Only Congress can authorize military action: A stronger response against ISIS may be necessary, but Obama must seek approval

The United States’ airstrike campaign against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria is prompting some members of Congress from both parties to push for authorization for any further military action that President Barack Obama wants to take.

The situation is not unlike the push in the House of Representatives in August 2013 to put pressure on President Obama to seek congressional authorization against Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria. Rep. Scott Rigell (R-VA) and Rep. Barbara Lee (D-VA) penned separate letters to the White House, signed by more than 170 colleagues, in which they encouraged the administration to come to Congress, as the Constitution requires.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) recently told the Associated Press that, in light of the current situation in Iraq, he wants to “destroy ISIS militarily,” but said that such a campaign would need to be approved by Congress. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) has also said that President Obama must ask Congress for further action against ISIS, something that has gotten under the skin of his Democratic colleagues.

Get ready for a showdown over free speech: Harry Reid will push partial repeal of the First Amendment next week

When the Senate returns to Washington next week, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) is expected to bring up S.J. Res. 19, a constitutional amendment proposed by Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) that would effectively repeal political speech protections in the First Amendment.

Reid filed a motion to proceed on the constitutional amendment on August 1, just before the chamber adjourned for its summer recess. Although the original text of the amendment gave Congress the sole power to regulate political speech, including campaign finance regulations, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved the measure with substitute language to allow states to implement their own rules and regulations, in addition to those passed by Congress.

The measure, however, is an attempt to diminish the influence of issue-focused nonprofit organizations and political action committees, which, Senate Democrats say, are often funded by corporate interests. Section 2 of the amendment would allow Congress and state legislatures to prohibit “corporations or other artificial entities created by law…from spending money to influence elections.”

HealthCare.gov CEO: This enrollment period is going to be even more complicated

Things are running far from smoothly at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ headquarters.

According to The Hill, HealthCare.gov’s newly appointed CEO admitted concern when talking about the many challenges the agency will have to face once the enrollment period rolls in.

The former head of Connecticut’s state exchange Kevin Counihan believes the shorter sign-up period, among other issues, will certainly add more anxiety to the enrollment process, creating headaches for government officials and distress to consumers.

It’s not enough to know technical flaws have been linked to one of the most disastrous government-run program launches in history. It’s also not enough to know that the failure is undoubtedly associated with the Obama administration’s faulty managerial skills; now, we are faced with yet another uncomfortable reality, government officials never learn the lesson.

While reporting the exchange website has indeed gone under extensive repairs since the last botched attempt to provide a health care plan marketplace for consumers, The Hill also highlighted Counihan’s remarks regarding his HealthCare.gov concerns:

“In some respects, it’s going to be more complicated. Part of me thinks that this year is going to make last year look like the good old days.”

No, members of Congress don’t need or deserve more compensation

Back in April, Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA) complained that he and his colleagues on Capitol Hill are underpaid, lamenting that many members of Congress “can’t even afford to live decently when they’re at their job in Washington” on their $174,000 annual salary.

Moran, who is retiring at the end of the current term, cited the fact that many of his colleagues live in their offices as part of his reasoning. This is sort of a misleading point since many members do this for reasons that don’t include financial necessity. Still, the Virginia Democrat, who represents a district literally across the river from Washington, said that members need more compensation, and floated the idea of a per diem allowance.

Well, the Taxpayer Protection Alliance and Our Generation released a report last week on congressional compensation that blows Moran’s arguments completely out of the water. As it turns out, members of Congress do pretty well for themselves, all things considered.

The report finds that members of Congress are paid a three times more than the average American worker, with total compensation coming out to “around $286,000 per year.” The average American worker earns a little more than $55,000 each year.

Vulnerable Senate Democrat who once complained about Washington’s addiction to spending has failed to live up to her rhetoric

Kay Hagan made out of control federal spending and the surge in the national debt an issue during her successful 2008 campaign for U.S. Senate against then-Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R-NC).

“You only need to look at what kind of state senator I’ve been for the last ten years to see what kind of U.S. senator I’ll be,” said Hagan in a 2008 campaign speech, a clip of which was made available on the NRSC Rapid Response YouTube channel. “While Washington spends itself into a hole and mortgages the future for our children and our grandchildren, I’ve produced five balanced budgets,” she adds before the clip cuts away.

The criticism was valid. Dole had largely toed the party line on spending, approving much of then-President George W. Bush’s domestic and foreign policy agenda in her first and only term in the upper chamber.

Here’s your shock story of the day: ISIS fighter killed in Syria worked at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport

Since the disclosures last summer about the National Security Agency’s broad surveillance apparatus, Americans have been endlessly told that federal intelligence and law enforcement agencies need vast and wide-reaching abilities to monitor domestic and foreign terror threats.

Despite claims that these domestic surveillance programs, including the controversial bulk phone metadata collection program, have prevented acts of terrorism, there isn’t much, if any, evidence that backs that up.

In its December report on the NSA programs, the White House Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technology, for example, noted that bulk metadata program “was not essential to preventing attacks.” A separate report, published by the New American Foundation, explained that the most controversial NSA program had “no discernible impact” in preventing terrorist attacks.

Now, there’s a story from a Fox affiliate in Minnesota about an American supporter of ISIS, one who was killed last week in Syria while fighting for the Islamic militant organization, who worked at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and had access to airplanes:

Microsoft to the Obama administration: No, you can’t have access to users’ emails stored on servers overseas

A federal judge has ruled that Microsoft must turn over emails stored on a server in Ireland, but the software giant, in the face of a contempt charge, is so far refusing to comply with the order, according to Windows IT Pro, because it infringes on the sovereignty of a foreign country:

Judge Loretta Preska, the chief of the US District Court in Manhattan ruled on July 31 that Microsoft was required to hand over email messages stored in an Ireland data center to US prosecutors investigating a criminal case. But she suspended the order temporarily amid complaints from international companies—and tech companies in the US—that argued that allowing US authorities to search and seize data held internationally was illegal.

On Friday, however, she lifted that suspension after prosecutors successfully convinced her that her order was not appealable. The removal of the suspension legally requires Microsoft to hand over the email immediately.
[…]
In the view of Microsoft and many legal experts, federal authorities have no jurisdiction over data stored outside the country. It says that the court order violates Ireland’s sovereignty and that prosecutors need to seek a legal treaty with Ireland in order to obtain the data they want.

Lois Lerner didn’t really care about Big Labor’s political expenditures, probably because Democrats were the beneficiaries

It’s a well-established fact that Lois Lerner had it out for conservative organizations. Under her leadership, the Internal Revenue Service’s tax-exempt division went out of its way to scrutinize right-leaning groups who were merely seeking to engage in the policy and political discussion. She even tried to coordinate with the Justice Department to prosecute tax-exempt groups that she believed were engaging in political activity. She

But when a complaint was filed in 2007 over the political expenditures of labor unions, Lerner, who called conservative activists “terrorists” and “assholes,” didn’t really seem to care about scrutiny, according to a report from The Daily Caller, despite discrepancies between IRS and Labor Department filings:

Lerner wrote, “We looked at the information you provided regarding organizations that report substantial amounts of political activity and lobbying expenditures on the DOL Form LM-2, but report little to no political expenditures on the Form 990 filed with the IRS.”

Eric Cantor is rewarded by Wall Street cronies: Ex-House leader lands a cushy new job at an investment bank

Don’t you shed a tear for Eric Cantor. The recently defeated and now retired ex-House Majority Leader has, as predicted, landed what sounds like a pretty sweet gig working for Moelis & Company, a Wall Street investment firm:

“Eric has proven himself to be a pro-business advocate and one who will enhance our boardroom discussions with CEOs and senior management as we help them navigate their most important strategic decisions,” the firm’s founder, Ken Moelis said in a statement.

Cantor is signing on with the boutique investment bank as a vice chairman and managing director, the company said. He will also be elected to its board of directors. The firm said Cantor will “provide strategic counsel to the firm’s corporate and institutional clients on key issues. He will play a leading role in client development and advise clients on strategic matters.”

A third way on foreign policy: U.S. needs to be cautious about the prospects of military intervention

Libertarians, generally by definition non-interventionists, have found themselves in a bit of a quandary of late as the debate about ISIS — and how much of a REAL threat it poses to the United States — ramps up and gets the national security wonk tongues wagging. For many libertarians, the debate hinges less on protecting U.S. interests abroad, but in protecting hearth and home. In other words, non-interventionism ends the minute the enemy is at the gate. And since no one seems to know exactly how powerful ISIS is in their ability to cross the ocean, it’s been a fascinating debate to watch.

It’s a mistake to assume libertarians are anti-interventionist because they are afraid of a fight. Many, in fact, are by nature brave enough to stand outside current accepted thoughts and practices — often alone and screaming into the wind. Their preference for staying out of world conflict is born of economic pragmatism and a belief in individual and national self-determinism more than anything else.

So what do they do with an increasingly belligerent world and an enemy that threatened (even though that threat turned out to be hollow. This time.) to raise a flag over the seat of governing power in this country?

In other words, is there, as T. Becket Adams proposes in a recent piece for the Washington Examiner, a “third way”?:

 


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