the president said.

Read the full transcript of the president’s address:

Hi, everybody. It’s the holidays—a season to give thanks for our many blessings. The love of family. The joy of good friends. The bonds of community. The freedom we cherish as Americans. The peace and justice we seek in the world.

As we go about our days, as we gather with loved ones and friends, it’s important to remember: our way of life—the freedom, prosperity and security that we enjoy as Americans—is not a gift that is simply handed to us. It has to be earned—by every generation. And no one sacrifices more to preserve our blessings than our extraordinary men and women in uniform.

That’s why, on Monday, I’ll be visiting our troops at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey—to salute them for their service and thank them for their sacrifices. Since our nation was attacked on 9/11, these men and women, like so many others in uniform, have met every mission we’ve asked of them. They deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq. In more than a decade of war, this 9/11 Generation has worked with the Afghan people to help them reclaim their communities and prevent terrorist attacks against our own country.

Now, many of our troops are returning from Afghanistan, and on Monday, I’ll be proud to help welcome them home. That’s because, this month, our combat mission in Afghanistan will be over. Our war in Afghanistan is coming to a responsible end.

Of course, the end of our combat mission in Afghanistan doesn’t mean the end of challenges to our security. We’ll continue to work with Afghans to make sure their country is stable and secure and is never again used to launch attacks against America. The troops I’ll visit on Monday have been part of our mission to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL in Iraq and Syria. They’ve been supporting our efforts in West Africa to fight the Ebola epidemic and save lives. Because in times of crisis and challenge, the world turns to America for leadership. And when the world calls on America, we call on the brave men and women of our armed forces to do what no one else can.

So this holiday season, as we give thanks for the blessings in our own lives, let’s also give thanks to our men and women in uniform who make those blessings possible. Even as some are coming home for the holidays, many more will be far from their families, who sacrifice along with them.

There are so many ways we can express our gratitude to our troops, their families and our veterans—everyone can do something. To find out what you can do, just go to JoiningForces.gov. As a nation, as Americans, let’s always keep striving to serve them as well as they have always served us.

Thanks, have a great weekend, and God bless our troops and their families.

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Sen. Tim Scott Calls Midterm Elections A Chance for ‘Fresh Start’ in GOP Weekly Address

US Senate(WASHINGTON) — In the weekly Republican address, Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., thanked the voters of South Carolina for electing him while calling the new Republican majority in the Senate a chance for a “fresh start.”

“A Senate controlled by Democrats has blocked many…solutions for years, leaving bills gathering dust instead of spreading success,” Scott said. He added that the Republican Congress will work to “restore the 40-hour workweek realize the full potential of America’s energy industry and ensure every child, everywhere, no matter their zip code, has access to a quality education.”

Republicans, Scott said, “know who our bosses are, and that you are more than capable of understanding what Washington does or does not accomplish.” Further, Scott said, “we understand that it is not government that powers our nation, but rather the ingenuity, hard work and skills of the American people.”

“Your issues are our concerns,” Scott concluded.

Read the full transcript of the Republican address:

“Hi, I’m Senator Tim Scott from the great state of South Carolina.

“I’m deeply honored to have been elected by the hardworking people of South Carolina to represent them in the United States Senate.

“The mid-term elections put the President’s policies on the ballot, and the American people overwhelmingly rejected them by electing Republicans into office all around the country.

“The new Republican majority in the Senate, alongside the House of Representatives, will present solutions that work for American families, and I truly hope the President will join us.

“We must regain the trust of the American people and we will do so by immediately focusing on jobs and the economy.

“This fresh start will bring efforts to restore the 40-hour workweek, realize the full potential of America’s energy industry and ensure every child, everywhere, no matter their zip code, has access to a quality education.

“A Senate controlled by Democrats has blocked many of these solutions for years, leaving bills gathering dust instead of spreading success.

“We will look to tackle our overcomplicated and outdated tax code while reducing excessive regulation, empowering families and giving our small businesses the opportunity to grow.

“We will tackle the Affordable Care Act head on and present solutions to lower health care costs and increase access to care.

“I look at colleagues like Congresswoman Martha Roby and Senators Mitch McConnell and Mike Lee, who have authored legislation to give single parents and working families more flexibility to get their time in at work while taking care of their families at home.

“And Senator John Hoeven, who has led a bipartisan charge to approve the Keystone Pipeline and create tens of thousands of jobs.

“My Opportunity Agenda focuses on increasing educational choice to ensure every child has the chance to succeed, as well as creating more jobs through our energy resources and apprenticeship programs.

“Republicans are also committed to protecting the rights of the minority party – a drastic shift from the past few years in Washington.

“Amendments will be encouraged, not ignored;

“The practice of passing massive bills, just to see what’s in them, will be a thing of the past;

“And open debate and strong oversight will become the norm.

“While many may be skeptical, and rightfully so given how broken Washington has become, Republicans are committed to returning government to the American people.

“We know who our bosses are, and that you are more than capable of understanding what Washington does or does not accomplish.

“We understand that it is not government that powers our nation, but rather the ingenuity, hard work and skills of the American people. Your issues are our concerns.

“Thank you, and God Bless America.”

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Secret Submarine Videos of Female Officers Investigated

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Rex Nelson/Released(NEW YORK) — A dozen male sailors aboard the submarine USS Wyoming are under investigation for sharing secretly recorded videos of three female officers as they undressed to enter the submarine’s showers. One of the sailors is believed to have used a cellphone to record seven videos that he shared with 11 others aboard the submarine.

A senior defense official says it is believed that three of the four female officers assigned to the ballistic missile submarine were secretly recorded by one male sailor as they undressed in a shower changing area.

The official says that seven videos were recorded on a cellphone and distributed via text among 11 other sailors, all of them petty officers. It is believed that the videos were not posted on social media sites or the internet.

The recordings were made during the submarine’s deployments in the fall of 2013 and spring of 2014. The use of personal communications devices in classified spaces is also being investigated as they are not allowed on board during submarines deployments, which are classified.

The investigation into the recordings and their distribution was launched in November when another sailor temporarily assigned to the USS Wyoming returned to his unit and informed his commanders of what he had seen.

“If proven true, it’s certainly inappropriate sexual harassment conduct,” Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby said Friday. “There’s no question about that.”

He added that the alleged misconduct “runs counter to every value that we stand for in uniform.” Kirby confirmed that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel was informed of the investigation as soon as it was launched.

As soon as that investigation began in November, the 12 sailors were immediately reassigned to shore duties at their home base in Kings Bay, Georgia, pending the results of the investigation by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service. An earlier command investigation has already concluded.

Submarines were the last of the Navy’s ships to be integrated by women mainly because of the privacy concerns that arise in tight quarters aboard the vessels which can remain submerged for months at a time.

In 2011, the Navy began a methodical process of training female officers for duty aboard submarines. Plans call for female enlisted sailors to begin serving in the submarine force by 2020.

There are currently 59 women assigned to seven submarines, 45 of whom are nuclear trained officers. They have separate berthing quarters, but share the same bathroom facilities as male officers. They post signs outside the door to indicate the showers are being used by a female officer.

“Incidents that violate the trust of our sailors go against every core value we hold sacred in our naval service,” wrote Vice Admiral Michael Conor, the commander of Submarine Forces in a Dec. 4 letter to commanders.

He wrote that they are “incredibly humiliating” to victims and break “a sacred bond between shipmates: we go to war together with the confidence that we can rely on each in ALL circumstances… and incidents of sailors victimizing other sailors represent an extreme breach of that trust!”

Conor restated the Navy’s commitment to the integration of women aboard submarines noting that it “has gone remarkably well” with the performance of all involved having been “overwhelmingly successful.”

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Secretary of Defense Nominee Ash Carter Undergoes Surgical Procedure on Back

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — President Obama’s nominee to be the next Secretary of Defense underwent back surgery on Friday.

According to White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest, the surgery on Ash Carter’s back was previously scheduled, and Carter went through with the procedure so that it would be completed prior to the confirmation process. Carter is resting comfortably with his family, Earnest said Friday.

Carter was officially nominated on Dec. 5. He had previously served a decade at the Pentagon during both the Clinton and Obama administrations.

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Rep. Joe Barton: College Football Playoff Will ‘Fail Every Year’; Congress May Examine Next Year

Photo By Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call(WASHINGTON) — A leading congressional critic of college football’s old Bowl Championship Series believes the new playoff system is an improvement — but far from perfect after two big-name schools from his home state were left on the outside looking in.

Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, said the inaugural four-team playoff that shut out Baylor and Texas Christian University never could have been broad enough to include top teams from the five “power” conferences plus high-profile independent schools.

“The system as they have it now is going to fail every year,” Barton said on the latest episode of the ESPN/ABC News podcast Capital Games.” “You can’t squeeze all that sausage into the sack. There’s going to be a few teams left out. So they need to go to at least eight teams, and it wouldn’t be the end of the world if they went to 12 – with first-round byes – or to 16.”

Barton previously used his perch as chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee to convene hearings on the much-maligned BCS, even pushing legislation to prod the NCAA to ban it in favor of a playoff system.

Now, he said, additional oversight hearings on the new system could be in order, under the leadership of Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich.

“We’ve got a lot on our plate next year, but it wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility to do a hearing or two,” Barton said.

Barton specifically cited concerns about how TCU – which has its campus near Barton’s congressional district, in Fort Worth – fell out of the playoff rankings despite closing out its regular season with a blowout victory.

“TCU was in third place the week before, won by 52, and fell from three to six,” Barton said. “Either they weren’t really the No. 3 team the week before, or something other than performance on the field determined who made that fourth slot.”

Barton also shared a novel idea for an expanded playoff system that would virtually ensure his alma matter, Texas A&M University, a spot every year.

And he predicted that the University of Texas and Texas A&M will play against each other again in future years; the schools haven’t tangled since 2011, because A&M left the Big 12 to join the SEC after that season.

“Of course they should play again. It’s petty that they’re not, and the primary reason they’re not playing is that Texas doesn’t want to play Texas A&M,” Barton said. “Eventually they will play, if for no other reason that it’s a huge financial revenue source.”

While he praised the expertise and integrity of one particular selection committee member with ties to the political world – former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice – Barton said he wants a broader committee, with members more directly tied to the college football world.

“In my humble opinion, I’m more qualified,” Barton said. “I’ve got no problem with her being on the committee. … It would be a little bit better to have somebody that had actually played football, or been associated [with it]. But if you can’t have that, people like Condoleezza Rice are fine.”

Also on the podcast, two conference commissioners that do have teams in the playoff –- Jim Delany of Big 10, and the Pac 12’s Larry Scott -– said that the playoff system is unlikely to change in the near future. Both made the point that the power conferences were aware of the limitations when they signed off on the new system.

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DOJ Released Documents Linked to Post-9/11 Surveillance Approved by President Bush

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The Department of Justice on Friday released authorization documents, approved shortly after September 11, 2001, related to surveillance activities approved by President George W. Bush.

Last December, the Director of National Intelligence declassified the existence of these collection activities. Beginning on Oct. 4, 2001, Bush authorized the Secretary of Defense to “employ the capabilities of the Department of Defense, including the National Security Agency, to collect foreign intelligence by electronic surveillence in order to detect and prevent acts of terrorism within the United States.

The documents released Friday contain information regarding the transition of the Terrorist Surveillance Program from presidential authority to operating under the orders of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

The DOJ says the documents “show the history of the government’s post-Sept. 11, 2001, collection of communications content for foreign intelligence purposes.”

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DOJ Released Documents Linked to Post-9/11 Surveillance Approved by President Bush

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The Department of Justice on Friday released authorization documents, approved shortly after September 11, 2001, related to surveillance activities approved by President George W. Bush.

Last December, the Director of National Intelligence declassified the existence of these collection activities. Beginning on Oct. 4, 2001, Bush authorized the Secretary of Defense to “employ the capabilities of the Department of Defense, including the National Security Agency, to collect foreign intelligence by electronic surveillence in order to detect and prevent acts of terrorism within the United States.

The documents released Friday contain information regarding the transition of the Terrorist Surveillance Program from presidential authority to operating under the orders of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

The DOJ says the documents “show the history of the government’s post-Sept. 11, 2001, collection of communications content for foreign intelligence purposes.”

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Obama Ribs Reporters About His Sore Throat

Pete Souza / The White House(WASHINGTON) — Nearly one week after President Obama made headlines by going to the hospital for a sore throat, the commander in chief insisted that he is fine.

On Friday, he called the entire story a “classic example of, ‘if it weren’t for the press pool nobody would know about it.'” He ribbed reporters at the White House, adding “there’s gotta be something better to cover than the president’s sore throat.”

On Dec. 6, Obama was taken to Walter Reed Army Medical Center for a sore throat. He had a fiber optic exam and a CT scan that revealed swelling deemed consistent with acid reflux.

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