Ted Cruz Archives - Florida Politics

GOP pushes 2 top Cabinet picks through to full Senate

Republicans jammed two of President Donald Trump‘s top Cabinet picks through the Senate Finance Committee with no Democrats in the room Wednesday after suspending a rule that would have otherwise barred them from taking the vote. The tactic seemed a warning shot that they might deploy brute political muscle in the upcoming fight over the Supreme Court vacancy.

With a near-toxic vapor of divisiveness between the two parties across Capitol Hill, nasty showdowns broke out elsewhere as well. One Senate panel signed off on Trump’s choice for attorney general only after senators exchanged heated words, and another committee postponed a vote on the would-be chief of the Environmental Protection Agency after Democrats refused to show up.

Busting through a Democratic boycott of the Finance panel, all 14 Republicans took advantage of Democrats’ absence to temporarily disable a committee rule requiring at least one Democrat to be present for votes.

They then used two 14-0 roll calls to approve financier Steve Mnuchin for Treasury secretary and Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., to be health secretary, ignoring Democrats’ demands that the two nominees provide more information about their financial backgrounds.

All the nominations will need full Senate approval.

Underscoring Congress’ foul mood, Finance panel Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said Democrats should be “ashamed” for staying away from his committee’s meeting.

“I don’t feel a bit sorry for them,” he told reporters, adding later, “I don’t care what they want at this point.”

Trump won one major victory, as the Senate confirmed Rex Tillerson to be secretary of state. The mostly party-line 56-43 vote came with Democrats critical of Tillerson’s close ties to Russia as former Exxon Mobil CEO.

But the prospects that GOP donor Betsy DeVos would win approval as education secretary were jarred when two GOP senators, Susan Collins of Maine and Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski, said they opposed her. Both challenged her support for public education, and their defections meant Vice President Mike Pence might need to break a tie in a Senate that Republicans control 52-48.

Congress’ day was dominated by confrontation, even as lawmakers braced for an even more ferocious battle over Trump’s nomination of conservative federal judge Neil Gorsuch to fill the Supreme Court vacancy.

Democrats were already furious over Republicans’ refusal to even consider last year President Barack Obama‘s pick for the slot, Judge Merrick Garland. Trump fueled the fire by urging Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to “go nuclear” — shorthand for a unilateral change in the chamber’s rules so Democrats can’t block Gorsuch with a filibuster.

Without a rules change, Republicans will need at least eight Democrats to reach the 60-votes necessary to halt filibusters, or endless procedural delays.

Democrats boycotted Wednesday’s abruptly called Finance Committee meeting, as they’d done for a session a day earlier. They say Price and Mnuchin have lied about their financial backgrounds and must answer more questions.

“It’s deeply troubling to me that Republicans on the Finance Committee chose to break the rules in the face of strong evidence of two nominees’ serious ethical problems,” said the panel’s top Democrat, Ron Wyden of Oregon.

Democrats say Price had special access to low-priced shares in an Australian biomed firm, even though he testified the offer was available to all investors. They say Mnuchin ran a bank that processed home foreclosures with a process critics say invites fraud.

The two men have denied wrongdoing and have solid Republican backing.

The Senate Judiciary Committee used a party-line 11-9 vote to sign off on Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., for attorney general. That came after Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., said Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, had misrepresented remarks he’d made about Sessions weeks ago.

Cruz wasn’t present as Franken spoke. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, interrupted Franken twice, calling it “untoward and inappropriate” to disparage the absent Cruz.

Franken said Cruz “personally went after me, he personally impugned my integrity.” Angrily pointing at Cornyn, he asked, “You didn’t object then, did you?”

Cornyn said he wasn’t sure he was there when Cruz spoke.

At the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Democrats boycotted a planned vote on Scott Pruitt, Oklahoma’s state attorney general in line to lead the Environmental Protection Agency. The vote was postponed.

Pruitt has questioned the scientific consensus that human activities are contributing to global warming and joined lawsuits against the agency’s emission curbs.

Another panel postponed a vote on Trump’s pick to head the White House Budget Office, tea party Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-S.C., as Democrats asked for more time to read the nominee’s FBI file.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson team up on bill to counter BDS movement

Both of Florida’s U.S. Senators are teaming up on a bipartisan bill to push back on the growing boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel.

The new legislation (s. 170) is an update of a bill proposed last year by West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin and former Illinois Republican Mark Kirk. It would increase protections for state and local governments in the U.S. that opt to divest from, prohibit investment in, and restrict contracting with companies knowingly engaged in commerce-related or investment-related BDS activity targeting Israel.

The BDS movement has had most of its growth on college campuses in recent years, though there have been fewer such resolutions passed at major universities in recent years.

“This legislation supports efforts by state governments and local communities to use the power of the purse to counter the BDS movement’s economic warfare targeting Israel,” said Rubio. “This bipartisan bill is all the more timely after the United Nations Security Council’s passage of Resolution 2334, a deplorable one-sided measure that harms Israel and effectively encourages the BDS movement’s campaigns to commercially and financially target and discriminate against the Jewish state.”

Rubio is co-sponsoring the bill with Manchin. Other original cosponsors like Rubio’s partner in the U.S. Senate from Florida, Democrat Bill Nelson.

The bill also includes a mixture of Democrats and Republicans. Other Democrats signing up as cosponsors include New Jersey’s Robert Menendez, Oregon’s Ron Wyden and Michigan’s Debbie Stabenow.

Original GOP sponsors include Idaho’s Mike Crapo, Texas’ John Cornyn and Ted Cruz and Arkansas’s Tom Cotton.

A number of states have passed similar legislation, including Florida, which did so a year ago. That bill requires the State Board of Administration to identify all companies that are boycotting Israel or are engaged in a boycott of Israel in which the public fund owns direct or indirect holdings by a specified date; requiring the public fund to create and maintain the Scrutinized Companies that Boycott Israel List that names all such companies; prohibiting a state agency or local governmental entity from contracting for goods and services that exceed a specified amount if the company has been placed on the Scrutinized Companies that Boycott Israel List.

The federal bill would clarifiy that state and local governments have the legal authority to identify and divest public funds from, prohibit investment in, and restrict contracting with entities engaged in BDS conduct when the designations are based on “credible information available to the public.” The bill’s non-preemption safe harbor for asset managers will also give them an offensive capability against entities seeking to economically harm Israel.

Last year’s bill was opposed by the Council on American Islamic Relations, which claimed it would violate the constitutionally-guaranteed free speech rights of businesses and institutions that participate in the international boycott of Israel’s illegal occupation of the West Bank.

Week 1: Cabinet picks contradict Donald Trump stands on some issues

The lack of fireworks surrounding Senate consideration of President-elect Donald Trump‘s Cabinet picks may reflect a slew of statements his choices have made contradicting the billionaire businessman’s position on key issues.

Trump acknowledged the differences early Friday, posting a message on his Twitter account saying: “All my Cabinet nominee are looking good and doing a great job. I want them to be themselves and express their own thoughts, not mine!”

This week’s confirmation hearings produced an odd political chemistry where, for instance, one of the harshest examinations of a Trump Cabinet choice came from one of Trump’s fellow Republicans, presidential campaign rival Sen. Marco Rubio.

Despite Democrats’ dismay over some of Trump’s selections, the hearings were relatively tranquil, with Democrats generally restrained even in quizzing the more contentious picks. The reason, according to a few Democrats: The nominees are proving more palatable than Trump himself.

“As I meet members of the Cabinet I’m puzzled because many of them sound reasonable,” said Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Senate Democrat. “Far more reasonable than their president.”

That could change in weeks to come, because some of the most potentially explosive hearings are still pending, including the scrutiny of former Goldman Sachs partner Steven Mnuchin for Treasury secretary.

Several of Trump’s Cabinet selections this week made statements this week contradicting policy stances espoused by their soon-to-be boss on issues ranging from Russia and NATO to climate change and Muslims.

Sen. Jeff Sessions, picked for attorney general, said he’s against any outright ban on immigration by Muslims, in contrast to Trump’s onetime call to suspend admittance of Muslims until U.S. officials could learn more about nature of the threat of extremism.

His secretary of state candidate, Rex Tillerson, took a relatively hard line on Washington’s dealings with Russia, even though Trump has been talking about improving relations between Washington and Moscow and held out for days before saying he accepted the intelligence community’s conclusion that Moscow meddled in the U.S. election process.

Tillerson demurred, however, when one senator tried to lure him into calling President Vladimir Putin, whom he knows, a “war criminal,” although he emphasized support for NATO commitments that Trump had questioned. The secretary-of-state designate also said the United States should not back away from its efforts against nuclear proliferation, notwithstanding Trump’s suggestion earlier this year that some key U.S. allies like Japan and South Korea provide their own defense.

Some of the toughest questioning of Tillerson came not from Democrats but from Rubio, who grilled the Exxon Mobil executive on human rights issues.

As Mnuchin’s confirmation hearing approaches, Democrats have set up a website to solicit stories from the thousands of people whose homes were foreclosed on by OneWest Bank while he headed a group of investors who owned the bank. They hope to use Mnuchin’s nomination hearing to attack Trump’s populist appeal with working-class voters and cast themselves as defenders of the middle class.

Thus far, though, Republicans are congratulating themselves for generally smooth sailing. And overall, the lack of drama may also be due to the decision by Democrats while in the Senate majority to lower the vote threshold for Cabinet nominees and others from 60 votes to 50, allowing Republicans to ensure approval as long as they can hold their 52-seat majority together.

“The purpose of confirmation hearings is to examine the record and views of potential nominees and I think that’s what these hearings are doing,” said Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas. “I think it’s likely that all of the Cabinet nominees are going to be confirmed, I think the hearings have gone quite well this week.”

A hearing Thursday for neurosurgeon Ben Carson to head the Department of Housing and Urban Development featured some pointed questioning from Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, but also warm exchanges between Carson and other committee Democrats. Afterward Carson thanked the panel and said that it “was actually kind of fun.”

Sessions was denied confirmation once before by the Senate, but that was three decades ago for a federal judgeship. This time around the Alabaman is a sitting senator and was treated gently, for the most part, by his colleagues, even when Democrats brought up the racial issues that brought him down him last time around. There was potential for drama as Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., broke with Senate tradition to testify against his colleague, but it came on the second day of the hearing after Sessions had finished testifying, so he was not even in the room.

Tillerson had the rockiest outing thus far, with Rubio pressing him on Russia and Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon confronting him about climate change and other issues. With Rubio and others undecided on supporting Tillerson, his ultimate confirmation is in question. But even with Tillerson, Democrats seemed to pull their punches at times.

“I don’t want to argue with you,” Sen. Tom Udall of New Mexico remarked at one point, seeming to speak for several colleagues.

And it was practically bipartisan lovefests at the hearings for the choices for Central Intelligence Agency, Kansas Rep. Mike Pompeo; retired Gen. James Mattis for Defense; and retired Gen. John Kelly for Homeland Security.

“Pompeo’s very popular, Mattis, Kelly — these are popular selections,” said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.

The hearings seemed to underscore some emerging dynamics of Trump’s relations with Capitol Hill. Despite his highly unconventional approach, and his lack of Capitol Hill experience, many of his appointees and aides could have been selected by any other Republican, and the Senate is responding accordingly.

And even where Trump’s surprising approach raises the potential for problems, congressional Republicans are working overtime to paper them over, not highlight them.

“We are in complete sync,” House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., insisted Thursday in a discussion about a different topic, health care.

That could change in weeks to come, as the Senate holds hearings on Mnuchin and other more divisive selections. These include conservative Rep. Tom Price for Health and Human Services; Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, a vocal denier of climate change science, to lead the Environmental Protection Agency; and fast-food executive Andrew Puzder to head the Labor Department.

Still, given that it’s the Senate, not daytime TV, there may be a limit to the potential for conflict, said Ben Marter, Durbin’s communications director. “You have to adjust your excite-o-meter down a little bit, because it’s a Senate hearing. It’s not Maury Povich.”

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz push bill to move American embassy in Israel to Jerusalem

The United States has had an embassy in Tel Aviv, Israel, for over a half century. But that may change if a new bill co-sponsored by Marco Rubio and a rival from his presidential campaign gets through Congress.

The Jerusalem Embassy and Recognition Act, filed Tuesday in the Senate and co-sponsored by Rubio, former 2016 presidential primary rival Ted Cruz, and Nevada Republican Senator Dean Heller, would relocate the embassy to Jerusalem.

All three senators offered quotes along those lines, via a news release sent out from Rubio’s office.

“Jerusalem is the eternal capital of the Jewish state of Israel, and that’s where America’s embassy belongs,” said Rubio. “It’s time for Congress and the president-elect to eliminate the loophole that has allowed presidents in both parties to ignore U.S. law and delay our embassy’s rightful relocation to Jerusalem for over two decades.”

Cruz noted that “the Obama administration’s vendetta against the Jewish state has been so vicious that to even utter this simple truth — let alone the reality that Jerusalem is the appropriate venue for the American embassy in Israel — is shocking in some circles. But it is finally time to cut through the doublespeak and broken promises and do what Congress said we should do in 1995: formally move our embassy to the capital of our great ally Israel.”

Heller framed the legislation as a way for America to “reaffirm its support for one of our nation’s strongest allies by recognizing Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel. It honors an important promise America made more than two decades ago but has yet to fulfill.”

With indications being that President-elect Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will have a solid working relationship, this legislation provides an opportunity to affirm ties between the incoming administration and America’s most stalwart ally in the Middle East.

Grand Old Party? Donald Trump remaking GOP in his image

For eight years, a leaderless Republican Party has rallied around its passionate opposition to President Barack Obama and an unceasing devotion to small government, free markets and fiscal discipline.

No more.

On the eve of his inauguration, Donald Trump is remaking the party in his image, casting aside decades of Republican orthodoxy for a murky populist agenda that sometimes clashes with core conservative beliefs. Yet his stunning election gives the GOP a formal leader for the first time in nearly a decade. The New York real estate mogul becomes the face of the party, the driver of its policies and its chief enforcer.

Despite their excitement, Republican loyalists across the country concede that major questions remain about their party’s identity in the age of Trump.

The simple answer: The modern-day Republican Party stands for whatever Trump wants it to.

“He’s a sometime-Republican,” American Conservative Union Chairman Matt Schlapp said. “Donald Trump was elected without having to really put all the details out on all these questions. We are going to see in the first six months how this plays out. Does government get bigger or does it get smaller?”

Trump is eyeing a governing agenda that includes big-ticket items that Schlapp and other conservative leaders would fight against under any other circumstances. Yet some see Trump’s agenda as more in line with the concerns of average Americans, which could help the party’s underwhelming public standing and keep them in power.

The president-elect initially promised a massive infrastructure spending bill to update the nation’s roads and bridges, an investment that could dwarf the infrastructure spending Republicans opposed when it appeared in Obama’s 2009 stimulus package. Trump has also vowed to put the federal government in the child care business by allowing parents to offset child care costs with tax breaks. And he has railed against regional trade deals and threatened to impose tariffs on some imports, a sharp break from the free-market approach that has defined Republican policies for decades.

“From a policy perspective, he might be one of the more flexible Republican presidents. He’s just not encumbered with 30 years of Republican ideology,” said veteran Republican operative Barry Bennett, a former Trump adviser.

“If there’s a win involved, he’s interested,” Bennett said.

Republicans in Congress and elsewhere have expressed some hesitation, but most appear to be willing to embrace the incoming president’s priorities — at least at first.

There are indications that Trump may initially avoid issues that would divide his party. That’s according to Trump’s incoming chief of staff, Reince Priebus, who said in a recent radio interview that the new administration will focus in its first nine months on conservative priorities like repealing Obama’s health care law and rewriting tax laws.

In a postelection interview with The New York Times, Trump acknowledged that he didn’t realize during the campaign that New Deal-style proposals to put people to work building infrastructure might conflict with his party’s small-government philosophy.

“That’s not a very Republican thing — I didn’t even know that, frankly,” Trump said.

Trump’s confusion can be forgiven, perhaps, given his inexperience in Republican politics. He was a registered Democrat in New York between August 2001 and September 2009. And once he became a Republican, his political views were shaped from his perch in New York City, where the Republican minority is much more liberal — particularly on social issues — than their counterparts in other parts of the country.

Trump said he was “fine” with same-sex marriage in a postelection interview in November, for example. And while he opposes abortion rights, he supported Planned Parenthood’s non-abortion-related women’s health services throughout his campaign.

It’s unclear how aggressively Trump will fight for his priorities, but there are signs that he’s not expected to have much tolerance for detractors in either party. He has been remarkably thin-skinned, using Twitter to jab critics like former President Bill Clinton, “Saturday Night Live” and a little-known union official from Indiana.

“You cross him at your peril,” said Rick Tyler, a Republican strategist who worked for Texas Sen. Ted Cruz‘s GOP presidential bid.

Tyler said Trump’s leadership style as he prepares to enter the Oval Office sends a clear message: “Unless you move in my way, I’ll make your life, including Republicans, pretty miserable.”

At the same time, the public’s perception of the Republican Party seems to be improving, albeit modestly.

A NBC/Wall Street Journal Poll conducted in December found that 37 percent of Americans have a positive rating of the GOP compared to 36 percent who have an unfavorable view. That’s slightly better than the Democratic Party, which earns positive marks from 34 percent and negative from 42 percent.

Before Trump’s rise, the Republican Party’s message didn’t necessarily resonate with the needs of “everyday Americans,” said veteran Republican strategist Alex Conant.

“The challenge for the party now is to adopt policies that fulfill those needs. And we have a lot of work to do on that front,” Conant said.

The uncertainty leaves longtime Republican loyalists with more questions than answers about the future of their party.

“The party will be what Trump wants it to be,” said Steve Duprey, a Republican national committeeman from New Hampshire.

Republish with permission of The Associated Press.

Donald Trump repeating some behaviors he criticized in Clinton

Donald Trump spent the past two years attacking rival Hillary Clinton as crooked, corrupt, and weak.

But some of those attacks seem to have already slipped into the history books.

From installing Wall Street executives in his Cabinet to avoiding news conferences, the president-elect is adopting some of the same behavior for which he criticized Clinton during their fiery presidential campaign.

Here’s a look at what Trump said then — and what he’s doing now:

___

GOLDMAN SACHS

Then: “I know the guys at Goldman Sachs,” Trump said at a South Carolina rally in February, when he was locked in a fierce primary battle with Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. “They have total, total control over him. Just like they have total control over Hillary Clinton.”

Now: A number of former employees of the Wall Street bank will pay a key role in crafting Trump’s economic policy. He’s tapped Goldman Sachs president Gary Cohn to lead the White House National Economic Council. Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary nominee, spent 17 years working at Goldman Sachs and Steve Bannon, Trump’s chief strategist and senior counselor, started his career as an investment banker at the firm.

Trump is following in a long political tradition, though one he derided on the campaign trail: If Cohn accepts the nomination, he’ll be the third Goldman executive to run the NEC.

___

BIG DONORS

Then: “Crooked Hillary. Look, can you imagine another four years of the Clintons? Seriously. It’s time to move on. And she’s totally controlled by Wall Street and all these people that gave her millions,” Trump said at a May rally in Lynden, Washington.

Now: Trump has stocked his Cabinet with six top donors — far more than any recent White House. “I want people that made a fortune. Because now they’re negotiating with you, OK?” Trump said, in a December 9 speech in Des Moines.

The biggest giver? Linda McMahon, incoming small business administrator, gave $7.5 million to a super PAC backing Trump, more than a third of the money collected by the political action committee.

___

NEWS CONFERENCES

Then: “She doesn’t do news conferences, because she can’t,” Trump said at an August rally in Ashburn, Virginia. “She’s so dishonest she doesn’t want people peppering her with questions.”

Now: Trump opened his last news conference on July 27, saying: “You know, I put myself through your news conferences often, not that it’s fun.”

He hasn’t held one since.

Trump skipped the news conference a president-elect typically gives after winning the White House. Instead, he released a YouTube video of under three minutes. He also recently abruptly canceled plans to hold his first post-election news conference, opting instead to describe his plans for managing his businesses in tweets. “I will hold a press conference in the near future to discuss the business, Cabinet picks and all other topics of interest. Busy times!” he tweeted in mid-December.

___

FAMILY TIES:

Then: “It is impossible to figure out where the Clinton Foundation ends and the State Department begins. It is now abundantly clear that the Clintons set up a business to profit from public office. They sold access and specific actions by and really for I guess the making of large amounts of money,” Trump said at an August rally in Austin.

Now: While Trump has promised to separate himself from his businesses, there is plenty of overlap between his enterprises and his immediate family. His companies will be run by his sons, Donald Jr and Eric. And his daughter, Ivanka, and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, have joined Trump at a number of meetings with world leaders of countries where the family has financial interests.

In a financial disclosure he was required to file during the campaign, Trump listed stakes in about 500 companies in at least 25 countries.

Ivanka, in particular, has been caught making early efforts to leverage her father’s new position into profits. After an interview with the family appeared on “60 Minutes,” her jewelry company, Ivanka Trump Fine Jewelry, blasted out an email promoting the $10,800 gold bangle bracelet that she had worn during the appearance. The company later said they were “proactively discussing new policies and procedures.”

Ivanka is also auctioning off a private coffee meeting with her to benefit her brother’s foundation. The meeting is valued at $50,000, with the current top bid coming in at $25,000.

“United States Secret Service will be Present for the Duration of the Experience,” warns the auction site.

Trump on Saturday said he would dissolve his charitable foundation amid efforts to eliminate any conflicts of interest before he takes office next month.

___

CLINTON INVESTIGATIONS

Then: “If I win, I am going to instruct my attorney general to get a special prosecutor to look into your situation, because there has never been so many lies, so much deception. There has never been anything like it, and we’re going to have a special prosecutor,” Trump said in the October presidential debate, referring to Clinton.

Now: Since winning office, Trump has said he has no intention of pushing for an investigation into Clinton’s use of a private email server as secretary of state or the workings of her family foundation. “It’s just not something that I feel very strongly about,” he told the New York Times.

“She went through a lot. And suffered greatly in many different ways,” he said. “I’m not looking to hurt them.”

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

Senate passes NASA bill too late, but offers statement of Congress priorities

When the U.S. Senate passed a quadrennial NASA Authorization bill Saturday it was too late for it ever to get adopted, since the House of Representatives already had adjourned for the session, but the bipartisan bill with bi-cameral input was intended as a message to the Donald Trump White House about Congress’s priorities for NASA.

The bill made it clear that Congress – at least those who made up the legislature for the now-ended 114th Congress – wants continuity over the next few years for key space agency programs, notably those aimed at getting humans into deep space. That means continued progress on developing the Space Launch System deep-space rocket, the Orion deep-space astronaut capsule, and several other deep-space projects, including a satellite visit to the Jovian moon Europa.

The U.S. Senate unanimously passed the NASA Transition Authorization Act, Senate Bill 3346, on Saturday, which would have authorized $19.6 billion for NASA in 2017. The bill had been sponsored by U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, the Texas Republican who chairs  Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. Florida’s U.S. senators, Democrat Bill Nelson and Republican Marco Rubio, were among eight co-sponsors.

“I am proud to have worked with my colleagues in introducing this bill, and look forward to advancing our nation’s space program in the next Congress,” Rubio stated afterwards.

With this bill, he and the 114th Congress left a priorities list for the 115th and for Trump, who has not spelled out much of his space policy yet.

Among them:

* Continued progress in developing the SLS rocket and Orion, keeping NASA shooting for an unmanned launch of the pair in late 2018, and a crewed launch to go around the moon in 2021. In addition, the bill pushes for a “heavy lift” version of the SLS rocket, which would use addition rocket boosters, essentially from the space shuttle program, to give the rocket the ability to send very big items into deep space.

The bill says Congress wants a strategic plan out of NASA by the end of 2017 explaining how it intends to get humans onto Mars by the 2030s.

* Eventually, the bill states, NASA needs to look at longterm goals  to create a permanent human presence beyond lower-Earth orbit, even a “peaceful settlement of a location in space or another celestial body,” according to a committee report filed by U.S. Sen. John Thune, the South Dakota Republican.

Consequently, the bill had proposed increasing funding 12 percent for NASA’s space exploration directorate, while making trims elsewhere in the space agency’s budget, notably in NASA’s Earth science programs.

Naturally, the Coalition for Deep Space Exploration, a lobbying group that represents many of the interests and corporations involved in developing the SLS, Orion and other deep space programs, expressed strong support.

“There is no clearer signal of the continued Congressional support for NASA’s human exploration and deep space science programs than the Senate’s passage of the NASA Transition Authorization Act,” Mary Lynne Dittmar, the coalition’s executive director, stated in a news release Monday. “This bill is the product of hard work by Senators Thune, Nelson, Cruz and [Michigan’s Democrat Gary] Peters, as well as the full Commerce & Transportation Committee and their staff, and their work to pass this bill before the 114th Congress adjourns shows their commitment to NASA and ensuring continued progress on NASA’s core exploration capabilities.”

* Continued development of the James Webb  Space Telescope, NASA’s planned but over-budget and behind-schedule replacement for the Hubble Space Telescope.

* Continued support of the International Space Station through the year 2024.

* Continued support of NASA’s commercial resupply program, which has SpaceX, Orbital ATK and soon Sierra Nevada Corp. running delivery services to the space station. And continued support of NASA’s commercial crew program, which is to soon have SpaceX and Boeing running a taxi service for astronauts headed to and from the space station.

* Continued support for the 2020 Mars Rover mission, and the Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope, a planned space observatory that would be used to delve into deep physics questions.

* Continued support for NASA to continue transforming Kennedy Space Center and the space agency’s launch center in Virginia into multi-user space ports open to private companies’ launches and landings.

Ron DeSantis, Ted Cruz to introduce Congressional term limits amendment

U.S. Rep, Ron DeSantis and Sen. Ted Cruz collaborated on a Washington Post op-ed Friday with a simple message regarding “draining the swamp.”

The secret: a Constitutional amendment for congressional term limits.

“As soon as the 115th Congress convenes,” the legislators write, “both of us will move to restore accountability among the entrenched Washington establishment by introducing a constitutional amendment to limit the number of terms that a member of Congress can serve to three in the House and two in the Senate.”

“We believe that the rise of political careerism in modern Washington is a drastic departure from what the founders intended of our federal governing bodies. To effectively ‘drain the swamp,’ we believe it is past time to enact term limits for Congress,” Cruz and DeSantis add.

The chase for seniority, a consequence of a lack of term limits, nettles Cruz and DeSantis both.

“With term limits,” the legislators write, “we will have more frequent changes in leadership and within congressional committees, giving reformers a better chance at overcoming the Beltway inertia that resists attempts to reduce the power of Washington.”

The time is now to push this through, Cruz and DeSantis opine.

“With control of a decisive majority of the states, the executive branch, the House of Representatives and the Senate, the Republican Party has the responsibility to respond to the voters’ call to action.”

Donald Trump: ‘Here we go again’ with Hillary Clinton scandal cycle

Donald Trump warned on Thursday that a cloud of investigation would follow Hillary Clinton into the White House, evoking the bitter impeachment battle of the 1990s in a closing campaign argument meant to bring wayward Republicans home. Clinton and her allies, led by President Barack Obama, told voters to get serious about the dangers of Trump.

As polls show Trump closing in on Clinton in key battleground states, her campaign is rushing to shore up support in some long-standing Democratic strongholds. That includes the campaign’s Michigan firewall, a remarkable situation for a candidate who looked to be cruising to an easy win just a week ago.

Clinton’s shrinking lead has given Trump’s campaign a glimmer of hope, one he’s trying to broaden into breakthrough before time runs out. That means courting the moderate Republicans and independents who have been the holdouts of his campaign, voters turned off by his controversies but equally repelled by the possible return of the Clintons.

Trump directed his message at those voters at a rally in Jacksonville, where he zeroed in on questions of Clinton’s trustworthiness and a new FBI review of an aide’s emails.

“Here we go again with the Clintons — you remember the impeachment and the problems.” Trump said. “That’s not what we need in our country, folks. We need someone who is ready to go to work.”

Obama and allies, meanwhile, are seeking to keep the spotlight on Trump, charging that his disparaging comments about women and minorities, and his temperament make him unfit for office. The stakes are higher than a typical election and Americans need to get serious about the choice, Obama told students at Florida International University in Miami.

“This isn’t a joke. This isn’t ‘Survivor.’ This isn’t ‘The Bachelorette.'” Obama said. “This counts.

Obama openly taunted the former reality-TV star, zig-zagging from mockery to dire warnings to boasting about his own record in office. And he repeatedly returned to his new campaign catchphrase capturing his disbelief in the unpredictable race to replace him.

“C’mon, man,” he said, to cheers.

The president’s mission in the final push before Tuesday is to fire up the Democratic base — and bait the Republican into veering off message. Democrats are counting on Trump not to have the discipline or the ground game to capitalize on a late surge.

But the famously unconventional Trump has so far hewed closer to convention, running some upbeat ads, bringing out his wife for a rare campaign appearance and even talking publicly about trying not to get distracted.

“We don’t want to blow it on Nov. 8,” Trump said Thursday at the rally in Jacksonville, his fourth in Florida in two days.

Trump’s path to victory remains narrow. He must win Florida to win the White House, no easy feat. Still, his campaign has been buoyed by tightening polls there and in other key battlegrounds, as well as by signs that African-American turnout for Clinton may be lagging.

Clinton’s weekend schedule underscored the Democrats’ fresh anxiety. She is due to campaign Friday in Detroit, where a large turnout of black voters has long been crucial to success, following up on a last-minute meeting by former President Bill Clinton with black ministers on Wednesday night.

Clinton and Obama, along with their spouses, will campaign together for a final pre-election rally in Philadelphia next Monday evening.

Trump has had far fewer allies carrying his message. But previously reluctant surrogates were out on the trail Thursday. Sen. Ted Cruz, his GOP primary foe, campaigned with vice presidential candidate Mike Pence outside Des Moines, Iowa.

Still, Trump’s onetime bitter rival never mentioned the Republican nominee by name in a 14-minute speech, while lauding Pence and pushing for the re-election of Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley.

Trump’s wife, Melania Trump, made her first appearance on the trail since the Republican convention in July. At a get-out-the-vote rally in the Philadelphia suburbs, the former model tried to counter the Clinton campaign’s pounding attacks on her husband as setting a poor example for children.

She told the group that if she becomes first lady she will focus on combatting online bullying as part of her work.

“Our culture has gotten too mean and too rough, especially to children and teenagers,” she said.

Melania made no reference to her husband’s regular name-calling on social media. On Twitter, Donald Trump has called Clinton “crooked,” ”pathetic,” ”liar,” ”a fraud” and “very dumb.” He’s called Cruz a “true lowlife pol!” and a “complete and total liar.”

Trump’s daughter Ivanka was campaigning in New Hampshire.

Trump isn’t the first Republican to raise warnings of a new cycle of scandal and investigation. Republicans lawmakers have recently threatened to block Clinton’s Supreme Court nominees, investigate her endlessly or even impeach her over her use of private emails as secretary of state.

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi on Thursday hit back, saying any effort to impeach Clinton “would be a brazen attempt to nullify the vote of the American people” and would be a waste of time and taxpayers’ money. Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine said he was “really despaired” by the talk.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

CBS poll shows dead heat between Patrick Murphy, Marco Rubio

The Patrick Murphy campaign had more to cheer about Sunday after a CBS News poll showed the first-term congressman within striking distance of incumbent Republican Sen. Marco Rubio.

The poll showed Rubio with 44 percent support among registered Florida voters compared to 42 percent support for Murphy, with 8 percent undecided and 6 percent saying they would vote for a different candidate.

Last week a poll from Opinion Savvy showed the Murphy, a Democrat, tied with Rubio at 46 percent support, and a Quinnipiac University poll showed Rubio ahead by 2 points.

In addition to the head-to-head, the poll also asked voters who they would choose if they could change their vote in the Republican Primary, and Donald Trump came out on top with 21 percent of the vote, followed by John Kasich with 17 percent.

Rubio, who placed second in the Florida Primary back in the spring, was the third place finisher in the with 15 percent support. Another 12 percent said they would have voted for Jeb Bush and 9 percent picked Ted Cruz, while the remaining 26 percent said they would vote for “someone else.”

The poll also showed Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton with 46 percent support compared to 43 percent for Trump. Libertarian Gary Johnson polled at 3 percent and Green Party nominee Jill Stein took 2 percent.

The CBS News poll was conducted over the internet Oct. 20 and 21 and received 1,042 responses. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.6 percent.

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons