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Ollie last won the day on October 19 2017

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  1. Mr. President, The nomination of Marc Baudin for Vice President has passed in both houses of Congress, and he will be immediately sworn into office. /s/ Pete Sessions, Speaker of the United States House of Representatives /s/ Osiris Storm, President Pro Tempore of the United States Senate Final Vote on Nomination of Marc Baudin for Vice President
  2. There is extensive debate on the House floor on the Baudin nomination. A handful of Tea Party Republicans express concern of Baudin's record, but many Republicans express their support and announce their intention to vote for Baudin's nomination. House Minority Leader Lisa Sanchez spends time going over Baudin's record as a fighter for Democratic values and as someone who has been able to cross the aisle and work with Republicans. Progressives present passionate arguments against Baudin's nomination, with his views on abortion discussed extensively. Rep. Maxine Waters said his beliefs on abortion are "lock-step with Republicans who want to overturn Roe v. Wade." In the final vote, the Baudin nomination passes the House with a vote of 293-142, with most opposition coming from the bloc of Progressive Democrats.
  3. Ollie

    House Insider

    House Minority Whip Barbara Lee "In a Corner" Over Baudin Nomination Renowned Progressive Barbara Lee (D-CA) contends with progressive disapproval of Baudin Vice Presidential Nomination (Washington D.C.) - In a swirling new revelation coming out of the Democratic House caucus, sources have revealed House Minority Whip Barbara Lee (D-CA) feels she has been "pushed into a corner" to try and save face by courting fellow progressives and members of the Congressional Black Caucus to support Marc Baudin's nomination for Vice President. In the past week, several members of the Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional Progressive Caucus have hinted at their intention to vote against the nomination of Baudin for Vice President, noting the high-profile opposition he has received in the Senate from progressives which has garnered national attention. "Frankly, Democrats in the House are split on this and it has truly caused a fracture within the caucus" the source told House Insider, "progressives are enraged at President LeClavers for not quelling concerns of high-ranking Senator's and for splitting Democrats on key issues which are favorable to the Democrats which are now causing an intra-party divide." House Progressive's have noted Baudin's support for the Mexico City Policy and his decidedly pro-gun language as key reasons that the CPC and CBC have largely united in opposition to his nomination behind-the-scenes. Democratic leadership, especially House Minority Leader Lisa Sanchez (D-CA), have been working to try and get more Democrats on board with the vote. According to sources, the concern has become a vote in which only a small minority of Democrats and a large majority of Republicans push Baudin over the edge to become Vice President. "As we get closer to the midterms, really, the last thing Democrats want is a Vice President who is a liability for them among their constituents and supporters," one Democratic House staffer said, "it is no wonder there is so much anger over this nomination and, frankly, the President's complete inability to provide any reassurance which has made this a flop." When reached for comment, the office of House Minority Whip Barbara Lee told House Insider she is "in the process" of reviewing Baudin's record and intends to wait "until the House Judiciary Committee has concluded their deliberations" to make a final decision on her own vote. Her office made it clear, however, that Lee was "fully supportive of the President and his ability to choose who serves alongside him." Currently, the nomination looks like it will pass the Senate with the help of Republicans at which time Speaker of the House Pete Sessions is likely to schedule a final vote.
  4. Ollie


    @NYTimes: U.S. House of Representatives will begin deliberating Baudin nomination in House Judiciary committee. According to sources, a faction of progressives are looking to mount opposition to Baudin, following the lead of several Senate colleagues. -- @NYTimes: Sources say Reps Elijah Cummings (D-MD) and Maxine Waters (D-CA) will vote against Baudin nomination and are "supremely disappointed" with President LeClavers' inability to quell concerns from top Democrats.
  5. The House approves the bill on a voice vote after a one-sided debate in which numerous members of both parties argue in support.
  6. The House approves the bill on a voice vote after a one-sided debate in which numerous members of both parties argue in support and thank the sponsors in the Senate.
  7. Ambitious Democratic Budget Proposal Draws Ire on Capitol Hill (Washington D.C.) – The 115th Congress has begun and Democrats have rushed their budget proposal to the Senate floor while Republican opponents of the bill have made it clear they intend to stand firm against it. The FY 2018/2019 budget proposal, written and introduced by Senate Majority Leader Lawrence Clayborne (D-OR), is a lofty and ambitious one. The budget as written includes major healthcare reform; instituting a public option, allowing the Secretary of Health and Human Services to negotiate drug prices under Medicare, and extending CHIP – the children’s healthcare program – for five years. In addition to that, the budget proposal includes major tax reform, eliminating many loopholes in the tax code and forcing corporations to pay on deferrals of offshore profits and subjects foreign corporations who buy out more than 50% of U.S. corporations to pay federal taxes. The tax reform section has been estimated to potentially bring in nearly $900 billion in new federal tax income from corporations. Aside from tax reform and healthcare – perhaps the most discussed provisions in the proposed budget – a slew of other issues, from major reform to federal college loans which would dramatically lower interest rates and allow refinancing of loans to social security reform which would adjust the means of which cost-of-living is calculated for seniors while increasing monthly insurance benefits for widows and widowers is also addressed. This is without mentioning over two dozen reauthorizations and different enactments of legislation contained within the budget. Senate Majority Leader Lawrence Clayborne, the author of the budget proposal, has emphasized the Republicans’ lack of leadership on a budget – noting they failed to introduce a proposal of their own and instead opted to negotiate with the White House “behind closed doors” to achieve a compromise proposal. “When [Republican’s] controlled this body, they refused to hold any meaningful floor debates on the budget,” he reminded them on the Senate floor. Republicans, on the other hand, have pointed to the budget proposal going far beyond just numbers and containing dozens of riders which would enact and reauthorize new government programs. Senator Dylan Macmillan (R-UT) brought this issue up in a floor speech. “I believe the most egregious act of this [budget] is the fact that it seeks to authorize or re-authorize [twenty-nine] new or former government programs in the greatest political game of piggy back riding I have ever seen,” Macmillan said. The larger point, however, has been Republicans pointing to the healthcare reform portion of the budget proposal, calling the public option a socialist program. Senator Bob Smith (R-WY) said the budget proposal “put socialist values over economic freedom” with Macmillan telling his colleagues the budget has “overtly socialist overtones.” Republicans, led by Senate Minority Leader Hugh Merchant, have already attempted to table the proposal in favor for negotiating privately with Democrats and the White House on a budget compromise. In a press release supporting the budget, the LeClavers administration noted the successes of the 2014 budget compromise which included major investments into pre-k programs, major tax loophole eliminations which raised taxes on the wealthy, along with major reductions to spending within the Department of Defense. Political commentators have noted Republicans are likely looking to recover from the potential political losses they suffered as a result of the 2014 budget compromise, pointing to the press release by the administration as a clear sign of that loss. Special interests and corporations have come out heavil against the Democratic budget proposal as well, with the Chamber of Commerce leading the way, calling the proposal “reckless, dangerous, and a threat to the American economy as it stands.” The Heritage Foundation called the budget “an attack on American corporations and businesses” and called the healthcare reform proposals “the beginning of socialized medicine and the end of a free economy.” Other special interest groups, however, have defended the proposal and pledged to support it. NOW, the National Organization for Women, has highlighted healthcare social security reform as a major issue which would “provide women, widows and survivors, with more financial security.” The National Education Association called the reform to federal loans “an important step forward for students providing more higher-education opportunities across the country.” Despite this support, however, the sizeable opposition from corporate America has outweighed that of smaller special interest groups, leading many to believe that the tax reform included in the current will not end up in the final product, specifically the eliminating of deferrals of off-shore income. So far the debate has mostly stayed in the confines of Capitol Hill, with Republicans and Democrats focusing on other issues in the press. This isn’t expected to last, however, due to the massive implications the current budget proposal would have on nearly every single area of policy highlighted in the most recent election. Fox News commentator Lee Nelson told viewers the proposal was “a sneak peek into the outright socialist, grand-scheme” of the new LeClavers administration. MSNBC commentator Ethan Klein countered, however, saying Republican opposition to the legislation was “empty rhetoric” due to their failure to provide any alternative proposal for the last several years, even as they controlled the chamber “which they lost in epic, historic fashion” in the 2016 election. It remains to be seen if negotiations will be held at the White House and whether or not those meetings will be held in private or in public as many Democrats have openly condemned “backdoor” meetings which have brought forward compromises in the past; most specifically, the 2014 budget compromise which many have hailed as a victory for Democrats. As we begin 2017, a repeat of that success seems highly unlikely as partisan gridlock has already encompassed the debate surrounding the budget.
  8. Ollie

    Leave of Absence

    As discussed with Anderson and the AB, I am now in Asia until July 14th. Be good while I’m gone!
  9. Secretary of Defense, Michelle Flournoy: I was aware of instances where the Obama administration saw the need to surveil foreign officials -- from my recollection, Senator, all of these instances were to ensure the protection of classified information. Director of the National Security Agency, General Keith B. Alexander (USA): There have been instances of surveillance of NATO allies, whether it be government officials or ambassadors, to gain intelligence information and to protect US national security interests. Under President's Obama and Bush, the NSA had authority to monitor foreign officials in Germany, Turkey, France, and Belgium. Director of the National Security Agency, General Keith B. Alexander (USA): Every President has the right and prerogative to look at all national security programs and see what is working, how it is working, and make changes as they see fit. Let me reiterate, Senator, that these programs were authorized and enacted by Congress. The regulations we follow and the parameters we work with were passed by Congress. They were then reauthorized by Congress. They were approved by FISA courts. The programs in question were made legally, by the law, and presumably they would be changed by the law.
  10. Director of the National Security Agency, General Keith B. Alexander (USA): The meta-data is used for the purposes of detecting potential activity of a terrorist threat and gaining potential hindsight on that threat or attack. If we are able to see how many times an individual sent out a call to a specific phone number, how many times they were involved in an email chain -- this is incredible insight into the sequence of events leading up to an attack or leading to a potential attack. Following 9/11, we saw a breakthrough in the case of finding the terror suspects after investigators were allowed to review communications between the attackers. Collecting this data and maintaining these programs -- with accountability, as we have done -- is important to national security. If I were to give a general estimate, based on my time in the NSA and my experience, I would say these programs have helped thwart dozens of plots, if not more, and identify even more potential terror suspects. Secretary of Homeland Security, Jeh Johnson: The Department of Homeland Security commonly cooperates with our intelligence agencies, such as the NSA, to gain insight into potential threats and to thwart potential threats. I do believe the efforts of our intelligence agencies are invaluable. I believe their work is important and an important asset to our efforts in fighting terror. Director of the National Security Agency, General Keith B. Alexander (USA): I did not explicitly discuss specific NSA programs or NSA tactics with each President nor did they ask about them, from my best recollection, Senator. Director of the National Security Agency, General Keith B. Alexander (USA): This wasn't a rouge operation of some kind, Senator, in any manner. Fourteen FISA court Judges approved NSA activities, President's Bush and Obama were involved in the expansions of NSA programs, and the past three President's have been briefed with information obtained through NSA intelligence activities. Congress enacted laws allowing these programs to be instituted and later reauthorized these programs. The collecting of this data is highly regulated with major oversight and accountability. ((Michelle Flournoy is the Secretary of Defense.)) Secretary of Defense, Michelle Flournoy: Senator, upon entering my position as Secretary of Defense, I have worked closely with our various intelligence agencies and worked closely with the National Security Council. I don't recall ever having a specific discussion with a specific individual about NSA -- as you put it -- 'mass surveillance systems.' I am generally aware of the programs capabilities used for intelligence purposes and was aware of the expansion of the program under President Obama.
  11. Director of the National Security Agency, General Keith B. Alexander (USA): Thank you for the question, Senator. First and foremost, all communications received by the NSA and all cooperation with U.S. company's were done with oversight by FISA courts, with 14 different Judges, and done so with oversight by Congress through programs authorized and reauthorized by Congress. While questions of legality of this might be better suited for the Justice Department, I will do my best to answer accordingly. These programs involve the collection of metadata from telephone calls. These are telephone records maintained by the phone companies. They include the number the call was dialed from, the number the call was dialed to, the date and time of the call and the length of the call. The records do not include the names or other personal identifying information. They do not include cell site or other location information. And they do not include the content of any phone calls. These are the kinds of records that under long- standing Supreme Court precedent are not protected by the Fourth Amendment. The nature of the collection is really dependent on a reasonable, articulable suspicion. While a lot of metadata does exist in a database, it cannot be accessed unless you go through the procedures of documenting that there is reasonable, articulable suspicion that the phone number you want to ask about is associated with terrorists. Unless you get that step made, you cannot enter that database and make a query and access any of those data. For your second question, the program was authorized by Congress twice and reauthorized in late 2012. The program has ran under the past five President's -- from George W. Bush to President LeClavers -- with oversight by the NSA and other intelligence agencies including the FBI. Every administration I've served in has not 'explicitly authorized' the programs in question, as was stated, as they were already authorized by Congress and expanded upon by President's Bush and Obama. Secretary of Homeland Security, Jeh Johnson: First I would like to clarify that the Department of Homeland Security has no scope in surveillance or operating similar programs as the NSA does, naturally, under U.S. law. As a member of the National Security Council, I was aware of the programs existence. I was not present for explicit authorizations of the programs. I am also aware of the FISA court orders obtained by the Obama administration as stated by General Alexander initially authorizing the programs and the scope of the programs in question.
  12. NSA Director General Keith B. Alexander and Sec. of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson are present for questioning and waive their opening statements.
  13. Documents Show U.S. and Allies Collecting Data, Using Surveillance on Global Scale (Washington D.C.) - In a massive leak of documents -- containing thousands of references to both U.S. intelligence agencies and British intelligence agencies -- revelations have shown a large-scale global surveillance program managed by the National Security Agency in cooperation with U.S. allies, including the United Kingdom. Previously, officials in the intelligence community provided reporters proof of a massive collection of phone conversations within the U.S.. However, these new revelations show that the U.S. is maintaining programs which collect and store data from internet and text communications from American's and foreign officials who travel to the U.S.. According to the leaked documents, a program which was first setup by President George W. Bush was expanded by President Barack Obama and former President Andrew Stevenson. President Obama worked to "expand NSA programs to lock in global targets and cooperation with U.S. tech companies, including Verizon and Yahoo." The documents have put Yahoo under fire, with the leaks implicating the company in "personally managing a program" which would allow the NSA to monitor and store emails sent through the company's messaging system. The programs have also been shown to target Apple phone users using a top-secret program called Prism. According to the documents, which include a 44 slide power-point presentation, Prism has the ability to "directly collect data from the source of servers" of major internet companies and service providers within the United States. In a statement, an Apple spokesman said he "had never heard of Prism" and was "unaware of any existing program" similar to Prism. The access Prism was able to obtain was enabled through changes to U.S. surveillance laws under President George W. Bush and was renewed by President Obama in December 2012. The documents show the presentation call Prism "one of the most valued accesses for the NSA." Washington has already began reacting to the leaks with Chairman of the Senate Foreign Affairs committee Doug Hill immediately initiating hearings on the matter, inviting NSA Director Keith B. Alexander and Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson to testify on the matter. General Alexander has been leading the NSA since 2005, when he was nominated by President George W. Bush. The reactions to the massive leak of documents have been mixed, but largely have been critical of the NSA. Senate Majority Whip Hugh Merchant (R-SC) called the leaks "embarrassing" and promised accountability for what he described as domestic spying. Senator for New Mexico Diego Zamora called it a "power grab by subsequent Democratic President's." Thus far, there have been no major criticisms of the leak themselves by major leaders in Washington. Former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice called the leaks "a massive breach" and "a danger to U.S. national security." Former Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) was highly critical of the leaks, calling it an "irreparable harm" to U.S. national security. Other Democrats have blamed the far-reaching measures of the U.S. PATRIOT Act as the culprit behind the creation of programs which lead to massive collections of data from American's. Both NSA Director Keith B. Alexander and Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson have agreed to come before the Senate Intelligence Committee in a closed hearing to discuss the programs and answer questions. Experts predict there will likely be public ridicule in Congress of both the Obama Administration and Stevenson Administration. "Many of these Senator's, at least those receiving the highest intelligence briefings, were likely aware of these programs," John Roades, a cyber-security expert and former FBI agent, told the New York Times. "This issue likely has a higher chance of being politicized, against U.S. intelligence agencies, rather than the person or persons who might have leaked this information," he said.
  14. Ollie


    @NYTIMES: BREAKING: Leaked documents show that the U.S. maintains a massive surveillance program used to record and store phone, text and internet communications from American's. -- @NYTIMES: The large amount of documents reveal relationships between the government and companies such as Yahoo and Verizon, who "actively cooperated" with the NSA to assist with surveillance. -- @NYTIMES: Documents show the NSA worked to hack and surveil foreign ambassadors and high-level foreign government officials, a practice described as "common-place."
  15. Ollie

    New York Times

    Abdullah Abdullah speaks to reporters before election results roll in (Associated Press) Abdullah Abdullah Wins Afghanistan Presidential Election (Kabul) - Abdullah Abdullah has won the Afghanistan Presidential election with 54% of the vote in the nation's second run-off. The election has been surrounded by controversy and fear of Taliban attacks on polling stations and campaign workers. Security was ramped up during campaign stops and on polling stations and both votes "happened with only one minor incident" according to officials in the country. Ashraf Ghani, the leading opponent of Abdullah Abdullah, has conceded the election. Privately, however, his supporters say they believe there was "widespread fraud" on behalf of Abdullah Abdullah and his supporters, particularly in counterfeiting votes. The campaign of the new President has swiftly denied the accusations, calling it "a standard tactic to delegitimize our system." The election will likely have major consequences in Afghanistan and the U.S. strategy in the country. Abdullah Abdullah has supported 'forcing' the Taliban to negotiate with the government in the past, a policy which the U.S. has been apprehensive to embrace. It is unknown if President Abdullah will take the office peacefully and without any challenges. President Karzai is expected to transfer over power at the beginning of the year, ending his two-terms in office. Challenges to the legitimacy of the election thus far have not been answered by UN officials, but sources say they are "being taken seriously." The election results are "certified" according to the Abdullah campaign. Though official certification must pass the muster of the United States, a major purveyor in democratic elections in Afghanistan, as well as the United Nations Election Commission. Israel has fired rockets at protests in Gaza following Israeli soldiers deaths (Associated Press) Israel Announces Operation in Gaza Following Hamas Attack (Tel Aviv) - The Israeli Armed Forces have begun 'major targeted strikes' on the Gaza Strip, according to a statement released from the office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The operation began after a major attack on Israeli soldiers in the Alon Shvut settlement, a controversial settlement held by Israel in Palestine territory. Hamas militants immediately began rocket fire against Israel following the Israeli strikes, with Israel retaliating further with each rocket that reached its cities. The statement made by Netanyahu left out many details concerning the operation -- such as its main goals or intention or length -- but did point the finger at others for their responsibility in the conflict happening to begin with. "Iran, a known supporter of Hamas, has a hand in this conflict," the Prime Minister said, "those who finance these terrorist organizations have a hand in this conflict." He would go on to call for Hamas to "immediately cease attacks against Israeli Armed Forces and disarm." Civilians in Gaza are already seeing the effects of the conflict. Residents in northern Gaza have been seeking shelter in their homes, sending out frantic messages to family members about their well-being. One concerned resident called it "a daily fear, you hope to wake up as if it was just a nightmare and not reality." Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesman, had harsh words for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu; "we are ready to confront Israel and defend ourselves with all of our might," he said in a released statement. Protests have began in Palestine against the Israeli operation, and the protests have only grown in size over the past few days. "We will risk our lives to send our message," one of the protesters said, lacing up his boots to begin marching with a group of his brothers. The United Nations is expected to discuss the situation in Gaza in its upcoming meeting in New York in January. Putin greets North Korean Leader Kim Jong-Un in Moscow (Foreign Policy) Kim Jong-Un Meets Putin in Moscow (Moscow) - As his father did in 2002 and 2011, Kim Jong-Un -- the young North Korean dictator -- visited Russia and was greeted by President Vladmir Putin in a showing of pageantry and pomp and circumstance rolled out by the Kremlin. The meeting lasted "between one or two hours" according to a statement by the Kremlin and "touched on a wide breadth of issues, including a closer partnership economically." The Russian government also made it clear that they intended to ramp up food aid efforts to North Korea amid a massive food crisis in the country which has been of high concern to the Human Rights Commission this past year. Foreign policy analysts were quite interested in the state visit by Kim Jong-Un, as it is his first, and the intrigue grew as Vladmir Putin pulled out all the steps of formality for the North Korean leader. "The reason of this visit is likely to shore up Russian involvement in the affairs on the Korean peninsula," Dr. Jacob Olliver, PhD, professor of International Relations as George Washington University. "It is clear that Russia wants a more clear sphere of influence in North Korea," he said, "while also perhaps trying to give themselves a leg-up on South Korea in their upcoming summit which is much more likely to spur some actual economic agreements." While this is only speculation in terms of Vladmir Putin's intentions, the summit has given Kim Jong-Un a sense of mainstream relevance in international affairs and has only caused suspicion and speculation behind the true intention of the meeting. The European Union has condemned the North Korean leader and the hermit government for their negligence of the North Korean people and the food crisis as has the United States. Neither, however, have announced any intention to increase food aid outside of normal levels.

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