Posted on February 11, 2015 in Countdown
A week ago today, President Obama held the first meeting of his administration with the American Muslim community. It enjoyed the peculiar distinction of simultaneously being a top-secret meeting and publicly disclosed on the White House website. You can imagine the media furor this caused. Luckily, one of the top secret attendees was our Executive Director Maya Berry, who was there to make the most of the meeting and to raise several important topics like the Department of Justices’ insufficient revisions to the profiling guidance, the pending reauthorization of the USA Patriot Act, and ongoing concerns regarding next week’s White House summit on Countering Violent Extremism. For kicks, check out the clever #MuslimMeeting that went viral in response to right wing media conspiracies that quickly dominated the storyline. To cause even more panic, the following day President Obama went to the National Prayer Breakfast - what some may say is the most important Christian gathering of the year - to make comments about the need for humility (and a healthy dose of historical memory) in believers of all faiths. Of course this prompted yet another onslaught of attacks questioning the President's loyalty and agenda – which makes us think the criticism was less about substance and more about hate.
It looks like Speaker of the House John Boehner has agreed to be the fall guy for the current scandal threatening to disrupt Israel’s glistening reputation on Capitol Hill. Last week, an Israeli official went on record to say that Prime Minister Netanyahu was ‘misled’ on the circumstances surrounding his invitation to speak to Congress. The official went on to say “it appears that the speaker of Congress made a move, in which we trusted, but which it ultimately became clear was a one sided move...” Netanyahu has been adamant that his speech is not a campaign stop - the matter is just too urgent to put off another two weeks. And who can blame a guy for taking one for the team and delivering an increasingly unpopular opinion even while facing a competitive campaign at home? It’s completely incidental that the DC sideshow will surely bolster his bid to remain Prime Minister. Netanyahu is insisting that he will continue his speech as scheduled. On Sunday he explained that he would “do everything and will take any action to foil this bad and dangerous agreement that will place a heavy cloud over the future of the state of Israel and its security.” Netanyahu’s insistence on giving the speech hasn’t wavered in spite of the 47% of his constituents urging him to cancel his speech and a growing list of House and Senate Democrats vowing to #SkiptheSpeech. Netanyahu will continue to insist he will not cancel the speech - until it’s cancelled for him.
Those who will #SkiptheSpeech: Vice President Biden; Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D IL-4); Rep. John Lewis (D GA-5); Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D OR-3); Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D NC-1); Rep. James Clyburn (D SC-6); Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D AZ-3); Rep. Barbara Lee (D CA-13); Rep. Gregory Lee (D NY-5); Rep. Jim McDermott (D WA-7); Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D TX-30); Rep. Betty McCollum (D MN-4); Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC); Rep. Charles Rangel (D NY-13); Rep. Keith Ellison (D MN-5); Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT); Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT); Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI); and likely the 21 others who have said they have not yet decided whether to attend
Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi still insists there is no organized boycott. Uh huh. Still nothing to see here…
When I say AU, you say MF. AU (me), MF (you). AU (me), MF (you). In case you were wondering, an AUMF is an Authorization of the Use of Military Force and the last one of these to be granted by Congress to the President was in 2002. This week, Congress received a draft of a new AUMF this morning from President Obama that provides him explicit consent to go to war against the self-proclaimed Islamic State in Syria and the Levant (ISIL). Now, the AUMF needs to be approved by war-weary Democrats and hawkish Republicans alike, an obstacle that had delayed President Obama’s draft from being “finalized” enough to send over to the Hill. If Congress does indeed pass this new AUMF, it will be the first time that legal backing will be provided to current U.S. military actions against ISIL. We can only hope that the results of this AUMF will be better than the last one granted to President Bush in 2002. I mean, it couldn’t possibly turn out worse than last time…right?
Midterm elections this past November not only resulted in the introduction of 71 new members of Congress, it also meant that Congressional committees were reshuffled. We know, we know. You are probably dying to learn who is heading the Senate Armed Services Committee or the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee. Or maybe you are more of a House of Representatives person and you want to know who the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee is, or who serves as the Ranking Member of the House Homeland Security Committee. But don’t fret! Instead of navigating each committee’s website, your resourceful staff here at AAI recently published its 114th Congressional Leadership Report. Our report highlights specific congressional committees that debate and oversee policy issues that impact the Arab American community. It’s also a roadmap for what we expect to see in the 114th Congress. Happy reading!
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