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House reactions to Obama’s IS use-of-force plan

President Obama’s proposal for a new authorization for use of military force against the so-called Islamic State already is creating a stir in Congress, with some saying it goes too far and others saying it doesn’t go far enough.

From House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco:

Nancy Pelosi“As our nation confronts the ISIS threat, the President has worked diligently to engage Congress in determining the U.S. strategy to degrade and destroy these brutal terrorists. A key part of Congress’ responsibility is to debate and pass a new and narrowly-tailored Authorization for the Use of Military Force.

“Today, the President has submitted a serious and thoughtful draft for a new AUMF, one which ends the outdated 2002 AUMF that authorized the Iraq war, restricts the use of ground troops, and includes other important limiting provisions going forward.

“Congress should act judiciously and promptly to craft and pass an AUMF narrowly-tailored to the war against ISIS. I look forward to constructive bipartisan debate on this matter immediately.”

From House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield:

Kevin McCarthy“Radical Islamist terrorists, such as ISIL, pose a grave and growing threat to the United States. The number of terrorist groups and the volume of fighters have all dramatically increased in recent years.

“I have been supportive of efforts to give the Commander-in-Chief additional authorities to confront these growing challenges, but rather than expanding his legal authority to go after ISIL, the President seems determined to ask Congress to further restrict the authority of the U.S. military to confront this threat.

“The Speaker and I told the President we’d consider his request. I am prepared to support an Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) that provides new legal authorities to go after ISIL and other terrorist groups. However, I will not support efforts that impose undue restrictions on the U.S. military and make it harder to win.

“Congress will be conducting hearings to review both the President’s strategy to combat radical Islamist terrorists and the legal authorities that might be required to implement an effective and sufficiently robust strategy. At the end of this process, I hope Congress and the Administration can be united on how best to respond to the increasingly complex and dangerous challenge we face.”

More, after the jump…
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Barbara Lee blasts ‘demagoguing’ on NYPD slayings

Those blaming President Obama, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio or protesters for the shooting deaths of two New York City police officers Saturday are “demagoguing the issues” and doing the nation a disservice, Rep. Barbara Lee said Tuesday.

Barbara Lee (Dec-2010)“As someone who supports nonviolence and gun safety and gun control and peaceful resolutions in Congress, I don’t think there’s any way any of us in the protest movement, in the progressive movement, would condone that” kind of violence, said Lee, D-Oakland, whose own East Bay district has seen clashes between protesters and police in recent weeks.

Everyone should mourn for victims of violence including the slain officers, she said, but protesters should continue calling attention to instances of misconduct.

As with changes that followed the civil rights movement, she said, “it’s not going to come from within, it’s not going to come from (former New York Mayor Rudy) Giuliani and all the powers that be that believe all is well in America. It’s going to come from the people who see the injustice.”

Lee made the comments during a telephone interview in which she laid out her legislative priorities for 2015, which might be summed up as “Back to the Future.”

First and foremost Lee hopes to get Congress to “do our job” and vote on setting parameters for U.S. military involvement in the fight against the so-called Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. The old, post- 9/11 authorization to use military force – which she famously was the only House member to oppose – should be repealed and replaced with something more focused and timely, she said.

“We all know that ISIS poses a threat and we must address it, but we’ve got to do it in a way that doesn’t create more danger, hostility and anger,” she said.

Asked about a German human-rights group filing war-crime complaints last week against former President George W. Bush, former Vice President Dick Cheney and others based on recent reports about the CIA torture program, Lee replied, “I think the international community should deal with it in the way they see fit. … I’m sure people abroad are saying, ‘Wait a minute, the United States must comply with international law.’”

Lee said she’ll redouble her efforts next year to create “pathways out of poverty” and reduce income inequality, reintroducing bills she has carried in past sessions including a plan to halve U.S. poverty in a decade. She authored similar bills in 2011 and 2013.

“We’ve got to help people into the middle class,” she said. “We’ve got to eliminate poverty in the richest country in the world.”

She said she’ll also work to maintain funding for the nation’s HIV/AIDS programs – “We can’t forget that the global and domestic pandemic is still upon us” – and reintroduce her bill from July to create a tax credit for people who are in-home caregivers for their own family members. “I think I’ll get bipartisan support for that.”

She also expects some help from across the aisle in trying to lift the U.S. embargo against Cuba, now that the Obama administration has announced plans to start normalizing relations. She was returning home from her 21st trip to Cuba when that announcement came last week, part of a group of House members and other delegates who went to study that nation’s public-health system.

“I take people down there, particularly members of Congress, so they can make their own decisions … They should be able to see the realities of Cuba,” Lee said, adding she knows many Republicans will see the wisdom in lifting the 50-year old embargo. “I’ve been working on this since ’77 and never gave up home, so I’m not going to give up hope now.”

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Lawmakers urge Obama to consult them on Iraq

Rep. Barbara Lee and a Virginia Republican have lead 78 other House members in urging President Obama to seek Congressional approval before taking any military action in Iraq.

Barbara Lee (Dec-2010)Lee, D-Oakland, and Rep. Scott Rigell, R-Va., last summer led independent letters calling on Obama to consult Congress before taking military action in Syria. Now they’ve joined together on a letter sent to the president Thursday.

“We do not believe intervention could be either quick or easy,” they wrote. “And we doubt it would be effective in meeting either humanitarian or strategic goals, and that it could very well be counter-productive.”

The lawmakers called for a political settlement involving all segments of the Iraqi population.

“As you consider options for U.S. intervention, we write to urge respect for the constitutional requirements for using force abroad,” they wrote. “The Constitution vests in Congress the power and responsibility to authorize offensive military action abroad. The use of military force in Iraq is something the Congress should fully debate and authorize.”

Besides Rigell, other Republicans signing the letter included Chris Gibson, R-N.Y.; John Duncan Jr., R-Tenn.; Walter Jones, R-N.C.; Reid Ribble, R-Wisc.; Justin Amash, R-Mich.; Matt Salmon, R-Ariz.;

Besides Lee, other Bay Area members signing the letter included Mike Honda, D-San Jose; Sam Farr, D-Santa Cruz; Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose; Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto; Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo; George Miller, D-Martinez; and Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael.

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Lawmakers demand Obama consult them on Syria

Three Northern California House Democrats have signed onto a bipartisan letter urging President Obama to seek Congressional authorization for any military strike against Syria.

Reps. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose; Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto; and Sam Farr, D-Santa Cruz, are among 18 Democrats and 98 Republicans who’ve signed onto the letter drafted and circulated by Rep. Scott Rigell, R-Va.

“While the Founders wisely gave the Office of the President the authority to act in emergencies, they foresaw the need to ensure public debate – and the active engagement of Congress – prior to committing U.S. military assets,” the letter says. “Engaging our military in Syria when no direct threat to the United States exists and without prior congressional authorization would violate the separation of powers that is clearly delineated in the Constitution.”

Other California members who’ve signed Rigell’s letter include Tom McClintock, R-Granite Bay; Doug LaMalfa, R-Oroville; and John Campbell, R-Irvine.

Rep. John Garamendi, D-Fairfield, and Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., sent their own letter to the president today urging that he consult Congress.

And House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, sent a letter to Obama today urging the president to “personally make the case to the American people and Congress for how potential military action will secure American national security interests, preserve America’s credibility, deter the future use of chemical weapons, and, critically, be a part of our broader policy and strategy.”

UPDATE @ 11:54 A.M. THURSDAY: More Bay Area House members have signed onto Rep. Barbara Lee’s similar letter.

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Lee says drone memo should drive Congress to act

The Obama Administration’s newly revealed legal rationale for using drones to kill U.S. citizens involved in anti-American terrorism should help convince Congress to repeal the broad use-of-force authorization it in 2001, Rep. Barbara Lee said today.

Lee, D-Oakland, was the lone vote against that authorization on Sept. 14, 2001.

“We must be careful not to embark on an open-ended war with neither an exit strategy nor a focused target,” she said that day, later calling the authorization “a blank check to the president to attack anyone involved in the Sept. 11 events – anywhere, in any country, without regard to our nation’s long-term foreign policy, economic and national security interests, and without time limit. In granting these overly broad powers, the Congress failed its responsibility to understand the dimensions of its declaration.”

Barbara Lee (Dec-2010)Lee has been trying to get Congress to repeal the authorization ever since, and believes it’s the basis for policies such as those allowing drone strikes against U.S. citizens. She said Wednesday she was happy to hear President Obama affirm in his Jan. 21 inauguration speech that “a decade of war is now ending” and “we, the people, still believe that enduring security and lasting peace do not require perpetual war.”

But to end perpetual war, “one of the steps that has to be taken is repealing that terrible resolution … an overly broad blank check that has been used over and over and over again to keep us in a state of perpetual war,” Lee said. “I’m going to fight until we get it done.”

She said she’s seeking co-signers on a letter asking the administration for a more specific explanation of its legal justifications for the drone strikes. Getting more information means raising awareness, Lee said, and that can lead to more support from both sides of the aisle.

Lee’s H.R. 198 says the September 2001 authorization of military force “has been used to justify a broad and open-ended authorization for the use of military force and such an interpretation is inconsistent with the authority of Congress to declare war and make all laws for executing powers vested by the Constitution in the Government of the United States.” It would repeal the authorization effective 180 days after the bill’s enactment.

Introduced Jan. 4, the bill has five cosponsors: John Conyers, D-Mich.; Donna Edwards, D-Md.; Keith Ellison, D-Minn.; Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz.; and Walter Jones, R-N.C.

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Boxer seeks political truce to pass vital bills

It’s time to put politics aside for a few weeks and pass some vital bills, U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer told reporters on a conference call this morning.

Boxer, D-Calif., said partisan gridlock has brought Congress to record-low approval ratings and productivity.

“Things are really dismal but we have a window of time between now and the election,” she said, adding Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., still seems pre-occupied mainly with ensuring that President Obama doesn’t win a second term. “We all are going to get out there and fight for our candidates… but not on the Senate floor. We need to come together and pass these important bills.”

Boxer identified four priorities. One, she said, is Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21), the two-year surface transportation authorization bill that’s being heard in conference committee next Tuesday, May 8. This is the successor to SAFETEA-LU, the 2005 surface transportation funding bill, which expired more than two and a half years ago; that earlier bill’s latest extension is up at the end of June, so time is of the essence, Boxer said. She said the bill has no earmarks and is revenue-neutral, but would create or save about 3 million jobs nationwide, about a tenth of which are in California.

“This is the only jobs bill that we can pass this year, in my opinion,” she said.

Another priority is legislation to ensure that the interest rate on student loans doesn’t double to 6.8 percent on July 1. The Republican-controlled House has passed a bill to extend the lower rates for a year, paid for by eliminating funding for a preventative health care fund established under the Affordable Care Act; the Democrat-controlled Senate has proposed paying for it instead by eliminating tax loopholes for shareholders of certain small corporations.

A third priority is reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act, an anti-domestic-violence measure that expires in September, Boxer said. The Senate passed its version – which would expand the law’s funding and protections for same-sex couples, immigrants and tribal communities – last week with bipartisan support, but House Republicans are working on their own version of the bill without those updates.

And Boxer said Congress must move to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would bar employers from retaliating against workers who share their salary information with co-workers – a means of uncovering salary discrimination. The House passed a version of this in 2009, but it was filibustered in the Senate, she said.

“It’s time to get things done right this second, there’s not a minute to waste,” she said.