For 15 years, Senator Carl Levin has taught Americans how our tax system really works. Hearings by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (PSI), which he heads, have exposed modern accounting alchemy that turns the black ink of domestic profits into the red ink of tax-deductible expenses. Levin has shown how profits can be shipped tax-free to the Cayman Islands and, amazingly, how Apple figured out that profits booked in Ireland could be hidden from tax authorities of both Ireland and the United States in a cloak of invisibility. He exposed tax favors that were supposed to create jobs but ended up destroying them. He made Swiss bankers who solicited tax evasion on American soil squirm, destroying their claims that criminal conduct was the work of rogue bankers.
Congress’ abomination of a defense spending bill is all about pleasing weapons manufacturers and diverting funds to useless projects. Who says Democrats and Republicans can’t get along? This week president Obama signed a massive one-stop bill (a.k.a “Cromnibus”) that will keep the government funded until the end of the fiscal year. Among other things, the bill appropriates $1.1 trillion in funding—including over $550 billion for the Department of Defense.
In a rare show of defiance of the National Rifle Association, the Senate on Monday confirmed Dr. Vivek Murthy to serve as surgeon general of the United States. Murthy's nomination had been stalled for nearly a year due to comments he made in support of stricter gun laws. Murthy is a Harvard- and Yale-educated physician, and has identified obesity and chronic disease as areas of focus for his tenure. He will be the first Indian American to hold the position. The Senate voted, 51-43, to confirm Murthy for the nation's top public health post, which has been vacant since July 2013.
President Obama nominated Vivek Murthy to be U.S. surgeon general on November 13, 2013. The Senate health committee signed off on him in February. On Monday, one year, one month, and two days after his selection, the Senate voted to confirm him to a post that had been vacant since July. Like so many of Obama's nominees, Murthy had fallen into a political vortex, subject to an opposition campaign by the NRA over his support for gun-control policies that are far from central to the job informally known as the nation's top doctor. But the absence of a surgeon general had become more conspicuous in recent months, as the Obama administration confronted an Ebola epidemic in West Africa that nearly sparked a public panic when it briefly reached U.S. shores.
The House Republican who could end up undoing a District of Columbia voter referendum to legalize marijuana has a blunt message for residents of the capital city: If you don’t like it, move out. “That’s the way the Constitution was written,” Rep. Andy Harris of Maryland said in an interview Wednesday. “If they don’t like that oversight, move outside of the federal district to one of the 50 states that is not covered by the jurisdiction of Congress as a whole.”
A handful of D.C. officials and activists began a longshot bid Wednesday to turn the tide in Congress , launching a sit-in on Capitol Hill over a federal budget deal poised to upend the city’s voter-approved measure to legalize marijuana. “This isn’t about marijuana, this isn’t about drug policy, this is about local democracy,” said Kimberly Perry, president of D.C. Vote, a group dedicated to full voting representation for the nation’s capital in Congress.
Republican senators are set to meet today to figure out one of those big things they need to figure out before the next Congress: whether to undo the “nuclear option” on executive and judicial nominations. This was procedural maneuver that majority leader Harry Reid made, finally, about a year ago, eliminating the 60-vote threshold to invoke cloture on judicial and executive branch nominations (except for Supreme Court justices). Reid triggered the move after years of Republicans filibustering more or less every nominee of any import for no reason other than to irritate Democrats and gum up the work of agencies and benches that Republicans do not care for. It was a much-needed modernization of the chamber’s rules in a polarized age.
Assuming Democrats and Republicans agree on a bill to fund the government by Thursday, House Speaker John Boehner has told his members that they will recess after that. Despite Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s annual threats to keep the upper chamber in session through the holidays, the Senate is scheduled to do the same. But it shouldn’t. Instead, Reid should keep the Senate in session until Republicans take over next year in order to confirm as many executive branch and judicial nominees as possible.
With the government set to shut down in a week, Nancy Pelosi is flexing her muscles. In a closed Democratic whip meeting Thursday morning, the House minority leader warned Democrats not to rush to support the Republican efforts to fund the government until they see what’s in the bill.
Elsewhere on this site, Eric Posner argues that conservatives should celebrate President Obama’s immigration actions because they “may modify political norms that control what the president can do.” The idea, which will be familiar to everyone following the contretemps surrounding Obama’s immigration policy, is that Republicans will eventually be able to marshall the same powers Obama is asserting to more conservative ends.
U.S. President Barack Obama shrugged off criticism of his executive action on immigration with a challenge to House of Representatives Republicans: if you don't like it, do something. Obama was asked in an interview broadcast on Sunday about House Speaker John Boehner's assertion that he was acting like an emperor in using executive powers to tackle the issue of the 11 million immigrants living in America without documents. "Well, my response is pass a bill," Obama said in the interview with ABC's "This Week" taped on Friday. "Congress has a responsibility to deal with these issues and there are some things that I can’t do on my own."
Across America, middle-class families are wondering how they'll send their kids to college, pay their mortgages and still manage to save enough for retirement. Women across America face an uphill climb in the workplace, as they continue to earn less than men. We still sit in traffic on congested roads built decades ago, and then drive on run-down roads and crumbling bridges. These are among the problems our elected leaders are expected to address. These are the issues voters want us to focus on.
The U.S. House of Representatives approved President Barack Obama's plan on Wednesday to train and arm moderate Syrian rebels, but questions remain over whether it will give them the advanced weapons they say they need to defeat Islamic State militants. The House voted 273-to-156 to authorize the plan, a test of support for Obama's stepped-up campaign to "degrade and destroy" Islamic State fighters who have seized a third of both Iraq and Syria, declared war on the West and seek to establish a caliphate in the heart of the Middle East. Written as an amendment to a stopgap spending bill, the measure does not include any money to pay for the arms and training. It passed with support from Democrats and Republicans, but also significant opposition from members of both parties.
Congress seems to be on track to authorize President Obama to address the situation in the Middle East. Strikingly enough, however, it is authorization for one small part of it—to provide arms to Syrian rebels. Currently, U.S. law prevents the president from transferring weapons to rebel groups, and Obama wants an exception for Syria.
A specialized sort of barometric collapse hit Washington, D.C., last night: a sudden knowledge that the capital’s stocks of Merlot and unfiltered cigarettes had been depleted, and Speaker John Boehner was turning surly. And the target of his abuse, yet again, were the very specimens over whom he attempts to leverage power: the House Republicans conference. Boehner, speaking to the International Franchise Association (read: people who don’t want to pay their fast-food workers more), described the House majority over which he lords as a “paper majority,” and then went on to label a dissident faction within his conference as “knuckleheads.” “On any given day, 16 of my members decide they’re going to go this way, and all the sudden I have nothing,” he said.
President Barack Obama is open to conducting airstrikes in Syria to combat the ISIS terror group, U.S. officials say. But it's unclear whether he will announce any such plan when he addresses the nation in a televised speech Wednesday night. The President has already asked Congress for the authority to arm and train moderate Syrian rebels to fight ISIS, administration and congressional sources told CNN. Obama is seeking the authority under Title 10 of U.S. Code, which deals with military powers. His request was sent soon after he met with Congressional leadership Tuesday night.
Former vice-president Dick Cheney met behind closed doors with Republican members of Congress on Tuesday to urge them to adopt a more muscular military posture in the Middle East. The private meeting came as leading Republican hawks are clamouring for a ramped-up confrontation with the Islamic State (Isis) militant group, with some openly discussing the redeployment of ground troops in Iraq. Cheney did not address the specifics of any military involvement in the Middle East, according to several people present at the meeting, which took place in the Capitol Hill Club and was open to all House Republicans.
The former vice president tries to sell reluctant House Republicans on “comprehensive” action against ISIS by blaming the president, of course. Dick Cheney spoke to House Republicans on Tuesday about the need for military action in Iraq. With President Obama poised to give a major speech on Wednesday about military action against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, Cheney spoke to the assembled Republican congressmen about the situation in the Middle East at their weekly caucus meeting. And while the GOP has been fiercely divided over foreign policy in recent years, Cheney didn’t wade into that debate, instead opting to pillory Obama in front of an audience giving him “rapt attention.”
Americans are rightly angry that Burger King plans to use its merger with the Canadian doughnut and coffee chain Tim Hortons to claim Canadian citizenship, probably as a way to avoid paying U.S. taxes -- which the burger chain denies. But Burger King is the latest company to undergo an inversion, which happens when an American company uses a merger to reincorporate as a foreign one. Some have suggested boycotting the fast food chain, while others have directed their anger toward the billionaire investor Warren Buffett, whose company Berkshire Hathaway is partly financing the deal.
Majority Leader Eric Cantor gave his farewell address Thursday as the No. 2 most-powerful Republican on the House side of Capitol Hill. In remarks filled with gratitude and touches of humility, the Republican who was shockingly turned out of office by Virginia voters in a June 10 primary thanked his colleagues and staff. He also sent good wishes to Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California, his close friend, who inherits a big to-do list when Congress returns from its August recess.