Posts Tagged ‘Corker’

Uncertainty looms over Senate’s tax bill

December 1, 2017
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Trump Administration and the “Iran Nuclear Deal” — Bipartisan consensus forming in U.S. Congress against taking any legislative action — “Keep the United States in compliance with the agreement.”

November 10, 2017
BY MICHAEL WILNER
 NOVEMBER 9, 2017 21:01

U.S. Democrats and Republicans both seem intent on satisfying Trump’s appetite for action, cognizant that their failure to pass anything by the new year will likely incur his wrath and blame.

Missiles and a portrait of Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in Tehran, Iran

Missiles and a portrait of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in Baharestan Square in Tehran, Iran. (photo credit:NAZANIN TABATABAEE YAZDI/ TIMA VIA REUTERS)

WASHINGTON – A top Senate Republican is shelving draft legislation that would have triggered nuclear-related sanctions back on Iran over its ballistic missile activity, acknowledging it cannot garner the 50 votes required for passage and would ostracize foreign allies, The Jerusalem Post has learned.

Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tennessee), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, continues to work with members of his own party, Democrats, European envoys and the Trump administration hoping to construct legislation that will send a message of toughness to Tehran while keeping the nuclear accord intact. But the amendment he initially previewed one month ago with Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas), alongside President Donald Trump’s national address on Iran policy, will not advance as planned.

It is a setback for the Trump administration, which in its rollout of a comprehensive policy approach to Iran characterized Corker and Cotton’s bill as a “legislative remedy” to its concerns with the Iran nuclear deal. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson requested a vote on it within 90 days.

Thirty days into that time frame, Trump administration officials have not yet engaged with any of the moderate Democrats they would need to pass relevant legislation. They have not yet brought on board their European allies, who were represented in Washington this week lobbying lawmakers against taking any dramatic action. And foreign policy leadership in the House of Representatives is entirely in the dark on what’s to come. One top Republican aide characterized the talks as three-way negotiations among Senate Republicans, Senate Democrats and European diplomats, with the president and his aides taking a back seat.

Corker Discusses Senate Consideration of Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015. (YouTube/senatorcorker)

Corker and Cotton’s legislation would have amended the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act – itself co-authored by Corker back in 2015 – to effectively extend provisions of the Iran nuclear deal indefinitely in the eyes of US law. The amendment would have instituted triggers for US sanctions on Iran that had been lifted by the deal, targeting not only Iran’s obligations under the accord but also matters not addressed in the deal itself.

Republicans believe that Iran’s ballistic missile work is inherently tied to its nuclear program, as these delivery vehicles are uniquely designed to carry nuclear payloads. But the six world powers that negotiated the deal with Iran – the US, UK, France, Germany, Russia and China – left ballistic missiles out of the agreement after Iran argued the technology was in fact a conventional weapons system.

Immediately upon its public release, the Corker-Cotton amendment was roundly condemned by European governments and Democrats as an effort to unilaterally renegotiate the closed, two-year-old agreement.

“Corker has now admitted that he has shelved it, because it was a non-starter,” said one top Senate aide intimately involved with the negotiations. “ICBMs [intercontinental ballistic missiles] won’t be a part of it, relevant to any JCPOA legislation.” The top aide was referring to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the formal name for the 2015 nuclear accord.

Corker’s office did not deny claims that he has moved on from the amendment: “Sen. Corker continues to talk with Sen. [Ben] Cardin [D-Maryland], Sen. Cotton, and the administration about the appropriate path forward,” said the chairman’s communications director.

But Cotton’s communications director said that claims they had moved on from legislation that included automatic triggers are “categorically inaccurate.”

“Senator Cotton and Senator Corker are very much still working together on a bill that reflects the same framework laid out last month,” she said.

Republican and Democratic aides both say that a bipartisan consensus has formed against taking any legislative action that would materially breach the agreement, or that would institute a structure sure to trigger a breach of the agreement. Democrats are specifically opposed to any linkage of Iran’s ICBMs with the nuclear deal, or the adoption of any automatic triggers that would impose new sanctions without executive order or congressional debate.

On the Hill this week, the European Union’s top foreign policy envoy, Federica Mogherini, said she witnessed this consensus in her meetings.

“We are exchanging views with the legislators on the need to make sure, before a bill is presented, that its contents do not represent a violation of the agreement,” she said. “I got clear indications that the intention is to keep the United States in compliance with the agreement.”

Lawmakers are working against two time lines, both of which may prove arbitrary.

The first is a formal 60-day review period legally prompted by Trump’s decision not to “certify” Iran’s performance in the nuclear deal last month. The law requests Congress now consider “qualifying legislation” that would reimpose sanctions on Iran. But no action is required, and no party – neither Hill Republicans nor the Trump administration – wants to take this path.

The second timeline is a 90-day period proposed by Tillerson, motivated by the president’s desire to avoid publicly “certifying” Iran’s compliance to the nuclear deal every 90 days – another legal requirement. But the Senate parliamentarian – the official adviser to the chamber on the interpretation of its standing rules and procedures – has been asked by Republican lawmakers whether, after decertifying once in October, Trump will have to take action yet again in two months’ time.

“It’s not clear under the law if one non-certification clears him for future certifications, or if he’ll have to issue a certification decision again,” one aide said.

The White House did not respond to a request for comment on this report.

Despite the “lack of paper,” or progress, Democrats and Republicans both seem intent on satisfying Trump’s appetite for action, cognizant that their failure to pass anything by the new year will likely incur his wrath and blame.

In the words of one Democratic aide, the president’s threat to pull out of the deal wholesale absent legislative action “does have some weight, in that Congress does not want to be the president’s scapegoat here.”

“There’s a bipartisan sense that they want to approach INARA together,” the aide said, referring to the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act. “But it’s the administration’s job to bring Europe along.”

Three congressmen said that the entire negotiation comes down to Corker and his Democratic counterpart on the Foreign Relations Committee, Cardin, who last month affirmed that a bipartisan consensus had formed against any action that would torpedo the nuclear deal and harm the transatlantic alliance.

Legislative fixes to INARA will have to proceed through that committee, where Corker sets hearings and votes.

But Cotton and his allies are still insisting on tough action that shows Iran the US will not accept the nuclear deal as it is. And this faction of the Republican Caucus is warning against a legislative approach that ultimately legitimizes the nuclear accord – the very opposite effect Trump was hoping for when he threw the fate of the deal to Congress last month.

“It’s like when [then-secretary of state] John Kerry said no deal is better than a bad deal,” said one Republican consultant closely working with Cotton’s team. “In this case, no legislation is better than bad legislation.”

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Republican Senator Jeff Flake Will Not Seek Re-Election — Critical of President Trump — “Alarming and dangerous state of affairs” — “Anger and resentment are not a governing philosophy” — Just Hours After Trump Tweet Storm with Senator Bob Corker

October 24, 2017

CBS News

Sen. Jeff Flake abruptly announced Tuesday that will not run for re-election after all in the 2018 midterm elections, and he went to the Senate floor to announce he would leave the Senate when his term ends in January 2019, saying it’s time to stop pretending the president’s behavior is normal.

He announced he could “better serve my country and conscience” by dropping his re-election bid,” which has cost too much of his bandwidth, he said, rather than “cause me to compromise far too many of my principles.”

“Why didn’t you speak up? What are we going to say?” Flake asked rhetorically. “Mr. President, I rise today to say, enough.”

“It is clear at this moment that a traditional conservative…has a narrower and narrower path to nomination in the Republican party,” Flake said on the Senate floor.

It is clear to me we have given in or given up  to visceral anger and resentment in the country, he said, continuing, “but anger and resentment are not a governing philosophy,” Flake said.

“Here’s the bottom line: The path that I would have to travel to get the Republican nomination is a path I’m not willing to take, and that I can’t in good conscience take,” Flake told The Arizona Republic newspaper in a phone interview earlier Tuesday.

“It would require me to believe in positions I don’t hold on such issues as trade and immigration and it would require me to condone behavior that I cannot condone.”

Flake addressed the Senate floor Tuesday afternoon.

“There may not be a place for a Republican like me in the current Republican climate or the current Republican Party,” Flake said.

Flake, 54, had been expected to run for re-election, but has been especially critical of President Trump and the Republican Party over the last several months. The president attacked Flake on Twitter and his former White House chief strategist, Steve Bannon, has said he’s backing Kelli Ward, who had launched a primary challenge to Flake. Ward said over the summer that Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, should resign from his seat because of his brain cancer diagnosis.

Flake has served in the Senate since 2013 and previously served in the House from 2003 until 2013. He was on the scene during the June 2017 GOP congressional baseball practice shooting that left Rep. Steve Scalise, R-Louisiana, wounded.

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/jeff-flake-says-he-wont-run-for-re-election-in-2018/

Related:

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U.S. Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) announces he will not seek re-election as he speaks on the Senate floor in this still image taken from video on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., October 24, 2017.

 HANDOUT . / REUTERS

After Senator Flake made his remarks on the Senate floor, Senator John McCain, also from Arizona, rose in his support.

Some of Senator Flake’s key lines while addressing the Senate:

“I rise today to say enough…”

“It is not because I relish criticizing the President of the United States…”

“The stability of the entire world are routinely threatened by the level of thought that goes into 140 characters….”

“We have fooled ourselves long enough…”

“This is not normal…”

“If decency fails to call out indecency…”

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The following is the text of Sen. Jeff Flake’s remarks from the floor of the U.S. Senate on Oct. 24, 2017, as prepared for delivery.

Mr. President, I rise today to address a matter that has been much on my mind, at a moment when it seems that our democracy is more defined by our discord and our dysfunction than it is by our values and our principles.  Let me begin by noting a somewhat obvious point that these offices that we hold are not ours to hold indefinitely.  We are not here simply to mark time. Sustained incumbency is certainly not the point of seeking office. And there are times when we must risk our careers in favor of our principles.

MORE:Sen. Flake announces he will not seek re-election in 2018

Now is such a time.

It must also be said that I rise today with no small measure of regret. Regret, because of the state of our disunion, regret because of the disrepair and destructiveness of our politics, regret because of the indecency of our discourse, regret because of the coarseness of our leadership, regret for the compromise of our moral authority, and by our – all of our – complicity in this alarming and dangerous state of affairs. It is time for our complicity and our accommodation of the unacceptable to end.

In this century, a new phrase has entered the language to describe the accommodation of a new and undesirable order – that phrase being “the new normal.” But we must never adjust to the present coarseness of our national dialogue – with the tone set at the top.

We must never regard as “normal” the regular and casual undermining of our democratic norms and ideals. We must never meekly accept the daily sundering of our country – the personal attacks, the threats against principles, freedoms, and institutions, the flagrant disregard for truth or decency, the reckless provocations, most often for the pettiest and most personal reasons, reasons having nothing whatsoever to do with the fortunes of the people that we have all been elected to serve.

None of these appalling features of our current politics should ever be regarded as normal. We must never allow ourselves to lapse into thinking that this is just the way things are now. If we simply become inured to this condition, thinking that this is just politics as usual, then heaven help us. Without fear of the consequences, and without consideration of the rules of what is politically safe or palatable, we must stop pretending that the degradation of our politics and the conduct of some in our executive branch are normal. They are not normal.

Reckless, outrageous, and undignified behavior has become excused and countenanced as “telling it like it is,” when it is actually just reckless, outrageous, and undignified.

And when such behavior emanates from the top of our government, it is something else: It is dangerous to a democracy. Such behavior does not project strength – because our strength comes from our values. It instead projects a corruption of the spirit, and weakness.

It is often said that children are watching. Well, they are. And what are we going to do about that? When the next generation asks us, Why didn’t you do something? Why didn’t you speak up? — what are we going to say?

Mr. President, I rise today to say: Enough. We must dedicate ourselves to making sure that the anomalous never becomes normal. With respect and humility, I must say that we have fooled ourselves for long enough that a pivot to governing is right around the corner, a return to civility and stability right behind it. We know better than that. By now, we all know better than that.

Here, today, I stand to say that we would better serve the country and better fulfill our obligations under the constitution by adhering to our Article 1 “old normal” – Mr. Madison’s doctrine of the separation of powers. This genius innovation which affirms Madison’s status as a true visionary and for which Madison argued in Federalist 51 – held that the equal branches of our government would balance and counteract each other when necessary. “Ambition counteracts ambition,” he wrote.

But what happens if ambition fails to counteract ambition? What happens if stability fails to assert itself in the face of chaos and instability? If decency fails to call out indecency? Were the shoe on the other foot, would we Republicans meekly accept such behavior on display from dominant Democrats? Of course not, and we would be wrong if we did.

When we remain silent and fail to act when we know that that silence and inaction is the wrong thing to do – because of political considerations, because we might make enemies, because we might alienate the base, because we might provoke a primary challenge, because ad infinitum, ad nauseum – when we succumb to those considerations in spite of what should be greater considerations and imperatives in defense of the institutions of our liberty, then we dishonor our principles and forsake our obligations. Those things are far more important than politics.

Now, I am aware that more politically savvy people than I caution against such talk. I am aware that a segment of my party believes that anything short of complete and unquestioning loyalty to a president who belongs to my party is unacceptable and suspect.

If I have been critical, it not because I relish criticizing the behavior of the president of the United States.  If I have been critical, it is because I believe that it is my obligation to do so, as a matter of duty and conscience. The notion that one should stay silent as the norms and values that keep America strong are undermined and as the alliances and agreements that ensure the stability of the entire world are routinely threatened by the level of thought that goes into 140 characters – the notion that one should say and do nothing in the face of such mercurial behavior is ahistoric and, I believe, profoundly misguided.

A Republican president named Roosevelt had this to say about the president and a citizen’s relationship to the office:

“The President is merely the most important among a large number of public servants. He should be supported or opposed exactly to the degree which is warranted by his good conduct or bad conduct, his efficiency or inefficiency in rendering loyal, able, and disinterested service to the nation as a whole.  Therefore, it is absolutely necessary that there should be full liberty to tell the truth about his acts, and this means that it is exactly as necessary to blame him when he does wrong as to praise him when he does right. Any other attitude in an American citizen is both base and servile.”  President Roosevelt continued. “To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public.”

Acting on conscience and principle is the manner in which we express our moral selves, and as such, loyalty to conscience and principle should supersede loyalty to any man or party. We can all be forgiven for failing in that measure from time to time. I certainly put myself at the top of the list of those who fall short in that regard. I am holier-than-none. But too often, we rush not to salvage principle but to forgive and excuse our failures so that we might accommodate them and go right on failing—until the accommodation itself becomes our principle.

In that way and over time, we can justify almost any behavior and sacrifice almost any principle. I’m afraid that is where we now find ourselves.

When a leader correctly identifies real hurt and insecurity in our country and instead of addressing it goes looking for somebody to blame, there is perhaps nothing more devastating to a pluralistic society. Leadership knows that most often a good place to start in assigning blame is to first look somewhat closer to home. Leadership knows where the buck stops. Humility helps. Character counts. Leadership does not knowingly encourage or feed ugly and debased appetites in us.

Leadership lives by the American creed: E Pluribus Unum. From many, one. American leadership looks to the world, and just as Lincoln did, sees the family of man. Humanity is not a zero-sum game. When we have been at our most prosperous, we have also been at our most principled. And when we do well, the rest of the world also does well.

These articles of civic faith have been central to the American identity for as long as we have all been alive. They are our birthright and our obligation. We must guard them jealously, and pass them on for as long as the calendar has days. To betray them, or to be unserious in their defense is a betrayal of the fundamental obligations of American leadership.  And to behave as if they don’t matter is simply not who we are.

Now, the efficacy of American leadership around the globe has come into question. When the United States emerged from World War II we contributed about half of the world’s economic activity.  It would have been easy to secure our dominance, keeping the countries that had been defeated or greatly weakened during the war in their place.  We didn’t do that.  It would have been easy to focus inward.  We resisted those impulses.  Instead, we financed reconstruction of shattered countries and created international organizations and institutions that have helped provide security and foster prosperity around the world for more than 70 years.

Now, it seems that we, the architects of this visionary rules-based world order that has brought so much freedom and prosperity, are the ones most eager to abandon it.

The implications of this abandonment are profound. And the beneficiaries of this rather radical departure in the American approach to the world are the ideological enemies of our values. Despotism loves a vacuum.  And our allies are now looking elsewhere for leadership. Why are they doing this? None of this is normal. And what do we as United States Senators have to say about it?

The principles that underlie our politics, the values of our founding, are too vital to our identity and to our survival to allow them to be compromised by the requirements of politics. Because politics can make us silent when we should speak, and silence can equal complicity.

I have children and grandchildren to answer to, and so, Mr. President, I will not be complicit.

I have decided that I will be better able to represent the people of Arizona and to better serve my country and my conscience by freeing myself from the political considerations that consume far too much bandwidth and would cause me to compromise far too many principles.

To that end, I am announcing today that my service in the Senate will conclude at the end of my term in early January 2019.

It is clear at this moment that a traditional conservative who believes in limited government and free markets, who is devoted to free trade, and who is pro-immigration, has a narrower and narrower path to nomination in the Republican party – the party that for so long has defined itself by belief in those things.  It is also clear to me for the moment we have given in or given up on those core principles in favor of the more viscerally satisfying anger and resentment.  To be clear, the anger and resentment that the people feel at the royal mess we have created are justified.  But anger and resentment are not a governing philosophy.

There is an undeniable potency to a populist appeal – but mischaracterizing or misunderstanding our problems and giving in to the impulse to scapegoat and belittle threatens to turn us into a fearful, backward-looking people. In the case of the Republican party, those things also threaten to turn us into a fearful, backward-looking minority party.

We were not made great as a country by indulging or even exalting our worst impulses, turning against ourselves, glorying in the things which divide us, and calling fake things true and true things fake. And we did not become the beacon of freedom in the darkest corners of the world by flouting our institutions and failing to understand just how hard-won and vulnerable they are.

This spell will eventually break. That is my belief. We will return to ourselves once more, and I say the sooner the better. Because to have a heathy government we must have healthy and functioning parties. We must respect each other again in an atmosphere of shared facts and shared values, comity and good faith. We must argue our positions fervently, and never be afraid to compromise. We must assume the best of our fellow man, and always look for the good. Until that days comes, we must be unafraid to stand up and speak out as if our country depends on it. Because it does.

I plan to spend the remaining fourteen months of my senate term doing just that.

Mr. President, the graveyard is full of indispensable men and women — none of us here is indispensable. Nor were even the great figures from history who toiled at these very desks in this very chamber to shape this country that we have inherited. What is indispensable are the values that they consecrated in Philadelphia and in this place, values which have endured and will endure for so long as men and women wish to remain free. What is indispensable is what we do here in defense of those values. A political career doesn’t mean much if we are complicit in undermining those values.

I thank my colleagues for indulging me here today, and will close by borrowing the words of President Lincoln, who knew more about healing enmity and preserving our founding values than any other American who has ever lived. His words from his first inaugural were a prayer in his time, and are no less so in ours:

“We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

Thank you, Mr. President. I yield the floor.

See also:

Corker calls Trump an ‘utterly untruthful president’ in response to tweet storm — Trump says Corker “couldn’t get elected dog catcher…” — Trump May Destroy Himself With Self Inflicted Wounds

October 24, 2017

Sen. Bob Corker and President Trump’s relationship is on thin ice video by Michael Schwab/Tennessean

President Donald Trump said Senator Bob Corker is fighting tax cuts and is only negative on his administration in a series of tweets early Tuesday morning.

The comments come following Corker’s appearance on  NBC’s The Today Show to discuss his criticism of the president, the GOP tax reform plan and the administration’s efforts in Niger and North Korea.

Bob Corker, who helped President O give us the bad Iran Deal & couldn’t get elected dog catcher in Tennessee, is now fighting Tax Cuts….

 Image result for Donald Trump, Pointing, F- word

…Corker dropped out of the race in Tennesse when I refused to endorse him, and now is only negative on anything Trump. Look at his record!

Sen. Corker in turn responded saying “Same untruths from an utterly untruthful president.” He also used the hashtag #AlertTheDaycareStaff, referencing his previous response to the president’s tweets calling the White House an adult day care center.

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Republican Sen. Bob Corker to Trump: ‘Leave it to the professionals’

Republican Sen. Bob Corker today stood by his remarks criticizing the White House as an “adult day care center” and arguing that President Trump is putting the United States on a path toward “World War III.”

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“I don’t make comments I haven’t thought about,” the Tennessee senator said in an interview with “Good Morning America.”

Corker was an early Trump ally, endorsing him during the presidential campaign. But Corker has since been wary of how Trump is handling the presidency and, in particular, his treatment of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

Senator Bob Corker speaks to”Good Morning America,” Oct. 24, 2017.

“When you look at the fact that we’ve got this issue in North Korea and the president continues to kneecap his diplomatic representative, the secretary of state, and really move him away from successful diplomatic negotiations with China, which is key to this, you’re taking us on a path to combat,” Corker told “Good Morning America” today.

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He added that when it comes to the diplomatic efforts underway to manage the rising tensions with North Korea, he would like for Trump to “leave it to the professionals for a while.”

“The president undermines our secretary of state [and] raises tensions in the area by virtue of the tweets that he sends out,” Corker said.

Another negotiation Corker wants Trump to stay out of is the tax debate.

The president hit back at Corker on Twitter in response to the senator’s comments Tuesday morning. Trump said Corker “couldn’t get elected dog catcher in Tennessee”. Corker had announced last month he won’t seek a third term and will retire from the Senate when his term ends in 2018.

Bob Corker, who helped President O give us the bad Iran Deal & couldn’t get elected dog catcher in Tennessee, is now fighting Tax Cuts….

…Corker dropped out of the race in Tennesse when I refused to endorse him, and now is only negative on anything Trump. Look at his record!

Trump on Twitter Monday knocked down reports that the tax plan the White House and Republican leadership are drafting would cap retirement saving plans.

“There will be NO change to your 401(k). This has always been a great and popular middle class tax break that works, and it stays!” Trump tweeted.

There will be NO change to your 401(k). This has always been a great and popular middle class tax break that works, and it stays!

Corker, as Trump plans to travel to Capitol Hill today to pitch tax overhaul to Senate Republicans during their policy lunch, said, “What I hope is going to happen is the president will leave this effort, if you will, to the tax-writing committees, let them do their work and not begin taking things off the table that ought to be debated in these committees at the proper time.”

Details of the White House and Republicans’ tax plan are still being hashed out and the plan has been mostly kept under wraps.

When asked whether he buys the administration’s argument that economic growth under its tax plan will cut the deficit by a trillion dollars, Corker remained hesitant, “We’ll have to see. Obviously, we need to look at scoring mechanisms and go through the process.”

As chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Corker also weighed in this morning on the Oct. 4 ambush in NigerThe Pentagon has opened an investigation into the attack amid questions about how the mission turned deadly and led to the deaths of four U.S. service members.

“Those details we don’t know, but we do know in that general area there are a lot of people that wish us harm,” Corker said.

U.S. troops should be in Niger, he said, but he and fellow GOP senators want to ensure that Congress is “playing the appropriate role” in authorizing military force in that area.

ABC News’ Kelly McCarthy contributed to this report.

http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/republican-sen-bob-corker-trump-leave-professionals/story?id=50675996

Image result for Donald Trump, Pointing, F- word

Trump Risks Inciting World War III — Republican Senator says

October 9, 2017

By 

The New York Times

Senator Bob Corker, Republican of Tennessee, last week in Washington. Credit Tom Brenner/The New York Times

WASHINGTON — Senator Bob Corker, the Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, charged in an interview on Sunday that President Trump was treating his office like “a reality show,” with reckless threats toward other countries that could set the nation “on the path to World War III.”

In an extraordinary rebuke of a president of his own party, Mr. Corker said he was alarmed about a president who acts “like he’s doing ‘The Apprentice’ or something.”

“He concerns me,” Mr. Corker added. “He would have to concern anyone who cares about our nation.”

Mr. Corker’s comments capped a remarkable day of sulfurous insults between the president and the Tennessee senator — a powerful, if lame-duck, lawmaker, whose support will be critical to the president on tax reform and the fate of the Iran nuclear deal.

It began on Sunday morning when Mr. Trump, posting on Twitter, accused Mr. Corker of deciding not to run for re-election because he “didn’t have the guts.” Mr. Corker shot back in his own tweet: “It’s a shame the White House has become an adult day care center. Someone obviously missed their shift this morning.”

The senator, Mr. Trump said, had “begged” for his endorsement. “I said ‘NO’ and he dropped out (said he could not win without my endorsement),” the president wrote. He also said that Mr. Corker had asked to be secretary of state. “I said ‘NO THANKS,’” he wrote.

Mr. Corker flatly disputed that account, saying Mr. Trump had urged him to run again, and promised to endorse him if he did. But the exchange laid bare a deeper rift: The senator views Mr. Trump as given to irresponsible outbursts — a political novice who has failed to make the transition from show business.

Mr. Trump poses such an acute risk, the senator said, that a coterie of senior administration officials must protect him from his own instincts. “I know for a fact that every single day at the White House, it’s a situation of trying to contain him,” Mr. Corker said in a telephone interview.

The deeply personal back-and-forth will almost certainly rupture what had been a friendship with a fellow real estate developer turned elected official, one of the few genuine relationships Mr. Trump had developed on Capitol Hill. Still, even as he leveled his stinging accusations, Mr. Corker repeatedly said on Sunday that he liked Mr. Trump, until now an occasional golf partner, and wished him “no harm.”

The White House did not respond to a request for comment on Mr. Corker’s remarks.

Mr. Trump’s feud with Mr. Corker is particularly perilous given that the president has little margin for error as he tries to pass a landmark overhaul of the tax code — his best, and perhaps last, hope of producing a major legislative achievement this year.

If Senate Democrats end up unified in opposition to the promised tax bill, Mr. Trump could lose the support of only two of the Senate’s 52 Republicans to pass it. That is the same challenging math that Mr. Trump and Senate Republican leaders faced in their failed effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

Mr. Corker could also play a key role if Mr. Trump follows through on his threat to “decertify” the Iran nuclear deal, kicking to Congress the issue of whether to restore sanctions on Tehran and effectively scuttle the pact.

Republicans could hold off on sanctions but use the threat of them to force Iran back to the negotiating table — a strategy being advocated by Senator Tom Cotton, the Arkansas Republican. But that approach could leave the United States isolated, and it will be up to Mr. Corker to balance opposition to the deal with the wishes of those, including some of Mr. Trump’s own aides, who want to change the accord but not blow it up.

Beyond the Iran deal, Mr. Corker’s committee holds confirmation hearings on Mr. Trump’s ambassadorial appointments. If the president were to oust Rex W. Tillerson as secretary of state, as some expect, Mr. Corker would lead the hearings on Mr. Trump’s nominee for the post.

In a 25-minute conversation, Mr. Corker, speaking carefully and purposefully, seemed to almost find cathartic satisfaction by portraying Mr. Trump in terms that most senior Republicans use only in private.

The senator, who is close to Mr. Tillerson, invoked comments that the president made on Twitter last weekend in which he appeared to undercut Mr. Tillerson’s negotiations with North Korea.

“A lot of people think that there is some kind of ‘good cop, bad cop’ act underway, but that’s just not true,” Mr. Corker said.

Without offering specifics, he said Mr. Trump had repeatedly undermined diplomacy with his Twitter fingers. “I know he has hurt, in several instances, he’s hurt us as it relates to negotiations that were underway by tweeting things out,” Mr. Corker said.

All but inviting his colleagues to join him in speaking out about the president, Mr. Corker said his concerns about Mr. Trump were shared by nearly every Senate Republican.

“Look, except for a few people, the vast majority of our caucus understands what we’re dealing with here,” he said, adding that “of course they understand the volatility that we’re dealing with and the tremendous amount of work that it takes by people around him to keep him in the middle of the road.”

As for the tweets that set off the feud on Sunday morning, Mr. Corker expressed a measure of powerlessness.

“I don’t know why the president tweets out things that are not true,” he said. “You know he does it, everyone knows he does it, but he does.”

The senator recalled four conversations this year, a mix of in-person meetings and phone calls, in which he said the president had encouraged him to run for re-election. Mr. Trump, he said, repeatedly indicated he wanted to come to Tennessee for an early rally on Mr. Corker’s behalf and even telephoned him last Monday to try to get him to reconsider his decision to retire.

“When I told him that that just wasn’t in the cards, he said, ‘You know, if you run, I’ll endorse you.’ I said, ‘Mr. President, it’s just not in the cards; I’ve already made a decision.’ So then we began talking about other candidates that were running.”

One of the most prominent establishment-aligned Republicans to develop a relationship with Mr. Trump, the senator said he did not regret standing with him during the campaign last year.

“I would compliment him on things that he did well, and I’d criticize things that were inappropriate,” he said. “So it’s been really the same all the way through.”

A former mayor of Chattanooga who became wealthy in construction, Mr. Corker, 65, has carved out a reputation over two terms in the Senate as a reliable, but not overly partisan, Republican.

While he opposed President Barack Obama’s divisive nuclear deal with Iran, he did not prevent it from coming to a vote on the Senate floor, which exposed him to fierce fire from conservatives, who blamed him for its passage.

Mr. Trump picked up on that theme hours after his initial tweets, writingthat “Bob Corker gave us the Iran Deal, & that’s about it. We need HealthCare, we need Tax Cuts/Reform, we need people that can get the job done!”

Mr. Corker was briefly a candidate to be Mr. Trump’s running mate in 2016, but he withdrew his name from consideration and later expressed ambivalence about Mr. Trump’s campaign, in part because he said he found it frustrating to discuss foreign policy with him.

To some extent, the rift between the two men had been building for months, as Mr. Corker repeatedly pointed out on Sunday to argue that his criticism was not merely that of a man liberated from facing the voters again.

After a report last week that Mr. Tillerson had once referred to Mr. Trump as a “moron,” Mr. Corker told reporters that Mr. Tillerson was one of three officials helping to “separate our country from chaos.” Those remarks were repeated on “Fox News Sunday,” which may have prompted Mr. Trump’s outburst.

In August, after Mr. Trump’s equivocal response to the deadly clashes in Charlottesville, Va., Mr. Corker told reporters that the president “has not yet been able to demonstrate the stability nor some of the competence that he needs to demonstrate in order to be successful.”

He said on Sunday that he had made all those comments deliberately, aiming them at “an audience of one, plus those people who are closely working around with him, what I would call the good guys.” He was referring to Mr. Tillerson, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and the White House chief of staff, John F. Kelly.

“As long as there are people like that around him who are able to talk him down when he gets spun up, you know, calm him down and continue to work with him before a decision gets made, I think we’ll be fine,” he said.

658COMMENTS

Mr. Corker would not directly answer when asked whether he thought Mr. Trump was fit for the presidency. But he did say that the commander in chief was not fully aware of the power of his office.

“I don’t think he appreciates that when the president of the United States speaks and says the things that he does, the impact that it has around the world, especially in the region that he’s addressing,” he said. “And so, yeah, it’s concerning to me.”

Related:

Corker hits back after Trump’s critical tweets — “It’s a shame the White House has become an adult day care center.”

October 8, 2017

Corker Stands by Comments About Trump Stability, Competence

October 1, 2017

Bloomberg

By Mark Niquette

Image result for bob corker, photos
  • Retiring U.S. senator makes statements in NBC interview
  • Republican says president fueling voter resentment in party

Republican Senator Bob Corker said he stands by his comments that Donald Trump hasn’t shown the stability or competency to succeed as president, and that Trump’s criticism of Republican congressional leaders is fueling resentment within the party.

Senator Corcker

Photographer: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call,Inc. via Getty Images

Corker, a former Trump ally who announced on Sept. 26 that he won’t seek re-election in 2018 as a Tennessee Senator, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press’’ on Sunday that Trump has made positive changes in the White House with new chief of staff John Kelly, responded well to hurricanes that hit Texas and Florida, and showed courage in changing his position on increasing troop levels in Afghanistan.

But Corker said he’s not backing off his critique of Trump following the president’s response to a violent white-supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

“The country needs for him to be — the world needs for him to be — successful,’’ Corker said, according to a transcript provided by NBC. “I’m seeing changes. But I made the comment. I stand by the comments I made at the time.’’

Corker also said the president “mocking the leadership on both sides of the aisle’’ in Congress fueled Republican resentment that helped Roy Moore defeat U.S. Senator Luther Strange – who was backed by both Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell — in a primary runoff election on Sept. 26.

“I hope that the election of the type of candidate that was elected there doesn’t say that much about the Republican Party,’’ Corker said of Moore, a former Alabama Supreme Court justice who was removed twice as chief justice for refusing to follow federal court rulings. “I think it’s more about the resentment that people have towards the fact that they don’t see Washington solving problems.”

Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, also had a warning about North Korea’s expanding nuclear program, saying the standoff with the U.S. is “moving to a place where we’re going to end up with a binary choice soon.’’

“There’s got to be a diplomatic breakthrough of some kind here,’’ Corker said. “I mean, while all this is happening, they’re getting stronger, and stronger and stronger and developing better and better technology.’’

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-10-01/corker-stands-by-comments-about-trump-stability-competence

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Image result for Bob Corker, photos

Sen. Bob Corker (R., Tenn.)

South China Sea: U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Says U.S. Has Not Been Able To Change China’s Plan, Maybe U.S. Needs To Revise Its Own Strategy

April 30, 2016

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By Victor Beattie

The United States has increasingly carried out whathave been called freedom of navigation exercises in the South China Sea.

This month, U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter visited a warship in the South China Sea in an effort to show America’s commitment to security in the area.

The exercises involve Navy ships and military aircraft. In a freedom of navigation operation, they are sent toareas where other countries have tried to restrict flightsor shipping. The aim is to demonstrate that theinternational community does not accept such restrictions.

The freedom of navigation operations have brought strong reactions fromChina.

Now, some U.S. lawmakers have called on the Obama Administration to carry out more operations close to artificial islands China is developing in the disputed waterway.

Bob Corker of Tennessee is the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He expressed his ideas on Wednesday.

He spoke before Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with the committee.

Testifying on US-China relations before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday, US Deputy Secretary of State Anthony Blinken called on all parties in the South China Sea – not just China – to resolve their disputes in a peaceful manner and with adherence to international law and standards. AP file photo

Corker said the freedom of navigation exercises have not slowed China’s land reclamation efforts in the South China Sea.

Neither the rhetoric nor the freedom of navigation operations have deterred or slowed down China’s land reclamation activities, including the stationing of military-related assets on these artificial islands.”

He said that China could take further actions if an international court rules against it in its maritime territorial dispute with the Philippines. And he warned such a ruling could place American interests at risk.

“But merely managing differences with China is not a successful formula,particularly when such management cedes U.S. influence and places American interests at risk in the Indo-Pacific and beyond.”

In his comments, Blinken said the number of freedom of navigation operationscarried out by the U.S. military has increased. He added that they willcontinue.

Recent news reports, notably in The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal, say China may be considering plans to develop other areas beyond the Spratly Islands

The reports say the U.S. Pacific Command has sent warplanes close to Scarborough Shoal, west of the Philippines. China is believed to have carried out survey work in that area. Those U.S. flights brought a sharp response from China.

China claims most of the South China Sea as its territory. However, the Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei have competing claims to different parts of the area.

Nanjing University security expert Zhu Feng said he could not rule out Chinese construction of a lighthouse or a maritime monitoring post on Scarborough Shoal. However, he said a large land reclamation would there would be out of the question. The Wall Street Journal reported his comments.

Victor Beattie reported this story for VOA News.

http://learningenglish.voanews.com/content/us-lawmaker-more-operations-south-china-sea/3307230.html

Related:

 (SCMP)

China’s missile destroyer CNS Harbin conducts live fire exercises during a joint naval drill with Russia in 2014. Credit Zha Chunming, China Daily

 (Contains links to several related articles)

 (Washington Post)

 (The Wall Street Journal)

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry Defends Iran Nuclear Deal To Angry U.S. Lawmakers

July 23, 2015

Reuters

By Patricia Zengerle and Doina Chiacu

John Kerry on 23 July 2015

John Kerry said the Vienna deal is only way to ensure Iran’s nuclear programme is “limited, rigorously scrutinised and wholly peaceful”

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry mounted a furious counterattack against critics of the Iran nuclear deal on Thursday, telling skeptical lawmakers that rejection of the accord would give Tehran “a great big green light” to swiftly accelerate its atomic program.

Testifying before Congress for the first time since Iran and world powers reached the deal last week, Kerry fought back against accusations by a senior Republican that America’s top diplomat was “fleeced” by Iranian negotiators in the final round of the Vienna talks.

He insisted that those who oppose the deal, which curbs Iran’s nuclear program in return for sanctions relief, are pushing an unrealistic alternative that he dismissed as a “sort of unicorn arrangement involving Iran’s complete capitulation.”

“The fact is that Iran now has extensive experience with nuclear fuel cycle technology,” Kerry told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “We can’t bomb that knowledge away. Nor can we sanction that knowledge away.”

Kerry said that if Congress turns thumbs down on the deal, “the result will be the United States of America walking away from every one of the restrictions we have achieved.”

US Secretary of State Kerry appears before Senate Foreign Relations Committee in Washington

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry appears before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in Washington July 23, 2015. REUTERS/Gary Cameron

“We will have squandered the best chance we have to solve this problem through peaceful means,” he said as Congress began a 60-day review of the deal to decide whether to support or reject it.

Opening the hearing, the committee’s Republican chairman, Bob Corker, offered scathing criticism of Kerry for the terms he secured in negotiating the deal. “Not unlike a hotel guest that leaves only with a hotel bathrobe on his back, I believe that you’ve been fleeced,” he said.

Corker chided Kerry and other administration officials for their line of argument that the only alternative to the Iran deal would be more war in the Middle East, saying that the real alternative would be a better deal.

U.S. Senator Ben Cardin, the top Democrat on the committee, said he has not yet decided how he would vote but said he felt U.S. negotiators had made significant progress.

“Our negotiators got an awful lot, particularly on the nuclear front,” Cardin said.

Under a bill President Barack Obama signed into law in May, Congress has until Sept. 17 to approve or reject the agreement.

Republicans control majorities in both houses of Congress. Many have come out strongly against the pact, which they say will empower Iran and threaten U.S. ally Israel.

Obama, who could gain a legacy boost from his diplomatic outreach to U.S. foe Iran, needs to convince as many of his fellow Democrats as possible to back the deal.

If a disapproval resolution passes Congress and survives a veto, Obama would be unable to waive most of the U.S. sanctions imposed on Iran, which could cripple the nuclear pact.

(Additional reporting by Idrees Ali and David Brunnstrom; Writing by Matt Spetalnick; Editing by James Dalgleish)
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John Kerry Defends Iran Nuclear Deal Before Skeptical Senate

The New York Times

WASHINGTON — Secretary of State John Kerry on Thursday told skeptical lawmakers on Capitol Hill that the recently negotiated accord with Iran is the only chance to curb Tehran’s nuclear ambitions, and that failure to enact the agreement would isolate the United States internationally.

“If the U.S., after laboriously negotiating this multilateral agreement with five other partners, were to walk away from those partners, we’re on our own” Mr. Kerry told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

A Congressional rejection of the accord, Mr. Kerry said, would amount to “a great big green light for Iran to double the pace of its uranium enrichment, proceed full speed ahead with a heavy water reactor, install new and more efficient centrifuges, and do it all without the unprecedented inspection and transparency measures that we have secured.”

Read the rest:

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/24/world/middleeast/john-kerry-defends-iran-nuclear-deal-before-skeptical-senate.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=first-column-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news&_r=0

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BBC News

US Secretary of State John Kerry has defended a nuclear deal with Iran, calling it the “only viable option” to a peaceful resolution of the issue.

He told the US Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee: “We set out to dismantle [Iran’s] ability to build a nuclear weapon and we achieved that.”

Mr Kerry is expected to face tough questions as Congress reviews the deal over the coming weeks.

Many Republicans say last week’s accord conceded too much to Iran.

Negotiations between Iran and six world powers – the US, UK, France, China, Russia and Germany – began in 2006.

The powers suspected Iran of pursuing a clandestine nuclear weapons programme, but Tehran has always insisted its nuclear ambitions are for peaceful purposes.

Scepticism

Mr Kerry told the committee hearing that the US administration came to the negotiating table with one clear objective – to address the issue of nuclear weapons.

He said that it was pointless to insist on dismantling Iran’s whole nuclear programme as it already had experience in nuclear technology and enough fissile material to build 10-12 nuclear bombs.

“The choice we face is between an agreement that will ensure Iran’s nuclear programme is limited, rigorously scrutinised and wholly peaceful – or no deal at all.”

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Could US Congress torpedo the deal?

  • Congress has 60 days to review the agreement
  • During that time, President Obama cannot lift the sanctions Congress has imposed on Iran
  • Congress can reject the deal, and keep the sanctions in place, but Mr Obama can veto that
  • It would need a two-thirds majority to overturn the veto, which is unlikely

A good deal, for now?

Iran: Now a business opportunity?

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As part of the deal reached earlier this month, Iran has agreed to rein in its nuclear activity and accept a mechanism for inspections by nuclear officials in return for the lifting of international sanctions.

Congress has until 17 September to make a decision on whether to approve or reject the deal.

Republicans have already said they would oppose it, and a number of Democrats have said they are undecided how to vote.

Thursday’s committee meeting gives Mr Kerry – along with Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew – the chance to make a case to lawmakers to pass the deal.

But the three cabinet officials are likely to encounter some tough questioning with committee members wanting more detail on the provision of inspections and lifting of sanctions.

Bob Corker, the Republican chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, opened the meeting by telling Mr Kerry that the deal simply prepared the ground for Iran to build a nuclear weapon.

“I believe you’ve been fleeced,” he told him.

Protesters rally against the nuclear deal with Iran in Times Square in New York on July 22, 2015.The deal with Iran has encountered plenty of opposition, from within Congress to the streets

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http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-33636922

Senators warn Kerry of ‘hard sell’ at home over Iran nuclear deal

July 12, 2015

Congress will have 60 days to review an agreement should one be reached in Vienna.

The Jerusalem Post

Vienna — Senate majority Leader Mitch McConnell is warning US Secretary of State John Kerry that approval of a nuclear agreement with Iran may be a “tough sell” on Capitol Hill.

Congress will have 60 days to review an agreement should one be reached within the next several hours here in Austria’s capital, as is expected. The State Department says that “major issues” remain unresolved after 16 straight days of negotiations, though Iranian and French officials say the process will conclude by Monday.

“It’s going to be a very hard sell, if it’s completed, in Congress,” McConnell (R-Kentucky) said. “I know there will be a strong pull not to go against the president on something as important as this is to him, but I hope there will be enough Democrats willing to look at this objectively.”

Congress does not have to formally approve the deal, as it is not considered a treaty. But the legislature has given itself the opportunity to vote to approve or disapprove of the deal through the resolution process.

If passed, a resolution of disapproval would be vetoed by the US President Barack Obama. But a second vote, with two-thirds support against the president’s effort, would have serious consequences on its fate.

“At the end of the day I think people understand that if this is a bad deal, that is going to allow Iran to get a nuclear weapon, they would own this deal if they voted for it, and so they’ll want to disapprove it,” said Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Bob Corker (R-Tennessee), who authored the bill granting Congress a vote. “On the other hand, if we feel like we’re better off with it, people will look to approve it.”

Corker’s bill, the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015, earned 98 votes in the Senate and 400 in the House of Representatives.

Senator Robert Menendez (D-New Jersey), one of the most prominent Democratic critics of the deal and former chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, said that the deal compromises Washington’s long-term deterrence with Tehran.

“Because in 12 to 13 years,” he explained, “we will be exactly back to where we are today except that Iran will have $100 (billion) to $150 billion more in its pocket and promoting terrorism throughout the Middle East.”

In the House, Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Ed Royce (R-California) said last week that the prospect of lifting of a United Nations arms embargo on Iran, as part of the nuclear deal, “caught us by surprise.”

The committee’s ranking member, Eliot Engel (D-New York), expressed concern that there are no obvious alternatives to executing the agreement. But he said he could not assess the dealing without first seeing a complete version of it.

Israel says the deal greatly compromises its security, and its survival as a state in the long-term.

An interim nuclear agreement freezing the crisis, known as the Joint Plan of Action, is set to expire on July 13.

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