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January 8, 2015

John Boehner re-elected as US House Speaker despite conservative challenge

John Boehner re-elected as US House Speaker despite conservative challenge

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Official portrait of Rep. John Boehner.
Image: US House of Representatives.

Representative John Boehner was re-elected as Speaker of the US House of Representatives on Tuesday despite a right-wing rebellion of 25 members. Boehner’s appointment as Speaker passed with 216 of the 408 votes. Republican Senator Mitch McConnell was also sworn in on Tuesday as the Senate majority leader, marking the first time in eight years when Republicans have controlled both the House and Senate.

The challengers to Boehner came primarily from the libertarian and hard right wing of the party, sometimes associated with the Tea Party movement. One — Brian Babin — simply voted ‘present’ while the remaining twenty four voted for a variety of other candidates. Twelve voted for Representative Daniel Webster, three voted for Representative Louis Gohmert, two voted for Representative Ted Yoho, and two for Representative Jim Jordan. There were also votes for Representatives Jeff Duncan, Kevin McCarthy and Trey Gowdy, as well as votes for Senators Rand Paul and Jeff Sessions.

Two of those voting against Boehner, Daniel Webster and Richard B. Nugent, were not reappointed to the House Rules Committee. Speaking to reporters, Boehner said the House Republicans were “going to have a family conversation, which we had this morning, about bringing our team together”.

Reacting to his removal from the Rules Committee, Richard Nugent stated: “I’m not on Rules, I will tell you that […] But it’s not really clear that I couldn’t get back on it. I carried a lot of water on the Rules Committee, took a lot of tough votes.” Webster said he was less interested in being on the Committee: “Do you see people running to get on it?”

Following the election of Boehner and McConnell, the White House announced President Barack Obama would veto planned legislation by Republicans to start the construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline. White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters: “If this bill passes this Congress, the president wouldn’t sign it”.



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March 14, 2013

Archbishop Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires elected as Pope Francis

Archbishop Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires elected as Pope Francis

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Thursday, March 14, 2013

Jorge Mario Bergoglio in 2012
Image: Sandra Hernandez.

The Roman Catholic Church has elected Archbishop Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires as the new pope. He is to take the papal name Francis and take over from the recently retired Benedict XVI.

White smoke rose from the Sistine Chapel chimney at 7:06pm (Rome time) yesterday, signifying that the conclave had elected a new pope after four unsuccessful attempts. Following his election, he appeared at a balcony in St. Peter’s Square to greet crowds of onlookers.

Introducing himself in St. Peter’s Square, Francis was jovial: “Brothers and sisters, good evening. You know that the work of the conclave is to give a bishop to Rome. It seems as if my brother cardinals went to find him from the end of the earth. Thank you for the welcome.” He went on to say: “Let’s begin this long road from the Bishop of Rome to the people. Let us all behave with love and charity. Let us pray always not just for ourselves, but for others, for everyone in the word”.

Born in Buenos Aires on December 17, 1936 and now aged 76, the new pope became a bishop in 1992, and was elevated to cardinal in 2001 by Pope John Paul II. As a child, he lost a lung due to an infection. He is the first Jesuit pope and the first from the Americas. He was the President of the Bishops’ Conference of Argentina from 2005 to 2011.

US President Barack Obama made a statement about the election of the new pope: “On behalf of the American people, Michelle and I offer our warm wishes to His Holiness Pope Francis as he ascends to the Chair of Saint Peter and begins his papacy.” Obama’s statement noted the new pope was a “champion of the poor and the most vulnerable among us”, and “[as] the first pope from the Americas, his selection also speaks to the strength and vitality of a region that is increasingly shaping our world”.

US House Speaker John Boehner also pointed out the new pope came from the Americas: “I think that reaching out beyond the traditional continent of our church is another big step in the right direction of our church.” British Prime Minister David Cameron said that the papal election was “a momentous day for the 1.2 billion Catholics around the world”.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, said the election of a new Pope was of “great significance to Christians everywhere, not least Anglicans”. He went on to describe the new pope: “Pope Francis is well known as a compassionate pastor of real stature who has served the poor in Latin America, and whose simplicity and holiness of life is remarkable. He is an evangelist, sharing the love of Christ which he himself knows.”

In Argentina, he was outspoken against socially liberal policies including the provision of free contraception and gay marriage. Bergoglio said plans to legalize gay marriage in Argentina were “a plan to destroy God’s plan” and “a move by the father of lies to confuse and deceive the children of God”.

Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said Francis would be known as Pope Francis; “It will become Francis I after we have a Francis II”.



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January 4, 2013

113th United States Congress convenes

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Friday, January 4, 2013

The United States Congress, consisting of the House of Representatives and Senate, convened at 12:00 PM EST Thursday at the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C. for the first session of the 113th United States Congress. Newly elected and re-elected members of both the House of Representatives and Senate were sworn-in as both houses debated the rules and procedures to be adhered to for the next two years.

The 113th United States Congress convened at noon EST Thursday in the United States Capitol building (pictured).
Image: Kevin McCoy.

The House of Representatives customarily elected its Speaker for the 113th Congress. Incumbent Speaker Republican John Boehner was re-elected, defeating Democrat Nancy Pelosi by a vote of 220–192. Boehner’s re-election as House Speaker ended speculation that the Republican Party would split and nominate another candidate to challenge him for the gavel following internal tumult during the “fiscal cliff” negotiations last month. After Boehner was sworn-in for his second term as Speaker, he proceeded to swear-in all 435 elected and re-elected members of the House en masse.

Members of the United States Senate were sworn-in in groups of four by Vice President and President of the Senate Joe Biden. Among the membership of the U.S. Senate for the 113th Congress are a record-setting 20 female Senators, including newly-elected Democrat Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, the first openly gay member of the U.S. Senate.

Members of the Senate and House of Representatives joined Joe Biden and John Boehner, respectively, after the formal swearing-in ceremony for re-enactment ceremonies in front of photographers.

Republican Mark Kirk, United States Senator from Illinois, also officially returned to his duties after suffering a debilitating stroke last January 21st that forced him to learn how to walk again. Fulfilling a goal he had set for himself after his stroke, Kirk ascended the 45 steps leading up to the Senate wing of the United States Capitol building with assistance from both Joe Biden and fellow Senator Joe Manchin, as several other members of both houses of Congress and well-wishers looked on. He is expected to continue rehabilitation, while convenient housing arrangements have been made.

In the new congress, there are 53 Democrats, 45 Republicans and two independents in the Senate. The House of Representatives now has 234 Republicans and 201 Democrats in its membership. Having convened, the 113th Congress is expected to face issues including the debt ceiling, taxes and the federal budget deficit.

A new congress convenes every two years in January, with the next congress slated to convene in January 2015. The 1st United States Congress convened in 1789.



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December 23, 2011

U.S. Congress reaches deal on payroll tax cut extension

U.S. Congress reaches deal on payroll tax cut extension

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Speaker of the U.S. House John Boehner announced yesterday that he would agree to a two-month extension of the payroll tax cut. In an effort to end the impasse between the House and Senate, Boehner told Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid that he would schedule a House vote on the Senate version of the bill that would extend the tax cut, which was due to expire at the end of the year.

Speaker John Boehner (pictured) announced yesterday that he would agree to a two-month extension of the payroll tax cut.
Image: U.S. Congress.

Speaker Boehner announced the agreement in a brief statement: “Senator Reid and I have reached an agreement that will ensure taxes do not increase for working families on January 1”. Boehner informed other congressmen of the deal in a conference call yesterday evening.

The House may pass the bill via unanimous consent today, which would not require the presence of all members. Boehner and Reid also agreed to a bipartisan negotiation committee to sort out differences and extend the tax cut for an entire year, a goal recently sought by Republicans in the House.

The extension of the payroll tax cut, which would prevent approximately 160 million Americans from seeing a tax increase in 2012, had already been passed by the Senate last weekend. Earlier yesterday, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell joined several other Republican Senators in encouraging the House to pass the extension.

Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid said that once the House acts, he “will be happy to restart the negotiating process to forge a yearlong extension.” At a news conference, Speaker Boehner issued a statement: “We have fought the good fight. Why not do the right thing for the American people even though it’s not exactly what we want.” President Obama also responded to the development in a statement: “This is good news, just in time for the holidays. This is the right thing to do to strengthen our families, grow our economy, and create new jobs. This is real money that will make a real difference in people’s lives.”

The tax cut extension impasse began when the House effectively rejected the Senate-approved version of the bill on Tuesday after being faced with opposition from House Republicans, specifically those associated with the Tea Party movement, who advocated for spending cuts and the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline.



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December 21, 2011

U.S. House rejects Senate version of payroll tax cut

U.S. House rejects Senate version of payroll tax cut

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Yesterday, the United States House of Representatives voted to effectively reject the Senate version of a bill, passed with bipartisan support, to extend a payroll tax cut two months past its year-end expiration date. The House voted instead to create a conference committee to settle differences between members of both bodies.

The House rejected the Senate version of a bill that would extend a payroll tax cut for two months yesterday.
Image: Kevin McCoy.

Although the tax cut extension itself has support among Republicans and Democrats, lawmakers disagree on how Congress should go about compensating for the cost of extending the cut and the policy changes it would entail.

During an appearance yesterday, President Obama condemned opposition to the Senate-passed version of the bill, accusing Republicans in the House of trying to negotiate on matters unrelated to the bill. Republicans, in response, say there is still time to negotiate the bill, insisting that lawmakers ought to concentrate on a year-long plan rather than a two-month extension. Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid, however, says he will not agree to negotiate the tax cut extension until the Senate-approved bill is passed by the House.

If the tax cut is not extended and instead expires on December 31, approximately 160 million Americans will be affected by the tax increase; President Obama insists the only way to prevent the tax hike beginning January 1 is for the House to pass the Senate bill. In response, House Speaker and Republican John Boehner wants Obama to “call on the Senate to return” to negotiate. The Senate, shortly after passing the bill, adjourned for the Holiday break.

Also included in the bill is a provision that would require President Obama to make a decision regarding the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, a pipeline that would transport oil from Canada to Texas.

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi blamed the congressional year-end impasse on “Tea Party Republicans.” In a letter to President Obama, Speaker Boehner requested he galvanize the Senate to negotiate on the bill’s provisions, writing “The differences between the two different bills can be quickly reconciled to provide the American people the certainty of a full-year bill. There are still 11 days before the end of the year, and with so many Americans struggling, there is no reason they should be wasted. You have said many times that Congress must do its work before taking vacation”.


 
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August 8, 2011

Wikinews interviews Andy Martin, U.S. Republican Party presidential candidate

Wikinews interviews Andy Martin, U.S. Republican Party presidential candidate

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Monday, August 8, 2011

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Andy Martin
Image: Andy Martin.

U.S. Republican Party presidential candidate Andy Martin of Illinois took some time to answer a few questions from Wikinews reporter William S. Saturn.

Martin has questioned the validity of the birth certificate released by U.S. President Barack Obama, and is best known for his role in the spreading of rumors that Obama is a Muslim. According to CNN, Martin has retracted the Muslim claim and now believes that Obama was fathered by journalist and labor activist Frank Marshall Davis rather than Kenyan economist Barack Obama, Sr.. He also believes that the Obama presidency has been a failure and has asked for Obama to resign.

Martin has run for an assortment of public offices in the past and has previously mounted two presidential campaigns. During the 1988 election, he vied unsuccessfully for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, and in 2000, he again fell short of winning the nomination of the Republican Party.

In other areas, Martin has filed numerous lawsuits, some reportedly with anti-Jewish language. This has caused some commentators such as former White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs to label Martin as an anti-Semite. Martin vehemently denies the charge. He has also taken legal action against Wikipedia, which he feels is a propaganda arm of the Obama administration.

While focusing his presidential campaign in the first-in-the-nation primary state of New Hampshire, Martin has largely emphasized local issues. On national issues, he has taken conservative stances, as documented on his campaign website and blog.

Barack Obama and the birther movement

According to The New York Times, Martin first spread the ‘Obama is a Muslim’ rumor via press release following then-Senate candidate Obama’s 2004 keynote address to the Democratic National Convention. Amid the 2008 presidential election, Martin traveled to Hawaii to investigate Obama, who was at the time, the Democratic Party nominee for president. In October 2008, he filed a lawsuit against the state to release Obama’s birth certificate, but it was dismissed by the courts. After returning from the trip, Martin announced that he believed Frank Marshall Davis was Obama’s biological father.

Martin has been a fierce critic of the Obama administration and held a press conference on August 5 to call for the resignation of both Obama and Vice President Joe Biden. He proposed that a “caretaker administration” be put in place until the 2012 election, with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid as president and a Republican as vice president.

  • Wikinews waves Left.pngWilliam S. SaturnWikinews waves Right.png: You have been one of the leading proponents of the movement questioning the citizenship of Barack Obama. What are your views on the long-form document recently released by the White House?
Andy Martin: I did indeed found the “Birther” movement questioning Barack Obama’s origins in Hawai’i but because of the need to run a national campaign for president I have not been active in examining Obama’s latest birth certificate. I think it was/is enough that I started the movement that ultimately forced Obama to release a document. I know there has been controversy about the new document but I am not involved in that controversy. It is for others to study and comment on the latest certificate; I am a full-time presidential candidate for the foreseeable future.
  • Wikinews waves Left.pngWSSWikinews waves Right.png: You have stated that it is your personal opinion that Frank Marshall Davis is the father of Barack Obama. What specifically led to this opinion?
Martin: My personal opinion that Frank Marshall Davis is Barack Obama’s biological father is based on my extensive research in Hawai’i.
Wikinews waves Left.pngWSSWikinews waves Right.png: Where specifically did you obtain the material for your research and what did it entail?
Martin: Because my Obama research in Hawai’i is ongoing and will be continuing in a research trip later this year I do not discuss my sources or methods of investigation. My writing speaks for itself.
  • Wikinews waves Left.pngWSSWikinews waves Right.png: Since announcing he would not seek the Republican nomination, Donald Trump seems to have toned down his statements on the birth certificate issue. What are your current views on Donald Trump?
Martin: I did not pay a lot of attention to Donald Trump’s “campaign” for president because his behavior seemed to suggest it was a charade. Mr. Trump has destroyed his political viability by saying initially he would only run as a Republican and then repudiating himself and suggesting he might run as an independent. Public leadership is serious business; Mr. Trump has shown he is not serious.
  • Wikinews waves Left.pngWSSWikinews waves Right.pngHow would [you] assess the Obama presidency?
Martin: The Obama presidency is an abject failure. I predicted Mr. Obama would fail in a Psychological Profile which was the first chapter of my book Obama: The Man Behind The Mask. Obama’s failure is no surprise to me.
  • Wikinews waves Left.pngWSSWikinews waves Right.pngDo you believe Obama has done any good things as president?
Martin: I can’t think of any off the top
  • Wikinews waves Left.pngWSSWikinews waves Right.pngYou ask Barack Obama to resign and want Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to take over. What legal precedent forms the basis of this? And assuming Vice President Biden resigns as well, why should Speaker John Boehner not take over as president?
Martin: The president of the Senate is third, not the speaker, so Reid is a practical choice.[Editor’s note 1] Boehner is fourth.[Editor’s note 2]

Personal past

Martin was asked several questions about his personal past, which he declined to answer. He refused to discuss his two previous presidential campaigns, his past affiliation with the Democratic Party and would not say which candidates he supported in previous elections. When pressed, Martin stated that the questions were irrelevant.

  • Wikinews waves Left.pngWilliam S. SaturnWikinews waves Right.png: You ran for president in 1988 as a member of the Democratic Party. Why did you choose to become a member of that party, and what caused you to switch to the Republican Party?
Andy Martin: [The late] Congressman Jack Kemp and Rev. Pat Robertson invited me to join the Republican Party and I did.
Wikinews waves Left.pngWSSWikinews waves Right.png: Are you still in contact with Pat Robertson?
Martin: No.
  • Wikinews waves Left.pngWSSWikinews waves Right.png: What is your response to the claims from Robert Gibbs and others that you are Anti-Semitic due to the alleged anti-Jewish language used in some of your previous lawsuits?
Martin: Robert Gibbs engaged in a crude political smear based on lies, distortions and misrepresentations. For the past four or five years I have been the victim of a pro-Obama dirty tricks operation orchestrated out of Wikipedia.org and the Obama campaign apparatus. In one sense, Obama’s use of malicious smears against me shows how desperate he is to discredit my activity. In another sense, the fact that Obama goes to such lengths to attack me is a compliment to the seriousness with which he views both my research and my current presidential campaign. The national media may not yet take my presidential campaign seriously but Mr. Obama and his dirty tricksters very much do. What does Obama know that the media don’t?

Presidential campaign

Martin has centered his campaign in the state of New Hampshire and has discussed local issues. For environmental reasons, he opposes the Northern Pass transmission line, an energy project slated to connect New England to the hydroelectric resources of Hydro-Québec. When asked if the project was under the purview of the office of the presidency, he replied that it requires a presidential finding. On July 28, Martin released a press release that described a planned march against the Northern Pass as “what could be the largest campaign event generated by any presidential candidate in New Hampshire during the 2012 election cycle.” When asked to go into detail about the event, Martin responded that it was “too time consuming” to provide “personalized analysis” but remarked that “I’d say we are surprising a lot of people and we have many more rabbits to pull out of the hat as the campaign progresses.”

Martin has not been invited to any Republican primary presidential debates and has not been included in any presidential preference polls.

  • Wikinews waves Left.pngWilliam S. SaturnWikinews waves Right.png: Why did you decide to run for president in 2012?
Andy Martin: I did not think and still do not believe that any of the “leading” Republican candidates are capable of waging an effective campaign against Barack Obama. I believe I could do a better job because of my extensive understanding and study of Obama’s character and personality. I predicted his ineffectiveness as a president in my Psychological Study which was published as a chapter in my bestselling book Obama: The Man Behind The Mask in 2008. I understood Obama before the American electorate did. They were not listening to me in 2008; maybe they will listen in 2012. To paraphrase former New York Mayor Ed Koch, the American people did not listen to me in 2008 and they are suffering for it. Now I’m running formally as a candidate to take my case against Obama to the American people.
  • Wikinews waves Left.pngWSSWikinews waves Right.png: Individually, what is your opinion of some of your fellow candidates for the Republican Party presidential nomination, notably Mitt Romney, Michele Bachmann, Ron Paul and Herman Cain? Why do you feel you would be a better nominee for the party than any of them?
Martin: I have occasionally written brief profiles and short commentaries on some of my opponents. Those columns are posted on my blogs. I refer you to those comments and any that appear in the future (as no doubt they will).
  • Wikinews waves Left.pngWSSWikinews waves Right.png: How often do you campaign, and how has the campaign been received by people you meet?
Martin: I campaign every day. I would say I have received an extraordinarily warm and positive response wherever I have campaigned. I place my campaign in the top 10, i.e. among the top 10 Republican presidential candidates nationally. While most of the media attention is focused on the top 5, some of the top 5 are tottering and will not survive.
Wikinews waves Left.pngWSSWikinews waves Right.png: Which other candidates would you also place in the top 10?
Martin: the usual ones, so long as they have actually announced. I don’t count unannounced ones.
  • Wikinews waves Left.pngWSSWikinews waves Right.png: Have you received any notable endorsements?
Martin: I receive the “endorsement” of ordinary Americans every day in my campaign. That is the only endorsement that counts.
  • Wikinews waves Left.pngWSSWikinews waves Right.png: Do you feel you can still win the nomination despite not receiving an invitation to any of the presidential debates?
Martin: I have a game plan and strategy to try to win, and we are executing that game plan well. I am very satisfied with the progress of the campaign. Actually, by excluding me from some of the debates to date, the media have been the losers. Some of the candidates they are showcasing are imploding, thereby brightening my prospects to move up on the presidential leader board.
Wikinews waves Left.pngWSSWikinews waves Right.png: In your estimation approximately how many supporters does your campaign have?
Martin: I can’t give an exact number, nor would I if we tallied supporters that way. But it clear my campaign is gaining altitude and other candidates are faltering. We are executing our game plan; others rather obviously are not.
  • Wikinews waves Left.pngWSSWikinews waves Right.png: If you do not win the Republican nomination, would you consider running for a third party‘s nomination?
Martin: No.

Political views

On his campaign website, Martin describes himself as a supporter of the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution in opposition to stringent gun control. He opposes Cap and Trade legislation and mandated health care coverage. He identifies himself as a proponent of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and a “corruption fighter”. He writes about his issue positions on his personal blog.

Martin was asked to elaborate his answers on some of the questions, but did not respond. He labeled certain questions as “bizarre”.

  • Wikinews waves Left.pngWilliam S. SaturnWikinews waves Right.pngHow would you describe your political philosophy? Would you be best defined as a fiscal conservative, a national security conservative, a social conservative, a libertarian or something else?
Andy Martin: I am a “full spectrum” conservative with an emphasis on national security and economic issues. These are the areas in which I have the greatest expertise.
  • Wikinews waves Left.pngWSSWikinews waves Right.pngWhich historical or contemporary figures serve as your political role models?
Martin: President Ronald Reagan, Prime Minister Winston Churchill, President Dwight Eisenhower
  • Wikinews waves Left.pngWSSWikinews waves Right.pngWhat are your thoughts on the Paul Ryan medicare reform plan?
Martin: I have my own Medicare and Social Security plans.
  • Wikinews waves Left.pngWSSWikinews waves Right.pngWould you support a Balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution?
Martin: Yes
  • Wikinews waves Left.pngWSSWikinews waves Right.pngDo you oppose any parts of the current U.S. Constitution?
Martin: This is a strange question
  • Wikinews waves Left.pngWSSWikinews waves Right.pngWhat necessary freedoms are currently lacking in America?
Martin: Good question
  • Wikinews waves Left.pngWSSWikinews waves Right.pngShould the U.S. be involved in the Libyan conflict?
Martin: I have supported limited involvement in Libya, primarily limited to support and special operations; we should not have a ground presence.
  • Wikinews waves Left.pngWSSWikinews waves Right.pngShould the Guantanamo Bay Detention Center remain open?
Martin: I have an open mind
  • Wikinews waves Left.pngWSSWikinews waves Right.pngWhat would be your first actions as president?
Martin: Jump-start the economy by encouraging the private sector to revitalize manufacturing and create immediate jobs.



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This exclusive interview features first-hand journalism by a Wikinews reporter. See the collaboration page for more details.

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Editor’s notes

  1. According to Article I, Section III of the United States Constitution, “The Vice President of the United States shall be President of the Senate”. Therefore, Vice President Joe Biden is President of the Senate, not Harry Reid. Reid serves as Senate Majority Leader, which is a strictly partisan position.
  2. According to the Presidential Succession Act of 1947, “if, by reason of death, resignation, removal from office, inability, or failure to qualify, there is neither a President nor Vice President to discharge the powers and duties of the office of President, then the Speaker of the House of Representatives shall, upon his resignation as Speaker and as Representative in Congress, act as President.” Therefore, John Boehner, as the speaker of the House of Representatives, follows the vice president as second in the line of succession. In the event of Boehner’s inability to assume the office, the act specifies that “the President pro tempore of the Senate shall, upon his resignation as President pro tempore and as Senator, act as President.” Therefore, President pro tempore of the United States Senate Daniel Inouye follows the speaker as third in the line of succession.


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August 1, 2011

US President Obama announces deal reached to avert government default

US President Obama announces deal reached to avert government default

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Monday, August 1, 2011

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President Barack Obama gives a press briefing at the White House announcing a deal on the debt limit and deficit reduction
Image: David Lienemann.

United States President Barack Obama announced Sunday night that an agreement between Republican and Democratic leaders has been reached that, if passed by Congress, will allow the government to raise its debt limit before it begins to default on its debt on Tuesday.

The deal has yet to be approved, with a vote by lawmakers in Congress not likely until Monday at the earliest. Some lawmakers from both the Democratic and Republican parties have previously said that they will not vote for the agreement in question.

According to Obama, the deal, agreed upon by leaders of both the House of Representatives and the Senate, will lead to a total of a trillion dollars in spending cuts over the next ten years, as well as the creation of a Congressional committee tasked with coming up with a proposal by November to further reduce the government’s debt.

Obama said that “the leaders of both parties in both chambers have reached an agreement that will reduce the deficit and avoid default, a default that would have had a devastating effect on our economy.”

Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell expressed optimism that Congress will pass the compromise deal. The Senate vote is due on Tuesday.

John Boehner, leader of the Republicans in the House, said that while “[t]his isn’t the greatest deal in the world […] it shows how much we’ve changed the terms of the debate in this town.” He also said that he plans to call a vote on the deal “as soon as possible.”

How much support the proposal has in the house is unclear. Democratic leader of the House Nancy Pelosi stated some Democratic members are resistant and are not likely to vote for the proposal.


 
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June 15, 2011

US congressmen sue Obama for military action in Libya

US congressmen sue Obama for military action in Libya

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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

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House Speaker John Boehner greets President Barack Obama at the 2011 State of the Union address.
Image: Pete Souza.

Several US congressmen have filed a bipartisan suit against the administration of US president Barack Obama, claiming its military operations in Libya are illegal because they did not have legislative approval.

Wednesday’s lawsuit comes one day after House Speaker John Boehner expressed his concerns in a letter to the president that his administration has violated the War Powers Resolution. US federal law requires that, if Congress does not approve military action, the president must withdraw forces within 60 days from the beginning of the conflict, and that the withdrawal must be completed by the 90th day. The latter deadline will pass this Sunday.

The White House is sending Congress a report to answer questions presented in a House resolution passed on June 3, which set a two-week deadline. The deadline to respond was this Friday, and Boehner claims that the failure to do so would also have been a violation of the War Powers Resolution.

It is common for the president and the legislature to argue over war powers. The US Constitution establishes the president as the commander-in-chief of the military, but it also gives Congress the power to declare war. The White House believes that it is complying with the War Powers Resolution by frequently briefing Congress on the Libya mission, having testified at ten congressional hearings and participated in more than 30 staff briefings. Boehner argues, however, that the administration should have sought explicit congressional approval for the action.

The lawsuit, filed by Dennis Kucinich (Democratic representative from Ohio) and Walter B. Jones (Republican representative from North Carolina), along with eight other congressmen, will cite the legislature’s “power of the purse” in addition to the War Powers Resolution. It will “challenge the executive branch’s circumvention of Congress,” and its use of UN and NATO mandates rather than Congress to justify its own actions, according to Kucinich.



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July 1, 2010

Sweeping bank regulatory overhaul passed in US House of Representatives

Sweeping bank regulatory overhaul passed in US House of Representatives

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Thursday, July 1, 2010

The United States House of Representatives passed a sweeping overhaul of the financial industry on Wednesday.
Image: Wikimedia Commons.

Cquote1.svg Never again, never again should Wall Street greed bring such suffering to our country. Cquote2.svg

—House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md, after new sweeping financial regulations were passed on Wednesday

The US House of Representatives passed a significant overhaul of financial regulations that strengthens the government’s hold on banks and also creates a new federal agency to oversee consumer lending on Wednesday.

“Never again, never again should Wall Street greed bring such suffering to our country,” said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-MD after the bill was passed by the House.

The House vote, which was mainly split over party lines, had 237 representatives in favor and 192 opposed. Only three Republicans voted for the bill, though this was an increase from December, when no Republicans voted for the previous version of the bill. This new bill combines the old December bill with a newer one passed by the more conservative Senate last month.

But even though the Senate passed their bill already, support for the one passed Wednesday looks a little uncertain. Since earlier this year the Democrats lost their 60 vote filibuster majority, they had to secure the votes of a few more moderate Republican senators to beat back procedural hurdles. Democrats struggled to win the full support of these senators even after backing down on a US$19 billion tax on big banks and hedge funds, which had been opposed by Republicans. This group of senators includes Scott Brown, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins. All three voted for the Senate bill last month.

The $19 billion tax was inserted in the 2000 page plus bill late last week, which came as a surprise to many large banks. Brown initially objected to the tax, and threatened to vote against the entire bill if the tax was not removed. Instead, the new way of financing the bill’s cost will be using $11 billion in cash that came from ending the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), a bill passed in 2008 that bailed out struggling banks, and also by increasing rates that banks pay to insure bank deposits to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. However, the increase in rates won’t affect banks with assets of less then $10 billion.

On Wednesday, Collins wrote a statement saying that she now planned to vote for the bill. However, Brown remained on the fence and said he would use recess during the week of July 4th to examine the details of the bill. He credited Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd for “thinking outside the box” in coming with a new way to fund the bill.

Other Republicans were much more opposed to the bill, and attacked it for failing to place tighter restrictions on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the mortgage giants that helped trigger the economic and housing meltdowns. House Republican leader John Boehner compared the new bill to using a nuclear weapon on an ant. In response, President Barack Obama said in a speech in Racine, Wisconsin that “[i]f the Republican leader is that out of touch with the struggles facing the American people, he should come here to Racine and ask people if they think the financial crisis was an ant.”



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April 1, 2010

Obama lessens US ban on offshore drilling

Obama lessens US ban on offshore drilling

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Thursday, April 1, 2010

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US President Barack Obama has announced that he will ease the country’s ban on offshore oil drilling, which has been in place since the 1980s.

According to the plan, offshore drilling would now be allowed in parts of the Atlantic, from Delaware down to 125 miles beyond the shoreline of Florida, in the eastern Gulf of Mexico.

The move, however, does have some restrictions; drilling further northeast or along the West Coast is still prohibited. Contracts in Bristol Bay, Alaska were also suggested, but were scrapped due to environmental concerns.

The president remarked that he decided the move was needed to lessen the country’s need for additional energy, adding that he had studied the issue for over a year. “This is not a decision that I’ve made lightly,” he said.

“We’re announcing the expansion of offshore oil and gas exploration but in ways that balance the need to harness domestic energy resources and the need to protect America’s natural resources,” Obama continued, speaking at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland. “My administration will consider potential new areas for development in the mid and south Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico.”

“Drilling alone can’t come close to meeting our long-term energy needs, and for the sake of our planet and our energy independence, we need to begin the transition to cleaner fuels now. I know that we can come together to pass comprehensive energy and climate legislation that’s going to foster new energy — new industries, create millions of new jobs, protect our planet, and help us become more energy independent.”

Obama said that the plan was partially intended to garner support from Republicans in Congress for a climate-change bill to lower greenhouse gas emissions, which has been languishing for months due to lack of support from Republicans.

Some environmental groups, however, condemned Obama’s move. Phil Radford, who is with the Greenpeace group, said that “[e]xpanding offshore drilling in areas that have been protected for decades threatens our oceans and the coastal communities that depend on them with devastating oil spills, more pollution and climate change.” Greenpeace also said that lifting the ban fuelled the US’ “addiction to oil”.

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Republican leader for the House of Representatives John Boehner, meanwhile, said he agreed with lifting the ban in the Atlantic, but remarked that it “makes no sense” not to have lifted it in other areas as well. “Opening up areas off the Virginia coast to offshore production is a positive step, but keeping much of the Pacific Coast and Alaska, as well as the most promising resources off the Gulf of Mexico, under lock and key makes no sense at a time when gasoline prices are rising and Americans are asking ‘Where are the jobs?'”, he said.

“Today’s announcement is a step in the right direction, but a small one that leaves enormous amounts of American energy off limits,” said the Senate Minority leader, Republican Mitch McConnell.

According to the US Minerals Management Service, the eastern Gulf of Mexico and parts of the Atlantic south and east of the continent could contain up to 5.8 billion barrels of oil and 40.5 trillion cubic feet of gas. The West Coast, meanwhile, which remains off limits for drilling, contains 10.5 billion barrels of oil with 18 trillion cubic feet of gas.



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