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Monday, December 31, 2012

A Word from Rockport





Vitter: Reid-Obama Proposals Don't Cut Deficit, Debt by One Penny

Senator David Vitter Press Release:


Vitter: Reid-Obama Proposals Don't Cut Deficit, Debt by One Penny


(Washington, D.C.) – U.S. Senator David Vitter (R-La.) made the following statement regarding fiscal cliff negotiations.
“There's certainly no Senate deal yet. And the biggest reason is that every Reid-Obama proposal this weekend raises taxes only to usher in MORE spending – they don't cut deficit and debt by one penny,” Vitter said.

Portman, Begich Legislation to Ensure Veterans Receive Proper Burial Passes House of Representatives

Senator Rob Portman Press Release:


December 31, 2012

Portman, Begich Legislation to Ensure Veterans Receive Proper Burial Passes House of Representatives

Bill Now Goes to President's Desk for Signature

Washington, D.C. - The Veterans Missing in America Act passed the U.S. House of Representatives last night as part of the Dignified Burial and Other Veterans' Benefits Improvement Act (S. 3202). This legislation, led by U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Mark Begich (D-AK) in the Senate and Congressmen Pat Tiberi (R-OH-12) and Steve Stivers (R-OH-15) in the House of Representatives, would enable the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to work with veterans groups to help determine whether unidentified or abandoned remains are those of veterans eligible for burial at a National Cemetery. The bill passed the Senate earlier this month and will now head to the President?s desk to be signed into law. "After working closely with Senator Begich and Congressmen Tiberi and Stivers for the past year, I am happy that this bill to show eligible veterans our respect and gratitude by honoring them with a burial in a National Cemetery will become law," Portman said. "Veterans have put country above self to defend our nation, and the least we can do is ensure that those who were willing to risk their lives to protect the freedoms we hold so dear receive a proper burial." "I'm pleased that this bipartisan bill has passed the House. During a time of extreme gridlock, it is heartening to see that both sides have come together to honor our nation's veterans and ensure that every serviceman and woman will receive a proper, dignified burial. Thanks to Sen. Portman and Reps. Tiberi and Stivers for their hard work on this commonsense bill," stated Senator Begich. The Veterans Missing in America Act directs the VA to work with veterans service organizations and other groups, like the Missing in America Project, in assisting entities in possession of unidentified or abandoned remains to determine if the remains are that of a veteran eligible for burial at a National Cemetery. The VA will cover the burial cost if the remains are determined to be that of an eligible veteran who doesn?t have a next of kin. To read more about the Veterans Missing in America Project, click here.

Portman Calls On President Obama To Rescind Executive Order Increasing Federal Pay

Senator Rob Portman Press Release:


Washington, D.C. ? Today, U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio) released the following statement on President Obama?s Executive Order increasing salaries of Members of Congress and White House staff: "At a time when our country is facing record debt and trillion dollar deficits, the last thing Washington should do is reward itself with a pay increase. I am calling on President Obama to withdraw his recent Executive Order raising federal salaries -- including for Members of Congress. Until a long-term deficit reduction agreement is reached, we should not consider increasing the pay for Congress."

Portman: Avoiding Fiscal Cliff With Higher Taxes That Go To More Spending "Irresponsible"

Senator Rob Portman Press Release:


Washington, D.C. ? U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio) today released the following statement on reports that last Senate Democratic offer includes calls for higher spending and leads to no deficit reduction at a time of record national debt: "It is frustrating to see Washington so close to a Fiscal Cliff which is avoidable. "It would be irresponsible, however, to avoid the fiscal cliff with higher taxes that go to higher spending and results in no deficit reduction, as the last Senate Democratic offer reportedly does. I cannot support more spending at a time of record debt and deficits. "I continue to fight for a common sense solution that does three things: first, actually reduces the deficit rather than adding to it, second, keeps middle class taxes from going up and doesn't impose significant new tax burdens on small business job creators, and, third, sets in motion a process to deal with the underlying problems through pro-growth tax reform and reform of the important but unsustainable entitlement programs. "The American people are rightly frustrated that Washington is once again missing an opportunity to not only avoid this immediate Fiscal Cliff, but to finally address the underlying fiscal and economic problems we face as a nation."

Sen. Paul Statement on Fiscal Cliff Negotiation

Senator Rand Paul Press Release:


Sen. Paul Statement on Fiscal Cliff Negotiation

Dec 30, 2012
WASHINGTON, D.C. - This afternoon, following discussions with his Senate colleagues on the current fiscal cliff negotiations, Sen. Rand Paul released the following statement.
"It's impossible to get to any deal on the fiscal cliff when Majority Leader Reid and President Obama refuse to consider meaningful cuts in spending. They are demanding we raise taxes on working families and small businesses - and worse - using these tax increases for more government spending," Sen. Paul said. "Sending more taxpayer dollars to Washington isn't the solution to this situation; cutting wasteful government spending and enabling Americans to keep more of their own money is."

McConnell: ‘We can do this. We must do this.’

Senator Mitch McConnell Press Release:


Press Releases

Dec 31 2012

McConnell: ‘We can do this. We must do this.’

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell made the following remarks on the Senate floor today regarding the status of the fiscal cliff negotiations:
“Yesterday, after days of inaction, I came to the floor and noted we needed to act, but that I needed a dance partner. So I reached out to the Vice President in an effort to get things done.
“I’m happy to report that the effort has been a successful one and as the President just said, we are very close to an agreement.
“We need to protect American families and job creators from this looming tax hike. Everyone agrees that action is necessary. And I can report that we’ve reached an agreement on the all the tax issues.
“We are very, very close.
“As the President just said, the most important piece, the piece that has to be done NOW, is preventing the tax hikes. He said: “for now our most immediate priority is to stop taxes going up for middle class families starting tomorrow.” He suggested that action on the sequester is something we can continue to work on in the coming months.
“So I agree, let’s pass the tax relief portion now. Let’s take what’s been agreed to and get moving. The President wants this, members of Congress want to protect taxpayers, and we can get it done now.
“Let me be clear: We will continue to work on finding smarter ways to cut spending, but let’s not let that hold up protecting Americans from the tax hike that will take place in about 10 hours.
“We can do this. We must do this.
“I want my colleagues to know that we’ll keep everyone updated.”

INHOFE: NEW RUSSIAN LAW ANTI-AMERICANISM THAT HURTS CHILDREN

Senator James Inhofe Press Release:


INHOFE: NEW RUSSIAN LAW ANTI-AMERICANISM THAT HURTS CHILDREN


 
Contacts: Jared Young 202-224-5762
Donelle Harder 202-224-1282

December 31, 2012


WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), co-chair of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption and a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, reacted to last Friday’s news that Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a controversial law that bans Russian children being adopted by U.S. families.   
The previous week, Inhofe and 15 Senate colleagues sent a letter to Putin dated December 21, 2012 encouraging Putin to veto the legislation.  Putin signing the law comes a little over a month after he signed a bilateral adoption agreement between the U.S. and Russia on November 1, 2012.  This latest action reverses that agreement.   
"It is extremely unfortunate and disheartening that the Russian Duma and President Putin would choose to deprive the children, the very children that they are entrusted to care for, the ability to find a safe and caring family that every child deserves,” said Inhofe.  “As  a grandparent of an internationally adopted child, I know that this new law is against the interests of the Russian people, in particular Russian children.  The law continues the disturbing anti-American trend that has been taking place in Russia for the past several years.  It is nothing more than a political play against the United States that ultimately leads to greater hardships and more suffering for Russian children who will now be denied a loving family. I urge my Russian counterparts to undo this law immediately, for the sake of their own kids." 
On December 22, Inhofe appeared on FoxNews’ Huckabee program to discuss his family’s international adoption story.  Watch here. 
Read the December 21 letter here.

###

CORKER TO OBAMA: SHOW US SPECIFICS REGARDING THE $1 TRILLION IN CUTS YOU REFERRED TO ON MEET THE PRESS

Senator Bob Corker Press Release:


WASHINGTON – In a letter today, U.S. Senator Bob Corker, R-Tenn., asked President Barack Obama to lay out specifics regarding the “over $1 trillion in additional spending cuts” he alluded to in his interview with David Gregory of NBC’s Meet the Press which aired this morning.
“In your interview with David Gregory that was broadcast on Meet the Press this morning, you stated that you ‘offered over $1 trillion in additional spending cuts’ in order to reach a major fiscal reform agreement with Congress and avert the fiscal cliff. Unfortunately, you have been silent on the specifics. As you know, Congress must reduce notional concepts to actual legislative text. Members of Congress and the American people cannot judge the merit and long-term fiscal implications of these spending cuts unless you provide concrete detail,” wrote Corker in his letter to President Obama. “As we move forward wrestling with the nation’s fiscal crises, especially the debt ceiling, it would help us to have a concrete plan and legislative language from you.”
On Friday, Corker and Senator Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., proposed their “Dollar-for-Dollar Plan” that would reduce the growth of entitlement spending (Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security) by nearly $1 trillion in order to improve the programs’ solvency. In exchange, Congress would approve the president’s expected request for a $1 trillion increase in the debt ceiling.
Complete text of the letter is attached below and available online here. Senator Corker also appeared on CNN’s State of the Union today where he made a similar challenge to the president. Footage of the interview is available online here.
Dear Mr. President:
In your interview with David Gregory that was broadcast on Meet the Press this morning, you stated that you “offered over $1 trillion in additional spending cuts” in order to reach a major fiscal reform agreement with Congress and avert the fiscal cliff. Unfortunately, you have been silent on the specifics. As you know, Congress must reduce notional concepts to actual legislative text. Members of Congress and the American people cannot judge the merit and long-term fiscal implications of these spending cuts unless you provide concrete detail.
As we move forward wrestling with the nation’s fiscal crises, especially the debt ceiling, it would help us to have a concrete plan and legislative language from you.
Thank you in advance for your prompt response.
Sincerely,
Bob Corker
United States Senator
###

Dr. Coburn on MSNBC's Morning Joe Discussing Final Fiscal Cliff Details - YouTube

YouTube video (14:01).

Dr. Coburn on MSNBC's Morning Joe Discussing Final Fiscal Cliff Details - YouTube

Raytheon Awarded Contract for $363.9 Million for two Radars

Raytheon Press Release:


AN/TPY-2 is the world's most advanced multi-functional, X-band radar

TEWKSBURY, Mass., Dec. 30, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- The Missile Defense Agency is awarding Raytheon Company (NYSE: RTN) a contract to provide two AN/TPY-2 radars to the U.S. Army as the radar component to the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense system. The firm-fixed-price contract is for $363.9 million.
"The AN/TPY-2 is the world's most advanced, mobile X-band radar," said Dave Gulla, vice president for Global Integrated Sensors at Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems. "It serves as the radar for the THAAD System, an important component of MDA's Ballistic Missile Defense System."
The AN/TPY-2 is a multi-functional radar that searches, detects, tracks and discriminates ballistic missile threats, seamlessly integrating with a variety of ballistic defense systems. In addition to supporting the U.S. Army in a terminal defense role as part of a THAAD Battery, AN/TPY-2 radars are deployed around the world providing continuous forward-based ballistic missile defense as a key component of the global Ballistic Missile Defense Architecture.
The most recent deployment of the AN/TPY-2 radar represents a major milestone in achieving the Administration's European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA), which aims to deter, dissuade, and, if necessary, defeat enemy ballistic missiles that threaten the U.S., deployed forces, friends and allies. The AN/TPY-2 is the critical sensor component of the EPAA.
Work on the AN/TPY-2 radars for this contract will be performed at Raytheon facilities in Massachusetts and by suppliers in 33 states.
About Raytheon
Raytheon Company, with 2010 sales of $25 billion, is a technology and innovation leader specializing in defense, homeland security and other government markets throughout the world. With a history of innovation spanning 89 years, Raytheon provides state-of-the-art electronics, mission systems integration and other capabilities in the areas of sensing; effects; and command, control, communications and intelligence systems, as well as a broad range of mission support services. With headquarters in Waltham, Mass., Raytheon employs 72,000 people worldwide. For more about Raytheon, visit us at www.raytheon.com and follow us on Twitter at @raytheon.
Media ContactMike Nason
978.489.9291
idspr@raytheon.com
SOURCE Raytheon Company

Raytheon Receives $582.5 Million for Radars and Services in THAAD Deal to UAE

Raytheon Press Release:


UAE becomes first international customer to gain the advanced AN/TPY-2 radars

TEWKSBURY, Mass., Dec. 30, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Raytheon Company (NYSE: RTN) will provide AN/TPY-2 radars, associated spares, training and other services through 2018 to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) as the radar component to the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense system. This $582.5 million contract for the radars is part of the first sale of THAAD missile systems to an international customer.
"The AN/TPY-2 radar will provide the UAE with unprecedented surveillance and defensive capabilities," said Dave Gulla, vice president for Global Integrated Sensors at Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems. "With this contract, the UAE becomes the first international customer to acquire the world's most advanced mobile radar, which better positions the Emirates to defend itself from threats."
The AN/TPY-2, Raytheon's mobile, solid-state, phased array X-band radar, is being provided to the UAE through the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) as a Foreign Military Sale under the Arms Export Control Act.
The radar searches, detects, tracks and discriminates threats from non-threats, and then delivers data to the THAAD's fire control and communications element for engagement.
Lockheed Martin is prime contractor for THAAD. In addition to providing the radar, Raytheon collaborated in developing the Fire Control and Communications shelter, communications software, engineering, and testing support. 
Work on the AN/TPY-2 radars for this contract will be performed at Raytheon facilities in Massachusetts and by suppliers in 33 states.
About Raytheon
Raytheon Company, with 2010 sales of $25 billion, is a technology and innovation leader specializing in defense, homeland security and other government markets throughout the world. With a history of innovation spanning 89 years, Raytheon provides state-of-the-art electronics, mission systems integration and other capabilities in the areas of sensing; effects; and command, control, communications and intelligence systems, as well as a broad range of mission support services. With headquarters in Waltham, Mass., Raytheon employs 72,000 people worldwide. For more about Raytheon, visit us at www.raytheon.com and follow us on Twitter at @raytheon.
Media ContactMike Nason
978.489.9291
idspr@raytheon.com


SOURCE Raytheon Company

Raytheon Books $50 Million in Electronic Warfare Contracts

Raytheon Press Release:


Continued growth expected in EW field

EL SEGUNDO, Calif., Dec. 30, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Raytheon Company (NYSE: RTN) booked $50 million this month in new contract awards related to its electronic warfare (EW) business.
Raytheon's industry-leading electronic warfare portfolio includes airborne and shipboard jammers, towed decoys and radar warning receivers in use on strategic and tactical aircraft, helicopters and surface ships of the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy and international customers.
"For more than 50 years, Raytheon's EW products have earned a reputation around the world for superior performance and reliability," said Mark Kula, vice president, Tactical Airborne Systems, for Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems. "As we look to the future, the electronic warfare market will evolve to encompass intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance data collection and electronic attack, and Raytheon is well positioned to participate at the forefront of these trends."
Raytheon Company, with 2010 sales of $25 billion, is a technology and innovation leader specializing in defense, homeland security and other government markets throughout the world. With a history of innovation spanning 89 years, Raytheon provides state-of-the-art electronics, mission systems integration and other capabilities in the areas of sensing; effects; and command, control, communications and intelligence systems, as well as a broad range of mission support services. With headquarters in Waltham, Mass., Raytheon employs 72,000 people worldwide. For more about Raytheon, visit us at www.raytheon.com and follow us on Twitter @raytheon.
Media ContactJohn Barksdale
310.334.0415
saspr@raytheon.com
SOURCE Raytheon Company

'Embrace the Cliff': Arbess

"The 'fiscal cliff' is not some sort of disaster. It was put in place to create a basis for solving a problems," said Daniel Arbess, Perella Weinberg Partners.

Video from CNBC (6:12).

'Embrace the Cliff': Arbess

Support grows in House for farm-bill extension to prevent ‘milk cliff’ - The Hill


A proposal for a one-year extension of the farm bill to prevent a spike in milk prices is gaining support among House Republicans in the waning days of the 112th Congress. 
Lawmakers discussed the issue at a House Republican conference meeting Sunday night, and members said the leadership was likely to bring up an extension Monday or Tuesday, possibly attached to legislation dealing with the “fiscal cliff.” If no deal is reached to prevent the fiscal cliff, a farm bill could be brought up as a separate measure, members said after the meeting.
For more, click the link below:

Support grows in House for farm-bill extension to prevent ‘milk cliff’ - The Hill

Observers ponder impact of Markey's Senate bid on Energy and Commerce - The Hill's Hillicon Valley


Rep. Ed Markey's (D-Mass.) run for Sen. John Kerry's (D-Mass.) seat may leave the House Energy and Commerce Committee without one of its longest-serving members and fiercest advocates for online privacy rights.

Markey announced this week that he plans to run in the special election for Kerry's Senate seat, which would be open if Kerry is confirmed as secretary of State by the Senate next year.

For more, click the link below:


Observers ponder impact of Markey's Senate bid on Energy and Commerce - The Hill's Hillicon Valley

Obama says ‘pressure is on Congress,’ blames GOP as fiscal deadline nears - The Hill


President Obama said Sunday that the "pressure is on Congress" to reach a compromise and resolve the "fiscal cliff,” sharply criticizing GOP leaders for the unresolved talks.
In an interview with NBC's “Meet the Press” on Sunday, his first appearance there since the healthcare debate in 2009, Obama seemed intent on putting the blame solely on congressional Republicans if lawmakers fail to meet the pivotal year-end deadline.  
For more, click the link below:

Obama says ‘pressure is on Congress,’ blames GOP as fiscal deadline nears - The Hill

Boehner: Obama should ‘lead, not cast blame’ in fiscal talks - The Hill


Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) blasted President Obama on Sunday for attempting to "cast blame" on Republicans instead of trying to lead during “fiscal cliff” talks. 
In a statement following Obama's interview Sunday on NBC's “Meet the Press,” Boehner called the president’s comments "ironic," saying that a "recurring theme" of the fiscal-cliff negotiations is "his unwillingness to agree to anything that would require him to stand up to his own party.”
For more, click the link below:

Boehner: Obama should ‘lead, not cast blame’ in fiscal talks - The Hill

Senators told not to make New Year's Eve plans as talks continue - The Hill


Senators have been warned they may be spending New Year's Eve together -- working on a last-minute deal to avoid the "fiscal cliff."
"We've all been told not to make plans," Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) told reporters in the Capital on Sunday evening. "We're all going to be here through tomorrow night, the first, the second, the third and so-on."
For more, click the link below:

Senators told not to make New Year's Eve plans as talks continue - The Hill

Sen. Feinstein: US has to ‘bite the bullet' and enact new gun-control restrictions - The Hill's Blog Briefing Room


Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) argued Sunday it's time for the country to "bite the bullet" and pass new gun control legislation.
In response to a shooting rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. that resulted in 27 dead, including 20 children, Feinstein has promised to introduce a new federal assault weapons ban in 2013.
For more, click the link below:

Sen. Feinstein: US has to ‘bite the bullet' and enact new gun-control restrictions - The Hill's Blog Briefing Room

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Portman Statement on Hurricane Sandy Supplemental

Senator Rob Portman Press Release:


Today, U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio) released the following statement on the Hurricane Sandy supplemental: ?I supported appropriate emergency funding for the victims of Sandy, the devastating hurricane that hit the east coast in October. The bill I supported would have provided $24 billion in immediate emergency assistance to help to get people back on their feet and help affected communities. During this time of record debt and deficits, I could not support the Sandy Appropriations bill offered by the Democrats, which breaks the budget agreement Congress established just last year. Although this bill calls for $60.4 billion, only $19 billion would actually go to FEMA?s Disaster Relief Fund. Rather than providing immediate, emergency assistance, the majority of the funding - $39 billion - would not even be spent until FY 2015 or later.?

Hurricane Sandy Alters Utilities’ Calculus on Upgrades

The following is an excerpt from an article in:


The New York Times
Saturday, December 29, 2012

Hurricane Sandy Alters Utilities’ Calculus on Upgrades

By DIANE CARDWELL, MATTHEW L. WALD and CHRISTOPHER DREW

After Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc with power systems in the Northeast, many consumers and public officials complained that the electric utilities had done far too little to protect their equipment from violent storms, which forecasters have warned could strike with increasing frequency.

But from a utility’s perspective, the cold hard math is this: it is typically far cheaper for the company, and its customers, to skip the prevention measures and just clean up the mess afterward.

Consolidated Edison, for example, expects to spend as much as $450 million to repair damages to its electric grid in and around New York City. Since utilities are generally allowed to recover their costs through electric rates, customer bills in the region, which typically run about $90 a month for residential customers, would have to rise by almost 3 percent for three years to cover those expenses alone.

Fully stormproofing the system — sinking power lines, elevating substations and otherwise hardening equipment against damage from torrential winds and widespread flooding — could easily cost 100 times as much. For Con Ed, carrying out just one measure — putting all of its electric lines underground — would cost around $40 billion, the company estimates. To recover those costs, electric rates would probably have to triple for a decade or more, according to Kevin Burke, Con Ed’s chief executive.

Avoiding such large investments is also appealing for another reason: the federal government has sometimes helped bail out utilities after catastrophes, like the Sept. 11 terror attacks and Hurricane Katrina. It may do so again this time in response to pleas from the governors of New York and New Jersey.

Still, there are signs that the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy is upending the traditional cost-benefit calculations.

The Northeast has been hit by three big storms in just over a year, and forecasters say that so-called 100-year storms are likely to occur more frequently.

Utilities and policy makers can see that ocean surge poses a previously unexpected threat to the power grid.

And there is growing recognition that the true cost of disruptions, in terms of gasoline lines, lost workdays and business sales, and shivering homeowners, is far higher than the simple dollars and cents spent to protect the power system. A recent report from the National Academy of Sciences about the vast 2003 blackout in the Eastern United States determined that the economic cost of that disruption was about 50 times higher than the price of the actual electricity lost, and that didn’t take into account deaths or other human consequences.

For more, visit www.nytimes.com.

Rep. Ron Paul on 'Fiscal Cliff': Too Much Bipartisanship on Spending

There is no deal in place, and President Obama is set to speak from the White House on the "fiscal cliff" any minute, with CNBC's Eamon Javers and Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX); and CNBC's Melissa Lee; and the Money In Motion traders. "I believe there is too much bipartisanship on the spending, and nobody is talking about cutting any spending," says Rep. Ron Paul.

Video from CNBC (15:18).

Rep. Ron Paul on 'Fiscal Cliff': Too Much Bipartisanship on Spending

Senate votes to block Hurricane Sandy relief for tax cheats, dead people - The Hill's Floor Action


The Senate on Friday approved an amendment to a Hurricane Sandy disaster relief bill that would prohibit dead people and anyone with "serious delinquent tax debts" from receiving the funds. 
The Senate approved the amendment from Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) in a voice vote, along with several other amendments to the bill.
The Democratic legislation would provide $60 billion in spending for Sandy cleanup, but Coburn and Republicans have said for the last several weeks that the bill is much bigger than it needs to be. Many GOP senators put forward amendments aimed at reducing the size of the bill, some of which are being considered Friday.
House Republicans, meanwhile, have yet to take up any bill, but have also indicated that they would prefer legislation that is narrowly tailored to addressing only Sandy-related damages.
For more, click the link below:

Senate votes to block Hurricane Sandy relief for tax cheats, dead people - The Hill's Floor Action

Senate votes in favor of $60B Hurricane Sandy emergency-spending bill - The Hill's Floor Action


The Senate passed the emergency-spending bill for Hurricane Sandy relief efforts on Friday night. 
The 62-32 vote came after the Senate worked all day Friday on amendments to H.R. 1, a vehicle to provide $60.4 billion to storm recovery efforts. 
Republican Sens. Scott Brown (Mass.), Susan Collins (Maine), Dean Heller (Nev.), John Hoeven (N.D.), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Richard Shelby (Ala.), Olympia Snowe (Maine), David Vitter (La.), Dick Lugar (Ind.), Thad Cochran (Miss.), Kay Bailey Hutchison (Texas) and Roger Wicker (Miss.) voted with Democrats for final passage of the measure. Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) was the only Democrat who voted against the bill, but he then changed his vote later Friday evening. The original vote was 61-33 — with his change it is now 62-32.
Some conservatives said the bill still contained unnecessary spending measures during a time when lawmakers are trying to make spending cuts. 
For more, click the link below:

Senate votes in favor of $60B Hurricane Sandy emergency-spending bill - The Hill's Floor Action

A Word from RockCreek.com





Democrats line up behind Markey in bid for Senate in Mass. - The Hill


Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) received the support of three big names in Massachusetts and national Democratic politics for his Senate bid on Friday, an early sign that Democrats are aiming to clear the field to provide for an easy nominating process for the dean of the Massachusetts congressional delegation.
Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), whose seat will be up for grabs in a special election provided he is confirmed as secretary of State next year, threw his support behind the congressman, calling him "one of the most experienced and capable legislators in the entire Congress."
For more, click the link below:

Democrats line up behind Markey in bid for Senate in Mass. - The Hill

Bipartisan Senate group supports plan to avoid 'nuclear option' in filibuster reform - The Hill

A bipartisan group of senators has coalesced around a plan to reform Senate filibusters, but it stops well short of more dramatic changes pushed by liberal Democrats.

Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Carl Levin (D-Mich.) say they are leading the effort to avert Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) threat to use the “nuclear option,” a controversial maneuver that would change Senate rules with a simple majority vote. 

For more, click the link below:

Bipartisan Senate group supports plan to avoid 'nuclear option' in filibuster reform - The Hill

S&P 'does not expect' to lower the US credit rating further - The Hill's On The Money


Standard & Poor’s said Friday that at this point it does not expect "fiscal cliff" talks to result in further damage to the U.S. credit rating.

In the wake of the August 2011 debt-ceiling standoff, S&P lowered the U.S. rating from AAA to AA+ and placed a negative outlook on the rating. It said partisan bickering in Washington was a key factor in the change.

The other two major rating agencies — Moody’s and Fitch — have kept the U.S. with a top rating for now. Moody's in its latest report said that Congress must come up with a long term debt reduction plan in 2013 to avoid a downgrade. Congress and the White House are currently negotiating such a plan.

"If those negotiations fail to produce a plan that includes such policies, we would expect to lower the rating, probably to Aa1," Moody's said on Friday.

For more, click the link below:


S&P 'does not expect' to lower the US credit rating further - The Hill's On The Money

Pelosi: Senate must act following 'constructive' White House meeting - The Hill

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) described Friday's White House meeting on the "fiscal cliff" as "candid and constructive," saying President Obama urged Senate leaders to strike a compromise.

Pelosi struck an optimistic tone following the meeting, saying it now falls to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to come up with a compromise.

For more, click the link below:

Pelosi: Senate must act following 'constructive' White House meeting - The Hill

After meeting, Obama urges leaders to take 'immediate action' - The Hill

President Obama said Friday he was "modestly optimistic that an agreement can be achieved" to avoid the so-called "fiscal cliff," but warned congressional leaders he would demand an "up or down vote" on a Democratic Senate bill if a bipartisan agreement could not be reached in a timely fashion.

"We had a constructive meeting today," Obama said. "Sens. Reid and McConnell are discussing a potential agreement."

For more, click the link below:

After meeting, Obama urges leaders to take 'immediate action' - The Hill

A defining moment for Sen. McConnell - The Hill


Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is facing a defining moment of his career this weekend as he attempts to hammer out a "fiscal-cliff" deal with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).

Many inside the Washington Beltway believe there is little chance that Reid and McConnell will reach an agreement. Political operatives note that McConnell is up for reelection in 2014, saying that a "no" vote is much safer than being the author of such a controversial bill.

However, there are plenty of reasons why McConnell would want to forge a bipartisan deal. First and foremost, McConnell's hero is former Sen. Henry Clay (Ky.), who is known as the "Great Compromiser." McConnell has claimed that Clay's leadership in crafting legislative compromises in 1820 and 1850 "held the country together." McConnell has touted Clay's "marvelous combination of compromise and principle" as a model for all politicians.

For more, click the link below:


A defining moment for Sen. McConnell - The Hill

Blunt: Still time to make 'fiscal-cliff' deal - The Hill's Blog Briefing Room


Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) urged Democrats to back legislation passed by the Republican-controlled House designed to prevent "fiscal cliff" spending cuts and tax increases.

Blunt's call, made during the weekly Republican address, came as legislators scramble to reach a compromise ahead of the year-end deadline. On Friday, Obama met with the Democratic and Republican leaders to discuss a deal. After the meeting he said that he was "optimistic" about preventing the cuts and tax increases.

For more, click the link below:


Blunt: Still time to make 'fiscal-cliff' deal - The Hill's Blog Briefing Room

Obama: Economy can't afford a 'politically self-inflicted wound' - The Hill


With the deadline on the "fiscal cliff" fast approaching, President Obama on Saturday urged Congress one more time to pass legislation that would prevent income taxes from rising, saying the economy "can't afford a politically self-inflicted wound."

In his weekly radio address, Obama said that Democrats and Republicans needed to coalesce around a plan to decrease deficits while keeping the taxes low for the middle class and indicated that he believes Congress can hatch a plan before the end-of-the-year deadline.

But he reiterated on Saturday that if lawmakers could not agree on a plan, he would call on the Senate to hold an up-or-down vote on a "basic" emergency fiscal package.

For more, click the link below:


Obama: Economy can't afford a 'politically self-inflicted wound' - The Hill

Reid and McConnell work to reach 'fiscal-cliff' agreement by Sunday - The Hill


Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) are working on an agreement to avoid across-the-board tax hikes and plan to show it to colleagues Sunday. 
Senate leaders emerged optimistic from a Friday afternoon meeting at the White House with President Obama, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.). Vice President Biden and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner also attended.
Obama told reporters late Friday there is still time to reach a deal.
For more, click the link below:

Reid and McConnell work to reach 'fiscal-cliff' agreement by Sunday - The Hill

Barvikha, Russia, Draws Embattled Leaders Like Assad

The following is an excerpt from an article in:


The New York Times
Saturday, December 29, 2012

Barvikha, Russia, Draws Embattled Leaders Like Assad

By ANDREW E. KRAMER

BARVIKHA, Russia — A few years back, before he settled in this bucolic town in a pine forest near Moscow, Askar Akayev, then the president of Kyrgyzstan, had a very stressful day.

Outside his presidential palace, an angry mob had gathered. An overturned car was on fire. Protesters had shinned over a wrought-iron fence and were breaking ground-floor windows and prying open doors.

Then came word from a security adviser: The time had come.

“I left in the suit I was standing up in,” Mr. Akayev told a journalist soon after his downfall in March 2005. Within days he was here, staying in a government-owned sanitarium — and in good company.

This improbable small town of villas and luxury boutiques, built around the sanitarium where Mr. Akayev stayed, is home to half a dozen or so deposed leaders and members of their families.

And in its snowy tranquillity, it offers one strange, possible future for the embattled president of Syria, Bashar al-Assad, as Western governments have been pressuring Russia since summer to smooth his departure with an offer of asylum.

For now, even with rebel fighters closing in on Damascus, diplomats in Russia, Mr. Assad’s most important ally, have denied they are considering granting him safe haven as a step toward resolution of the conflict. But the Russians have come through with 11-hour rescues of their allies before.

“The Russians have experience with getting heads of state out in the nick of time,” said Mark N. Katz, a professor of government and politics at George Mason University in Virginia. “They could be trying to signal to Assad there is an offer, but the window of opportunity is not going to remain open for a long time.”

Leaders’ hurried packing and just-in-time flight to this place from angry street crowds or the nearing sound of gunfire brought measures of resolution to conflicts in the former Yugoslavia, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan and elsewhere.

Russia has been inching closer to agreeing to a settlement that would include Mr. Assad’s departure, if that is even possible at this juncture, with rebels occupying parts of the capital and firing mortar rounds at the presidential palace in the Muhajireen neighborhood of Damascus.

For more, visit www.nytimes.com.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Senate approves bill to reauthorize foreign surveillance programs - The Hill's Floor Action


The Senate on Friday approved a bill reauthorizing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) in a 73-23 vote.
The bill will extend for five years the ability of U.S. intelligence authorities to conduct surveillance of suspected terrorists overseas without first getting permission from a court. 
The House already approved the legislation, meaning the Senate vote will send the bill to President Obama's desk. The president is expected to sign the bill.
For more, click the link below:

Senate approves bill to reauthorize foreign surveillance programs - The Hill's Floor Action

Robbery of SunTrust Bank Branch in Washington, D.C.

FBI, Washington Field Office Press Release:


Robbery of SunTrust Bank Branch in Washington, D.C.

FBI WashingtonDecember 28, 2012
  • Public Information Office(202) 278-3519
At approximately 10:15 a.m. on Wednesday, December 26, 2012, an unknown male entered the SunTrust Bank at 624 H Street NW in Washington, D.C. The subject passed a note demanding money and threatened the bank teller. The teller complied with the demand, and the subject left with a sum of money.
The subject is described as a black male, 5’8”-5’9” tall, 28-35 years old, and weighing approximately 140-160 pounds. He wore large, brown sunglasses with gold frames; a brown ski mask with openings for the eyes; and a hoodless, black rain jacket. The subject left on foot towards the Metro at 7th Street NW and H Street NW.
The subject, pictured below, should be considered armed and dangerous.
The FBI’s Violent Crimes Task Force is investigating this bank robbery with the Metropolitan Police Department and requests that anyone with information call the FBI at 202-278-2000 or MPD at 202-727-9099. Anonymous information may be submitted to tips.fbi.gov or to MPD by texting 50411.
    

Newark Special Agent in Charge Announces Retirement

FBI, Newark Division Press Release:


Newark Special Agent in Charge Announces Retirement

FBI NewarkDecember 28, 2012
  • Special Agent Barbara Woodruff(973) 792-3020
Michael B. Ward, Special Agent in Charge of the Newark Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), announced his retirement from government service, effective December 31, 2012, culminating a distinguished 24-year career with the FBI.
Mr. Ward has served as the Special Agent in Charge of the Newark Office since March 2010. In his role, Mr. Ward has overseen many significant investigations, including the arrest of an international fugitive for over 41 years, George Wright; the arrest of the former owner and chief executive officer of Capitol Investment USA Inc., Nevin Shapiro; and the conviction of terrorism subjects Mohammed Hamoud Alessa and Carlos Eduardo Almonte for conspiring to murder individuals overseas on behalf of a foreign terrorist group operating in Somalia, among other high-impact FBI cases.
Mr. Ward entered on duty with the FBI in 1988 and served in several FBI field offices, along with several different assignments at FBI Headquarters in Washington, D.C.
Mr. Ward has received numerous awards and commendations during his career. Under his direction, the Newark Office has been recognized by numerous civic and community organizations for outstanding investigative accomplishments and service to the community. Mr. Ward will be rejoining his extended family in the southern United States after many years away from home. Assistant Special Agent in Charge David Velazquez will serve as Acting Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Newark Office until a successor is named for Mr. Ward by FBI Headquarters.

Four Additional Long Island Railroad Retirees Plead Guilty in Manhattan Federal Court in Connection with Disability Fraud Scheme

FBI, New York Field Office Press Release:


Four Additional Long Island Railroad Retirees Plead Guilty in Manhattan Federal Court in Connection with Disability Fraud Scheme

U.S. Attorney’s OfficeDecember 28, 2012
  • Southern District of New York(212) 637-2600
Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced today that former Long Island Railroad (LIRR) employees Thomas Delalla, Frank Plaia, Sharon Falloon, and Kevin Nugent pled guilty to federal charges in connection with their participation in an alleged massive fraud scheme in which LIRR workers claimed to be disabled upon early retirement so that they could receive disability benefits to which they were not entitled. Delalla and Plaia pled guilty today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Ronald L. Ellis, and Falloon and Nugent pled guilty before Judge Ellis on December 27, 2012.
According to the complaint, the superseding indictment, the superseding informations, and statements made in other public filings and in court:
The LIRR Disability Fraud Scheme
The Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) is an independent U.S. agency that administers benefit programs, including disability benefits, for the nation’s railroad workers and their families. A unique LIRR contract allowed employees to retire at the relatively young age of 50—the age of eligibility has since changed to 55—if they had been employed by the LIRR for at least 20 years. Eligible employees are entitled to receive an LIRR pension, which is a portion of the full retirement payment for which they are eligible at 65. In addition, at full retirement age (between age 60 and age 65 depending on years of service), they are eligible to receive an RRB retirement pension. For LIRR workers who retired at 50 with only an LIRR pension, they would receive less than their prior salary and substantially lower pension payments than those to which they would be entitled at full retirement age. However, LIRR employees who retired and claimed disability could receive a disability payment from the RRB on top of their LIRR pension, regardless of age. A retiree’s LIRR pension, in combination with RRB disability payments, can be roughly equivalent to the base salary earned during his or her career.
Hundreds of LIRR employees have allegedly exploited the overlap between the LIRR pension and the RRB disability program by pre-planning the date on which they would falsely declare themselves disabled so that it would coincide with their projected retirement date. These false statements, made under oath in disability applications, allowed LIRR employees to retire as early as age 50 with an LIRR pension, supplemented by the fraudulently obtained RRB disability annuity. From 2004 through 2008, 61 percent of LIRR employees who stopped working and began receiving RRB disability benefits were between the ages of 50 and 55. In contrast, only 7 percent of employees at Metro-North who stopped working and received disability benefits during the same time period were between the ages of 50 and 55.
* * *
Delalla, 54, of West Islip, New York; Plaia, 55, of Hicksville, New York; Falloon, 58, of North Merrick, New York; and Nugent, 57, of Port Jefferson, New York, each pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail, wire, and health care fraud; one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States; one count of making a false claim to the U.S. RRB; one count of health care fraud; one count of mail fraud; one count of wire fraud; and one count of perjury before the grand jury. Each faces a maximum term of 85 years in prison.
Mr. Bharara praised the RRB-OIG, the FBI, and the MTA-OIG for their outstanding work in the investigation, which he noted is ongoing. He also acknowledged the previous investigation conducted by the New York State Attorney General’s Office into these pension fraud issues.
Thirty-two people have been charged in connection with the LIRR disability fraud scheme, 12 of whom have now pled guilty. The charges against the remaining defendants are merely allegations, and those individuals are all presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
The Office’s Complex Frauds Unit is handling the case. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Justin Weddle, Danya Perry, Daniel Tehrani, and Nicole Friedlander are in charge of the prosecution.

Two Women and a Man from South Dakota Plead Guilty to Possession of a Controlled Substance

FBI, Minneapolis Division Press Release:


Two Women and a Man from South Dakota Plead Guilty to Possession of a Controlled Substance

U.S. Attorney’s OfficeDecember 28, 2012
  • District of South Dakota(605) 330-4400
US Attorney Brendan V. Johnson announced that Clementine Swimmer, age 30, of Timber Lake; Theresa Cadotte, age 22, of Wakpala; and Francis Dubray, age 23, of Mobridge, appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge William Gerdes on December 21, 2012, and pled guilty to an information charging them each with two counts of possession of a controlled substance. The maximum penalty upon conviction is one year of imprisonment, a minimum fine of $1,000 but not more than $100,000, or both.
The charge stems from an incident when Swimmer, Cadotte, and Dubray knowingly and intentionally possessed a detectable amount of cocaine and methamphetamine, scheduled II controlled substances.
The investigation was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Kathryn N. Rich is prosecuting the case.
All defendants were released pending sentencing. A sentencing date has not yet been set.