TIME Congress

Watch Elizabeth Warren’s Speech in Defense of Planned Parenthood

She was speaking before Monday's vote on a defunding proposal

Senator Elizabeth Warren has criticized members of Congress who want to defund Planned Parenthood.

“Do you have any idea what year it is?” Warren asked, speaking before Monday’s Senate vote on the defunding bill. “Did you fall down, hit your head and think you woke up in the 1950s or the 1890s? Should we call for a doctor?”

Warren was speaking after covertly recorded videos released by the Center for Medical Progress showed Planned Parenthood officials discussing the costs associated with fetal-tissue extraction. That footage, roundly criticized by both parties, set off a political firestorm, with Republicans alleging that the conversations proved that staffers were selling baby body parts for profit.

Senator Joni Ernst introduced a bill involving the sweeping defunding of the organization, in a bid to hit back against what, in a recent TIME op-ed, Ernst and Senators Rand Paul and James Lankford called “callous actions that strike at the moral fabric of our society.”

In response, Planned Parenthood has maintained that the videos were taken out of context and alleges that they were edited.

The Senate later voted down the bill, but the issue is expected to resurface as Congress attempts to pass spending bills later in the year.

TIME Congress

Senate Democrats Block Move to Defund Planned Parenthood

Senate Democrats blocked a proposal to defund Planned Parenthood Monday.

The Republican proposal failed to reach a 60-vote threshold needed to overcome a filibuster in a 53-46 vote that fell mostly along party lines. Only two Democrats, Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Joe Donnelly of Indiana, backed the bill.

The proposal came after a series of undercover videos were released by the Center for Medical Progress, a group of anti-abortion activists, which showed Planned Parenthood staffers and others who work with the organization discussing fetal tissue donations. The legislation was sponsored by Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa.

The bill’s failure does not mean the fight is over, however. Some House Republicans have said they won’t vote for any government funding bills which contain money for Planned Parenthood.

The dispute has entered the 2016 presidential contest as well. In a two-minute web video released Monday, Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton defended Planned Parenthood, arguing that Republicans are engaged in a “full-on assault on women’s health.”

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who is running for the Republican presidential nomination, told the Dallas Morning News he will consider all procedural tools to defund the organization.

TIME Congress

Amy Schumer and Senator Schumer Call for More Gun Control

amy schumer charles schumer
Don Arnold—Getty Images, Chip Somodevilla—Getty Images Amy Schumer arrives at the Trainwreck Australian premiere at Event Cinemas, George Street on July 20, 2015 in Sydney. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) delivers remarks at the U.S. Capitol Visitors Center on July 21, 2015 in Washington, DC.

The senator and stand-up comedian are teaming up to call for tighter gun control

NEW YORKStand-up comedian and actress Amy Schumer is teaming up with New York Sen. Charles Schumer to call for tighter gun control.

She will join the senator Monday as he unveils a three-part plan that would make it harder for violent criminals and the mentally ill to obtain guns.

They cited the recent shooting in a Louisiana movie theater that killed two women and injured nine others during a screening of the movie “Trainwreck” starring Amy Schumer.

Amy Schumer is the senator’s cousin.

The senator’s legislation would create monetary rewards for states that submit all necessary records into the background check system and penalize states that do not. He also will call on Congress to preserve mental health funding and substance abuse programs.

TIME Congress

U.S. Lawmakers Draft ‘CECIL Act’ to Curb Trophy Hunters

It's named for Cecil the lion

U.S. lawmakers joined the chorus of outrage over the killing of Cecil the lion on Friday, announcing a bill that would stop people from importing “trophies” gleaned from hunting potentially endangered animals.

The bill, Conserving Ecosystems by Ceasing the Importation of Large (CECIL) Animal Trophies Act, would make it illegal for trophy hunters to bring back parts of any species proposed or listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act of 1973.

“Let’s not be cowardly lions when it comes to trophy killings,” Senator Bob Menendez said in a public statement, adding that the legislation is “a necessary and prudent step that creates a disincentive for these senseless trophy killings and advances our commitment in leading the fight to combat global wildlife trafficking.”

The bill is co-sponsored by Senators Cory Booker, Richard Blumenthal and Ben Cardin.

The proposed legislation comes after an outpouring of rage against a Minnesota dentist who paid $55,000 to slay the lion during a hunting excursion in Zimbabwe. African lions are not considered endangered species, but last year the United States Fish and Wildlife Service proposed placing them on a list of threatened animals.

TIME Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton Criticizes Proposals to Defund Planned Parenthood

Secretary Hillary Clinton tours the DART Central Station, before taking questions from journalists, to highlight her climate change policy announcement, in Des Moines, Iowa on Monday, July 27, 2015.
The Washington Post—The Washington Post/Getty Images Secretary Hillary Clinton tours the DART Central Station, before taking questions from journalists, to highlight her climate change policy announcement, in Des Moines, Iowa on Monday, July 27, 2015.

Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton may agree with Republicans that recent undercover videos taken of Planned Parenthood employees are disturbing, but she disagrees with what they want to do next.

Speaking to reporters after a meeting with AFL-CIO leaders in Silver Spring, Maryland, Clinton said the organization has “provided essential service for women in our country” for more than a century.

“I think it is regrettable that Republicans are once again trying to undermine, even end those services that so many women have needed and taken advantage of,” she said. “I think that it’s another effort by the Republicans to try to limit the health care options of women and we should not let them succeed once again.”

The Center for Medical Progress released several secretly recorded videos this month showing Planned Parenthood officials discussing fetal tissue extraction and the costs involved. Republicans have alleged that the videos show the organization is illegally selling fetal parts and called for publicly defunding the group. Planned Parenthood has defended itself, saying it only receives reimbursements for associated costs, which is allowed.

Eighteen House Republicans have already said they will not support any government funding resolutions this fall that contain any funding for Planned Parenthood. Under the long-standing Hyde Amendment, none of the federal money that goes to Planned Parenthood can be spent on abortions.

On Tuesday, Clinton told the New Hampshire Union Leader that she had seen pictures from the videos and found them “disturbing,” adding that they raise broader questions about the process of fetal tissue donation.

TIME elizabeth warren

Elizabeth Warren Wants You to Run For Office

Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) attends the Planned Parenthood Generation Conference opening ceremony and welcome reception at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel on July 8, 2015 in Washington, DC.
Jennifer Graylock—Getty Images Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) attends the Planned Parenthood Generation Conference opening ceremony and welcome reception at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel on July 8, 2015 in Washington, DC.

If you're a progressive, that is

Sen. Elizabeth Warren urged down-ballot candidates and grassroots Democrats to run for office at a gathering of liberals in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, saying that local elections won in 2016 will help build a national progressive movement in future races.

The Massachusetts Democrat spoke at the kickoff of an intensive four-day conference designed to train a deep bench of progressive candidates to run for local office and build a movement of liberal candidates.

“This is about building a movement,” said Warren. “We build real change in this country by putting energy on our side by bringing ideas to the front, by showing people there are choices.”

Activists on the left have long lamented the lack of a strong grassroots movement to help reshape the Democratic Party equivalent to the Tea Party, which helped elect prominent Republicans such as Sens. Ted Cruz and Rand Paul, leading to a swell of GOP victories in 2010 and 2014.

The conference in Washington, organized by the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, is intended to train state legislators, state senators and school board members, building up an infrastructure of candidates to eventually match conservatives’ ascent in Congress.

Warren, a standard-bearer for the progressive left who had never run for office before her 2012 Senate campaign, told attendees from states far-ranging as Rhode Island and Minnesota, that they are a central part of the Democratic movement.

“It is so important that we secure victories at the state and local level,” Warren said. “Washington is dysfunctional. We need you to be out there, town by town, county by county, state by state across this nation.”

Warren set out a progressives’ manifesto that received repeated standing ovations.

She called for raising the minimum wage, protecting workers’ bargaining rights, fighting for debt free college and combating racism. “We believe that no one should work full time and still live in poverty,” Warren said. “We believe that black lives matter.”

Warren is much beloved among liberals, who see her as one of the few prominent voices in Congress for the Democratic left. Progressive groups including Democracy for America and MoveOn.org spent months organizing a campaign to encourage Warren to run for president.

Though Warren has declined to run, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont has taken her place as the progressive candidate in the Democratic primary, attracting many of Warren’s grassroots supporters to work for his campaign.

Warren is seen as having a wide-ranging influence on the Democratic primary despite her refusal to run, challenging frontrunner Hillary Clinton to take positions on debt-free college and cabinet appointees.

Some in the audience were running for mayors of a small town, state legislature or considering running for city council. For many, the politics of left and right at the national level have few practical implications for effectively running a small town.

“At this point I’m not espousing far left, progresssive ideas. I just want to get stuff done,” Luke Feeney, who is running for mayor of Chillicothe, a town south of Cleveland, Ohio said before Warren spoke. “If the grass in the park isn’t cut, people won’t get behind the big platform.”

Still, Warren riled up her audience with a long view toward rallying a left movement.

“Victories in 2015 and 2016 are the victores of tomorrow,” she said.

TIME Congress

The Trumpification of Congress

People walk past posters supporting politician Ted Cruz put up by the 'StandWithUs' group during a rally calling for the rejection of the proposed Iran nuclear deal outside the Federal Building in Los Angeles, California on July 26, 2015.
MARK RALSTON—AFP/Getty Images People walk past posters supporting politician Ted Cruz put up by the 'StandWithUs' group during a rally calling for the rejection of the proposed Iran nuclear deal outside the Federal Building in Los Angeles, California on July 26, 2015.

The GOP Establishment better be ready

Love him or hate him, there’s no denying that Donald Trump’s bombastic brand of establishment-hating populism is succeeding: he’s leading in the polls and in media attention. So, perhaps it’s not surprising that some Republicans in Congress are following his example.

On Tuesday, an obscure second-term Republican congressman from North Carolina, Mark Meadows, filed a motion to try and force House Speaker John Boehner from his post. The measure is more than likely to fail, but the move earned Meadows instant media recognition, numerous cable news appearances and instant notoriety.

Meadows isn’t the only one causing congressional GOP leaders headaches these days. During a rare weekend session forced in part by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell smacked down efforts by Cruz and fellow Tea Partier Sen. Mike Lee of Utah to hijack the amendment process on a transportation bill. The duo had hoped to force votes to defund Planned Parenthood and block President Obama’s deal with Iran but McConnell squashed them, going so far as to distribute an e-mail from a Lee staffer to every Republican senator showing that the pair only sought to play politics with the system, not work for solutions.

“To see the so-called Republican leader whip against allowing a vote to defund Planned Parenthood,” Cruz railed to reporters outside the Senate chamber, “makes clear that the McConnell-[Democratic Senate leader Harry] Reid leadership is united in favor of Big Government.”

Cruz, Lee, Meadows and Trump have one thing in common: their disdain for the Republican establishment. All four are seeking to harness discontent within the GOP base to their advantage. And that discontent pays: all four have raised millions of dollars and each bomb they drop earns them more money, more infamy and more attention—all great things whether one is running for president or fending off a primary challenge in 2016.

The idea of committing some incredible antic or uttering an outrageous statement and then running online to monetize it isn’t a new strategy in Washington. As Michael Scherer and I wrote six years ago, members like Michele Bachmann and Alan Grayson had already honed the online money bomb. What’s new here is the target: leadership.

The problem with this strategy is that it heightens dysfunction in a city where dysfunction has already hobbled the system. McConnell will likely get through a long-term extension of the transportation bill this week, but the House won’t be able to pass that bill so quickly. So both chambers will have to pass a three-month stop gap by the end of the week to give Boehner more time to corral his recalcitrant rank and file on the larger bill.

And if getting a transportation bill through is this tough, what’s facing Congress in the coming months is even more daunting: a potential government shut down and default on U.S. debt. McConnell and Boehner better have some aces up their sleeves. Because as Meadows, Cruz and Lee have shown this week, there’s never been more incentive to play the Trump card.

TIME People

Penn. Congressman Chaka Fattah Indicted in Racketeering Case

Chaka Fattah
Matt Rourke—AP In this May 7, 2015 photo, Rep. Chaka Fattah, D-Pa., speaks at the School of the Future in Philadelphia.

Fattah has been the subject of a long-running federal investigation

(PHILADELPHIA) — Pennsylvania Congressman Chaka Fattah has been indicted on charges he misappropriated hundreds of thousands of dollars of federal, charitable and campaign funds.

The 11-term Philadelphia Democrat was charged Wednesday with racketeering conspiracy, bribery, conspiracy to commit wire, honest services and mail fraud, and other charges.

Fattah has been the subject of a long-running federal investigation. Four others also have been charged, including people who worked for his campaign and congressional staffs.

Fattah’s office had no immediate comment on the charges. It said it would issue a statement shortly.

TIME Congress

Conservative Congressman Seeks to Remove John Boehner from Speaker’s Chair

House Speaker John Boehner
Chip Somodevilla—Getty Images Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) arrives for his weekly news conference at the U.S. Capitol Visitors Center February 26, 2015 in Washington, DC.

Rep. Mark Meadows' move is largely symbolic

(WASHINGTON) — A conservative Republican who was disciplined earlier this year by House Speaker John Boehner is pushing a largely symbolic effort to strip the Ohio Republican of his position.

Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina on Tuesday filed a resolution to vacate the chair, an initial procedural step. The proposal was referred to a committee stocked with leadership loyalists, and it is unlikely to emerge. The move, however, reflected the discontent among the more conservative wing of the House GOP, whose members have been frustrated with leaders’ willingness to compromise on some legislation.

The resolution said Boehner “has endeavored to consolidate power and centralize decision-making, bypassing the majority of the 435 Members of Congress and the people they represent.”

It also accused the speaker of causing “the power of Congress to atrophy, thereby making Congress subservient to the Executive and Judicial branches, diminishing the voice of the American People.” And it said Boehner”uses the power of the office to punish members who vote according to their conscience instead of the will of the Speaker.”

Last month, the leadership briefly stripped Meadows of his subcommittee chairmanship over his votes but later relented after conservatives objected.

Boehner’s office had no comment.

Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., dismissed the resolution and Meadows’ move.

“You don’t raise any money, you need a way to raise money, you do gimmicks like this,” said Nunes, who is close to Boehner.

But Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., who has experienced the wrath of the leadership and is a Boehner foe, complained that the leaders is “not listening to the American people.” He faulted leaders for not allowing quick votes against same-sex marriage and federal money for Planned Parenthood.

“He just has the courage to do something about it,” Jones said of Meadows, a two-term lawmaker who was elected in the tea party-backed 2010 class.

TIME Congress

John Kerry Urges Congress to Support Iran Nuclear Deal

Congress has begun a 60-day review of the international agreement

(WASHINGTON) — Secretary of State John Kerry warned skeptical lawmakers not to nix the contentious nuclear deal with Iran, insisting that it includes strict inspections and other safeguards to deter cheating by Tehran.

“If Congress does not support the deal, we would see this deal die — with no other options,” Kerry told the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Tuesday as he testified for the second time in a week, part of the Obama administration’s all-out campaign to sell the accord.

Kerry spoke as the administration picked up critical support for the deal from Rep. Sander Levin, D-Mich., a strong supporter of Israel who referred to his Jewish background in announcing his decision.

“I believe the agreement offers the best option to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon,” Levin said in a statement circulated by Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who is leading the effort to round up Democratic support for the deal in the House.

Congress has begun a 60-day review of the international agreement that curbs Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for billions of dollars in relief from sanctions stifling its economy. All members must weigh the deal, but it’s especially a tough decision for those who have a large number of Jewish constituencies because Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called it a “historic mistake.”

“I believe that Israel, the region and the world are far more secure if Iran does not move toward possession of a nuclear weapon,” Kerry told members who, at times, blasted the deal.

“Iran has cheated on every agreement they’ve signed,” said Rep. Ed Royce, the panel’s chairman. With Kerry, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew waiting to testify, he asked if Tehran “has earned the right to be trusted” given its history.

Few, if any, new details emerged from the more than three-hour hearing. Some committee members asked the three officials questions, while others used their time to read lengthy statements in opposition. That left Kerry visibly frustrated and several times he accused the members of misconstruing or misunderstanding the details of the agreement.

“Nothing in this deal is built on trust. Nothing,” Kerry said.

Kerry was asked what would prevent Iran from adhering to the agreement for a short time, and then, in effect, take the money and run toward building an atomic bomb.

Kerry said that was not a likely scenario. He said the Iranian government is under pressure to improve the economy in their country where half the population is under 30 years of age and wants jobs. And he defended the inspection protocol under the agreement, arguing that if Iran tries to develop a nuclear weapon covertly, the international community will know.

“They can’t do that. Because the red flags that would go off — the bells and whistles that would start chiming — as a result of any movement away from what they have to do” to meet their obligations under the agreement, Kerry said.

Faced with Republican majorities in both houses, the administration’s objective was to line up enough support for Obama among Democrats in what is all but certain to become a veto fight this fall.

Congress is expected to vote in September to prevent Obama from lifting sanctions imposed previously by lawmakers, a step that would likely cause Iran to walk away from the agreement. Obama has said he will veto any bill along those lines, and Republicans will need a two-thirds majority in both houses to override his objections.

Apart from Royce, the panel’s senior Democrat expressed reservations about the plan. Rep. Eliot Engel of New York said he has “serious questions and concerns about this deal.”

Engel is a strong supporter of Israel, which vociferously opposes the agreement. Iran has said it wants to wipe out Israel.

The hearing unfolded as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a pro-Israel lobby, dispatched hundreds of its members to prod lawmakers to disapprove of the deal.

On the other side of the issue, seven former U.S. diplomats and State Department officials sent a letter Monday to leaders in Congress urging them to support the pact.

While lawmakers debated the implications of the deal, officials from member nations of the International Atomic Energy Agency told The Associated Press that Iran may be allowed to take soil samples at the Parchin military complex that is suspected as a site of nuclear weapon research, but only under monitoring by outside experts.

The officials said stringent oversight of the soil-sampling could include video monitoring. The samples would be analyzed by the agency for traces left by any nuclear experiments. The disclosures come from IAEA member nations and are tasked with following Iran’s nuclear program. They demanded anonymity because their information is confidential. The IAEA had no immediate comment.

Tehran insists Parchin is a conventional military area with no link to nuclear tests.

___

Associated Press writer George Jahn in Vienna contributed to this report.

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