Congressional lawmakers signaled that a $3.7 billion spending measure to cope with the immigration surge at the U.S.-Mexico border will include a provision allowing speedier deportations of thousands of minors.
House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio told reporters he believes the legislation should include language to change a 2008 law that prevents the U.S. from deporting illegal immigrant children back to home countries that do not border the United States.
“I think clearly we would probably want the language similar to what we have with Mexico,” Boehner said, echoing a statement from a group of House lawmakers he has tasked with reviewing President Obama's plan.
Boehner said he believes Obama, who visited Texas July 9-10 but did not go to the border because he said doing so would amount to political "theater," also wants the law changed.
Democrats are not objecting to such a move, increasing the likelihood it will become part of the deal.
Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California said that while she does not personally agree with the provision, it should not hold up the legislation.
“It’s not a deal breaker,” Pelosi said.
Republicans are balking at Obama's $3.7 billion request. Many want to pay for the legislation with cuts elsewhere in the budget and almost everyone in the GOP is demanding more border enforcement spending than Obama is promising.
Nearly half of the money would go to the Health and Human Services Department to provide food, housing, legal aid and other services to the thousands of unaccompanied children apprehended along the border.
Changing the 2008 law, however, tops the GOP wish list.
The provision, signed by George W. Bush, was aimed at curbing child sex trafficking by ensuring children are seen by an immigration judge. But the law is preventing deportation of nearly 52,000 children who have crossed illegally into Texas since October.
Immigration activists want the children to be granted refugee status and have pressured Obama not to alter the law, which entitles children from noncontiguous countries to a hearing and thus a much longer stay in the U.S.
Obama initially said he would ask Congress to revise the law, but backed down facing pressure from immigration groups.
Boehner suggested there will be significant changes to Obama's request, with border security a top priority.
“I can tell you this, though,” Boehner said. “We're not giving the president a blank check.”
— Susan Ferrechio, Chief Congressional Correspondent, and Brian Hughes, White House Correspondent
U.S., CHINA REACH CLIMATE-CHANGE DEALS
The United States and China struck deals on eight climate-change projects, as China agreed to set more stringent emissions standards for vehicles and greenhouse gases.
"This effort has to be mutual," Secretary of State John Kerry said. "It’s not about one country making a demand of the other. It’s the science itself demanding action from all of us, and in that regard, we stepped up together in the last two days."
Of the eight agreements, four are joint carbon capture and utilization projects, and the others are smart-grid efforts aimed at reducing electricity consumption. That's key for China, which the International Energy Agency says will still account for 60 percent of coal growth over the next five years despite taking more stringent measures to move away from the energy source.
The Obama administration has placed significant emphasis on getting climate buy-in now from China. The agreements build on a set of climate accords the two nations reached last year, which the administration hopes lead to bigger commitments heading into pivotal international climate negotiations in Paris next year.
— Zack Colman, Energy & Environment Writer
BIDEN: CHINA AIRPORTS BETTER THAN NEW YORK'S LAGUARDIA
Vice President Joe Biden took a new swipe at New York's LaGuardia Airport, calling the aging facility not even up to Chinese standards.
In pitching the president's infrastructure spending plan, the vice president singled out the heavily used airport for ridicule.
“If you were blindfolded and I dropped you in an airport in the middle of New York and I dropped you in an airport in the middle of Beijing, you sure as hell wouldn't pick LaGuardia as being in the United States,” Biden said at a meeting of the White House Business Council.
"The greatest city in the world with the airport structure it has now? C'mon guys. How long can that last? How long can we continue to be in that position?"
Back in February he slapped the airport, then comparing it to its Hong Kong counterpart. "If I blindfolded someone and took them at 2:00 in the morning into the airport in Hong Kong and said, where do you think you are, they'd say, this must be America; it's a modern airport," Biden said. "If I took you and blindfolded you and took you to LaGuardia Airport in New York, you must think, I must be in some third world country."
— Paul Bedard, Washington Secrets Columnist
FED SETS EXPIRATION DATE FOR QUANTITATIVE EASING
Federal Reserve officials have an end in mind for the latest round of quantitative easing: If all goes to plan, they will taper the central bank's bond purchases from the current $35 billion a month to zero by October, according to the minutes from the June monetary policy meeting.
The minutes show that Fed officials "generally agreed" that if the coming months show continued improvement in the labor market and moderate inflation, "it would be appropriate" to continue to taper by $10 billion in the next two meetings and then cut the $15 billion remaining purchases at the October meeting. The Fed has reduced the size of its monthly purchases of Treasury securities and mortgage-backed securities by $10 billion each meeting beginning in December.
October would mark the end of the quantitative easing program started in late 2012 by then Chairman Ben Bernanke to avoid deflation and the possibility of another recession. That followed a $600 billion quantitative easing program, commonly known as QE2, that took place between 2010 and 2011.
The Fed also engaged in large-scale asset purchases to stem the financial panic in 2008, quickly expanding its balance sheet from roughly $900 billion to more than $2 trillion by the end of the year. Currently, its balance sheet stands at roughly $4.4 trillion.
— Joseph Lawler, Economics Writer
OBAMA NOMINATED FOR ... AN EMMY
How does Emmy-award winner President Obama sound?
Obama, already a Nobel Prize recipient, could add an Emmy to an atypical trophy case for a commander in chief.
The president's appearance with comedian Zach Galifianakis on the web parody show “Between Two Ferns” was nominated for an Emmy in the Outstanding Short-Format Live-Action Entertainment Program category.
Obama went on the show to convince young people to sign up for Obamacare on the beleaguered healthcare.gov. The administration subsequently credited the program for an uptick in Obamacare enrollments.
Obama will compete against the Super Bowl halftime show and mini-episodes from the comedy “Parks and Recreation.” Other nominees are the Cartoon Network series “Children’s Hospital” and “The Soup” — 2014 White House Correspondents’ Dinner host Joel McHale's show.
Obama previously scored two Grammy Awards for best spoken word album for his books, The Audacity of Hope and Dreams from My Father.
With a win, he would be just an Oscar and Tony Award away from achieving EGOT status.
— Brian Hughes, White House Correspondent
SENATE REPUBLICANS WANT MILITARY ADVISERS SENT TO JORDAN
Senate Republicans want President Obama to send military advisers to Jordan to help the country develop a defense against the Islamic militant group now fighting to take over Iraq and other areas of the Middle East.
In a letter signed by 18 GOP lawmakers, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Sen. John McCain of Arizona, Republicans told Obama he needs to develop a strategy for dealing with Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, which now occupies parts of Syria and Iraq and is threatening the stability of the whole region, including American allies such as Jordan.
“Your administration has not developed a coherent strategy for defending the United States and our allies from either ISIL or the Al Nusrah [an affiliated Al-Qaeda group] front,” the senators said in the letter. “We are asking you to take urgent action and develop such a plan.”
The letter calls on Obama to send “an assessment team” to Jordan to help the country defend itself against the militant groups.
“We view King Abdullah II as an invaluable ally, and view the defense of Jordan as critical to the national security interests of the U.S. — and Israel.”
Obama last month announced he would send up to 300 “military advisers” to Iraq to help advise and train the Iraqi government to defend itself against ISIL. Jordan, which borders Syria and Iraq, has been left vulnerable to the terrorist organization.
— Susan Ferrechio, Chief Congressional Correspondent
HOUSE GOP ENLISTS 'SCHOOLHOUSE ROCK' TO BLAST DEMOCRATS
House Republicans have appropriated a theme from the popular cartoon education series "Schoolhouse Rock" to remind Americans that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is sitting on their proposals so that Democrats can blame them for inaction in Washington.
The campaign featuring the "I'm Just a Bill" cartoon means to highlight House-passed jobs bills now awaiting Senate action. The legislation includes the SKILLS Act, written to streamline federal job-training programs, and the Working Families Flexibility Act, which amends labor law to allow private-sector employers to offer compensatory time off in lieu of time-and-a-half pay for overtime, a controversial measure that drew criticism from labor law experts.
During his weekly news conference, House Speaker John Boehner made clear that Reid and Senate Democrats are giving political cover for Obama's partisan rhetoric by making sure Republican proposals remain sad little scraps of paper instead of becoming laws.
“House Republicans have passed nearly 40 jobs bills that are currently being blocked by Senate Democrats. We’ve seen enough of Senate gridlock. The president should join us in pushing the Senate for more action. And I frankly think middle-class families deserve it,” Boehner said.
In Reid's Senate, there aren't any happy endings for Republican bills like there are in "Schoolhouse Rock."
— Kevin Daley, Special to the Examiner
REPUBLICANS WANT JUSTICE IG TO INVESTIGATE TARGETING OF GROUPS
Republicans don't trust the Justice Department to investigate the Internal Revenue Service targeting of conservative groups and now want the department's inspector general to look into the matter instead.
Rep. Frank Wolf of Virginia, a top appropriator who oversees spending at the Justice Department, sent a letter to department Inspector General Michael Horowitz calling on him to “investigate the actions taken to date” by the Justice Department, which began examining the IRS actions in May 2013.
“More than one year later, there are no indications that a serious investigation is underway,” Wolf wrote.
Republicans have long expressed doubts about the Justice Department probe of the matter, with many calling for an investigation by an independent prosecutor.
In January, lawmakers were told that Attorney General Eric Holder had assigned a top Obama donor to handle the case for the Justice Department, angering many Republicans.
Justice Department lawyer Barbara Bosserman has donated $6,750 to Democrats and to Obama in the past decade.
“Justice has refused to reassign the case — despite her political conflict of interest — and Ms. Bosserman has so far turned up nothing.” Wolf signed the email then added a note in blue ink to Horowitz: “This is important. Thank you.”
Meanwhile, IRS officials were ordered to make a sworn declaration explaining how critical emails from Lois Lerner pertaining to the scandal disappeared and what can be done to recover them.
Judge Emmet G. Sullivan of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ordered agency officials to produce a sworn affidavit by Aug. 10 explaining how the emails were lost and how they may retrieved from other sources. The order comes as part of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit seeking Lerner's emails filed in October by the nonprofit watchdog group Judicial Watch.
— Susan Ferrechio, Chief Congressional Correspondent, and Mark Flatten, Senior Investigative Reporter
ASTRONAUT SAYS POLICY LEAVES NASA 'ADRIFT'
As the 45th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing approaches on July 20, famed astronaut Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin is urging his country to "lead in space" and reverse years of unambitious policy that has left NASA "adrift."
Buzz, who describes himself as a "global statesman for space," gave a brief address in a video by his advocacy group, Buzz Aldrin Enterprises.
The video opens to a recording of President John F. Kennedy's famous 1962 speech at Rice University, which dedicated the U.S. to a manned mission to the moon within a decade.
"I feel we need to remind the world about the Apollo missions and that we can still do impossible things," Aldrin says. "The whole world celebrated our moon landing, but we [Apollo 11 astronauts Aldrin, Neil Armstrong and Michael Collins] missed the whole thing because we were out of town."
Aldrin encourages viewers to share where they were during the lunar landing via social media using the hashtag #Apollo45. ("Kids, help your parents if they don't know how to use a smartphone," Aldrin, ahead of the curve at age 84, advises.)
Far from just a history lesson, Aldrin hopes the campaign will revitalize a stunted U.S. space program.
Buzz's vision, summarized by the title of his 2013 book Mission To Mars, contrasts with the modest plan proffered by NASA. While NASA claims its "next giant leap" is Mars, the National Research Council says the agency will not put a man on Mars in the foreseeable future. Constrained by budget cuts and program cancellations from an unenthusiastic White House, NASA has dedicated itself to a manned visit to an asteroid by 2025.
Aldrin offered pointed criticism of the current administration's space policy in an interview with the Washington Post, saying that NASA has nothing to show for billions of dollars in spending because it lacks a captivating mission.
“I believe that we are — in other people’s terminology — adrift right now. We cannot take our own people to the space station,” Aldrin said, in reference to U.S. dependence on Russia for shuttle trips to the International Space Station.
"I believe that this nation should commit itself within two decades to leading international permanence on the planet Mars,” Buzz said.
— Blake Seitz, Special to the Examiner
UAW TO ESTABLISH VOLUNTARY UNION FOR TENNESSEE VW WORKERS
The United Auto Workers union is creating a union local for workers at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tenn.
The local will reportedly not seek recognition from VW, at least not at first. But UAW officials have said they will seek it if they can get a majority of plant workers to join. They will presumably then request exclusive bargaining rights for the rest of the plant workers as well.
"We will be announcing a local, and we would fully expect that Volkswagen would deal with this local union if it represents a substantial portion of its employees," UAW Secretary-Treasurer Gary Casteel said, according to the Tennessean.
The UAW is hoping the unofficial local union will enable it to hold onto the workers who have backed its prior efforts and allow it to build on that. A union needs a small majority of a workplace's employees to claim a right to exclusive representation under federal labor law.
The move comes less than five months after the workers rejected the UAW in a 712-626 vote. The loss was bitter defeat for the UAW, which had high hopes that the Chattanooga plant would give them a foothold in the union-averse Southern states.
"The election was so close, we don't feel it's right to turn our backs on these workers," Casteel said.
The February election was unusual in that the union had the tacit backing of VW. The European carmaker was under pressure from its German workers union, IG Metall, to work with its American counterpart. VW officials hinted broadly prior to the vote that allowing a union would mean they might expand production at the plant. The company also held mandatory meetings in which UAW organizers made their pitches to workers. Anti-union groups were banned from the factory.
Even if VW recognizes a UAW union in Chattanooga and grants it exclusive representation rights, the employees still would have the right to tell the union "no." Tennessee adopted a right-to-work law in 1947, meaning workers cannot be forced into joining unions, even in unionized workplaces. It was among the first states to do so.
— Sean Higgins, Senior Writer
AMERICANS TO PALIN: PLEASE STOP TALKING
Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin is the politician Americans most want to stop talking, according to a Wall Street Journal/NBC News survey that polled voters on their opinion of six public figures.
The survey found that a majority of voters — 52 percent — believe Palin should just “be quiet.”
Palin scored lower marks than Jesse Jackson, whom 45 percent of respondents say should keep quiet, as well as former Vice President Dick Cheney, who polled at 42 percent, and Newt Gingrich, who came in at 39 percent.
“Mr. Jackson’s numbers are a bit of a mystery, given that he has not been in the national media much of late,” the Wall Street Journal reported. “More than half of people surveyed who are 50 years or older — who perhaps remember the civil rights activist when he was more prominent and a potential Democratic presidential nominee — said Mr. Jackson should be quiet. Only 35 percent of people aged 18-34 said the same.”
Meanwhile, former President Bill Clinton and former Vice President Al Gore scored much more favorably, polling at 31 percent and 37 percent, respectively.
“Twelve percent of those surveyed said each of the pols surveyed should continue talking — they said none of them should be quiet,” the Journal reported.
The release of the survey came less than 24 hours after Palin called on members of Congress to impeach President Obama, arguing that America, a “battered housewife,” can no longer withstand the 44th president's unchecked lawlessness.
“It’s time to impeach; and on behalf of American workers and legal immigrants of all backgrounds, we should vehemently oppose any politician on the left or right who would hesitate in voting for articles of impeachment,” Palin wrote in an op-ed.
The Wall Street Journal survey polled 1,392 respondents and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points. It was conducted June 30-July 7, excluding July 4.
— T. Becket Adams, Commentary Writer
GUTTERBALL: WHITE HOUSE BOWLING ALLEY WON'T BE RENOVATED
The White House abruptly canceled a contract to renovate the Harry S. Truman Bowling Alley after it drew political criticism.
Time magazine reported that the General Services Administration had issued a federal contract posting for the EEOB Bowling Alley, referring to its home in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building.
The Truman Bowling Alley was built in the West Wing in 1947 as a birthday present for its namesake, who actually hadn't played since he was a teenager. The alley was moved to the EEOB in 1955. Another lane was installed underneath the White House at the request of President Nixon in 1969.
While most presidents have made the short jaunt to the EEOB for a bowling alley photo op, including President Obama, few besides President Nixon have made frequent trips.
The GSA contract would have overhauled the alley, which has sustained decades of dropped balls and shoe scuffs.
"It has been 15 years since these lanes have had any professional, industry standard maintenance, modifications, repair or attention," the contract states. "They are now irreparable."
The contract specified that the lanes were to be replaced in accordance with "industry standard specifications ... as set forth by the United States Bowling Congress," with environmentally friendly synthetic materials used for the lanes, approach and pin deck. The contract did not specify how much the overhaul would cost.
The contract's sudden cancellation was perhaps to be expected, as the lanes have given President Obama grief once before. In 2009 Obama remarked on "The Tonight Show" that his poor bowling performance was "like the Special Olympics." His joke drew criticism — and a challenge from a top-flight Special Olympics bowler. Obama later apologized.
— Blake Seitz, Special to the Examiner