Morning Action: Sending Signals to Syria with Military Force, Another Obama Folly?
SYRIA. Senate leaders are working on a revised resolution authorizing “narrow, limited” U.S. strikes in Syria:
Senate leaders are working on a revised resolution authorizing U.S. strikes in Syria that puts President Barack Obama on a short leash in responding to the alleged use of chemical weapons by Bashar Assad’s forces, sources said Monday.
But whether Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) can find the 60 votes he will need to overcome an expected filibuster of the new Syria proposal is still far from clear.
Aides to Reid and Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) have set aside a proposed Syria resolution submitted by the White House on Saturday night. That draft resolution — developed without congressional input — is seen as far too broad by lawmakers in both parties.
Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), ranking member on the Foreign Relations Committee, is also involved in the discussions over the new resolution, Senate sources said.
Some of the options being considered for the revised Authorization for the Use of Military Force include a 60-day period for Obama to launch “narrow, limited” strikes against Assad’s regime with the potential for a 30-day extension of that deadline.
Language barring the insertion of U.S. ground troops — but crafted to allow special forces operations or the rescue of a downed American flier, for instance — is also being considered, the sources said.
And Obama would be prohibited from making the toppling of Assad’s government the goal of any U.S. military effort in Syria, as some some hawkish lawmakers have supported.
The revisions are designed to win broad bipartisan backing from senators who are on the fence over whether to back a Syria campaign, GOP and Democratic sources said.
The Heritage Foundation recently cautioned that “military force is a blunt and bloody instrument for sending signals” and “those signals may not have the desired consequences.” (emphasis added):
To gain congressional authorization, the President must clearly articulate U.S. national interests in Syria and explain how these interests will be advanced. The President today restated his determination to enforce international norms against the use of chemical weapons in Syria. But there are many norms being violated in Syria on a daily basis: the use of tanks, artillery, SCUD missiles, and warplanes against civilian targets, to name a few.
The President must convince Congress why enforcing his chemical weapons “red line” is so important to advancing U.S. national interests, rather than merely useful for enforcing “international norms”—to which much of the rest of the world appears to have turned a blind eye. Symbolic, feel-good military gambits will accomplish little.
The President also must convince Congress that he has a coherent long-term strategy that will be advanced by military action in Syria. So far, the Administration has vacillated, backed into arming the Syrian opposition, and vainly sought a diplomatic solution working with Russia, which continues to back Assad to the hilt.
OBAMACARE. The Heritage Foundation notes that in just 27 days the Obamacare exchanges are scheduled to open. What will the consequences be if that occurs? They explain that there are still many unanswered questions. Among them:
How much will coverage cost?
Most people probably don’t know yet how much their exchange insurance plans will cost. Senger warns that premiums aren’t the only cost—people could also see co-pays and deductibles go up.
For example, Ohio announced that premiums in their exchange will increase on average by 41 percent compared to the premiums that Ohio companies reported at the end of 2012. In addition to premium projections, the Ohio Department of Insurance also provided a projection for the increase in the total cost of coverage, called the average index rate, which is projected to be a dramatic 83 percent increase.
How safe will your personal information be?
Obamacare “navigators” will be helping people sign up for the exchanges—and they don’t have to go through background checks to get those jobs. Security of the data hub that will house Americans’ tax filings, Social Security reports, and other government data has been delayed, and there have been reports that the Administration is cutting corners on data privacy.
Lawmakers could prevent this convoluted, unpopular, unworkable law from wreaking havoc on the health care system if they would defund Obamacare.
FARM BILL. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is suggesting that the farm bill will be finalized before the end of September:
“There is not going to be another extension. You can’t reward continued failure by taking folks off the hook,” Secretary Vilsack said in an interview with Ohio Ag Net last week. “There are differences and those differences can be worked out. There are many benefits to this new farm bill. There is no reason not to get this done,” he said.
Secretary Vilsack pointed out in the interview a number of implications with continued inaction on the farm bill. One of those looming challenges is an ongoing trade dispute with Brazil.
He said: “Brazil won a case with the World Trade Organization which means that they can retaliate, if they so desire, against American goods and services to the tune of perhaps $850 million a year. That will impact and affect American agriculture and American jobs. The passage of a farm bill that changes the way we support cotton farmers will go a long way to ending Brazil’s ability to retaliate. This is one impact of inaction from Congress in getting the farm bill done.
“A second impact would be a longer term problem of permanent law, 1940s law, coming back into play that would create serious distortion in the market. That will really stall the momentum we’ve seen in agriculture in the last few years,” Secretary Vilsack added.
We’ve explained why crying wolf about Brazil’s potential “retaliation” is no reason to pass an extremely flawed farm bill that is harmful to taxpayers and consumers.
Moreover, why is Vilsack worrying about permanent law? The farm bill being considered by the House and Senate makes permanent law even more permanent. Heritage explained in July:
Every five years or so, Congress passes a new farm bill. The entire purpose of this reauthorization process is for Congress to fix the law if problems exist. The House appears to be doing away with this process for many of the most costly farm program provisions. As a result, bad public policy could be locked in indefinitely.
House leaders have sold this flawed farm-related bill in part by getting rid of existing “permanent law.” So it may surprise many that the bill would just replace this existing permanent law with new permanent law that may even be broader in scope.
KEYSTONE. Bloomberg reports that a decision on Keystone will be delayed yet again, simply because some environmentalists continue to make poorly grounded claims about potential damage to the environment:
A decision on whether to approve the Keystone XL oil pipeline may slip into next year, giving opponents time to marshal efforts against it while offering President Barack Obama a chance to wring concessions from Canada.
The U.S. State Department is reviewing TransCanada Corp. (TRP)’s request to build the $5.3 billion link from Alberta’s oil sands to U.S. refineries in the Gulf Coast. The department said it won’t complete its environmental-impact review of the pipeline until after reviewing and publishing 1.5 million public comments it received, a months-long process that could be completed as soon as this week.
Once the environmental assessment is completed, the department begins a 90-day review of whether Keystone is in the national interest, weighing factors such as foreign relations, national security and economic impact. After that, other agencies have 15 days to appeal, which would send the matter to Obama to adjudicate — potentially pushing a decision into mid-December or January.
“The prospects for the green lighting of Keystone have been diminishing as time goes on,” Anthony Swift, an attorney tracking Keystone for the Natural Resources Defense Councilin Washington, which opposes the project, said in an interview. Delays have “significantly reduced its chances.”
Heritage has explained why Keystone would be good for America and American jobs, something subsidized green energy can’t produce.