Senate Approves President’s Plan to Fund Syrian Rebels
The Senate showed bipartisan support on Thursday for President Obama’s proposal to train and arm moderate Syrian rebels opposing the terrorist group Islamic State (IS, also called ISIL or ISIS). It was attached to a temporary measure keeping the Federal Government funded. Both the government funding and the Syrian rebel proposal will expire in the middle of December. A majority of each party supported the plan: 45 Senate Democrats and 33 Republicans voted in favor, with 10 Democrats and 12 Republicans opposed, bringing the total vote to 78-22.
Of the Senators who voted against the proposal, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky was one of its harshest critics. In a 45-minute speech on the Senate floor on Thursday, Senator Paul argued against funding the rebels while also criticizing his colleagues for attaching the authorization to a funding bill. “We have before us one of the most important duties of the U.S. Senate and the Congress, and that is to decide whether or not we will be involved in war,” he said, calling the lack of proper debate “inexcusable.”
Because the authorization only lasts until mid-December, it will have to be revisited when Congress reconvenes after the elections in November. This will protect Members with tough elections from having to make a difficult decision that could commit American soldiers and spending to the Middle East for years to come, and gives the White House and Congress time to see how the situation in Syria and Iraq develop. Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri explained, “It’s going to be much harder at the moment to give the president an open-ended commitment than it will be a couple of months from now.” He added that the limited authorization was “actually the better way to approach this.”
Speaker Boehner Details Economic Plan
On Thursday, Speaker of the House John Boehner of Ohio visited the American Enterprise Institute to give a speech about the economy. He explained what this Congress has already accomplished, what they are currently working on, and then laid out a five-point plan to boost America’s economy. (A video of the entire sixteen-minute speech is available below.)
Speaker Boehner explained that today’s Congress is more open and transparent than ever before, citing the 33 bills considered under open process, the live streaming of proceedings and committee hearings, and the online posting of legislative data. He pointed out their progress on boosting the economy, notably free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea and the reduction in Federal spending for two consecutive years. The latter, he noted, “hadn’t happened since the Korean War.”
Looking forward, the Speaker discussed an energy bill the House is considering, noting the energy boom currently happening in America. Because of this boom, America has a “once-in-a-generation opportunity to reset our economy from the bottom up.” He explained that approving the Keystone XL pipeline will help boost our economy, and that North America “is on track to be energy independent in the next five years or so.”
The Speaker said his goal is to “make America the best place to work, save and invest.” To do so, he laid out a five-point plan:
- Reform the tax code – “Make it pro-growth and pro-family. Bring down the rates for every American, clear out all the loopholes, allow people to do their taxes on two – yes, two – sheets of paper.”
- Reform government spending – “For 53 of the last 60 years, we’ve spent more money than we’ve brought in…Our entitlement programs weren’t designed to deal with all of us retiring at once, and they certainly weren’t designed for us to live well past 60…We need to put them on a more sustainable path, which we can do without making radical changes.”
- Reform the American legal system – “We’ve gotten to a point in America where litigation has become a first resort instead of a last…Our system isn’t just costly; it’s inefficient…I’m all for taking care of people who have been injured, but we ought to establish reasonable limits on lawsuits and compensation.”
- Control the Federal regulatory process – “The way the federal government hands down regulations is coercive, combative, and very expensive. Take the Dodd-Frank law, with its 849 pages and $21.8 billion in compliance costs…Other countries have a more pragmatic process, where you focus on what’s truly necessary and feasible. The result is, you have fewer regulations, and the ones you have are more important and more easily implemented.”
- Improve American education – “We are not educating enough of our kids – it’s that simple…That’s why we created the first federally-funded private school choice initiative in America, the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program. And I’ll tell you what: it is exceeding beyond even our highest expectations…Why wouldn’t we go ahead and start expanding this initiative to the rest of the country? Let’s give more poor children and their parents a chance to find the better schools they need and deserve.”
After laying out his five points, the Speaker explained that, while it will not be easy, fixing our economy needs to be a priority.
“Today I have tried to lay out a path to do this that speaks to both parties and to all Americans. Because I trust in them. I know they can do anything. And I know their labors will justify our faith”, he concluded.
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