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116th Congress

US House Votes To End Support For Yemen War, Rebuffing Trump



House Rules Committee Chair James McGovern, D-Mass., reads how the House voted to end American involvement in the Yemen war, rebuffing the Trump administration's support for the Saudi-led military campaign, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, April 4, 2019, though President Trump is expected to veto it. It's the first time Congress has invoked the decades-old War Powers Resolution to try and stop a foreign conflict. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The House on Thursday voted to end American involvement in the Yemen war, rebuffing the Trump administration’s support for the military campaign led by Saudi Arabia as Congress for the first time invoked the War Powers Resolution to try and stop a foreign conflict.

The measure now heads to President Donald Trump, who is expected to veto it, with the White House citing “serious constitutional concerns.” Congress lacks the votes to override him.

House approval came on a 247-175 vote. The Senate vote was 54-46 on March 13.

“The president will have to face the reality that Congress is no longer going to ignore its constitutional obligations when it comes to foreign policy,” said Democratic Rep. Eliot Engel of New York, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. He said the humanitarian crisis in Yemen triggered by the war “demands moral leadership.”

The war in Yemen is in its fifth year. Thousands of people have been killed and millions are on the brink of starvation. The United Nations has called the situation in Yemen the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

The top Republican on the committee, Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas, acknowledged the dire situation in Yemen for civilians, but spoke out in opposition to the bill, saying it was an abuse of the War Powers Resolution.

“This radical interpretation has implications far beyond Saudi Arabia,” McCaul said. He warned that the measure could “disrupt U.S. security cooperation agreements with more than 100 countries.”

Democrats overcame a GOP attempt to divide the majority party through a procedural motion involving Israel just minutes before the Yemen vote. Republicans wanted to amend the Yemen bill with language condemning the international boycott movement and efforts to delegitimize Israel. Democrats argued the amendment would kill the Yemen resolution, and most of them voted against the Israel measure.

“This is about politics, this is about trying to drive a wedge into this caucus where it does not belong,” said Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Fla., said to applause from Democrats. Deutch described the boycott movement as “economic warfare,” but called on lawmakers to vote against the amendment.

“The Jewish community also has a history of standing up against atrocities like the humanitarian crisis in Yemen. My colleagues are trying to block us from standing in support of human rights,” he said.

Opposition to the Saudi-led war in Yemen gathered support last year in the aftermath of the killing of U.S.-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The Washington Post columnist was killed in October by agents of the kingdom, a close U.S. partner, while he was in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. U.S. intelligence agencies and lawmakers believe that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the murder of Khashoggi, who had written articles critical of the kingdom.

Lawmakers from both parties have scrutinized U.S.-Saudi ties and criticized Trump for not condemning Saudi Arabia strongly enough.

116th Congress

US House To Vote On Net Neutrality Bill Tuesday




WASHINGTON (Reuters) — The Democratic-led U.S. House of Representatives is set to vote on Tuesday on a bill to reinstate landmark net neutrality rules repealed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) under President Donald Trump.

Republicans oppose the effort arguing it would grant the FCC too much authority over the internet and deter private sector investment.

The bill mirrors an effort last year to reverse the FCC’s December 2017 order approved on a 3-2 vote that repealed Obama-era rules barring providers from blocking or slowing internet content or offering paid “fast lanes.”

The reversal of net neutrality rules was a win for internet providers such as Comcast Corp, AT&T Inc and Verizon Communications Inc, but opposed by companies like Facebook Inc, Inc and Alphabet Inc.

The bill would repeal the order introduced by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, bar the FCC from reinstating it or a substantially similar order and reinstate the 2015 net neutrality order.

Representative Mike Doyle, a Democrat, noted polls suggest most Americans back net neutrality. The bill, he said, “would restore popular, bipartisan, common sense net neutrality protections, and put a cop back on the beat to protect consumers, small businesses, and competitors from unjust and unreasonable practices” by internet providers.

Pai, who expressed regret last month about how much attention the net neutrality debate has consumed, suggested restoring FCC oversight would lead to an internet “that works as quickly as your DMV, that runs as reliably as Amtrak and ultimately is as popular as your post office.”

House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy dubbed the effort the “Democrats plan to take over the internet” and suggested the FCC could impose new taxes on internet service like telephone and cable bills.

The FCC in 2015 in reclassifying internet service said it had significant oversight authority, including the ability to set rates for internet service, but said it was opting not to use it.

Gigi Sohn, a former senior aide to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, who ran the agency when the net neutrality rules were adopted, said the rules ensure “internet users, not broadband providers, decide winners and losers on the Internet.”

The Senate, which is controlled by Republicans, voted in May 2018 to reinstate the rules, but the House did not take up the issue before Congress adjourned. The White House opposes reinstating net neutrality and it is unclear that proponents will be able to force a vote in the Senate.

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116th Congress

Congressional Leaders Invite NATO Secretary-General To Address Congress




WASHINGTON (AP) — Democrats and Republicans are inviting NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg to address a joint meeting of Congress next month around the 70th anniversary of the trans-Atlantic alliance.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, with agreement from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other members of Congress, is expected to extend the invitation, the leaders’ offices said. The address is expected to be one of several events in the U.S. capital celebrating the treaty’s signing in 1949, congressional officials said.

The bipartisan show of support for NATO comes after President Donald Trump has criticized the alliance’s 29-member nations for, in his view, not paying their fair share to protect against threats, such as Russian aggression. He has threatened to pull the U.S. out of the alliance.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Each of NATO’s countries spends money on its own military capabilities in an effort to lessen dependence on the U.S. for defense against threats. Stoltenberg said that some NATO allies will spend an additional $100 billion by the end of 2020.

The celebration of the alliance’s anniversary is the latest bipartisan defiance of Trump on the issue. McConnell in particular among Republicans has been outspoken about his support for NATO, issuing a memorable rebuke of Trump’s behavior at Russian President Vladimir Putin’s side in Helsinki last summer.

“We value the NATO treaty,” McConnell declared. “We believe the European Union counties are our friends, and the Russians are not.”

For his part, Trump campaigned on the idea that the U.S. is paying too much to defend European countries and vowed to make them pay their fair share. In his State of the Union address in January and in Hanoi last week, Trump misleadingly suggested that the U.S. has “picked up” $100 billion from NATO since he’s been president.

“A hundred billion dollars more has come in,” he said in Hanoi.

In reality, Stoltenberg said on Feb. 15 that NATO allies in Europe and Canada had spent an additional $41 billion on their own defense since 2016, and that by the end of 2020 that figure would rise to $100 billion. So, the $100 billion refers to additional military spending over a four-year period, not over the past two years.

In 2014, during the Obama administration, NATO members agreed to move “toward” spending 2 percent of their gross domestic product on their own defense by 2024. Trump’s pressure may have spurred some countries to increase their spending faster than they planned or to become more serious about moving to the 2 percent goal.

The United States is the biggest and most influential NATO member, contributing about 22 percent of the alliance’s budget.

Member-state contributions were a central point of friction at a NATO summit in Brussels last year. However, in a January interview with Fox News, Stoltenberg said NATO countries heard Trump “loud and clear” and were “stepping up.”

Some analysts have warned diminished U.S. leadership in NATO has already weakened the alliance. Former Ambassador Nicholas Burns said in a recent report NATO is facing its “most difficult” crisis in seven decades and “the single greatest threat (to NATO) is the absence of strong, principled American presidential leadership for the first time in its history.”

Stoltenberg has said Trump will meet with his counterparts from the military alliance at a summit in London in December.

Stoltenberg said Wednesday that the leaders will “address the security challenges we face now and in the future, and to ensure that NATO continues to adapt in order to keep its population of almost 1 billion people safe.”

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116th Congress

House Passes Sweeping Election Reform Bill, Senate Will Not Vote On The Measure




WASHINGTON (AP) — The Democratic-controlled House has approved legislation aimed at reducing the role of big money in politics, ensuring fair elections and strengthening ethics standards. But it stands little chance in the Republican-run Senate.

The House measure would make it easier to register and vote, and would tighten election security and require presidential candidates to disclose their tax returns.

Election Day would become a holiday for federal workers, and a public financing system for congressional campaigns would be set up. The legislation approved 234-193 would bar voter roll purges such as those seen in Georgia, Ohio and elsewhere, and restore voting rights for ex-prisoners.

Republicans call it a Democratic power grab that amounts to a federal takeover of elections.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says it’s dead on arrival in that chamber.

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