TIME Congress

Hispanic Caucus To Push Deportation Relief in White House Meeting

The meeting will focus on a list of executive action recommendations the caucus sent to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson in April

Members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus plan to meet with Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and White House counsel Neil Eggleston at the White House on Friday morning, Jasmine Mora, a spokesperson for Rep. Ruben Hinojosa (D-Texas), told TIME. Hinojosa is the Chairman of the CHC.

The meeting will focus on a memo the caucus sent to Johnson in April on administrative deportation relief and humane enforcement practices, Mora told TIME. “The intent of the meeting tomorrow is to talk about what administrative actions the President can take under the law,” she wrote in an email.

One of the CHC recommendations—to expand the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program to parents and siblings—is the “most clear opportunity” to provide temporary deportation relief, another congressional aide told TIME. If DACA were extended to children’s family members, illegal immigrant families would be able to stay together in the U.S. for at least two years without fear of deportation. In the memo, CHC writes that nearly 205,000 parents of U.S. born children were deported in between July 2010 and September 2012.

In June, President Obama announced that he had asked Johnson and Attorney General Eric Holder to seek out additional executive actions on immigration that he could announce before the end of the summer. “If Congress will not do their job, at least we can do ours,” Obama said.

The White House declined to comment for this story.

TIME Morning Must Reads

Morning Must Reads: July 24

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

In the news: Gaza war; Two Ukrainian fighter jets shot down; Air Algerie flight missing; How Hillary and Bill Clinton raised $1.4 billion; Report of Sen. John Walsh plagarism; The execution of Joseph Wood; What's prettier in print

  • New Push to Lure Hamas Into Truce [WSJ]
    • Civilians as Human Shields? Gaza War Intensifies Debate [NYT]
    • Obama wants Israel to limit casualties in Gaza. But he won’t say how. [TIME]
    • FAA lifts its ban on flights to Israel [TIME]
  • “Two Ukrainian fighter jets were shot down Wednesday over separatist-held territory not far from the site of the Malaysia Airlines crash as international outrage over the tragedy has done little to slow the fierce fighting in eastern Ukraine.” [WSJ]
  • “Authorities have lost contact with an Air Algerie flight en route from Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso to Algiers with 110 passengers on board…” [Reuters]
  • How Hillary and Bill Clinton Raised $1.4 billion [TIME]
  • “It’s becoming increasingly clear that Congress won’t address the border crisis until sometime after its upcoming August recess.” [TIME]
  • Senator’s Thesis Turns Out to Be Remix of Others’ Works, Uncited [NYT]
  • Inside the Efforts to Halt Arizona’s Two-Hour Execution of Joseph Wood [TIME]
  • Prettier in Print

A brief message from Michael Scherer, TIME Washington D.C. bureau chief:

We will hold an #AskTIME subscriber Q&A this Friday, July 25, at 1 p.m., with TIME’s political correspondent Zeke Miller, who covers the White House and national politics, and congressional reporter Alex Rogers.

You can submit your questions beforehand on Twitter using the #AskTIME hashtag or in the comments of this post. For this to work, we depend on smart, interesting questions from readers.

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TIME energy

Obama Approves Sonic Cannons to Map Atlantic for Offshore Oil and Gas

Offshore drilling in the Atlantic is up for debate
The Atlantic offshore territory has been off limits to U.S. oil drilling, but that could change Brasil2 via Getty Images

Over environmental objections, the Obama Administration moves forward with exploration that could yield new domestic oil and gas sources

The Obama administration reopened part of the Eastern seaboard Friday to offshore oil and gas exploration, promising to boost job creation in the energy sector while at the same time fueling the fears of environmental groups.

The U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) estimates that 4.72 billion barrels of recoverable oil and 37.51 trillion cubic feet of recoverable natural gas lies beneath the coast from Florida to Maine. The recent decision allows exploration from Florida to Delaware and could create thousands of new jobs supporting expanded energy infrastructure along the East Coast.

“Offshore energy exploration and production in the Atlantic could bring new jobs and higher revenues to states and local communities, while adding to our country’s capabilities as an energy superpower,” American Petroleum Institute upstream director Erik Milito said in a statement.

Environmentalists worry about damage to shorelines, and to the tourist industry. They also worry about the safety of ocean wildlife. The exploration will initially be conducted via seismic surveys that use sonic cannons to locate oil and gas deposits beneath the ocean floor. The cannons emit sound waves louder than a jet engine every ten seconds for weeks at a time.

“We’re definitely concerned,” Hamilton Davis, energy and climate change director for the South Carolina Coastal Conservation League, told TIME. “The exploration activities lead in the direction of actual development of oil and gas, and from our perspective as a coastal organization that worries about our environmental ecological landscape as well as our [tourism] economy, the oil and gas industry certainly doesn’t seem to fit into that equation. Just the impacts from exploration activities on marine wildlife I think would give most people pause… You’re talking about hundreds of thousands of animals that will be negatively impacted as a consequence of these activities.”

BOEM said it approved the seismic surveys with the environment in mind. “After thoroughly reviewing the analysis, coordinating with Federal agencies and considering extensive public input, the bureau has identified a path forward that addresses the need to update the nearly four-decade-old data in the region while protecting marine life and cultural sites,” said Acting BOEM Director Walter D. Cruickshank in a statement.

Sonic cannons are already used in the western Gulf of Mexico and off the coast of Alaska, but many constituents and elected officials in the newly opened East Coast territory have expressed their concerns about the testing and eventual drilling. Congressional officials from Florida, including Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Orlando, and Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, signed a letter to President Obama opposing the decision.

“Expanding unnecessary drilling offshore simply puts too much at risk. Florida has more coastline than any other state in the continental United States and its beaches and marine resources support the local economy across the state,” the letter states.

The area to be mapped is in federal waters, not under the jurisdiction of state law. Energy companies will apply for drilling leases in 2018, when current congressional limits expire.

 

TIME Campaign Finance

Janelle Monae Has a Secret Video of Barack Obama Dancing

Janelle Monae
Janelle Monae attends The Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute benefit gala celebrating "Charles James: Beyond Fashion" on Monday, May 5, 2014, in New York. Charles Sykes—Charles Sykes/Invision/AP

"She can blackmail me at any time," Obama says

If R&B artist Janelle Monae scores a Cabinet post before President Barack Obama leaves office, we’ll know why.

Obama’s three-day West-coast fundraising tour for Democratic candidates took him to the Los Angeles home of Scandal and Grey’s Anatomy creator Shonda Rhimes Wednesday, where he hobnobbed with the likes of Monae and Kerry Washington.

At the 450-person fundraiser for the Democratic National Committee — to which tickets started at $1,000 a head — Obama revealed that Monae was in possession of a top secret video of presidential dancing.

“Janelle has performed at the White House, like, 15 times,” Obama told the audience. “There’s going to be an official Janelle Monae room in the White House. We love her. Michelle and I love Janelle. We love her energy. We love her talent. But we most of all love her character. And anybody who gets a chance to talk to her, this is just a remarkable, strong, smart young lady.

“And I have to say nice things about her because she may be the only person in possession of a video in which I try to keep up with her and Usher on the dance floor,” Obama continued. “Now, this is top secret. She has promised that this will never be released. But she can blackmail me at any time.”

Monae called out “I love you!” to the Commander-in-Chief, to which he replied with his trademark “I love you back,” adding, “You do have that video, though, don’t you?”

Monae said she did, prompting the president to ask her to “testify” to his skills. “Now, tell the truth, though, Janelle — I wasn’t bad, though, was I? I’m just saying. Go ahead, testify just a little bit…Let me say I did not drop in splits. But I did bust a move. That I did do.”

Obama then recognized Washington, one of the earliest celebrities to back his 2008 candidacy, for being on his side when many Americans couldn’t pronounce his name correctly. “She pushed when the wagon was stuck in the mud — she was out there,” Obama said. “And she’s just been a great friend. Plus she showed me her baby pictures, and that is one cute baby.”

The West Coast swing has proven to be a controversial one for Obama, both for its timing amid multiple foreign policy crises and the secrecy surrounding fundraising events for two Democratic super PACs. White House officials defended Obama’s decision to continue with the trip despite the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 and the ongoing conflict in Gaza, saying that the president’s ability to manage the situations would not be impaired by keeping his schedule. While on the trip, Obama called Secretary of State John Kerry Wednesday to discuss efforts to bring about a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.

The White House did not make public the list of attendees at the two super PAC fundraisers, one each House Majority PAC and Senate Majority PAC, or what they had contributed to gain access to the president. Reporters were not allowed to attend either session. “Without a doubt, I think we’ve done more to achieve the President’s commitment to transparency than any other previous administration,” said White House principal deputy press secretary Eric Schultz.

Obama returns to Washington late Thursday after another fundraiser for the DNC and delivering a speech on the economy.

TIME interactive

How the World Sees America Now

Russia's approval for the United States plummeted in 2014. So did Brazil's. China and France increased in their affection for the country. This map shows the rise and fall in esteem for the United States around the world in recent years

Russians’ disapproval for the United States has hit new lows, according to the latest figures released by the Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project. In 2013, 51 percent of Russians said they had a favorable view of the United States–the fourth straight year that a majority of those polled gave the U.S. a thumbs up. This year, with discord rising between American and Russian leaders, Russian approval of the U.S. plummeted 28 percentage points.

The following interactive allows you to compare any two different years back to 2002 to see how global opinion has changed. Not every country was polled every year.

 

Note: Clicking on the green hyperlinks updates the interactive map in the article.

Following Barack Obama’s election in 2008, many countries saw spikes in favorability toward the United States in 2009, and in many cases those bumps in approval have since waned. Germany greeted the new White House administration with a 33 point bump in approval, for example, but has since dropped 13 points to a 51 percent favorability rating. France and China, meanwhile, has bucked the trend, with growing support for the U.S. since last year.

MONEY Health Care

Court Ruling Puts a Key Provision of Obamacare in Doubt—For Now

U.S. President Barack Obama (L) walks out next to Vice President Joseph Biden.
Today's D.C. court ruling dealt a blow to Obama's signature legislative achievement, while another set of judges backed the president. Larry Downing—Reuters

A federal appeals court has struck down the premium subsidies offered on the federal insurance exchange, potentially undermining a major provision of the law and raising costs for millions of Americans. With another court upholding the law, more court battles lie ahead.

A three-judge panel at the U.S. Appeals Court for the D.C. Circuit threw the fate of an important part of the Affordable Care Act into doubt Tuesday. In a 2-1 decision in Halbig v. Burwell, the judges ruled that the Internal Revenue Service lacked the authority to allow subsidies to be provided in exchanges not run by the states. That could put at immediate risk the millions of people who bought insurance in the 36 states where these online insurance marketplaces are run by the federal government.

“Because we conclude that the ACA unambiguously restricts the section 36B subsidy to insurance purchased on the Exchanges ‘established by the state,’ we reverse the district court and vacate the IRS’s regulation,” said the decision by Judge Thomas Griffith.

Meanwhile, just an hour later, another three-judge panel on the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., came to the opposite conclusion—upholding the federal subsidies.
“It is therefore clear that widely available tax credits are essential to fulfilling the Act’s primary goals and that Congress was aware of their importance when drafting the bill,” said the decision written by Judge Roger Gregory.

The Obama administration said it will appeal the Halbig decision. The Justice Department will ask the entire appeals court panel to review the decision, and that panel is dominated by judges appointed by Democrats, 7-4. The issue is also in other courts around the country.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said: “There’s a lot of high-minded case law that’s applied here. There’s also an element of common sense that should be applied as well, which is that you don’t need a fancy legal degree to understand that Congress intended for every eligible American to have access to tax credits that would lower their health care costs, regardless of whether it was state officials or federal officials who were running the marketplace.”

‘’We believe that this decision is incorrect, inconsistent with Congressional intent, different from previous rulings, and at odds with the goal of the law: to make health care affordable no matter where people live. The government will therefore immediately seek further review of the court’s decision,” said a statement from the Justice Department.

Meanwhile, Elizabeth Wydra, chief counsel for the Constitutional Accountability Center, said the ruling wouldn’t take effect right away. “The court’s rules are that it doesn’t happen for 45 days,” to give the government time to ask for a full en banc hearing, “or 7 days after the en banc hearing has been denied.”

Should the decision eventually stand, however, it could mean at least five million Americans would face an average premium increase of 76%, according to a projection done by the consulting firm Avalere Health.

The court said that the wording of the health law “plainly makes subsidies available only on Exchanges established by states,” and that the legislative history of the bill “provides little indication one way or the other of congressional intent.”

But Judge A. Raymond Randolph offered a strong dissent. “It makes little sense to think that Congress would have imposed so substantial a condition in such an oblique and circuitous manner.”

The case could end up in the Supreme Court.

Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan health policy research and communication organization not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

TIME Morning Must Reads

Morning Must Reads: July 22

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

In the news: Ukraine rebels turn over bodies from downed Malaysia Airlines Flight 17; Kerry seeks Gaza cease-fire; Detroit suspends water shutoffs; One of the largest private gifts ever for scientific research; Georgia GOP primary; 10 years since the 9/11 Commission report

  • “After days of resistance, pro-Russian rebels on Monday yielded some ground in the crisis surrounding downed Malaysia Airlines Flight 17—handing over passengers’ bodies, relinquishing the plane’s black boxes and pledging broader access for investigators to the crash site.” [WashPost]
    • Why Putin Is Willing to Take Big Risks in Ukraine [WSJ]
    • “The crash of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 exposes the truth about RT, the Russian English-language propaganda outlet.” [TIME]
  • Israel pounded targets across the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, saying no ceasefire was near as top U.S. and U.N. diplomats pursued talks on halting fighting that has claimed more than 500 lives. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry held talks in neighboring Egypt, while U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was due to arrive in Israel later in the day.” [Reuters]
  • “Whether the Afghan forces can sustain themselves in the critical districts the Green Berets will be ceding to them is an urgent question all over the country. The answer will help define America’s legacy in Afghanistan, much as it has in Iraq, where the Iraqi forces have fallen apart in combat.” [NYT]
  • “Congress and the President have finally found some common ground: Obama will sign the first significant legislative job training reform effort in nearly a decade on Tuesday.” [TIME]
  • Breakthrough on VA Reform Bill? [Hill]
  • “President Barack Obama on Monday signed an executive order aimed at protecting workers at federal contractors and in the federal government from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.” [Politico]
  • “The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department is suspending its water shutoffs for 15 days starting today to give residents another chance to prove they are unable to pay their bills.” [Detroit Free Press]
  • “…the Broad Institute, a biomedical research center, announced a $650 million donation for psychiatric research from the Stanley Family Foundation—one of the largest private gifts ever for scientific research. It comes at a time when basic research into mental illness is sputtering, and many drug makers have all but abandoned the search for new treatments.” [NYT]
  • Jack Kingston’s Insider Advantage [NJ]
  • “The evidence for a left-wing challenge to Clinton that could defeat her is thin to nonexistent.” [Slate]
  • “Ten years ago today, we released The 9/11 Commission Report to the government and the American public…” [USA Today]
TIME Foreign Policy

Obama Contends with Congressional Backseat Drivers on Ukraine

Congress again threatens to push Obama foreign policy with legislation

A Malaysia Airlines jet is shot down over the Ukraine and Congress is, of course, full of back-seat foreign policy advice for President Obama. The problem is when they start passing some of this advice to be signed into law.

Some say Obama has already been too aggressive. “[T]he crisis in Ukraine started late last year, when the EU and U.S. overthrew the elected Ukrainian president, Viktor Yanukovych,” said former Rep. Ron Paul, a Texas Republican. “Without U.S.-sponsored ‘regime change,’ it is unlikely that hundreds would have been killed in the unrest that followed. Nor would the Malaysian Airlines crash have happened.”

On the other side of the hawk spectrum, Republican Senators such as Marco Rubio and Mark Kirk felt compelled by the tragedy to call on Obama to pass energy, banking and defense sectoral sanctions against Russia, which has been supporting Ukrainian separatists but denies having anything to do with the downing of the plane. Thus far the Obama Administration’s punishment for Russia’s seizure of the Crimea and rabble rousing in eastern Ukraine has been targeted individual sanctions and visa restrictions.

“I don’t know how anybody can say our response has been anything but timid and cautious,” said Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, the top Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee. “Hopefully on the positive side, this will galvanize the international community to take the kind of steps that should have been taken months ago to push back on [Russian President Vladimir] Putin and cause him to pay the kind of price that he should pay for this outrageous act.”

Kirk also called on Attorney General Eric Holder to launch a wrongful death suit. “I want to hear that the Department of Justice will bring one hell of a wrongful death suit against Russian assets located in the United States to make sure that there is significant cost paid by Russia for this action of shooting down with an international airliner with a weapons system that is directly related to Russian armed forces,” he told CNN.

Senator John McCain of Arizona, the 2008 GOP presidential nominee, went so far as to call on Obama to arm the Ukrainian government. “Now is the time to provide Ukraine with the weapons and other military assistance they have requested and require to defeat the separatist groups and secure their country—assistance that, had we provided it earlier, might have enabled Ukrainian forces to succeed in this effort by now and thereby prevented last week’s tragedy,” McCain said on Monday.

So far, all Obama has threatened is to levy unspecified costs against Russia, along with urging the Europeans to step up on sanctions.

Congress, and particularly the party in opposition, has often expressed strong views on the President’s foreign policy. Despite the fact that, constitutionally, foreign policy is the purview of the Oval Office, Congress drove the War of 1812 and was a key factor in the Mexican-American War. They also dragged Franklin Roosevelt’s heels in getting into World War II and had an enormous impact on Vietnam policy, not to mention Democratic efforts to defund President George W. Bush’s actions in Iraq.

But Obama not only has to contend with opposition complaints about his foreign policy, but with some friendly fire as well. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, has been the driving force to get Obama to beef up sanctions against Iran, support Israel more strongly and hold a tougher line on Cuba. Menendez has helped push through sanctions that the Administration has explicitly said it didn’t want, something he could do again against Russia if the Administration doesn’t act.

Obama has not had an easy time with Congress on much of anything, but particularly on foreign policy. The other end of Pennsylvania Avenue is quick to condemn, and yet when they are asked to act, for example with Syria or Libya, they suddenly remember the separation of powers. Congress in both instances failed to pass any kind of resolution approving action in either country. That’s because polls show that from Libya to Syria to the Ukraine, the American people have zero desire to engage in more wars. Which means that despite the sturm und drang coming out of the hawkish wing of the GOP, Obama is probably more likely to listen to Paul’s libertarian Dovish wing.

TIME Flight MH17

After MH17, Challenges Ahead for the International Community in Ukraine

In the video above, TIME asked an international affairs expert to discuss the diplomatic challenges faced by the international community

+ READ ARTICLE

In the wake of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, which was shot down last week, diplomatic pressure for Russia and Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine continues to mount.

Malaysian Prime Minster Najib Razak recently announced an agreement with the leader of a pro-Russian separatist group to return bodies, hand over black boxes, and let independent international investigators access the crash site.

Here, international affairs expert Austin Long explains what the options are for the international community, as it seeks justice for victims.

TIME justice

Study: Judicial Vacancies Are Jamming Up the System

Group pushes Senate to act to further weaken minority power to block judges

Talmadge Nix, a lawyer with the firm Nix and Poet in eastern Texas, represents a Chinese national who has been sitting in jail for months. Arrested as part of a prostitution conspiracy ring, the woman has a green card and she doesn’t want to plead guilty for fear of how it might affect her immigration status. Her co-defendants who are pleading guilty will be released from prison by the time this woman’s case goes to trial.

“There’s this hammer over her head: plead guilty and you’ll be out of jail,” says Alicia Bannon, author of a Brennan Center for Justice analysis entitled “The Impact of Judicial Vacancies on Federal Trial Courts” out on Monday. The woman’s plight is just one example of a judicial system groaning from a backlog of cases due to the high number of vacancies in federal courts.

Judicial vacancies are a particularly salient issue for eastern Texas, with judges there routinely having to travel more than 350 miles to hear cases, the study found. There are currently 49 U.S. District Court vacancies, compared with 29 such vacancies at an equivalent point in President George W. Bush’s second term.

“In trial courts around the country, vacancies are hurting our courts and individuals that rely on them to protect their rights,” Brennan says. “Delays are common. It’s harder to schedule trials. There are longer wait times to schedule motions. All this adds costs and uncertainty for litigants appearing before the courts. Cases aren’t neglected but they’re certainly being effected.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid last year moved to strip the minority of the ability to filibuster some executive nominations, a move known as the “nuclear option” for the partisan toxicity it invoked in the Senate. That change has helped ease the flow of some confirmations—President Obama has overall confirmed more judges by sheer number to the federal courts than Bush by this point in their presidencies. But Bannon and the Brennan Center are pushing for even more reforms.

As it stands right now, appellate court nominations require 30 hours of debate before confirmation, and lower court judges require two hours. Usually, Democrats yield back their half of that time, but Republicans have often used their time to speak on other issues or the Senate floor stands idle as the clock runs out. Bannon says there should be a “use it or lose it” standard wherein unless senators actually use the time to address the judge under consideration, the rest of the time is yielded back. Such a move would quicken the pace of confirmations, but it also risks further angering the minority. Republicans were so furious at the nuclear option that work in the Senate in the last eight months has come to a virtual standstill, with even the most bipartisan of bills falling victim to partisan sniping.

Bannon would also like to see the so-called “blue slip process” halted or made more transparent. Though it’s not in the official Congressional rulebook, whenever a judicial nomination is pending before the Judiciary Committee, blue slips seeking comment are sent to the offices of the senators where the judge resides. If both slips are not returned, then the nomination does not proceed to a committee vote. Because Republicans have been refusing to return blue slips in a post-nuclear world, judicial vacancies are becoming clustered in Republican states. More than half of vacancies do not have nominees—all in red states where senators have stopped making recommendations to the president. Traditionally, a nomination begins with a senatorial recommendation. Of the total 60 federal vacancies, there are only 27 nominees pending.

Texas, which has two Republican senators, John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, has the most vacancies with 10 empty slots, one of which has been vacant for more than 2,000 days. Six of the 10 seats are “judicial emergencies,” meaning judges now handle more than 600 cases to make up the difference. There is a backlog of more than 12,000 cases in Texas, according to an April report by the Center for American Progress.

All the more reason, Bannon argues, that the practice of blue slipping should end, even though Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat, says he opposes any weakening of that particular tradition. “At the very least, senators should be require to explain publicly why they’re holding back returning a blue slip and holding back to make recommendations for new nominations,” Bannon says. “The process should be more transparent.”

Obama, a former constitutional law professor, has made it one of his legacies to fill the federal bench. As the Senate looks increasingly like it might flip, which would all but deprive the President of future confirmations, the odds grow that Democrats push through these two procedural changes and smooth a glide path for a flurry of nominations before the party gives up control of the Upper Chamber.

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