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Sen. Brown Opening Statement, Banking Committee Hearing on Iran Sanctions

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) – Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs – released the following opening statement, as prepared for delivery, at today’s hearing entitled “Perspectives on the Strategic Necessity of Iran Sanctions.”

Brown’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, follow.

Senator Sherrod Brown - Opening Statement:

“Perspectives on the Strategic Necessity of Iran Sanctions”

January 27, 2015

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I appreciate your willingness to delay this hearing and the markup by a week from the original dates.

Historically, even in a Senate where bipartisanship might be lacking, this committee has operated with bipartisan comity __ particularly on this issue.

We have proceeded with regular order, carefully assessed policy options, and usually taken months to craft tough, targeted sanctions -- focusing their effect on Iran’s leaders while minimizing harm and unintended consequences for the US and our allies.

But in a departure from past practice, this hearing originally was not noticed in a timely way under the rules of the Senate.

I appreciate the willingness of Deputy Secretary of State Blinken and Treasury Under Secretary Cohen to testify today. They were originally given too little notice, and I hope we can avoid that in the future.

Notwithstanding the Senate rule that guarantees witnesses chosen by the Minority as a matter of right, our initial request to seat Administration witnesses was refused.

In fact, the Administration is generally not considered to be a minority witness, and should not be. All of us should want to hear from those who are at the center of these negotiations, regardless of who sits in the Oval Office.

Since we have a number of new members, it’s important to note that this committee has not heard directly from the Administration on Iran sanctions in public since December 2013. Former Chairman Johnson withheld action on further legislation while nuclear negotiations were ongoing, and arranged periodic classified briefings instead.

People have different views on these issues. The process should involve not just an oversight hearing like today’s, but also a set of hearings on the legislation as well.

If this Committee is serious about oversight and policymaking, we should delay a markup until we can get a full sense of the likely consequences of this action. We should consider the implications of other legislative proposals which may come before other relevant Committees, like those being developed by Senator Feinstein; Senators Boxer and Paul; and Senator Corker, and their relationship to new sanctions legislation. Some might be helpful; some might not.

Instead it looks like this sanctions bill will be hustled through our Committee with no actual legislative hearings, even though members likely have questions about its provisions, and uncertainty about what Congressional action might mean for the negotiations.

The President has said new sanctions legislation at this time would dramatically undermine the negotiations and our relations with our negotiating partners, and erode international support for multilateral sanctions. He has said he will veto the bill. Our negotiating partners have expressed similar strong opposition.

Mr. Chairman, I ask consent that statements by the President and Prime Minister Cameron, and the recent Washington Post op-ed from the EU Foreign Ministers and the EU High Representative be placed in the record.

This Committee should hear the arguments on all sides, probe them, and test them against our own knowledge and experience on the issues.

If Congress acts to force the President’s hand in the next few months by overriding his veto, and if doing so contributes to the collapse of negotiations and our heading down the path toward a military confrontation, Congress – beginning with each of us -- will be held responsible.

This Committee bears an unusually grave and historic responsibility to assess the full consequences of acting now. We should be especially careful to ensure a thorough process.

And we have the time to do so since no new sanctions would be applied for six months. In the meantime, existing sanctions will continue to bite, and bite hard.

I’ve supported the search for a diplomatic solution. Some predicted the JPOA would unravel the sanctions regime; it has not. Others worried Iran would not comply, or would benefit unduly from sanctions relief, or from new trade deals; none of that has proven true. There have been situations where we and Iran disagreed about whether certain things were allowed under the JPOA; they were litigated and resolved by Iran ceasing the activity.

I am not naïve about the likelihood of a final deal, but I think we must allow the President to test the prospects.

I urge the Chairman to step back and adopt the process usually used in this Committee, undertake some additional hearings and delay a markup and further action to see if a nuclear deal can be reached by the deadline.

Ultimately, while some of us might differ on tactics, it is clear we share the same goal: to ensure that Iran does not achieve a nuclear weapon, to do that diplomatically if possible, while recognizing that other alternatives remain on the table.

A longer, more orderly process will ensure we are all fully informed of the potential consequences of our actions, so that no one looks back with regret that we rushed another critical national security decision through Congress without fully understanding its implications.

History is an unkind judge of policymakers who make that mistake.


Warren to be top Democrat on Senate panel on economic policy

Sen. Elizabeth Warren will have a new leadership role that will give her oversight of federal regulators she often likes to chide — notably the Federal Reserve.

Warren, a Democrat from Massachusetts, will be the ranking member for the Senate Banking Committee’s Subcommittee on Economic Policy, which has oversight of the Federal Reserve and the Office of Financial Research, which was created under the Dodd-Frank and offers analysis of the financial system.

Warren has frequently criticized regulators for what she sees as their leniency toward banks. She led an ultimately unsuccessful fight earlier this year against a partial rollback of the Dodd-Frank law.

The subcommittee also has oversight of the Financial Stability Oversight Council, which was created under the Dodd-Frank law and works to identify risk in the financial system and can deem non-bank institutions as systemically important and subject to more regulation.


Sen. Sanders Statement on State of the Union

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), the ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, issued the following statement tonight after President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address:

“As President Obama indicated, our economy today is much stronger than it was six years ago. The bad news, however, is that millions of middle-class families continue to struggle economically and we have an obscene level of income and wealth inequality.

“I support many of the initiatives the president outlined. His plan to make the wealthiest Americans pay more in taxes in order to reduce the rising cost of college and childcare moves us in the right direction. I look forward to working with the administration to adopt a tax system that eliminates unfair tax loopholes that only benefit the wealthiest people and largest corporations. We must also work to increase the take-home pay of working Americans. I agree with the president that we should invest in our crumbling infrastructure, raise the minimum wage, establish pay equity for women workers and end the absurdity of millions of Americans working 50- to 60-hours-a-week without any overtime pay.

“As the ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, I look forward to working with the president and my colleagues in the Senate to expand the middle class, strengthen Social Security and create decent-paying jobs.”


Pres.Obama Ad-Libs Zinger After GOP Cheers That He's Done Campaigning(video)

As he was wrapping up his speech, the president focused on what he called "a better politics" and a call to bipartisanship with the new Republican Congress.

"I have no more campaigns to run," Obama said to emphasize his point.

Claps could be then heard on the Republican side of the House chamber, and Obama paused.

"I know because I won both of them," he deadpanned. It wasn't in his prepared remarks.

Congressional Democrats applauded their approval.



Sen. Sanders: Listen to the Scientists (tar sands pipeline, climate change, terror attacks)

Sen. Bernie Sanders talks with José Díaz-Balart on MSNBC about the tar sands pipeline, climate change and terror attacks in France.

Nothing New: The Last Time A NYC Mayor Tried To Rein In NYPD, Cops Rioted


As the body of one of the police officers killed in an ambush was laid to rest, hundreds of officers co-opted the moment and attempted to turn it into a publicity stunt. Urged on by their union bosses, officers both inside the church and standing outside turned their backs on New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio as he spoke at the funeral.

His crime? The “disrespect” he showed the cops by giving his biracial teenage son the “talk” about how to be extra careful when dealing with cops, because racism still exists and black men are disproportionately victims of it. de Blasio said:

It was an embarrassing moment for the NYPD, but also the city itself. Dinkins said the actions were “bordering on holliganism.” The ringleader behind the police protests? A opportunistic race-baiter named Rudy Giuliani, the Republican candidate who was trying to (and eventually, successful in) unseat Dinkins as New York mayor. He riled up officers to seize the “cop vote” and the gamble paid off – at the expense of solving problems that still plague the city today.

The 1992 cop riot speaks to how short a memory the NYPD has. They had no problem shutting down city streets, smashing cars, and disrupting City Hall when it suited their needs. Now they attempt to call the Black Lives Matter protesters criminals and cop-killers. The hypocrisy is palpable.

No, Bill de Blasio is not the first New York mayor to wrangle with the police

Former Mayors David Dinkins, Rudolph Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg all endured that animus, despite their wildly divergent ideologies and approach to governing. Just about any time a mayor tried to pay police less than they thought they deserved or impose a new form of oversight or accountability, the vitriol flew–and no clash between mayors and police was quite as bitter as what the city witnessed 22 years ago, when Mr. de Blasio’s old boss, Mr. Dinkins, failed to tame an actual police riot.

“He never supports us on anything,” one police officer complained to the New York Times about Mr. Dinkins, the city’s first and only black mayor. “A cop shoots someone with a gun who’s a drug dealer, and he goes and visits the family.”


Keith Olbermann : I'd like to congratulate NYP Union chief Lynch for proving - at Ramos funeral -

I'd like to congratulate NYP Union chief Lynch for proving - at Ramos funeral - protestors' point about the NYPD Delusion of Infallibility

Exactly how is turning your back on a mayor who didn't suppress free speech, anything but a giant EFF YOU to the citizens of this city?

Time for the NYPD to stop embarrassing itself in front of, and to the detriment of, its employers - the citizens of this city.

And to stop listening to this idiot Lynch, who is doing more to hurt the police of this city + this country than any peaceful protestor.

And as PS those NYPD who turned their back at Officer Ramos's funeral decided they should upstage his family and their grief.

So the right of political protest is limited to police in uniform? RT @Deadspin High school basketball teams

more at link

As a New Yorker, I agree with Keith
very sad day

Costco profit rises 17% on same-store sales

Costco Wholesale Corp. reported its profit rose 17% in the November quarter, driven by strong growth in same-store sales and membership fees.

Costco, which sells groceries and other items in bulk, has been a standout of late among retailers, and it is one of the largest fuel retailers in the U.S. Lower gasoline prices are thought to actually help the company's results because its throughput is so high and it can quickly capture the benefit of falling prices on the gasoline it buys. Meanwhile, cheaper fuel prices also leave consumers with more disposable income to buy goods at its warehouses.

Costco said Wednesday that same-store sales rose 7% in its first quarter ended Nov. 23, excluding negative impacts from gasoline price deflation and foreign exchange. In the U.S., that metric increased 7%.

In all, the company said its profit for the quarter rose to $496 million, or $1.12 a share, from year-earlier earnings of $425 million, or 96 cents a share.

Democrats who backed the pipeline

A Senate bill aimed at approving the Keystone XL pipeline stalled Tuesday, dealing a blow to Sen. Mary L. Landrieu’s tough re-election bid.

Republican leaders plan to bring the pipeline legislation back up next year, when GOP reinforcements appear certain to bring it over the line and to President Barack Obama’s desk.

The 59-41 vote fell just one vote short of overcoming a filibuster led by Democrats.

In addition to Landrieu, Democrats who backed the pipeline included Sens. Mark Begich of Alaska, Michael Bennet of Colorado, Thomas R. Carper of Delaware, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Kay Hagan of North Carolina, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Jon Tester of Montana, John Walsh of Montana and Mark Warner of Virginia.


YEAs ---59
Alexander (R-TN)
Ayotte (R-NH)
Barrasso (R-WY)
Begich (D-AK)
Bennet (D-CO)
Blunt (R-MO)
Boozman (R-AR)
Burr (R-NC)
Carper (D-DE)
Casey (D-PA)
Chambliss (R-GA)
Coats (R-IN)
Coburn (R-OK)
Cochran (R-MS)
Collins (R-ME)
Corker (R-TN)
Cornyn (R-TX)
Crapo (R-ID)
Cruz (R-TX)
Donnelly (D-IN)
Enzi (R-WY)
Fischer (R-NE)
Flake (R-AZ)
Graham (R-SC)
Grassley (R-IA)
Hagan (D-NC)
Hatch (R-UT)
Heitkamp (D-ND)
Heller (R-NV)
Hoeven (R-ND)
Inhofe (R-OK)
Isakson (R-GA)
Johanns (R-NE)
Johnson (R-WI)
Kirk (R-IL)
Landrieu (D-LA)
Lee (R-UT)
Manchin (D-WV)
McCain (R-AZ)
McCaskill (D-MO)
McConnell (R-KY)
Moran (R-KS)
Murkowski (R-AK)
Paul (R-KY)
Portman (R-OH)
Pryor (D-AR)
Risch (R-ID)
Roberts (R-KS)
Rubio (R-FL)
Scott (R-SC)
Sessions (R-AL)
Shelby (R-AL)
Tester (D-MT)
Thune (R-SD)
Toomey (R-PA)
Vitter (R-LA)
Walsh (D-MT)
Warner (D-VA)
Wicker (R-MS)

Warren in Minnesota:"The game is rigged, and the Republicans rigged it"

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) brought her populist message Saturday to this small college town to rev up the final weeks of Sen. Al Franken's reelection campaign, but also to claim the mantle of the modern liberal movement's political godfather.

Speaking before more than 400 people at Carleton College, Warren repeatedly invoked the spirit of the late Paul Wellstone, the fiery liberal senator who died 12 years ago this month in a plane crash during his reelection campaign. Wellstone remains a revered figure in Minnesota politics, and his brand of populism -- out of step in the Clintonian Democratic Party of the 1990s -- is now mainstream among leading liberal activists. Warren has become the most prominent public face of that movement, and the Wellstone disciples in this town 40 miles south of Minneapolis gave their approval Saturday.

"The game is rigged, and the Republicans rigged it," Warren said to loud cheers.

It's part of a three-state tour of Senate campaigns for Warren, who later Saturday headed to St. Paul for a get-out-the-vote rally on behalf of Franken, Gov. Mark Dayton (D) and other candidates. Franken and Dayton are strong favorites to win reelection next month.


Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren also visited Carleton College on Saturday, to raise support for Franken. (Grace Webb/Northfield News)

Franken addressed several topics, including student debt. (Grace Webb/Northfield News)

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