Editorial February 12, 2016

TheWeekinCongress.com

Editorial

There was an interesting, little publicized hearing of the House Financial Services Committee (FSC) aiming to bring to light recently subpoenaed documents revealing that when the House and the Administration were locked in combat over raising the debt limit the Administration knew it could prioritize payments to pay interest and so avoid a reduction in the US credit rating but didn’t tell anyone.

Since the video of the hearing was removed from the FSC website we have to rely on the written summary put out by the Committee which really should be ashamed of itself, not only for robbing taxpayers of the two hour and forty five minute video to decide for themselves but for actually suggesting in its written summary of that video that the President is somehow responsible for the recent government shutdown and the growing public debt. Note to Congress; the President spends the money but you appropriate it. If you don’t give any president the money to implement the programs a majority of Americans voted him to implement would you not expect a push back?

What actually happened back then tells a more realistic story; the President was presented with a budget that included sequester cuts so deep and a spending level so low it looked very dangerous to government and private stakeholders. The economics of the budget and the insistence that some things like repeal of Obamacare and extreme cuts to welfare spending were not negotiable presented the Administration with provisions that it could not accept but must accept or face a government shutdown. This would tend to require some negotiations but the austere budget supporters were not open to them.  It was take it or leave it.

What the hearing brought to light is that while the Administration was gearing up the negotiations, Treasury ordered the Fed to not reveal some of the contingency plans it was developing should the debt limit be reached. So Committee members are complaining that despite pushing the Administration to a negotiating point the negotiations that followed were too close to the chest.

In the back and forth the Administration emphasized that not raising the debt limit would result in welfare, veteran, Social Security beneficiaries, and many others not receiving checks. It was right, of course, but those problems could have been delayed maybe a month or two without a credit meltdown. The idea of Treasury just paying interest would have preserved the US credit rating that eventually was lowered by Standard & Poor is not such a stretch but that was not the point of the hearing. The point of the hearing seems to be to conclude that facing a debt limit breach the Treasury is capable of protecting the US credit rating by only paying interest on our debts and that the President could have done that but rather tried to rally support from taxpayers.

Here’s why that hearing was nonsense; you don’t back someone into the corner to negotiate and then complain that they are negotiating; you really have left out an important point, that paying just interest to avoid default cannot go on forever and eventually those veteran, food, and Social Security checks would stop being mailed; and the government was shutdown costing the economy $29 billion and required back pay to government employees who were furloughed.

With the November elections coming Republicans very much need to consolidate their resources on the Hill and put out a uniform plan. They also have to own up to the sins of the past of which the government shutdown is one. If this hearing is any indication there won’t be any owning up, just blame it on the President.

The Report to Congress on Fighting ISIS

The pdf below is a Congressional Research Service report. Such CRS reports, while available to the general public, must be requested from and provided by a Member of Congress. They explore in depth the details of the subject matter.

“The President provided Congress a new authorization proposal in February 2015 and has recently called on Congress to enact a new authorization for the use of military force targeting the Islamic State. The Obama Administration’s official position on presidential authority to use force against the Islamic State, however, has remained constant, relying on the 2001 and 2002 authorizations.”

This report reviews the issues, current, and previous proposals for the authorization for the use of military force (AUMF).

R43760

Free Syrian Army adviser: IS cannot be eliminated without us

“Numerous formations and armed factions in northern and southern Syria now operate under FSA’s umbrella, which espouses a national rhetoric and first raised the revolutionary flag with three stars. The FSA is currently fighting on two major fronts: against Assad and his allies, and against the Islamic State. On Jan. 10 via Skype, Al-Monitor interviewed Osama Abu Zeid, the FSA’s legal adviser, who discussed the army’s current situation, relations with the United States and Russia and views on Syria’s future.” Al Monitor

What are the real goals behind local truces in Syria?

Several successful cease-fire truces have been reached in different parts of Syria between the Ministry of National Reconciliation on the one hand and UN delegations and native dignitaries on the other. The regime calls these truces “national reconciliations,” but many observers wonder if perhaps the agreements just stem from the regime’s desire to herd opposition brigades into Idlib in northwestern Syria. Al Monitor.


 Quotes on the Issues

ISIS

NID Clapper: ISIS Most Significant Threat to US

‘The “most significant” threat to the United States and its allies from a non-state actor remains the Islamic State, the U.S. National Intelligence director told the Senate Armed Services Committee Tuesday, citing its continued successful recruitment of foreign fighters and establishment of affiliates in places such as Libya.’ John GradyUS Naval Institute (Video and text)

*****

ISIS Sympathizer Arrested in California

‘(CNN) — The Joint Terrorism Task Force in Seattle arrested Daniel Seth Franey during a raid at his home in Montesano, Washington, on Saturday and charged him with unlawful possession of guns, including machine guns.’  ‘…a witness went to police to alert them Franey “regularly talked about his support for ISIL and claimed he wanted to go oversees to ‘join the fight,'” according to the criminal complaint filed in federal court. CNN report on Q13FOX (Video and text)

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IRAN

Heritage Foundation Hears of Iran Concerns

“As a number of congressional panels review the nuclear accord with Iran this week, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee said Tehran remains “a threshold nuclear power” and even some Democrats who supported the deal are having “buyers’ remorse.”” John Grady US Naval Institute (Video and text)

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Intel Chief Brennan- Iran’s Financial Windfall is Not Going to Terror-Yet.

“Critics of the nuclear deal with Iran, which traded expansive sanctions relief in exchange for harsh restrictions on the country’s nuclear program, often argue that the money made available to the Middle Eastern nation will go to fund terror.

“At least so far, Brennan said, that’s not the case. Most of the money, he said, was going towards…paying off debts and making investments in the oil industry, he said. The amount that has flowed to the Quds Force – the overseas arm of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard – has “not been very much.” – Elias  Groll, Foreign Policy Magazine

SYRIA

Russia Helping ISIS?

“Officially, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government and his Russian allies are at war against the Islamic State. But a gas facility in northern Syria under the control of the jihadi group is evidence that business links between the Syrian regime and the Islamic State persist. According to Turkish officials and Syrian rebels, it is also the site of cooperation between the Islamic State and a Russian energy company with ties to President Vladimir Putin.” Foreign Policy – Ceren Kenar and Ragip Soylu

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Is Russia Aiding US Fight Against ISIS

“…this is a more complex picture of what many in the mainstream media may be reporting about Russia’s intervention in Syria.”

“”White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Feb. 4 that a recent US intelligence assessment showed a drop in numbers of those fighting on behalf of the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq from 31,500 to 25,000, a sign that the Obama administration’s strategy is working, as many of these foreign fighters seek a new base in Libya and elsewhere.”” Al Monitor

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Magic Mondays

House Stories

Congressmen Wearing Hats

British traveler Henry B. Fearon cast a critical gaze from the House Gallery across the frothy sea of nearly 200 Representatives of the 15th Congress (1817–1819). Fearon had just endured a languid Senate session in which “apathy and complete lifeless endurance” greeted the endless speechmaking. Though he judged the House’s inhabitants comparatively lacking in “age, experience, dignity, and respectability,” Fearon nevertheless journaled a scene that churned and pulsed with legislative bustle. “Spitting boxes are placed at the feet of each member, and, contrary to the practices of the [Senate],” Fearon observed in 1818, almost parenthetically, “at once members and visitors wear their hats.”

Of all the sights, sounds, and mannerisms of the U.S. Congress, hat-wearing legislators seemed the least exotic to an Englishman. Like so much of the American legislative tradition, donning hats on the House Floor harkened to an ancient practice in the House of Commons, where members wore hats to express their independence from the Crown. More…