TIME Congress

Paul Ryan: Sue Obama, But Don’t Impeach Him

Rep. Paul Ryan speaks to reporters at a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor on July 30, 2014. Michael Bonfigli/The Christian Science Monitor

House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan said Republicans should continue with their plans to sue President Barack Obama over his executive actions and regulations, but should stop short of attempting to impeach him.

“This does not rise to the high crimes and misdemeanor level,” Ryan told reporters Wednesday morning at a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor. The impeachment talk has been a steady theme among the GOP’s Tea Party wing and has been embraced in recent days by Democrats as a potent fundraising tool.

“I see this as sort of a ridiculous gambit by the President and his political team to try and change the narrative, raise money and turn out their base for an upcoming election that they feel is not going to go their way,” Ryan said Wednesday, echoing House Speaker John Boehner’s comments Tuesday that the White House’s impeachment talk is a “scam.” “We have no plans to impeach the President,” Boehner said.

But the White House has been hard at work keeping the issue alive. On Friday, White House Senior Advisor Dan Pfeiffer said he “wouldn’t discount” the possibility of impeachment. On Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest read off a list of Tea Party Republicans who had made comments about impeachment, defending the White House’s decision to talk about the issue.

Earnest would not say that Democrats should stop fundraising off impeachment, a tactic that has brought in more than $1 million to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. “It is up to Democrats to make their own decisions about ensuring that their candidates have the resources necessary to run successful campaigns in the fall,” he said.

Ryan, however, defended Republicans’ decision to file a lawsuit against Obama’s executive actions, saying that Congress’ traditional avenue of checking the executive branch—through budgeting—is unavailable because of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

“What John [Boehner] is doing is expressing frustration that we are not using the power of the purse, so he’s trying to stand up for congressional prerogatives and that is why the lawsuit has intellectual merit, because we want to show that we’re not going to take this lying down,” he said. “The President is issuing executive orders and regulations that exceed the parameters of the statutes that gave him the authority in the first place.”

 

TIME Morning Must Reads

Morning Must Reads: July 30

Capitol
The early morning sun rises behind the US Capitol Building in Washington, DC. Mark Wilson—Getty Images

In the News: U.S., E.U. impose new sanctions on Russia; Israel operations spread in Gaza; House GOP unveil women's package; Senate edging toward 'highway cliff'; and Eric Cantor's final days

  • U.S., E.U. boost sanctions on Russia [TIME]
  • As sanctions pile up, Russians’ alarm grows over Putin’s tactics: “…there is growing alarm in Russia that the festering turmoil in Ukraine and the new round of far more punitive sanctions — announced Tuesday by both European nations and the United States — will have an impact on Russia’s relations with the West for years to come and damage the economy to the extent that ordinary Russians feel it.” [NYT]
  • “The airwaves are filled with images of death and destruction in the Gaza Strip. President Obama is pressing for an immediate cease-fire. More than 50 Israeli soldiers have been killed. But at home, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is riding a massive wave of popularity.” [Washington Post]
  • Israel’s operation in Gaza spreads beyond just tunnels [TIME]
  • Inside the Kerry-Israel meltdown [The Daily Beast]
  • House Republicans unveil women’s legislation in push for female voters [TIME]
  • Ex-first couple’s defense in Virginia: the state of their union [NYT]
  • Eric Cantor’s final days: “It’s an anticlimactic end to Cantor’s meteoric rise. His tenure as majority leader — defined in part by opposition to Obamacare and moments of friction with fellow GOP leaders — will close quietly on Thursday. One of the most dominant figures on Capitol Hill until his shocking primary loss in June, Cantor will spend the rest of this Congress as a member of the GOP rank and file.” [Politico]
  • “Labor advocates are claiming a big victory after a federal agency said Tuesday that McDonald’s central, corporate operations can be lumped in with its thousands of franchises for liability purposes.” [USA Today]
  • Dems fear a debacle on turnout [The Hill]
  • “The Senate has passed a bill to rescue highway and transit funding that House Speaker John Boehner says he won’t accept, keeping the specter of a “highway cliff” alive with just days before Congress is set to leave for its August recess.” [Politico]
  • Nixon’s nightmare, and ours, 40 years ago [The New Yorker]
TIME Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton: Redskins Should Change ‘Insensitive’ Name

American Indian Movement protest the Washington Redskins as they arrive in town to play the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile HIgh in Denver, Co.
Kordell Kills Crow, Gerard Montour and Chuntay Her Many Horses sing and play the drums during their protest outside of Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver, Co on October 27, 2013. Helen H. Richardson—Denver Post / Getty Images

"There's no reason for it to continue as the name of a team in our nation's capital"

Hillary Clinton urged the owners of the Washington Redskins to consider changing the team name in a Tuesday television interview, arguing that the current name was “insensitive”.

“I think it’s insensitive and I think that there’s no reason for it to continue as the name of a team in our nation’s capital,” Clinton said on Fusion’s America with Jorge Ramos. “I would love to see the owners think hard about what they could substitute.”

Pressed to think of alternatives, Clinton demurred. “No, I haven’t thought a lot about that,” she said.

The team name has come under fire from politicians and advocacy groups this year. In June, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office revoked the team’s trademark, arguing that no company had the right to trademark names that could “disparage” a group of people.

TIME Congress

House Republicans Unveil Women’s Legislation in Push for Female Voters

Speaker Boehner And House GOP Leadership Address The Media After Their Weekly Conference
Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers listens during a briefing at the headquarters of the Republican National Committee in Washington on March 5, 2014 Alex Wong—Getty Images

The party that was once against identity politics is learning to court the female vote

House Republicans on Wednesday will introduce a package of legislation aimed at helping “all Americans — particularly women — succeed at home and at work,” Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers’ office told TIME exclusively. McMorris Rodgers has been spearheading the House effort to draft and introduce the measures for months. For a party that has loathed identity politics, the moment is an acknowledgment of how powerful female voters have become.

“As a wife, mom, and member of Congress, I am proud to promote legislative solutions that celebrate the extraordinarily positive role women play in all sectors of our economy,” McMorris Rodgers, the No. 4 House Republican and the highest-ranking woman in GOP leadership, tells TIME. “Simply put: these bills will make life better for millions of Americans.”

Democrats have focused almost their entire 2014 agenda around issues that affect female voters, from pay equity to increasing the minimum wage, which impacts women disproportionately. They are hoping that by turning out single women, a reliably Democratic group but one that doesn’t often turn out for midterm elections, they can keep the Senate from flipping.

Republicans are seeking to check that move by appealing to women themselves, and McMorris Rodgers’ pitch on Wednesday is part of that effort. The move, part of a coordinated GOP effort to woo women this year, is striking. Republicans have long eschewed identity politics and, aside from George W. Bush’s courtship of soccer and security moms, have never made such a push as seen this year to court an individual voting bloc.

The package consists of several bills the House has already passed that increase job training, incentivize flexible work schedules, tax breaks for children and families, and strengthens charter schools. Most of the bills have been DOA in the Senate in an election year, though in a less polarized time they might have drawn some support. Democrats have introduced several similar workplace flexibility bills. The package also includes some new legislation to prevent retaliation when women ask about equal pay, a bill that restores cuts to home Medicare health care services and Child Care and Development Block Grant legislation, a bipartisan bill that has already passed the Senate and would become law if passed by the House.

With more and more women working, flexibility for both parents has become an increasingly popular issue on both sides of the aisle in Congress. Three-fourths of women are in the workforce today, women manage over 80% of household income, and more than 60% of women with children under 6 are working, according to Labor Department statistics. “We absolutely believe that women should absolutely get equal pay for equal work,” McMorris Rodgers says. “If there’s discrimination taking place then laws need to be strengthened. Equal pay was passed in 1963, civil rights in 1964, it’s been the law of the land but we are looking at strengthening those laws … The workforce has changed. Our laws should too.” Democrats have brought up legislation mandating equal pay for women, but Republicans have shot down those bills as too onerous on employers, preferring a route that strengthens penalties on the back end.

Democrats have a 10-point advantage with women voters, according to a July Pew Research Center poll. While, conversely, Republicans have a 12-point edge with male voters, men turn out proportionately 10% less than female voters. All of which is to say, the female vote is much more powerful. The only time Republicans have won the female vote since 1984 — by less than 2 percentage points in 2010 — they took back the House and nearly flipped the Senate. Democrats, who hold a two-point lead in generic poll matchups, say the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision and right-wing calls to impeach President Obama have helped bolster their case this year with women. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which works to elect Democrats to the House, says 60% of donations reaped by their $2.1 million anti-impeachment fundraising haul have come from women.

Senate Republicans Kelly Ayotte and Deb Fischer have introduced their own flexible work legislation, and the Republican National Committee recently held a women’s summit to bolster candidate recruitment and training. The RNC also launched “14 in 14” a program, which recruits young women to volunteer at least 30 minutes of their time every week for the 14 weeks leading up to the midterm elections. They will recruit other volunteers, potential candidates, identify female voters, work phone banks and help get people to the polls on election day.

All of these GOP efforts are also pushback on Democratic assertions that Republicans are waging a “war on women,” trying to limit not only abortion rights, but access to contraception — a narrative the Hobby Lobby decision, which ruled that a private company’s owners could refuse to pay as part of employee health insurance certain kinds of contraception in the face of their Christian beliefs — plays into. The GOP made a coordinated effort over the past two years to train their candidates and members to speak more delicately about issues of rape and abortion after inopportune comments offending women by two GOP Senate candidates arguably cost the party control of the Senate in 2012.

At the same time, Republicans have countered with an emphasis on economic issues. An RNC poll out last month found that women voters care more about the economy and jobs than social issues. “Democrats have long tried to reduce women to single-issue voters, and Republican have consistently called them out for failing to respect the fact that women vote on a wide range of issues,” the RNC’s Sharon Day wrote in an op-ed on Real Clear Politics on June 24. “By relying on cynical political attacks like the ‘war on women’ that lack substance, Democrats have failed to provide women with solutions to our top concerns.”

McMorris Rodgers’ efforts dovetail with the broader GOP push to turn the conversation away from hot-button topics to areas where Republicans are stronger, and frankly more comfortable discussing, like the economy. But given the House’s crowded schedule, looking to pass a bill overhauling the Veterans Affairs Department, an $11 billion patch on transport ion infrastructure funding and dealing with the influx of child refugees, the legislation is unlikely to pass before they break on Friday for a five-week summer recess. “After 2010, women on the Democratic side looked at that and said, we’ve got to do something, and they came up with the ‘war on women,’” McMorris Rodgers tells TIME. “And unfortunately a couple of our guys weeks before the election in 2012 made some really outrageous comments that are not reflective of the entire Republican Party and yet were very damaging. So we have some work to do to build the trust and to make sure that people recognize that the policies that we’re promoting for men and women will empower them and make a better life for them.”

TIME Gaza

15 Killed at Gaza U.N. School; Israel Holds Fire

Palestinians collect human remains from a classroom inside a UN school in the Jabalia refugee camp after the area was hit by shelling on July 30, 2014.
Palestinians collect human remains from a classroom inside a UN school in the Jabalia refugee camp after the area was hit by shelling on July 30, 2014. Marco Longari—AFP/Getty Images

Israeli tank shells hit a U.N. school in Gaza, where hundreds of Palestinians sought refuge, leaving 15 dead and 90 injured

Update: July 30, 8:26 a.m. ET

(JEBALIYA REFUGEE CAMP, Gaza Strip) — Israeli tank shells slammed into a crowded U.N. school sheltering Gazans displaced by fighting on Wednesday, killing 15 and wounding 90 after tearing through the walls of two classrooms, a spokesman for a U.N. aid agency and a health official said.

The Israeli military said mortar shells had been fired from near the school, and that soldiers fired back.

Later Wednesday, the Israeli military declared a four-hour humanitarian cease-fire in parts of Gaza beginning at 3:00 p.m. Hamas had no immediate comment.

Israeli airstrikes and shelling also killed 40 Palestinians elsewhere in the coastal territory on Wednesday, including multiple members of two families struck in their homes, health officials said.

The new violence further dimmed hopes of a cease-fire.

The strike at the U.N. school in the Jebaliya refugee camp came as part of Israel’s heaviest air and artillery assault in more than three weeks of Israel-Hamas fighting.

The Israeli campaign escalated on Tuesday, with airstrikes destroying key symbols of Hamas power, including the home of the top Hamas leader. Gaza’s only power plant was shut down after shells set its fuel tank on fire.

On Wednesday, Israeli aircraft struck dozens of Gaza sites, including five mosques it said were being used by militants, while several other areas came under tank fire.

In Jebaliya, tank shells hit the U.N. school before dawn, said Adnan Abu Hasna, a spokesman for the U.N. Relief and Works Agency. The agency is sheltering more than 200,000 people displaced by the fighting at dozens of U.N. schools across the coastal strip.

Assad Sabah said he and his five children were huddling under desks in one of the classrooms because of the constant sound of tank fire throughout the night.

“We were scared to death,” he said. “After 4:30 a.m., tanks started firing more. Three explosions shook the school.”

“One classroom collapsed over the head of the people who were inside,” he said.

In one classroom, the front wall was blown out, leaving debris and bloodied clothing. Another strike tore a large round hole into the ceiling of a second-floor classroom. The wall of the lavatories was also damaged.

The Israeli military said it fired after its soldiers were targeted by mortars operating from the vicinity of the school.

“In response, soldiers fired toward the origins of fire. And we’re still reviewing the incident,” the military said in a statement.

About two hours after the strike, hundreds of people still crowded the school courtyard, some dazed, others wailing.

Aishe Abu Darabeh, 56, sat on the ground with her relatives.

“Where will we go?” she asked. “Where will we go next? We fled and they (the Israelis) are following us.”

Four of the dead were killed just outside the school compound, two in their home nearby and two in the street, after returning from pre-dawn prayers, their relatives said.

The bodies of two members of the al-Najar family, 56-year-old Shaher and his 41-year-old brother, Bassem, were laid out in one of the rooms of their small home, surrounded by wailing relatives. Outside the gate, another relative held on to his crying son, hugging him tight and saying: “I’m here, I’m not going anywhere.”

Palestinian civilians wounded during Israeli shelling in a UN school wait at the Kamal Awdan hospital in Beit Lahia on July 30, 2014. Marco Longari—AFP/Getty Images

Abu Hasna, the U.N. agency spokesman, said the international community must step in.

“It’s the responsibility of the world to tell us what we shall do with more than 200,000 people who are inside our schools, thinking that the U.N. flag will protect them,” he said. “This incident today proves that no place is safe in Gaza.”

Ashraf al-Kidra, a Gaza health official, said at least 15 people were killed and about 90 wounded in the school strike.

In all, 55 Palestinians were killed by airstrikes and tank shelling in different areas of Gaza on Wednesday, al-Kidra said.

In the southern town of Khan Younis, 10 members of one family were killed when an airstrike hit a relative’s home where they had sought refuge from the fighting, al-Kidra said.

After the strike, relatives climbed over large piles of debris, surveying shattered windows and demolished walls.

“When the strike happened, I was sleeping, me and my brother and one of my relatives, we were sleeping. And we tried to look through the window to see what happened. But we couldn’t see anything because of the smoke. And when we came down, we saw everything was damaged,” said Mohammed al-Astal, a relative.

In the Gaza City neighborhood of Tufah, shelling killed at last seven members of another family, including four children, said Ayman Sahabani, the head of the emergency room at Gaza’s Shifa Hospital.

The total number of Palestinians killed since the start of fighting July 8 rose to 1,284, al-Kidra said. In addition, more than 7,100 Palestinians have been wounded.

Israel has lost 53 soldiers and three civilians.

Israel has said its Gaza operation is meant to stop Hamas rocket and mortar fire that has reached increasingly deeper into its territory and to destroy a sophisticated network of Hamas military tunnels used for attacks in Israel.

Gaza militants have fired more than 2,600 rockets toward Israel over the past three weeks, according to the Israeli army.

The Israeli military has said it is hitting targets linked to militants, such as rocket launching sites, weapon depots and Hamas military tunnels. Over the past 23 days, Israeli forces have hit 4,100 targets in Gaza, about one-third connected to the militants’ ability to launch rockets at Israel, a statement said.

The military has not provided details on strikes in which multiple members of one family were killed. There have been several dozen such strikes, according to the Palestinian human rights group Al- Mezan.

The military says Hamas militants often launch rockets from crowded residential areas, thus endangering nearby civilians. The army says it has also given civilians a chance to leave dangerous areas by sending warnings in phone calls and leaflets.

On Wednesday, aircraft dropped leaflets over Gaza City’s Rimal neighborhood. The leaflets urged residents to stay away from Hamas militants and to report possible rocket launches. The leaflet gave a contact phone number and email.

“The Israeli Defense Forces are going into a new phase in the coming operation and does not want to harm civilians,” the leaflet said. “The army is warning residents in the areas where the operation will take place that for your safety, you have to keep away from terrorists and the locations from which they operate.”

Separately, Israeli troops in Gaza’s border areas are searching for Hamas military tunnels used for carrying out attacks in Israel. Israeli leaders have said troops would not leave until all the tunnels have been demolished.

The army said 32 tunnels have so far been located but did not say how many remain. Since Tuesday morning, troops have demolished three more tunnels, a statement said.

__

Enav reported from Jerusalem. Associated Press writers Ibrahim Barzak in Gaza City and Yousur Alhlou in Jerusalem contributed to this report.

TIME intelligence

Senate NSA Reform Bill Earns Cautious Praise From Privacy Advocates

NSA Surveillance-Privacy Report
The National Security Agency campus in Fort Meade, Md., June 6, 2013. Patrick Semansky—AP

Senator Leahy’s USA Freedom Act carries stronger reforms than a version passed out of the House earlier this year

Advocates for reform of the National Security Agency’s domestic surveillance activities cautiously hailed the USA Freedom Act, put forth in the Senate on Tuesday, as a major step in reforming controversial programs at the agency.

“We commend the Senate Democratic and Republican co-sponsors of this version of the USA Freedom Act, which significantly constrains the out-of-control surveillance authorities exposed by Edward Snowden,” said Laura W. Murphy, director of the legislative office of the American Civil Liberties Union. “While this bill is not perfect, it is the beginning of the real NSA reform that the public has been craving since the Patriot Act became law in 2001.”

Introduced by Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Patrick Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, the USA Freedom Act would impose new restrictions on so-called bulk surveillance of American cell-phone records and Internet traffic, banning the practice of vacuuming up all cell-phone metadata from a particular area or phone-service provider, for instance. The legislation also places restrictions on what business records the government can collect, imposes new transparency requirements on the government, and creates a position of a special privacy advocate to represent civil-liberties interests in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the secretive body that oversees NSA surveillance activities.

Many in the technology industry, where business has been threatened by investors skittish at NSA snooping on Internet traffic in the U.S., have joined calls for serious NSA reform. Privacy advocates contend that the exposed surveillance efforts also weaken security protocols of American companies.

The bill “would go a long way toward stemming the costs of the NSA’s spying programs and restoring trust in the American Internet industry,” said Kevin Bankston, policy director with the New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute. “But ensuring that a strong version of USA Freedom becomes law is only the first step toward repairing the damage that the NSA has done to America’s tech economy, its foreign relationships, and the security of the Internet itself.”

Compared with similar legislation passed in May by the House, also called the USA Freedom Act, the Leahy bill goes significantly further in curbing what civil-liberties groups see as extraconstitutional overreach by the NSA since passage of the 2001 Patriot Act gave the spy agency broad new surveillance powers. Privacy advocates pulled support for the House bill before it came to a vote, after substantial changes to the measure gutted the bill of key reform provisions. It’s unclear if the Senate will take up the Leahy bill before the November midterm elections.

TIME russia

U.S., E.U. Boost Sanctions on Russia

"It doesn't have to be this way"

+ READ ARTICLE

The U.S. is escalating sanctions on the Russian economy nearly two weeks after the shootdown of a civilian airliner over eastern Ukraine and amid growing violence along that country’s border with Russia. President Barack Obama announced the new sanctions Tuesday hours after the E.U. approved similar measures.

“Today the United States is imposing new sanctions on key sectors of the Russian economy: energy, arms, and finance,” Obama said from the White House.

The U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned three Russian banks: Bank of Moscow, Russian Agricultural Bank and VTB Bank OAO, in an effort to increase “costs” on Russia, Obama announced, while the U.S. government is restricting exports of energy-related parts to Russia.

The new sanctions also apply to United Shipbuilding Corp., the largest such company in Russia. “We have hit five of the six largest state-owned banks in Russia,” a senior Obama Administration official said Tuesday.

The U.S. will also require export licenses for energy-related technology for new Russian deepwater, Arctic offshore and shale projects, according to that official. Additionally, the official said there would be no new Ex-Im Bank transactions with Russia.

“It doesn’t have to be this way,” Obama said, calling on Russia to rein in separatist forces and become a “good neighbor” to Ukraine. “This is a choice that Russia, and President Putin in particular, has made.”

Obama said that since the shootdown of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 that Russia and “its proxies in Ukraine” had in several ways impeded the crash investigation, including by tampering with evidence. The U.S. government believes that Russian-backed separatist forces deployed an SA-11 surface-to-air missile provided by Russia to shoot down the airliner, likely confusing it with a Ukrainian military aircraft.

Obama said the new sanctions would further weaken the Russian economy, which has suffered from capital flight amid the ongoing crisis, adding that still more sanctions could be imposed if Russia doesn’t reverse course. When asked if the rising diplomatic tensions between the U.S. and Russia represent a “new Cold War,” Obama balked. “No, this is not a new Cold War,” the President said.

TIME Military

Senate Confirms McDonald as VA Secretary

(WASHINGTON) — The Senate on Tuesday unanimously confirmed former Procter & Gamble CEO Robert McDonald as the new Veterans Affairs secretary, with a mission to overhaul an agency beleaguered by long veterans’ waits for health care and VA workers falsifying records to cover up delays.

McDonald, 61, of Cincinnati, will replace Acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson, who took over in May after Eric Shinseki resigned.

McDonald has pledged to transform the VA and promised that “systematic failures” must be addressed. He said improving patient access to health care is a top priority, along with restoring transparency, accountability and integrity to the VA.

The 97-0 vote to confirm McDonald comes as Congress appears poised to approve a $17 billion compromise bill to overhaul the VA.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said it was important that Congress act on the reform bill as quickly as possible in order “to give Mr. McDonald and his team the resources they need to ensure American veterans are getting the care we’ve promised them.”

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said McDonald “has a tough job ahead of him,” but said that if McDonald “is willing to work in a collaborative and open manner with Congress, he will find a constructive partner on this side of the aisle.”

House and Senate negotiators have approved the VA bill, which is intended to help veterans avoid long waits for health care, hire more doctors and nurses to treat them, and make it easier to fire executives at VA. The vote by the 28-member conference committee late Monday sends the bill to the full House and Senate, where approval is expected later this week.

The measure includes $10 billion in emergency spending to help veterans who can’t get prompt appointments with VA doctors to obtain outside care; $5 billion to hire doctors, nurses and other medical staff; and about $1.5 billion to lease 27 new clinics across the country.

Florida Rep. Jeff Miller, who chairs the House Veterans Affairs Committee, and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., who chairs the Senate panel, say the bill will require about $12 billion in new spending after accounting for about $5 billion in unspecified spending cuts from the VA’s budget.

Despite the steep cost, Miller said he is confident he can sell the bill to fellow Republicans, including tea party members.

“Taking care of our veterans is not an inexpensive proposition, and our members understand that,” Miller said Monday. “The VA has caused this problem and one of the ways that we can help solve it is to give veterans a choice, a choice to stay in the system or a choice to go out of the system” to get government-paid health care from a private doctor.

Pressed on the point by reporters, Miller said there will be “an educational process that will have to take place” before the House votes on the compromise plan later this week. “Obviously some of our members will need a little more educating than others.”

Rep. Tim Huelskamp., R-Kan., a tea party favorite and a member of the House veterans panel, said “throwing money at the VA won’t solve their problem,” adding that “a fundamental change in culture and real leadership from the president on down is the only way to provide the quality, timely care our veterans deserve.”

Sanders, for his part, said funding for veterans should be considered as a cost of war, paid for through emergency spending.

“Planes and tanks and guns are a cost of war. So is taking care of the men and women who fight our battles,” he said.

Miller and Sanders both predicted passage of the bill by the end of the week, when Congress is set to leave town for a five-week recess.

If approved by Congress and signed by President Barack Obama, the veterans’ bill would be one of the few significant bills signed into law this year.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Obama welcomes the bipartisan deal as “much-needed reforms that need to be implemented.”

The White House is especially pleased that the bill includes emergency spending “to provide VA the additional resources necessary to deliver timely, high-quality care to veterans through a strengthened VA system,” Earnest said.

The VA has been rocked by reports of patients dying while awaiting treatment and mounting evidence that workers falsified or omitted appointment schedules to mask frequent, long delays. The resulting election-year firestorm forced VA Secretary Eric Shinseki to resign in late May.

The compromise measure would require the VA to pay private doctors to treat qualifying veterans who can’t get prompt appointments at the VA’s nearly 1,000 hospitals and outpatient clinics, or those who live at least 40 miles from one of them. Only veterans who are enrolled in VA care as of Aug. 1 or live at least 40 miles away would be eligible to get outside care.

The proposed restrictions are important in controlling costs for the program. Congressional budget analysts had projected that tens of thousands of veterans who currently are not treated by the VA would likely seek VA care if they could see a private doctor paid for by the government.

TIME LGBT

Obama Urged to Address LGBT Rights in Africa

Africa Anti Gay Laws
Kenyan gays and lesbians and others supporting their cause wear masks to preserve their anonymity as they stage a rare protest, against Uganda's increasingly tough stance against homosexuality outside the Uganda High Commission in Nairobi, Kenya on Feb. 10, 2014. Ben Curtis—AP

Advocates issue report on the dreadful state of LGBT rights in Africa, as world leaders and leading figures from the continent prepare for the US-Africa Leaders Summit

Updated at 4:38 p.m. ET Tuesday

The White House will host more than 40 African heads of state for a three-day U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit next week, the first event of its kind and the largest such event any U.S. president has held with African governments. Some 200 African and U.S. CEOs are invited, and numerous faith leaders will gather to discuss their role in advancing development. To mark the historic event, LGBT advocates have issued a report on the state of LGBT rights in Africa. Their conclusion? It ain’t good.

The Human Rights Campaign Foundation and Human Rights First report contains some stark numbers. A total of 37 African nations currently criminalize same-sex relationships. Four countries—Mauritania, Nigeria, Somalia and Sudan—allow for the death penalty against LGBT people in parts or in all of the country. Cameroon arrests more people based on their sexual orientation than any other country in the world. Ghana treats same-sex relationships as a misdemeanor punishable by up to three years in prison. In Kenya, the sentence is up to 14 years. Only one country, South Africa, grants full marriage equality to LGBT citizens.

The U.S.—Africa summit, these advocates argue, is the perfect time for the White House to stand up for LGBT rights on the continent. Voices for equality on the ground deserve U.S. support, they say, and the U.S. should help create the political environment to ensure human rights are respected.

“The United States should demonstrate its firm commitment to upholding the fundamental principle that LGBT rights are human rights,” Ty Cobb, director of global engagement at the Human Rights Campaign, says. “This includes making clear that the United States will be a champion of LGBT rights abroad, and that we will not tolerate efforts to enact state-sanctioned discrimination against LGBT people in any country.”

The authors of the report aren’t alone. Representatives from the Council for Global Equality, Advocates for Youth, Amnesty International, GLAAD, and a dozen other organizations wrote a letter to President Barack Obama on July 25 urging “particular attention” at the summit to the rights of the next generation of LGBT Africans.

“We are confident that with your support, and the robust contribution of civil society, the summit will provide a unique opportunity to emphasize that LGBT and other marginalized communities suffer disproportionately from governance deficits, and that too many governments scapegoat LGBT individuals to distract public attention away from those structural failures,” they wrote. “The economic themes of the conference also provide an opportunity to emphasize that homophobia, transphobia and related forms of intolerance have economic costs, including to the trade and investment environments in emerging markets.”

Activists also note that the moment has particular importance as some African countries are taking more steps toward equality. “There are reports that Malawi will stop arresting LGBT people and review its laws,” Shawn Gaylord, advocacy counsel for Human Rights First, explains. “A move to pass new anti-gay legislation (and hold a massive anti-gay rally) was stalled in Ethiopia this year. Two young men were just acquitted in Cameroon. It’s too early to say if this is part of a larger trend or just a few independent rays of hope but it’s a trend we should watch and support.”

The Obama administration has already reacted to anti-LGBT legislation in Africa. Last month, the White House increased sanctions against Uganda for its anti-gay law signed in February, which made certain homosexual acts punishable by life imprisonment. The summit will give the president an opportunity to make the case in person, if he chooses. Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni is slated to attend, as is Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan, who also signed an anti-homosexuality law this year.

“This summit is a unique opportunity to tell the story of how our nation and every nation grows stronger and more prosperous when all citizens—including LGBT people—are accepted by society and provided equal treatment under the law,” Cobb says. “Every citizen must be empowered to reach their maximum potential, and we should urge these nations to reject laws, policies, and practices that discriminate against LGBT people.”

National Security Council spokesperson Ned Price tells TIME that LGBT equality in Africa will be on the table at the summit. “The Obama Administration has long spoken out—including with our African partners—in support of universal human rights and fundamental freedoms for all, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals,” he says. “We expect the Summit will provide an opportunity to continue these conversations.”

– Zeke J. Miller contributed to this report

TIME Congress

GOP Conference Bids Eric Cantor Farewell With Video Tribute

But don't cry for Cantor. He is likely to be just fine.

In what will likely be former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s last conference meeting before he’s expected to resign, House Republicans paid tribute on Tuesday to Cantor’s legacy.

“While it’s impossible to fully capture your leadership on behalf of House Republicans, I wanted to remind everyone of a few of your many highlights,” said House Conference Chair Cathy McMorris-Rogers introducing the above video.

The video emphasizes Cantor’s work with children and, set to hopeful music, America’s bright next generation. It ends with the Virginia Republican’s own words from a recent speech on children’s issues: “Each setback is an opportunity and that there’s always optimism for the future.”

Cantor’s next steps are largely unknown. Many have speculated he’ll take a lucrative lobbying or government relations or consulting job. Though his dreams of becoming speaker were dashed when he lost his GOP primary last month, Cantor’s future is certainly not looking too shabby with what are surely many multi-million dollar options on the table.

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