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Member since: 2003 before July 6th
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House to Vote on Three-Day Spending to Avert Shutdown

Source: Bloomberg

By Derek Wallbank and James Rowley - Jan 10, 2014

The U.S. House will take up a short-term spending bill next week to fund federal government operations past Jan. 15, House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers said.

The spending bill would provide funding at current levels for three days, through Jan. 18, Rogers said. He said he will introduce the short-term bill today and the House may vote on it as soon as Jan. 13. Government funding expires Jan. 15.

“We expect this short extension will pass with bipartisan support,” said Matt Dennis, a spokesman for House Appropriations Committee Democrats.

The move would give appropriators more time to agree on a $1.01 trillion spending bill to fund the government through Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year.

Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-01-10/house-to-vote-on-three-day-spending-to-avert-shutdown.html

Obama Fast-Track Trade Agenda Risk Comes From Democrat Sander Levin

By Laura Litvan - Jan 10, 2014

One of the biggest challenges to President Barack Obama’s trade agenda is a senior House Democrat from Michigan with some of the Capitol’s closest ties to organized labor and his home state’s auto industry.

Representative Sander Levin, the top Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee, said he’ll lead opposition to a bipartisan measure unveiled yesterday to allow Obama to negotiate trade deals that lawmakers can’t amend. A fast-track method for advancing trade agreements, which the administration wants, is key to winning passage of some of the largest trade agreements in history.

“I don’t support what they’ve proposed,” Levin told reporters, saying he’ll write a rival measure that expands the role of Congress in overseeing trade deals. “It can’t be the same old business as usual in terms of the role of Congress.”

The move by Levin, House Democrats’ leader on trade policy, comes as Obama faces growing opposition from members of his own party who say the trade deals being negotiated could short-change U.S. workers and some industries. Levin’s expertise on trade gives him the ability to pull his way other members who aren’t decided, said Michael Moore, a professor of economics and international affairs at George Washington University.

His stance also risks expanding the intra-party rift over free trade and U.S. jobs as the party seeks to make income inequality an issue in the 2014 midterm election, Moore said.



Hagel Told New Carrier Unlikely to Meet Aircraft Goals

Source: Bloomberg

By Tony Capaccio - Jan 10, 2014

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel was warned last month that the U.S. Navy’s new aircraft carrier, the most expensive warship ever built, is “unlikely” to meet its goal for handling aircraft.

The USS Gerald R. Ford’s “sortie generation” rate -- the ability to launch and recover aircraft -- is based on “unrealistic assumptions,” and key launching systems “are currently suffering from development problems and have poor or unknown reliability,” Pentagon Director of Operational Testing Michael Gilmore told Hagel in a Dec. 9 memo.

“I am transmitting this report to you because it deals with a high-visibility program, and it is likely Congress will request copies,” Gilmore wrote. He attached a 30-page report outlining his early “operational assessment” of the CVN-78 program, which calls for spending at least $40 billion to develop and build three carriers.

Huntington Ingalls Industries Inc. (HII), based in Newport News, Virginia, is the prime contractor on the carrier program, with Raytheon Co. (RTN) providing radar systems and General Atomics handling the launch and recovery gear.

Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-01-10/hagel-told-new-carrier-unlikely-to-meet-aircraft-goals.html

Obama Nominates Former Bank of Israel Chief Stanley Fischer As Fed Vice Chairman

Source: Haaretz

U.S. President Barack Obama nominated former Bank of Israel governor Stanley Fischer as vice chairman of the Federal Reserve on Friday.

Fischer's nomination had been expected for weeks. An internationally recognized economist, he had been considered a dark horse candidate to replace Chairman Ben Bernanke at one point.

Fischer would succeed Janet Yellen, who was confirmed by the Senate on Monday to lead the Fed after Bernanke's term expires at the end of this month.

"Stanley Fischer brings decades of leadership and expertise from various roles, including serving at the International Monetary Fund and the Bank of Israel," Obama said in a statement.

Read more: http://www.haaretz.com/news/world/1.567961

Unemployment Is Falling For All The Wrong Reasons

Before we go high-fiving each other about unemployment falling, we should consider the reasons for it falling, which aren't quite so high-five-worthy.

Unemployment fell to 6.7 percent in December from 7 percent in November, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported on Friday. Unemployment has plunged from 7.5 percent in June and is way down from a high of 9.9 percent in 2010. All of which is good news.

But: One reason for the big drop in unemployment in December was that many, many people dropped out of the labor force -- 347,000, to be exact. They stopped looking for work, which made them no longer "unemployed" in the eyes of the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

This is the latest episode in what has been a fairly dramatic flight from the labor force since the Great Recession. The "labor-force participation rate," the percentage of working-age people who either have a job or want one, has tumbled to just 62.8 percent, the lowest since 1978. (Story continues below chart.)



Guest Lineups For The Sunday News Shows

“Meet the Press” on NBC

• Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus
• Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake (D)
• Former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.)
• Former Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.), director, president and CEO, the Wilson Center

“Face the Nation” on CBS

• Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.)

“This Week” on ABC

• Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.)
• Former White House Senior Adviser David Plouffe

“Fox News Sunday” on Fox

• Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.)
• Rep. Steve Southerland (R-Fla.), chairman, Republican Study Committee’s Anti-Poverty Initiative
• Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), ranking member, House Budget Committee
• Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), ranking member, Senate Armed Services Committee
• Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward

“State of the Union” on CNN

• Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D)
• Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.)
• Sean Spicer, communications director, Republican National Committee

“Political Capital” on Bloomberg TV

• Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.)

White House Dares Democratic Senators Pushing Iran Sanctions To Admit They Want War

WASHINGTON -- The White House on Thursday challenged a group of senators to admit they are working to push the country toward war with Iran, upping the tension between the administration and Senate advocates of tough new sanctions amid nuclear negotiations.

"If certain members of Congress want the United States to take military action, they should be up front with the American public and say so," Bernadette Meehan, National Security Council spokeswoman, said in a statement. "Otherwise, it’s not clear why any member of Congress would support a bill that possibly closes the door on diplomacy and makes it more likely that the United States will have to choose between military options or allowing Iran’s nuclear program to proceed."

The "certain members" the White House is referring to are led by Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), who is pushing legislation, backed by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, that would tighten sanctions on the Iranian regime despite the ongoing negotiations.

Advocates of a peace deal with Iran warn that toughening sanctions now strengthens the hand of hard-liners in Iran who can argue the U.S. is not negotiating in good faith.

The White House has consistently signaled its opposition to the bill, warning that it could unravel the delicate talks underway, and has promised a veto if it passes. But Thursday's statement is the first public accusation that the senators pushing the bill may have motivations they are not "up front with."



US Denies Kerry Pressing Arab League To Recognize Israel As Jewish State

With US Secretary of State John Kerry scheduled to meet top Arab League officials next week, State Department officials denied efforts were under way to get the league to alter its 2002 peace initiative and recognize Israel as a Jewish state, thereby paving the way for the Palestinians to do the same.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki, at her daily press briefing Wednesday afternoon in Washington, denied reports that Kerry was pressing the kings of Jordan and Saudi Arabia to alter the Arab League peace initiative.

Kerry met the kings of both countries on Sunday, and is scheduled to meet in Paris in the coming days with representatives of the Arab League’s Arab Peace Initiative Follow-up Committee to update them on the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, as part of his continued efforts to drum up wide Arab support for the negotiations.

“It would not be accurate to say there was an attempt to change the Arab Peace Initiative,” Psaki said.

Despite persistent questioning on the matter, Psaki would not say whether the US would like to see a change on this matter in the Arab league plan.



U.S. Considers Resuming Nonlethal Aid to Syrian Opposition

Source: New York Times

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is considering the resumption of nonlethal military aid to Syria’s moderate opposition, senior administration officials said on Thursday, even if some of it ends up going to the Islamist groups that are allied with the moderates.

The United States suspended the shipments last month after warehouses of equipment were seized by the Islamic Front, a coalition of Islamist fighters that broke with the American-backed Free Syrian Army and has become an increasingly vital force in the nearly three-year-old uprising against President Bashar al-Assad.

But as a result of the rapidly shifting alliances within Syria’s fractured opposition, some of the Islamists fought alongside the Free Syrian Army in a battle against a major rebel group affiliated with Al Qaeda, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

That has eased American qualms about resuming the aid, the officials said.

Read more: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/10/world/middleeast/syria-aid-may-resume-despite-fears-over-where-it-will-go.html?partner=MYWAY&ei=5065&_r=0

Syria’s Western-Backed Opposition Group On Brink Of Collapse

BEIRUT — Two weeks ahead of an international peace conference on Syria, the country’s main Western-backed opposition group stands on the brink of collapse, dragged down by outside pressures, infighting and deep disagreements over the basic question of whether to talk to President Bashar Assad.

The crisis in the Syrian National Coalition raises further doubts about the so-called Geneva conference, which is set to open Jan. 22 in Montreux, Switzerland. The prospects for a successful outcome at the talks appear bleak at best: Assad has said he will not hand over power, and the opposition — if it decides to attend — is in no position to force concessions from him.

The U.S. and Russia, which support opposing sides in the conflict that has killed more than 120,000 people, have been trying for months to bring the Syrian government and its opponents to the table for negotiations aimed at ending the war. But with the fighting deadlocked, neither the government nor the rebels showed any interest in compromise, forcing the meeting to be repeatedly postponed.

Now that a date has been set and invitations sent, the decision on whether to attend is placing immense strain on the Coalition.

“Geneva is proving to be a road to ruin for the so-called moderate opposition, both the political and military aspects,” said Salman Shaikh, director of the Brookings Doha Center.


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