Nel's New Day

March 18, 2019

Some Republicans Briefly Oppose DDT

Congress is on a week-long recess this week—why, I don’t know—but last week it made two historic moves when GOP Republican senators voted against Dictator Donald Trump (DDT)—twice. Both of them are resolutions that opposed DDT’s power, and one has already been vetoed.

The first has been returned to the House for approval after the House already voted in favor of a similar bill. The War Powers resolution would eliminate U.S. military support for the assault on Yemen in a coalition led by Saudi Arabia. Since 2015, U.S. forces have provided targeting and refueling support to Saudi and United Arab Emirates warplanes that deliberately bomb civilian targets. A complete failure, the Saudi war against Houthi rebels has created the worst cholera epidemic in modern times and “the worst humanitarian crisis in the world.” Fourteen million Yemenis are on the edge of starvation. Saudi needs U.S. support to continue the war, and DDT’s administration plans to continue its support despite bipartisan opposition to DDT’s loyalty to the murderous Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Senate does have a bill to stop U.S. sales of weapons to Saudi and place sanctions on Saudi after MBS’s torture and dismemberment of U.S. resident and journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Passing the resolution with a 54-46 vote, the Senate supported the resolution for the second time in three months. Last December, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) refused to allow a vote after the Senate passed it 56-41, but the House now passed it by 248-177. Congress has not withdrawn U.S. forces from an authorized war for 45 years.

The second historic congressional action was the 59-41 vote to overturn DDT’s national emergency wall-building order after the House had passed the bill by 245-182, a bill that DDT almost immediately vetoed. Twelve Republicans voted against DDT after he spent almost two weeks begging them to support him. GOP lawmakers voting against DDT’s executive order know that the Constitution grants Congress, not the president, spending control.

Caving in to DDT’s threats to campaign against them in 2020, all GOP senators running for re-election except Susan Collins (ME) voted for his emergency declaration although several of those who voted against the resolution said that they supported it. Last month, Thom Tillis (SC) said he would vote for the disapproval, writing in an opinion piece for the WaPo that there would be “no intellectual honesty” in supporting DDT’s executive overreach when he had opposed that action under President Barack Obama. He lost his “intellectual honesty” and supported DDT’s executive overreach with the excuse that DDT will stop presidential powers with changes to the National Emergencies Act.

One new senator asked for a bribe in exchange for her vote. Appointed Sen. Martha McSally (R-AZ) told VP Mike Pence that she’ll vote against the bill blocking DDT’s emergency declaration if he gives her more money for the military in Arizona. She may have to vote for more Pentagon funding because the Pentagon wants more funding if it has to pay for wall.

Democratic representatives plan an override vote on March 26 although Republicans will most likely not vote to oppose DDT’s emergency declaration. The Senate would need eight more votes to override the veto, and 21 are under DDT’s thumb if they run for re-election. Only one, Tennessee’s Lamar Alexander, has said he won’t run for re-election. Schumer has suggested that Democratic senators may attach Rep. Juan Castro’s (D-TX) disapproval resolution language as amendments to larger bills, including spending and defense funding reauthorization. Republicans who allow DDT to pluck money from the military for his wall may be in trouble with their constituents with the loss of jobs for the projects.

After voting to abdicate their responsibilities to determine expenditures, some Republicans are considering changes to the National Emergencies Act to more easily stop future emergency declarations as an end run around Congress—possibly as a control on a Democratic president. DDT opposes restrictions on his powers, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said, “Republican Senators are proposing new legislation to allow the President to violate the Constitution just this once in order to give themselves cover.”

Twenty states are suing the administration in opposition to DDT’s order to build his wall. Three issues to be considered:

For “standing” to be able to sue, plaintiffs must prove they are harmed. The states argue that the funding will be diverted from state-based projects, and landowners can sue for seizure of their property. Democratic legislators can also sue with the precedent of Republicans suing President Obama for payouts to insurers under the Affordable Care Act that were not approved by Congress.

The question of whether an emergency at the southern border must be proved, and DDT said, “I didn’t need to [declare an emergency].” Other arguments against the emergency include data about lower crossings, less crime from immigrations, and drugs moved through official ports of entry can also be argued. Congressional majority votes against the executive order also factor into this decision.

The third point argued in the lawsuit is whether the wall construction is a “military” project. Border enforcement is typically a civilian project, and leaders of the military complex have already said that it is “security,” not “military” as DDT’s acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan testified to the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Four days after Congress passed the resolution to overturn DDT’s executive order, acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan provided a list to Congress with several hundred construction projects costing $12.9 billion in dozens of states and U.S. bases around the world that would be impacted shortly after DDT’s acting chief in staff Mick Mulvaney said that no list exists. The release of the list to the media has resulted in a hornet’s nest of papers across the United States furious about the losses to military construction projects.

Republicans promised Democrats that this bipartisan effort to lead the country is a short-term thing. In their efforts to placate DDT, they said that they’ll be back on his side after the two votes this week. The House has passed many bills in their two months of the 116th Congress, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has promised that they won’t “see the light of day.”

McConnell’s power hasn’t brought him popularity. He’s up for re-election next year, and 61 percent of people in Kentucky think it’s “time for someone new.” Only 32 percent think he “deserves to be reelected.” Before January, McConnell was the third more unpopular senator in the country: Sens. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) retired, and Claire McCaskill (MO) were voted out of office. McConnell’s state disapproval rating of 47 percent last year went up to 56 percent in February. Nation-wide, 40 percent of people gave him an unfavorable rating.

Hundreds of youth activists from the Sunrise Movement protested at McConnell’s office where 42 of them were arrested. The group claims that McConnell does not answer their emails; he did not speak to them at the protest. Destine Rigsby, a 17-year-old from Louisville, said of McConnell: “You line your pockets while we die in floods and choke on the air we breathe, yet you don’t even have the decency to look us in the eyes.”

DDT’s base and GOP legislators wanting to get re-elected seem to be the only ones defending DDT’s wall. Four-star Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy, tasked with troops at the southern border, told Congress that Russia is the main threat facing the U.S. No mention of Mexico, caravans, or drugs. He added that “the threats to our nation from our southern border are not military in nature.” At least, DDT may have decided not to take $1 billion from military pay and pensions for his wall.

Sixty percent of Texas voters disapprove of President Donald Trump using emergency powers to fund the wall; 52 percent of voters said they don’t believe undocumented immigrants crossing the border amounts to a national emergency. According to 57 percent of Texas voters, a wall on the Mexican border would not “significantly decrease violent crime in the U.S.” while 54 percent said the wall would not “significantly decrease the amount of illegal drugs in the U.S.” In the general population, an average of 64 percent polling oppose the national emergency. Only 27 percent of poll respondents oppose a veto override; 46 percent support the override.

Another of DDT’s broken promises: Mexico isn’t paying for the expensive, unneeded wall.

DDT’s re-election campaign is asking for donations to the “Wall Defense Fund” with the money going directly into the campaign general funds. From there, it goes to DDT’s businesses and lawyers who defend his family members and some of his former officials. [Above: the wall that Nogales doesn’t want]


October 1, 2016

Be Careful What You Vote For!

Filed under: Legislation — trp2011 @ 12:02 AM
Tags: ,

When in doubt, attack the government. That’s what George W. Bush did in 2003—and he didn’t even attack the government of 9/11 attackers! And attacking a government for the action of 15 of its citizens is what Congress just did.

Just days after the 15th anniversary of the attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon by 19 individuals, Congress passed Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA) allowing any U.S. citizen to sue any country with the claim that the country financed or otherwise aided and abetted a terrorist attack on U.S. soil. People in the U.S. could already sue countries designated as “state sponsors of terrorism”; currently, that list includes only three countries—Iran, Syria and Sudan—because the designation is assigned only after very careful review by national security, intelligence and foreign policy officials. It isn’t left to private litigants and judges.

Congress has voted not once but twice to throw a long-held principle of international law, sovereign immunity, under the bus by removing countries from immunity from lawsuits in the courts of other countries. JASTA was touted as helping 9/11 victims’ families to sue Saudi Arabia through the court system, but it also allows courts to waive claims to foreign sovereign immunity in situations involving acts of terrorism on U.S. soil. Congress passed the bill, and after President Obama vetoed the bill, Congress passed an override to his veto in the first time of the seven years, eight months, and eight days of the president’s terms.

Many legislators who voted in favor of the override are now saying “oops!” while President Obama has the right to say “I told you so.” After 123 Democrats and 225 Republicans of 425 representatives in the House and 97 out of 98 senators voted for the override, they’re beginning to consider the consequences of a law that might produce laws in other countries that force U.S. government officials and military members into foreign courts. Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) said that these lawsuits would expose the U.S. to tremendous liability although he voted in favor of the law. He said, “We’ve got assets deployed all around the world more than any country. So if sovereign immunity recedes, we’re the nation that is most exposed.” While voting for the law, Corker said that Congress “has [not] functioned in an appropriate manner as it relates to a very important piece of legislation.”

President Obama warned that there could be lawsuits against the U.S. for “actions taken by members of an armed group that received U.S. assistance, misuse of U.S. military equipment by foreign forces, or abuses committed by police units that received U.S. training.” There has to be proof of liability, but U.S. taxpayers will be on the hook for fighting the vastly increasing number of lawsuits.

Jon Alterman, director of the Middle East program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said:

“The biggest issue is that [JASTA is] … not limited to Saudi Arabia, and it’s likely to have a much larger impact on the U.S. government than the Saudi government, because the U.S. government takes rules very seriously.”

He gave an example of lawsuits filed against the federal government by victims of drone strikes and other American military activities. John B. Bellinger III, who served as the State Department’s legal adviser from 2005 to 2009, said measures in other countries “are hardly likely to be as precise and surgical as our Congress has been.”

An immediate reaction from Saudi Arabia could be their removal of hundreds of billions of dollars in assets from the U.S. causing problems for the economy.

GOP congressional leaders are now saying that they need to revisit the law—the day before they left town until after the general election that occurs in 40 days. “I’d like to think that there’s a way we could fix [it] so that our service members do not have legal problems overseas, while still protecting the rights of the 9/11 victims,” said House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-WI) who supported the bill in public statements without casting a vote in the override. You think, Rep. Ryan!? Yet the man who controls legislative access to all bills hasn’t said that he will address the issue in the lame duck session in November and December.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who did vote for the override, said that the law could have “unintended ramifications” and needed “further discussion.” You think!? McConnell laid the blame on the passage of the override on the White House because it didn’t make a forceful argument about its threats to U.S. officials. The bill has been pending only seven years, but McConnell claimed that “nobody had really focused on the potential downsides in terms of our international relationships.” [I always worry when I know more about the “potential downsides” than members of the congress, especially those who have been there forever and call themselves “leaders.”]

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said that comments from lawmakers [such as those like McConnell] are a “deeply embarrassing” display of “rapid-onset buyer’s remorse.” He added:

“The suggestion on the part of some members of the Senate was that they didn’t know what they were voting on, that they didn’t understand the negative consequences of the bill. That’s a hard suggestion to take seriously. All of that communications was made public before Congress passed the first vote to put this bill into law yesterday. Ignorance is not an excuse, particularly when it comes to our national security and the safety and security of our diplomats and our service members.”

The White House told legislators that the bill is too broad and could set a dangerous precedent, inviting other nations to respond by suing American diplomats, military personnel and other officials in foreign courts over U.S. foreign policy actions. What part of that information didn’t the legislators understand? The vast majority of legislators ignored statements from not only the White House but also national security officials, the European Union’s delegation to the United States, and business leaders who warned the law will damage relations with Saudi Arabia and encourage other countries to pass laws that would allow them to target U.S. officials. Yet the GOP, which can’t find time to replace a Supreme Court justice or pass a long-term budget bill, pushed through the bill before the current recess.

The understanding about JASTA’s disastrous effects seemed to come during the voting. Before the Senate finished voting 97-1 to override Obama’s veto, 28 senators signed a letter that they would support legislation to blunt its impact if [when?] other countries retaliate. [Here’s the letter with the signatures. Check for your senator if you can read the handwriting!] Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), whose signature I didn’t see on the letter, said: “I’m for the 9/11 families having their day in court, but I’m also for not exposing our people unnecessarily. If you want to go forward in the Mideast without Saudi Arabia as an ally, then be careful what you wish for.”

The only senator seeming to have an understanding of the bill, Majority Harry Reid (D-NV), was the only senator to have complete understanding of the bill’s ramifications. Sens. Tim Kaine and Bernie Sanders didn’t vote on the bill.

The Republican party has hit a new low: they passed a bad bill that President Obama told them was a bad bill; the president vetoed the bill; the GOP pushed through an override after the president told them again how it was a bad bill; they discovered how bad the bill is; and GOP legislators blamed President Obama for not forcing them to understand that this is a bad bill. As Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) said on All In with Chris Hayes tonight in explaining that the GOP blames President Obama for everything. If Barack Obama walked on water, the GOP would say that he does it because he can’t swim.

Congress may be able to change a terrible vote. Buyer’s remorse for a vote for Donald Trump can’t be taken back. Voters in the United States need to consider what they would get with a man who wants the office of the presidency only for his own benefit. Supporters think that he will take care of him, but Trump takes care of only himself.


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