Congress Responds to Reports of Syria Chemical Attack

Amid reports of a chemical gas attack by the Syrian government, Senator Bob Corker, R-Tenn. said that though it is good to be cautious, “it’s very evident that the regime has acted in this way.”  The top ranking Republican on the Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee believes that “the amount of social media that’s coming out of Syria indicates this is not something where opposition forces have contrived something.”  New York Democratic Congressman Eliot Engel, the ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, agreed with the Senator and said that the U.S. “cannot afford to sit back and wait.”  According to Engel, “I think we can act. I think we should act. I think we should act for humanitarian purposes. And I think we should act because it’s in our national interests to act.”  Senator Corker says he is looking for President Obama to seek Congressional authorization to “respond in a surgical way.”  Congressman Engel, however, says he believes Congress should be involved but “perhaps not initially.”  He sees cruise missile strikes as a potential U.S. response.  He added the U.S. cannot wait for the United Nations.

Oklahoma Officials Respond to Christopher Lane Murder

Stephens County District Attorney Jason Hicks and Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin (R) discussed the horrific killing of 22-year old Christopher Lane, an Australian college student in the U.S. on a baseball scholarship.  According to police, Lane was picked at random by three teens and shot in the back while out for a jog - because the teens said they were “bored.”  Despite racist tweets allegedly posted by one of the teens charged with the murder, Hicks says he is not treating this as a hate crime, saying “there’s nothing inside the files, and the audio, and the reports we’ve been given, that would lead us to believe that Christopher Lane was killed simply because of his nationality, or because of his race.”  Hicks described the suspects as “thugs” saying that “some of the information that we have indicates that they ran loose at an apartment complex here, and really had no parental supervision.”  

Governor Fallin said that the murder has “shaken our state down to the core.”  Asked whether President Obama should speak out on this case the way he did Trayvon Martin, Governor Fallin said “it would be a nice gesture for him to do that, and especially since the country of Australia has expressed their sentiments as to the murder itself.”  

Lawmakers React to New NSA Surveillance Reports

After the Washington Post reported this week that the NSA tapped into phone calls and emails without appropriate authorization thousands of times since 2008, Sen Rand Paul (R-KY) called for Congressional hearings on the agency. 

According to Paul, “the constitutionality of these programs needs to be questioned and there needs to be a Supreme Court decision that looks at whether or not what they’re doing is constitutional.”

Paul intimated that specific targeting is legitimate, but is concerned about the lack of oversight, saying that “without this [Edward] Snowden leak, we wouldn’t even know of this internal audit.” 

The senator, who sits on the Senate Homeland Security Committee, would like “people who are a little more skeptical of the NSA” to take part in the discussion moving forward.

Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) joined Senator Paul in expressing concern, saying “the trust and credibility of the NSA program is in question.”

Congressman Pete King (R-NY), a member of the House Homeland Security Committee, refuted Senator Paul however, saying that his comments were “just a grab-bag of misinformation and distortion.”

King defended the NSA, saying “whatever mistakes were made were inadvertent, and if you have a 99.99% batting average, that’s better than most media people do, most politicians do.”

Panel Plus: August 18, 2013

Watch the ‘FOX News Sunday' panel: Nina Easton, Dennis Kucinich, Kimberley Strassel and Evan Bayh as they discuss the state of the Republican Party in our web exclusive Panel Plus.

Sen John McCain on Foreign Policy Challenges

Senator John McCain (R-AZ) said that Russia's decision to grant Edward Snowden asylum was a “signal of incredibly bad relations between the U.S. and Russia” and he reacted to the president's call for reforming those programs Snowden revealed.


McCain defended the intelligence programs as important to national security but said there can be some helpful reforms, like more transparency.


“There’s a kind of generational change here...without trusting government" you can’t do these things, McCain said of government surveillance operations.


This debate continues as the U.S. reopens 18 of the 19 diplomatic posts that were closed for a week due to terror threats coming from APAQ in Yemen.


The senator, who sits on both the Foreign Relations Committee and the Armed Services Committee, said this, "authenticates the incredible threat al Qaeda poses to the U.S."


"You can’t say you’ve decimated the core of al Qaeda and at same time have to close these posts."


McCain faulted the U.S. for a "lack of leadership."


McCain is fresh from a trip to another troubled region, Egypt.


The senator, together with his colleague Senator Lindsay Graham (R-SC), urged the two sides of that conflict to negotiate in good faith and get to the work of creating a new government.


And while McCain voted against withholding U.S. aid to Egypt recently in the Senate, he warned if there is more violence and bloodshed the Congress may have to rethink its position.


Were the military-backed government to violently crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood, McCain said, "I’m afraid the Congress of the U.S. would have to consider seriously the aid the U.S. gives."


In addition, McCain did not mince words in calling the events over the past month in Egypt "a coup" and also criticizing the U.S. government for not taking this position.


"When the U.S. refuses to call a military takeover a coup, then obviously it’s hard for us to ask them to observe the rule of law," McCain said.

Panel Plus: August 11, 2013

Watch the ‘FOX News Sunday' panel, Bill Kristol, Joe Lieberman, Carly Fiorina and Julie Pace as they discuss the horse race for 2016, in our web exclusive Panel Plus.

Panel Plus: August 4, 2013

Watch the ‘FOX News Sunday' panel, Bill Kristol, Howard Kurtz, Jim DeMint and Juan Williams as they discuss the Republican Congress fight against Pres Obama’s agenda, in our web exclusive Panel Plus.

National Security Debate Amid Fresh Terror Warnings


Fresh terror warnings have led US national security officials to close down nearly two dozen embassies over the weekend throughout Muslim world. Members who have been briefed describe the intelligence as the most serious they have been privvy to since 9/11.


General Michael Hayden, who has over time led both the NSA and the CIA, said he can "only imagine what it would’ve taken for our government to take the kind of action described."


"This does look quite serious," the general added.


An additional thought Hayden had is that the purpose of the announcement itself might be to interrupt al Qaeda in their planning, to let them know "we are onto them."


Representative Justin Amash (R-MI), who led an effort to defund the NSA's phone metadata collection program this week, warned that the world we find ourselves in is "precisely why we have 4th amendment rights."


Amash argued that the framers knew there was a danger of government "using national security as justification," to infringe on personal liberty.


Edward Snowden, who is wanted by the US government for exposing NSA programs, was granted a one year asylum by Russia.


Amash credits Snowden with shedding light on surveillance that he says Congress knew nothing about.


"Without his doing what he did, Members of Congress of wouldn’t know what was going on," Amash said, adding that he considers Snowden a whistle blower.


General Hayden disagreed with Amash and said of Snowden's actions, "(He) made it more difficult for our security services to keep Americans safe."


Hayden offered his opinion about how the US should deal with Russia too.


"I think its s jump-ball whether we should go to St Petersburg for the G20," he said.

Secretary Lew on the Push for Growth


"I don't know a lot of people on either side of the aisle who don't believe in infrastructure and I don't know a lot of people on either side of the aisle who don't believe in educating the next generation," Treasury secretary Jack Lew said in defense of the president's call for spending to bolster growth in the middle class.


Push back to the president's plan comes from Republicans who want to cut more spending.


Lew said "we've actually accomplished roughly the amount of deficit reduction we all set out to accomplish a few years ago," and what people want is, "us to build a better future for the American middle class."


The secretary also addressed the House Republicans' push to cement the sequester cuts into the budget, over $100 billion in the next year, and enact billions more in cuts in the upcoming negotiations.


"Congress has to write bills that meet the challenge that the president set forth, to start investing in our future.  And Congress cannot steal from domestic priorities to fix problems that across the board cuts have caused in defense," Lew said.


Another fiscal battle, set to occur near simultaneously, is what it will take for the parties to agree in an increase in the debt limit.


“The president has made clear, we cannot negotiate about whether or not the government of the United States would default.


"It was a mistake in 2011 to have that debate.  It hurt the economy," Lew said.

Panel Plus: July 28th, 2013

Watch the ‘FOX News Sunday' panel, Brit Hume, Amy Walter, Nina Easton and Juan Williams as they discuss the upcoming budget battles in Congress, in our web exclusive Panel Plus.

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