Democratic Senators Whine That Pro-Hunting/Fishing Bill Isn’t Full Of Gun Control Language

A handful of Senate Democrats on Monday voted against a sportsmen’s bill that is intended to preserve Federal lands for hunting and fishing because the legislation didn’t include gun control language. Despite the objections, the bill moved forward on a vote of 82-12.

Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, both of Connecticut, vocally opposed the bill and voted against cloture on the motion because the sportsmen legislation didn’t include language calling for tighter gun control in the U.S.

“I won’t be voting for cloture today because we are long overdue to make a statement in the United States Senate about the tens of thousands of deaths happening due to guns all across the country,” Murphy said. “Everyone has a role to play in trying to stem this epidemic of violence.”

Blumenthal, who told reporters he plans to amend the legislation to include gun control measures, also weighed in, saying, “I can’t vote for a measure that makes owning or possessing or using guns more readily or easily usable when we have failed to act and we have failed to act on commonsense, sensible measures that will stop gun violence.”

The two were joined by fellow Democratic Senators Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), Barbara Boxer (Calif.), Bob Menendez (N.J.), Cory Booker (N.J.), Jack Reed (R.I.), Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), Ed Markey (Mass.), Mazie Hirono (Hawaii) and Ben Cardin (Md.) in opposition.

The bill is a bipartisan piece of legislation sponsored by North Carolina Senator Kay Hagan and Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. The pro-sportsman language in the legislation was seen as many red-State Democrats facing tough reelections as a way to curry favor with conservatives voters.

Sunday News Show Roundup

Guests on Sunday’s political talk shows focused squarely on the continuing crisis at the border, where thousands of unaccompanied young illegal immigrants are over-crowding holding facilities and being met by protestors fed up with Washington’s inaction.

Republicans have been quick to place the blame for the immigration crisis on President Barack Obama– but on Sunday a Texas Democrat criticized Obama for the influx of immigrants which is taking a heavy toll on his home State.

“Keep in mind, this is not a Mexican problem. It’s a Central American problem,” said Representative Henry Cuellar on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “It’s not the first time we’ve seen a surge and we should have been ready for this surge. The Administration should have been ready … with all due respect to the Administration they’re one step behind. They should have seen this coming a long time ago, they should have seen this a long time ago because we saw those numbers increasing.”

Cueller said that Obama’s pro-immigration rhetoric, combined with a 2008 human trafficking law that increased incentive to send unaccompanied children to the border, are to blame for the current crisis. The Texas Democrat said that funds proposed by the Administration would be helpful in alleviating the problem but that the trafficking law must also be changed because it helps Mexican cartels make up to $5,000 per person shuffled across the border.

Meanwhile on ABC’s “This Week”, Texas’s Republican Governor Rick Perry had harsh words for President Obama.

“In May of 2012 we sent a letter, laid out what was happening with the unaccompanied minors that were showing up at the border, and we told [the Administration], we said, ‘if you do not address this, here is what’s going to happen,’ and we’re seeing that become reality today. This is a failure of diplomacy. It is a failure of leadership,” Perry said.

“When I have written a letter that is dated May of 2012, and I have yet to have a response from this Administration, I will tell you they either are inept or don’t care, and that is my position.”

Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson. Speaking on NBC’s “Meet the Press”, defended the Administration, claiming that Obama’s rhetoric wasn’t to blame for the immigration influx. Rather, Johnson argued, “push factors” like violence and poverty in the nations where most of the illegal immigrants are coming from are at the heart of the crisis.

Representative Paul Labrador (R-Idaho) insisted that Johnson was simply spouting Obama Administration talking points.

“If you look at what he said, he said the number one reason these kids are coming to the United States is violence in these Central American countries. The reality is the violence in these Central American countries has existed for a long time,” Labrador said on “Meet the Press”. “The level of poverty has existed in these Central American countries over a long period of time, but it’s over the last few years you’ve seen an increase in the number of children coming to the United States.”

The lawmaker echoed Cuellar’s assertion that the 2008 trafficking law should be changed.

Democratic Senator Dick Durbin (Ill.) criticized Republicans for placing blame for the immigration issues on the President during an appearance on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

“I am really getting fed up with some of the critics of this administration, particularly from House Republicans. They had the opportunity for one solid year to call the immigration reform bill and yet they refuse to, and now they’re arguing we need more enforcement at the borders, a lot of other things. When are they going to accept their responsibility to govern, to call this bipartisan bill for consideration?”

This week, President Obama is scheduled to travel to Texas to attend a Democratic fundraiser—but, despite repeated requests from Governor Perry, Obama isn’t scheduled to visit the border.

Are The Feds Hiding A Massive Immigration-Related Public Health Epidemic?

A lawmaker was denied entry to a Federal immigration facility in Oklahoma where more than 1,000 illegal immigrant children are being housed. Doctors and nurses working in Texas were threatened with arrest if they talk about possible public health threats related to the immigration crisis. Now, many Americans are beginning to wonder what the Federal government is trying to hide.

Representative Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.) attempted to visit the immigration detention center at Fort Sill in his home State Tuesday only to be given the runaround by Department of Health and Human Services officials. Fort Sill is one of three facilities in the U.S. currently housing the unaccompanied alien children.

“There is no excuse for denying a Federal Representative from Oklahoma access to a federal facility in Oklahoma where unaccompanied children are being held,” Bridenstine said in a statement about the incident. “Any Member of Congress should have the legal authority to visit a federal youth detention facility without waiting three weeks.”

According to the lawmaker, an HHS official in charge of the facility informed him that if he wanted to visit the facility he’d have to make an appointment for July 21.

“After my visit today with the base commander, I approached the barracks where the children are housed,” Bridenstine said. “A new fence has been erected by HHS, completely surrounding the barracks and covered with material to totally obscure the view. Every gate is chained closed.

“I approached a security guard and asked to speak with the manager of the facility. The guard called his supervisor who said no visitors were allowed. I asked if they were aware that I am a Member of Congress. Eventually the manager came out and said that I would have to go through HHS legislative affairs…”

The HHS officials directed Bridenstine to get in touch with Deputy Director of the Office of Public Affairs Ken Wolfe, who the lawmaker was told would only communicate with him via email.

“What are they trying to hide? Do they not want the children to speak with Members of Congress? As a Navy pilot, I have been involved in operations countering illicit human trafficking,” the lawmaker said. “I would like to know to whom these children are being released.”

Meanwhile, Fox reported Wednesday that doctors and nurses working with the illegal immigrant children at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, were threatened with arrest if they discussed with the public or media the contagious diseases risks the children pose to American citizens.

The threats were likely made in an effort to conceal a massive public health disaster flowing across the United States’ southern border.

Fox’s Todd Starnes reported:

[A former worker at the Texas facility] said children in the camp had measles, scabies, chicken pox and strep throat as well as mental and emotional issues.

“It was not a good atmosphere in terms of health,” she said. “I would be talking to children and lice would just be climbing down their hair.”

A former nurse at the camp told me she was horrified by what she saw.

“We have so many kids coming in that there was no way to control all of the sickness — all this stuff coming into the country,” she said. “We were very concerned at one point about strep going around the base.”

Both the counselor and the nurse said their superiors tried to cover up the extent of the illnesses.

“When they found out the kids had scabies, the charge nurse was adamant — ‘Don’t mention that. Don’t say scabies,’” the nurse recounted. “But everybody knew they had scabies. Some of the workers were very concerned about touching things and picking things up. They asked if they should be concerned, but they were told don’t worry about it.”

The nurse said the lice issue was epidemic — but everything was kept “hush-hush.”

“You could see the bugs crawling through their hair,” she said. “After we would rinse out their hair, the sink would be loaded with black bugs.”

Last week, Border Patrol officials announced that at least two illegal alien children with known cases of Swine Flu had been apprehended.

Via Texas-based Action 4 News:

Vice President of the National Border Patrol Council #3307 Chris Cabrera confirmed the cases late Saturday morning.

Cabera told Action 4 News that one case was confirmed at the Brownsville Border Patrol Station and another at the Fort Brown Border Patrol station, also located in Brownsville.

Cabera said both cases involve juveniles and both were confirmed on Friday by medical personnel located at both facilities.

He added that an estimated 120 people are being isolated at the two stations because they were exposed to the juveniles.

As the Federal government continues with a policy of providing immigrant “detainees” vouchers for travel into the Nation’s interior with instructions to appear before an immigration judge at a later date, the health crisis likely won’t remain relegated to areas close to the border.

Democrats Urge Obama To Forget Balance Of Power On Immigration

Immigration advocates are urging President Barack Obama to go all out in using the power of the executive to change the Nation’s immigration policy.

The President vowed Monday from the Rose Garden to act unilaterally to change the how the U.S. handles illegal immigrants, but the actions Obama hinted at fall short of what some liberal reform advocates would like to see.

“The administration has unquestionable legal authority to provide all those who would qualify for citizenship under the bipartisan Senate Bill affirmative status with work authorization while making immigration enforcement more just,” Richard Trumka, head of the AFL-CIO said Tuesday in a statement. “The administration should act boldly and without further delay.”

Democratic members of the House of Representatives are also calling on Obama to go big. Representative Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), the minority whip, is urging the President to use “every administrative tool at his disposal to address our immigration challenge.”

The left’s executive-order immigration reform plan includes a number of policy proposals submitted to the Homeland Security Department in April by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, things like: a broad expansion of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, allowing DACA illegals to enlist in the military and their family members to remain in the country, and disallowing local governments to enforce immigration laws.

The GOP, meanwhile, is imploring the President to slow the flood of young illegal immigrants by ending the DACA policy altogether and publically announcing that new arrivals will not receive legal status.

Representative Darrell Issa (R-Ca.), along with 33 other GOP Congressmen, sent a letter to the President Wednesday.

“As our country faces an unprecedented surge in the arrival of unaccompanied alien children (UACs) at our southwestern border, we call on you to immediately end the failed policies that encourage young individuals to put themselves in peril, leave their home countries, and make a long and dangerous journey to enter our country illegally,” they wrote.

But earlier in the week, White House spokesman Josh Earnest hinted that the President may instead be ready to act on Democrats suggestions.

“The President was pretty clear that he wants the secretary of Homeland Security and the attorney general to cast a pretty wide net, and consider a wide range of options for doing as much as possible to address the problems,” Earnest told reporters at the White House Tuesday.

Feds Stalling On 3,500 Federal Oil And Gas Drilling Permits

A report from the Interior Department’s inspector general reveals that the Bureau of Land Management is holding back U.S. domestic energy production by stalling on a backlog of at least 3,500 applications to drill oil and gas wells on Federal lands.

“Oil and gas production is a major activity on Federal and Indian lands, with annual royalty revenues averaging $3 billion since fiscal year 2011,” the report explains. “About 92,000 oil and gas wells currently exist on Federal lands, and industry drills over 3,000 new wells annually.”

BLM officials usually shuffle about 5,000 new drilling permits through a multiple-agency bureaucratic approval process each year. Each of the permits, according to the report, takes an average of 7.5 months to go through the process.

Because BLM lacks an efficient system for tracking the progress of the applications, some of the backlogged oil and gas permits are in danger of being delayed indefinitely.

“We found that neither BLM nor the operator can predict when the permit will be approved. Target dates for completion of individual [applications for a permit to drill] are rarely set and enforced, and consequently, the review may continue indefinitely,” the IG report states.

“This adversely affects developing the Nation’s domestic energy resources,” the IG continues. “Specifically, the Federal Government and Indian mineral owners risk losing royalties from delayed oil and gas production. Industry officials informed us that delays cause some wells not to be drilled, resulting in additional lost production and royalties.”

The report offers that permit approval times have improved slightly in recent years but production of coal, oil and natural gas has been falling since President Barack Obama took office in 2009. A report issued last month found that production on Federal lands is down 15 percent under Obama’s watch and a total of 21 percent since 2003.

“The Obama Administration is restricting American energy production wherever and whenever possible and these new numbers from EIA are further proof of that,” Representative Doc Hastings said in a statement about the report. “President Obama has imposed a defacto [sic] drilling moratorium on new offshore drilling, canceled both onshore and offshore lease sales, and imposed layer upon layer of red-tape to make it harder to develop our energy resources.”

A lack of Federal motivation to streamline the drilling permit process is likely a facet of that “defacto [sic] drilling moratorium.” While the BLM permit process takes an average of 228 days, GOP lawmakers have noted that most States issue drilling permits in less than 80 days. In Texas, for instance, it takes only five days for most permits to be approved; and a permit in North Dakota can be completed in 25 days. Those States account for roughly half of the United States’ total domestic oil production.

The IG reports that there is definitely room for improvement at the Federal level.

“Based on many factors such as available staff, natural resource issues unique to each region, and the complexities of the drilling and surface use plans, the length will likely vary among field offices and individual wells within the same office,” the new report says. “Nevertheless, we concluded that BLM has opportunities to improve the efficiency and speed of the Federal and Indian [drilling application approvals].”

Bill Would Halt Aid To Countries Where Most Illegal Immigrants Are Coming From

As President Barack Obama vows to take unilateral action on immigration reform, Congressional Republicans are working on a plan to encourage the governments of countries from which the surge of illegal immigrants are coming to deter people from heading to the southern U.S. border.

The Illegal Entry Accountability Act proposed by Representative Randy Weber (R-Texas) would cut off foreign aid to Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, countries where most of the illegal immigrants flowing into the country are coming from.

“The recent influx of Unaccompanied Alien Children (UAC) has become a humanitarian crisis, and has proven that certain laws are working against the United States of America. Texas, a border state, has repeatedly asked for help from the White House to mobilize our National Guard, and there has been no answer from the President or his Administration,” the lawmaker said in a statement. “Frankly, the Border States have been left hanging to fend for themselves, increasing the health and security risks to our citizens. Thankfully however, under Governor Perry’s leadership, state resources are being used to slow the flow across our borders. Unfortunately, it is still not enough to solve this crisis.”

Weber says his legislation would “hold our southern neighbors accountable” for the conditions forcing the illegal immigrants to leave their home countries.

Meanwhile, the White House said last month that it plans to provide $9.6 million in additional aid to the three countries targeted in Weber’s legislation. The U.S. was already providing foreign aid to the nations, including $40 million for programs in Guatemala, $18.5 million in Honduras and $25 million in El Salvador.

New Lows: Americans Fed Up With All Three Federal Branches

Americans are losing confidence in all three branches of the Federal government. Fewer than one in 10 citizens have faith in Congress, just 29 percent express confidence in the President and only 30 percent feel the Supreme Court is doing a good job.

The numbers, according to the Gallup polling agency, indicate historical lows in American confidence for both Congress and the Supreme Court, along with the lowest Presidential approval since Barack Obama took office.

“While Gallup recently reported a historically low rating of Congress, Americans have always had less confidence in Congress than in the other two branches of government,” the polling agency noted. “The Supreme Court and the presidency have alternated being the most trusted branch of government since 1991, the first year Gallup began asking regularly about all three branches.”

The dismal confidence numbers, despite what Obama supporters believe, in no way carry over from damage done during the George W. Bush Administration. By the end of Bush’s second term, confidence in the Federal government had fallen sharply. But the initial year of the Obama Presidency served as a rebound period.

Gallup reported in June 2009:

Public confidence in the presidency has risen by 25 points over the past year, exceeding the 11-point increase in confidence in the military. The percentage of Americans saying they have a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in the presidency has in fact doubled since June 2008, from 26% to 51%. This is directly correlated with President George W. Bush’s 30% approval rating at this time a year ago, and Barack Obama’s 58% rating in the mid-June survey. Historically, Gallup has found that confidence ratings for the presidency are closely linked with the job approval ratings of the sitting president.

In the years since, Americans have obviously been less approving of government under Obama’s control.

The Supreme Court’s historically low approval rating is likely tied to Americans lacking faith in Obama, as Gallup pointed out that “since 1991, the [Supreme Court and the Presidency] have been within six or seven points of each other in confidence ratings.”

Interestingly, the two highest instances of Americans approval of the Supreme Court since Gallup began tracking confidence in the judicial branch in 1973 occurred in 1985 and 1988 — both during the Administration of President Ronald Reagan. By 1988, Reagan had made four appointments to the court.

As for Congress, Gallup pointed out that “lawmakers are likely resigned to the fact that they are the most distrusted institution of government, but there should be concern that now fewer than one in 10 Americans have confidence in their legislative body.”

Senators Decry Obama Administration’s Phony Surveillance Transparency Report

A surveillance report released by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) last week came under heavy fire Monday from two Senators who said the disclosures lack the transparency promised by President Barack Obama last year after Americans learned of the government’s questionable surveillance tactics.

The report revealed that tens of thousands of people were targeted last year by U.S. surveillance orders. The government acknowledged spying on the communications of up to 90,000 foreign targets, including individuals and organizations.

The report also detailed the FBI issuance of an additional 19,000 national security letters containing about 39,000 warrantless requests for communications information in 2013.

Senators Al Franken (D-Minn.) and Dean Heller (R-Nev.) say, however, that what the ODNI left out of the report is more important than what was included.

“The administration’s report is a far cry from the kind of transparency that the American people demand and deserve,” Franken declared in a statement Monday.

The legislative duo has noted that the National Security Agency used 423 “selectors” to sift through telecommunications databases; 248 of those selectors pertained to targets in the U.S.

The National Security Agency scours the telecommunications databases under the authority of Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, but the ODNI report failed to include any information about how the Nation’s intelligence agencies interpret that authority with regard to U.S. citizens.

“I recognize that this report is being offered in good faith. But it still leaves Americans in the dark,” Franken said.

“It doesn’t tell the American people enough about what information is being gathered about them and how it’s being used.”

The report also provided little information about the relationship between American intelligence agencies and private telecommunications firms, many of which are legally bound to remain mum about the information they provide the government.

“The American people deserve greater transparency and American companies should be able to disclose more information when it comes to privacy rights and the federal government’s surveillance activities,” Heller said.

The two lawmakers have introduced the “Surveillance Transparency Act” last year in an effort to force disclosure of the very sort of information left out of the ODNI report ordered by Obama. Some provisions of that bill were also incorporated in and later dropped from the USA Freedom Act, which has been largely watered-down throughout the legislative process.

Iraq, U.S. Domestic Energy And Rising Gas Prices

As many Americans hit the road en route to the perfect spot to celebrate the Fourth of July, their patriotic feelings may give way to grumblings about the foreign policy and energy independence failures of the Nation’s leaders in recent decades.

According to AAA, gas prices throughout the U.S. for Fourth of July travel are at an average of about $3.68 per gallon, about 20 cents higher than this time last year.

Gas prices usually fall slightly preceding what has become the Nation’s busiest summer travel holiday. But this year the prices are on the rise as the result of the United States’ failures to create a stable Iraq in the oil-rich Mideast.

The U.S. imports only about 300,000 barrels of oil per day from Iraq. But as radical extremists make their way across the war-torn country and move into regions dominated by oil production, an already thin global oil supply is being stretched to its limits. High demand for petroleum from China and other rapidly developing nations combined with a standstill in production in oil-producing regions such as Libya, Sudan and Nigeria are also factors that make Iraq’s ability to produce petroleum paramount.

Moreover, American petroleum consumers are further forced to pay higher prices at the pump because of U.S. sanctions barring the purchase of petroleum from Iran and Syria.

Currently, extremist Sunni factions in Iraq working under the banner of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) haven’t made major inroads into the country’s Shiite-dominated southern regions, where the glut of Iraq’s oil industry is situated. But ISIS advances in the northern part of the country have shut oil fields and forced companies to evacuate workers from areas that were once considered primed for growth on the heels of the United States’ long-standing occupation.

While gas prices in the U.S. are nearing highs that Americans haven’t seen since about 2008, some watchers have noted that the situation could be much worse if not for the shale boom that has led to increased U.S. oil production.

“The net amount of crude the U.S. has added to global markets has resulted in one of the longest periods of oil price stability in years, and has helped push the broader trend down,” Business Insider’s Rob Wile noted last month.

Republican lawmakers have made moves in recent weeks to seize on the energy stability produced by increased domestic oil and natural gas production by passing legislation to expand drilling offshore and on publicly owned lands.

Representative Doc Hastings (R-Wash.), who sponsored the bill, said the legislation was an effort to force the Barack Obama Administration to remove “roadblocks” to U.S. energy production.

“In order for America to prosper, we need access to reliable and affordable energy,” Hastings, chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, said in a statement. “The best way to create jobs and help address rising prices is to develop the American energy resources we have right here at home.”

Other lawmakers are focused on combating energy price spikes, especially those stemming from the current Iraq crisis, by compelling the oil market regulators at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission to tamp down on Wall Street speculation of commodity prices.

“I am getting tired of big oil companies and Wall Street speculators using Iraq as an excuse to pump up oil and gas prices,” Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said last week.

Obama Vows To Handle Immigration Reform On His Own

President Barack Obama, reportedly giving up on the prospect of Congressional immigration reform, announced Monday that he plans to use executive actions to deal with the tide of illegal immigrants flowing over the U.S.’s southern border.

“If Congress will not do its job, at least we can do ours,” Obama said from the White House Rose Garden.

The President said that unilateral action was necessary, claiming that Republican lawmakers were afraid to stand up to the Tea Party faction of the GOP and address the immigration issue.

“While I will continue to push Republicans to drop excuses and act,” Obama said, “Americans cannot wait forever for them to act.”

“I don’t prefer taking administrative action,” the President also said. “I’ve made that clear multiple times … I only take executive action when we have a serious problem, a serious issue and Congress chooses to do nothing.”

Obama’s remarks came after House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) announced last week that he would not lead Republicans in his legislative chamber into the immigration reform debate. Following the President’s Monday statement, Boehner called into question Obama’s leadership ability.

“In our conversation last week, I told the president what I have been telling him for months: the American people and their elected officials don’t trust him to enforce the law as written,” Boehner said in a statement. “Until that changes it is going to be difficult to make progress on this issue.”

Boehner went on to question the reasoning behind Obama’s decision to act unilaterally on immigration reform, charging that the current border crisis was the direct result of Obama’s policies.

“The president’s own executive orders have led directly to the humanitarian crisis along the southern border, giving false hope to children and their families that if they enter the country illegally they will be allowed to stay,” Boehner said.

“The White House claims it will move to return these children to their families in their home countries yet additional executive action from this president isn’t going to stem the tide of illegal crossings, it’s only going to make them worse.”

Last week, Democratic Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois hinted that the President was planning to address immigration unilaterally, saying Thursday that Obama “will borrow the power that is needed to solve the problems of immigration.”

“I don’t know how much more time he thinks he needs, but I hope that Speaker Boehner will speak up today,” Durbin said. “And if he does not, the president will borrow the power that is needed to solve the problems of immigration and he shouldn’t be sued as a result of it.”