TIME 2016 Election

Uproar Over Religious Freedom Law Trips Up Indiana’s Governor

Mike Pence
Michael Conroy—AP Indiana Gov. Mike Pence announces that the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services has approved the state's waiver request for the plan his administration calls HIP 2.0, during a speech in Indianapolis.

Mike Pence is on the defensive over a law decried as discriminatory

Spring wasn’t supposed to start this way for Mike Pence.

The Indiana Republican governor had planned to spend April finalizing the state budget and pushing a new education initiative, all while quietly staying above the fray of the 2016 presidential race while he watched the field take shape—and waited to see if an opportunity materialized. Instead, he has suddenly found himself under fire from gay rights groups, business leaders, and even the owner of the Indianapolis Colts. All because of backlash from a newly-enacted law that he doesn’t seem to have seen coming.

The fallout continued Monday when Indiana business executives, including major health care providers and Internet companies, sent a letter to Pence urging him to clarify the law and expressing concern “about the impact it is having on our employees and on the reputation of our state.” The head of the NCAA, which has its headquarters in Indianapolis and is set to host college basketball’s Final Four there in April, raised the prospect of not holding championship events there in the future. And the band Wilco said it would cancel a May 7 show because the law “feels like thinly disguised legal discrimination.”

The law, officially called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and signed Thursday by Pence, prohibits any measure that would “substantially burden” a person’s ability to follow his or her religious beliefs. Supporters defend it as a protection of religious freedom at a moment when voters and courts have increasingly legalized same-sex marriage across the country—including in Indiana last year. Opponents decry it as an invitation for businesses to deny services to gay customers. And caught in the middle is Pence, who angrily defended the law and dismissed media coverage of it as “shameful” in a nationally-televised interview on Sunday.

MORE: 5 Things to Know About Mike Pence

“There’s been shameless rhetoric about my state, and about this law, and about its intention all over the Internet,” he said on ABC’s This Week. “This is not about discrimination. This is about empowering people to confront government overreach.”

Pence, whose office didn’t respond to a request for comment Monday, is correct in noting that almost 20 other states have adapted similar measures and that the Indiana bill is similar to a federal law enacted by former President Bill Clinton. Illinois also passed a similar law with the support of then-state Sen. Barack Obama.

“The issue here is still: Is tolerance a two-way street or not?” Pence said Sunday, echoing other conservatives in arguing that tolerance for religiously-based opposition to same-sex marriage should be supported just like tolerance for gay marriage itself.

But there’s little question that the controversy has put Pence on the defensive at a time when his potential 2016 rivals are moving full speed ahead in the campaign.

A relative unknown on the national stage, the former congressman has steadily built his conservative credentials both as a lawmaker and the state’s chief executive. He gave a keynote address at the Conservative Political Action Conference last month, and is touted as a full-spectrum conservative who can unite fiscal conservatives, social conservatives and business-friendly establishment Republicans. While he hasn’t made the same moves toward a presidential campaign that some other Republicans have, his widely-known support from the billionaire industrialist Koch brothers could make him a potent candidate if he runs.

Now, though, he’s been forced to defend a legal framework that opponents dismiss as a relic of the past, even if it was one once supported by Clinton.

“If you’re perceived rightly or wrongly to be anti-gay, there’s not much political upside for that,” said Steve Schmidt, a Republican strategist who ran John McCain’s 2008 campaign. “Laws like this unnecessarily put the two [GOP] wings in tension with each other and that’s unnecessary.”

Local lawmakers have said they’ll push language to clarify the bill and stem the fallout from within the business community, and Pence has signaled some openness to that. But sticking to his position might be the most surefire way to maintain conservative support at this point. After all, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who became a GOP front-runner after high-profile confrontations with organized labor, has demonstrated the potency of using a polarizing issue to gain conservative acclaim nationally.

“Gov. Pence right now has the opportunity to win the Republican nomination by standing firm,” said Mike Farris, a conservative constitutional lawyer who in 1993 helped draft the federal bill singed by Clinton. “But if he weasels out of this in order to please the clamor from the mainstream media, he will lose any chance whatsoever of winning.”

Critics of the Indiana law have included presumptive Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton and Apple CEO Tim Cook. Fellow Republican Gov. Pat McCrory of North Carolina joined the chorus Monday, saying a similar bill backed GOP lawmakers in the Tar Heel State “makes no sense.”

“What is the problem they’re trying to solve?” McCrory said, according to the Charlotte Observer. “I haven’t seen it at this point in time.”

It may not end up mattering much for Pence’s long-term political hopes if he ultimately doesn’t run this time. And a Republican fundraiser close to Pence pegged the chances of him doing so at less than 10%. Still, in one of his first major forays onto the national stage, even Republicans acknowledge that Pence let opponents outmaneuver him in defining the policy.

“This is a case where the opposition groups defined this bill around discrimination before Mike Pence and supporters of it could definite around religious liberty,” said Republican strategist Kevin Madden, who advised Mitt Romney’s presidential campaigns. “And it’s created a political headache for Mike Pence as a result of that.”

MORE: What You Need to Know About Indiana’s New Law

TIME Election 2016

Chicago Mayor’s Race Reverberates Nationally

Chicago Mayoral Candidates Campaign One Day Before Election
Scott Olson—Getty Images Chicago Mayoral candidate Jesus "Chuy" Garcia greets workers during a campaign stop at a linen and uniform service company on Feb. 23, 2015 in Chicago.

The largely unknown politician challenging incumbent Rahm Emanuel in the April 7 runoff has secured the endorsement of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders

The progressive left is looking to Chicago for inspiration—and a workable model—on how to challenge Hillary Clinton for the national Democratic nomination in 2016.

Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, a scrappy, largely unknown politician, has come out of left field to give Rahm Emanuel, a moderate incumbent from the Democratic establishment, a run for his money.

Garcia, who until recently was a county commissioner with nearly zero name recognition, ran an unapologetically populist campaign and won enough of the vote in February’s mayoral election to force Emanuel into a runoff on April 7.

Garcia’s unexpected success story has become a national rallying cry for liberals who would like to see a candidate challenge Clinton, the former Secretary of State and presumed Democratic nominee, from the left. Like Emanuel’s critics, the activist left sees Clinton as too centrist, too compromising and too cozy with Wall Street and big banks.

On Monday, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who is testing the waters for his own run for the Democratic nomination, endorsed Garcia and will travel to Chicago for a rally on Thursday. “At a time when the wealthiest people and largest corporations are becoming richer while virtually everyone else is becoming poorer,” Sanders said in a statement, “working-class people have got to fight back.”

One lesson that national liberals have picked up in Chicago is that any progressive challenger ought to run on a full-throated message of economic populism. Garcia’s union-bankrolled campaign has hinged on issues of economic justice and characterized his opponent as a member of the out-of-touch establishment willing to put Wall Street ahead of Main Street. That smear includes both Clinton and President Obama, who have campaigned for Emanuel this year.

In an interview with the Washington Post in February, Garcia said he was disappointed that neither Clinton nor Obama have been as forthcoming in addressing issues of income inequality.

George Goehl, the executive director of the progressive group National People’s Action, has said that on the national stage, liberals need to demand commitments from Democratic leaders—including Clinton—by drawing “a clear line in the sand: Are you a progressive populist in this moment in time or are you not?”

“That’s happening in Chicago right now,” he said. Goehl cited the rise of a progressive organization, Reclaim Chicago, that sprang up in support of Garcia and of what Goehl calls “a clear set of populist principles, not a party.”

Another lesson that liberals have perhaps learned in Chicago is that they need not hold out for their first choice. It was only after Chicago Teacher’s Union head Karen Lewis, the darling of the left, declined to run at the last minute due to health problems that Garcia—a former alderman, who served as deputy water commissioner in the 1980s—jumped in to the race.

The national liberal base has rallied tirelessly to draft Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren into the 2016 race, although she said repeatedly that she is not running. They, too, may have to turn to an unlikely runner-up. Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb, in addition to Sanders, are considering throwing their hats in the ring for the nomination.

In Chicago, Garcia and Emanuel have gone head-to-head in two televised debates, where Garcia has done unexpectedly well. The last is scheduled for March 31, a week before the runoff. A poll in mid-March still had Emanuel ahead of Garcia by a 14-point lead, with 11% of voters still on the fence. While Garcia’s chances of pulling out the Chicago race are slim, his impact on the national stage has yet to be written.

Read next: Martin O’Malley Gears Up to Take on Hillary Clinton

TIME States

Connecticut to Ban State-Funded Travel to Indiana Over Controversial Law

Following similar bans by San Francisco and Seattle

Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy said Monday he intends to sign an executive order that will ban state-funded travel to Indiana as a protest to that state’s new religious objections law, which critics are slamming as discriminatory.

The law, newly signed and staunchly defended by Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, is considered by critics as discriminatory because it would essentially allow businesses to refuse services to customers due to business owners’ religious beliefs. Indiana legislators said Monday that language will be added to the law to clarify that it doesn’t mean discrimination against gay people is allowed, NBC reports.

Connecticut’s travel restriction will follow similar moves by two major cities in recent days. On Friday, San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee banned city-funded travel to the state of Indiana, and Seattle Mayor Ed Murray followed suit on Saturday.

Read next: 5 Things to Know About Mike Pence

TIME White House

Obama Pays Tribute to Senate’s ‘Lion’ at Edward M. Kennedy Institute Opening

Barack Obama
Susan Walsh—AP President Barack Obama speaks at the dedication of the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate, in Boston on March 30, 2015.

Vice President Biden, Sen. John McCain and others also among the speakers

President Barack Obama used the opening of an institute dedicated to the legacy of the late Teddy Kennedy on Monday to ask a crowd of U.S. Senators and other dignitaries why Washington officials couldn’t be more like the man known as the lion of the Senate.

Obama, who was joined by the First Lady, Vice President Biden, and Republican and Democratic Senators at the opening dedication ceremony for the Edward M. Kennedy Institute in Boston, said he hoped the new facility would inspire and educate visitors. “We live in a time of such great cynicism about our institutions. We are cynical about Washington and about government most of all,” Obama said. “This place can help change that. It can help light the fire of imagination.”

The institute aims to teach visitors about the importance of the United States Senate and motivate younger generations to engage in the political process. The cornerstone of the sprawling white institute, designed by architect Rafael Viñoly, is a full-scale replica of the U.S. Senate chambers where Kennedy served for 47 years.

Vice President Biden said he had a front row seat to the nearly five decades Kennedy spent in the Senate where he fought passionately for some of the most divisive and important legislation of our nation’s history. Biden said he hopes that the institute and the celebration of Kennedy’s legacy will help future generations learn to listen and find consensus among their adversaries and hopefully begin to fix the broken system of government. “All politics is personal,” Biden said. “No one in my life understood that better than Ted Kennedy.”

Kennedy’s reputation as a bipartisan deal-maker was reflected at Monday’s ceremony by the number of Republicans, including former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott and Sen. John McCain, joining Democratic Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey in singing Kennedy’s praises.

Sen. McCain of Arizona recalled a particularly fiery exchange he and the late Senator had on the floor of the Senate once, after which Kennedy gave him a hug and the two shared a laugh about it. The Senate, McCain said, has missed his late colleague. “No, the place hasn’t been the same without him, but if we learn the right lessons from the late Edward M. Kennedy’s example we can make it better,” McCain said. “We can make it a place where every member can serve with pride and love.”

Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, a champion of progressive policies to benefit the working and middle class, shared a story of how Ted Kennedy’s fight for bankruptcy reform inspired her to enter politics. “Senator Kennedy changed my life,” Warren said. “And he changed what I understood about public service.”

“This institute will give millions of people an opportunity to be inspired. That is the perfect way to honor the memory of Ted Kennedy,” she added.

TIME 2016 Election

5 Things to Know About the Governor Behind Indiana’s Controversial New Law

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence holds a news conference at the Statehouse in Indianapolis on March 26, 2015.
Michael Conroy–AP Indiana Gov. Mike Pence holds a news conference at the Statehouse in Indianapolis on March 26, 2015.

Meet Indiana Gov. Mike Pence

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence waded into a fervid national controversy last week when he signed into law a bill that critics say would allow businesses to discriminate against gays and lesbians in his state. A relative unknown on the national stage until recently, the Republican found himself facing protests and sharp questions over the weekend. The measure Pence signed says Indiana can’t “substantially burden” the religious freedom of people, businesses and associations in the state. But critics say it’s a blank check for discrimination, and would allow businesses to refuse service to gays and lesbians. Pence defended the law Sunday, telling ABC: “This is not about discrimination this is about empowering people to confront government overreach.”

It may not be the best national publicity for Pence, who has been called a “dark horse” for the Republican presidential nomination. Here are five things to know about the man in the news.

Pence hasn’t ruled out running for president

The Indiana governor has long been floated as a possible presidential candidate, and Pence backers tout his conservative credentials. Pence has said he will decide whether to make a run for the GOP nomination at the end of April at the earliest, citing his focus in the meantime on his budget and education agenda in Indiana.

MORE: What You Need to Know About Indiana’s Controversial New Law

Pence has dropped hints that he’s looking earnestly at a candidacy. “Some say the next [presidential] nominee in our party should be a governor, and I’m certainly sympathetic to that view,” Pence joked last month at the Conservative Political Action Conference.

He hasn’t done much lay the groundwork, though. While Scott Walker, Jeb Bush, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz are all actively raising money for a White House contest, Pence would be making a late start.

He is a favorite of the billionaire industrialist Koch brothers

Support from the Koch brothers and GOP donors in general are a key factor in any presidential campaign, and the Koch brothers are known to think highly of Pence. Their political group, Americans for Prosperity, has been drawing attention to Pence’s work in Indiana as a hallmark of good governorship. And Pence’s former chief of staff now runs a Koch political enterprise called Freedom Partners. With the Koch brothers planning to spend nearly $1 billion in the 2016 cycle on conservative candidates, Pence could be a major beneficiary if he runs.

His father was oil distributor who ran gas stations in Indiana

Pence’s father was a businessman, a bit of family history that always plays well in elections. Edward Pence was an Army veteran and operated several gas stations, and Pence’s grandfather was a Chicago bus driver who immigrated to the United States from Ireland in the early 1920s.

He’s a former talk-show radio host

Pence produced “The Mike Pence Show,” which aired on 18 radio stations in the mid 1990s, and hosted a morning TV show in Indianapolis from 1995 to 1999. After his stint in radio, Pence tread the well-beaten path from radio studio to Washington, where he served 12 years as a Congressman from Indiana and rose to a position in House leadership before being elected governor in 2012.

Pence’s backers say he can appeal to all the wings of the Republican Party

Many of the GOP presidential hopefuls have a serious Achilles heel. Staunch conservatives dislike Jeb Bush’s positions on immigration and education, and Cruz is loathed by many in the establishment wing of the party as a hard-liner who is unable to compromise. But Pence’s supporters say he may be able to appeal to all wings of the GOP, bridging a divide between the business-friendly establishment faction, the small-government Tea Party faction, and the social conservative faction. The religious freedom bill Pence signed last week may have flopped initially on the national stage, but it will likely appeal to more religious primary voters.

TIME

Martin O’Malley Gears Up to Take on Hillary Clinton

Martin O'Malley
Patrick Semansky—AP Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley speaks with reporters at a polling place in Baltimore on Oct. 30, 2014.

A once-deferential Democrat has started to assert himself

Former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley has a reputation for being a bland, if dutiful, Boy Scout, unwilling to make waves in a Democratic Party that seems ready to crown Hillary Clinton its nominee.

But perhaps that goodie two-shoes persona is no more.

During an appearance on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday, O’Malley seemed ready for the first time to put up a real fight for the nomination, portraying himself as the Democrats’ true progressive warrior and slamming Clinton, albeit with glancing blows, for being next-in-line for the royal presidency.

Lumping her in with the Republican presidential front-runner Jeb Bush, O’Malley said, “The presidency of the United States is not some crown to be passed between two families. It is an awesome and sacred trust … to be earned and exercised on behalf of the American people.” He went on to call for “new leadership and new perspectives,” and for “a president who’s willing to take on powerful, wealthy special interests.”

When asked if Clinton would be the one to take on those special interests, O’Malley didn’t exactly bite, but he did show some teeth: “I don’t know where she stands,” he responded, gamely. “Will she represent a break with the failed policies of the past? Well, I don’t know.”

Those new found fightin’ words rocketed O’Malley into the headlines, raising questions of whether he is the liberals’ greatest hope for a challenger to Clinton, who they see as too centrist and too tied to Washington and Wall Street elites. In recent months, the activist left has mounted a feverish campaign to draft liberal hero Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren into the race. (Warren has said repeatedly that she is not running.) Other potential challengers include Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who would run far to Clinton’s left, and former Virginia Senator Jim Webb, who would right to her right on some social issues.

Among that rather anemic field, O’Malley, who was mayor of Baltimore for seven years, governor of Maryland for eight, and led the National Democratic Governors Association in 2012, is now the clear front-runner of the second tier contenders for the Democratic nomination. He brings with him fund-raising capabilities and infrastructure that neither Sanders nor Webb have readily available. He also has a strong liberal record as Maryland governor, where he passed legislation tightening gun control, legalizing same-sex marriage, ending the death penalty, and expanding access to marijuana. More recently, he has gone on the offensive on economic and Wall Street reform—the beating heart of the progressive movement—calling for the reinstatement of Glass-Steagall, a law that separated investment banking from commercial banking, and that was repealed in 1999 under President Bill Clinton.

But as of now, liberals and progressives are eyeing his potential with skepticism. O’Malley’s biggest challenge, after all, remains formidable: almost nobody knows who is is.

In early presidential polls, Clinton routinely polls over 60%, while O’Malley clocks in as just slightly better than a blip, at under 2%. This week, he is again scheduled to visit New Hampshire, the site of the first Democratic primary.

 

TIME

Morning Must Reads: March 30

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

 

Crunch Time for Iran Talks

Negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program entered a critical phase on Monday with differences still remaining less than two days before a deadline for the outline of an agreement. Diplomats were meeting to try to bridge remaining gaps

Violence Mars Nigeria Vote

Voting continued in certain areas after technical problems and election-related violence, which killed at least 40 people. Millions have cast ballots

2 Bodies Found at NYC Blast Site

The unidentified remains were discovered Sunday, three days after an apparent gas explosion in Manhattan; two men remain missing

Apple CEO Warns of Discriminatory Laws Sweeping U.S.

Apple boss Tim Cook decried what he called discriminatory legislation proposed in more than 20 states, following a controversial law signed by Indiana Gov. Mike Pence that appears to allow business owners to refuse service to same-sex couples

Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria Have Become Airborne

A worrying new study says significant amounts of both antibiotics and antibiotic-resistant bacteria from cattle yards in Texas and other parts of the southern High Plains have become airborne on winds whipping through the area

Arab League Unveils Joint Military Force Amid Yemen Crisis

A two-day Arab summit ended on Sunday with a vow to defeat Iranian-backed Shi‘ite rebels in Yemen and the formal unveiling of plans to form a joint Arab intervention force, setting the stage for a potentially dangerous clash between U.S.-allied Arab states and Tehran

Germanwings Flight’s Final Moments Heard on Recordings

The pilot of the doomed Germanwings plane tried to get into the cockpit that the co-pilot had locked him out of before the plane crashed into the French Alps, a German newspaper reported Sunday, crying out “for God’s sake, open the door”

Eating Eggs With Raw Veggies Boosts Benefits

Mixing eggs with raw vegetables may increase carotenoid absorption almost ninefold, entailing a range of benefits including longer life span, fewer chronic illnesses and a reduced cancer risk, according to a new study

Here’s Your Final Four, America

March Madness will descend on Indianapolis next weekend with unbeaten Kentucky taking on Wisconsin, and Michigan State up against Duke, who sealed a place in the Final Four late on Sunday with a 66-52 win over No. 2 seed Gonzaga

Can You Draw the Apple Logo From Memory?

Everyone can draw the ubiquitous Apple logo, right? It’s on phones, laptops and storefronts all over the world. Astonishingly, most of us can’t reproduce that simple image. In one recent study, 85 UCLA undergraduates were asked to reproduce it. Only one pulled it off

Coachella and Lollapalooza Ban Selfie Sticks

Most revelers will be looking for ways to get that epic video or crazy selfie that will make all their friends jealous. They’ll have to do it the old-fashioned way, however, as two of the country’s biggest festivals have announced a ban on selfie sticks

Home Proves Stronger Than Get Hard at Weekend Box Office

DreamWorks’ animated alien film pulled in a surprising $54 million, soaring above the $34.6 million earned by the Will Ferrell–Kevin Hart comedy Get Hard. Its early success is a much needed win for the animation studio after a recent string of flops

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TIME diplomacy

Iran Nuclear Talks at Crunch Time

A March 31 target date is fast approaching

(LAUSANNE, Switzerland)—Negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program reached a critical phase Monday with diplomats struggling to overcome substantial differences just a day before a deadline for the outline of an agreement.

With Tuesday’s target date for a framework accord just hours away, the top diplomats from the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany were meeting with Iran to try to bridge remaining gaps and hammer out an understanding that would serve as the basis for a final accord to be reached by the end of June.

“We are working late into the night and obviously into tomorrow,” said U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who has been meeting with his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif in Lausanne since Thursday in an intense effort to reach a political understanding on terms that would curb Iran’s nuclear activities in exchange for sanctions relief.

“There is a little more light there today, but there are still some tricky issues,” Kerry said. “Everyone knows the meaning of tomorrow.”

Kerry and others at the table said the sides have made some progress, with Iran considering demands for further cuts to its uranium enrichment program but pushing back on how long it must limit technology it could use to make atomic arms. In addition to sticking points on research and development, differences remain on the timing and scope of sanctions removal, the officials said.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said Iran’s expectations from the talks are “very ambitious” and not yet acceptable to his country or the other five negotiating: the U.S., Britain, China, France and Russia.

“We will not allow a bad deal,” he said. “We will only arrive at a document that is ready to sign if it … excludesIran getting access to nuclear weapons. We have not yet cleared this up.”

In particular, Steinmeier said the question of limits on research and development that Iran would be allowed to continue was problematic.

Other officials said the issue of the scope and timing of sanctions relief was also a major sticking point.

In a tweet, Gerard Araud, the French ambassador to the United States, said that “very substantial problems remain to be solved.”

In a sign that the talks would go down to the wire on Tuesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov left, just a day after arriving, to return to Moscow. His spokeswoman said he would will return to Lausanne on Tuesday only if there was a realistic chance for a deal.

Meanwhile, Iran’s deputy foreign minister, Abbas Araghchi, told Iranian state television that the talks were not likely to reach any conclusion until “tomorrow or the day after tomorrow.”

“We are not still in the position to be able to say we are close to resolving the (remaining) issues but we are hopeful and we’ll continue the efforts,” he said.

The Obama administration says any deal will stretch the time Iran needs to make a nuclear weapon from the present two to three months to at least a year. But critics object that it would keep Tehran’s nuclear technology intact.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at the forefront of accusations that Iran helped Shiite rebels advance in Yemen, says the deal in the works sends the message that “there is a reward for Iran’s aggression.”

“But we do not shut our eyes, and we will continue to act against any threat,” he said, an allusion to Israeli warnings that it will use force as a last resort against Tehran’s nuclear program.

Officials in Lausanne said the sides were advancing on limits to aspects of Iran’s program to enrich uranium, which can be used to make the core of a nuclear warhead.

Tehran has said it is willing to address concerns about its stockpiles of enriched uranium, although it has denied that will involve shipping it out of the country, as some Western officials have said. One official said on Monday that Iran might deal with the issue by diluting its stocks to a level that would not be weapons grade.

A senior State Department official said that shipping the stockpile is one of the “viable options that have been under discussion for months … but resolution is still being discussed.”

Uranium enrichment has been the chief concern in over more than a decade of international attempts to capIran’s nuclear programs. But a Western official said the main obstacles to a deal were no longer enrichment-related but instead the type and length of restrictions on Tehran’s research and development of advanced centrifuges and the pace of sanctions-lifting.

Both demanded anonymity — the State Department official in line with U.S. briefing rules and the Western official because he was not authorized to discuss the emerging deal.

Over the past weeks, Iran has moved from demanding that it be allowed to keep nearly 10,000 centrifuges enriching uranium, to agreeing to 6,000. The officials said Tehran now may be ready to accept even fewer.

Tehran says it wants to enrich only for energy, science, industry and medicine. But many countries fear Iran could use the technology to make weapons-grade uranium.

 

TIME Military

The Budget Trick That Made the Pentagon a Fiscal Functioning Alcoholic

108094689
Erik Simonsen / Getty Images The Pentagon's $391 billion, 2,443-plane F-35 program is the costliest in history.

Bookkeeping gimmick creates a `co-dependency'

If the Pentagon needs more money—and that’s debatable—the Republicans have chosen the worst possible way to do it in the budgetary roadmaps both the House and Senate have recently approved.

That’s because they’ve kept in place the budget caps in place for defense and domestic discretionary spending for the proposed 2016 budget. While that keeps domestic spending in check, they’ve opted to fatten up the Pentagon’s war-fighting account by about $90 billion, which isn’t subject to the budget limits. Even President Obama, under heavy pressure from the Joint Chiefs, has blinked and said military spending should be boosted above the caps set in 2011. But he wants domestic spending increased as well.

The idea of special war-fighting budgetary add-ons makes sense, because while the Pentagon’s base budget trains and outfits the U.S. military, it doesn’t pay for it to wage war. But such Overseas Contingency Operations accounts are supposed to go away when the wars end, as they have in Afghanistan and Iraq (the current U.S.-led small-scale air war against the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria, like the 2011 air war over Libya, can be funded out of the base budget). But the Republicans have basically perverted a responsible approach to funding the nation’s wars into an annual, multi-billion-dollar slush fund subject to even less congressional scrutiny than regular military budgets get.

CSBAThe Pentagon budget increasingly is being inflated with war funding that has little to do with funding wars.

“There’re a lot of different opinions about whether there should be an overseas contingency account or not, and whether it’s a slush fund or not,” then-defense secretary Chuck Hagel said last September.

The account, whatever it’s called, has become a rhetorical device: pump it up, defense hawks say, or risk crippling national security. Of course, that’s flat-out wrong. If the nation believes it needs to spend more on the military, it should hold an honest debate on the topic and then vote accordingly, without budgetary chicanery.

Hagel’s successor, Defense Secretary Ash Carter, is warning that the military needs more money beyond the $499 billion permitted by the 2011 law. But he says that force-feeding the Pentagon like a foie gras goose doesn’t solve the problem. “Current proposals to shoe-horn DOD’s base-budget funds into our contingency accounts would fail to solve the problem,” he said Thursday, “while also undermining basic principles of accountability and responsible long-term planning.”

So as the defense-budget debate continues, here are some facts to keep in mind:

1. With the Pentagon’s base-budget caps in place, its funding would rise slightly in coming years. Accounting for inflation basically makes for flat spending through 2024. The U.S. military budget today, under those caps, is higher than the Cold War average. That’s because even as the U.S. military shrinks, the cost of each remaining weapon bought and troop recruited has soared.

2. The reason the Pentagon is having trouble living within those levels is that it has grown used to pilfering its war-fighting accounts to fund normal operations, including purchasing weapons. A recent congressional report said that the Pentagon spent $71 billion of its war accounts on non-war spending from 2001 to 2014.

3. The war-fighting accounts have accounted for 23% of Pentagon spending over the past decade. Like a functioning alcoholic, the U.S. military has gotten used to the constant buzz, and is petrified of being forced to put the bottle away.

But here’s why it should stop cold turkey and get back to basic budgets:

1. Without standard congressional scrutiny, the money will be spent with even less oversight than normal Pentagon spending.

2. Because it is an annual appropriation that has to be renewed each year, there is no way the Pentagon can wisely budget for it in advance, and spent it smartly when and if it gets it.

3. Finally, counting on such a loophole sends the wrong signal. Troops are being paid and weapons bought, in part, with the equivalent of payday loans.

It also leads allies to question U.S. commitments. “We’re putting things in the Overseas Contingency Operations fund like the European Reassurance Initiative,” says Todd Harrison, a defense-budget expert at the nonprofit Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments think tank. “If we’re really trying to reassure our European allies in the face of a more-assertive Russia that we’re going to be there for them, why are we putting that into an account that’s only one year at a time?”

TIME 2016 Election

Democrats Caught Up in Controversial Indiana Religious-Freedom Law

Mike Pence
Michael Conroy—AP Indiana Gov. Mike Pence announces that the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services has approved the state's waiver request for the plan his administration calls HIP 2.0, during a speech in Indianapolis.

Obama, Clinton have backed similar religious-freedom bills

Indiana’s new religious-freedom law, which has prompted calls for a state boycott because it might permit discrimination against gays and lesbians, was made law by a Republican governor and Republican legislature. But the controversy could also ensnare leading Democrats like President Barack Obama, Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and New York Senator Chuck Schumer, who previously supported bills with similar effects years ago.

“The Religious Freedom Restoration Act was signed into federal law by President Bill Clinton more than 20 years ago,” said Indiana Governor Mike Pence on ABC’s This Week, defending his state’s actions by pointing to similar federal legislation. “Indiana properly brought the same version that then state senator Barack Obama voted for in Illinois before our legislature.”

The Indiana law prohibits the state from enacting statutes that “substantially burden” a person’s ability to follow his or her religious beliefs. Critics argue it could be used to allow businesses to discriminate against gay and lesbian Americans in the state, prompting criticism from executives at companies like Apple, Salesforce.com and the NCAA, which will host the men’s Final Four basketball tournament in Indianapolis next weekend.

Democrats, including Hillary Clinton and aides to President Obama have also criticized the law. “Sad this new Indiana law can happen in America today. We shouldn’t discriminate against ppl bc of who they love,” Clinton tweeted over the weekend.

But the Indiana law was modeled on the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) introduced by then Representative Chuck Schumer, who is now a senior Democratic Senator from New York, and signed into law in 1993 by then President Bill Clinton. The bill passed the U.S. Senate by a vote of 97 to 3 in 1993. “The power of God is such that even in the legislative process, miracles can happen,” President Clinton joked at the time of the bipartisan consensus.

Unlike the federal law, which is focused on restricting government action to protect religious freedom, the Indiana version has a broader scope, potentially giving new rights to claim religious beliefs for private parties, like wedding-cake vendors who do not want to serve gay couples.

As an Illinois state senator in 1998, Obama also voted in favor of a version of the new Indiana law. Years after that law passed, Illinois passed an explicit ban on discrimination based on sexual orientation, making clear that the law could not be used to deny service between private parties. That provision is not on the books in Indiana.

Despite weighing in on other controversial legislation in states, including this month’s passage of an anti-union bill in Wisconsin, Obama has not commented on the Indiana law, leaving his aides to critique it.

“Look, if you have to go back two decades to try to justify something you are doing today, it may raise some questions about the wisdom of what you’re doing,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Sunday on ABC’s This Week. Obama ducked a question on the Indiana law Saturday from reporters before departing on a two-day golf vacation to Florida.

The 1993 federal RFRA formed the underpinning of last year’s Hobby Lobby decision at the Supreme Court, which allowed some employers claiming religious objections to avoid providing contraceptive coverage to their employees as required by the Affordable Care Act.

In a contentious interview with NPR’s Terry Gross last year, Hillary Clinton repeatedly called same-sex marriage a state issue when explaining her decision to reverse her opposition to such unions after leaving the State Department. She has yet to weigh in on whether she believes same-sex marriage should be protected at the federal level, even as the Supreme Court is set to hear cases that would do just that in the coming months.

Asked by Gross if her views on gay rights had changed since the 1990s, Clinton said, “I think I’m an American, I think that we have all evolved, and it’s been one of the fastest, most sweeping transformations that I’m aware of.”

David Axelrod, a former top political aide to Obama, wrote in his book published last month that Obama believed in same-sex marriage before he ran for the White House, but hid that position for political reasons.

 

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