passes bill

House passes bill to boost defense, fund border wall

Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.), chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, speaks during a July 19 markup of fiscal 2018 spending bills on Capitol Hill. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
The House passed a $790 billion spending bill Thursday that would increase military funding and pave the way for construction of a wall along 72 miles of the Mexican border. It has, however, virtually no chance of becoming law.

The bill blasts through the defense spending cap enacted under the 2011 Budget Control Act by $72 billion. If enacted, the bill would result in an across-the-board 13 percent cut in Pentagon spending absent an agreement with Democrats to lift the caps.

But House Republican leaders on Thursday praised the bill — which combined fiscal 2018 appropriations for the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Energy Department and the legislative branch in addition to the Defense Department — as a muscular statement of Republican policy priorities that will set the stage for later talks with Democrats. The $1.6 billion in border wall funding was pulled from a separate homeland security bill.

The bill passed the House 235 to 192, with five Republicans voting against and five Democrats voting in favor. Eight other spending bills that have cleared the House Appropriations Committee await action; GOP leaders chose not to bring them to the floor despite pressure from appropriators eager to see Republican spending priorities passed through the House.

“We must be vigilant in protecting our homeland. That’s our priority,” House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) said in a statement. “This legislation funds the most critical functions of government. It secures our borders by providing funding for a wall on our southern border. It gives our service members a raise and ensures they have the tools they need to complete their missions. Additionally, the legislation takes care of our veterans here at home who have kept us safe.”

But Rep. Nita M. Lowey (N.Y.), the top Democrat on the Appropriations Committee, called the bill “a fraudulent presentation to the American people” that could not possibly be enacted into law.

A pair of controversial amendments that would have defunded the Congressional Budget Office failed on the House floor Wednesday night. But Lowey said the bill that passed Thursday, as well as the other spending bills in the House hopper, contain plenty of other “poison pills” that would lead Democrats to block them in the Senate, where most legislation must garner a three-fifths majority.

No provision, she said, is more objectionable than the money to build President Trump’s border wall: “To tack on this wall, which is so immoral and so distasteful to the majority of our caucus, really is unfortunate,” she said.

Current federal spending authority expires Sept. 30, and federal agencies will partially shut down then if a spending accord is not reached beforehand.


House passes bill that includes $705m. for US-Israel missile defense cooperation

WASHINGTON — The US House of Representatives passed a massive $696 billion defense policy bill on Friday that designates $705 million for US-Israel missile defense cooperation.

The 2018 National Defense Authorization Act, which passed 344 to 81, increases spending on these programs by $105 million more than in last year’s budget. The total figure also reflects a $558 million increase from US President Donald Trump’s original defense budget request, which asked for $603 billion in total funding.

Trump has vowed to slash spending on various governmental agencies and programs he deems unnecessary, while pumping more money into the military. Pushing forsweeping cuts in his budget blueprint, he specifically called for defense aid to Israel to remain untouched.

The document committed to honoring the $3.1 billion in foreign military funding granted to Israel in accordance with a 10-year Memorandum of Understanding between the two countries.

The aid to Israel expires in 2018, when the historic MOU struck between the Obama administration and Israel will go into effect.

That package, signed by the two parties in September 2016, will grant Israel $3.8 billion annually — up from the $3.1 billion pledged under the previous agreed-upon MOU — starting in 2018 and through 2028. That deal between Washington and Jerusalem is the United States’ largest defense aid package to any country in history.

The Senate Armed Services Committee approved its version of the annual legislation in June, but the full chamber has yet to take it up for consideration.

The House bill specifies that funding be allocated to a myriad of Israeli programs, including the Iron Dome missile interception system, the Arrow 3 long-range interceptor program and David’s Sling mid-range rocket interceptors.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the largest and most powerful pro-Israel lobby in Washington, said it “applauded” the passage of the bill and urged “inclusion of these vital funds in the final versions” of the defense authorization and appropriations bills for fiscal year 2018.

House passes bills to crack down on ‘sanctuary cities’ and deported criminals who return to U.S.

The House on Thursday passed two hard-line immigration bills that would penalize illegal immigrants who commit crimes and local jurisdictions that refuse to work with federal authorities to deport them.

Both bills, Kate’s Law and the No Sanctuary for Criminals Act, passed on largely party-line votes amid heavy promotion from Republicans, starting with President Trump.

“MAKE AMERICA SAFE AGAIN!” Trump tweeted as the House debated the bills Thursday, one of five tweets he pushed out to his 35 million followers highlighting the legislation.

Before the vote, Trump urged lawmakers to pass the bill during remarks at the Department of Energy, calling them “vital to public safety and national security.”

Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly appeared on Capitol Hill ahead of the vote Thursday with House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (Wis.) and other Republican leaders to promote the bills.

Kate’s Law, named after a 32-year-old woman shot and killed in 2015 by an illegal immigrant who had been deported five times, steps up prison sentences for criminals who reenter the United States illegally after being convicted and deported.

The No Sanctuary for Criminals Act bars “sanctuary cities” that do not cooperate with federal immigration enforcement from receiving many federal grants and leaves them vulnerable to liability lawsuits from victims of crimes committed by illegal immigrants.

Kelly cast the bills as common-sense measures that would “uphold our nation’s immigration laws and help make our communities more safe.”

“President Trump has been clear that our borders are not open to illegal immigration, that we are a nation of laws, and we will no longer look the other way,” he said. “Well, we will no longer look the other way in the interior, either.”

Kelly said Immigrations and Customs Enforcement has deported nearly 66,000 people known to be or suspected of being in the country illegally — representing a spike under Trump administration policies. Nearly half of those, he said, were charged with crimes or “had gang affiliations.”

On the House floor, the lead sponsor of the bills, Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) said the legislation would “provide better immigration enforcement and the peace of mind that no criminal will have sanctuary from our immigration laws.”

“For years, the lack of immigration enforcement and spread of sanctuary policies have cost too many lives,” he said, citing Obama administration policies that “encouraged or at the very least turned a blind eye to jurisdictions nationwide that implemented sanctuary policies.”

The bills prompted sharp attacks by Democrats, who said the legislation would have a deleterious effect on public safety and would ramp up fear among law-abiding immigrants.

“The ultimate experts on community safety are communities themselves, and hundreds of them have determined that as community trust increases, crime decreases,” said Rep. John Conyers Jr. (Mich.), the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee.

Some highlighted a new study published by a University of California at Irvine criminologist that concluded that immigration levels do not have a meaningful effect on crime. The study, published this month in the Annual Review of Criminology, examined 51 studies published between 1994 and 2014.

Members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus rallied on Capitol Hill ahead of the vote and framed the bills as part of an anti-immigrant campaign led by Trump.

“These are Trump-inspired measures,” said Rep. Julián Castro (D-Tex.), who accused the president of using immigrants as a “scapegoat for about everything wrong in the United States.”

Ahead of the bills’ House passage, Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-N.M.), chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, urged immigrants and allies to “immediately call their senators.”

“We’re in a better position there,” she said.

The House bills face a major obstacle in the Senate, where Republicans have only 52 seats and need 60 votes to overcome a filibuster. A version of Kate’s Law introduced last year by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) failed on a 55-to-42 vote.

On Thursday afternoon, the House passed Kate’s Law 257 to 167 and the sanctuary cities bill 228 to 195.

“Opposing these bills, and allowing dangerous criminals back into our communities, our schools, and the neighborhoods where our children play, puts all of us at risk,” Trump said in a statement following the bills’ passage. “Now that the House has acted, I urged the Senate to take up these bills, pass them, and send them to my desk.”

In an unusually discordant moment on Thursday, Kelly told reporters he was “offended when members of this institution exert pressure and often threaten me and my officers to ignore the laws they make, and I am sworn to uphold” — an apparent reference to congressional Democrats who have confronted Kelly in closed-door meetings and open hearings about the deportation surge.

Kelly left the news conference, held on the day before the Trump administration’s revised travel ban was set to take effect, without taking questions.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said it was “strange” that Kelly, a former Marine general, would level that accusation.

“Generals are used to a level of deference that members of Congress are not necessarily used to bestowing on cabinet officers,” she said. “And so perhaps being asked questions and a follow-up question seems threatening to him, but that’s the democratic way.”

Senate Passes Bill Requiring Citizens Report Privately Stashed Cash

A new Senate bill will start forcing citizens to report cash and other assets not held in banks. This bill is stated to combat terrorism and money laundering. But is it? It seems to most like just another government attempt to steal assets and raise revenue for social programs. As this bill will give the government the authority to track assets and seize them should an individual fail to report independently held assets exceeding $10,000.

Civil forfeiture is another word for government robbery of your cash, gold, property and other assets. The most alarming aspect of civil forfeiture is that even a court verdict of not guilty doesn’t guarantee the return of state stolen assets. All the government has to do is suspect individuals of committing crimes to permanently confiscate your property.

This brings to mind the FBI raid under former FBI Director Comey of a small Texan Conservative political gathering back in 2015. Agents confiscated electronics and forcibly fingerprinted all 60 people gathered at the meeting. Now let’s just suppose for a second that they found any evidence of unreported wealth during the raid. You better believe they’d have seized-up all the assets. This is a very real possibility unfolding before us right now since the Senate just passed this bill.

The government is even going to start throwing people in prison if they find out folks haven’t been reporting ALL of their assets.  How long would you guess the minimum federal sentence would be for failing to report assets not held in a back? Here is a hint. It’s about double the average time handed for 1st-time rape offenders. Find out more about this freedom infringing bill and how it gives the government the right to start wiretapping private citizens on the next page. 

Senate (White Freemasons) unanimously passes bill marking 50 years since Jerusalem reunification

WASHINGTON — The US Senate unanimously passed a resolution on Monday that commemorates the 50th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem.

Co-sponsored by 17 senators, including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D), the text calls on the legislative body to recognize the half a century landmark since Israel captured the eastern part of the city during the 1967 Six Day War.

“Jerusalem should remain the undivided capital of Israel in which the rights of every ethnic and religious group are protected,” the resolution states, adding that “there has been a continuous Jewish presence in Jerusalem for 3 millennia.”

It also says that “Jerusalem is a holy city and the home for people of the Jewish, Muslim and Christian faiths” and advocates a two-state outcome based on direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.

The bill’s passage was “applauded” by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and embraced the liberal advocacy group J Street.

J Street’s Vice President of Government Affairs Dylan Williams tweeted that the resolution affirmed “long-held US policy that Jerusalem’s status is to be decided by the parties in 2-state negotiations.”

Senators advanced this measure just after US President Donald Trump formally deferred — at least for now — his campaign pledge to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and recognize the city as Israel’s capital.

US President Donald Trump visits the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial museum in Jerusalem on May 23, 2017. (AFP Photo/Gali Tibbon)

Last Thursday, he signed a waiver that defers a Congressional mandate to relocate the American embassy. The 1995 law provides the president with the prerogative to postpone the move on national security grounds. Each of Trump’s three immediate predecessors — Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama — repeatedly exercised that right.

In announcing the decision, the White House said Trump was not fulfilling his campaign pledge because he wanted to “maximize the chances of successfully negotiating a deal between Israel and the Palestinians,” something he’s been pursuing since assuming office.

The White House further tried to assure that Trump would still move the embassy eventually. “The question is not if that move happens, but only when,” a statement from Press Secretary Sean Spicer said.

The US embassy in Tel Aviv, Israel, June 14, 2016. (Flash 90)

The Senate Resolution “reaffirms the Jerusalem Embassy Act” — the law mandating the move — and “calls upon the President and all United States officials to abide by its provisions.”

It also supports a two-state outcome to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which “can only be achieved,” the text reads, “through direct, bilateral negotiations without preconditions.”

Schumer, the Democratic Senate leader and one of the most prominent Jewish members of Congress, released a statement introducing the measure that implored the US to recognize Jerusalem as the Jewish state’s capital.

“I am proud to sponsor this resolution, which reaffirms the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 that states Jerusalem should remain an undivided city and Israel’s capital – in which the rights of every ethnic and religious group are celebrated, valued and protected,” he said.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., left, talks with Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, April 13, 2016. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

“The resolution also affirms our longstanding policy to achieve peaceful coexistence via direct negotiations that achieve a two-state solution.”

Such language also runs in stark contrast to a UNESCO resolution last month — titled “Occupied Palestine” — that suggested Israel has no sovereign claim to Jerusalem.

The United States scolded that document. “Once again, the United States rejects the adoption of these anti-Israel resolutions at UNESCO,” a US official told The Times of Israel at the time. “Like other parts of the UN system, UNESCO is too often used as a vehicle by member states inclined to deride and delegitimize the State of Israel.”

House (White Freemasons) passes bill that would enhance reporting on European anti-Semitism

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The U.S. House of Representatives unanimously approved a bill that would add greater detail to State Department reporting on anti-Semitism in Europe.

The Combating European Anti-Semitism Act of 2017 passed Wednesday requires the State Department to report to Congress on security challenges to European Jewish communities and to the police forces where they live, and on efforts in Europe to educate against anti-Semitism.

The bill, which must be approved by the Senate and then signed by the president, also encourages European nations to adopt a uniform definition of anti-Semitism.

The State Department currently must report to Congress on the level of threats against Jews in European countries.

“This bill would require the U.S. government — and encourage our global partners — to continue to take a hard look at anti-Semitism in Europe, provide a thorough assessment of trends, and outline what the United States and our partners are doing to meet this challenge,” said a statement from the Bipartisan Taskforce for Combating Anti-Semitism.

The co-chairwomen of the task force are Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., who is also the chairwoman of the House Middle East subcommittee, and Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., also the ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee.

Congressional leadership backed the bill. Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, commended the bill for encouraging the adoption of a uniform definition of anti-Semitism.

“Absent a clear-eyed definition of anti-Semitism, perpetrators of violent attacks have at times been given a pass for their actions due to the flimsy defense of political protest,” Royce said in his remarks on the House floor prior to the vote.

“Adoption across Europe of a single definition of anti-Semitism would provide an important foundation for law enforcement officials, enabling them to better enforce laws and develop strategies for improved security for the Jewish community.”

House passes bill protecting circumcision, ritual slaughter as religious freedoms

WASHINGTON (JTA) — A bill unanimously approved by the U.S. House of Representatives would extend religious protections to advocates of circumcision and ritual slaughter as well as atheists, addressing what its sponsors describe as an increase in religious persecution in recent years.

The bill, passed Monday, would broaden the definition of “violations of religious freedom” in the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 to include the persecution of advocates of male circumcision or ritual animal slaughter. Atheists would become a new protected class.

The measure, which moves to the Senate for consideration, was named for retired Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., a longtime champion of human rights who authored the 1998 law.

“The world is experiencing an unprecedented crisis of international religious freedom, a crisis that continues to create millions of victims; a crisis that undermines liberty, prosperity and peace; a crisis that poses a direct challenge to the U.S. interests in the Middle East, Russia, China and sub-Saharan Africa and elsewhere,” Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., who authored the bill, said in a statement.

There have been increasing calls in recent years in northern European countries for an end to circumcision and ritual slaughter, spurred in part by anti-Muslim hostility, U.S. government and European Jewish officials have said.

READ: U.S. intervenes in Europe’s circumcision wars

The bill’s tier system for how well or poorly countries protect religious freedom would be similar to the one used in the annual State Department report on human trafficking. That report is influential, and countries seeking the good graces of the United States strive to improve their ranking by cracking down on the practice.

Smith is the chairman of the House subcommittee on human rights, and as a co-chairman of the Helsinki Committee, the congressional panel that monitors human rights overseas, has made the resurgence of anti-Semitism in Europe a focus.

READ: Marginalizing extremists is priority as religions envoy, David Saperstein says

Smith’s office, announcing the passage of the bill, headlined the statement “Combating Persecution of Christians and Anti-Semitism,” although many of its protections would extend in the current climate to moderate Sunni Muslims and non-Sunni Muslim sects in the Middle East, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Myanmar.

READ: US religious freedom report: Anti-Semitism ‘major problem’ around globe

Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., the bill’s lead Democratic sponsor, said in the same statement that the bill would “better address the religious freedom and violent extremism problems being experienced in the 21st century.”

The bill integrates the 1998 law’s protections into U.S. national security priorities, mandating that the ambassador at large for religious freedom – currently Rabbi David Saperstein, a veteran Reform movement leader — report directly to the secretary of state. It also adds new requirements for presidential reporting to Congress on religious freedom violations and training for diplomats in identifying violations of religious freedoms.

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