Monday, June 22, 2009

Republicans urge Obama to get tougher on Iran

Republicans urge Obama to get tougher on Iran
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama should take a firm stand to support the street protests that have engulfed Iran since its disputed June 12 presidential election result, U.S. Republican senators said on Sunday.
"He's been timid and passive more than I would like," said Senator Lindsey Graham on ABC's "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" television news program.
"We could be more forceful than we have," Republican Senator Charles Grassley said on CNN's "State of the Union" show.
Their comments came as pro-reform Iranian clerics stepped up criticism of the government in Tehran on Sunday after more than a week of popular defiance against Iran's leadership, including President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
The hard-line anti-Western Iranian leader overwhelmingly won last week's election, according to official results, but his main challenger, Mirhossein Mousavi, has accused the government of massive electoral fraud and called on Iranians to protest.
At least 10 people were killed on Saturday in street demonstrations.
Obama has walked a fine line in his comments on the election, wanting to avoid being seen as "meddling" in Iranian politics but facing pressure from Republicans to be a more forceful advocate for those protesting the election.
On Saturday, Obama urged Tehran to "stop all violent and unjust actions against its own people" his most forceful comments yet on the Iranian crackdown.
"I would like to see the president be stronger, although I appreciate the comments he made yesterday," Republican Senator John McCain, who lost the 2008 election to Obama, said on CBS' "Face the Nation."
"This is not just an Iran issue, this is an American issue. This is what we are all about," McCain said in reference to the anti-government protests in Iran.
But Democratic senators said too much outward U.S. support for dissenters could undermine them.
"It is very crucial ... that we not have our fingerprints on this, that this be truly inspired by the Iranian people," Senator Dianne Feinstein said on CNN.
Feinstein, who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, said she did not know of any U.S. meddling in the Iranian election or in its aftermath.
"To the best of my knowledge there has been no interference with the election. There has been no manipulation of people following the election," she said.
"These questions have been asked as late as this past week of people in the clandestine operations who would know this, in a formal setting, and that is the answer we were given."
Obama, in the forefront of diplomatic efforts to halt an Iranian nuclear program the West fears could produce atomic weapons, recently acknowledged that the United States helped overthrow Iran's elected government in a 1953 coup that installed a pro-U.S. monarchy in power. Continued...
Source: Reuters

Obama concerned about "unjust actions" in Iran

Obama concerned about unjust actions in Iran
By Jeff Mason and Kevin Drawbaugh
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama expressed concern about violence and "unjust actions" against Iranian demonstrators on Sunday in a meeting with advisers who updated him on fast-moving events in the Islamic Republic.
"At approximately noon today, the President met for more than 30 minutes in the Oval Office with foreign policy advisors to get an update on the current situation and developments in Iran," a White House aide said in an email.
"At the meeting, the president reiterated his concerns about violence and unjust actions being taken against the Iranian people."
Obama's comments echoed a longer statement he released on Saturday urging the Iranian government to cease violent actions against its own people. Unrest has convulsed Iran for days since a disputed June 12 election that returned hardline anti-Western President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to power.
Obama, a Democrat, has sharpened his tone amid the escalating violence and criticism from some Republicans, who accused him of timidity in his response.
"He's been timid and passive more than I would like," said Republican Senator Lindsey Graham on ABC's "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" television news program.
"We could be more forceful than we have," Republican Senator Charles Grassley said on CNN's "State of the Union" show.
Gunfire rang out in Tehran on Sunday after demonstrations culminated in the death of at least 10 people on Saturday. Iranian authorities dismissed the protesters as "terrorists" and rioters.
Senior Democratic senators defended the administration's approach, arguing that the president must walk a fine line.
Senator Robert Casey said Obama has achieved "the right balance. ... He's given a very tough, consistent line to the regime."
Casey said. "The president doesn't have the luxury of just thinking about the next couple of days. He's got to be able to think about the short-term, the long-term."
Pro-reform Iranian clerics stepped up criticism of the government in Tehran on Sunday after more than a week of defiance against Iran's leadership. Ahmadinejad won last week's election, according to official results. But his main challenger, Mirhossein Mousavi, has accused the government of electoral fraud and called on Iranians to protest.
Democratic Senator Christopher Dodd said U.S. support of the opposition could do it more harm than good.
"The question is, should the United States take ownership of this revolution?" Dodd said on ABC's "This Week." "I think we do great damage to the effort if it appears this is a U.S.-led effort. Continued...
Source: Reuters

Governor declares emergency session for NY Senate

Governor declares emergency session for NY Senate
By Chris Michaud
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Gov. David Paterson on Sunday ordered a special session for New York's state senate in an effort to end a two-week deadlock that has left major legislation, including the state's budget, unresolved.
"Government has been inoperable because of a political battle," Paterson told a news conference. "The Senate has been unable to deliberate, has refused any outside intervention ... has rarely met and only in acrimonious circumstances," he said, calling its conduct "laughable."
"I will call the New York State Senate ... into extraordinary session on Tuesday," said Paterson, who said he was acting with the authority of the state's constitution.
Monday is the last day of the legislative session before summer recess, and the governor also offered two former state officials, one Republican and one Democrat, to mediate, but added that if no agreement is reached, "we will go into extraordinary session" on Tuesday.
Paterson also announced that the chief judge of the Court of Appeals, Jonathan Lippman, had made himself available to preside over the Senate, if both parties approve.
And he threatened that if senators did not cooperate with the order, he would convene a special session every single day until they do, including weekends and holidays.
"There will be no tolerance for noncompliance to this order," added Paterson, who has no authority over the senate when in session, but is authorized to compel it to be in session.
A New York state judge on Tuesday dismissed a case brought by New York Senate Democrats against their Republican colleagues, challenging the legality of a Republican-led coup that began the stalemate.
Republicans had won a leadership vote by 32 votes to 30 after persuading two dissident Democrats to vote with them. The Democrats immediately challenged the validity of the vote and one defector returned to the Democratic fold, leaving the Senate evenly divided at 31 votes each.
Senator Pedro Espada, the Democrat who remained aligned with the Senate Republicans, was elected Senate president.
Democrats won control of the New York Senate in November, their first majority in the chamber in 40 years.
The legal standoff has left unresolved a series of bills on issues including New York City's budget, pension reform and gay marriage.
(Editing by Patricia Zengerle)

Source: Reuters

Obama's healthcare push on rocky road in Congress

Obama's healthcare push on rocky road in Congress
By Donna Smith
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Growing worries over budget deficits and government intervention could jeopardize President Barack Obama's proposed healthcare overhaul in Congress as lawmakers bicker over costs and strategies for covering the uninsured.
Obama and his fellow Democrats, who control Congress, have enormous political capital invested in succeeding at providing affordable medical coverage to the millions of uninsured Americans, after decades of failed efforts by others, including the previous Democratic president, Bill Clinton.
But opposition is building even as a group of senators tries this week to negotiate a proposal they hope will quiet critics and win bipartisan support.
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus said he was confident he could craft such a bill.
"We're working together and we're getting closer and closer to a deal every day," he said in a statement. "I'm as confident as ever we'll deliver a bipartisan health care reform bill to the President this year."
But Baucus is working with only few Republicans and there are no guarantees he will succeed.
"I'm certainly willing to try to do something and do it right, but we're a long way from that," Republican Senator Orrin Hatch told reporters.
Public drafting sessions by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee have been marked by partisan bickering over costs and the role of the government.
Democrats want a new government plan to compete with insurance companies and "keep them honest." Republicans say that would drive insurers out of business and lead to a government-run healthcare system.
Republican Senator Lamar Alexander, a member of the health committee, said in a Senate speech last week the bill was "so flawed and expensive it cannot be fixed."
Americans strongly support fundamental healthcare changes and a move to create a government-run insurance plan to compete with private insurers, according to a New York Times/CBS News poll published on Saturday.
The U.S. healthcare system is the world's costliest, but 46 million Americans lack insurance coverage to pay for medical care. The United States also lags other nations on important health measures, such as life expectancy and infant mortality.
But other recent polls show that eye-popping budget deficits, an estimated $1.8 trillion this year and $1.4 trillion next year, are giving Americans pause about Obama's $787 billion economic stimulus plan and government intervention in business following the banking and auto industry bailouts.
"I think the American people have really woke up to the fact that there is runaway spending going on," Representative Dave Camp, the top Republican on the tax writing House Ways and Means Committee, said in an interview. Continued...
Source: Reuters