TIME Hillary Clinton

Here’s What You Can Buy at Hillary Clinton’s Online Store

The Clinton campaign aims for hip in its new online store

Cheeky, chic, youth-oriented, red pantsuit t-shirt. These are words that describe the items in Hillary Clinton’s brand-new presidential campaign store—and the tone that Clinton wants to set in the race.

The frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination launched her online store Tuesday morning. The store—which offer clothes, bumper stickers, and signs—will allow Clinton both to sell goods to bankroll her campaign, and more important, to build out her email list for heavy-duty fundraising down the road.

The overall look of the store items will also help define Clinton’s image among voters.

Visitors to the store can find a $30 “pantsuit tee” with the Hillary logo, or a t-shirt with the words “women’s rights are human rights are women’s rights,” which echoes Clinton’s 1995 speech in Beijing. A $55-stitched pillow in the store says “A woman’s place is in the White House,” and a coffee mug has the words “Red, white and brew.”

Many of the items in Clinton’s store point to the young, hipper audience that the campaign hopes to attract. There’s a pint glass with the words “made from 100% shattered glass ceiling,” a hoodie, a “canvass canvas” bag and an I <3 Hillary tumbler.

All the products in the store are American made, according to a Clinton campaign official. The models in the photos are Clinton campaign staffers.

On Monday night, the campaign offered a preview of the store.

Campaign stores can be an important fundraising tool for candidates, particularly as the contest gets more competitive and more customers have given their contact information and candidates mine customer lists to raise donations. Rand Paul, a Republican candidate, has a campaign store already, as does fellow Republican Ted Cruz.

TIME

Morning Must Reads: May 26

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

As you may have heard from a gleeful Rand Paul, many of the NSA’s spying programs—including the collection of virtually all American phone records—will expire next week if lawmakers fail to pass new legislation to keep them running. Let’s all hope they can avoid the four-word typo many lawmakers blame for putting Obamacare on the Supreme Court chopping block. Meanwhile, the U.S. blames recent Islamic State advances on Iraqi troops unwillingness to fight, which is the same reason the U.S. gave for the Islamic State advances more than a year ago. And avowed socialist and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is actually running, with plans for a bucolic lakeside launch rally later today. Here are your must reads:

Must Reads

Bernie Sanders Rallies a Progressive Campaign With a Realist’s Eye
TIME’s Sam Frizell reports on the Democratic contender’s strategy

Four Words That Imperil Health Care Law Were All a Mistake, Writers Now Say
Oops… [New York Times]

Suspicion of US government reaches a new level in Texas
A divided nation as seen through a military exercise [Boston Globe]

The South China Sea’s Ticking Time Bomb
Beijing is bulldozing sand into the eyes of the world, TIME’s Mark Thompson writes

Carly Fiorina Talks, Iowa Swoons, and Polls Shrug
The former HP CEO is earning rave reviews—from the few who know who she is [New York Times]

Republican Presidential Debate Caps Upend 2016 Race
Move over Iowa Straw Poll, making the debate stage is the new viability test. [Wall Street Journal]

Sound Off

“Many of our politicians have surrendered to the false god of judicial supremacy, which would allow black-robed and unelected judges the power to make law as well as enforce it.” —Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee on Fox News Sunday warning of the role of American judges.

“What apparently happened was that the Iraqi forces just showed no will to fight…They were not outnumbered, but in fact, they vastly outnumbered the opposing force. And yet they failed to fight.” —Defense Secretary Ash Carter on CNN’s State of the Union Sunday on the fall of Ramadi.

Bits and Bites

Senate NSA vote underscores rift in 2016 field [Washington Post]

Marco Rubio the hawk turned dovish on Syria in 2013 [Politico]

Gen. Dempsey’s first fight in Iraq shapes his approach to Islamic State [Washington Post]

Breakdown of GOP campaign strategies [Des Moines Register]

Republicans grope for Obamacare replacement [Politico]

TIME Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders Rallies a Progressive Campaign With a Realist’s Eye

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) Speaks On Legislation To Eliminate Undergraduate Tuition At Public Schools
Mark Wilson—Getty Images Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) speaks about college tuitions during a news conference on Capitol Hill May 19, 2015 in Washington, DC.

The Vermont socialist is also a canny politician

Bernie Sanders will hold the first major rally of his presidential candidacy Tuesday in a Burlington, Vt., waterfront park that he helped create as the city’s mayor. Attendees will eat free Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, and a homegrown Vermont band will bring on the senator. When Sanders speaks in the late afternoon sun, he’ll be framed Lake Champlain and the Adirondack Mountains. The setting will be as wholesome and uncompromised as Sanders’ progressive platform.

But nothing is as unblemished as it seems in politics, and Sanders long ago proved himself a far cannier politician than his idealistic trappings might suggest. Tuesday’s speech, for instance, probably would never have happened had the cantankerous Vermont senator not opposed a tax increase during his 1981 mayoral race. The five-term incumbent Burlington mayor, Gordon Paquette, supported raising residential taxes in the city; Sanders, the self-professed socialist, argued it was unnecessary and would hurt middle class residents. It was also a savvy political move: he won the mayoral race by 10 votes, and went on to serve in the House and Senate.

There, he negotiated a major deal with Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain on veterans care last year. An avowed opponent of larger defense spending, he nonetheless endorsed the decision to bring F-35 aircraft bases to Vermont, and has a somewhat hawkish record on guns rights, voting against the Brady Act in 1993, which required background checks for gun purchasers, and supporting a bill to protect gun manufacturers from lawsuits. Military bases and gun freedoms may satisfy his base in Vermont, but are negative notches for many progressives who demand ideological purity.

Sanders has also made a major concession in his preparation to run for president. After years of refusing to join the Democratic Party, his decision to run as a Democrat rather than an Independent gives him a shot at challenging Hillary Clinton in a debate. But it disqualifies him among some voters who want to see him shake up the two-party system. “The main reason I would not vote for Bernie is that he’s running as a Democrat,” says Scott Tucker, a progressive activist in California. “That’s a deal-breaker for me in a much bigger way that goes to the roots of democracy.”

In an interview with TIME in his office earlier this month, Sanders explained his willingness to compromise. “The way things evolve is you find yourself where you are and how you apply your values and what you believe in in the strongest way possible within the context you are functioning,” said Sanders. “But there is a political reality—there is a legal reality of what you can do.”

Sanders likes to tell reporters not to underestimate him. He is challenging Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination in earnest. He’s got around 15% in the polls in early primary states to Clinton’s 60% or so, but his career has a long list of unlikely victories. In 2012, he won reelection in Vermont to the Senate with over 70% of the vote.

There’s good reason the son of a Brooklyn paint salesman has acquired a reputation over many years as an uncompromising populist, and as the Senate’s eccentric progressive. Sanders’ commitment to getting unaccountable money out of politics and addressing income inequality is unwavering. He wants to spend over $1 trillion on America’s infrastructure and he is a staunch advocate of raising the minimum wage. He embraces the moniker of “socialist,” a term more often used as coup de grace insult on Fox News than a proud label.

“In America today, objectively, if you add it all up, we are the wealthiest country in the history of the world. But the problem is that a very large amount of that wealth rests in the hands of a very few people. And huge numbers of people have virtually nothing,” Sanders tells TIME. “And that’s what propels me.”

He has his quirks: on a recent visit to his office in the stately Dirksen building, a TIME reporter encountered a life-size paper cutout of a Holstein cow, udders bright pink beneath folded blue window drapes, and a portrait of socialist hero Eugene V. Debs. In the 1980s, Sanders recorded a folk album in which he delivers a speech over a choir singing “We Shall Overcome”—the evidence of Sanders’ musical dalliance is easily available on YouTube.

But if Sanders’ first ideology is liberal socialism, his second is a more helpful one in American politics: realism. It’s realism that will bring him to Tuesday’s edenic rally on Burlington’s waterfront, rallying Vermont supporters for his presidential candidacy. And his realism may make him a stronger Democratic candidate than a socialist might appear. Still, Sanders’ chances of beating Clinton in the primary are about as slim as the likelihood of rain Tuesday on Lake Champlain. The weather forecast promises a brilliant, sunny, unspoiled afternoon.

TIME South China Sea

The South China Sea’s Ticking Time Bomb

Still image from United States Navy video shows a U.S. Navy crewman aboard a surveillance aircraft viewing a computer screen purportedly showing Chinese construction on the reclaimed land of Fiery Cross Reef in the disputed Spratly Islands
Reuters from U.S. Navy A sailor aboard a P-8 Poseidon surveillance plane points out claimed Chinese construction on Fiery Island Reef during a flight last week.

Beijing is bulldozing sand into the eyes of the world

When it comes to international relations, there are many ways to change the situation on the ground. But the Chinese are trying a new one far off their coast: they are creating new ground.

It’s part of Beijing’s plan to extend its claim to 90% of the South China Sea, and now the Chinese government is ordering the U.S. and other nations to steer clear, or at least to seek permission before visiting the neighborhood.

Sure, it’s not a whole lot of land. China has dredged about 2,000 acres of once-submerged sand to enlarge five islets in the Spratly Islands between Vietnam and the Philippines. That’s a 0.00009% increase in the country’s total land mass of 2.3 billion acres or roughly three times the size of New York City’s Central Park.

But if China continues on its present course—and the international community doesn’t back down—military confrontation seems likely. Luckily, China must reinforce its military claims to the disputed islands before such a showdown, which gives each side time for negotiation.

China said Monday that it had formally complained to Washington about its “provocative behavior” following the flight of a U.S. Navy surveillance plane over the region last week. The Chinese had warned the a U.S. Navy P-8 surveillance plane eight times to leave Chinese airspace as it flew near Fiery Cross Reef in the Spratlys. The Navy plane refused.

“We urge the U.S. to correct its error, remain rational and stop all irresponsible words and deeds,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Monday. “Freedom of navigation and overflight by no means mean that foreign countries’ warships and military aircraft can ignore the legitimate rights of other countries as well as the safety of aviation and navigation.”

China’s claim of extended sovereignty is upsetting its neighbors, including the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam, as well as Washington. But their denunciations will be little match for the changes coming to the South China Sea sandscape. Unlike U.S. and allied rhetoric about international law, the Chinese are literally making concrete claims in the Spratlys.

“They have manufactured land there at a staggering pace just in the last months,” U.S. Navy Admiral Harry Harris, who becomes commander of U.S. Pacific Command on Wednesday, tells Time. “They’re still going,” he adds. “They’ve also made massive construction projects on artificial islands for what are clearly, in my point of view, military purposes, including large airstrips and ports.”

So far, beyond words of warning to those getting too close to what China contends is its territory, it has only dredging gear, bulldozers and graders to enforce its claim. So the U.S. is ignoring it. But that, Pentagon officials believe, is all but certain to change. And as it changes, the stakes, and resulting tensions, will grow.

The U.S. Navy is weighing dispatching additional warships to the region to buttress its claim that these are international waters. Washington insists that contested sovereignty claims must be resolved through diplomacy and not dredging.

The Chinese digging is happening atop “submerged features that do not generate territorial claims,” David Shear, the Pentagon’s top Pacific civilian, told a Senate panel May 13. “So, it is difficult to see how Chinese behavior in particular comports with international law.”

Such legal niceties are not deterring Beijing. China is building a long airstrip and has deployed an early-warning radar on the Spratly’s Fiery Cross Reef. That will give the Chinese improved detection of what it claims are intruders into its national airspace.

U.S. Government

Chinese President Xi Jinping has pushed China’s claim of sovereignty further out into the South China Sea, where it conflicts with claims of local U.S. allies like the Philippines. The U.S. says it can fly within 12 miles of a nation’s coast, while China says its permission is needed for any flights coming within 200 miles.

The early-warning radar, U.S. officials believe, is only the first step in China’s quest to control one of the world’s most vital waterways. More than $5 trillion in goods passes through the South China Sea every year. It contains rich fishing grounds, and potentially great reserves of oil and other natural resources.

The sea is speckled with more than 30,000 islands, making conflicting territorial claims common. The Spratlys consist of some 750 islets and atolls. While spread across 164,000 square miles—the size of California—they total only 1.5 square miles.

The Chinese are likely to bolster their early-warning radar on Fiery Cross Reef with air-defense radars, U.S. Navy officials believe. Once early-warning radars detect incoming aircraft, they will hand off that information to the air-defense radars, which would allow the Chinese to track—and target—any incoming aircraft.

But air-defense radars and the blips they reveal on China’s radar screens are worthless without anything to back them up. So the air-defense radars, U.S. officials believe, ultimately will be tied into a network of air-defense missiles. They’ll be capable of shooting down any interlopers.

Once an air-defense network is in place, China will probably reinforce its claim to what it views as its growing archipelago by basing fighter aircraft there.

Shear, the Pentagon official, noted that China’s land grab is different than Russia’s now underway in Ukraine. “China is not physically seizing territory possessed by or controlled by another country,” he said. “They’re not evicting people from contested land features. They’re not nationalizing territory.”

But they are building an aircraft carrier some 1,000 miles from the Chinese mainland. No one knows better than the U.S. Navy the value of an airfield in the middle of an ocean.

Sure, it won’t be moveable. But it also won’t be sinkable.

TIME White House

Obama Honors Fallen Soldiers on Memorial Day

Marks first Memorial Day since 9/11 without ground troops in combat

President Obama laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington Cemetery on Memorial Day to honor the men and women who have died serving in the U.S. military. Their sacrifice, he said, is “a debt we will never repay.”

Speaking in front of more than 5,000 attendees, Obama marked the first Memorial Day in 14 years that the U.S. hasn’t been involved in a major ground war, though a smaller American military presence remains in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

“This hallowed ground is more than a final resting place of heroes” Obama said. “It is a reflection of America itself. It is a reflection of our history.”

He specifically mentioned Spec. Wyatt Martin and Sgt. 1st Class Ramon Morris, who were the last two U.S. soldiers to die during combat missions in Afghanistan.

“These two men, these two heroes, if you passed them on the street you wouldn’t know that they were brothers,” Obama said. “They were bonded together to secure our liberty and keep us safe.”

More than 6,500 Americans have died in Iraq and Afghanistan in military operations that began after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Additional reporting by Maya Rhodan

TIME Military

The New Head of the U.S. Pacific Command Talks to TIME About the Pivot to Asia and His Asian Roots

SINGAPORE-ASIA-MILITARY-US-CHINA
Roslan Rahman—AFP/Getty Images U.S. Navy's Pacific Fleet commander Admiral Harry Harris, left, speaks to journalists during his visit to U.S.S. Spruance (DDG 111), Arleigh Burke–class guided-missile destroyer, docking in Sembawang wharves in Singapore on Jan. 22, 2014

Admiral Harry B. Harris Jr. sees his background as an Asian American as useful in helping the U.S. forge better relationships with its allies and other powers

On May 27 Admiral Harry B. Harris Jr. becomes the U.S. Navy’s highest-ranking Asian American ever when he assumes leadership of the U.S. Pacific Command at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Harris will be responsible for all military operations in a region stretching from California to the Indian Ocean, and from the Arctic Sea to Antarctica. He takes over at a critical time, as the U.S. “rebalances” to Asia and confronts an erratic and nuclear-armed North Korea and an increasingly powerful and assertive China.

It’s a job that takes Harris, 59, full circle. He was born in Japan to a Navy-enlisted man and Japanese mother, and raised on a subsistence farm in Tennessee. A graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, Harris did postgraduate studies at Harvard, Georgetown and Oxford and spent much of his career as a naval flight officer aboard P-3 patrol planes, including three tours in Japan. Affable, direct and with a confessed weakness for “both kinds of music — country and western,” Harris talks to TIME contributor Kirk Spitzer about taking on one of the most challenging jobs in the U.S. military.

You’ve said that the most important event in your life was World War II, yet you weren’t even born then. What do you mean by that?
My dad had four brothers and all of them served in World War II, mostly in the Navy, in the Pacific theater. In fact, my dad was on the aircraft carrier Lexington just a couple of days before Pearl Harbor. They pulled out O.K., but the Lexington was sunk at the Battle of Coral Sea. Growing up in Tennessee, where he and all his brothers lived, they told sea stories about the war throughout my whole life. So I just knew that I was going to serve in the military.

The other thing is, in this job and living in Hawaii, World War II is all around you. I live in the Nimitz House, which was built for Admiral Husband E. Kimmel. He was in charge on Dec. 7, 1941. So not a day goes by that I don’t remember that one of the primary lessons of World War II is to be ready to fight and win the nation’s wars — and to be ready to fight tonight.

You’ve said that your mother had a great influence on your life. She was born into a wealthy family in Kobe, Japan, but ended up living on a small farm in America. How did that happen, and how much of an influence did she have on you?
I learned a lot from her. She lost her home, her school, members of her family and friends to bombing raids. After surviving that, she had nothing and she went to live with an aunt in Yokohama who helped her get a job on the big American naval base in Yokosuka. My dad was posted in Japan and Korea from 1946 until he retired in 1958. They met sometime in the early 1950s and got married and then I came along and they moved to Tennessee.

My dad bought a subsistence farm, with no running water or electricity. So that was pretty rough. But she adapted, and she adapted with a lot of grace. She became an American citizen in the mid-1970s and she always told me that her proudest moments were voting and jury duty. She was really thrilled that I went to the Naval Academy, of course. She never taught me the Japanese language because we had moved to a tiny town in the South, and she didn’t want me to be any more different than I already was. She wanted me to focus on being an American. But she taught me to be proud of both my Japanese roots and my Southern roots. And she taught me about the Japanese concept of giri, which means duty. I carry this with me to this very day.

You are the first Asian American to reach four-star rank in the Navy and the first to head U.S. Pacific Command. Did you have role models when you were young?
I can tell you that being a Japanese-American kid in Tennessee in the late 1950s and early ’60s, there weren’t a lot of role models out there. So that’s when my mother started telling me about the American nisei soldiers during World War II. They left a segregated nation — to fight for a segregated nation. They had no guarantee that when they got back home the things they had fought for would be returned to them. We’ve come a long way in the past six or seven decades because of them and folks like them who fought for what’s right. Their courage made a great difference in the lives of a whole bunch of people at that time, and even today. I’ve always said that I stand on the shoulders of giants, and I mean it.

Before being named commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet in 2013, you worked as a military representative to two Secretaries of State: Hillary Clinton and John Kerry. What did you learn in that job?
I got to visit and meet with leaders from about 20 countries in the Asia-Pacific region and that’s really important to me in my present job and even more so in my next job. It reinforced something that I already knew, and that is that American leadership matters and it matters greatly to our friends, partners, allies and competitors abroad.

Your appointment as commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, and more recently as head of Pacific Command, was met with great approval in Japan, but perhaps not so much in China, where there still seems suspicion of all things Japanese. Will it be difficult for you to manage expectations, on both sides?
People know when they look at me that I’m an American first, last and everything in between. I’m only ethnically [Eurasian] or ethnically [half-]Japanese. Protecting American interests is my focus. No doubt, Japan is a great ally of the United States and I do hope that my personal background has helped me enhance our relationship. But I think my background has also helped me forge critical relationships with South Korea, another important ally. My father served in the Korean War and I grew up with a deep appreciation for Korean culture.

And I can tell you that I was warmly received in China when I went there last year to finalize a new agreement among navies of the region to help communications at sea during unplanned encounters. This was an important step forward to help reduce tensions at sea and help avoid miscalculations. I’ve always tried to give China credit when they act in responsible ways that adhere to international law and norms, and enhance stability.

The Obama Administration has talked about an economic, diplomatic and military “rebalance” to the Asia-Pacific region. Some skeptics wonder if it’s real, or just rhetoric.
Not only is the rebalance real, but the military part is well on its way. We’ve strengthened our security alliances and partnerships throughout the region. The Navy has already brought our newest and most capable platforms to the area, like the P-8 surveillance airplane, the Littoral Combat Ship, the Virginia-class submarine and new amphibious ships like the U.S.S. America. The Marine Corps has brought the V-22 Osprey out here to great effect and we’ll have the Joint Strike Fighter out here soon. The Navy has set a goal of moving 60% of the Navy out here by 2020 and we’re at about 55% in terms of surface ships now. So I can tell you the rebalance is real.

In your new job you’ll be responsible for an immense and diverse region: “From Bollywood to Hollywood, from polar bears to penguins,” as Pacific Command puts it. What are your priorities?
Our war-fighting readiness, our ability to fight tonight, will always be my top priority. We have to be ready for the unexpected. We have to be ready to prevent strategic surprises. When you are responsible for an area that covers half the worlds’ surface, you need friends. So building stronger relationships and working with our allies and partners, to foster a collective to the security challenges — that’s important.

You’ve expressed deep concern about recent Chinese actions, including construction of a string of artificial islands in the South China Sea — a “great wall of sand,” as you put it. Why should the U.S. be concerned?
I have been critical of China for a pattern of provocative actions that they’ve begun in the recent past. Like unilaterally declaring an air-defense identification zone over the East China Sea, parking a mobile oil platform off the Vietnam coast, and their lack of clarity on their outrageous claim — preposterous claim, really — to 90% of the South China Sea. All these examples, I think, are inconsistent with international laws and norms. They make China’s neighbors nervous, it increases tensions in the region, and I think they are destabilizing for peace in the region.

More than $5 trillion — that’s trillion with a t — of shipborne trade passes through the South China Sea annually. Freedom of navigation is critical. That’s why what China is doing in the South China Sea is troubling. They have manufactured land there at a staggering pace just in the last months. They’ve created about 2,000 acres of these man-made islands. That’s equivalent to about 1,500 football fields, if I get my math right, and they’re still going. They’ve also made massive construction projects on artificial islands for what are clearly, in my point of view, military purposes, including large airstrips and ports.

What do you worry about most? What keeps you awake at night?
The greatest threat we face is North Korea. They have an unpredictable leader who is poised, in my view, to attack our allies in South Korea and Japan. He is on a quest for nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them intercontinentally. He kills people around him who disagree with him, and that’s something we should always keep in mind. North Korea keeps me up at night.

TIME Foreign Policy

U.S. Defense Chief Questions Iraq’s ‘Will to Fight’ ISIS After City’s Fall

"The Iraqi forces just showed no will to fight," Defense Secretary Ash Carter said

(WASHINGTON)—The Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria’s takeover of Ramadi is evidence that Iraqi forces do not have the “will to fight,” Defense Secretary Ash Carter said, in the harshest assessment yet from a high-ranking Obama Administration official of Iraqi fighters and the loss of the provincial capital.

Iraqi forces outnumbered their opposition in the capital of Anbar province, but failed to fight and pulled back from the city in central Iraq, Carter said on CNN’s “State of the Union” which aired Sunday. The Iraqis left behind large numbers of U.S.-supplied vehicles, including several tanks.

“What apparently happened is the Iraqi forces just showed no will to fight. They were not outnumbered,” Carter said of the Iraqi forces. “In fact, they vastly outnumbered the opposing force. That says to me, and I think to most of us, that we have an issue with the will of the Iraqis to fight [ISIS] and defend themselves.”

The fall of Ramadi last Sunday has sparked questions about the effectiveness of the Obama administration’s approach in Iraq, a blend of retraining and rebuilding the Iraqi army, prodding Baghdad to reconcile with the nation’s Sunnis and bombing ISIS group targets from the air without committing American ground combat troops.

Carter defended the use of U.S. airstrikes as an effective part of the fight against ISIS but said they are not a replacement for Iraqi forces willing to defend their country.

“We can participate in the defeat of ISIL,” he said, using another acronym for ISIS. “But we can’t makeIraq … a decent place for people to live — we can’t sustain the victory, only the Iraqis can do that and, in particular in this case, the Sunni tribes to the West.”

The Pentagon this past week estimated that when Iraqi troops abandoned Ramadi, they left behind a half-dozen tanks, a similar number of artillery pieces, a larger number of armored personnel carriers and about 100 wheeled vehicles like Humvees.

Over the past year defeated Iraq security forces have repeatedly left behind U.S.-supplied military equipment, which the U.S. has targeted in subsequent airstrikes against ISIS forces.

Carter did not discuss any new U.S. tactics in the fight against ISIS.

TIME Congress

Senate Blocks Patriot Act Extension

It's set to expire May 31

(WASHINGTON)—Unable to end a struggle over how to deal with government surveillance programs, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell scheduled a last-minute session to consider retaining the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of domestic phone records.

McConnell, R-Ky., warned against allowing the controversial NSA program and other key surveillance activities under the USA Patriot Act to expire at midnight May 31. He said he would call the Senate into session that day, a Sunday, and seek action before the deadline.

Sen. Rand Paul, Kentucky’s other senator and a Republican presidential candidate, called the Senate’s failure to allow an extension of the surveillance programs during a late-night session Friday into Saturday a victory for privacy rights.

“We should never give up our rights for a false sense of security,” Paul said in a statement. “This is only the beginning — the first step of many. I will continue to do all I can until this illegal government spying program is put to an end, once and for all.”

By the time senators broke for the holiday, they had blocked a House-passed bill and several short-term extensions of the key provisions in the Patriot Act.

The main stumbling block was a House-passed provision to end the NSA’s bulk collection of domestic phone records. Instead, the records would remain with telephone companies subject to a case-by-case review.

The White House has pressured the Senate to back the House bill, which drew an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote last week and had the backing of GOP leaders, Democrats and the libertarian-leaning members.

But the Senate blocked the bill on a vote of 57-42, short of the 60-vote threshold to move ahead. That was immediately followed by rejection of a two-month extension to the existing programs. The vote was 54-45, again short of the 60-vote threshold.

McConnell repeatedly asked for an even shorter renewal of current law, ticking down days from June 8 to June 2. But Paul and other opponents of the post-Sept. 11 law objected each time.

Officials say they will lose valuable surveillance tools if the Senate fails to go along with the House. But key Republican senators, including McConnell, oppose the House approach.

In the near term, the Justice Department has said the NSA would begin winding down its collection of domestic calling records this week if the Senate fails to act because the collection takes time to halt.

At issue is a section of the Patriot Act, Section 215, used by the government to justify secretly collecting the “to and from” information about nearly every American landline telephone call. For technical and bureaucratic reasons, the program was not collecting a large chunk of mobile calling records, which made it less effective as fewer people continued to use landlines.

When former NSA contractor Edward Snowden revealed the program in 2013, many Americans were outraged that NSA had their calling records. President Barack Obama ultimately announced a plan similar to the USA Freedom Act and asked Congress to pass it. He said the plan would preserve the NSA’s ability to hunt for domestic connections to international plots without having an intelligence agency hold millions of Americans’ private records.

Since it gave the government extraordinary powers, Section 215 of the Patriot Act was designed to expire at midnight on May 31 unless Congress renews it.

Under the USA Freedom Act, the government would transition over six months to a system under which it queries the phone companies with known terrorists’ numbers to get back a list of numbers that had been in touch with a terrorist number.

But if Section 215 expires without replacement, the government would lack the blanket authority to conduct those searches. There would be legal methods to hunt for connections in U.S. phone records to terrorists, said current and former U.S. officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly. But those methods would not be applicable in every case.

Far less attention has been paid to two other surveillance authorities that expire as well. One makes it easier for the FBI to track “lone wolf” terrorism suspects who have no connection to a foreign power, and another allows the government to eavesdrop on suspects who continuously discard their cellphones in an effort to avoid surveillance.

TIME Congress

Senate Approves Trade Bill in Victory for Obama

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky. walks to a Republican luncheon on Capitol Hill in Washington
Susan Walsh—AP Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky. walks to a Republican luncheon on Capitol Hill in Washington, on May 22, 2015.

48 Republicans supported the measure, but only 14 Democrats voted for it

(WASHINGTON)—In a victory for President Barack Obama, the Senate passed bipartisan legislation Friday night to strengthen the administration’s hand in global trade talks, clearing the way for a highly unpredictable summer showdown in the House.

The vote was 62-37 to give Obama authority to complete trade deals that Congress could approve or reject, but not change. A total of 48 Republicans supported the measure, but only 14 of the Senate’s 44 Democrats backed a president of their own party on legislation near the top of his second-term agenda.

Obama hailed the vote in a statement that said trade deals “done right” are important to “expanding opportunities for the middle class, leveling the playing field for American workers and establishing rules for the global economy that help our businesses grow and hire.”

Separate legislation to prevent parts of the anti-terror USA Patriot Act from lapsing on June 1 was caught in a post-midnight showdown between a pair of Kentuckians — Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on the one hand, and presidential hopeful Rand Paul on the other.

McConnell favored renewal of a program of bulk telephone collection by the National Security Agency, while Paul was unyielding in opposition. “My filibuster continues to end NSA illegal spying,” he tweeted.

By contrast, a two-month bill to prevent a cutoff in federal highway funding cleared with ease as lawmakers covetously eyed a weeklong vacation.

Senate passage of the trade bill capped two weeks of tense votes and near-death experiences for legislation the administration hopes will help complete an agreement with Japan and 10 other countries in the Pacific region.

McConnell, who was Obama’s indispensable ally in passing the bill, said it would create “new opportunities for bigger paychecks, better jobs and a stronger economy.

“The tools it contains will allow us to knock down unfair foreign trade barriers that discriminate against American workers and products stamped ‘Made in the USA,'” he said.

A fierce fight is likely in the House.

Speaker John Boehner supports the measure, and said in a written statement that Republicans will do their part to pass it.

But in a challenge to Obama, the Ohio Republican added that “ultimately success will require Democrats putting politics aside and doing what’s best for the country.”

Dozens of majority Republicans currently oppose the legislation, either out of ideological reasons or because they are loath to enhance Obama’s authority, especially at their own expense.

And Obama’s fellow Democrats show little inclination to support legislation that much of organized labor opposes.

In the run-up to a final Senate vote, Democratic supporters of the legislation were at pains to lay to rest concerns that the legislation, like previous trade bills, could be blamed for a steady loss of jobs.

“The Senate now has the opportunity to throw the 1990s NAFTA playbook into the dust bin of history,” said Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore. He referred to the North American Free Trade Agreement, passed two decades ago, and a symbol to this day, fairly or not, of the loss of unemployment to a country with lax worker safety laws and low wages.

Like Obama, Wyden and others said this law had far stronger protections built into it.

One final attempt to add another one failed narrowly, 51-48, a few hours before the bill cleared.

It came on a proposal, by Sens. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, who supported the trade bill, and Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., who opposed it. They sought to made allegations of currency manipulation subject to the same “dispute settlement procedures” as other obligations under any trade deal.

Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew warned earlier that its approval could cause Obama to veto the legislation.

Portman, who was U.S. trade representative under former President George W. Bush, scoffed at the threat. “I don’t think so,” he said. “I think he (Obama) understands the importance” of his ability to conclude trade deals without congressional changes.

The bill also included $1.8 billion in retraining funds for American workers who lose their jobs as a result of exports. Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., said the program duplicated other federal efforts, but his attempt to strip out the funds was defeated, 53-35.

Allies on one bill, McConnell and the White House were on different sides on the Patriot Act legislation.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest prodded the Senate to accept a House-passed bill renewing anti-terrorism programs due to expire June 1, including a provision to eliminate the National Security Agency’s ability to collect mass telephone records of Americans. Instead, the material would remain with phone companies, with government searches of the information allowed by court order on a case-by-case basis.

But the bill was blocked on a vote of 57-42, three shy of the 60 needed, and Paul then blocked several bids by the majority leader to pass short-term extensions of the current programs. Finally, McConnell announced the Senate would return on the last day of the month — with only hours to spare — to try and resolve the issue.

The highway bill was the least controversial of the three on the Senate’s pre-vacation agenda, but only because lawmakers agreed in advance on a two-month extension of the current law. The House and Senate will need to return to the issue this summer.

TIME Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton Unloads on GOP Over Export Bank

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks at a business roundtable at the Smuttynose Brewery with co-owner Peter Egelston May 22, 2015 in Hampton, New Hampshire.
Darren McCollester—Getty Images Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks at a business roundtable at the Smuttynose Brewery with co-owner Peter Egelston May 22, 2015 in Hampton, New Hampshire.

Hillary Clinton is out of patience for her Republican rivals and their opposition to an export-assistance program. But she still isn’t taking a position on a Pacific trade deal that has become politically linked to the Export-Import Bank’s renewal.

The Democratic Presidential candidate on Friday unloaded on her GOP foes, calling them cowards who do not make up their own minds and default to the loudest and most extreme voices in the party. The former Secretary of State told an invite-only crowd in Hampton, N.H.. that Americans’ jobs are in the balance, and Republicans would rather scuttle workers’ paychecks than to tell the truth about the Export-Import Bank, which provides financing for U.S. exports.

Clinton said the bank’s opponents are looking to score political points and are shameless panderers “who really should know better.” She did not single out any of her GOP rivals by name, but Sens. Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and Rand Paul have all opposed keeping the agency around.

“Across our country, the Export-Import Bank supports up to 164,000 jobs,” Clinton said. “It is wrong that Republicans in Congress are trying to cut off this vital lifeline for American small businesses. … They would rather threaten the livelihoods of those 164,000 jobs rather than stand up to the tea party and talk radio.”

The agency is a favorite target of small-government tea party activists, who claim it is corporate welfare for giant corporations like Boeing. The bank has been a flashpoint for conservatives and it almost lost its charter in 2012 and again last year. Lawmakers secured a nine-month extension for the bank last year, but conservatives are pushing to let the lender’s authority expire this summer.

But complicating the delicate negotiations is a trade deal with Pacific nations that President Obama is seeking. Some Democrats—especially those in the party’s liberal wing—oppose the measure.

Clinton backed the trade deal when she was at the State Department but has remained uncommitted on the issue since she entered the presidential race. She says she wants to see the final terms of the deal before deciding to endorse it or not.

“We don’t yet know all the details,” Clinton told reporters on Friday. “I have some real concerns.”

She said she would need to be assured that currency manipulation is blocked, that the standards would be enforceable and that labor and environment protections are adequate.

“I’ve been for trade agreements. I’ve been against trade agreements. I’ve voted for some. I’ve voted against others,” she said. “I want to judge this when I see what exactly is in it.”

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