The Senate’s top Republican says he’s not headed to a White House meeting Wednesday with recommendations on how to deal with the Iraq situation, but that the crisis bolsters the argument that U.S. troops are still needed in Afghanistan.
McConnell, along with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, House Speaker John Boehner, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, will head to the White House to meet with President Obama “as part of his ongoing consultations with congressional leadership on foreign policy issues, including the situation in Iraq,” according to a White House official.
“I’m anxious to see what plan he may have, given where we are, but it certainly underscores the significance of the president reversing the decision he previously indicated he had made for us to leave Afghanistan entirely,” McConnell said Tuesday. “We know that if we don’t leave behind a deployment that the military recommended in Afghanistan, roughly 10,000 troops, for counterterrorism purposes and training purposes, we’re likely to see the same kind of meltdown in Afghanistan that we’ve seen in Iraq.”
Hawkish Republicans have been quick to cast blame for the crisis in Iraq squarely on the Obama administration for agreeing in 2011 to withdraw American troops.
The winding down of America’s war in Afghanistan will take place over the next two years. Nearly 10,000 troops will remain in Afghanistan through the end of this year, but that force will be reduced by half by the end of 2015. The plan now is that by the end of Obama’s term, the U.S. presence in Afghanistan will resemble that of Iraq, with normal embassy operations and a security assistance office in the capital city.
The White House has already announced it’s dispatching up to 275 military personnel to protect the U.S. Embassy in Iraq. Some lawmakers have expressed concern that Congress should be consulted ahead of any military action.
When asked if the president needs congressional approval for military air strikes, Reid said, “In my opinion, I don’t think they need any any more authority than they already have to do what they need to do.”
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U.S. District Judge William Orrick Tuesday blocked the Trump administration from enforcing part of an executive order calling for the end of federal funding to so-called sanctuary cities. The decision was followed by a scathing rebuke from the White House, a precedent-breaking activity which with this White House has had no qualms. A White House statement called the decision an "egregious overreach by a single, unelected district judge." The statement was followed by an inaccurate Wednesday morning tweetstorm from Trump, which railed against the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. While Judge Orrick district falls within the jurisdiction of the Ninth Circuit, Orrick himself does not serve on the Ninth Circuit.
"House Republicans are circulating the text of an amendment to their ObamaCare replacement bill that they believe could bring many conservatives on board. According to legislative text of the amendment," drafted by Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-NJ), "the measure would allow states to apply for waivers to repeal one of ObamaCare’s core protections for people with pre-existing conditions. Conservatives argue the provision drives up premiums for healthy people, but Democrats—and many more moderate Republicans—warn it would spark a return to the days when insurance companies could charge sick people exorbitantly high premiums."
President Trump on Wednesday "will order a review of national monuments created over the past 20 years with an aim toward rescinding or resizing some of them—part of a broader push to reopen areas to drilling, mining, and other development." Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke told reporters on Tuesday said he'd be reviewing about 30 monuments.
"An emerging government funding deal would see Democrats agree to $15 billion in additional military funding in exchange for the GOP agreeing to fund healthcare subsidies, according to two congressional officials briefed on the talks. Facing a Friday deadline to pass a spending bill and avert a shutdown, Democrats are willing to go halfway to President Trump’s initial request of $30 billion in supplemental military funding."
The Michael Flynn story is not going away for the White House as it tries to refocus its attention. The White House has denied requests from the House Oversight Committee for information and documents regarding payments that the former national security adviser received from Russian state television station RT and Russian firms. House Oversight Chairman Jason Chaffetz and ranking member Elijah Cummings also said that Flynn failed to report these payments on his security clearance application. White House legislative director Marc Short argued that the documents requested are either not in the possession of the White House or contain sensitive information he believes is not applicable to the committee's stated investigation.