Posts Tagged ‘Obama’

Obama “Stole A March” On Republicans With Immigration Gambit; How Might They Respond?

November 23, 2014


The Associated Press

DENVER (AP) — Republicans in search of a way to oppose President Barack Obama’s moves on immigration without alienating the nation’s fast-growing population of Hispanic voters can find a playbook in Colorado.

GOP Rep. Cory Gardner won election to the Senate in the midterms in a state where 14 percent of voters are Hispanic. His GOP colleague, Rep. Mike Coffman, won re-election in a district where 14 percent of residents were born in foreign countries.

Sen.-elect, U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., delivers his victory speech to supporters during a GOP election night gathering in Denver, Colo. Republicans in search of a way to oppose President Barack Obama’s moves on immigration without alienating the nation’s fast-growing population of Hispanic voters can find a playbook in Colorado. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley, File)

Both opposed last year’s failed bipartisan effort in the Senate to overhaul the nation’s immigration system, a top priority of immigrant-rights groups, especially its centerpiece: a pathway to citizenship for most of the 11 million people living in the U.S. illegally. Both also spoke warmly of the contributions made by immigrants and shifted to the center on other immigration issues. Coffman even learned Spanish.

Coffman went on to win his race by 9 points. Gardner tied Democratic Sen. Mark Udall in two heavily Hispanic counties that normally vote overwhelmingly Democratic on his way to a narrow victory. Democrats acknowledge the two Republicans benefited from a change in how they talk about immigration, departing from a bombastic approach that emphasizes border security and deportations.

“Villainization is a huge issue,” said James Mejia, former president of Denver’s Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. “If you can stop being nasty about it, people will listen to the things you have to say.”

For years, Republicans have struggled to balance a desire to improve the party’s standing among Hispanic and Asian-American voters and the rock-solid opposition among conservative to anything they consider “amnesty” for people living here illegally.

Hispanic and Asian-Americans overwhelmingly voted Democratic in 2012, after GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney called for some immigrants to practice “self-deportation” and Obama responded by allowing many immigrants brought to the country illegally as children to stay and work.

Colorado’s Hispanic voters had helped Democrats win every race for Senate, governor and president since 2004. Earlier this year, some Colorado Republicans feared they were in for a repeat when Ken Buck, who as a county district attorney took aggressive action against immigrants living in the U.S. illegally, started the race for the GOP Senate nomination as the favorite.

But Gardner cleared the field when he entered the Senate race and, during the summer, took steps toward the center. After initially voting to repeal Obama’s executive order allowing children brought to the country illegally to work in the U.S., he voted in August to uphold it and said he supports citizenship for such immigrants who served in the military. He also said he’d be open to letting people who are in the country illegally “earn” legal residence, though not necessarily citizenship.

Perhaps as important, Gardner spoke warmly of immigrants. Asked at an event whether jobs should go to Americans or people living here illegally, he said the system needs to serve those who want to build a better life for their families.

Some immigrant rights groups were frustrated that Udall’s campaign did not do more to highlight his differences with Gardner. Republicans, meanwhile, said if they can talk about immigration without insulting immigrant voters, it allows them to address other priorities.

“Immigration is important, but not as important as a strong economy that creates jobs,” said Jerry Natividad, a Colorado businessman who sits on the Republican National Committee’s Hispanic outreach committee.

Coffman agreed to participate in a Spanish-language television debate against his Democratic challenger, who is fluent in the language. Like Gardner, he backed a proposal in the House that would have created a path to citizenship for some immigrants who served in the military.

In this Nov. 4, 2014 file photo, Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo., speaks to the crowd at a GOP election night gathering in Denver. Republicans in search of a way to oppose President Barack Obama’s moves on immigration without alienating the nation’s fast-growing population of Hispanic voters can find a playbook in Colorado. Coffman won re-election in a district where 14 percent of residents were born in foreign countries. (AP Photo/Chris Schneider, File)

He reiterated his support for that proposal in a statement last week that, on one hand, criticized Obama for using immigration as a political wedge issue but also rejected forcing a government shutdown — a popular idea among immigration hardliners — to stop the president’s actions.

The RNC sent field staff to organize in Colorado’s Hispanic community and the state party focused on turning out voters in the Democratic strongholds of Adams and Pueblo counties, which are respectively 36 and 41 percent Hispanic. Gardner’s campaign and other conservative groups spent $1 million on Spanish-language ads, featuring GOP luminaries such as Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

“That helped win the confidence of a segment of our electorate that is not only of great importance but has contributed so much to our state,” said Ryan Call, the Spanish-speaking chairman of the Colorado Republican party.

Patty Kupfer, the Denver-based managing director of the immigrant rights group America’s Voice, acknowledged that Gardner and Coffman were successful “muddying the issue” in the election. But she argued they succeeded in part because Obama’s previous inaction had angered immigrants. Now that Obama is taking action, duplicating that success won’t be as easy.

“I just don’t see how Republicans can use the same strategy and expect to win at this point,” she said.


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Obama’s immigration plan may give him the upper hand for now

November 23, 2014

Republicans in Congress are mad as heck about President Obama’s executive order deferring deportation for millions of immigrants in the US illegally. But aside from sharp rhetoric, they haven’t yet figured out what to do about it.

By Brad Knickerbocker 
Christian Science Monitor

US President Barack Obama delivers remarks on his executive action on immigration at Del Sol High School in Las Vegas.

US President Barack Obama delivers remarks on his executive action on immigration at Del Sol High School in Las Vegas on Friday, November 21, 2014. Photo: Isaac Brekken/AP

For the moment, at least, here’s what it looks like after President Obama challenged Congress on immigration.

Republican lawmakers spent a day hollering their objections to Obama’s executive order giving several million undocumented immigrants at least temporary relief from the threat of deportation, then left town for a long Thanksgiving break. They’ll be back in Washington for about 10 days in December, then off again.

Obama, meanwhile, continues to use the bully pulpit on immigration reform, seeming to gain energy on an issue which (along with the Affordable Care Act) may define his presidency.

Recommended: Could you pass a US citizenship test?

He was in Las Vegas Friday, touting his action on immigration before an enthusiastic audience in a campaign-style setting. Saturday, he beat the drum in his weekly radio/Internet address. This coming week, he’ll be on the road again promoting immigration reform.

Some headline writers are scoring the Congress-White House immigration fight – round one, at least – in Obama’s favor.

The Associated Press: “Stymied? Republicans seek immigration response.” And this: “Analysis: Obama holds upper hand on immigration.”

The Boston Globe: “Obama’s immigration move highlights risks for GOP in 2016.” “Lack of immigration plan flusters GOP.”

Can it last? Not likely.

Early in the new year, Republicans will take control of the Senate and strengthen their grasp on the House.

Also, there’s widespread public unease with the confrontational way Obama is approaching immigration. Most Americans favor a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants already living in the US, but they don’t approve of executive action to get there, recent polls show.

But the problem for the GOP, as The Hill newspaper puts it, are “unruly conservatives in Congress.”

House GOP leaders know they can’t control them,” The Hill reports, “they can only hope to contain them.” That’s why party leaders are batting back any talk of impeachment or government shut-down over immigration – actions that would only confirm public perceptions about political gridlock.

A broader problem for Republicans is the Hispanic vote, just 27 percent of which went for Mitt Romney in 2012.

Republicans made inroads with Hispanics in some states, such as Georgia and Texas, in this month’s midterm elections. But as the Boston Globe points out, Hispanic voters chose Democratic candidates by a 2-to-1 ratio, according to national exit polls of congressional races.

As the GOP acknowledged in its post-2012 self-assessment, “It does not matter what we say about education, jobs or the economy; if Hispanics think we do not want them here, they will close their ears to our policies.”

That’s why most Republicans are focusing on Obama’s go-it-alone immigration order – “unconstitutional amnesty” (Sen. Ted Cruz) that could “damage the presidency itself” (House Speaker John Boehner) – rather than on the specifics of what he’s proposing.

In his radio address Saturday, Obama repeated what he’d said in his primetime speech Thursday evening, then again Friday in Las Vegas: That the Senate had passed a bipartisan immigration reform bill more than a year ago, but that Republican leaders in the House had refused to allow a vote.

“That bill would have secured our border, while giving undocumented immigrants who already live here a pathway to citizenship if they paid a fine, started paying their taxes, and went to the back of the line. Independent experts said it would grow our economy, and shrink our deficits,” he said.

(In its weekly address, Republicans went with Rep. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana talking about the Keystone XL Pipeline, which failed in the Senate this week.)

Less than a month after midterm elections where they retook the Senate and amassed a historic majority in the House, Republicans find themselves stymied by a lame duck president whose unilateral move to curb deportations for millions left previously dispirited Democrats cheering and the GOP with no obvious response, the AP reports.

Republicans acknowledge that they’re at a disadvantage given that any legislative solution they settle on would be subject to a veto by Obama that they could not likely overturn.

Among suggestions from GOP lawmakers: Block Obama’s nominees needing Senate confirmation; file a lawsuit against the White House (as congressional Republicans did Friday on the Affordable Care Act); cut funding to Department of Homeland Security agencies; or pass step-by-step immigration reform to override Obama’s executive actions – something Obama might be forced to live with.

But as Politico puts it, “GOP leaders have declined to broadcast any plans as they take the temperature of rank-and-file Republicans, who range in ideology from hardliners agitating for a direct confrontation with Obama to deal-making centrists who fret a harsh GOP overreaction will make it impossible to make bipartisan progress on anything next year.”

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Iran nuclear deal by deadline ‘impossible’ say negotiators

November 23, 2014

Unnamed member of Tehran’s negotiating team says final and comprehensive deal will not be reached by November 24, Iranian news agency reports

John Kerry, Catherine Ashton and Mohammad Javad Zarif at the talks in Vienna

Iran says it will not be possible by a 24 November deadline to reach a comprehensive deal with world powers aimed at resolving the standoff over Tehran’s nuclear ambitions, the Iranian Students News Agency ISNA reported on Sunday.

“Considering the short time left until the deadline and number of issues that needed to be discussed and resolved, it is impossible to reach a final and comprehensive deal by Nov 24,” ISNA quoted an unnamed member of Iran’s negotiating team in Vienna as saying.

“The issue of extension of the talks is an option on the table and we will start discussing it if no deal is reached by Sunday night,” the person said.

The US, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China began a final round of talks with Iran on Tuesday, looking to clinch a pact under which Tehran would curb its nuclear work in exchange for lifting economically crippling sanctions.

Iran rejects western allegations that it has been seeking to develop a nuclear bomb capability.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif arrives at the Iranian embassy for lunch with former European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton in Vienna November 18, 2014. REUTERS/Heinz-Peter Bader

Iranian and western diplomats close to the negotiations in Vienna said the two sides remained deadlocked on the key issues of Iran’s uranium enrichment capacity and the lifting of the sanctions.

The Iranian official was quoted as saying the sides “were trying to reach a framework accord on major issues like … the number of centrifuges, enrichment capacity and the timeframe of lifting sanctions”.

Obama Immigration Plan Good, Not Great for Economy — Many Immigrants Demand More

November 23, 2014


WASHINGTON — Nov 22, 2014, 5:31 PM ET

President Barack Obama’s expansive executive action on immigration is good for the U.S. economy — just not as good as partnering with Congress on broader reforms.

The executive order signed Friday would prevent the deportation of about 4 million parents and guardians who lack the same legal status as their children. By gaining work permits, they will likely command higher wages, move more easily between jobs and boost government tax revenues, according to multiple economic analyses.

“This is focused on people who are already in the economy today, who are contributing mightily but are basically operating in the shadows,” said Raul Hinojosa-Ojeda, a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles. “Their economic potential is being held back.”

The new order could boost labor income by $6.8 billion, helping to generate 160,000 new jobs and $2.5 billion in additional tax revenues, according to estimates by Hinojosa-Ojeda. The findings dovetail with separate research showing that a 1986 amnesty measure raised incomes for illegal workers in the years that followed.

Still, any gains from the executive action would be modest in the $17 trillion U.S. economy.

White House officials estimate that the executive order would expand gross domestic product less than 0.1 percent a year over the next decades.

Along with the Congressional Budget Office, independent economists say growth would be much stronger with a broader overhaul that would more than double the number of illegal workers eligible for legalized status, in addition to reforms that would attract high-skilled immigrant workers who are more likely to lead and found new companies.

The Senate passed a measure last year to fix the immigration system, but it stalled in the Republican-majority House that favored a step-by-step approach. The CBO estimated the Senate-backed reform would have added another 0.33 percent annually to GDP growth.

The president’s order “falls short of a comprehensive reform that would have a more sweeping effect on the economic landscape,” said Joel Prakken of the forecasting firm Macroeconomic Advisers.

More substantial reforms could lift economic growth by an additional 0.24 percent a year — or about $41 billion ? for the next two decades, according to an analysis that Prakken contributed to last year for the Bipartisan Policy Center. The reforms could also cut the federal debt by $1.2 trillion over the same period, increase home construction, lift wages and add 8.3 million workers to the economy.

A broader overhaul would also create a framework for attracting more immigrants, which would mute the negative economic impacts of an aging population. As more Americans retire, the percentage of the population with jobs has slipped, limiting the ability of the economy to expand.

But the executive order would do little to promote additional immigration, nor would it fully address the concerns of technology companies looking for high-skilled foreigners.

Obama’s plan does not raise the current annual limit of 65,000 so-called “H-1B” visas for skilled workers, although he promised to streamline some of the rules governing them. Scientists, engineers and computer programmers all earn higher wages than the comparatively low-paid workers who would be helped by Obama.

Silicon Valley entrepreneur Mike Galarza knows the issue first hand. A native of Mexico, he described a daunting bureaucratic obstacle course to obtain a visa that allowed him to launch Entryless, an online business accounting startup, last year in Menlo Park, California. Now he’s struggling to find talent. Galarza said he recently lost a job candidate with a Ph.D. in computer science because there were no more H-1B visas available.

“The U.S. is not welcoming enough to entrepreneurs who want to create value for the American economy,” Galarza said. “I’m glad if (Obama) is able to help those 5 million people, but he needs to focus on the issue of tech workers and foreign entrepreneurs as well.”

Groups such as the Center for Immigration Studies have critiqued the benefits of adding immigrants, noting that many U.S. citizens are still searching for work more than five years after the Great Recession ended. By giving these workers legal status, it will inevitably help their earnings prospects but do little for the rest of the economy, said Steven Camarota, the organization’s research director.

But the business community disagrees, saying they need immigrants in order to expand their operations.

In response to Obama’s executive action, Buffalo Wings & Rings estimates it would be able to add five restaurants to its more than 45 franchised outlets.

“For us, it’s an opportunity,” said Philip Schram, executive vice president of development at the Cincinnati-based chain.

A 2013 survey by the advocacy group Small Business Majority showed 84 percent of small business owners are in favor of immigration reform. Owners believe it will help them have a more stable workforce, especially in industries like agriculture, hotels and restaurants, said the group’s CEO, John Arensmeyer.

The obstacle has been that jobs in agriculture don’t appeal to people born in the United States, so Jim Gilbert, owner of Northwoods Nursery in Molalla, Oregon, hires immigrants to tend to the plants he grows and sells.

“There are not enough people to do the jobs we need to do,” Gilbert said.


AP Business Writers Brandon Bailey and Joyce Rosenberg contributed to this report.


Many Immigrants Want More

CBS News

President Obama was in Nevada Saturday after making his new immigration policy official.

They are celebrating, but some Americans oppose the change, CBS News’ David Begnaud reports.

For 25-year-old UCLA student Arlete Pichardo, watching the president outline his executive action on immigration made for a memorable phone call with her undocumented mother, assuring her she’s safe from deportation.

“You know, I came when I was 5 years old,” Pichardo said. “She sacrificed her dreams so that we could have a better future.”

Arlete’s mother Maria brought her to the U.S. from Mexico on a visitor’s visa. They overstayed. Maria went on to have two more children born in the U.S. and, because of that, now qualifies for a three-year work permit under the president’s plan.

“It’s unbelievable,” Pichardo said. “It takes me back to two years ago when I got the news that I was going to qualify for deferred action.”

That deferred action from the president gave Pichardo the chance to become one of the hundreds of thousands of so-called “dreamers” in California, eligible to work, legally. And now it’s her mother who’s benefiting from Mr. Obama’s action.

“I think it’s not enough, but it’s definitely a step to the right direction,” Pichardo said.

Patricia Moore opposes the president’s executive action. She waited 15 years to become a U.S. citizen after legally immigrating from Colombia.

“I am a person that believes in law,” she said. “I believe in a framework. In order to have a country that will respect my rights, I have to respect the regulations.”

Despite opposition from people like Moore and thousands of others who’ve protested around the country, change is coming this time for Arlete’s mother, even though she believes it’s not enough.

“I’m going to be honest with you, I feel like that’s the least he can do,” she said. “… This is just a Band-Aid.”

According to the Public Policy Institute of California, the country’s largest immigrant population lives in the Golden State – nearly 10 million people. Most are from Mexico, and 30 percent are undocumented.

The president signed two executive orders as he flew west Friday. That means millions of children are relieved that their parents will now be eligible for legal immigration status under the policy.

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Israel reconsiders military action against Iran

November 22, 2014

The Jerusalem Post

Israeli official cites “sunset clause” in proposed comprehensive deal, which guarantees Iran a path into the nuclear club and may corner Israel into war.

Israel Air Force planes fly over Tel Aviv. . (photo credit:IDF SPOKESPERSON’S UNIT)

WASHINGTON – Historic negotiations with Iran will reach an inflection point on Monday, as world powers seek to clinch a comprehensive deal that will, to their satisfaction, end concerns over the nature of its vast, decade-old nuclear program.

But sharing details of the deal under discussion with The Jerusalem Post on the eve of the deadline, Israel has issued a stark, public warning to its allies with a clear argument: Current proposals guarantee the perpetuation of a crisis, backing Israel into a corner from which military force against Iran provides the only logical exit.

The deal on the table

World powers have presented Iran with an accord that would restrict its nuclear program for ten years and cap its ability to produce fissile material for a weapon during that time to a minimum nine-month period.

Should Tehran agree, the deal may rely on Russia to convert Iran’s current uranium stockpile into fuel rods for peaceful use. The proposal would also include an inspection regime that would attempt to follow the program’s entire supply chain, from the mining of raw material to the syphoning of that material to various nuclear facilities across Iran.

Israel’s leaders believe the best of a worst-case scenario, should that deal be reached, is for inspections to go perfectly and for Iran to choose to abide by the deal for the entire decade-long period.

But “our intelligence agencies are not perfect,” an Israeli official said. “We did not know for years about Natanz and Qom. And inspection regimes are certainly not perfect. They weren’t in the case in North Korea, and it isn’t the case now – Iran’s been giving the IAEA the run around for years about its past activities.”

“What’s going to happen with that?” the official continued. “Are they going to sweep that under the rug if there’s a deal?”

On Saturday afternoon, reports from Vienna suggested the P5+1 – the US, United Kingdom, France, Russia, China and Germany – are willing to stop short of demanding full disclosure of any secret weapon work by Tehran.

Speaking to the Post, a senior US official rejected concern over limited surveillance capabilities, during or after a deal.

“If we can conclude a comprehensive agreement, we will have significantly more ability to detect covert facilities – even after its duration is over – than we do today,” the senior US official said. “After the duration of the agreement, the most intrusive inspections will continue: the Additional Protocol – which encompasses very intrusive transparency, and which Iran has already said it will implement – will continue.”

But compounding Israel’s fears, the proposal Jerusalem has seen shows that mass dismantlement of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure – including the destruction, and not the mere warehousing, of its parts – is no longer on the table in Vienna.

“Iran’s not being asked to dismantle the nuclear infrastructure,” the Israeli official said, having seen the proposal before the weekend. “Right now what they’re talking about is something very different. They’re talking about Ayatollah Khamenei allowing the P5+1 to save face.”

Officials in the Netanyahu government are satisfied that their ideas and concerns have been given a fair hearing by their American counterparts. They praise the US for granting Israel unprecedented visibility into the process.

But while those discussions may have affected the talks at the margins, large gaps – on whether to grant Iran the right to enrich uranium, or allow it to keep much of its infrastructure – have remained largely unaddressed.

“It’s like the chemical weapons deal in Syria,” the official said. “They didn’t just say: Here, let’s get rid of the stockpile and the weapons, but we will leave all the plants and assembly lines.”

‘Sunset clause’

Yet, more than any single enforcement standard or cap included in the deal, Israel believes the Achilles’ heel of the proposed agreement is its definitive end date – the sunset clause.

“You’ve not dismantled the infrastructure, you’ve basically tried to put limits that you think are going to be monitored by inspectors and intelligence,” said the official, “and then after this period of time, Iran is basically free to do whatever it wants.”

The Obama administration also rejects this claim. By e-mail, the senior US administration official said that, “‘following successful implementation of the final step of the comprehensive solution for its duration, the Iranian nuclear program will be treated in the same manner as that of any non-nuclear weapon state party to the NPT – with an emphasis on non-nuclear weapon.”

“That has in no way changed,” the American official continued, quoting the interim Joint Plan of Action reached last year.

But the treatment of Iran as any other signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty –189 countries are members, including Iran – would allow Tehran to ultimately acquire “an industrial-sized capability,” the Israelis say. “The breakout times [to a nuclear weapon] will be effectively zero.”

Israel and world powers seek to maximize the amount of time they would have to identify non-compliance from a nuclear deal, should Iran choose to defy its tenets and build a bomb.

But in the deal under discussion in Vienna, Iran would be able to comply with international standards for a decade and, from Israel’s perspective, then walk, not sneak, into the nuclear club.

“You’ve not only created a deal that leaves Iran as a threshold nuclear power today, because they have the capability to break out quickly if they wanted to,” the Israeli official contended. “But you’ve also legitimized Iran as a military nuclear power in the future.”

From the moment this deal is clinched, Israel fears it will guarantee Iran as a military nuclear power. There will be no off ramp, because Iran’s reentry into the international community will be fixed, a fait accompli, by the very powers trying to contain it.

“The statement that says we’ve prevented them from having a nuclear weapon is not a true statement,” the Israeli official continued. “What you’ve said is, you’re going to put restrictions on Iran for a given number of years, after which there will be no restrictions and no sanctions. That’s the deal that’s on the table.”

Revisiting the use of force

Without an exit ramp, Israel insists its hands will not be tied by an agreement reached this week, this month or next, should it contain a clause that ultimately normalizes Iran’s home-grown enrichment program.

On the surface, its leadership dismisses fears that Israel will be punished or delegitimized if it disrupts an historic, international deal on the nuclear program with unilateral military action against its infrastructure.

By framing the deal as fundamentally flawed, regardless of its enforcement, Israel is telling the world that it will not wait to see whether inspectors do their jobs as ordered.

“Ten, fifteen years in the life of a politician is a long time,” the Israeli said, in a vague swipe against the political directors now scrambling in Vienna. “In the life of a nation, it’s nothing.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has threatened the use of force against Iran several times since 2009, even seeking authorization from his cabinet in 2011. Iran’s program has since grown in size and scope.

According to his aides, the prime minister’s preference is not war, but the continuation of a tight sanctions regime on Iran’s economy coupled with a credible threat of military force. Netanyahu believes more time under duress would have led to an acceptable deal. But that opportunity, in his mind, may now be lost.

Whether Israel still has the ability to strike Iran, without American assistance, is an open question. Quoted last month in the Atlantic magazine, US officials suggested that window for Netanyahu closed over two years ago.

But responding to claims by that same official, quoted by Jeffrey Goldberg, over Netanyahu’s courage and will, the Israeli official responded sternly: “The prime minister is a very serious man who knows the serious responsibility that rests on his shoulders. He wouldn’t say the statements that he made if he didn’t mean them.”

“People have underestimated Israel many, many times in the past,” he continued, “and they underestimate it now.”


In Iran Talks, U.S. Seeks to Prevent a Covert Weapon

The New York Times

VIENNA — Behind the efforts to close a nuclear deal with Iran this weekend lies a sensitive question that has been little discussed in public: how to design an agreement to maximize the chances that Western intelligence agencies would catch any effort to develop an atomic bomb at a covert site.

Concern over the possibility of a future Iranian covert program — and the difficulty of writing a document that deals with the unknown — is rooted in a long history of distrust. But it has been rarely mentioned publicly by negotiators here as Secretary of State John Kerry and his European allies press a last-minute effort to resolve more immediate differences. The biggest disagreements center on how much capacity Iran could retain to make nuclear fuel, and how quickly economic sanctions would be suspended in return.

The efforts focus on the fate of Iran’s three major “declared” nuclear facilities, and on lengthening the “breakout” time for Iran to produce enough fuel for a single bomb. But those declared facilities are crawling with inspectors and cameras.

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Obama plays dirty politics with the Constitution

November 22, 2014

Six years into his presidency, and having promised to bring about “hope and change,” Barack Obama’s immigration reform shows he is still playing games, writes Matt Lewis

US President Barack Obama delivers remarks on his executive action on immigration at Del Sol High School in Las Vegas.

US President Barack Obama delivers remarks on his executive action on immigration at Del Sol High School in Las Vegas. Photo: Isaac Brekken/AP

At some point during grade school, American children are taught about the separation of powers.

The Founders, in their wisdom, pit ambition against ambition. This adversarial relationship was by design, intended to be a check on power. Even unpopular features of our democratic process – like gridlock – can be seen as a feature, not a bug. Roles and responsibilities were simplistically defined thusly: Congress passes the laws, the judicial branch interprets those laws, and the executive branch (the president) enforces those laws. Less simplistic, but still understandable, is that in enforcing those laws, the president has some leeway – some discretion, if you will.

But any schoolboy watching President Obama’s speech on Thursday night – where he laid out his plan to act unilaterally on immigration (without Congress) — might rightly be confused. For it seems that the president has crossed that fine line between enforcing the law (his proper role) and simply rewriting laws that do not suit him. And in so doing, he has directly contradicted at least 22 of his own past statements, including very specific quotes like: “I’m president, I’m not king. I can’t do these things just by myself’” and “I’m not the emperor of the United States. My job is to execute laws that are passed.”

If that weren’t enough, extenuating circumstances make this move even more audacious. Just two weeks ago, Obama’s policies were decisively rebuked at the ballot box. Given the results of that election, one wonders what position is he in to bypass the will of the people? It’s impossible to argue he has a mandate to take the law into his own hands. As Republican Senator Mike Lee said in a press statement: “This act demonstrates he respects neither election outcomes, nor the rule of law.”

Putting aside the constitutional concerns, what President Obama has done can also be thought of as both incredibly cynical and transparently political. Just think of the timing: Why make this announcement after the midterm elections? The obvious answer is that he knew it would hurt Democrats politically. Better to wait. But then, if this is an issue that can wait, why not wait until after December 11 – the funding deadline (where Congress will vote to keep the federal government open)? An obvious answer is that Obama is hoping to bait Republicans into another government shutdown, which could both serve to make them look both recalcitrant and anti-Hispanic.

There are other consequences. Before newly-elected Republicans even take over the Senate, Obama has already poisoned the well, and possibly created a self-fulfilling prophecy of intransigence. How on earth can one expect to begin a new relationship based on trust, compromise, and civility when – before one even takes office – the president has pre-emptively neutered the coequal branch of government to which you belong?

It’s all about politics, of course. And aside from the damage done to our system of government, and the setback to civility, yet another predictable result is that it now becomes much less likely we can achieve the sort of national consensus that would lead to a bipartisan vote on permanent immigration reform policies.

Conservatives who support immigration reform in principle (and there are plenty of us) now have an even tougher time persuading fellow conservatives to support such policies. And this, one supposes, is part of Obama’s devious plan. A dirty secret is that many Democrats would prefer immigration reform not to be a muddy issue. Achieving bipartisan support for immigration reform doesn’t fit their agenda. Much better, they reason, to set up a Manichean paradigm, whereby Democrats are the party of immigrants – and Republicans are mere philistine “nativists” who want to deport hard-working families.

Six years into his presidency, and having promised to bring about “hope and change” the president is still playing games. His speech on Thursday night was terrific rhetoric, but who can believe him at this point? Whether it’s his broken promise that “if you like your plan you can keep it” or the recently revealed speeches of ObamaCare architect Jonathan Gruber (who admitted passing ObamaCare necessitated deceiving “stupid” voters), many Americans are finally learning the lesson that there is a huge disconnect between Obama’s uplifting speeches and the policies he actually implements.

Jonathan Gruber

Matt K. Lewis is a senior contributor at The Daily Caller website in Washington, DC



Analysis: Obama holds upper hand on immigration

November 22, 2014


President Barack Obama delivers remarks on his executive action on immigration at Del Sol High School in Las Vegas. Obama has the upper hand in the fierce struggle over immigration now taking shape, with a veto pen ready to kill any Republican move to reverse his executive order, Democrats united behind him and GOP congressional leaders desperate to squelch talk of a government shutdown or even impeachment. With the public favoring changes in the current immigration system, the Republicans’ best short-term response appears to be purely rhetorical: that the president is granting amnesty to millions, and exceeding his constitutional authority in the process. Beyond that, their hopes of reversing his policies appear to be either a years-long lawsuit or the 2016 presidential election. (AP Photo/Isaac Brekken)

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama has the upper hand in the fierce struggle over immigration now taking shape, with a veto pen ready to kill any Republican move to reverse his executive order, Democrats united behind him and GOP congressional leaders desperate to squelch talk of a government shutdown or even impeachment.

With the public favoring changes in the current immigration system, the Republicans’ best short-term response appears to be purely rhetorical: that the president is granting amnesty to millions, and exceeding his constitutional authority in the process. Beyond that, their hopes of reversing his policies appear to be either a years-long lawsuit or the 2016 presidential election.

Neither of those is likely to satisfy the tea party adherents in Congress — or the Republican presidential contenders vying for support among party activists who will play an outsized role in early primaries and caucuses just over a year away.

“We alone, I say it openly, we the Senate are waiting in our duty to stop this lawless administration and its unconstitutional amnesty,” said one of them, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas. In remarks on the Senate floor, according to his office, he was channeling Cicero, the ancient Roman orator.

In a portion of the oration that Cruz did not mention, Cicero referred to a Roman Senate decree calling for a conspirator against the Roman republic “to be put to death this instant.”

More than 2,000 years later, impeachment in the House and a trial in the Senate stand as the sole established remedy against high crimes and misdemeanors by any president.

House Speaker John Boehner and Senate leader Mitch McConnell want none of that. Nor are they interested in provoking a government shutdown as a way to block spending needed to carry out Obama’s order, viewing that as a poor way to embark on a new era of Republican control of Congress.

“We’re considering a variety of options. But make no mistake. When the newly elected representatives of the people take their seats, they will act,” said McConnell, who will become majority leader when his party assumes control of the Senate in January.

Led by Boehner, House Republicans on Friday filed a lawsuit accusing Obama of abusing his authority in the implementation of the health care law. Officials say the immigration executive order could be added, but it is unclear how long a final judgment might take or who will be sitting in the Oval Office when it does.

In the interim, Democrats interrupted their squabbling over dispiriting midterm election losses. “The last two weeks haven’t been great weeks for us,” said New York Rep. Joe Crowley. “The president is about to change that.”

The political debate is well underway, although the two parties seem to be appealing to different segments of the electorate. Polls show that the country as a whole and especially Hispanics favor allowing immigrants to remain in the country and work even if here illegally. Conservatives tend to prefer deportation.

“The critics are going to call it amnesty,” Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., predicted correctly on Thursday in advance of Obama’s speech. “But as Sen. Rubio has reminded us, doing nothing — leaving the current system in place — is amnesty.”

That was a reference to Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, a potential GOP presidential contender who was a leader in passing a bipartisan immigration bill that cleared the Senate, 68-32, in 2013. The measure included a pathway to citizenship for millions of immigrants living in the country illegally.

Obama’s order didn’t go that far. It calls for suspending the threat of deportation for millions, but without the promise of a green card that bestows permanent legal status, much less citizenship.

Republicans also argue that Obama is forfeiting any chance of being able to work with Congress to achieve immigration reform.

Democrats counter that it’s been about 17 months since the Senate passed the bipartisan bill.

Since then, opponents in the House have pressured Boehner successfully not to allow it to come to a vote. They also extracted a promise from him not to allow compromise negotiations with the Senate on any other measure that might ease current restrictions on immigrants.

In the hours before Obama acted, Republicans forecast bad outcomes.

“This is … a major boon to the cartels and other gangs who control Mexico’s smuggling networks. And it will almost certainly lead to thousands of people who’ve committed crimes in this country gaining legal status,” said Texas Sen. John Cornyn.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., envisioned a different outcome when asked if a future Republican president might reverse Obama’s actions, potentially subjecting millions who step forward now to get work permits to being deported in the future.

“I wish that person luck,” Reid said.


EDITOR’S NOTE — David Espo covers Congress and politics for The Associated Press.

Iran nuke talks stalled, despite Kerry’s efforts

November 22, 2014


and | Nov. 22, 2014 | 4:01 AM

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (R), Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif (L) and EU envoy Catherine Ashton pose for photographers before a meeting in Vienna November 20, 2014. Photo by Reuters

Contentious nuclear talks between world powers and Tehran hit a new snag Friday after Iran apparently again turned down U.S. demands for concessions, leaving negotiations in limbo just three days before a deadline for a deal.

U.S. President Barack Obama is set to seek an extension of the talks past the current November 24 deadline for reaching a deal, White House aides told congressional Democrats on Friday, according to a report on Yahoo News.

It’s a “reasonable expectation that we’ll be requesting an extension,” one Obama aide said, according to the report. There are “eons to go until Monday, but it’s going to be pretty difficult to get to a comprehensive agreement by Monday,” though “not impossible,” he said, but did not specify a duration.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry could propose the idea as early as Friday night to Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, White House aides told congressional Democrats during a Friday briefing on Capitol Hill.

In hours of high drama reflecting the delicate stage of the talks, both Kerry and Zarif first made, then cancelled plans to walk away from the talks — at least temporarily — for additional consultations. Such developments could have meant possible progress, suggesting that the Iranians needed political approval from Tehran to move forward.

After initially announcing he was flying to Paris, Kerry suddenly reversed course and scheduled a new meeting with Zarif late Friday, with the two talking into the evening for more than two hours.

Iranian media initially spoke of a new U.S. initiative that Zarif needed to have his superiors sign off on, but the Iranian diplomat dashed those hopes. “There have been a lot of discussions in Vienna, but there were no remarkable offers and ideas to take to Tehran,” Zarif told Iran’s official IRNA news agency.

The remark reflected the probability that substantial obstacles remain in the way of a deal that would cap Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief — a view reinforced by senior diplomats of other nations taking part in the negotiations.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said that a phone call between Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov revealed that “more efforts are needed” to meet Monday’s deadline for a deal. And after consulting in Vienna with participants in the talks, British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond spoke of “a very significant gap between the parties.”

Kerry and Zarif have both emphasized that there has been no discussion about extending the talks — for a second time — if the deadline is not met. At the same time, the stubborn differences increasingly suggest little choice than to agree to continue talking past Monday — or to call the negotiations a failure, something neither side can afford to do.

Breaking off the talks would embolden Iran to end a freeze on nuclear activities it says it needs for civilian purposes, but which can also be used to make atomic arms. Tehran could turn instead to expanding its atomic program, reigniting the threat of Israeli and potential U.S. military action.

Even if the deadline is missed, both sides hope they can persuade skeptics at home that enough progress was achieved to warrant further pursuit of a full deal.
The U.S. administration needs to persuade opponents in Congress that it’s in Washington’s interests — a prospect made more difficult by the Republican sweep in Nov. 4 elections. That could make it easier to muster a two-thirds majority for new sanctions legislation in the new year — something President Barack Obama would be powerless to veto.

Republican senators sent a letter to the White House on Wednesday urging the administration against trying to circumvent Congress in any deal with Iran. “Unless the White House genuinely engages with Congress, we see no way that any agreement consisting of your administration’s current proposals to Iran will endure,” said the letter, which was signed by all 45 Senate Republicans.

In Iran, restive hard-liners will likely embark on a big push against any deadline extension. President Hassan Rouhani’s negotiating team has so far been supported by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. But a lack of agreement by Monday may sway Khamenei, who has frequently expressed distrust of U.S. aims at the talks even while backing the process up to now.

Senate skeptics are worried that any deal will relieve sanctions pressure on Iran without making a sizable dent in its ability to make a nuclear weapon. Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guards and other hard-liners voice their own concern — that Iran will reverse decades of nuclear achievement and scrap its programs for insufficient economic sanctions relief.

The main obstacle remains how deeply to cut into Tehran’s uranium enrichment program, which can make both reactor fuel for civilian purposes and the fissile core of nuclear weapons.

The two sides have moved closer.

The U.S. initially wanted Iran to slash its uranium enriching centrifuges to less than 2,000 from the nearly 10,000 it now runs, but says it can accept 4,500 if Tehran accepts other conditions meant to slow its ability to turn toward making weapons-grade uranium. Iran, which came to the talks in February insisting it be allowed to keep its present program, now says it can reduce to 8,000.

But Washington and Tehran both appear unready for substantial new concessions. They also differ on how long constraints should remain on Tehran’s nuclear program. Diplomats told The Associated Press last week that while the U.S. could now accept 15 years of strict limits on the programs instead of its original demand of at least 20 years, the Iranians insist on no more than 10 years.

American Government: Restoring the Balance of Powers; Plus Thoughts on Impeachment

November 22, 2014


By Jonathan Turley and Ron Johnson
The Washington Post

The controversy over President Obama’s decision to exchange five high-ranking Taliban leaders for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl last month focused largely on the price paid. There was less focus on Obama ignoring a federal law that required him to notify Congress 30 days in advance of releasing detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Laws such as this have been enacted to allow vital oversight of actions of such consequence. If this were an isolated instance, it could be dismissed. It is not.

After announcing that he intended to act unilaterally in the face of congressional opposition, Obama ordered the non-enforcement of various laws — including numerous changes to the Affordable Care Actmoved hundreds of millions of dollars away from the purposes for which Congress approved the spending and claimed sweeping authority to act without judicial or legislative controls.

A growing crisis in our constitutional system threatens to fundamentally alter the balance of powers — and accountability — within our government. This crisis did not begin with Obama, but it has reached a constitutional tipping point during his presidency. Indeed, it is enough to bring the two of us — a liberal academic and a conservative U.S. senator — together in shared concern over the future of our 225-year-old constitutional system of self­governance.

We believe that people of good faith can likewise transcend politics and forge a bipartisan coalition to examine these changes. In our view, the gridlock in Washington is not simply the result of toxic divisions. The dysfunctional politics we are experiencing may in part be the result of a deeper corrosion — a dangerous instability that is growing within our Madisonian system.

Unfortunately, however, when separation-of-powers problems are typically raised, they are viewed through the lens of politics. Democrats who objected to actions by George W. Bush are silent in the face of the circumvention of Congress by Barack Obama. Republicans who were silent during the Bush years decry such actions by Obama.

No one can predict with certainty what will follow the Obama administration. The only thing we know is that a new president will be elected in 2016 and congressional majorities will continue to shift. That uncertainty offers a window of opportunity for members of both parties, academics and others to come together to focus on three questions that may determine the viability of the separation of powers for decades to come.

First, we need to discuss the erosion of legislative authority within the evolving model of the federal government. There has been a dramatic shift of authority toward presidential powers and the emergence of what is essentially a fourth branch of government — a vast network of federal agencies with expanded legislative and judicial power. While the federal bureaucracy is a hallmark of the modern administrative state, it presents a fundamental change to a system of three coequal branches designed to check and balance each other. The growing authority invested in federal agencies comes from a diminished Congress, which seems to have a dramatically reduced ability to actively monitor, let alone influence, agency actions.

Second, much of the tit-for-tat politics that has alienated so many Americans is due to the fact that courts routinely refuse to review constitutional disputes because of an overly constricted view of the standing of lawmakers to sue and other procedural barriers. While there can be legitimate disagreement over how and when legislative standing should apply, current legal barriers rob the system of a key avenue for resolution of such conflicts. A modest expansion of standing would provide greater clarity to the line of constitutional separation without causing a flood of cases.

Finally, Congress should address the rising share of federal spending that is not under its control. Last year, only 35 percent of spending was appropriated and voted on. The remaining 65 percent grows automatically. As a result, our debt exceeds the size of our economy, and Congress is losing its critical “power of the purse.”

The Supreme Court found in National Labor Relations Board v. Noel Canning this week that the president violated the separation of powers in his use of his appointment powers. Also this week, House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) announced a lawsuit challenging the Obama administration’s unilateral actions. A lawsuit by one of us — Sen. Johnson — is raising some of the same issues with regard to Obamacare and will be heard next month. However, such cases will take years to resolve, and Congress needs to speak with one voice as an institution at this critical time. The Canning decision should be a catalyst for all members to look at the comprehensive loss of legislative authority in our system.

File photo by JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images

The framers believed that members of each branch of government would transcend individual political ambitions to vigorously defend the power of their institutions. Presidents have persistently expanded their authority with considerable success. Congress has been largely passive or, worse, complicit in the draining of legislative authority. Judges have adopted doctrines of avoidance that have removed the courts from important conflicts between the branches. Now is the time for members of Congress and the judiciary to affirm their oaths to “support and defend the Constitution” and to work to re-establish our delicate constitutional balance.

It will not be easy, but the costs of inaction are far higher. We need to look beyond this administration — and ourselves — to act not like politicians but the statesmen that the framers hoped we could be.

Ron Johnson, a Republican, represents Wisconsin in the Senate. Jonathan Turley is the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University.


Jonathan Turley

Read more about this topic:

Philip K. Howard: What broke Washington

Charles Krauthammer: Government by fiat

Dana Milbank: Taking Obama to court

George F. Will: Stopping a lawless president

Jonathan Turley: The patent office goes out of bounds


Why Congress Can Impeach Obama (But its a bad idea)


The New York Times

NOW that President Obama has granted legal relief to as many as five million undocumented immigrants, Republicans are thrashing about for an effective response. Only a few hard-liners are talking about impeachment now, but more could join them out of frustration with their other options.

Many people in both parties have tried to quell such talk by saying the president is within his powers to issue the order. The problem is, the pro-impeachment Republicans are right: There is a plausible case for taking that step.

By constitutional design, impeachment for “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors” is a political accusation and initiates a political remedy, not a legal one. It is pretty much up to Congress to define and apply “high crimes and misdemeanors,” and no court would second-guess it. The next Congress could find that the president had violated his oath to “faithfully execute” the laws by refusing to enforce important provisions of the Affordable Care Act, No Child Left Behind and, now, the Immigration and Nationality Act.

The president surely has some power to withhold prosecution, but granting legal status and work permits to millions of people most likely exceeds his discretion. No judge can decide the precise scope of his discretion because no one, including Congress, has legal standing to challenge his order in court.

Of course, many lawyers at the Justice Department and elsewhere disagree, noting that prosecutorial discretion is pervasive, that there isn’t enough money to prosecute all violators, that the president will continue to prosecute criminals and illegal border crossers, and that earlier presidents have done the same thing. These are serious arguments. But as an immigration and administrative law teacher who strongly favors more legal immigration and even broader legislative relief than Mr. Obama’s order grants (and who voted for him twice), I find them unconvincing.

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Obama ‘secretly’ expands US combat operation in Afghanistan

November 22, 2014


 A US soldier inspects the site of a suicide attack targeting foreign troops in Jalalabad on November 13, 2014. AFP Photo
  • New guidelines issued by Obama green-light air support for Afghan operations when needed
  • The president made the decision in recent weeks after meeting with national security advisers 
  • Said in May that US forces would have no combat role in Afghanistan next year 
  • Missions for remaining 9,800 troops were supposed to be limited to training Afghan troops and to hunting ‘remnants of al Qaeda’

By Associated Press and Snejana Farberov for MailOnline

President Barack Obama has signed a secret order allowing the Pentagon to target Taliban fighters in Afghanistan, broadening previous plans that had limited the military to counterterrorism missions against al-Qaida, it was revealed Friday.

The president’s decision, made during a White House meeting with national security advisers, also gives the military the green light to conduct air support for Afghan operations when needed.

Obama issued the guidelines in recent weeks, as the American combat mission in Afghanistan draws to a close, thousands of troops return home, and the military prepares for narrower counterterrorism and training mission for the next two years.

Not going anywhere... yet: US officials say President Barack Obama has quietly approved guidelines in recent weeks to allow the Pentagon to target Taliban fighters in Afghanistan

Not going anywhere… yet: US officials say President Barack Obama has quietly approved guidelines in recent weeks to allow the Pentagon to target Taliban fighters in Afghanistan

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Not going anywhere… yet: US officials say President Barack Obama has quietly approved guidelines in recent weeks to allow the Pentagon to target Taliban fighters in Afghanistan

Obama’s moves expand on what had been previously planned for next year.


In May, the president stated that US forces would have no combat role in Afghanistan next year. Missions for the remaining 9,800 troops would be limited to training Afghan troops and to hunting the ‘remnants of al Qaeda.’

Change of heart: Obama is said to have decided to expand the mission in recent weeks after meeting with national security advisers

Change of heart: Obama is said to have decided to expand the mission in recent weeks after meeting with national security advisers

Extremists: The Taliban's presence in Afghanistan far exceeds that of al-Qaida. In this picture taken on September 26, 2008, Fighters with Afghanistan's Taliban militia stand on a hillside at Maydan Shahr in Wardak province, west of Kabul

Extremists: The Taliban’s presence in Afghanistan far exceeds that of al-Qaida. In this picture taken on September 26, 2008, Fighters with Afghanistan’s Taliban militia stand on a hillside at Maydan Shahr in Wardak province, west of Kabul

Fighters: Obama has ordered the American force presence to be cut to 9,800 by the end of this year, a figure expected to be cut in half by the end of 2015

Fighters: Obama has ordered the American force presence to be cut to 9,800 by the end of this year, a figure expected to be cut in half by the end of 2015

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One US official said the military could only go after the Taliban if it posed a threat to American forces or provided direct support to al-Qaida, while the latter could be targeted more indiscriminately.

‘To the extent that Taliban members directly threaten the United States and coalition forces in Afghanistan or provide direct support to al-Qaida, however, we will take appropriate measures to keep Americans safe,’ the official said.

The Taliban’s presence in Afghanistan far exceeds that of al-Qaida, adding significance to Obama’s authorization.

The president’s decision came in response to requests from military commanders who wanted troops to be allowed to continue to battle the Taliban, the US officials said.

The New York Times first reported the new guidelines. Officials confirmed details to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss Obama’s decisions by name.

Some civilian aides have argued against risking American lives next year in operations against the Taliban, saying there should only be a narrow mission against al Qaeda, The Times reported.

But generals urged Obama to define the mission more broadly if intelligence showed extremists threatening American forces.

The decision to expand the military’s authority does not impact the overall number of US troops that will remain in Afghanistan after this year.

Months earlier, Obama ordered the American force presence to be cut to 9,800 by the end of this year, a figure expected to be cut in half by the end of 2015.

The president wants all US troops out of Afghanistan by 2016, as his presidency draws to a close.

Some of the Obama administration’s planning for the post-2014 mission was slowed by a political stalemate in Afghanistan earlier this year.

It took months for the winner of the country’s presidential election to be certified, delaying the signing of a bilateral security agreement that was necessary in order to keep U.S. forces in the country after December.


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