Trump Bombs Syria Hours After 88 Lawmakers Urged Him To First Consult Congress

Jennifer Bendery  HuffPost•April 13, 2018  WASHINGTON ― Dozens of House lawmakers on Friday urged President Donald Trump not to take any military action in Syria without first getting authorization from Congress.
“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,” reads a letter signed by 88 Republican and Democratic members of Congress.
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“We stand ready to consider the facts before us and share the burden of decisions made regarding U.S. involvement in the quickly escalating Syrian conflict,” the letter stated.
Yet hours later, Trump did attack Syria ― without consulting Congress. The United States, joined by France and Britain, launched strikes against Syrian research, storage and military targets.
Republicans on the letter included Reps. Justin Amash (Mich.), Thomas Massie (Ky.), Paul Gosar (Ariz.), Walter Jones (N.C.), Ted Yoho (Fla.), Raúl Labrador (Idaho), David Schweikert (Ariz.), Mia Love (Utah), Mark Sanford (S.C.), Morgan Griffith (Va.), Andy Biggs (Ky.), Jason Lewis (Minn.), Mo Brooks (Ala.) and Rod Blum (Iowa).
Here’s a copy of the full letter:  In recent days, Trump tweeted about potentially launching missile strikes on the Syrian government in response to President Bashar al-Assad’s latest suspected use of chemical weapons on his own people.
As the House lawmakers pointed out, Trump may not have the constitutional authority to unilaterally bomb Syria without their sign off.
Lawmakers are constitutionally required to authorize any sustained military action. For years, President Barack Obama went around Congress to take military action against the self-described Islamic State by saying he could use a sweeping 2001 authorization for use of military force, or AUMF, to do it. That AUMF, which has no expiration date, allowed then-President George W. Bush to attack anyone connected to Al Qaeda, anywhere, at any time. Obama argued that ISIS was an offshoot of Al Qaeda, so he argued he could invoke the same AUMF.
Trump can’t make that argument for launching missile strikes on Syrian government targets, even if House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) says it’s fine if he does.
The administration hasn’t even tried to make that case. When Trump directed strikes on a Syrian government airbase in April 2017 ― the first-ever direct military strike by the U.S. against Assad’s regime ― the administration claimed the president had that authority under his presidential powers because it was a limited military action, not because of the Iraq War-era AUMF.
But as lawyers at the nonpartisan Protect Democracy note, U.S. military action in Syria is unlikely to be limited to a single engagement. Instead, they say, it is likely to lead to larger and ongoing conflicts, which sounds a lot more like the beginnings of war than a surgical attack. Hence the growing concerns among lawmakers about Trump’s next step.
Trump received plenty of support from members of his own party Friday night after he announced the attacks. But some were unhappy at not being consulted.  House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said one night of U.S. airstrikes would not be “a substitute for a clear, comprehensive Syria strategy” and said Trump must go to Congress to receive congressional authorization “by proposing a comprehensive strategy with clear objectives that keep our military safe and avoid collateral damage to innocent civilians.”
A White House spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment on the letter.
Amanda Terkel contributed reporting.

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Republican House Members Think a $450K Salary Is Middle Class

By Nicole Goodkind On 11/3/17 at 1:08 PM
Paul Ryan believes that $450,000 a year is middle class.
That’s rich! Republicans suddenly believe that 1 percenters are barely struggling to be in the middle class, party officials revealed.
On Thursday, House Republicans issued a fact sheet about their new tax cut plan that referred to Americans earning $450,000 a year as “low- and middle-income”—even though that income level would put those taxpayers in the top 0.5 percent of all individual Americans.
The median household income in the United States is $59,039, after all.
The GOP made the announcement as part of the rollout of the tax cut plan, saying they would cut tax rates from 39.6 percent to 35 percent for those $450,000-earning middle-class members—but the announcement was quickly overshadowed by the Republicans’ bizarre understanding of wealth.

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Voters vow to elect a Congress that stands up to Trump, poll shows

Susan Page and Marilyn Icsman, USA TODAY Published 11:59 a.m. ET March 1, 2018 | Updated 12:55 p.m. ET March 1, 2018

A new USA TODAY/Suffolk University poll reveals what really concerns voters heading into the November midterm elections. USA TODAY

WASHINGTON — Americans are mad, and that is putting Republicans at risk.
A new USA TODAY/Suffolk University Poll finds voters looking toward the midterm elections are overwhelmingly unhappy with the country’s direction, dissatisfied with its political leadership, and interested in electing a Congress that will confront President Trump.
By close to 2-1, 58%-32%, those surveyed say they want to elect a Congress that mostly stands up to the president, not one that mostly cooperates with him.
The level of voter unrest is rare at a time of prosperity, when a 55% majority rate the economy as being in a recovery. Even that assessment has a partisan cast: Republicans are twice as likely as Democrats to say the economy is growing.
Seven in 10 Republicans say the country is headed in the right direction. But more than eight in 10 Democrats say it’s off on the wrong track, and seven in 10 independents agree with them.

“I’m concerned about a lot more than my 401(k) here,” said Lisa Caswell, 37, a teacher from Collingswood, N.J., who was called in the poll. Of Trump, she said in a follow-up interview, “It seems like every action he takes is to benefit large corporations or white men and white supremacy. I’m nervous for my kids’ safety in school. I’m nervous for my neighbors’ safety….I’m concerned about the safety and well-being of everyone in our country.”
William Dimit, 69, a retired robotics manufacturing worker from North Canton, Ohio, couldn’t disagree more. “Trump is doing an outstanding job in office,” he said. “Democrats just don’t want anyone in office but themselves.”

The poll of 1,000 registered voters, taken Feb. 20-24 by landline and cell phone, has a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points.
To be sure, the political landscape undoubtedly will shift over the next eight months, and Democrats may fail to capitalize on the political opportunities they seem to face.
If the election were held today, though, those surveyed say they are more likely to vote for the Democratic candidate for Congress than the Republican one by 47%-32% — a yawning 15 percentage-point advantage. Democrats need to flip 24 seats now held by Republicans to gain control of the House of Representatives. Winning control of the Senate is more difficult in a year in which 26 Democratic seats and just eight Republican seats are on the ballot.
“A 15-point lead in the generic ballot — that’s a Democratic House, without a doubt,” said David Wasserman, an analyst with the nonpartisan Cook Political Report. “That would be a big wave.”
More: Paleologos on the poll: Voters have new focus on gun violence
More: Another ‘flip flop’ in Congress? 2018 midterms give Democrats hope
The consequences of winning the House could be considerable. It would give Democrats the power not only to push their legislative priorities but also to schedule hearings, launch investigations and issue subpoenas.
“I think getting a Congress that has the power to impeach Trump would be pretty interesting,” said Nicholas Krasney, 30, a business entrepreneur from Los Angeles.
Sixty percent of those surveyed say they disapprove of the job Trump is doing as president, his highest negative rating in the USA TODAY Poll since he was inaugurated last year. Thirty-nine percent “strongly” disapprove; just 16% “strongly” approve.
Ratings for the Republican-controlled Congress are even worse: 75% disapprove of the job its doing. Thirty-six percent “strongly” disapprove and just 5% “strongly” approve.
That intensity of feeling could affect efforts to convince voters to go to the polls. Turnout traditionally is lower in midterm elections than in presidential years.
“I always vote but I’m not that excited about it,” said Chris Coda, 38, a medical-device salesman from Elkhorn, Neb., who typically votes Republican. “I think the election will favor the Democrats, so I don’t think my vote will matter all that much.”
The Republican Party has a dismal rating: 27% had a favorable opinion of the GOP; 60% an unfavorable one. That’s a net negative rating of 33 percentage points.
That’s not to say voters have a rosy view of the Democratic Party. Its favorable-unfavorable rating was 37%-48%, a net negative of 11 points.
Attitudes toward the nation’s two major parties are so dyspeptic that even a share of partisans who claim membership in them express a dim view. One in five Republicans and one in five Democrats say they have an unfavorable opinion of their own party. Among independents, half have an unfavorable view of the Democratic Party; two-thirds have a negative view of the GOP.
Asked in an open-ended question to name the most important issue that will affect their vote in November, those surveyed put immigration and border security at the top of the list, followed closely by gun control and the Second Amendment. (In the poll, taken in the aftermath of the mass shooting in Parkland, Fla., school safety also was among the top seven issues.) Taxes and fees ranked third. Jobs and the economy, which in many elections is the top concern among voters, was fourth.
“When you combine the responses of ‘gun control’ and ‘school safety,’ not only do we see a new number one issue important to voters for the 2018 congressional elections, but we also feel the power of those numbers because they cut across demographics like gender, age, and political party affiliation,” said David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center.
One issue rarely cited: Russian meddling in U.S. elections. Fewer than one percent —just three Democrats and two independents among 1,000 registered voters surveyed — identified that as the most important issue to them.
Fueled by last year’s Women’s March and the #MeToo movement, a record number of women are seeking political office this year. Almost three-fourths of voters say the gender of a candidate doesn’t matter to them. But among those who say it does, the advantage is female: 16% say they would prefer to vote for a woman, all things being equal, more than double the 7% who say they would prefer to vote for a man.
Party allegiance matters on that. Among those who have a preference, Republicans by more than 2-1 would prefer to vote for a man. Democrats by nearly 7-1 would prefer to vote for a woman.
“I’m not saying Congress should be 100% female,” said Lee Douglass, 32, a small-business owner from San Jose, Calif. “But when women are 51% of the entire population and there’s such a small number represented in Congress, I feel that we need to elect women to make up for that.”

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Congress unfairly burdens postal service

 

August 18, 2017

Regarding the Aug. 11 piece entitled “Postal Service might default for fifth time on retiree payments,” consider the following: Imagine a group of prospective homeowners applying for a 30-year mortgage. All but one is allowed to pay off the mortgage over 30 years. The mortgage company forces the one applicant to pay it off in five years during a recession.

That, in a nutshell, is what Congress forced the USPS to do with 2006 postal reform legislation by mandating that it pre-pay its 80-year future retiree health-benefit obligation in only 10 years, which no other corporation in the world is forced to do.

Also of note, postal employees pay full freight into Medicare but are not automatically covered by parts A and B when they turn 65. Also, President G.W. Bush mandated that postal retirees not have access to prescription drugs through Medicare Part D. Postal retirees not being fully integrated into Medicare costs the USPS billions per year.

During the prior three years, the USPS made an operational profit of $3.2 billion. At 49 cents, a first-class stamp is cheaper than anywhere else in the world. Our postal service, which Benjamin Franklin created, still works pretty well.

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