Gun control measures fail to clear Senate hurdle

A series of dueling gun control measures in the Senate were defeated Monday evening in the first proposed legislation in the wake of the Orlando terror attack.

The four amendments all failed on procedural votes.

The first vote was on the amendment by Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, to enhance funding for an existing gun background check system which needed 60 votes to pass. The final vote tally was 53 to 47.

The second vote was on a measure by Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., to expand gun background checks and close the so-called gun show loophole where firearm purchases are not tracked. The final vote tally was 44 to 56.

Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas pushed a measure that would allow the government to delay a gun sale to a suspected terrorrist for 72 hours, but require prosecutors to go to court to show probable cause to block the sale permanently. The National Rifle Associated backed the legislation, but it failed in a final vote of 53 to 47.

The fourth and final vote involved a measure by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., to keep people on a government terrorism watch list or other suspected terrorists from buying guns. The Justice Department endorsed her legislation, but it also failed with a final vote count of 47 to 53.

The votes came after Murphy filibustered for almost 15 hours last week seeking action in response to the killing of 49 people in the gay nightclub Pulse by Omar Mateen, a Florida man who pledged his loyalty to ISIS in the midst of the rampage.

Since lawmakers were unable to come together on a piece of compromise legislation, the individual bills faced long odds. Democrats helped block two Republican amendments, arguing that they fall short in controlling the sales of firearms. In turn, Republicans were able to block two Democratic amendments, contending they threaten the constitutional rights of gun owners.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said the Orlando attack shows the best way to prevent attacks by extremists is to defeat such groups overseas.

“Look, no one wants terrorists to be able to buy guns or explosives,” McConnell said. He suggested that Democrats were using the day’s votes “as an opportunity to push a partisan agenda or craft the next 30-second campaign ad,” while Republicans wanted “real solutions.”

Cornyn said after the votes that he thinks there may be other votes on terrorism or guns later this week.

Murphy said Sunday on ABC’s “The Week” that the passage of the measures was unlikely and focused on the response to the filibuster.

“It wasn’t just that 40 senators came to the floor and supported my effort to get these votes but there were millions of people all across the country who rose up and who joined our effort,” he said.

Attorney General Loretta Lynch told “Fox News Sunday” that she also supported Cornyn’s proposal. Lynch said such an amendment would give the federal government the ability to stop a sale to somebody on the terror watch list.

However, she argued the federal government needs flexibility and the authority to protect the classified information used in denying a sale, if potential buyers exercise the constitutional rights to file an appeal.

“The American people deserve for us to take the greatest amount of time,” Lynch said.

The Pulse Orlando nightclub shooter was added to a government watch list of individuals known or suspected of being involved in terrorist activities in 2013, when he was investigated for inflammatory statements to co-workers. But he was pulled from that database when that investigation was closed 10 months later.

Both the Feinstein and Cornyn amendments would have tried to ensure that individuals like Mateen who had been a subject of a terrorism investigation within the last five years are flagged. Grassley’s would have required that law enforcement be notified if a person had been investigated in the last five years and attempted to purchase a gun.

Last week, presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump tweeted that he would meet with the NRA about “not allowing people on the terrorist watch list, or the no fly list, to buy guns.” Exactly what he would support was unclear.

Separately, moderate Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine is working with other Republicans, as well as talking to Democrats, on a bill that would prevent people on the no-fly list — a smaller universe than targeted by Democrats — from getting guns. But her bill had not been blessed by GOP leaders and it was unclear if it would get a vote.

In the GOP-controlled House, Republicans had no plans to act on guns and Democrats were unable to force any action, given House rules less favorable to the minority party than in the Senate.

Fox News’ Chad Pergram, Mike Emanuel and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

 

Elizabeth Warren Lands On National “Pinocchios” List For 2015

BOSTON — Even as she neglects Massachusetts by spending more and more time on the campaign trail in other states, Elizabeth Warren still manages to put the Commonwealth on the map – though not in the best of ways. Embarrassingly for Massachusetts, our senior senator saw one of her biggest lies of the year land on the Washington Post’s “Biggest Pinocchios” list of 2015.

Washington Post names Elizabeth Warren one of its ‘biggest Pinocchios of 2015’

At the end of every year, veteran journalist Glenn Kessler, who runs the Washington Post’s political “Fact Checker” blog, releases his biggest Pinocchios of the year.

This is an honor, awarded to the highest degree of false claims, most politicians may like to avoid.

That said, congratulations Sen. Elizabeth Warren, you made the list!

The Massachusetts Democrat was given “Four Pinocchios” for a speech in April in which she cited a flawed study that estimated auto-dealer markups cost consumers $26 billion a year.

The 2011 study, conducted by the Center for Responsible Lending, only collected data on subprime auto loans, which accounted for only one-fifth of the overall market at the time. Pressed by Kessler, even the CRL’s senior vice president admitted the data was incomplete.

But the Pinocchio didn’t end there.

Though Warren said the $26 billion number represented “auto dealer markups,” the figure also included “compensation for dealers who arranged the loans for car buyers”—compensation for additional services to the customer, rather than a “markup.”

“But besides citing a faulty number, Warren misleadingly says it represents ‘auto dealer markups,’” Kessler wrote. “The group that produced the report said that figure includes reasonable compensation owed to car dealers.”

 

Editorial Slams Moulton For Politicizing Syria Refugee Issue

MassGOPPressReleaseBanner

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

November 19, 2015

CONTACT:
Terry MacCormack
781.799.1987

A “Knee-Jerk Reaction,” “Polarizing Partisan Polemics”
BOSTON — A Lowell Sun editorial today slammed Congressman Seth Moulton for a “knee-jerk,” “partisan” reaction to Governor Baker’s caution on the issue of Syrian refugees.

Moulton’s myopic refugee tweets
LOWELL SUN
By The Editorial Board
11/19/15
http://www.lowellsun.com/opinion/ci_29138524/moultons-myopic-refugee-tweets
The Syrian refugee crisis and the mass murder of 129 innocent civilians in Paris by ISIS shouldn’t be fodder for political grandstanding.

But within this state’s all-Democrat congressional delegation, even these tragic events can’t escape polarizing partisan polemics.

Case in point: Congressman Seth Moulton’s ascerbic reaction to Gov. Charlie Baker’s call to pause the flow of Syrian immigrants into this state until the federal government provides a clearer picture of its screening process.


The governor stated that while accepting legitimate refugees is what this state and country is all about, “in the end, the safety and security of the people of Massachusetts is my highest priority.”

To that, Moulton, a Salem Democrat, tweeted: “It’s a shame that Governor Baker doesn’t know the difference between refugees and those from whom they need refuge.”

Tortured syntax aside, the rookie U.S. rep’s knee-jerk response to a common-sense position Baker shares with 29 other Republican governors and New Hampshire Democrat Maggie Hassan demeans his office and the grave situation confronting the United States and its European allies.

To his credit, the governor refused to be baited into further name-calling, and instead stood by his comments.

Beyond its hubris, Moulton’s comment accidentally reinforces Baker’s concerns. Yes, neither the governor nor those in our federal government charged with keeping us safe on occasion can distinguish between terrorists and refugees.

While Moulton tries to turn legitimate concerns into political points, perhaps he should ask his constituents in Billerica, Bedford, Burlington, Tewksbury, Wilmington, and the other 6th District communities he represents how they feel about his position.

Better yet, tell Moulton in no uncertain terms what you think.

(Read the full editorial)

 

A Message from Paul Ryan, Speaker of the House

images


Friend — This is a pivotal time in our nation’s history.

Americans firmly believe our country is headed down the wrong path, and we no longer see the promise for future generations that we once did.

It’s our responsibility in Congress to change that.

That’s why when I agreed to become the next Speaker of the House, I did it for the sole purpose of unifying our great nation and helping preserve it for our children.

Republicans in Congress can provide a vision to lead us towards a brighter tomorrow — but we need your help.

While House Republicans are hard at work trying to fix the many problems that plague our nation, we also need the grassroots support to maintain and grow our majority.

Will you chip in $20 right now to support and help grow our majority?

Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi have their eyes set on retaking the House and the Senate. If they’re able to do that, then our great nation will continue down the path of divisive politics and out-of-control spending.

We can’t allow that to happen.

Will you stand by our side and help us restore the America you and I remember?

Thank you for your support.

God Bless,

Paul Ryan
Speaker of the House

P.S. We are one year out from the most important election of our lifetime. Will you join me and chip in $20 to ensure we have the resources for a victory in 2016? Use this secure link to chip in:https://www.nrcc.org/paul-ryan/ 

Republicans officially nominate Paul Ryan for House speaker

 October 28 at 4:29 PM
House Republicans on Wednesday nominated Rep. Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, long seen as one of the party’s brightest stars, to become their next speaker and standard-bearer.

The internal party vote to choose a successor for outgoing Speaker John A. Boehner (Ohio) took place behind closed doors in an afternoon meeting. According to a tally announced inside the room, Ryan won support from 200 of the 247-member GOP conference. A House floor vote to select the new speaker is set for Thursday morning, bringing an end to a five-week scramble to find Boehner’s replacement.

Thanking his fellow GOP members, Ryan called his nomination a “great honor” and said “this begins a new day in the House of Representatives.”

“Tomorrow, we are turning the page. We are not going to have a House that looks like it’s looked the last few years. We are going to move forward, we are going to unify. Our party lost its vision, and we are going to replace it with a vision,” Ryan said. “We think the country is headed in the wrong direction, and we have an obligation here in the people’s house to do the people’s business to heal this country.”

Ryan also singled out the outgoing speaker, saying, “John Boehner served with humility and distinction, and we owe him a debt of gratitude.”

Newly nominated to be the next House speaker, Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) thanked his colleagues and said this marks a new beginning for the House of Representatives. (AP)

Of Ryan’s nomination, Tom Cole of Oklahoma said, “I expected he would do very well, and he did.”

Bill Flores of Texas, Republican Study Committee chair, said he expected Ryan to lose no more than 20 votes on the floor Thursday. “That would show a united front,” he said.

“The only drama is going to be whether he loses 11 votes or 12,” said Rep. Glenn Grothman (R-Wis.) of Thursday’s floor vote.

Wednesday’s nomination vote comes hours before the House is set to vote on a controversial fiscal deal negotiated by Boehner that would increase government spending by $80 billion through September 2017 and raise the federal debt limit.

In a potential wrinkle to his recent effort to unify a divided House GOP, Ryan on Wednesday bucked pressure to oppose the deal from conservatives who worked to force Boehner from office, saying the agreement would help “wipe the slate clean” as he ascends to the top job.

Ryan, the 45-year-old chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, said in a statement that the deal has “some good, some bad, and some ugly” but will ultimately “go a long way toward relieving the uncertainty hanging over us.”

“It’s time for us to turn the page on the last few years and get to work on a bold agenda that we can take to the American people,” he said.

That announcement came a day after he told reporters that the process that led to the deal “stinks” and pledged to handle these kinds of major fiscal negotiations in a different way.

Most conservatives said earlier in the week they were sharply opposed to the budget deal but also said that they did not intend to hold it against Ryan. Many, however, said they would like Ryan to oppose the deal as a sign of good faith — even though Ryan had personally negotiated a very similar budget deal back in 2013.

But there were signs that they might look past Ryan’s policy positions if he makes good on his process-oriented promises.

Ryan on Tuesday endorsed a GOP conference review of existing rules and said he was committed to implementing changes by January: “It’s clear that members of the House and the American people have lost faith in how this place works. And naming a new speaker alone isn’t enough to fix it. We need a robust dialogue about improving the process so that each member has a greater voice, and we need a firm deadline to implement changes.”

Ryan has also made attempts to quell doubts about some of his policy positions that have left conservatives wary — mainly his past support for immigration reform legislation. In a Wednesday morning conference meeting, Ryan rose and pledged not to pursue any immigration bill unless it had the support of a majority of House Republicans.

White House officials — who have privately welcomed the prospect of Ryan’s elevation to speaker but have been cautious about embracing him publicly — said Wednesday they hope he pursues a different course after claiming the gavel.

“The president has worked with Chairman Ryan on some key issues, like trade and on immigration, but there are a number of issues where we have vastly different approaches, vastly different policy positions,” White House principal deputy press secretary Eric Schultz told reporters aboard Air Force Once. “Our concern all along in this process is that Republicans spend a lot of time and energy consolidating their fractious caucus, instead of working to figure out how Congress can run in a more bipartisan way.”

“We hope that that processes of identifying and selecting a new speaker isn’t a precursor to a partisan way of governing, but rather that the next speaker . . . is positioned to work with Democrats,” Schultz added.

Ryan faced one opponent, Rep. Daniel Webster (R-Fla.), who has gained a small but loyal following among hard-right lawmakers and fellow Floridians who have been drawn to his promises for reforming House rules and procedures.

But many of those who supported Webster when he was pitted against the previous presumptive nominee, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), now say they are prepared to back Ryan after he reassured them over the past 10 days that he intends to move forward with many of the same reforms.

On Wednesday, Webster received 43 votes. Rep. Tim Huelskamp of Kansas, a Freedom Caucus member, said he was not surprised by Webster’s relatively strong showing but conceded that Ryan had enough votes to win the speakership Thursday.

He said the Freedom Caucus could take credit for forcing Ryan to abandon some of his demands for agreeing to serve as a speaker, including reforms to the rule allowing a majority of House members to vote out a sitting speaker.

Huelskamp declined to say how he intended to vote personally: “I think you’ll find out.”

Another Freedom Caucus member, Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.), who backs Ryan, said most of the 43 Webster backers had committed earlier to backing the Floridian and would be likely to back Ryan now that he has secured the nomination.

Ryan’s support for the budget deal, he added, may also have contributed to a protest vote: ‘I don’t think that helped him any.”

“If he gets 219 or 220, we have a brand new speaker,” Duncan said. “Regardless of what the vote is, he’s a guy who can unify the conference.

Wednesday’s meeting is the second time Republicans have gathered to choose Boehner’s replacement. An Oct. 8 meeting was abruptly cut short when McCarthy told colleagues he would not in fact seek the speaker’s chair in the face of determined opposition from hard-line conservatives.

Rising to formally nominate Ryan on Wednesday was Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), who enjoys a near-impeccable reputation among House conservatives that has been burnished in recent months by his leadership of a special committee investigating the 2012 attacks on U.S. officials in Benghazi, Libya.

Gowdy’s nomination speech, and Wednesday’s vote, took place in the same House hearing room where, a week ago, Gowdy and the Benghazi panel questioned former secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton for 11 hours.

Rep. Kristi L. Noem (R-S.D.) and Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Tex.), chairman of the Financial Services Committee, also spoke on Ryan’s behalf, a spokesman said.

Juliet Eilperin and Karoun Demirjian contributed to this article.

Mike DeBonis covers Congress and national politics for The Washington Post. He previously covered D.C. politics and government from 2007 to

Opinion: Refugee Resettlement

 

October 1, 2015
For Immediate Release
Contact:  Stephen Miller, 202.224.4124
 
Sessions Expresses Severe Concern Following Admin Refugee Testimony
 
“The testimony provided today only further erodes my confidence in our ability to vet Syrian refugees or to control the extraordinary expense imposed on taxpayers…
 
The responsible and compassionate course for the United States is to help assist in the placement of refugees as close to their homes as possible…Encouraging millions to abandon their homes in the Middle East only further destabilizes the region, while imposing enormous costs on an American public that is struggling with low pay, rising crime, high deficits, and overstretched community resources.”
 
WASHINGTON—U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Immigration and the National Interest, issued the following statement today after the conclusion of the oversight hearing on the Administration’s planned refugee resettlement surge:
 
“Today the Senate Subcommittee on Immigration and the National Interest conducted an oversight hearing with four Administration officials responsible for administering America’s refugee programs.  The testimony provided today only further erodes my confidence in our ability to vet Syrian refugees or to control the extraordinary expense imposed on taxpayers.  The following facts were established conclusively:
 
·       We do not have access to any Syrian government database to learn the backgrounds of these refugee applicants.
·       We do not have adequate resources or records and will not conduct any meaningful investigation of each of the thousands of applicants.
·       The administration approves over 90 percent of all Syrian refugee applications.
·       We have no capacity to determine the likelihood that Islamist refugees, once admitted to the United States, will become involved with terrorist activity.
·       We are already struggling with a huge problem of prior Islamist refugees seeking to take up arms with terrorists, and we have every expectation that the Administration’s current refugee plans will exacerbate that problem.
·       It is not a probability, but a certainty, that among the more than 1 million migrants from Muslim countries we will admit over the next decade, a number will already be radicalized or radicalize after their entrance into the U.S.
·       With respect to cost, the $1.2 billion budget for refugee placement is only a minute fraction of the total expense, and does not attempt to measure the short-term or long-term costs of providing access to virtually all welfare, healthcare, and retirement programs in the U.S. budget, as well as community resources such as public education and local hospitals.
·       Robert Rector, with the Heritage Foundation, estimates the lifetime cost of benefits at $6.5 billion per 10,000 refugees.  In the most recent year, the Office of Refugee Resettlement provided services to some 140,000 newly-admitted refugees, asylees, and related groups.
 
The United States has let in 59 million immigrants since 1965, and is on pace to break all historical records within a few years.  We now face the enormous challenge of helping millions of our existing residents – prior immigrants, refugees, and the US-born – rise out of poverty.  Our first duty is always to those already living here.  The responsible and compassionate course for the United States is to help assist in the placement of refugees as close to their homes as possible.  Encouraging millions to abandon their homes in the Middle East only further destabilizes the region, while imposing enormous costs on an American public that is struggling with low pay, rising crime, high deficits, and overstretched community resources.”
 
U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) serves on four Senate committees: Armed Services, Budget, Environment and Public Works, and Judiciary, where he is Chairman of the Subcommittee on Immigration and the National Interest. Visit Sessions online at his website or via YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter. Note: Please do not reply to this email. For further information, contact Sen. Sessions’ Press Office at (202) 224-4124.

Message from Senator Ayotte

You’ve probably seen the back-and-forth in the press about a possible government shutdown over Planned Parenthood funding. I deeply value your support, so I wanted to reach out directly with where I stand.

I am sickened by the recent videos that show Planned Parenthood callously discussing the harvesting of organs from unborn babies.

We need to hold Planned Parenthood accountable for their appalling disregard for the dignity of human life.

I fully support the Senate Judiciary Committee’s ongoing investigation into Planned Parenthood’s actions. I also recently voted to take federal money away from Planned Parenthood and transfer that money instead to community health centers that provide women with health care.

Sadly, that vote failed. And now we face a choice about how we move forward.

Some of my colleagues proposed that we move toward a government shutdown that would cost taxpayer money and cause uncertainty but would not actually stop federal funds from going to Planned Parenthood.

I share Right to Life’s concern that the fall-out from a damaging shutdown could end up letting Planned Parenthood off the hook for their despicable actions by distracting from the important issue of protecting life and instead focusing public attention on the impact of a shutdown. That’s why President Obama is spoiling for a shutdown—he knows the story will be all about the shutdown and not these videos that tell people the truth about Planned Parenthood’s sickening practices and that have shifted public support toward the pro-life cause.

We can’t let President Obama do this to the pro-life cause – it’s too important.

Rather than resting all our hopes on a strategy that will achieve no result and will be manipulated by Democrats and the media, I believe we should fund the government, fully investigate Planned Parenthood, and focus our efforts on electing pro-life leaders.

Again, I am fully behind the ongoing legal investigation and will continue to back legislation that protects life.

Thank you for your support,

Kelly

MassFiscal Challenges Unfair Campaign Finance Law

Lawsuit will seek equal protection for all those seeking to make their voices heard.

Boston, MA: The Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance, a nonpartisan, nonprofit advocacy group dedicated to promoting better government and right-of-center fiscal and economic policy solutions, today expressed support for the Goldwater Institute’s efforts to seek equal protection in state campaign finance law. “Current state campaign finance regulations don’t guarantee equal protection under the law,” said Paul Craney, the group’s executive director. “As many on both sides of the aisle have noted, something is wrong when unions can donate to one candidate up to $15,000 while individuals are limited to $1,000 and businesses are forbidden to donate anything at all. Under state law, businesses are even prohibited from organizing a PAC that contributes to candidates, which are permitted at the federal level.” In 2013, then-Rep. Marty Walsh’s mayoral campaign received more than $500,000 in campaign contributions from over 100 unions across the country, just in money donated in excess of the individual limit. Numerous statewide candidates running last fall, also took union donations beyond the individual limit. “While state campaign finance law creates an uneven playing field, the Citizens United decision allows individuals, corporations, and unions the same right to make independent expenditures. In short, Massachusetts law still privileges some people’s constitutional rights to free expression over those of others, and this lawsuit begins the process of righting that wrong,” Craney concluded. Both plaintiffs in the lawsuit have connections to the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance. 1A Auto Inc., a family-owned auto parts retailer in Pepperell, is run by Rick Green, who is also the chairman of MassFiscal’s board of directors. Mike Kane, whose Ashland business, 126 Self Storage Inc., is also part of the suit, serves on MassFiscal’s board as well. Legislative efforts to fix the loophole, despite garnering support from members of both parties, have thus far been stymied.

Background:

Currently, six states allow unlimited contributions from businesses and unions. 16 states and the federal government prohibits direct contributions from both but permit business and labor PACs, and 20 states allow equally limited contributions. Massachusetts, however, is one of seven states that prohibit businesses, but not unions, from making direct campaign donations to candidates, PACs, and parties. In 1988, special rules implemented by OCPF (not legislated) allowed unions to contribute as much as $15,000 to state candidates. As of 2015, the limit for individuals stands at $1,000, with corporate donations expressly forbidden. In addition, after unions have donated up to $15,000 to a campaign, their PACs can continue to contribute up to the ordinary limits. Business PACs are banned all together. Through this lawsuit, the Goldwater Institute is asking the Massachusetts courts to, at a minimum, apply the same campaign finance limitations to unions and businesses.