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Senate Democrats Eye Push For Gay Couples’ Protections In Immigration Bill

Senate Democrats Eye Push For Gay Couples' Protections In Immigration Bill

Curtis Tate / MCT

WASHINGTON — The Senate Judiciary Committee as soon as next week could insert new protections for same-sex couples into bipartisan immigration reform legislation quickly making its way through the chamber — injecting another contentious social issue into the already heated immigration debate.

Although the bipartisan “Gang of Eight” senators did not include language allowing Americans in same-sex relationships to sponsor their foreign partner for a green card in the base bill, Democratic lawmakers and aides alike said its inclusion during the committee markup, which begins next week, appears likely.

“I expect that it would be an amendment that could be adopted by the committee. … I hope it will receive a majority vote in the committee,” Judiciary Committee member Sen. Richard Blumenthal said Tuesday.

Although Chairman Patrick Leahy is expected to offer the amendment, at least officially his office insists no final decision has been made.

“The Chairman believes that equality and family unification need to be a part of this legislation but he has not decided his amendment strategy yet,” a Judiciary Committee aide told BuzzFeed. “All amendments must be filed by next Tuesday night (the 7th) at 5 p.m. Then members will decide what to offer in the Committee mark ups.”

But staff for Democrats on the committee said a vote on the amendment, similar to language in the Uniting American Families Act, is likely a foregone conclusion.

“Frankly, the bill getting out of committee without the Uniting American Families language isn’t really a possibility we’ve considered,” said Ian Koski, a spokesman for Sen. Chris Coons, who also serves on the committee. Spokespersons for two other members of the committee, Sens. Al Franken and Sheldon Whitehouse, also voiced support for the provision.

The base immigration reform bill introduced by the Gang of Eight earlier this month did not include such protections, but LGBT advocates said at the time that they were hopeful such a measure would be added to the bill in committee. The Defense of Marriage Act’s prohibition on the federal government recognizing same-sex couples’ marriages mean that requests by such couples for green cards are not granted and have been denied in the past.

The measure to allow same-sex couples to be eligible for green cards has been introduced as the Uniting American Families Act for the past several sessions of Congress, and its absence from the base bill drew only muted criticism from supporters of the measure’s inclusion at the time.

Assuming Leahy does introduce the amendment, it is all but certain to be accepted. “This Judiciary Committee has a strong and consistent record on matters of equality and we expect that this amendment will have equally strong support,” Koski said.

All 10 of the Democratic members on the committee have expressed support for marriage equality and are considered reliable votes in favor of LGBT equality measures.

One Democratic aide, however, said the decision of whether the amendment will be offered and voted upon in committee once deliberations on the bill begin May 9 is up to Leahy.

A possible reason for Democrats’ desire to keep from stating their plans unambiguously is the nature of the delicate coalition attempting to move immigration reform forward.

Sen. Jeff Flake — a Republican member of the Gang of Eight who also is on the Judiciary Committee — put the issue front and center in a statement provided to BuzzFeed. “There’s a reason that this language wasn’t included in the Gang of Eight’s bill — it’s a deal breaker for most Republicans. Finding consensus on immigration legislation is tough enough without opening the bill up to social issues,” Flake said in the statement.

If the provision ends up being added into the bill, Republicans could be given an attempt to remove the provision on the floor, but it almost definitely would fail. At that point, the question would be whether Senate Republicans otherwise inclined to vote for the bill would be willing to give up those political gains in order to eliminate the potential for a gay-rights gain in the immigration reform bill.

Even if included in the Senate bill, the measure likely would not find its way into any House version of immigration reform, which would either lead to a conference committee or a situation similar to that faced by the Violence Against Women Act reauthorization, when House Republicans balked at a more inclusive Senate version in the last session of Congress but relented and passed the Senate version earlier this year.

But Blumenthal dismissed that notion that the same-sex provisions could end up being a deal breaker. “There’s no justification for that result. My hope is that Republicans who may be talking about this provision being a deal breaker will reconsider,” Blumenthal said.

Read more: http://buzzfeed.com/chrisgeidner/senate-democrats-eye-push-for-gay-couples-protections-in-imm

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Joint Chiefs Chairman Says Military Force Might Not Work In Syria

Joint Chiefs Chairman Says Military Force Might Not Work In Syria

Gen. Martin Dempsey speaking to troops in Tokyo. Yuya Shino / Reuters

WASHINGTON — The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said on Tuesday that the military was prepared to take action in Syria after intelligence showed that the Assad regime may have used chemical weapons, but that he isn’t convinced military intervention would produce the desired outcome.

“Whether the military effect would produce the kind of outcome that not just members of Congress but all of us would desire — which is an end to the violence, some kind of political reconciliation among the parties and a stable Syria — that’s the reason I’ve been cautious, is the right word, about the application of the military instrument of power, because it’s not clear to me that it would produce that outcome,” Dempsey said at a lunch with reporters.

“That said, options are ready,” Dempsey said. “If either it becomes clear to me, or I’m ordered to do, so we will act.”

Dempsey, who just returned from a 10-day trip abroad to Asia, declined to specifically address what President Obama said on Tuesday about whether or not the United States will intervene in Syria; “I won’t go into detail about what those options might be,” for possible intervention, Obama said at a press conference. But Dempsey said that the military’s posture on the issue has not changed.

“Nothing I’ve heard in the last week or so has changed anything about the actions we’re taking in the military,” Dempsey said. “We’ve been planning and we’ve been developing options. We’re looking to determine whether these options remain valid as the conditions change.”

Dempsey warned that the Syrian situation isn’t quite analogous to Libya just before the fall of Moammar Qaddafi, because of the Syrian army’s superior air force.

“The air defense picture in Libya was dramatically different than it is in Syria,” Dempsey said. “In Syria there are five times more air defense systems, some of which are high end air defense systems. The US military has the capability to defeat that system, but it would be a greater challenge, take longer, and require more resources.”

Dempsey sounded cautious about implementing the no-fly zone for which some members of Congress such as John McCain have argued, saying that there were several disadvantages to doing so.

“To be effective, a no-fly zone would have to have several elements,” Dempsey said. “We would have to knock down some of the integrated air defense system of an adversary.”

“They could in fact take exception to the fact that we were enaciting a no-fly zone and then act outside of their borders,” he said.

“We’re kind of the victims of our own success,” he said. “We’ve made the very difficult look very manageable for a very long time.”

Dempsey said he didn’t recall when the initial intelligence about chemical weapons being possibly used by the Assad regime became available, and couldn’t specify what the physiological samples were composed of. Like Obama, he said that the chain of custody on the weapons hadn’t yet been established.

He didn’t say whether the “red line” in Syria been crossed.

“I don’t set red lines,” Dempsey said. But, “I’m a member of the National Security Council so I do have the opportunity to express my personal judgments as these issues evolve.”

Read more: http://buzzfeed.com/rosiegray/joint-chiefs-chairman-says-military-force-might-not-work-in

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The Most Heartwarming Moment In U.S.–Russia Relations Ever

The Most Heartwarming Moment In U.S.–Russia Relations Ever

1. These days, the Obama administration is experiencing some of the coldest relations with Russia in decades.

AP

But it wasn’t always this way.

2. In 1995, Russia’s first president, Boris Yeltsin visited New York to give a speech at the United Nations.

3. While in NYC, Yeltsin met with President Clinton and the two really hit it off. Media at the time predicted the meeting would be a disaster.

4. At a press conference after the meeting, Yeltsin, speaking directly to the press, mentioned the doom and gloom predictions.

This got Clinton chuckling.

5. He said to the journalists: “What you were writing was that today’s meeting with President Bill Clinton was going to be a disaster.”

6. “Well, now for the first time, I can tell you that you’re a disaster. “

7. Yeltsin calling the press a “disaster” got Clinton LOLing.

8. Clinton asked the press to attribute the quote correctly.

9. Then laughed so much that he cried.

10. And Yeltsin started cracking up when Clinton gave him a bro-hug.

11. And then they both started crying.

12. And this is how they left the stage:

13. And everyone left the press conference happy about the U.S.A. and Russia, except this guard.

14. If you have one miunute, you should watch this video to feel better about the world:

15. And Obama says:

AP

Read more: http://buzzfeed.com/bennyjohnson/the-most-heartwarming-moment-in-us-russian-relations-ever

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The Last Two Cases Of Rand Paul Plagiarism That We Are Going To Post

The Last Two Cases Of Rand Paul Plagiarism That We Are Going To Post

Mark Wilson / Getty Images

Another section of Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul’s 2012 book Government Bullies appears to be plagiarized from an article by a think tank scholar, as well as a section of a speech copied from a conservative chain email.

As BuzzFeed previously reported, parts of the book were plagiarized from a variety of sources, including the Heritage Foundation, Cato Institute and a Forbes article.

As was the case with other instances, Paul includes a link to the work in his book’s footnotes, but does not note that the language itself was taken from the source.

Here’s Cato scholar Timothy Sandefur of the Pacific Legal Foundation in Regulation Magazine in an article on wetlands.

Congress enacts broadly worded statutes threatening devastating penalties for vaguely worded violations—and leaves administrative officials the discretion to fill in the details.

And here’s how Paul wrote it:

Congress enacts broadly worded statutes threatening devastating penalties for vaguely worded violations— and leaves administrative officials to then muddy the law through drawn-out litigation with the discretion to fill in the details.

Here’s how a line appeared in a conservative chain email dating back to 2003 about a billion dollars:

A billion seconds ago it was 1959. A billion minutes ago Jesus was alive. A billion hours ago our ancestors were living in the Stone Age. A billion days ago no-one walked on the earth on two feet. A billion dollars ago was only 8 hours and 20 minutes.

Here’s how Paul delivered it in floor remarks on Social Security:

A billion seconds, ago I was in high school. A billion minutes ago, Jesus was alive. A billion hours ago, we were in the Stone Age. But a billion dollars ago at the rate the government spends it, was only a few minutes ago.

The book’s publisher, Center Street, said Tuesday it will update future printings to include attributions to the Heritage Foundation and Cato Institute.

“We are informed that the material used from the Heritage Foundation and the Cato Institute was used with permission, which was indicated in the source notes at the end of the book,” said Rolf Zettersten, the senior vice president and publisher of Center Street. “To avoid any future misunderstanding, future printings will include the attribution in the narrative.”

The Kentucky senator’s office said this week they will implement a new “approval process” to ensure proper citation in the future.

Read more: http://buzzfeed.com/andrewkaczynski/the-last-two-cases-of-rand-paul-plagiarism-that-we-are-going

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8 Firsts Of The New Congress

8 Firsts Of The New Congress

1. First Black Senator From The South Since the Reconstruction

Tim Scott, Republican from South Carolina

2. First Openly Gay Senator

Tammy Baldwin, Democrat from Wisconsin

3. First Buddhist Senator

Mazie Hirono, Democrat from Hawaii

4. First Hindu Member of Congress

Tulsi Gabbard, Democrat from Hawaii

5. First All Female Delegation – New Hampshire

Congresswoman Shea-Porter and Ann Kuster both Democrats. Republican Senator Kelly Ayotte and Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen.

6. First Openly Bi-Sexual Member of Congress

Kyrsten Sinema, Democrat from Arizona

7. First Female Combat Veterans Elected to Congress

Tammy Duckworth, Democrat from Illinois; Tulsi Gabbard, Democrat from Hawaii

8. First Senate With 20 Female Senators

Read more: http://buzzfeed.com/andrewkaczynski/8-firsts-of-the-new-congress

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House Republicans Face Decision On Fighting Gay Veterans’ Spousal Benefits

House Republicans Face Decision On Fighting Gay Veterans' Spousal Benefits

J. Scott Applewhite / AP

WASHINGTON — The House Republican leadership faces a Thursday deadline to decide if it will continue to defend laws that limit veterans benefits to opposite-sex couples in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling striking down a similar provision in the Defense of Marriage Act.

“We’re reviewing the impact of the Supreme Court’s decision, and don’t have any announcement to make at this time,” House Speaker John Boehner’s spokesman, Michael Steel, told BuzzFeed on Wednesday when asked if the defense of the veterans’ statutes would continue.

The day after the Supreme Court ruled in Edie Windsor’s challenge to Section 3 of DOMA that the federal definition of marriage that excluded gay couples in DOMA is unconstitutional, Judge Richard Stearns asked the parties in another lawsuit, filed in federal court in Massachusetts and addressing the rights of service members and veterans and their spouses, to give “any reasons why judgment should not enter for plaintiffs in this case.”

The plaintiffs in the Massachusetts case, filed by Servicemembers Legal Defense Network and Chadbourne & Park, argued in a Wednesday filing in the case that the decision in Windsor’s case controls the outcome in their case and that Stearns should decide in their favor.

In addition to challenging DOMA, the plaintiffs — led by Maj. Shannon McLaughlin, a judge advocate general in Massachusetts Army National Guard, and her wife, Casey — challenge two statutes in Title 38 of the U.S. Code regarding veterans’ benefits that define “spouse” as “a person of the opposite sex.”

As with Section 3 of DOMA, which Attorney General Eric Holder announced in a letter to House Speaker John Boehner in February 2011 that the government would no longer be defending in court challenges because the administration had decided the statute is unconstitutional, Holder informed Boehner in February 2012 that the Justice Department would be not be defending the challenged provisions in Title 38.

“The language of the Title 38 provisions is identical in material respects to the language of Section 3 of DOMA: Those provisions, like Section 3, define the term ‘spouse’ (or ‘surviving spouse’) as ‘a person of the opposite sex,’” Holder wrote in the Feb. 17, 2012, letter.

In the Wednesday filing in the Massachusetts case, the plaintiffs argue that Windsor “is plainly dispositive,” noting that “the same logic that required DOMA to be invalidated applies with equal force to the definitional provisions for the term ‘spouse’ and phrase ‘surviving spouse,’ as used in [Title 38].”

Since the February 2011 letter, the House Republican leadership, through its control of the House Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group, defended Section 3 of DOMA. It continued with that defense as to the veterans’ provisions, in the Massachusetts case and in a similar case brought in federal court in California by the Southern Poverty Law Center on behalf of Tracey and Maggie Cooper-Harris.

Stearns’ request in the Massachusetts case contained a 21-day deadline, which is Thursday. Neither the Justice Department nor BLAG have yet responded to his request.

Update – 1:25 p.m., EST: A spokesman for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, one of the two Democrats on BLAG, asked Boehner to stop the defense in a statement to BuzzFeed.

“Now that the Supreme Court has spoken, it’s time for Speaker Boehner to stop spending scarce taxpayer dollars defending discrimination. The Court was clear: The federal government must respect all marriages equally and fully. Rather than trying to delay justice for particular married gay and lesbian couples and their families, House Republicans should be working with their Democratic colleagues in Congress and the Administration to bring federal government into compliance with Court’s ruling as quickly as possible,” Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill said in a statement.

Read The Plaintiffs’ Wednesday Filing:

View this embed ›

Read more: http://buzzfeed.com/chrisgeidner/house-republicans-face-decision-on-fighting-gay-veterans-spo

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The Time Donald Rumsfeld Was “Delighted” With Al-Jazeera

The Time Donald Rumsfeld Was "Delighted" With Al-Jazeera

After calling Al-Jazeera’s coverage of the Iraq War “vicious, inaccurate and inexcusable” in 2004, Rumsfeld agreed to be interviewed by Sir David Frost in 2011 and was happy to praise the network for its coverage during the so-called “Arab Spring.”

Rumsfeld: “[Al-Jazeera] can be an important means of communication in the world … I am delighted you are doing what you are doing.”

Read more: http://buzzfeed.com/dorsey/the-time-donald-rumsfeld-was-delighted-with-al-jazeera