Review Category : Poltics

US-Israeli Relations: Is US Weighing UNSC Resolution?

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — After Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu publicly reversed his commitment to a Palestinian state, the White House is not ruling out that the U.S. could turn to the United Nations to try to force a lasting two-state solution.

“Based on PM Netanyahu’s comments we will need to reevaluate our position and the way forward. We’re not going to get ahead of any decisions about what the United States would do with regard to potential action at the U.N. Security Council,” a senior administration official told ABC News.

It seems the U.S. may be inching closer toward supporting the U.N. Security Council resolution calling for a solution based on the pre-1967 border and mutually agreed swaps, as first reported by Foreign Policy.

Just Wednesday, the White House made clear it was “deeply concerned” by Netanyahu’s Likud party’s “divisive rhetoric that seeks to marginalize Arab-Israeli citizens.”

“It undermines the values and democratic ideals that have been important to our democracy and an important part of what binds the United States and Israel together,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters.

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Obama Rips Budget Proposed by House Republicans, Says ‘Trickle Down Economics Does Not Work’

BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — President Obama criticized the budget proposed by House Republicans and delved into his March Madness bracket during a Wednesday event in Cleveland.

“Under the Republican budget, millionaires and billionaires would get an average tax cut of more than $50,000 per year,” Obama said Wednesday. “Translation, the average millionaire would take home about as much in tax cuts as the average middle-class American makes in an entire year.”

But it wasn’t just the tax cuts that had Obama questioning the value of the Republican budget. “At a time of new and evolving threats overseas, the Republican budget, despite all the talk they have about national security, would actually cut our core national security funding to its lowest level in a decade.”

Instead, the president spoke of the importance of investing in manufacturing and in the middle class. “America does better, our economy does better, everybody does better, when the middle class does better and we’ve got more ladders for people to get into the middle class if they’re willing to work hard.”

Obama announced nearly $500 million in public and private investment for American manufacturing on Wednesday, telling Ohioans in attendance that America needs to go in a different direction from the proposed Republican budget. “Helping hard-working families make ends meet, giving them the tools they need for a new economy, revving the engines of growth and competitiveness, that’s what middle-class economics offers,” he said. “Reality has rendered its judgement, trickle-down economics does not work and middle-class economics does.”

On a potentially less divisive note, Obama also spoke with ESPN about his picks for the NCAA men’s basketball championship. The commander-in-chief selected overwhelming favorite University of Kentucky Wildcats to take the title in a championship game matchup with Notre Dame, though he noted the pressure Kentucky is under.

“It’s nice being just a little bit of an underdog because you have less pressure on you,” he admitted. Still, “there’s a reason they’re the favorite,” he said of the Wildcats, “they’re a really good team.”

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Rep. Aaron Schock’s Dad Speaks Out: ‘He Will Be Successful If He’s Not In Jail’

US Congress(WASHINGTON) — Rep. Aaron Schock’s congressional ethics troubles may be over once his resignation takes effect, but questions surrounding the Illinois Republican’s actions may eventually result in jail time, a possibility even his family has begun to realize.

Schock’s father, Richard, told ABC station WLS in Chicago that his son’s freedom “all depends on what the Department of Justice wants to do.”

“Ten years from now, whatever he’s doing, he will be successful at. I promise you that,” Richard Schock said in an interview outside his home Wednesday. “Two years from now he will be successful if he’s not in jail.”

A law enforcement source said that while the FBI has not launched an investigation into Schock’s actions, the matter is something authorities are “monitoring.”

His father believes the four-term lawmaker, 33, has been unfairly targeted.

“Aaron is very popular. Aaron is a little different. He wears…stylish clothing, and yet he’s not gay,” Richard Schock said. “He’s not married, and he’s not running around with women. So everyone is throwing up their arms – they can’t figure out Aaron. So he must be crooked. So attack him. Bring him down because he doesn’t fit into our picture. He hasn’t done anything to hurt people.”

Once Schock’s resignation officially takes effect on March 31, at least one pending House ethics investigation will end.

Before any of the drama over decorating his office to resemble the set of Downton Abbey, Schock was already under investigation by the House Ethics Committee for allegedly soliciting contributions for an independent expenditure-only political committee in excess of $5,000 per donor, in violation of federal law, House rules and standards of conduct. That investigation will end March 31 with the end of Schock’s service in Congress.

The Office of Congressional Ethics was also reportedly beginning its own probe into Schock’s expenditures. That probe will also end on the 31st, as OCE doesn’t have jurisdiction over former members of Congress.

Schock has repaid all money he’s received during his congressional career from expensing mileage, hoping to get ahead of any potential legal ramifications for allegedly bilking the Treasury out of tens of thousands of dollars by overstating mileage on his official auto trips.

“In an effort to remove any questions and out of an abundance of caution, Congressman Schock has reimbursed all monies received for official mileage since his election to Congress,” a Schock aide wrote in an email.

Schock has not turned up since word of his pending resignation. So where in the world is he?

Associates close to the Illinois Republican suggest he is unlikely to wait out the storm in Washington or from his district in Illinois. One former ally believes Schock is likely hunkered down in Southern Florida, where a network of friends could easily help keep him out of the public eye.

Although he was once considered one of the GOP’s rising stars, even Schock’s father admits his son lost his focus.

“He got a little careless,” he said. “Some things maybe he thought didn’t apply to him. I don’t know. I don’t know what all went through his mind.”

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Iowa Lawmaker Reads “Sex After Sixty” During Debate

(DES MOINES, Iowa) — Things are getting a little steamy in the Iowa statehouse.

During a lengthy debate on public school teachers’ collective bargaining rights, Republican state Rep. Ross Paustian decided to slip in a little racy reading.

The Des Moines Register posted a photo of him, apparently unabashed, perusing Sex After Sixty in the statehouse chamber on its Facebook page.

Paustian, 59, told the Des Moines Register the book was passed to him by fellow Rep. Robert Bacon, also a Republican.

“We could all use a laugh around here,” he said.

Paustian isn’t the only lawmaker to zone out during the debate.

The left-leaning advocacy group Progress Iowa posted a photo of Republican state Rep. Clel Baudler supposedly watching Netflix:

Rep. Clel Baudler watches @netflix while @IAHouseGOP tries to pass bill to bully teachers #ialegis #standwithteachers

— Progress Iowa (@ProgressIowa) March 18, 2015

Neither Paustian, Baudler nor Bacon immediately returned ABC News’ request for comment.

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Man Who Crashed Drone onto White House Grounds Won’t Face Criminal Charges

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The government employee who accidentally crashed a drone onto the White House grounds two months ago, sparking a pre-dawn security scare, will not face criminal charges, but the Federal Aviation Administration may still pursue administrative action, the Justice Department announced on Wednesday.

A federal investigation into the matter determined that Shawn Usman, an employee of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, borrowed the drone from a friend but “lost control of” it when he decided to play with it outside his apartment window at 3 a.m. on Jan. 26, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia said in a statement.

According to an interview with Usman, the drone was flying over a Washington street when he saw it ascend to an altitude of about 100 feet and head in a westerly direction, the Justice Department said.

“He tried to regain control over it, but to no avail,” and a forensic analysis at least partially corroborated that, the department added.

Usman expected the drone to crash somewhere along the National Mall, as its battery was nearing the end of its charge, according to the department. The men went to sleep without knowing where the drone had landed.

“Mr. Usman is pleased and grateful that the U.S. Attorney’s Office has decided not to pursue charges in this matter,” an attorney for Usman, James Garland, said in a statement. “This entire incident, while unfortunate and understandably alarming, was totally inadvertent and completely unintentional.”

Usman “wishes to express his sincere apologies to all those affected — especially to the president and his family, as well as to those responsible for ensuring their safety,” Garland added.

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Why Top Democrat Said AG Nomination Is ‘in the Back of the Bus’

Pete Souza / The White House(WASHINGTON) — Sen. Dick Durbin, the number two Democrat in the Senate, accused Senate Republicans on Wednesday of placing Loretta Lynch’s nomination to be attorney general “in the back of the bus.”

“Loretta Lynch, the first African-American woman nominated to be attorney general, is asked to sit in the back of the bus when it comes to the Senate calendar,” Durbin, of Illinois, said on the Senate floor Wednesday morning. “That is unfair. It is unjust. It is beneath the decorum and dignity of the United States Senate. This woman deserves fairness.”

Durbin called Lynch’s nomination a “civil rights milestone.”

President Obama nominated Lynch in November to lead the Department of Justice, but her confirmation has stalled in the Senate. Democrats have pointed out her confirmation process is the longest of any attorney general in recent history.

A Republican Senate aide called Durbin’s statement “irresponsible.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has delayed a confirmation vote on Lynch until the Senate passes an anti-human trafficking bill. Senate Democrats oppose the trafficking measure because it includes a provision that places a restriction on funds for abortions.

“The Lynch nomination is next on the schedule. The only thing holding up that vote is the Democrats’ filibuster of a bill that would help prevent kids from being sold into sex slavery. The sooner they allow the Senate to pass that bipartisan bill, the sooner the Senate can move to the Lynch nomination,” Don Stewart, a spokesman for McConnell, said on Wednesday.

“I can’t decide which is more shameless: Sen. Durbin filibustering a sex trafficking bill he cosponsors at the behest of the abortion lobby, or him injecting race into the debate to distract from it,” another Senate Republican aide said.

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March Madness: Paul Ryan, GOP Lawmakers Pick 2015 NCAA Brackets

ABC News / Yahoo(WASHINGTON) — In Washington, even sports are political.

Should you need any proof, look no further than the NCAA March Madness tournament. Not only has President Obama made it a tradition to pick his brackets with ESPN, but this year, ABC News joined forces with ESPN to get an unofficial Republican response.

Former vice presidential candidate Rep. Paul Ryan was among the Republicans who took part. The Wisconsin Republican picked his home state’s Badgers to go all the way in the tournament, with their final matchup predicted against Gonzaga University.

“I’m going with Wisconsin, I think Bo Ryan has got this team at a really good place,” Ryan told Power Players, putting his political capital behind the University of Wisconsin men’s basketball coach.

“We have depth; we got people coming off the bench who are sinking threes you know 10 seconds into the game, so I think we’ve got a deep team, a very well-coached team, and a team that is very gelled,” Ryan continued.

Though Ryan’s choice may be politically correct — and one he joked he has to make no matter how the team is playing — he said his confidence in the Badgers this year is “sincere” and goes well beyond politics.

“Honestly, we really have a decent chance at it,” Ryan said, also noting that he is particularly married to Wisconsin’s success in the tournament because of a major life event that coincided with the Badgers’ former NCAA successes.

“I got engaged at half-time the second to the last time we were in the final four, so Wisconsin making the tournament is something special in our family,” he said.

Kentucky Republican Rep. Andy Barr said he’s “striving for history” with his bet on the University of Kentucky Wildcats capturing the national championship. Like Ryan, Barr’s choice was politically safe, considering that the congressman hails from the same district as the university.

“We’re all united, Democrats and Republicans in 6th Congressional District for our love of college basketball,” Barr said. “This is an exciting time to be a wildcat, and we’re looking for the 9th national championship, 40 and 0, the pursuit of perfection, we’re going to do it.”

Washington Republican Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, for her part, will be in the unique position of cheering for two schools her district. But in the end, she is putting particular faith in one school: Gonzaga University.

“Gonzaga Bulldogs, here the number two seed, and the Eastern Washington University, definitely have to keep an eye on both of those teams,” McMorris Rodgers said. “I’m hopeful this is the year Gonzaga goes to the final four.”

If Ryan’s prediction of the final matchup between Wisconsin and Gonzaga were to hold up, it’s conceivable that he and McMorris Rodgers might exchange some friendly trash talk — something that Ryan said is common on the Hill during the NCAA tournament. “We all kind of text or call each other and then just trash talk a little bit,” he said.

“There are bets, my guess in Andy Barr … he and I will do a bet on the UK and Wisconsin would be my guess,” Ryan said.

And like all other workplaces across America that will struggle to keep their sports-loving employees properly employed throughout the whirlwind tournament, Ryan confirmed that Capitol Hill is no different than anywhere else.

“That’s what smartphones are for,” Ryan joked. “You can bring your iPad on the [House] floor, they let you do that now.”

Though Ryan isn’t holding his breath that all his bracket picks will be correct — pointing out that he only has a 1 in 9.2 quintillion chance of doing so — you can check out his bracket predictions in this episode of Power Players.

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Presidential Debates: Introducing the Group Trying to Change the Rules

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Much like America’s political system, presidential debates are dominated by the major parties and their candidates.

But a new “change the rule” lobbying campaign is underway to make it easier for third party candidates to join the debates in 2016 by changing how they can qualify.

Since 1988, the Commission on Presidential Debates — founded by the Republican and Democratic parties — has organized presidential and vice presidential debates. According to the commission’s rules, candidates must poll higher than 15 percent in numerous polls prior to the debates in order to appear.

Instead, the campaign proposes a ballot contest: A third party candidate would have to get access to ballots in enough states to reach 270 electoral votes, giving them a mathematical shot at the presidency.

If more than one candidate meets this threshold, whoever gathered the most signatures as part of the access process would participate in the fall debates — a crucial and highly visible platform.

While presidential candidates — 417 were registered with the Federal Election Commission in 2012 — aren’t obligated to participate in debates in order to run, the televised contests are crucial to candidate visibility.

“Without that kind of exposure, you’re not considered a credible candidate,” said Christine Todd-Whitman, the former Republican governor of New Jersey, who supports the initiative.

In 2012, Whitman was a supporter of Americans Elect, a failed multimillion-dollar initiative to cultivate a national support for a third-party candidate funded by New York investor Peter Ackerman, who is also funding the “Change the Rule” campaign.

“We weren’t able to field a candidate, and the inability to get on television is such a hurdle [to third party candidates],” she said.

Whitman and other supporters say the current rule sets the bar too high for candidates outside the two major parties. Only one candidate — Ross Perot in 1992 — has met the standard since the CPD’s founding (which was also the last time a Bush faced a Clinton in a debate).

But the American political landscape has changed over the last 23 years. A 2014 Gallup survey found that 42 percent of Americans identify with neither party, but as political independents — a record high.

“It’s not my line, but the fastest-growing party in America is no party,” said former Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman, a supporter of the initiative who last ran for Senate in 2006 as an independent after losing the Democratic primary.

“I grew up in the two party system and believe it did a good job of coalescing minority groups of opinion,” he said. “But it’s ceased to do that. The parties have become increasingly homogenous.”

Lieberman added that along with speaking to independents, a third party candidate on the debate stage could also help shape the agenda, similar to how Perot made balancing the budget a focal point of the 1992 race.

A spokesperson for the CPD, which reviews its debate policy between election cycles, said that the ballot signatures idea has been considered in the past, and that a prior review concluded it was “not the same measure of strength of a campaign” as public support.

But one CPD board member, Dorothy Ridings, expects to discuss the initiative at the CPD’s April 1 hearing.

The issue at hand, Ridings said, is “wanting to make sure debates take place — you don’t want to have 27 people on stage — and making sure the American public gets to hear from the likely candidates.”

“There is no right and wrong policy,” she added.

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Secret Service Director Says Latest Scandal Is His ‘First Test’

MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Secret Service Director Joseph Clancy told members of the House Appropriations Committee Tuesday that a recent car accident involving two allegedly inebriated agents is his “first test” as he tries to chart a new course for the service.

Clancy also expressed concern that he learned about the allegations five days after initial reports that Mark Connolly and George Ogilvie crashed into the White House grounds. Both have since been reassigned pending a further investigation.

“I should have been informed…and there will be accountability,” Clancy said after intense questioning from lawmakers. “I’m frustrated. I’m very frustrated that we didn’t know about this until Monday.”

As soon as he and his staff found out about the allegations — through an “anonymous email” — Clancy says he held a meeting to discuss why there was such a delay.

“We had a good stern talk about that,” he said. “There’s no excuse for this information to not come up the chain.”

Many consider the episode the first major test for Clancy, a Secret Service veteran who assumed the top post last month. In an exclusive interview with ABC News’ Pierre Thomas three weeks ago, Clancy vowed to chart a new course for the Secret Service.

“We have not received an unfair rap,” he conceded. “I think when you fail, and we have failed, we own it. Now, it’s up to us to correct it.”

Last September, an Iraq war vet with a small knife in his pocket jumped the White House’s perimeter fence and made it deep inside the executive mansion. That incident came more than two years after the Secret Service was shaken by the 2012 prostitution scandal involving staffers in Cartagena, Colombia.

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Letter to White House Returns Presumptive Positive for Cyanide

Vacclav/iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The Secret Service was trying to determine Tuesday night whether a letter sent to the White House contained cyanide.

The letter returned a presumptive positive for cyanide, but it was being tested again to confirm the result, the Secret Service said Tuesday night.

The letter was received Monday at the White House Mail Screening Center, which is at a separate location from the White House, and after initial biological testing came up negative, chemical testing came up positive for cyanide.

The sample was transported to another facility to confirm the results, the Secret Service said.

Sources familiar with the case say that the substance was inside a plastic Ziploc-like bag inside an envelope. The sender is believed to be someone known to the Secret Service and charges are possible, depending on whether the material was indeed hazardous, the sources said.

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