TIME Immigration

Biden Tells Boehner To ‘Stand Up’ To Base On Immigration Reform

The Vice President used a Cinco de Mayo speech to push House Speaker John Boehner to push back against parts of the Republican base who are holding up comprehensive immigration reform

Vice President Joe Biden demanded Monday that House Speaker John Boehner “stand up” to those in his party who oppose immigration reform.

Speaking at a breakfast celebrating Cinco de Mayo, Biden highlighted the progress made by Hispanic Americans and made the economic and moral case for immigration reform, saying it would be a “shot in the arm” when the country needs one.

“It’s time for John—he’s a good man, John Boehner—to stand up and other Republicans to stand up,” Biden said. “Not for us to stand up. We’ve already stood up. We’ve been right there. We stood up. It’s time for him to stand up, stand up at not let the minority—I think it’s a minority—of the Republican Party in the House keep us from moving in a way that will change the circumstances for millions and millions of lives.”

Biden also stood by his assertion earlier this year that the more than 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States are already Americans. Republicans pounced on the comments at the time.

“And I know I was criticized for saying a couple of months ago in Florida that these 11 million folks in the shadows are already Americans and I got pretty roundly criticized for that,” he said. “But they are Americans. They may not be citizens, but they are Americans. In the definition of Teddy Roosevelt, he said Americanism is not a question of birthplace or creed or line of descent, it’s a question of principles, idealism, and character. And I would argue that those 11 million folks who have been here breaking their neck, working hard, they are Americans.”

As he made a roll call of the notables in the room, he pointed to Secretary of Labor Tom Perez, who made a reference to Biden’s appearance in an HBO-produced video at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner on Saturday, to which the Vice President replied, “Anyway, I just wish I could have kept that Corvette.”

TIME 2014 Election

Democrats Face Worst Midterm Climate in 20 Years, Poll Says

A new Pew Research Center/USA Today poll finds that low approval ratings for President Obama as well as dissatisfaction with the economy and the health care reform law spell bad news for Democrats ahead of the 2014 midterm elections

Democrats hoping to hold the Senate and make gains in the House during this year’s midterm elections are going up against the worst political landscape they’ve faced in at least 20 years, according to a new poll.

The Pew Research Center/USA Today survey released Monday found that 47% of registered voters either support the Republican candidate in their district or lean in that direction, while 43% favor or lean Democratic. That’s the lowest level of support Democrats have had around this point in the midterm election cycles since 1994, the year Republicans retook the House for the first time in four decades. And it’s even worse for Democrats than it was before the beating they took in the 2010 midterm elections.

Democrats are clinging to an endangered, slender majority in the Senate, and while the party has written off any chance of recapturing the House this year, many Democrats are hoping the party at least picks up enough seats to make a takeover more likely in 2016. But recent polls have brought troubling signs for the party, which is weighed down by President Barack Obama’s low approval ratings and disaffection over the health care reform law.

A majority said Obama wouldn’t be a factor in their vote this fall, but 26% said their vote would be a gesture against the president, and just 16% said theirs would be a vote for him, according to the poll. And economic pessimism remains a factor: 65% say it’s hard to find jobs in their community.

The survey of 1,501 adults, including 1,162 registered voters, was conducted April 23-27 and had a margin of error of 3.3 percentage points for registered voters.

TIME Congress

Republicans Launching New Probe of Benghazi Attack

John Boehner, Renee Ellmers
Speaker of the House John Boehner talks to reporters in Washington, D.C., April 29, 2014. AP

The GOP's effort to investigate the 2012 attack on a U.S. consulate in Libya intensified with a call for the Secretary of State to testify before Congress. Kerry wasn't in the State Department at the time, but Republicans say he's not meeting his obligations to cooperate with the probe

Updated at 2:20 p.m.

House Speaker John Boehner announced the creation of a new congressional committee Friday tasked with investigating the 2012 attack that killed four Americans in Libya, intensifying focus again on an issue that Republicans have tried to use as political fodder for a year-and-a-half.

The House Select Committee on Benghazi will, Boehner said in a statement, “investigate the attack, provide the necessary accountability, and ensure justice is finally served.”

A House GOP leadership aide said that Rep. Trey Gowdy (R—SC) is being considered for the chairmanship for the new committee, but no decision has yet been made.

The announcement comes after the release Tuesday of a White House email to then-U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, in which the an Obama Administration national security official advises Rice to say in an upcoming media appearance the attack was sparked by an online video “and not a broader failure of policy.” Boehner called Thursday for Secretary of Sate John Kerry to testify in Congress about why that email was not released earlier in congressional investigations.

The attack at the consulate in Benghazi on Sept. 11, 2012, killed four Americans, including including Ambassador Chris Stevens. Republicans have long accused the Administration of intentionally covering up the circumstances of the attack to protect President Barack Obama politically in the heart of his reelection campaign. But no explicit evidence of a cover up has emerged and the issue has generally failed to gain political traction beyond conservative activists.

Also on Friday, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) announced a subpoena demanding Kerry testify before his committee on May 21.

“Compliance with a subpoena for documents is not a game,” Issa wrote in a letter to Kerry. “Because your Department is failing to meet its legal obligations, I am issuing a new subpoena to compel you to appear before the Committee to answer questions about your agency’s response to the congressional investigation of the Benghazi attack.”

With reporting by Alex Rogers.


A Marijuana Bank for Colorado? Not Right Now

The marijuana business in Colorado is having serious problems finding places to put the vast amounts of cash it earns. Weed firms have struggled to find a way to handle the cash they make, because the funds are derived from a substance that remains illegal under federal law

An attempt to create a banking system for Colorado’s now legal marijuana businesses survived only a few hours before being effectively killed off Thursday.

The plan, which would have created a credit union for pot-related businesses unable to gain access to the regular banking system, cleared a state legislative committee early Thursday, paving the way for the world’s first financial system for the bud trade.

However, another committee killed the plan shortly after by amending the bill to require Colorado to keep trying to find a way for the marijuana businesses to enter mainstream banking.

Marijuana firms in Colorado and Washington state, the two states that have legalized pot for recreational use, have struggled to find a way to handle the large amounts of cash they make, because the funds are derived from a substance that remains illegal under federal law.

In February, the Justice and Treasury departments issued guidance suggesting that banks could offer basic services to marijuana dealers, but financial institutions remain wary. Consensus is growing that it will take an act of Congress to change the situation.

“I have long said the issue cannot be solved at the [state] capitol, and I don’t hold the current Congress in high esteem to get anything done,” the bill’s co-sponsor Pat Steadman told the Denver Post.

“But this bill would lay it squarely at their feet and force the conversation.”

TIME Congress

U.S. Struggles in Building a Bridge to Somewhere

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson walks to a hearing room to answer questions before a closed meeting of the Senate Homeland Security Committee in Washington, D.C., on April 1, 2014.
Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson walks to a hearing room to answer questions before a closed meeting of the Senate Homeland Security Committee in Washington, D.C., on April 1, 2014. Cliff Owen—AP

Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson will travel to Detroit on Friday to discuss a bridge to Canada that is expected to increase trade with the U.S. But infrastructure spending is a tough sell in a Tea-party influenced Congress

Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson is expected to travel to Detroit on Friday, where he’ll spend the morning meeting with local groups about a bridge to Canada. An as-of-yet unbuilt bridge to Canada.

The bridge, which would augment an 85-year-old private bridge already in existence, was proposed years ago. It is expected to expand trade between the two nations. Already one-third of all goods passing between the U.S. and Canada go over the existing bridge. A second bridge is expected to boost that number and ease congestion. The Obama Administration issued the construction permit in 2013 and Canada has already said it will front most of the $1-billion price tag, with Michigan paying Canada back its share after the bridge—and tollbooth—are already opened.

So what’s the hang up? The $250-million tollbooth and customs plaza.

In an era after the Bridge to Nowhere made famous by Sarah Palin, spending on infrastructure is not the easiest legislation to get through the Tea Party-influenced Congress—even though this bridge clearly goes somewhere, and has the support of Michigan Republican Gov. Rick Snyder. Highlighting just how unenthusiastic this Congress is about infrastructure spending, there’s no deal in sight for how to fill an $8 billion to $12 billion hole in transportation funding that will run dry by the end of August.

The proposed bridge falls under the Department of Homeland Security’s budget since it would be a border connection. Johnson has discretion, to some degree, over his budget and could allocate some of the money without Congress. Meanwhile, Rep. Gary Peters, a Michigan Democrat, has introduced legislation, as part of the 2015 appropriations process, to get the tollbooth built. “I just keep trying to build support,” Peters, who has four co-sponsors thus far, though no Republicans yet, told TIME. “I’m working to have it taken up and get a hearing as quickly as possible. And with Secretary Johnson’s visit, it’s important to lay the groundwork with the Department of Homeland Security. I appreciate how important it is, not just for the Midwest but the country, in terms of our trade with Canada.”

Canada, for its part, has been aggressively pushing the bridge. And between the stalled bridge and the ever-delayed Keystone XL Pipeline, Canadians are starting to wonder if relations with the U.S. are imperiled. “The government of Canada is concerned about the vulnerability of that trade and the jobs it sustains in both our countries,” Canadian Transport Minister Lisa Raitt told a NAFTAnext summit in Chicago in late April.

Raitt warned Canadians against reading too much into the stalling of two of Canada’s top priorities with the U.S. After all, she noted, the pipeline has been stalled by Obama’s Democratic Administration, while the bridge funding has been blocked by the Republican House. “The United States tends not to link things,” she said. “And the Canadians are quick to think about linking things.”

Still, Raitt hasn’t ruled out Canada eventually paying for the U.S. customs booth if the U.S. continues to drag its feet. “We are committed to paying its fair share and we expect, as well too, that the United States pay and be responsible for its share,” she said in Ottawa last month. “But we will continue to talk with our partners in the U.S. and we will continue to work on this bridge.”

Because when America isn’t building bridges to nowhere, or somewhere, it’s burning them.

TIME India

Mixed Feelings on Polling Day for the Indian Elections in Modi’s Home State

Narendra Modi
India's main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party’s prime-ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi, displays the victory symbol to supporters after casting his vote in Ahmedabad, India, on April 30, 2014 Ajit Solanki—AP

Supporters of Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi in Ahmedabad, the largest city in Gujarat state, are confident of victory. Even those fiercely opposed to him remain disillusioned with the incumbent Congress Party and crave change

When will politicians learn to beware of the selfie? Like others before him, Narendra Modi’s dalliance with the social-media favorite seemingly backfired on Wednesday, polling day in his home state of Gujarat. After the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) prime-ministerial candidate emerged from casting his vote in Ahmedabad, photographers clicked as Modi took a selfie with his inked finger and the BJP symbol, the lotus. But displaying a party symbol in an active polling area is an election no-no — as was, apparently, Modi’s address to reporters that followed. India’s Election Commission quickly requested that Gujarat open an investigation into its chief minister for violating election code of conduct for attempting to influence voters on voting day.

Still, Modi supporters in Ahmedabad were confident that they would soon see their candidate in the Prime Minister’s seat. In the national elections under way in India, voters across Gujarat went to the polls on April 30 to vote in the state’s next group of 26 lawmakers in Lok Sabha, India’s lower house of Parliament. Modi is standing for one of the seats in the city of Vadodara, in addition to a seat in the holy city of Varanasi, where voting takes place in the coming weeks. “Modi is the king of Gujarat,” says Sachin Patel, a 26-year-old BJP volunteer at the Nishan School polling station. “After this election, I hope he’ll be the king of India. We need him.”

Not everyone in Ahmedabad, Gujarat’s biggest city, is so sure. Before elections, several opinion polls showed growing support for Modi and the BJP across the country, with many voters disenchanted with the past decade of a Congress-led government that has presided over multiple scandals and a weakened economy. Modi promises to change all that, bringing his model of Gujarat governance to the national stage, from streamlining bureaucracy to pulling in investment to improving the performance of welfare programs for the poor.

But despite the strong anti-incumbency mood, Modi remains a divisive figure for many. He was chief minister of Gujarat when bloody religious riots broke out in the state in 2002, in which more than 1,000 people, the majority of whom were Muslims, were killed. Many in Ahmedabad’s Muslim neighborhoods continue to hold Modi’s administration accountable for what happened to their community, though he has always strongly denied any involvement, and Indian courts have cleared him of any wrongdoing.

The BJP has downplayed that history — and their candidate’s Hindu-nationalist roots — in its campaign. But the question of secularism remains a hot-button election issue, with recent anti-Muslim comments by some of Modi’s associates again stirring up concerns across the country. In Ahmedabad, some say those concerns are valid, and believe the BJP-led government has perpetuated an anti-Muslim climate since the riots. “They create a sense of insecurity in the [Hindu] majority,” says Waqar Qazi, who lives in Juhapura, a Muslim area of the city. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), a new political party whose leader, Arvind Kejriwal, is running against Modi in Varanasi, has also been campaigning as an alternative in Gujarat in the run-up to the polls. But for most Muslim voters, Qazi says, the choice is about what party has the best chance of preventing the BJP from coming to power in New Delhi. “Congress has failed to be a strong opposition,” Qazi says. “But it’s still the best choice.”

The Modi government says Muslims in Gujarat have prospered along with the rest of the state. The chief minister’s supporters agree. “Even Muslim people say they are safer in Gujarat today than they would be in other parts of India,” says Amar Dave, a retiree who voted at the same polling station as Modi. In Saheb Nagar, a small colony built for Muslim families whose homes were destroyed in the riots, residents say they do enjoy a bubble of security within the confines of their community. But they also feel left out of the new prosperity that other Gujaratis around them seem to be enjoying.

Here, Modi’s high-octane road show, selfies and all, feels like it’s happening in a different city, and not just a few kilometers away. For the residents of the Saheb Nagar colony, the vote is less about who can defeat the BJP and more about who can fix the local drainage system and get rid of the large, deep pool of raw sewage water at the entrance to their community. “Congress hasn’t done anything for us for the last 12 years either,” says Nasim Banu, a 40-year-old mother of four whose family was displaced in the 2002 riots. She throws an arm toward the fetid pool of water. For years she has voted for Congress in principle, as an alternative to the BJP. But today she cast her vote for AAP, the only group she thinks has a chance of bringing real change. “We trusted Congress and they disappointed us. Now we’ll try trusting AAP.”


Reid: NFL Should Handle Redskins Owner Like NBA Handled Sterling

Harry Reid NFL
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid talks to reporters as Congress returns from a two week recess, at the Capitol in Washington on April 29, 2014. AP

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid wants the NFL to take a hard line on the Redskins, a name many consider offensive

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid thinks the NFL should “take an assist from the NBA” when it comes to Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder and his team name.

Reid, speaking on the Senate floor Wednesday a day after the NBA banned Los Angles Clippers owner Donald Sterling for life for his racist rant, said the NFL should take a similar approach toward Snyder, who has long resisted calls to change a team name considered offensive by many Native Americans.

“Since Snyder fails to show any leadership, the National Football League should take an assist from the NBA and pick up the slack,” said Reid, a Nevada Democrat who touted his state as home to 22 tribal organizations. “How long will the NFL continue to do nothing, zero, as one of its teams bears a name that inflicts so much pain on Native Americans?

“I believe [NFL Commissioner] Roger Goodell is a good man but it’s time for this good man to act,” Reid added. “For far too long the NFL has been sitting on its hands doing nothing while an entire population of Americans has been denigrated. … Remove this hateful term from your league’s vocabulary and rid the league of racism and bigotry.”

Snyder has said the name “continues to hold the memories and meaning of where we came from, who we are, and who we want to be in the years to come.”

TIME Congress

Minimum Wage Hike Falls Short in Senate

Harry Reid
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., talks to reporters as Congress returns from a two week recess, at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, April 29, 2014. A long-shot Senate Democratic effort to raise the federal minimum wage seems doomed without needed votes to overcome a procedural blockade by most Republican senators, who say the measure would be too costly for employers. (AP Photo) AP

Senate Republicans stopped a bill that would have hiked the federal minimum wage, drawing preemptive ire from Harry Reid, who plans to use the issue as a cudgel in the midterm elections

Senate Republicans blocked legislation to raise the federal minimum on Wednesday, an expected outcome that Democrats plan to use as political ammunition in the midterm elections this year.

The measure, which would gradually hike the minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $10.10 an hour, received 54 votes, six shy of what was needed to advance the bill to a final vote. Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid voted no as a procedural move allowing him to bring it up for a vote again later.

“Millions of American workers will be watching how United States senators vote today,” Reid said a statement before the vote. “They’ll be observing to see if we ensure all full-time workers in this country receive livable wages.

“To them, it’s a matter of survival,” Reid added.

Democrats have been hammering Republican for months over their refusal to support a minimum wage hike, and it’s been a top priority for President Barack Obama. Republicans say a hike will hurt businesses and cost jobs, and that the focus should be on legislation to create jobs. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office tweeted that Democrats should “drop the tired ideological approach that’s failed so miserably the last five and a half years.”

The White House and Senate Democrats are working together on the so-called Raise the Wage strategy, with closely coordinated schedules and social media activities. The President is expected to deliver remarks on the topic Wednesday afternoon, and included a call to raise the minimum wage during his State of the Union address earlier this year.

There is widespread public support for raising the minimum wage to $10.10: A Pew poll released in January showed that 71% of independents supported the measure, as well as 53% of Republicans and 90% of Democrats. An early March Washington Post/ABC poll suggested the issue could help Democrats get voters to the polls in a midterm election year that has the party worried about sluggish turnout. Half of all Americans are more likely to back a candidate who supports raising the minimum wage, according to that poll, with only 19 percent saying they would be less likely to vote for such a candidate.

But polling experts haven’t seen much of a connection between the Raise the Wage effort and Democrats’ political prospects. On Monday, the Post reported a new poll with Obama’s approval rating at 41%, the lowest of his presidency, and congressional numbers indicating that 2014 could be on par with the 2010 Republican landslide. A Wall Street Journal/NBC poll on Wednesday was slightly better for Obama, showing a 44-41 percent approval-disapproval rate.

“Look at Obama’s numbers, the GOP and Democratic numbers…” said Stuart Rothenberg of the eponymous political report. “None of those suggest considerable movement toward Democrats, do they? Of course not.”

Asked if she had seen the Democrats’ push to raise the minimum wage affect the polls in any Senate race this year, Jennifer Duffy, a senior editor at the Cook Political Report, said she had not. “If it is effective, I don’t think we will see it until the fall,” Duffy said. Pointing to a new anti-minimum wage hike ad campaign that focuses on the Capitol Hill newspapers and D.C. television market, Duffy said: “There is a reason this ad is only airing in DC.”

“Voters just aren’t paying attention yet,” she added.

TIME Congress

Indicted Congressman ‘Absolutely Not’ Resigning

Congressman Michael Grimm
U.S. Representative Michael Grimm (R-NY) talks to reporters outside his office on Capitol Hill in Washington April 29, 2014. Jonathan Ernst—Reuters

Michael Grimm said he's not stepping down as he faces federal charges for a range of crimes, even if Republican leader John Boehner asks him to

New York Republican Rep. Michael Grimm said Tuesday that he will “absolutely not” resign if asked to do so by House Speaker John Boehner in the wake of his indictment on federal fraud and other charges.

“I am discussing things with leadership, but the main point is I’m back to work,” Grimm told reporters, adding that his top priority includes the proper allocation of Hurricane Sandy recovery funding. Grimm said he resigned from his spot on the House Financial Services Committee on Monday because he “didn’t want any of this”—eyeing the crew of cameras and journalists outside his fifth floor Capitol Hill office—”to distract from what the committee has to do.”

Grimm, a 44 year-old former Marine and FBI agent, turned himself in to the FBI on Monday morning as prosecutors released a 20-count indictment alleging he committed a range of crimes, including wire and mail fraud, perjury, obstruction, hiring undocumented immigrants, and filing false tax returns. He has denied all wrongdoing and pleaded not guilty.

“My colleagues have been great, they’ve been very supportive, and I think that’s going to continue,” Grimm said.

“Listen, at the end of the day, I’m a Marine, I don’t relent, I don’t give up and I’ve never abandoned my post before and I’m not going to do it now,” he added.

Boehner said Grimm “made the right decision” in stepping down from his committee post. When asked by CNN if he would support Grimm in his upcoming reelection campaign, Boehner responded: “I think all members should be held to the highest ethical standards.”

TIME Congress

The House GOP Immigration Walk-Back

House Speaker John Boehner doesn't seem to be pushing his members to pass an immigration reform bill, despite earlier signals to the contrary

House Republican leaders have repeatedly let a few rays of hope shine on the prospect of passing an immigration reform bill this year, only to quickly close the door and draw the blinds. They did it again Tuesday.

Last week in his home district, House Speaker John Boehner chided members of his conference for their resistance to passing a reform bill. “Here’s the attitude: ‘Ohhhh. Don’t make me do this,’” he said and squirmed to laughter while speaking at a local rotary club. “’Ohhhh. This is too hard.’”

The comments, after leaders unveiled a set of immigration reform principles in January and Boehner reportedly told donors at a Las Vegas fundraiser last month that he was “hell-bent” on passing a bill this year, seemed to indicate that he was pressing his Republican to finally move on the issue. The Senate passed a comprehensive package last summer.

But returning to Capitol Hill on Monday after a two-week recess, Boehner changed his tune in a meting with his conference. “That was the first thing that he addressed,” Rep. John Fleming (R-La.) said. “He probably went a little too far. He was really more kidding around than anything.”

Fleming said that Boehner did not mention passing an immigration bill this year, and explicitly stated the House would not go to a conference committee to reconcile differences with the Senate’s bill, which provides a path to citizenship for immigrants in the country illegally. Two House Republicans from Illinois, Reps. Aaron Schock and Adam Kinzinger, said last week that they support some sort of legal status for undocumented immigrants.

“There was no mocking, you all know me,” said Boehner during a news conference at Republican National Committee headquarters near the Capitol on Tuesday. “You tease the ones you love.”

Repeating a line that Republicans have used for months, Boehner said his party can’t trust President Barack Obama as a partner on immigration reform because of how the Administration has implemented health care reform law. Asked if there’s a bloc of intractable members in his conference, Boehner responded: “I also make clear that the 38 changes that the President has made to Obamacare, the 38 delays in Obamacare are some of the root of the problem that we’re dealing with.”

“I think our conference frankly wants to see the rule of law enforced, and that’s really been at the heart of these other issues that we’re trying to resolve,” said Louisiana Republican Rep. Steve Scalise, who chairs a group of the conference’s most conservative members. Scalise added that Republicans have been “fairly divided” on the issue.

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.), one of the most outspoken Republicans in favor of immigration reform, said that if the conference doesn’t put something forward this year, Obama will take it upon himself through forms of executive action.

“I think if we don’t fix the situation, I think the President will probably act unilaterally,” he said. “And when that happens, there is no room for negotiations.

“It’s got to be this year,” he added. “If it doesn’t happen this year, I don’t think it happens for I think a few years.”

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