All posts by MPolitics

‘All Options on the Table’ for US Congress to Address Rohingya Muslim Crisis

The US Congress is considering a range of options to pressure Myanmar, also known as Burma, to stop the deadly attacks that have forced hundreds of thousands of ethnic Rohingya Muslims to flee their homes. Lawmakers are considering a stand-alone sanctions bill, but activists lobbying for the Rohingyas say a White House Executive Order could have the most immediate impact. VOA’s Katherine Gypson has more from Capitol Hill.

$1*/ mo hosting! Get going with us!

Senate Republicans Seek Unity after Flake, Corker Announce Retirements

At a time when Republican unity is more critical than ever to salvage President Donald Trump’s legislative agenda, the party is splintering on the issue of Trump’s governance and his fitness for office. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Senate Republicans are attempting to regroup after two members announced their retirement while making blistering critiques of the president. Even so, many fellow Republicans are standing with Trump.

$1*/ mo hosting! Get going with us!

Tea Party Groups Settle Lawsuits Over IRS Mistreatment

The Trump administration has settled lawsuits with tea party groups that received extra, often burdensome scrutiny when applying for tax-exempt status, ending another chapter in a political scandal that dogged the Obama administration and remains a source of outrage for Republicans.

The Internal Revenue Service is apologizing to the groups as part of the proposed settlement agreements outlined in court filings Wednesday. The groups and the Justice Department are asking a judge to declare it illegal for the tax agency to discriminate based on political views, according to the agreements, which still must be approved by a judge.

Republicans erupted in 2013 after the IRS apologized for submitting conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status to intensive scrutiny, in part by zeroing in on groups with words like “Tea Party” or “Patriot” in their names. Many had their applications delayed for months and years. Some were asked improper questions about their donors and even their religious practices, an inspector general’s report found.

Hundreds of organizations joined lawsuits, alleging their constitutional rights were violated.

Much of the agency’s leadership, including top official Lois Lerner, resigned or retired over the scandal. One of the proposed settlement agreements calls senior management “delinquent” in providing control and direction over the process. And it faults Lerner for failing to tell upper-level management of the long delays in processing applications from tea party and other conservative groups.

Still, the Obama Justice Department announced in 2015 that no one at the IRS would be prosecuted in the scandal, saying investigators had found mismanagement but no evidence that it had targeted a political group based on its viewpoints or obstructed justice.

Republicans had hoped the Justice Department under Attorney General Jeff Sessions would reopen its case against Lerner. But officials told members of Congress last month they would not charge Lerner, saying “reopening the criminal investigation would not be appropriate based on the available evidence.”

$1*/ mo hosting! Get going with us!

More US Women Run for Office as Resources Are Found

When Jo Ann Davidson ran for the Reynoldsburg, Ohio, city council, she picked up a book that explained everything a candidate needed to know about running for office.  It had just three pages tailored for females.

“There really was nothing out there at the time,” said Davidson, “to help a woman candidate.”

Davidson lost that first race in 1965, but she returned strong. And won. And continued winning. She held that seat for 10 years until she was elected and re-elected to serve a total of 20 years as a state legislator. Her legislative peers elected her as the first female Speaker of the Ohio General Assembly — her enormous portrait graces the walls of the Ohio House Chamber and a second one is in the Ladies’ gallery. Davidson also served as co-chair of the Republican National Committee.  

Now, she holds an eight-month program to encourage and train Republican women about how to run for office.

‘I can do this’

With a strict application process and a cap of 25 students, the waiting list for The Jo Ann Davidson Leadership Institute is unending. Davidson says women sometimes lack confidence and knowledge of the political system. Her goal is for them to finish the training, fearlessly stating, “I can do this.”

Davison’s training is one of only a few geared toward Republican women. Dozens of training groups are aimed at women who are Democrats, non-partisan, or cater to specific gender, age or ethnic demographics. 

Gail Dixon is a founding member of Oasis, a Florida organization dedicated to empowering women. The three-day non-partisan conference, titled “Women Can Run,” is held in partnership through the Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP) at Rutgers University. While women are a slim majority of the U.S. population, CAWP figures show women hold just 19.6 percent of the seats in the U.S. Congress and 24 percent of statewide offices.

Just ask them

“I think that the world changes in the halls of power,” said Gail Dixon, a founding member of Oasis. Dixon says those numbers are low because of how males are socialized to be leaders, making a steeper “trajectory for women in perceiving themselves to be to be entitled to a seat at the table.”

Samantha Politano, the youngest woman at the conference at age 18, says her fellow coeds at Florida State University have grown up believing they should maintain traditional female roles, like nursing. But she’s pleased to see more women running to prove, “We can take on masculine traits without fear of being less of a woman.” Politano says someday she may run for president of the United States.

The trainers who spoke with VOA said one basic motivation would encourage more women to run. They simply need to be asked. For Suzanne Van Wyk, that took several times. She’s now running her first campaign. “My husband has suggested, prodded and encouraged me to run for probably the last seven years.”  

2016 prompts female Democrats to run

For some women, the inspiration was Hillary Clinton, the first woman to be nominated for president by a major political party. 

“For me, it was definitely the last straw,” said Becky Anderson Wilkins, who’s running for Illinois’ 6th district. She’s running against Republican Representative Peter Roskam, who’s held that position since 2007. 

But what sets that Illinois race apart are the numbers. 

Anderson Wilkins is one of six women running against Roskam. They first have to win the Democratic Party primary in which one of the six — or one of the four male candidates — will advance to the general election.

Wilkins calls it “a slew” of women and that “it shows that we really care that we have to make a change.”

‘I’m going to run for this!’

The numbers of women entering politics are increasing, slowly, yet not as quickly as some had hoped.  But if you ask Jo Ann Davidson, with her more than 50 years in politics, how females have changed she sounds optimistic. 

“Younger women are getting better at stepping up,” the sprightly 90-year-old says with a smile,” and saying ‘I’m going to run for this!”

Katherine Gypson contributed to this report

$1*/ mo hosting! Get going with us!

New US Study: Compromise Health Law Changes Would Have Little Effect

A bipartisan measure to stabilize the U.S. health insurance markets would save the government money, but do little to cut the cost of premiums for consumers or substantially change the number of people who have insurance to help pay their medical bills, a new independent study concluded Wednesday.

With Republican efforts stalled in Congress to dismantle national health policies championed by former President Barack Obama, two senators, Republican Lamar Alexander and Democrat Patty Murray, reached an accord to keep markets for individual insurance buyers from collapsing.

Good news, bad news

In the new analysis, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) said the compromise crafted by Alexander and Murray would cut the government’s deficit by $3.8 billion over the next decade, but “would not substantially change the number of people with health insurance coverage.” The CBO earlier said the Republican replacement plans would have cut 20 million or more people from insurance rolls.

While there is bipartisan support for the Alexander-Murray compromise in the Senate, Republican leaders who control the congressional legislative agenda have yet to commit that there will be a vote on it. Republicans have tried dozens of times over the past seven years, all unsuccessfully, to repeal the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare. Their latest attempts to undermine the law failed in several key votes earlier this year.

However, key legislative leaders say the Alexander-Murray health care changes could be added to other measures that lawmakers will be debating as current government funding expires in early December.

Limited support

President Donald Trump has voiced some support for the Alexander-Murray pact, but said he wants other changes to curb payments to insurance companies as compensation for their providing lower-cost policies to poorer Americans.

About 20 million people who previously had no health insurance have gained coverage under Obamacare, but Republicans have long viewed the law as government overreach, chiefly because it requires virtually all Americans to buy insurance or pay a fine if they do not.

Most American workers get their health insurance coverage through their employers, while the government pays for much of the coverage for older and poorer people.

Individuals who buy their own insurance are most affected by the debate over the fate of Obamacare.

$1*/ mo hosting! Get going with us!

Trump OKs Test Program to Expand Domestic Drone Flights

Americans could see a lot more drones flying around their communities as the result of a Trump administration test program to increase government and commercial use of the unmanned aircraft.

President Donald Trump gave the go-ahead Wednesday, signing a directive intended to increase the number and complexity of drone flights.

The presidential memo would allow exemptions from current safety rules so communities could move ahead with testing of drone operations.

States, communities and tribes selected to participate would devise their own trial programs in partnership with government and industry drone users. The administration anticipates approving at least five applications, but there is no limit on the number of communities that can join.

The Federal Aviation Administration would review each program. The agency would grant waivers, if necessary, to rules that now restrict drone operations. Examples include prohibitions on flights over people, nighttime flights and flights beyond the line of sight of the drone operator.

 

Among the things that could be tested are package deliveries; the reliability and security of data links between pilot and aircraft; and technology to prevent collisions between drones and other aircraft and to detect and counter drones flying in restricted areas.

 

Drone-makers and businesses that want to fly drones have pushed for looser restrictions. Trump discussed the issue with industry leaders at a White House meeting in June.

In the past two years, the FAA has registered over 1 million drones. The majority of them belong to hobbyists. There are now more registered drones than registered manned aircraft in the U.S.

Safety restrictions on drone flights have limited drone use, and U.S. technology companies seeking to test and deploy commercial drones have often done so overseas. For example, Google’s Project Wing is testing drones in Australia, and Amazon is testing drone deliveries in the United Kingdom.

“In order to maintain American leadership in this emerging industry here at home, our country needs a regulatory framework that encourages innovation while ensuring airspace safety,” Michael Kratsios of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy told reporters in a conference call.

The trial program will collect data on drone operations that will aid the government’s effort to develop a separate air traffic control system for low-flying unmanned aircraft, he said.

The test zones are expected to start going into place in about a year. The program would continue for three years after that.

Safety concerns over drones have risen recently after the collision of a civilian drone and an Army helicopter over Staten Island, New York, and the first verified collision in North America between a drone and a commercial aircraft, in Quebec City, Canada.

The test program doesn’t address complaints by local governments that low-flying drones present safety, privacy and nuisance risks. The FAA says it has the sole authority to regulate the national airspace, but some communities have passed their own restrictions.

Doug Johnson, vice president of technology policy at the Consumer Technology Association, said the test program recognizes that “the federal government cannot manage policymaking and enforcement by itself” and must work with local governments.

“Public-private partnerships like those that would be created by the program are critical to realizing the economic benefits of drones,” he said.

The association, whose members include drone-makers, has estimated 3.4 million drones valued will be sold in the U.S. this year, 40 percent more than last year. Revenue from those sales is estimated at about $1.1 billion.

 

$1*/ mo hosting! Get going with us!

Trainings at Full Capacity for Potential Female Candidates

There are 105 women in the US Congress. Out of a total of 535 members. That’s the highest number in history. Yet, the percentage is well below the number of women who live in the US. The Center for American Women and Politics lists 400 women who are running for national office next year. They, along with many other groups, are urging women to enter politics with training sessions with names like “Ready to Run,” “Elect Her” and “Teach a Girl to Lead.” VOA’s Carolyn Presutti reports

$1*/ mo hosting! Get going with us!

AP Source: Clinton Camp Helped Fund Trump Dossier Research

Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and the Democratic National Committee helped fund a political research firm that produced a dossier of allegations about President Donald Trump’s ties to Russia.

That’s according to a person familiar with the situation who spoke Tuesday evening to The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss confidential client matters.

The person says the arrangement, first reported by The Washington Post, was coordinated by a lawyer for the campaign and the DNC and his law firm. That lawyer, Marc Elias, did not immediately return an email seeking comment Tuesday.

The person says the political research firm, Fusion GPS, had approached Elias and his law firm, Perkins Coie, about doing continued research into Trump’s international business connections.

Representatives for Fusion GPS declined to comment.

$1*/ mo hosting! Get going with us!