Розділ: Політика

Former New Jersey Governor Christie Expected to Join Republican Presidential Race

Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is expected to launch a Republican presidential campaign next week in New Hampshire.

Christie, who also ran in 2016, is planning to make the announcement at a town hall Tuesday evening at Saint Anselm College’s New Hampshire Institute of Politics, according to a person familiar with his thinking who spoke on condition of anonymity to confirm Christie’s plans.

The timing, which was first reported by Axios, comes after several longtime Christie advisers started a super political action committee to support his expected candidacy.

The Associated Press had previously reported that Christie was expected to enter the race “imminently.”

Christie critical of Trump

Christie has cast himself as the only potential candidate willing to aggressively take on former President Donald Trump, the current front-runner for the nomination. Christie, a former federal prosecutor, was a longtime friend and adviser to Trump, but broke with Trump over his refusal to accept the results of the 2020 election. Christie has since emerged as a leading and vocal critic of the former president.

Christie, who is currently polling at the bottom of the pack, dropped out of the 2016 presidential race a day after finishing sixth in New Hampshire’s primary.

In addition to Trump, Christie would be joining a GOP field that includes Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, U.S. Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina, former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley, former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, and biotech entrepreneur and “anti-woke” activist Vivek Ramaswamy.

North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum is expected to announce his candidacy on June 7, according to two GOP operatives. And former Vice President Mike Pence is also expected to launch a campaign soon.

‘I’m not a paid assassin’

Allies believe that Christie, who has been working as an ABC News analyst, has a unique ability to communicate. They say his candidacy could help prevent a repeat of 2016, when Trump’s rivals largely refrained from directly attacking the New York businessman, wrongly assuming he would implode on his own.

Christie has also said repeatedly that he will not run if he does not see a path to victory. “I’m not a paid assassin,” he recently told Politico.

While Christie is expected to spend much of his time in early-voting New Hampshire, as he did in 2016, advisers believe the path to the nomination runs through Trump, and they envision an unconventional, national campaign for Christie with a focus on garnering media attention and directly engaging with Trump.

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By Polityk | 01/06/2023 | Повідомлення, Політика

Here’s What’s In, What’s Out of the Debt Limit Bill to Avert US Default

President Joe Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy have been working the phones in an intense push to sell Congress on the 99-page bill that would suspend the nation’s debt limit through 2025 to avoid a federal default while limiting government spending.

The Democratic president and Republican speaker have to win their respective parties’ support for the plan in time to avert a default that would shake the global economy. On Tuesday, lawmakers will begin scrutinizing and debating the legislation, which also includes provisions to fund medical care for veterans, change work requirements for some recipients of government aid, and streamline environmental reviews for controversial pipelines and other energy projects.

The modest deal gives both men wins to tout, with Biden protecting major parts of his agenda from Republican cuts and McCarthy scoring several conservative spending caps and changes to government programs.

McCarthy has pledged that the House will vote on the legislation Wednesday, giving the Senate time to consider it before June 5, the date when Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said the United States could default on its debt obligations if lawmakers did not act in time.

But passage of the bill could be a heavy lift. A growing number of hard-line conservatives have already expressed early concerns that the compromise does not cut future deficits enough, while Democrats have been worried about proposed changes to work requirements in programs such as food stamps.

With the details of the deal now released, here’s what’s in and out:

Two-year debt limit, suspension, spending limits

The agreement would keep non-defense spending roughly flat in the 2024 fiscal year and increase it by 1% the following year, as well as suspend the debt limit until January 2025 — past the next presidential election.

For the next fiscal year, the bill matches Biden’s proposed defense budget of $886 billion and allots $704 billion for non-defense spending.

The bill also requires Congress to approve 12 annual spending bills or face a snapback to spending limits from the previous year, which would mean a 1% cut.

The legislation aims to limit federal budget growth to 1% for the next six years, but that provision would not be enforceable starting in 2025.

Overall, the White House estimates that the plan would reduce government spending by at least $1 trillion, but official calculations have not yet been released.

Aid for veterans

The agreement would fully fund medical care for veterans at the levels included in Biden’s proposed 2024 budget blueprint, including a fund dedicated to veterans who have been exposed to toxic substances or environmental hazards. Biden sought $20.3 billion for the toxic exposure fund in his budget.

Unspent COVID-19 money

The agreement would rescind about $30 billion in unspent coronavirus relief money that Congress approved through previous bills. It claws back unobligated money from dozens of federal programs that received aid during the pandemic, including rental assistance, small business loans, and broadband for rural areas.

The legislation protects pandemic funding for veterans’ medical care, housing assistance, the Indian Health Service, and some $5 billion for a program focused on rapidly developing the next generation of COVID-19 vaccines and treatments.

IRS funding

Republicans targeted money that the IRS was allotted last year to crack down on tax fraud. The bill bites into some IRS funding, rescinding $1.4 billion.

The White House has said that the deal also includes an agreement to take $20 billion from the IRS over the next two years and use that money for other non-defense programs.

Work requirements

The agreement would expand work requirements for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps — a longtime Republican priority. But the changes are pared down from the House-passed debt ceiling bill.

Work requirements already exist for most able-bodied adults between the ages of 18 and 49. The bill would phase in higher age limits, bringing the maximum age to 54 by 2025. But the provision expires, bringing the maximum age back down to age 49 five years later, in 2030.

Democrats also won some new expanded benefits for veterans, homeless people and young people aging out of foster care. That would also expire in 2030, according to the agreement.

The agreement also would make it slightly harder for states to waive work requirements for SNAP for certain individuals. Current law allows states to issue some exemptions to the work rules on a discretionary basis, but limits how many people can be exempted. The agreement would lower the number of exemptions that a state can issue and curb states’ ability to carry over the number of exemptions they can hand out from month to month.

The agreement would also make changes to the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program, which gives cash aid to families with children. While not going as far as the House bill had proposed, the deal would make adjustments to a credit that allows states to require fewer recipients to work, updating and readjusting the credit to make it harder for states to avoid.

Speeding up energy projects

The deal puts in place changes in the National Environmental Policy Act for the first time in nearly four decades that would designate “a single lead agency” to develop and schedule environmental reviews in hopes of streamlining the process. It also simplifies some of the requirements for environmental reviews, including placing length limitations on environmental assessments and impact statements.

Agencies will be given one year to complete environmental reviews, and projects that are deemed to have complex impacts on the environment will need to be reviewed within two years.

The bill also gives special treatment to the Mountain Valley Pipeline — a West Virginia natural gas pipeline championed by Senators Joe Manchin and Shelley Moore Capito — by approving all its outstanding permit requests.

Student loans

Republicans have long sought to reel back the Biden administration’s efforts to provide student loan relief and aid to millions of borrowers during the coronavirus pandemic. While the GOP proposal to rescind the White House’s plan to waive $10,000 to $20,000 in debt for nearly all borrowers failed to make it into the package, Biden agreed to put an end to the pause on student loan repayment.

The pause in student loan repayments would end in the final days of August.

The fate of Biden’s broader student loan relief, meanwhile, will be decided at the Supreme Court, which is dominated 6-3 by its conservative wing. During oral arguments in the case, several of the justices expressed deep skepticism about the legality of Biden’s plan. A decision is expected before the end of June.

What’s left out?

House Republicans passed legislation last month that would have created new work requirements for some Medicaid recipients, but that was left out of the final agreement. The idea faced stiff opposition from the White House and congressional Democrats, who said it would lead to fewer people able to afford food or health care without actually increasing the number of people in the workforce.

Also absent from the final deal is the GOP proposal to repeal many of the clean energy tax credits Democrats passed in party-line votes last year to boost the production and consumption of clean energy. McCarthy and Republicans have argued that the tax breaks “distort the market and waste taxpayer money.”

The White House has defended the tax credits as resulting in hundreds of billions of dollars in private-sector investments, creating thousands of manufacturing jobs in the U.S.

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By Polityk | 31/05/2023 | Повідомлення, Політика

Debt-Ceiling Deal: What’s In and What’s Out of the Agreement to Avert US Default

U.S. President Joe Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy have reached an agreement in principle on legislation to increase the nation’s borrowing authority and avoid a default.

Negotiators are now racing to finalize the bill’s text. McCarthy said the House will vote on the legislation on Wednesday, giving the Senate time to consider it ahead of the June 5 deadline to avoid a possible default.

While many details are unknown, both sides will be able to point to some victories. But some conservatives expressed early concerns that the deal doesn’t cut future deficits enough, while Democrats have been worried about proposed changes to work requirements in programs such as food stamps.

A look at what’s in and out of the deal, based on what’s known so far:

Two-year debt increase, spending limits

The agreement would keep non-defense spending roughly flat in the 2024 fiscal year and increase it by 1% the following year, as well as provide for a two-year debt-limit increase — past the next presidential election in 2024. That’s according to a source familiar with the deal who provided details on the condition of anonymity.

Veterans care

The agreement will fully fund medical care for veterans at the levels included in Biden’s proposed 2024 budget blueprint, including for a fund dedicated to veterans who have been exposed to toxic substances or environmental hazards. Biden sought $20.3 billion for the toxic exposure fund in his budget.

Work requirements

Republicans had proposed boosting work requirements for able-bodied adults without dependents in certain government assistance programs. They said it would bring more people into the workforce, who would then pay taxes and help shore up key entitlement programs, namely Social Security and Medicare.

Democrats had roundly criticized the proposed changes, saying they would lead to fewer people able to afford food or health care without actually increasing job participation.

House Republicans had passed legislation that would create new work requirements for some Medicaid recipients, but that was left out of the final agreement.

However, the agreement would expand some work requirements for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, formerly known as food stamps. The agreement would raise the age for existing work requirements from 49 to 54, similar to the Republican proposal, but those changes would expire in 2030. And the White House said it would at the same time reduce the number of vulnerable people at all ages who are subject to the requirements

Speeding up energy projects

The deal puts in place changes in the National Environmental Policy Act that will designate “a single lead agency” to develop environmental reviews, in hopes of streamlining the process.

What was left out

Republicans had sought to repeal Biden’s efforts to waive $10,000 to $20,000 in debt for nearly all borrowers who took out student loans. But the provision was a nonstarter for Democrats. The budget agreement keeps Biden’s student loan relief in place, though the Supreme Court will have the ultimate say on the matter.

The Supreme Court is dominated 6-3 by conservatives, and those justices’ questions in oral arguments showed skepticism about the legality of Biden’s student loans plan. A decision is expected before the end of June.

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By Polityk | 28/05/2023 | Повідомлення, Політика

No Signs of Progress From White House or Republicans in ‘Tough’ Debt Ceiling Talks

Representatives of U.S. President Joe Biden and congressional Republicans ended another round of debt ceiling talks on Tuesday with no signs of progress as the deadline to raise the government’s $31.4 trillion borrowing limit or risk default ticked closer.

The two parties remain deeply divided about how to rein in the federal deficit, with Democrats arguing wealthy Americans and businesses should pay more taxes while Republicans want spending cuts.

White House negotiators Shalanda Young, director of the Office of Management and Budget, and senior White House adviser Steve Ricchetti met with their Republican counterparts for about two hours. They left without making substantive comments to the media.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has warned that the federal government could no longer have enough money to pay all its bills as soon as June 1, which would cause a default that would hammer the U.S. economy and push borrowing costs higher.

The two sides still disagree on spending, and it was not clear when talks would resume, said Republican Representative Patrick McHenry, who chairs the House Finance Committee.

White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre called the talks “incredibly tough.”

“Both sides have to understand that they’re not going to get everything that they want,” Jean-Pierre said at a briefing. “And what we’re trying to get to is a budget that is reasonable, that is bipartisan, that Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate will be able to vote on and agree on.”

Global markets on edge

The lack of clear progress continued to weigh on Wall Street with U.S. stocks sharply lower on Tuesday and global markets on edge.

Democrats want to freeze spending for the 2024 fiscal year that begins in October at the levels adopted in 2023, arguing that would represent a spending cut because agency budgets won’t match inflation. The idea was rejected by Republicans, who want spending cuts.

Biden wants to cut the deficit by raising taxes on the wealthy and closing tax loopholes for the oil and pharmaceutical industries. McCarthy said he will not approve tax increases.

McCarthy told reporters on Monday that he expected to talk with Biden daily at least by telephone.

If and when Biden and McCarthy reach a deal, they will still need to sell it to their caucuses in Congress. It could easily take a week to pass a deal through the House and Senate, which would both need to approve the bill before Biden could sign it into law.

‘Why is June 1 the drop dead?’

Hard-line Republicans and progressive Democrats both voiced anger at the idea of compromise.

Democratic Representative Pramila Jayapal, who chairs the 101-member Congressional Progressive Caucus, said “the vast majority” of the group’s members would oppose any deal that included spending cuts or new work requirements for federal benefit programs for low-income Americans, both of which are major Republican demands.

Some hard-line members of the Republican House Freedom Caucus on Tuesday said they were skeptical of how firm the June 1 deadline is. Treasury has said the U.S. could run short of cash as soon as June 1, or perhaps in the days following.

“Secretary Yellen needs to not only testify, but in writing, she needs to justify her dates that she’s given. Why is June 1 the drop dead?” Republican Representative Ralph Norman said.

Democrat Representative Hakeem Jeffries — the top Democrat in the House — dismissed that skepticism as unfounded.

“The June 1 date is a real one. Secretary Yellen continues to make that clear,” Jeffries told reporters.

Unless Congress raises the debt ceiling and allows the federal government to borrow money to pay its bills, the United States could default on its obligations, potentially tipping the nation into recession and plunging global financial markets into chaos.

Any deal to raise the limit must pass both chambers of Congress, and therefore hinges on bipartisan support. McCarthy’s Republicans control the House 222-213, while Biden’s Democrats hold the Senate 51-49.

Despite the gridlock, the two sides have found some common ground on several areas, including permit reform that will help energy projects move forward.

On Monday, McCarthy said including some permitting reforms in the debt deal would not solve all of the related issues and that talks on further reforms could continue later, declining to address transmission for renewable energy.

The two sides are also discussing clawing back unused COVID-19 relief funds and imposing stricter work requirements on two popular public benefit programs aimed at helping Americans out of poverty.

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By Polityk | 24/05/2023 | Повідомлення, Політика

South Carolina Republicans Hear Pitches From 2024 Candidates, Reelect State Party Chairman

South Carolina Republicans on Saturday selected Drew McKissick as their chairman for a fourth term at a convention where some of the party’s 2024 presidential hopefuls made pitches to voters in the first-in-the-South primary state. 

McKissick has led the party since 2017 in a state where Republicans hold all statewide-elected positions, all but one U.S. House seat, and control of both legislative chambers. He defeated three challengers. Party officials said in a release that under McKissick’s leadership, “more Republicans than ever before” had won elections. 

Neither of South Carolina’s presidential contenders, former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley and U.S. Senator Tim Scott, attended the gathering in Lexington, a suburb of Columbia, the capital. 

Scott, who entered the race Friday, sent a video that was played for delegates, and a political action committee that backs him sponsored a breakfast for them. 

“The GOP, the great opportunity party, is in fact the dominant party in our great state, because of people just like you,” said Scott. He encouraged activists to come to his formal campaign launch event Monday in North Charleston so they could be “a part of South Carolina — and hopefully American — history.” 

If elected, Scott would be the first Black Republican president. 

Haley, a former governor who kicked off her campaign in February, did not appear in person or via video. She did get a mention from the rostrum when a McKissick rival noted that Haley had resigned as governor before the end of her second term to join the Trump administration as U.N. envoy. 

Several Republicans in race

The Republican Party’s 2024 field is expanding, with Scott, Haley, former President Donald Trump and former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson already running. Another hopeful, entrepreneur and “anti-woke” activist Vivek Ramaswamy was the sole candidate to address the convention in person. 

In a video, Trump said that “now is the time to complete our mission and finish what we started” and “evict Joe Biden from the White House.” A video from Never Back Down, a super political action committee supporting Florida Governor Ron DeSantis as he prepares to enter the race, showcased DeSantis’ background, including his military service and ongoing disputes with the Walt Disney Co., saying the governor has “refused to let Disney push us around.” 

This past week, Disney announced it was scrapping plans to build a new campus in central Florida and relocate 2,000 employees from Southern California to work in digital technology, finance and product development. The decision followed a year of attacks from DeSantis and the Florida Legislature because the company opposed a state law that bans classroom lessons on sexual orientation and gender identity in early grades. Disney filed a First Amendment lawsuit against DeSantis and other officials last month. 

Top stop

Given its prominent status on the nomination calendar, South Carolina for months has drawn a number of Republican presidential contenders. 

Trump visited in January to roll out his South Carolina leadership team, which includes Governor Henry McMaster and U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham. DeSantis made his debut trip last month, drawing hundreds to two events. Former Vice President Mike Pence has come numerous times to a state where support from white evangelical Christians is critical. 

Trump’s support in the state has remained high since his South Carolina primary victory helped propel him to the 2016 nomination. But Tyler J. Corn, who heads up the Greater Spartanburg Young Republicans, said he’s somewhat dubious that those who say they support the former president will vote for him when it comes time to do so next year. 

“I think there’s a lot of people that realistically say they love Donald Trump who probably end up voting for Ron DeSantis, because I think a lot of [them] believe that he’s a proven winner, and the president, they’re a little bit more concerned about that,” Corn said on the sidelines of the convention. “I’ve even heard people say, ‘Well I love Donald Trump, I just don’t love the way he always says things.’ And I haven’t heard that complaint with Ron DeSantis yet.”  

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By Polityk | 21/05/2023 | Повідомлення, Політика

Head of Taiwanese Legislature Talks Self-Defense in Washington

The head of Taiwan’s legislature visited Washington this week, where he met with top U.S. lawmakers and told audiences that the Taiwanese people are determined to defend themselves should Beijing try to invade.

During a time when the island is under greater political and military pressure from Beijing, You Si-Kun, head of Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan, met with members of the House committee focused on China, as well as with former Speaker Nancy Pelosi who said they discussed security and democracy.

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul said the two discussed “opportunities to work toward a tax agreement and expediting military sales to Taiwan.” The United States is expected to move forward soon with sending $500 million worth of weapons aid to Taiwan.

A will to defend itself

Speaking at a Hudson Institute event, You emphasized how the will to defend itself is a part of Taiwan’s DNA and that the country will unite across political party lines should it be invaded.

“Support from friendly nations is critical, given China’s size,” You told VOA in an interview Tuesday. “But the Taiwanese people can be counted on to do everything they can to fight the invaders and preserve their freedom and way of life.”

To make his point, You referenced when Taiwan was ceded to Japan by the Qing court in 1895, which resulted in Japanese occupation of Taiwan that lasted 50 years, until the end of World War II.

You recalled how it took Japanese forces more than five months to pacify the island after it was officially ceded to Tokyo, at a time when Taiwan had no official government, no armed forces, and no international support.

In the decades since, Taiwan has seen waves of migration from mainland China as well as the rise of a democratic government, which You says have strengthened the island’s collective sense of self-defense.

Sunflower protests

He recalled the Sunflower protests in 2014, when Taiwanese youths came out in huge numbers to protest a trade deal between Taiwan and mainland China that they feared would disadvantage Taiwan economically and politically.

“It wasn’t just youths whose ancestors had been in Taiwan for multiple generations that came out to protest, but across the board,” said You.

That solidarity, he said, will happen again should Beijing decide to invade Taiwan, he said, “even while we [people from different political parties] have our disagreements in peacetime.”

China’s intense military maneuvers in and around Taiwan’s airspace and maritime territory in recent months could have at least two aims, You told VOA.

One is to intimidate the population and pin the tension on the ruling Democratic Progressive Party in hopes of directing votes toward candidates portrayed as “peace-loving,” he said. “They could also be rehearsing their armed forces, ships and aircraft, especially since they have not fought in an active war for decades,” You added as the second aim.

Before the delegation returned to Taiwan, You and the other legislators also met with Enes Kantor Freedom, the Turkish-American basketball star-turned-advocate of freedom for people not only in his birth country, but around the world, including Hong Kong, Tibet, Xinjiang, and Taiwan.

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By Polityk | 20/05/2023 | Повідомлення, Політика

US Debt Limit Talks Halted Again Amid ‘Real Differences’

Debt limit talks halted again late Friday at the U.S. Capitol shortly after resuming, another sudden turn of events after negotiations had come to an abrupt standstill earlier in the day when Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy said it was time to “pause” negotiations, and a White House official acknowledged there are “real differences.”

Top Republican negotiators for McCarthy exited the brief meeting shortly after talks restarted Friday evening. They said there were no further negotiations planned for Friday and they were uncertain on next steps. But a top White House adviser to President Joe Biden said they were hopeful for a resolution. The negotiators are racing to strike a budget deal to resolve the standoff.

“We reengaged, had a very, very candid discussion, talking about where we are, talking about where things need to be, what’s reasonably acceptable,” said Rep. Garret Graves, R-La., a top McCarthy ally leading the talks for his side.

As the White House team left the nighttime session, counselor to the president Steve Ricchetti, who is leading talks for the Democrats, said he was hopeful for an outcome. “We’re going to keep working,” he said.

Biden’s administration is reaching for a deal with Republicans led by McCarthy as the nation careens toward a potentially catastrophic debt default if the government fails to increase the borrowing limit, now at $31 trillion, to keep paying the nation’s bills.

Earlier in the day, McCarthy said resolution to the standoff is “easy,” if only Biden’s team would agree to some spending cuts Republicans are demanding.

The biggest impasse was over the fiscal 2024 top-line budget amount, according to a person briefed on the talks and granted anonymity to discuss them. Democrats staunchly oppose the steep reductions Republicans have put on the table as potentially harmful to Americans.

“We’ve got to get movement by the White House, and we don’t have any movement yet,” McCarthy, R-Calif., told reporters at the Capitol. “So, yeah, we’ve got to pause.”

The White House official, who was granted anonymity to talk about the private discussions, had said at that time there are “real differences” between the parties on the budget issues and further “talks will be difficult.”

Wall Street turned lower as negotiations came to a sudden halt, raising worries that the country could edge closer to risking a highly damaging default on U.S. government debt.

The president, who has been in Japan attending the Group of Seven summit, had no immediate comment. Biden had already planned to cut short the rest of his trip, and he is expected to return to Washington on Sunday.

Negotiators met Friday for a third day behind closed doors at the Capitol with hopes of settling on an agreement this weekend before possible House votes next week. They face a looming deadline as soon as June 1, when the Treasury Department has said it will run out of cash to pay the government’s incurred debt.

McCarthy faces pressures from his hard-right flank to cut the strongest deal possible for Republicans, and he risks a threat to his leadership as speaker if he fails to deliver. Many House Republicans are unlikely to accept any deal with the White House.

The internal political dynamics confronting the embattled McCarthy leaves the Democrats skeptical of giving away too much to the Republicans and driving off the Democratic support they will need to pass any compromise through Congress.

Markets had been rising this week on hopes of a deal. But that shifted abruptly Friday after negotiators ended late morning an hour after they had begun.

The S&P 500 went from a gain of 0.3% to a loss of 0.1% and the Dow Jones Industrial Average went from a gain of 117 points to a loss of about 90 points.

As Republicans demand spending cuts and policy changes, Biden is facing increased pushback from Democrats, particularly progressives, who argue the reductions will fall too heavily on domestic programs that Americans rely on.

Some Democrats want Biden to invoke his authority under the 14th amendment to raise the debt ceiling on his own, an idea that raises legal questions and that the president has so far said he is not inclined to consider.

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By Polityk | 20/05/2023 | Повідомлення, Політика

US Supreme Court Lets Illinois Keep Ban on Sale of Some Semiautomatic Guns for Now

The U.S. Supreme Court said Wednesday that Illinois can, for now, keep in place a new law that bars the sale of certain semiautomatic guns and large-capacity magazines.

The high court denied an emergency request from people challenging the law, which bans so-called assault weapons. The law’s opponents had asked the court to put the law on hold while a court challenge continues. The court did not comment and no justice publicly dissented.

The high court’s action comes at a time when gun violence has been heavily in the news. Since the beginning of the year, 115 people have died in 22 mass killings — an average of one mass killing a week, according to a database maintained by The Associated Press and USA Today in a partnership with Northeastern University. The database counts killings involving four or more fatalities, not including the perpetrator. Just recently, on May 6, a man armed with an AR-15 style rifle and other firearms fatally shot eight people, including three children, at a mall in the Dallas, Texas, area.

Law enacted this year

The case before the Supreme Court involves an Illinois state law enacted in January. The legislation bans the sale of a series of guns including the AR-15 and AK-47. The law also bars the sale of magazines that have more than 15 rounds of ammunition for handguns and more than 10 rounds of ammunition for a long gun.

People who legally owned the now-barred guns and magazines ahead of the law’s enactment can continue to keep them. The guns, however, must be registered with law enforcement.

Nine other states and the District of Columbia have gun bans similar to the one in Illinois, according to the gun control group Brady, which tracks the legislation. California, Connecticut, Hawaii, New Jersey and New York also require registration of guns purchased prior to the law while four other states — Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts and Washington — do not.

Shooting inspired legislation

The Illinois legislation was driven largely by the killing of seven people at a Fourth of July parade last year in the Chicago suburb of Highland Park. The shooter was armed with an AR-15 rifle and 30-round magazines.

A federal trial court in February declined to put the law on hold. A federal appeals court also declined to put the law on hold while the case continues.

The case also involves a separate so-called assault weapon bans passed by the city of Naperville.

The Supreme Court’s conservative majority last year handed gun rights activists a major victory, ruling that Americans have a right to carry firearms in public for self-defense. But the decision left open whether restrictions states might impose would be constitutional.

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By Polityk | 18/05/2023 | Повідомлення, Політика

US Debt Ceiling Looms Over Biden’s Foreign Trips

The monthslong impasse between the White House and congressional Republicans over raising the debt ceiling to keep the U.S. from defaulting on its obligations could derail Joe Biden’s upcoming meeting with allies in Japan and Australia.

The U.S. president is scheduled to depart Washington for Hiroshima on May 17 to attend a meeting of the Group of Seven leaders. On May 22 he is to continue to Sydney for the Quad Summit with a brief stop in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, to meet with Pacific Island Forum leaders. The meetings have been billed as opportunities to deepen cooperation on regional challenges and advance U.S. strategic interests in countering China’s influence.

Biden “is expecting to go,” said White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre during her briefing Friday. Earlier this week, Biden said he is committed to going but that resolving the debt ceiling deadlock is the “single most important thing” on his agenda. Depending on the state of those negotiations, he said it’s possible he would attend “virtually or not go.”

It would not be the first time an American president has skipped a summit over budget disputes at home. Barack Obama canceled a trip to the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Indonesia and the East Asia summit in Brunei in 2013 because of a government shutdown over a budget disagreement, and Bill Clinton pulled out of the APEC Japan meeting in 1995, also during a debt ceiling dispute.

G-7 Hiroshima

Hiroshima, Japan, is the venue for this year’s May 19-21 summit of the G-7, a grouping of the world’s leading industrial nations, including the United States, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, United Kingdom and the European Union.

Leaders will try to find alignment in countering Beijing’s use of trade and investment restrictions, boycotts and sanctions for what they see as “economic coercion.” They will do so through export controls and restrictions on investment from their own nations to China, while seeking to slow China’s technological advance and reduce its dominance of the global supply chain.

More than a year after Russia invaded Ukraine, the meeting will also focus on supporting Kyiv’s defense and ratcheting up economic pressure on Russia through broader export bans. G-7 members, mainly those in Europe, still export around $4.7 billion a month to Russia, about 43% of what they did before the invasion, mostly pharmaceuticals, machinery, food and chemicals.

As part of his outreach to the Global South, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida of Japan, this year’s G-7 host, has invited Australia, Brazil, Comoros, Cook Islands, India, Indonesia, South Korea, Ukraine and Vietnam.

“A little bit like the G-7 trying to create a mini-G-20 without China and Russia,” said Josh Lipsky, senior director of the Atlantic Council’s GeoEconomics Center, in a briefing to reporters Friday.

Looming over the meeting is the concern that financial instability from the threat of a U.S. default and the recent collapse of three American banks will spill over into the rest of the world. That would particularly hurt countries in Africa, Latin America and Southeast Asia that are struggling with post-pandemic debt accumulated through infrastructure and other loans mainly from China.

There have been calls to reduce those debts to more manageable levels, said Shihoko Goto, deputy director of the Asia program at the Wilson Center. However, she told VOA, “Without having China there, there isn’t really going to be much momentum.”

Nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation are also at the top of this year’s agenda, with Kishida’s symbolic choice of hosting the summit in his hometown of Hiroshima, a city destroyed by an atomic weapon in 1945.

Notably lacking in this G-7 is the push to provide funding for global infrastructure projects as an alternative to China’s Belt and Road Initiative, which was a focus in the last two G-7 summits.

Pacific Island Forum

From Hiroshima, Biden is scheduled to head to Papua New Guinea’s capital, Port Moresby, on May 22 to meet with Prime Minister James Marape and other leaders of the Pacific Island Forum, a grouping of 18 countries and territories spanning more than 30 million square kilometers of ocean. There he will seek to establish stronger strategic ties and deter those nations from making security deals with China amid rising tensions over Taiwan.

PNG officials say defense and surveillance agreements between PNG and the U.S. have been finalized and are set to be signed by Biden, including deals to help PNG mitigate climate change and strengthen deterrence capacity against illegal fishing.

Biden will be the highest U.S. official to visit in recent years, following Vice President Mike Pence’s trip to the 2018 Asia Pacific Economic Forum in Port Moresby. Chinese President Xi Jinping has visited the region three times, setting up infrastructure projects and signing a 2022 security pact with the Solomon Islands.

“The U.S. needs to make up ground in the region,” said Charles Edel, the inaugural Australia Chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies during a briefing earlier this week. “Years of strategic neglect from Washington produced a strategic vacuum that China was eager to step into.”

Last year the administration hosted the first U.S.-Pacific Island Country Summit in Washington. It has established representation in the Pacific Islands Forum and is opening new embassies in the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Kiribati and Tonga.

Observers also will be watching for any progress on the U.S. offer to revamp PNG’s Lombrum Naval Base on Manus Island that Pence announced during his 2018 visit.

Quad Summit

After the brief stop in Port Moresby, Biden is scheduled to continue to a summit of the Quad countries — the U.S., Japan, India and Australia — May 24 in Sydney, hosted by Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.

The Quad was formed in 2007 to bolster economic and security relations among the four democracies and eventually evolved to become a strategic alignment against China’s rise.

This will be the fourth meeting of the group, and the second to be held in person following last year’s Tokyo summit. It’s structured around six leader-level working groups, on global health security, climate, critical and emerging technologies, cyber, space, and infrastructure.

Last year the Quad launched the Indo-Pacific Partnership for Maritime Domain Awareness, aiming to improve partners’ ability to protect their waters and resources and deter illicit Chinese maritime activities.

Australian media is reporting that Albanese has invited Biden to speak in front of the parliament in Canberra. The White House has not said whether Biden will accept.

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By Polityk | 13/05/2023 | Повідомлення, Політика

In Town Hall, Trump Digs in on Election Lies, Downplays Capitol Riot

During a tense CNN town hall Wednesday, former President Donald Trump dug in on his lies about the 2020 election, downplayed the violence on Jan. 6, 2021, and repeatedly insulted a woman in response to a civil jury’s finding this week that he was liable in sexually assaulting her.

During the contentious back-and-forth in early voting New Hampshire — where moderator Kaitlan Collins sometimes struggled to fact-check his misstatements in real time — Trump continued to insist the election had been rigged, even though state and federal election officials, his own campaign and White House aides, and numerous courts have rejected his allegations.

Trump also repeatedly minimized the violence caused by a mob of his supporters who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6 in a bid to halt the certification of President Joe Biden’s win. Instead, he said he was inclined to pardon “a large portion” of Jan. 6 defendants if he wins reelection. He also rejected a suggestion that he apologize to his former vice president, Mike Pence, who was targeted by the mob.

“I don’t feel he was in any danger,” he said. In fact, Trump said, Pence was the one who “did something wrong.”

Throughout, the audience of Republican and unaffiliated voters cheered him on, laughing and applauding.

The prime-time forum in New Hampshire brought together a network and candidate who have long sparred with each other. But the stakes were raised considerably Tuesday after jurors in New York found Trump had sexually abused and defamed advice columnist E. Jean Carroll, though they rejected her claim that he raped her nearly three decades ago.

The jury awarded her $5 million in damages. Trump said the ruling was “a disgrace” and he vowed to appeal.

Trump, at Wednesday’s event, again insisted he didn’t know Carroll, even as he attacked her in deeply personal terms. “She’s a wack job,” he said, drawing laughs from the crowd.

While the civil trial verdict carries no criminal penalties, it nonetheless revives attention on the myriad investigations facing Trump, who was indicted in New York in March over payments made to women to cover up their allegations of extramarital affairs with him. Trump is also facing investigations in Georgia and Washington over his alleged interference in the 2020 election and his handling of classified documents and potential obstruction of justice.

A small group of anti-Trump protesters gathered Wednesday evening outside the site where the town hall was being held at Saint Anselm College in Manchester. Their signs included messages like “Nobody is above the law” and “Elections not insurrection.”

Trump, during the town hall, repeatedly refused to say whether he would sign a federal abortion ban if it landed on his desk, saying he would “negotiate” so “people are happy.”

“I’m looking at a solution that’s going to work,” he said.

Trump has had a much more contentious relationship with CNN than he had with Fox. Trump has called CNN “fake news” and sparred with Collins. She was once barred from a Rose Garden event after Trump’s team became upset with her shouted questions at an earlier Oval Office availability.

Nonetheless, Trump’s team saw the invitation from CNN as an opportunity to connect with a broader swath of voters than those who usually tune into the conservative outlets he favors.

“President Trump has been battle-tested and is a proven winner. He doesn’t shy away from anything and faces them head on,” said Trump spokesperson Steven Cheung.

The appearance also served as another contrast with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is seen as a top rival to Trump for the GOP presidential nomination in 2024 and is expected to launch his campaign in the coming weeks. DeSantis has taken a sheltered media approach, largely eschewing questions from the mainstream press while embracing Fox News, which was once a loyal Trump cheerleader but is now frequently denigrated by the former president.

Trump’s campaign has turned to new channels, including popular conservative podcasts and made-for-social-media videos that often rack up hundreds of thousands of views. His team has also been inviting reporters from a variety of outlets to ride aboard his plane and has been arranging unadvertised stops at local restaurants and other venues to show him interacting with supporters, in contrast to the less charismatic DeSantis.

It remains unclear how or whether Tuesday’s verdict will have any impact on the race. Trump’s indictment in New York on charges he falsified business records only seemed to improve his standing in the GOP primary and his campaign was fundraising off the verdict.

Trump’s rivals weighed in on Tuesday’s verdict, with some hitting him harder than others.

Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson called the accusations “another example of the indefensible behavior of Donald Trump.” Tech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy came to Trump’s defense and said he doubted a case would have even been brought if the defendant had been someone other than Trump.

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a former ally who is now weighing a run as a Trump antagonist, said Trump’s insistence that he had no idea who Carroll was “ridiculous.”

“This kind of conduct is unacceptable for somebody that we call a leader,” Christie told Brian Kilmeade on Fox News radio. “Do I think this is a silver bullet that ends Donald Trump’s candidacy? No. I just think it’s additional weight of evidence that people are going to look at.”

Former Vice President Mike Pence, who is expected to launch a campaign in the coming weeks, told NBC he doesn’t believe voters will pay much attention to the verdict.

“It’s just one more story, focusing on my former running mate, that I know is a great fascination to members of the national media, but I just don’t think it’s where the American people are focused,” Pence said. He said he had “never heard or witnessed behavior of that nature” while he was serving under Trump.

The CNN town hall, the first major television event of the 2024 presidential campaign, had drawn suspicion from both sides of the political divide.

Democrats questioned whether a man who continues to spread lies about his 2020 election loss — lies that sparked the Capitol riot — should be given a prime-time platform. Conservatives wondered why Trump would appear on — and potentially give a ratings bump to — a network that he has continually disparaged.

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By Polityk | 11/05/2023 | Повідомлення, Політика

Tense White House Debt-Limit Meeting Ends With No Agreement

Top U.S. lawmakers emerged frustrated and empty-handed after a tense Tuesday meeting with President Joe Biden over the nation’s debt limit. Biden sought to calm global financial jitters, saying he thought the meeting was “productive” and that the group would meet again Friday as the U.S. stares down the possibility of defaulting on its financial obligations for the first time in history.

Biden met Tuesday afternoon with Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, as well as Democratic House leader Hakeem Jeffries and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, in a bid to ensure the government can borrow more money to pay for spending it has already incurred.

Afterward, Biden expressed optimism over a future deal. However, he reiterated that he will continue to insist that Congress lift the debt ceiling.

“I made it clear during our meeting that default is not an option,” he said. “I repeated that time and again, ‘America is not a deadbeat nation.’”

Republicans are insisting that the federal government reduce spending before they will agree to raise the debt ceiling. Meanwhile, Biden is adamant that Congress has a duty to pay its bills and that the two issues should be addressed separately. The two sides blame each other for the impasse, and Biden said “a default would be disastrous.”

“Everyone in the meeting understood the risk of default: our economy would fall into a significant recession, it would devastate retirement accounts, increase borrowing costs,” Biden said. “According to Moody’s, nearly 8 million Americans would lose their jobs, and our international reputation would be damaged in the extreme.”

But McCarthy emerged from the meeting clearly disappointed that no progress had been made.

“I didn’t see any new movement,” McCarthy said. He added: “I asked him numerous times, ‘Are there some places we could find savings?’ He wouldn’t give me any.”

However, McConnell sought to assure Americans that the U.S. will continue to pay its debts. Even with the Treasury taking “extraordinary measures” to pay the government’s bills, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen told lawmakers last week that the Treasury’s ability to pay the government’s bills could run short as early as June 1.

“The United States is not going to default,” he said. “It never has and it never will.”

Default a ‘gift’ to adversaries

Earlier in the day, the White House warned that the United States defaulting on its debts would be “a gift” to adversaries, including China and Russia, and would lead to a recession that could send shock waves across the global economy.

“Default would create global uncertainty about the value of the U.S. dollar and U.S. institutions and leadership, leading to volatility in currency and financial markets and commodity markets that are priced in dollars,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said during a press briefing on Tuesday.

Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines previously made a similar point to the Senate Intelligence Committee about the national security consequences of the U.S. teetering on the edge of a fiscal cliff.

The Treasury debt limit, which caps the amount of outstanding debt the country can have and thus Treasury’s ability to issue securities to fund the government’s obligations, was reached on January 19.

Ceiling raised 3 times under Trump

Lifting the debt ceiling was once a routine vote. Congress has raised it 78 times since 1960, 29 times under Democratic presidents and 49 times under Republican presidents, including three times under former President Donald Trump.

Policy analyst Arianna Fano of the Bipartisan Policy Center said even this verbal sparring will impact markets. A default, she said, would be especially rough for nations with high levels of external debt.

“Given the costs of this brinkmanship alone, we know the economic impacts of an actual default would range from damaging to catastrophic,” Fano said. “Treasury securities are viewed as one of the safest assets in the world, but in a default scenario investors could look to minimize their risk exposure by pulling investments from developing countries, thus reducing access to capital and hampering economic growth.”

How would a US default affect the world?

The U.S. economy is the largest in the world, and the dollar is considered the world’s reserve currency, meaning that many countries’ central banks and other monetary authorities hold U.S. dollars as part of their foreign exchange reserves as a backup in case their own currency fails.

A debt event in the United States would have serious consequences not only for the U.S. but also for the global economy and for world financial markets.

Should the U.S. fail to pay its debts, in addition to creating havoc in global stock markets and sending the American economy into recession, it would trigger a sell-off in U.S. Treasury bonds, weakening the dollar and raising interest rates. This would affect foreign currency reserves held by other countries and make the costs of borrowing more expensive, potentially leading countries with already high levels of borrowing into a debt crisis.

“If interest rates in the United States go up, it’s going to take all other interest rates up with it. It’s going to make all other risk assets look very shaky,” said Desmond Lachman, former deputy director at the International Monetary Fund who is now a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

He agreed with Yellen’s view that a U.S. debt default would be an economic catastrophe that must be avoided.

Lachman told VOA the world can ill-afford such financial turbulence, especially with the regional banking crisis that began with the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank in March, followed by the toppling of two other U.S. banks — Signature Bank and First Republic.

Safest investment

U.S. Treasury bonds are traditionally considered the safest investment that global financial investors turn to in times of distress, said Heidi Crebo-Rediker, former chief economist of the U.S. Department of State and adjunct senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

“It is the deepest, most liquid, solid and reliable market in the world,” she said.

Crebo-Rediker added that countries and investors need not be overly concerned about an actual U.S. default.

“This is a question of willingness to pay, not ability to pay,” she said. “And that is a very big distinction.”

Chris Hannas contributed to this report.

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By Polityk | 10/05/2023 | Повідомлення, Політика

US Rep. George Santos Facing Federal Charges, Sources Say

U.S. Representative George Santos, who faced outrage and mockery over a litany of fabrications about his heritage, education and professional pedigree, has been charged with federal criminal offenses, two people familiar with the matter told The Associated Press.

The charges against Santos, filed in the Eastern District of New York, remain under seal.

The people could not publicly discuss specific details of the case while it remains under seal and spoke to The AP on condition of anonymity.

Reached on Tuesday, Santos said, “This is news to me.”

“You’re the first to call me about this,” he said in a brief phone interview.

The charges were first reported by CNN.

The New York Republican has admitted to lying about having Jewish ancestry, a Wall Street background, college degrees, and a history as a star volleyball player. Serious questions about his finances also surfaced, including the source of what he claimed was a quickly amassed fortune despite recent financial problems, including evictions and owing thousands of dollars in back rent.

Santos has resisted calls to resign and recently announced he was running for reelection. He said his lies about his life story, which included telling people he had jobs at several global financial firms and a lavish real estate portfolio, were harmless embellishments of his resume.

Pressure on him to quit, though, has been intense. Reporters and members of the public hounded him. He was mocked on social media and late-night television. Fellow New York Republicans demanded he resign, saying he had betrayed voters and his own party with his lies.

Nassau County prosecutors and the New York attorney general’s office had previously said they were looking into possible violations of the law.

In addition to questions about his life story, Santos’ campaign spending stoked scrutiny because of unusual payments for travel, lodging and other items.

The nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center lodged a complaint with the Federal Election Commission and urged regulators to investigate Santos. The “mountain of lies” Santos propagated during the campaign about his life story and qualifications, the center said, should prompt the commission to “thoroughly investigate what appear to be equally brazen lies about how his campaign raised and spent money.”

In his filings with the FEC, Santos initially said he loaned his campaign and related political action committees more than $750,000 — money he claimed came from a family company.

Yet, the wealth necessary to make those loans seems to have emerged from nowhere. In a financial disclosure statement filed with the clerk of the U.S. House in 2020, Santos said he had no assets and an annual income of $55,000.

His company, the Devolder Organization, wasn’t incorporated until spring 2021. Yet last September, Santos filed another financial disclosure form reporting that this new company, incorporated in Florida, had paid him a $750,000 salary in each of the last two years, plus another $1 million to $5 million in dividends. In one interview, Santos described the Devolder Organization as a business that helped rich people buy things like yachts and aircraft.

Court records indicate Santos was the subject of three eviction proceedings in Queens between 2014 and 2017 because of unpaid rent.

Some Republicans, including those in his district, have sharply castigated Santos for his dishonesty. The Nassau County Republican Committee, which had supported his candidacy, said it would not support him for reelection.

Santos lost his first race for Congress in 2020 but ran again in 2022 and won in a district that is in the suburbs of Long Island and a sliver of Queens.

A local newspaper, The North Shore Leader, had raised questions about Santos’ background before the election, but it was not until a few weeks after the election that the depth of his duplicity became public.

Beyond his resume, Santos invented a life story that has come under question, including claims that his grandparents “fled Jewish persecution in Ukraine, settled in Belgium, and again fled persecution during WWII.”

During his campaign, he referred to himself as “a proud American Jew.”

Confronted with questions about that story, Santos, a Roman Catholic, said he never intended to claim Jewish heritage.

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By Polityk | 10/05/2023 | Повідомлення, Політика

How China, Russia Might Capitalize on US Debt Limit ‘Chaos’

US officials are warning that China and Russia would capitalize on the ‘chaos’ that would ensue if the United States defaulted on its debt. The warnings come amid a monthslong standoff between President Joe Biden and Republicans in securing congressional approval to raise the nation’s debt limit. White House Bureau Chief Patsy Widakuswara has the story.

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By Polityk | 06/05/2023 | Повідомлення, Політика

Republicans Subpoena FBI for Biden Records

A top House Republican subpoenaed FBI Director Chris Wray on Wednesday for what he claimed are bureau records related to President Joe Biden and his family, basing the demand on newly surfaced allegations he said an unnamed whistleblower made to Congress.

The White House said it was the latest example in the years-long series of “unfounded, unproven” political attacks against Biden by Republicans “floating anonymous innuendo.”

Kentucky Rep. James Comer, chairman of the House Oversight Committee and Accountability, is seeking a specific FBI form from June 2020 that is a report of conversations or interactions with a confidential source. Comer, in a letter to Wray with Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, said that “it has come to our attention” that the bureau has such a document that “describes an alleged criminal scheme” involving Biden and a foreign national “relating to the exchange of money for policy decisions” when Biden was vice president and includes “a precise description” about it.

The subpoena seeks all so-called FD-1023 forms and accompanying attachments and documents.

The lawmakers used the word “alleged” three times in the opening paragraph of the letter and offered no evidence of the veracity of the accusations or any details about what they contend are “highly credible unclassified whistleblower disclosures.”

Comer and Grassley said those “disclosures” demand further investigation, and they want to know whether the FBI investigated and, if so, what agents found.

To the White House, the subpoena is further evidence of how congressional Republicans long “have been lobbing unfounded, unproven, politically motivated attacks” against the Bidens “without offering evidence for their claims or evidence of decisions influenced by anything other than U.S. interests.”

A White House spokesperson, Ian Sams, said Biden “has offered an unprecedented level of transparency” about his personal finances with the public release of a total of 25 years of tax returns.

The FBI and Justice Department confirmed receiving the subpoena but declined to comment further. The president’s personal lawyers had no comment.

Republicans claim they have amassed evidence in recent years that raise questions about whether Biden and his family have used their public positions for private gain.

House Republicans have used the power of their new majority to aggressively investigate Joe Biden and Hunter Biden’s business dealings, including examining foreign payments and other aspects of the family’s finances. Comer has obtained thousands of pages of the Biden family’s financial records through subpoenas to the Treasury Department and various financial institutions since January.

Comer has not revealed much about the findings of his investigation so far. Most recently, Comer claimed one deal involving the Biden family resulted in a profit of over $1 million in more than 15 incremental payments from a Chinese company through a third party.

Both Comer and Grassley have accused both the FBI and Justice Department of stonewalling their investigations and politicizing the agency’s years-long investigation into Hunter Biden’s taxes.

Last month, an IRS special agent sought whistleblower protections from Congress to disclose a “failure to mitigate clear conflicts of interest in the ultimate disposition” of a criminal investigation related to the younger Biden’s taxes and whether he made a false statement in connection with a gun purchase.

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By Polityk | 04/05/2023 | Повідомлення, Політика

Biden to Meet with Congressional Leaders in Effort to Avoid Default

President Joe Biden next week will meet with the Democratic and Republican leaders of the House and Senate in an effort to avoid a catastrophic default on the nation’s debts, which could occur in as little as one month.

The United States government’s ability to borrow money is constrained by a limit on the amount of debt the U.S. Treasury Department can incur, known as the debt ceiling. The debt ceiling is currently set at $31.4 trillion, which the government hit in January, forcing the Treasury to use what it refers to as “extraordinary measures” to continue paying the nation’s bills without going into default.

On Monday, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned that the extraordinary measures will soon be exhausted, possibly as soon as June 1, and that unless Congress authorizes more borrowing, the country will soon be unable to pay all of its obligations on time.

In a letter to lawmakers on Monday, Yellen said it was urgent that Congress acts quickly “to preserve the full faith and credit” of the U.S., reminding them that waiting until the last minute can result in damage to the country, even if technical default is averted.

“We have learned from past debt limit impasses that waiting until the last minute to suspend or increase the debt limit can cause serious harm to business and consumer confidence, raise short-term borrowing costs for taxpayers, and negatively impact the credit rating of the United States,” Yellen wrote.

Also on Monday, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office issued a statement essentially agreeing with Yellen.

“Because tax receipts through April have been less than the Congressional Budget Office anticipated in February, we now estimate that there is a significantly greater risk that the Treasury will run out of funds in early June,” it said.

Same goal, different path

Leaders of both parties have expressed their desire to avoid a federal default, but they advocate different methods of doing so.

House Republicans, led by Speaker Kevin McCarthy, say they intend to raise the debt ceiling, but only after Democrats agree to a slate of broad spending cuts that would eviscerate Biden’s domestic agenda and institute a number of policies popular with conservatives, including new work requirements on individuals receiving public assistance.

Last week on a party-line vote, the House passed the Limit, Save, Grow Act, which would raise the debt ceiling by up to $1.5 trillion through March 31, 2024. The bill would cut government spending by $4.8 trillion over the next decade. Much of the savings would come from unspecified spending cuts spread across much of the government.

Specific programs targeted for major cuts include recent increases to the budget of the Internal Revenue Service, a controversial student debt relief measure taken by the White House, and spending on renewable energy that the president has championed.

‘Hostage-taking’

The threat implicit in the Republican position is that if Democrats fail to accept the cuts, the country will advance closer and closer to default until lawmakers strike a deal, or the government finds itself unable to pay its bills.

Biden and Democratic leaders in the House and Senate argue that Republicans’ strategy, which they criticize as “hostage-taking,” is irresponsible. They have called for Congress to pass a “clean” debt ceiling extension, meaning a bill with no additional provisions attached. They frequently point out that Congress passed three clean debt limit bills during former President Donald Trump’s term, all with Democratic support.

Any debt limit increase would have to pass both the House and the Senate, and with the latter under slim Democratic control, the House bill gutting Biden’s agenda is a non-starter.

House Democrats on Tuesday said they would attempt to force a vote on a clean debt limit increase through an arcane mechanism known as a “discharge petition,” which allows a majority of members of the House to demand a vote on a bill without the cooperation of leadership. Discharge petitions are rarely successful, and because Republicans have the majority in the House, this one would require at least five Republicans to join the Democrats — an unlikely prospect.

Impact of default could be global

Experts warn that if Congress and the White House are unable to strike a deal, and the U.S. finds itself unable to pay its bills on time, the impact on the economy — for the United States and the broader world — could be devastating.

“The result would be a self-inflicted severe recession that is totally unnecessary and obviously counterproductive,” Mark Hamrick, Washington bureau chief for Bankrate, told VOA. “It’s been demonstrated time and time again that the debt ceiling is not a useful tool in restraining federal spending. Therefore, we’re talking about adding potential downside to the U.S. and global economies for no reason, and at a time when there’s already heightened concern about the risk of recession.”

Joseph E. Gagnon, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, told VOA that the disruption caused by a default by the U.S. Treasury would reverberate far beyond the U.S. itself.

He pointed out that the Great Recession of 2008-2009 was a global financial crisis partially triggered by the collapse of two major U.S. firms — the investment bank Lehman Brothers, which failed, and the insurance and financial services conglomerate American International Group, which was bailed out.

“That really caused a huge panic around the world, not just in the U.S.,” Gagnon said. “And realize that the U.S. Treasury is far, far bigger and has far, far more financial [obligations] being held by other people.”

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By Polityk | 03/05/2023 | Повідомлення, Політика

Political Prisoners Share How Jimmy Carter Saved Their Lives

Jimmy Carter tried like no president ever had to put human rights at the center of American foreign policy. It was a turnabout dictators and dissidents alike found hard to believe as he took office in 1977. The U.S. had such a long history of supporting crackdowns on popular movements — was his insistence on restoring moral principles for real?

After Carter, now 98, entered hospice care at his home in Georgia, The Associated Press reached out to several former political prisoners, asking what it was like to see his influence take hold in countries oppressed by military rule. They credit Carter with their survival.

Michèle Montas witnessed the impact from the control room of Radio Haiti-Inter, which carefully began challenging the dictatorship of Jean Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier after Carter said U.S. aid would depend on the growth of a civil society.

“So much was done in Haiti because of him. He managed to force the regime to open up,” Montas said.

But when they broadcast Carter’s reelection loss to Ronald Reagan in November 1980, Duvalier’s dreaded enforcers, the TonTon Macoutes, fired weapons and shouted, “Human rights are over, the cowboys are back in the White House!”

“Everyone who could move in Haiti was suddenly arrested, and the country fell into complete silence,” Montas said.

But Carter wasn’t out of office yet. Montas was put on a plane to Miami, one of a list of prominent Haitian prisoners U.S. diplomats presented to the dictator’s staff.

“We were expelled because there was a strong protest on the part of the Carter administration,” said Montas, who later became the U.N. secretary-general’s spokesperson.

Carter had been briefed by outgoing Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, whose “realpolitik” approach meant covertly cozying up to autocrats as they terrorized their citizens. But Carter sought a new approach to winning the Cold War.

“We are now free of that inordinate fear of communism which once led us to embrace any dictator who joined us in that fear,” he announced four months into his presidency. “For too many years, we’ve been willing to adopt the flawed and erroneous principles and tactics of our adversaries, sometimes abandoning our own values for theirs.”

Carter also expanded the State Department’s report on human rights in each country, an annual document authoritarians loathed and feared. His Foreign Corrupt Practices Act aimed to abolish bribery by multinational corporations. And his embassies welcomed victims of state terror, documenting 15,000 disappearances in Argentina alone.

Declassified documents eventually confirmed Kissinger’s secret encouragement of Operation Condor, an effort by South America’s dictators to eliminate each other’s political opponents. Carter’s presidential daily memos, by contrast, included names and numbers of people kidnapped, imprisoned or killed.

Fernando Reati was a 22-year-old Argentine college activist when his whole family was arrested. Although his parents were released and fled into exile, he and his brother were tortured — waterboarding, beatings and stress positions — and narrowly escaped being shot by prison guards.

The U.S. government’s sudden insistence on respecting human rights came as a complete surprise to political prisoners and must have been “very mind-boggling” for Argentina’s military, said Reati.

“They didn’t believe that he was serious, because it was so hard to believe it after decades of U.S. support for all kinds of military dictatorships in Latin America,” said Reati, whose testimony helped convict his torturers of crimes against humanity.

Carter hadn’t focused on human rights until it proved to be a potent campaign issue. As president, he framed it in terms of civil and political rights, avoiding the more difficult rights to food, education and health care, and applied its principles selectively, reflecting pragmatic calculations about U.S. interests, according to historian Barbara Keys, who wrote Reclaiming American Virtue – the Human Rights Revolution of the 1970s.

So while Carter was personally committed to Latin America, he maintained a hands-off approach in Southeast Asia after the U.S. pullout from Vietnam — and his record there suffered for it.

Despite emerging evidence of brutality, Carter waited until 1978 to declare that Cambodia’s bloodthirsty Khmer Rouge was “the worst violator of human rights in the world.” Their nearly four-year reign of terror, from 1975-79, ultimately killed more than 1.7 million people.

In Africa, however, his post-presidential Carter Center helped transform societies by fostering grassroots activism and social justice through public health initiatives, said Abdullahi Ahmed An-Naim, a former director of Africa Watch who taught human rights law at Emory University in Atlanta.

An-Naim was a University of Khartoum professor advocating for a Sharia that guarantees women’s equality when the dictator of Sudan, Jaafar al-Nimeiri, decreed a draconian version of Quranic principles. To stifle dissent in the religiously diverse country, al-Nimeiri detained An-Naim and 50 colleagues for 18 months without charges.

At another scholar’s request, Carter wrote a personal appeal. Al-Nimeiri became extremely angry and screamed about traitors and enemies, but “we were released without charge, without trial, without a word,” An-Naim said. “It is Carter the human being who did this.”

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By Polityk | 30/04/2023 | Повідомлення, Політика

AP Interview: Ukraine, Democracy ‘Must Win,’ Says Pelosi

“We thought we could die.”

The Russian invasion had just begun when Nancy Pelosi made a surprise visit to Ukraine, the House speaker then the highest-ranking elected U.S. official to lead a congressional delegation to Kyiv.

Pelosi and the lawmakers were ushered under the cloak of secrecy into the capital city, an undisclosed passage that even to this day she will not divulge.

“It was very, it was dangerous,” Pelosi told The Associated Press before Sunday’s one-year anniversary of that trip.

“We never feared about it, but we thought we could die because we’re visiting a serious, serious war zone,” Pelosi said. “We had great protection, but nonetheless, a war — theater of war.”

Pelosi’s visit was as unusual as it was historic, opening a fresh diplomatic channel between the U.S. and Ukraine that has only deepened with the prolonged war. In the year since, a long list of congressional leaders, senators and chairs of powerful committees, both Democrats and Republicans, followed her lead, punctuated by President Joe Biden’s own visit this year.

The steady stream of arrivals in Kyiv has served to amplify a political and military partnership between the U.S. and Ukraine for the world to see, one that will be tested anew when Congress is again expected this year to help fund the war to defeat Russia.

“We must win. We must bring this to a positive conclusion — for the people of Ukraine and for our country,” Pelosi said.

“There is a fight in the world now between democracy and autocracy, its manifestation at the time is in Ukraine.”

Looked beyond US borders

With a new Republican majority in the House whose Trump-aligned members have balked at overseas investments, Pelosi, a Democrat, remains confident the Congress will continue backing Ukraine as part of a broader U.S. commitment to democracy abroad in the face of authoritarian aggression.

“Support for Ukraine has been bipartisan and bicameral, in both houses of Congress by both parties, and the American people support democracy in Ukraine,” Pelosi told AP. “I believe that we will continue to support as long as we need to support democracy… as long as it takes to win.”

Now the speaker emerita, an honorary title bestowed by Democrats, Pelosi is circumspect about her role as a U.S. emissary abroad. Having visited 87 countries during her time in office, many as the trailblazing first woman to be the House speaker, she set a new standard for pointing the gavel outward as she focused attention on the world beyond U.S. shores.

In her office tucked away at the Capitol, Pelosi shared many of the honors and mementos she has received from abroad, including the honorary passport she was given on her trip to Ukraine, among her final stops as speaker.

It’s a signature political style, building on Pelosi’s decades of work on the House Intelligence committee, but one that a new generation of House leaders may — or may not — chose to emulate.

The new Speaker Kevin McCarthy hosted Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library this month, the Republican leader’s first foray as leader into foreign affairs.

Democrat Hakeem Jeffries took his own first trip abroad to as House minority leader, leading congressional delegations last week to Ghana and Israel.

Pelosi said it’s up to the new leaders what they will do on the global stage.

“Other speakers have understood our national security — we take an oath to protect and defend — and so we have to reach out with our values and our strength to make sure that happens,” she said.

‘A fight for everyone’

When Pelosi arrived in Kyiv, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy stood outside to meet the U.S. officials, the photo that ricocheted around the world a show of support for the young democracy fighting Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion.

“The courage of the president in greeting us on the street rather than us just meeting him in his office was yet again another symbol of the courage of the people of Ukraine,” she said.

Pelosi told Zelenskyy in a video released at the time “your fight is a fight for everyone.”

Last year, in one of her final trips as speaker, Pelosi touched down with a delegation in Taipei, Taiwan, crowds lining the streets to cheer her arrival, a visit with the Taiwanese president that drew a sharp rebuke from Beijing, which counts the island as its own.

“Cowardly,” she said about the military exercises China launched in the aftermath of her trip.

Pelosi offered rare praise for McCarthy’s own meeting with Tsai, particularly its bipartisan nature and the choice of venue the historic Reagan library.

“That was really quite a message and quite an optic to be there. And so, I salute what he did,” she said.

In one of her closing acts as House speaker in December, Pelosi hosted Zelenskyy for a joint address to Congress. The visit evoked the one made by Winston Churchill, the prime minister of Britain, at Christmastime in 1941 to speak to Congress in the Senate chamber of a “long and hard war” at the start of World War II.

Zelenskyy presented to Congress a Ukrainian flag signed by frontline troops that Pelosi said will eventually be displayed at the U.S. Capitol.

The world has changed much since Pelosi joined Congress — one of her first trips abroad was in 1991, when she dared to unfurl a pro-democracy banner in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square shortly after the student demonstrations that ended in massacre.

After the long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, it’s Russia and China that remain front of her mind.

“The role of Putin in terms of Russia that is a bigger threat than it was when I came to Congress,” she said. A decade after the Berlin Wall came down in 1989, she said, Putin went up.

“That’s where the fight for democracy is taking place,” she said.

And, she said, despite the work she and others in Congress have done to point out the concerns over China’s military and economic rise, and its human rights record, “that has only gotten worse.”

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By Polityk | 30/04/2023 | Повідомлення, Політика

Former US Security Adviser Calls for Closer Ties With Taiwan

A former U.S. national security adviser called for deeper interaction between the United States and Taiwan during a visit Saturday to the self-ruled island, which has seen increasing military threats from China.

John Bolton, a potential Republican presidential candidate in 2024, said at a pro-Taiwan independence event in Taipei that national security teams from both sides must develop contingency plans on how to respond to actions Beijing might take, warning it would be too late once an attack occurs.

“We have to tell China and Russia what the consequences are if they take actions against Taiwan,” said Bolton. “Not just in the immediate response, but over the longer term, to basically excommunicate China from the international economic system if it did take military actions against Taiwan or attempt to throw a blockade around it.”

Bolton, former President Donald Trump’s hawkish national security adviser, started his weeklong trip to Taiwan on Wednesday. The visit reflects the importance of the island’s democracy as an issue in the U.S. presidential election next year amid heightened tensions between Washington and Beijing.

China flies near Taiwan

Taiwan and China split in 1949 following a civil war that ended with the Communist Party in control of the mainland. The island has never been part of the People’s Republic of China, but Beijing says it must unite with the mainland, by force if necessary.

The U.S. remains Taiwan’s closest military and political ally, despite the lack of formal diplomatic ties between them. U.S. law requires Washington to treat all threats to the island as matters of “grave concern,” though it remains ambiguous over whether American forces would be dispatched to help defend the island.

Bolton said the backlog of U.S. military sales to Taiwan is estimated to be $19 billion and it needs to be resolved.

“Part of that is a U.S. problem. Our defense industrial base is not as strong as it used to be. We need to improve that for global reasons, but particularly for Taiwan,” he said.

On Friday, the Taiwanese Defense Ministry said China’s military flew 38 fighter jets and other warplanes near Taiwan. That was the biggest flight display since the large military exercise in which it simulated sealing off the island after the sensitive April 5 meeting between Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen and U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. China opposes any exchanges at the official level between Taiwan and other governments.

China protests U.S. flight

Later Friday, China’s People’s Liberation Army also issued a protest over the flight of a United States Navy P-8A Poseidon anti-submarine patrol aircraft through the Taiwan Strait, calling it a provocation that the U.S. “openly hyped up.” But the U.S. 7th Fleet said Thursday’s flight was in accordance with international law and “demonstrates the United States’ commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific.”

Bolton is scheduled to join a banquet on Monday organized by the Formosan Association for Public Affairs, a pro-independence organization headquartered in Washington. Tsai also will attend the event.

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By Polityk | 29/04/2023 | Повідомлення, Політика

Disney Sues DeSantis, Claiming Unlawful Retaliation 

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ very public feud with the Walt Disney Co. entered a new phase this week, when the entertainment conglomerate filed a lawsuit claiming that the governor and his administration violated the company’s First Amendment rights.

Disney, which employs 75,000 people in a cluster of theme parks and hotels in central Florida, said that a series of new restrictions placed on the company were meant to retaliate against it for public criticism of one of DeSantis’ key legislative initiatives. The legislation, commonly known as the “Don’t Say Gay” law, restricts the ability of teachers in Florida schools to discuss issues of sexuality and gender identity.

In a series of moves beginning last year, the Florida legislature — at DeSantis’ bidding — stripped the company of the ability to self-govern the land on which its parks and hotels sit, changed the rules governing ride-safety inspections, and took other actions targeting the company. The changes appear to have applied only to Disney, and not to other self-governing districts and theme parks in the state.

The fight with Disney has helped keep DeSantis in the news ahead of what is expected to be an announcement of his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination later this spring. DeSantis is currently second in polls of likely GOP primary voters, trailing former President Donald Trump by a significant margin.

Final straw

This week, a new board appointed to oversee the district where Disney is located moved to void development agreements its predecessor had struck with the company. Those deals, agreed to shortly before the old board was replaced, would have significantly limited the new board’s power over the company.

Within minutes of the vote, Disney announced that it had filed a lawsuit claiming unlawful retaliation.

“A targeted campaign of government retaliation — orchestrated at every step by Governor DeSantis as punishment for Disney’s protected speech — now threatens Disney’s business operations, jeopardizes its economic future in the region, and violates its constitutional rights,” the suit charges.

For his part, DeSantis on Thursday claimed that the lawsuit lacks merit.

“Do you want one company to have their own fiefdom, or do you want everyone to live under the same laws?” he said to reporters in Israel while participating in an overseas trade mission. “The days of putting one company on a pedestal with no accountability are over in the state of Florida.”

Yearlong drama

The battle between the company and the state began last year, while the state legislature was debating the Parental Rights in Education Act which restricts the ability of teachers to discuss sexuality or gender identity with young children. The law has since been expanded to cover all children through high school.

The language in the bill made it unclear whether, for example, a gay teacher with a same-sex spouse could mention his or her marital status to students, earning it the “Don’t Say Gay” nickname from critics.

After taking an unclear stance on the legislation at the start, Disney’s then-CEO Bob Chapek responded to criticism from the company’s employee base by issuing a strong denunciation of the legislation, saying that it should never have been signed into law, and pledging that the company would work toward its repeal.

The move angered DeSantis and his allies in the legislature. The governor immediately began attacking the company in his public pronouncements as “woke” and pledged to “fight back.” In a fundraising email to supporters he wrote, “If Disney wants to pick a fight, they chose the wrong guy.”

Targeted legislation

Within days, Republican state legislator Stephen Roach made it clear that lawmakers were considering action that would eliminate an agreement struck in 1967 to allow Disney broad authority to govern the land on which its parks and hotels are located, known as the Reedy Creek Improvement District (RCID).

Roach seemed to concede that the change was to punish the company for its complaints about the Parental Rights in Education law.

“If Disney wants to embrace woke ideology, it seems fitting that they should be regulated by Orange County,” he said. (The RCID was carved out of land partly in Orange County and partly in Osceola County.)

Over the past few weeks, DeSantis has made other public comments suggesting that he is looking for additional ways to punish Disney.

In recent public comments, he suggested that he and his staff are considering new taxes on the company’s hotels, tolls on the roads that visitors use to travel to the park, and building other projects on nearby state-owned property.

At one news conference, DeSantis floated the idea of locating a new state prison on nearby land. “Who knows? I just think the possibilities are endless,” he said.

Strong claim

First Amendment experts contacted by VOA said that Disney appears to have powerful arguments behind its assertion that DeSantis and the legislature have engaged in unlawful retaliation against protected speech.

“Disney has a quite strong claim here,” RonNell Andersen Jones, a professor of law at the University of Utah, said in an email. “First Amendment doctrine makes clear that it offends the Constitution when [the] government takes actions to retaliate for speech or expressive positions.”

Gregory Magarian, a professor of law at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, agreed.

“It is clear — axiomatic, obvious — that if the government retaliates against a speaker for what they say, that is a violation of the First Amendment,” he told VOA.

Magarian said that in order to overcome Disney’s argument, the state would have to argue that the actions it took against Disney were the result of public policy preferences, and were not meant to punish the company.

“My sense is that the public record, and what DeSantis has said and what legislators have said, will make that a fairly uphill climb,” he said.

Republican doubts

DeSantis, broadly seen as a rising star in the Republican Party, has come under fire from some of his erstwhile political allies in recent days over his unrelenting assault on Disney.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, the most powerful Republican politician in Washington, on Thursday criticized the governor’s approach.

“This is a big employer inside Florida,” he said. “I think the governor should sit down with them. I don’t think the idea of building a prison next to a place that you bring your family is the best idea. I think it’d be much better if you sat down and solved the problems.”

Former President Trump, writing on Truth Social, a social network owned by his company, also piled on.

“Disney’s next move will be the announcement that no more money will be invested in Florida because of the Governor — In fact, they could even announce a slow withdrawal or sale of certain properties, or the whole thing. Watch!” he wrote. “That would be a killer.”

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By Polityk | 29/04/2023 | Повідомлення, Політика

Why Do Democrats Believe Biden Will Win Again?

Various polls show that American voters, including Democrats, do not want President Joe Biden to run again in 2024, citing his age as one of the primary reasons. Yet he is almost certain to be the Democratic nominee, and the party appears to have little doubt he will win again. White House Bureau Chief Patsy Widakuswara explains the reason behind their confidence.

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By Polityk | 29/04/2023 | Повідомлення, Політика
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